Renowned bassist, Chris Wyse, currently plays bass with the classic rock band The Cult, and has played with such dynamic artists as Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jagger, and Jerry Cantrell, among others. Wyse, who's exceptionally multi-talented, also fronts his second musical project, Owl. He has been the lead singer of Owl since 2007, and the band has released their second album, The Right Thing, in 2013. Their video for the title track debuted on Rolling Stone's website. Wyse is on tour with The Cult for their Electric 13 Tour. For this tour, The Cult will play their 1987 popular and iconic album, Electric, in its entirety for the very first time. Each performance will feature the first set of their Electric hit songs, including "Wild Flower," "Love Removal Machine," and "Lil' Devil," and the second half will feature the band performing their 30-year industry of hits. The Cult will release new material in 2014, and their double album called Electric Peace released on July 30, 2013.
Of the Electric 13 tour, Wyse states “I am very excited about the Electric 13 tour. Playing the record from top to bottom makes for an amazing set. This is sure to be one of the best Cult tours yet.” Relating his experiences in music with The Cult and his own band, Owl, he claims that "it is a great honor to be in such an iconic band as The Cult. I feel at home here. And I love that Owl offers me the outlet to showcase my upright bass playing and vocals. I have incredible chemistry with both bands, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
We had the distinct opportunity to chat with Chris about his experiences with Ozzy, Mick Jagger, Metallica, his favorites in music, his band Owl, his love and hope for Detroit, and much more. Read on to learn more about this multi-dimensional and exceptionally talented musician:
So, you're doing good today?
Chris: Yeah, we had a day off in Florida yesterday after four in a row, and you know, made it to the gym, got to check out Minneapolis a little bit, rejuvenated and ready to rock again tonight.
There you go! Living the life, huh?!
Chris: It's what I do.
What are the similarities and differences with the dynamics of The Cult and Owl that you perform in?
Chris: Well, I'm playing bass and singing, and I still sing background in The Cult, so there's the similarity there. There's an edge to The Cult that have their own style and sound, for sure. For me, being an upright bassist, playing with the bow, using effects, playing bass guitar in an unorthodox way sometimes, because I do hand-tapping, and two things at once. A lot of people don't realize (or have a hard time understanding) what I'm playing until they see it live, and that's where a lot of people get the impact of the band. I'm my own singer-songwriter, and there's all kinds of different things that I utilize as an artist that I wouldn't get unless I created Owl. For example, on the Owl record, there will be like a bass solo on track 11 called 11, that's a hand-tapping bass solo with piano and drums. There's no guitar on there, and at the end there's a blistering bass solo. A lot of people think it's guitar, but it's bass. So, yeah, those things are different and I get to express them.
What was the recording process like for Owl's The Right Thing?
Chris: What happened was I would be out on the road with The Cult, and I had all these songs brewing again for album number two with Owl. We thought we were doing an EP with the demanding kind of schedule that I had, so in order to maybe keep current and releasing new material, we thought we'd do an EP, and that ended up turning into more material and on all the breaks I just kept going and writing more material with the guys, getting together, and jamming on a great chorus idea, pushing all the way through to make a record. So, it took a couple of years, a lot of focus, a lot of work, because I also did The Cult and Choice of Weapon, for example, which was last year's record (2012), we recorded that, so it was an intense amount of work. What happens is being in The Cult, the bass and drums get done first, so that allotted me time to sit down and take a break from all of that, and ideally we'd complete the record. That would give me a block of time to get back to Owl, and at the end of Choice of Weapon, after that touring cycle, we took a break because we worked really hard. So, I took a little time, rejuvenated, and focusing on the Owl record, and the whole first half of 2013 was doing shows in New York and LA; we had a lot of sold-out shows and stuff. The whole thing was a process; just think that you'd go in and chew all that, bite all of that off all at once would be kind of impossible. You have to have a stick-to-it-iveness, and I produced the Owl record as well; not that I need that title or even care. I really enjoyed it, but it took a lot of focus. I had a big MEAD notebook of all the notes where I left everything off each time I would have to leave and take off on the road, I would keep up on it. On a day off, I might go over it and take notes, and send notes to the engineer, pro tools guy, and then we'd discuss it too. You couldn't keep your eye off the prize or you'd lose it; it was too big of a job. So, it was intense, but it's the kind of work I like to do.
