Current bassist for Cher, Ashley Reeve has been busy. She has recently been splitting her time among touring the world with the iconic legend, playing residencies in Las Vegas, and picking up dates with the ‘90s industrial rock band Filter. A graduate of California Institute of the Arts, she studied with Alphonso Johnson of Weather Report and Wayne Shorter, as well as six-string pioneer Todd Johnson and upright master Darek Oles. Ashley is versed in many styles of music, and tone is a big factor in her sound and her work for multiple artists.
What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
I’ve become a lot less married to one idea of what “my sound” is. Whether it’s a more vintage sound for Cher and Filter or a more modern mid-rangey sound for Adam Lambert and CeeLo Green, each artist has really required a completely different type of tonal flexibility. I used to love playing five-string active basses almost exclusively, but when I began playing for Filter, I had to suddenly switch to passive P-Basses in dropped tunings (lots of bass and treble with cut mids) and even with Cher, it’s all about that vintage P-Bass Carol Kaye sound. So, it’s really about being open to the sound of the record of whichever artist you are performing with.
Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I’m currently using a couple of Fender American Professional P-Basses because they have that warm, vintage sound, and a new Fender American Performer Jazz Bass. They’re all so consistent—and they feel great. I can switch basses in between songs (one is in a different tuning) and not experience a big difference in volume output or tone for the front-of-house. We have a clean stage (no amps), so my EQ is largely shaped via my Aguilar Tone Hammer DI/preamp. It’s a Swiss Army knife of pedals really—it allows me so much freedom to put out any tone I can dream up, which is great when you aren’t standing in front of an amp. I actually have two in my collection because I think it’s the most important pedal to bring with me to a gig.
Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
I love being able to record live with a drummer or even with a whole band when possible. There’s some real magic that gets captured in a live recording setting. But when that’s not an option, I just like to have at least the drums down before I track. Then you just layer on some saucy, groovy bass and you’re golden. It goes without saying, but that bass/drum connection is everything. That’s why I married my drummer, Chris Reeve (who plays for Filter and recently performed with Avril Lavigne and Tom Morello).
How do you keep your sound consistent on stage?
My sound can be a bit chameleon-like depending on which artist I’m playing with. But for consistency on a tour, the secret is in my Aguilar Tone Hammer DI-preamp. The cool thing about it is that I have the option to send the front-of-house my sound either before my EQ settings or after, so I have a huge amount of control as to what bass tone the house is hearing. If I have different tunings in one set, I use two of the same model of basses—just different colors. That way, I know they will have the same output.
What does your practice consist of?
It depends. If I’m about to do a big reading gig, I’ll read the Broadway musical Evita top to bottom in order to keep my chops up— it has a lot of odd meters, and it’s very bass-centric. If I’m preparing for a tour, I’ll run the set until I know it forward and backward with or without vocals, which is how a lot of auditions are running today. So, you have to know it impeccably without that vocal reference. If I’m just home in between tours, I’ll transcribe bass parts just to keep my ears fresh. I love to use old-school manuscript paper and actually write out basslines note for note as verbatim as possible.
What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Empower each other! My greatest friendships in the music industry have been forged through nurturing and supporting other musicians: bassists, guitarists, drummers, all instrumentalists, really. When you go to auditions, don’t look around and see competition. Look around and see network. Take numbers and make friends. These are your peers. In the bigger picture, you will be subbing for them and vice versa. Auditions are a golden opportunity to reach out to one another and build a community of support. Also, don’t compare yourself to everyone else. We all have something different to offer—support and celebrate one another!