Scott Reeder is one of the early pioneers of desert rock. In fact, no one man has been more pivotal to the sounds that have gone on to shape the core of our desert’s music scene than this drummer, bassist, producer and sound engineer.
Reeder has enjoyed a brilliant music career—as a bassist in some of the most noteworthy bands in metal, doom and stoner rock, and on the other side of the soundboard as a producer. He’s sometimes referred to as “The Magic Man,” because bands travel across the globe to seek his technical prowess in the studio; he’s worked with Karma to Burn, The Freeks, Black Math Horseman, Low Fly Incline and Atala, just to name a few bands. Reeder is known for reinventing the wheel, revamping vintage gear and drawing on fresh technology to achieve unique recordings.
Reeder has been at the heart of the desert’s music scene since its earliest hints of existence. His first bands were Subservice and Dead Issue, which formed in 1981. He actually started out on drums, but he switched when Dead Issue lost its bass player. He relinquished the throne to Alfredo Hernandez and picked up the bass … never to put it down again.
He later went on to form another desert music project, Target 13, and then in the mid-’80s teamed up with Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson) to form what may have been the first authentic stoner-rock jam band, Across the River.
Reeder recently went through the painstaking process of transferring some of those old Across the River recordings from tape to digital format. Listening to the almost-50-minute recording on YouTube, I was taken aback: The free-form heavy jams were quite sophisticated for players so young and so new to music, and the music was quite reflective of the desert environment where it was created.
In 1991, Reeder signed with doom-metal band The Obsessed, led by Scott (Wino) Weinrich, the first band of many groups with which he would tour overseas. That gig may have gone on forever if not for a twist in fate—a call to replace bassist Nick Oliveri in what may be the most influential band to come out of our desert, Kyuss.
That worldwide influence of Kyuss can’t be overstated. Herba Mate in Italy, Low Fly Incline in Australia, Truckfighters in Sweden, Black Mastiff in Canada, Steak in London—all of these groups call themselves “desert rock” bands. These bands have one thing in common: their love of Kyuss and the music that has come out of our region. Dave Grohl, Chris Goss and some of the heaviest hitters in rock sing Kyuss’ praises again and again. When Josh Homme left the group to form Queens of the Stone Age, that marked the end of Kyuss’ live shows, but the music lived on, and every member of that project has gone on to enjoy fantastic careers.
For many Kyuss fans, the two records that Reeder recorded with the group, Welcome to Sky Valley and … And the Circus Leaves Town, reflect some of the band’s most in-depth work. Reeder seems to lend a darker musical atmosphere to the jams and brings a real vintage desert-rock vibe to the mix.
“Scott is one of the best bassists on the planet, yet (he’s) such a humble man, you would never know it being in his presence,” said guitarist Kyle Stratton, of Atala and Rise of the Willing, who recently recorded at Reeder’s studio, The Sanctuary. “His work with Across the River really started the desert sound. Kyuss is one of the most legendary bands of all time. This man has played in some of the heaviest underground bands ever while walking on the cusp of the mainstream.
“As a producer, he is amazing. He really understands how to capture and sculpt an underground band into something listenable.”
Reeder recorded and performed with bands such as Nebula, Goatsnake, Tool, Unida, Sun and Sail Club, and Fireball Ministry; he also pursued his own solo career.
Reeder this year returned to bass-maker Warwick’s Bass Camp in Europe, where he was alongside greats such as Victor Wooten, Dave Ellefson, Gary Willis and Bobby Vega. Reeder has been endorsed by Warwick for some years now, a relationship that has proved to be beneficial to both parties. Reeder reports that the trip was amazing—other than a brush with death when the driver of the bus filled with talent fell asleep at the wheel.
I asked Reeder what he had coming up.
“I have a completely refurbished 2-inch-tape machine arriving at The Sanctuary,” he said. “It will be a big turning point, going back to the way we worked in the late ’80s when I really started out. Hopefully, more great bands will be coming in to work together, and hopefully, I’ll be getting to play on more records, maybe with Fireball Ministry and Sun and Sail Club.”
“As in my music, in life it all seems to work out just fine with no plan!”