Is there any particular song from the current album that really means a lot to you; it sticks out in your mind?
Chris: Well, Perfect is really pretty and it's just a three-chord song, but somehow it's still got the mystique of Owl, and it's got like two-hand tapping on the bass; but I just think as far as...it's just a really great singer-songwriter point-of-view song. That song is very sweet and simple in a lot of ways. Perfect is not about being perfect, but recognizing how things in life are perfect as they are. It's a real sweet song. I also like "Give"; it has a lot of emotional content; when you feel like you're at the end of your rope and you still have to try harder. It's one of those kinds of songs, and I've seen people really react to that one. Those two stand out.
You've played with iconic musicians like Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jagger, Metallica, and many more. What has been your most memorable experience out of all those that you played with?
Chris: It's a little tricky to point that out. Ozzy was a big deal, because I was such a geezer, Black Sabbath, Ozzy fan. Ozzy always picked the best musicians too, so it was a real honor to do an entire record with him. Then I got called back, and they made it it's own release on Prince of Darkness, and then it was also a box set. It was a box set first rather, and then they added songs, and then it became its own release. Then I got called back again to do more, so that was a real treat for me. When I was a kid, I always thought the best gig you could get would be Ozzy, because he always got the best musicians, so that was really cool. I recently got to do a show with Paul Stanley from KISS, which was awesome because KISS is a stand-out for me too since I was 8 years old, and I've done a DVD with Ace Freely... and you know, Mick Jagger, drinking wine with Mick Jagger, playing a boat upright bass part of Paradise was really cool. It's kind of all incomparable, but you know, maybe Ozzy's a stand-out, maybe the KISS stuff. Depending on what day it is, it might lean one way or another (laughs). Ozzy with the whole experience, and the whole record process and then adding more to it, and having two releases...as a kid, I would tell my parents I was going to move to Hollywood and play with Ozzy someday, and they were like, "That's nice, son," and then of course I got to call my Mom and Dad and say, "Guess who I'm with today?" At that point, they're sort of getting used to starting to hear about the stars I was working with, and they were still very excited and I was too. That's a strong one; the Ozzy one for sure.
Growing up, were you exposed to any musical instruments that ultimately influenced your desire to play bass?
Chris: My Mom and Dad are from Ireland. I'm a first-generation Irish-American. They did play a lot of Celtic music, a lot of like rip and fiddle. There was already an influence brewing there for me. My father sings around the house all the time, even to this day. He has a really powerful voice; a really loud voice, and he always sang. He did sing some professionally when he was younger. I think his vocal thing was a big deal, and I was an Irish-Roman Catholic school-kid singing in choir. So, I mean, the music thing was strong right away. I knew I was going to be a musician, I just didn't really know what instrument. I was confused about that in my young teens. My buddies played Iron Maiden, I was just sold on what Steve Harris was doing and how amazing he was. Iron Maiden's bass player is actually the kind of spark that started the fire for me. I knew I was always going to sing, whether I had to be the lead singer or not, I always sang background. So, when I started Owl, I started demoing all the songs, all these guys were like, friends of mine, were like, "Man, it sounds great, you should do a record." I was thinking I would sort of be like a second singer, like a Jerry Cantrell in Alice in Chains, and I realized how hard it was to find these particular kinds of acts of people that had their act together, and I just started realizing, and people started telling me, "Man, these songs sound great, why would you find anyone else?" You know that was years ago, and I sort of got over the whole concept of being a lead singer, and just accepted it. I get to enjoy that when I do. I liken it to more of a Cream or Hendrix style thing, like I'm also playing an instrument; slightly different thing than just standing there with a microphone. I got over it, you know I'm going to up and sing and play bass tonight anyway (Ian's the lead singer), but how far removed is it really? There's no big difference; you just get a little more spotlight on you when you do Owl, that's all.
