You call yourself a hard rock fan? Then you must know Chris Wyse right? Oh, it doesn’t ring a bell? Well let me introduce you. Chris is one of the hardest working bassists in music today. At this moment he is the bassist with Ace Frehley’s band. They have just released a crazy good album titled Space Invader, and are currently on tour in support of it. He is the bassist for the legendary band The Cult and has been for over ten years. Also on his plate is being the Singer / Bassist for experimental hard rock group Owl. With all these projects going on it’s a wonder that he has time to eat and sleep, never mind having a moment to talk with concertblogger.com. We are grateful for a few minutes with him.
Chris Wyse: It’s fine, I’ve already done a photo shoot for Ampeg, so it’s already been a busy morning.
CB: You’ve toured the world dozens of times over. Do you have a trick for staying alert and productive while traveling?
Chris Wyse: It can be very, very draining. There is no sugar-coating it. The road is probably one of the hardest kind of lifestyles. You have to adapt. I always try to do some yoga, go to the gym, or jump in the pool. Anything to keep yourself balanced. It gets very tense, you get very tired from always missing sleep. I found a recording called “Brainwave Sleep” by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. He uses certain sound frequencies that are integrated into music. you have to listen to it with headphones, but it’s scientifically proven and it puts me to sleep within twenty minutes. Look him up, he’s got tons of recordings.
CB: Let’s start at the beginning, What was the first thing that happened in your life that made you aware of music and sparked your initial interest in being a musician.
Chris Wyse: That’s what’s so great about playing with Ace. There was Kiss when I was eight years old. I was highly influenced and impressed by their performance, but also by how rocking their music was. Kiss was it and that’s what makes it so special to be with Ace right now. Eventually I found Iron Maiden and that’s what solidified my desire to play bass. I realized the instrument could be much more than supportive. It blew my mind when I heard Steve Harris. It was like “He’s just as, if not more important, than anyone else in the whole band”
CB: In hard rock the guitarist is the revered one, and all the ladies swoon for the singer, but we all know that the rhythm section is where it starts. When was the first time you found yourself with a bass in your hands?
Chris Wyse: I got obsessed with the bass because of Steve Harris. I was 13 and I had begged my parents for a bass for months. The teachers would get annoyed with me because I would be tapping out rhythms with my hands on my desk and they would tell me to stop it. When I finally got my bass, I found that I already had a lot of right hand dexterity and playing came naturally. I had pictured playing in my head for so long that my friends were just blown away. They kept asking me if I’d played in another lifetime or something. It also might be genetics though. My grandfather, who was an amazing, amazing man actually shredded on violin. He lived in Ireland and I got to meet him a few times before he passed. My sound I think incorporates the strong Celtic background that I have.
CB: Is it true that you were profiled in Musician Magazine at the tender age of 17?
Chris Wyse: That is true. I was 17 when Mike Varney wrote me up. He couldn’t believe some of what I was doing. I had mad chops because I think I practiced about 27 hours a day. I literally slept with my bass, I woke up with my bass. As soon as I got out of school I would run home to play my bass. I was obsessed. If I found something that someone could do that I couldn’t pull off, I wouldn’t go to bed. I’d stay up all night until I could figure out how to do it.
CB: Who influenced you at this point in your life?
Chris Wyse: It’s funny, I met Billy Sheehan, and all my friends were telling him how much I admired him. I shook his hand and got his autograph. There is a great little story about how he let me in the venue to see the show. I had tried to get in, but I was too young and they wouldn’t let me in. Billy said look, at 10:30 go down the alley and wait at that door. I’m going to open it for you so you can get in, but you can’t drink so you don’t get in trouble. If you’re here for the music you can see the show.
CB: Wow, that’s crazy! What an awesome experience. It’s like your fate was sealed from that point on. You were destined to be a hard rock bassist.
CW: I’ve had some great things just happen to me. When I met Mike Bordin from Faith No More, he was like “ where did you come from? I haven’t heard finger playing since, well, never. You’re the guy for Ozzy”. I was like well thanks Mike, that’s a great compliment. A while later I got a call from him saying “ hey, we’re getting started on a record and you’re in.” I was shocked. I asked about an audition and he just said, no, I told them about you and that was it.
