Who: Beth-Ami Heavenstone, bass player
Bands: Graham Bonnet Band, Alcatrazz, Hardly Dangerous
Female bass players have been rarely seen in the male-orientated rock world. Our interviewee, L.A. based Beth-Ami Heavenstone, is one of the few: a living proof that women can also rock if they want to!
Lately Beth-Ami has been known from playing and touring with the legendary Graham Bonnet. With Graham Bonnet Band she has done hundreds of gigs and a few studio albums. Before this Beth-Ami has played with all-female group Hardly Dangerous for 25 years.
Beth-Ami has also visited Finland a few times with Graham Bonnet Band, and is coming back again this summer in the lines of Alcatrazz. Their upcoming shows will be on July 3rd and 4th in Ace Corner in Lahti.
1. Hi Beth-Ami! Since 2013 you have been playing with the legendary singer Graham Bonnet. How did your co-operation start?
Graham contacted me on LinkedIn and said that he was always looking for new bands to work with. I didn’t know much about Graham beyond “Since You’ve Been Gone” but thought perhaps he was now producing bands so I sent him links to the two bands I was casually working with and that began our correspondence.
2. What kind of musical background do you have? How did you end up with the bass in the first place? Do you play other instruments?
Prior to joining Graham, I had been the bass player for an all girl band called Hardly Dangerous for 25 years led by the incredibly dynamic vocalist Tomi Rae Brown (the widow of James Brown). Anytime Tomi asks me to participate in a reunion show, I always do it. Those were some of the best days of my life.
I don’t play any other instruments and began playing bass when an old boyfriend left one with me. It was a right handed model. I am ambidextrous but do the important tasks with my left hand. Since that first bass he abandoned was right handed, the rest is history.
3. Has it been difficult adapting the bass parts you play in Graham Bonnet Band as they’ve been played by various bassists along the years? Have you found your own way and style of playing them?
I definitely have my own style dictated by the fact that my hands are petite. All the bassists Graham’s worked with have extremely varied styles. It’s hard to choose a favorite. Roger Glover is so underrated and I love what he did on “Down to Earth.” I come from a blues based background and relate most to what he’s done. Chris Glen is genius and I love his style. Gary Shea has a very straight ahead style and I find his bass lines fairly simple because I just have to pound 16th notes.
4. What gear do you use?
I play Fender Precision basses with maple necks, some vintage, some new…. all fantastic! I have a ’76 SVT hard with two 4 x 10 Ampeg cabinets. I have a pedal train board with a tuner, Drop D pedal and Trutone Route 66 compression/distortion pedal.
5. As a female musician, do you feel that you have to prove your competence more often?
I do feel like I have to prove myself for varying reasons. I have to remind myself that Graham chose me for this position and wouldn’t risk his career if he didn’t think I was right for the job.
6. Women have taken more part in the rock and heavy scene nowadays. Still there could be more girls with guitars, grooving the drums or slamming the bass. What would you suggest to improve the situation?
I don’t think about gender much when I watch or listen to bands. That being said, when I do see exceptional female players, I feel a little extra excitement and think to myself: “Alright, sister! Show them how it’s done!”
7. Do you have any female musicians or bassists that you especially like?
Of course, Carol Kaye would top the list. She is amazing! I know there are other great/prodigy players like Tap Wilkenfeld or Ida Nielsen, but I haven’t gone out of my way to listen to them. I tend to listen more to music I already know and love.
8. You have visited and toured in Finland and Scandinavia a few times with Graham Bonnet Band. What kind of experience was it? Do you like the nordic countries? Is there a significant difference compared to L.A. where you live?
I love coming to Finland! I like Sweden and Norway too but Finland is one of my favorite places to be. I love the topography, the food and most of all, the people! I can’t wait to come back!
9. What are your future plans with Graham Bonnet Band? Is there a new album coming?
The Graham Bonnet Band has recently rebranded itself back to Alcatrazz and for me, this is super exciting. We are currently working on a new album due out around the beginning of the year. So far it’s shaping up to be a great record.
Interview & edited: Aili Viitanen