Do you have a guilty musical or entertainment pleasure?
Chris: I don't know if it's that guilty in some weird way, but people are always surprised. My Mom and Dad listen to a lot of Neil Diamond, and I think he's a great songwriter, and I also think he's a great example of say, there's these amazing singers on The Voice, just really top-notch talent. But, Neil Diamond was an artist, and that's the thing I think people need to connect the dots with. It's great to be a great singer, you know, but that just becomes exercising a muscle after awhile. It's important to be a great artist, and I'm not sure if Neil Diamond would have made it on The Voice, for example. He's got maybe a baritone, limited range to some degree; I don't even like to categorize people, but you know, if you're just listening to his vocals, you might be like well, "there's this, that, and the other,"; I think Steven Tyler brought up Bob Dylan at one point, saying that Dylan might not would have even made it on the show (The Voice). You just need to connect the dots a little bit, and I think Neil Diamond is a great example of a great singer-songwriter. Owl's been thinking about re-making one of his (Diamond's) songs...I think "I Am, I Said" really sums it up...I think we could spookify it a little bit like Owl does and still make it very beautiful...imagine bows and stuff in there, and upright bass...
Yeahhh, I can imagine that, absolutely!
Chris: Yeah, so there's more Owl to come by the way. We're still going to release another video or two for The Right Thing, and we're going to sneak in more recording of our shows, and next year, we're hoping to do a little more proper touring across the country in the early part of the year (2014).
What has been your favorite city to play so far in both of your bands?
Chris: Well, you know, I'm a New York/LA guy, so the Owl shows have been great there. It's great to have two hubs, but I'd like to bring up one place that needs a lot of love now and rebuilding, which is Detroit. It's called Detroit Rock City for a reason, and it's always been a great town to play. KISS didn't get that title of their song; it just is that place. So, I've got a lot of love for Detroit, it's a part of our country, and I've always loved playing there. So, I'm looking forward...I think there's going to be a special energy there, because I think everyone knows what's going on with Detroit, and it's an important part of our country and important part of our history. You know, I remember playing Windsor, Canada at the Beaver Fest, and you could look across the water and see the big GM building; it was beautiful and there's a lot of hope there. Our country needs to be strong. I'm really looking forward to playing Detroit for those reasons and that sentiment.
Who was your first concert and do you have a favorite?
Chris: I saw Peace of Mind by Iron Maiden and I was already infatuated with Steve Harris and bass playing, so that just probably sealed the deal for me to be a lifer. Peace of Mind from Iron Maiden, I remember them performing pieces of these live and he does the high bass riff at the end of the guitar solo, and I was just like on cloud nine. That's still a stand-out for me. I was lucky enough to have a jam band with Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden a few years ago, where we re-created Hendrix songs, and I'm hoping our schedules will line up and we'll be able to do that again. That'll be real treat.
You're definitely living the dream, that's for sure!
Chris: I'm just trying to keep up with it all. It's more of a maybe a job from my perspective at times, but I appreciate what you're saying, it gives me a little bit more perspective. Thanks!
Absolutely! I'm in awe of listening to you and learn a lot! That's all I have for you, and thank you for your time.
Chris: Thanks so much, and thanks for spreading the word about The Right Thing and for the interview.
Have a great day and be blessed!
Chris: Okay, you too. Have a great day!
8/18 - Nashville, TN - Marathon Music Works
8/20 - Silver Springs, MD - Fillmore
8/22 - New York, NY - Roseland Ballroom
8/23 - Boston, MA - House of Blues
8/24 - Hampton Beach, NH - Hampton Beach Casino
8/25 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
8/27 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues
8/29 - Lake Charles, LA - L'Aubergine Casino Resort
8/30 - Houston, TX - House of Blues
8/31 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues
9/1 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
9/3 - Austin, TX - ALC Live/Moody Theatre
9/5 - Pheonix, AZ - Celebrity Theatre
9/6 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues
9/7 - Los Angeles, CA - Wiltern Theatre
9/8 - Los Angeles, CA - House of Blues
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