CB: So, you’ve played with Ozzy and you are tight with the guys in Faith No More.
Chris Wyse: I am very excited for the new Faith No More album. Mike Patton is one of my favorite singers. He really influenced my band Owl, which is coming into it’s own now. 2015 is going to be the year of the Owl. We’ll be releasing a new album called “Things You Can’t See” in the first quarter of 2015. Check out our website http://www.owltheband.net/ for all the latest information about it. I’m really proud of this new stuff, and like I said, I was influenced by Mike Patton. One of the things that I liked about Patton was that there is a “no bullshit in between the art” rule with him. The guy is completely an artist, and I totally respect that. He’s an interesting fellow. I love the idea that in one song you can take someone on a journey. It doesn’t have to be the same homogeneous stuff.
CB: No one ever changed the world by playing it safe. You have to always try new things.
Chris Wyse: I try to push the envelope with the bass and I think it’s very apparent in Owl. I love being the singer and I use the stand-up bass liberally on the new record.
CB: As I said before, you’ve jammed with a dizzying array of some of the greatest singers in rock history, is that what gave you the bug to be the front man, or was it just an organic progression? I know one of your childhood friends is in the band with you. Or did you just want to be the guy that the girls swoon for?
Chris Wyse: Ha! Ha! well, I feel that I have that emotional content as a writer and singer. I look at myself as more of a musician rather than a bassist. I’d like to think of myself as someone more like Jimi Hendrix as in, he not only sings, but plays and writes the songs. Really though the relationship that we have between us in Owl is much more like family than anything else. We all go way back and at the end of the day, it’s a really really powerful band and I’m very lucky to be a part of it.
CB: What can we expect from the new record?
Chris Wyse: Well, Owl is a trio and that puts an interesting spin on things. I did take the liberty to kind of orchestrate some stuff with a bow, and a timpani, and some strings. It’s really musical, but easy to listen to. I think that’s the real charm in Owl. We have a lot of really catchy songs, and we also have some crazy drum, bass, guitar stuff, but it’s not Jazz, or Fusion, or really anything even close. There is some crazy stuff on this album that I don’t think anyone has even heard before. I say that with confidence, because I am the guy who keeps tabs on what all the other guys are doing.
CB: You’re like an expert on the experts.
Chris Wyse: The upright bass really is a big deal in Owl. That’s what really separates me from the pack. I think that’s been a big plus in my career too. It’s what sets me apart. I electrify it and put some effects pedals on it like a guitar or a standard bass guitar. It’s really fun and it will shake your private parts live.
CB: You really have so many projects going on now.
Chris Wyse: Yeah, I’m really excited about the Owl stuff, I’m very blessed to be with Ace, The Cult is on a pretty good break at the moment, so it all just worked out. I was just writing songs and getting demos together, so it was free and clear to go out with Ace. I’m doing a bass solo every night and I’m even singing Strange Ways, it’s really great.
CB: I don’t know where you find the energy.
Chris Wyse: Well when I stop, I really stop. I’ll be in a coma for like three days after a tour.
CB: How do you keep all the songs straight in your head? You have Ace songs in their, along with Cult songs, not to mention classic Kiss tunes too?
Chris Wyse: I do lots of homework. This is the not rock and roll answer, but I work my ass off and practice every single day. As a kid I didn’t go out on weekends, I practiced my craft. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, but that’s nothing to be bummed about. I’ve given my whole life to being a rock musician.
Chris Wyse: I forgot to tell you one little part of the Billy Sheehan story. My friends were telling him how much I loved him and that I could play any of his solos and that I could play anything he could play. He said to me “That’s cool Chris, but make sure you develop your own style” and that really stuck with me. That’s partly why I started playing the upright bass. It’s something that not a lot of other guys do and it makes my sound unique.
CB: I guess the only thing left for you to accomplish is for Steve Harris to get the flu and Iron Maiden calling you up to fill in for a few shows?
Chris Wyse: Ha! That would be a dream come true, but it would never happen. Although I’d be chomping at the bit to do it if it ever did.
Chris Wyse: I know you have your family there, so thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure to get to talk to you for a few moments
CW: Thank You and I’ll see you out there on the road.
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