NAMM 2018: Interview with Chris Wyse of Ace Frehley, OWL and the Cult – Ampeg Amps and Pedals

Photo credit: Tammy Greene

I’m with Chris Wyse at the Ampeg booth NAMM 2018.

Chris Wyse: That’s right.

I first saw you when I photographed your show at the Whisky A Go Go with your band OWL.

Yeah.

You play the upright bass with a bow. 

Oh yeah, yeah. That’s the special part of OWL and maybe one of the more unique colors that I get to play with and do play with and there’s new OWL coming up that there is a song where I orchestrated an intro and an outro with like 8 basses all at once all bowed. With that, it’s kind of a punk rock, hardcore heavy tune as a core. So, I take great pleasure in mixing up instruments, instrumentation, and orchestration but something that’s not normally done like that. Just a really raw heavy song with like a punk-heavy song on those with the orchestration. So, it’s kind of a juxtapose.

When you are playing with Ace, do you get to use the upright bass?

Not yet. It’s all bass guitar stuff. We are working on the new record and I’m tossing in new riffs and ideas. He likes a couple of them and you never know right now. So, I was just talking to a co-writer an old buddy of his wrote a couple of songs on the last record and he was saying, “Maybe you could help us finish this new song”. So, fingers crossed and knock on wood because I don’t have a record done with him yet but I’m hoping to get some of my ideas and things out through Ace’s songwriting, collaboration and you never know, it’s got a “ballady” thing on it. I think that would be the opportunity. You know, it would be a pretty addition.

Chris Wyse (OWL) Photo credit: Tammy Greene

Did you start with the upright? This was your passion correct?

I adopted it as a heavy metal hard rock instrument I think and that’s why it really became a passion because I was trying to do everything I accomplish on the bass guitar but I was written up in a guitar magazine by Mike Barney. Guitar for the practiced musician, but I was really young. So, that was all bass guitar and I was really into like Eddie Van Halen and Billy Sheehan. Steve Harris from Iron Maiden and I mish-mashed a lot of different stuff together and then I went, “Oh man I wanna do that in the upright now”. So, it was bass guitar first and but I did go to college and study classical and my parent’s kind of made sure I did it the right way which was good because it’s a complex world in the classical realm. The double bass is no joke really you got to commit to it you know?

It looks nice.

Yeah, it’s beautiful.

It’s different, the upright bass suits you well! 

Thanks.

 

You’re welcome. Like I mentioned earlier in this interview we are at the Ampeg booth. You have been with this company for a very long time.

Well, if I go back 20 years I was still using them and when I was a kid, I don’t think I can afford it or whatever you have to occasional one maybe at the club or an extra but it’s been a very long time. It’s basically the Ozzy stuff, the Cult stuff all the OWL stuff, Tal Backman if we go back to ’99, so it’s always been Ampeg, you know.

What does it give you that’s different than the other “Amps” that are out there?

Well, it’s not necessarily bells and whistles, it’s the fact that they got it right.

Aww, okay.

And it’s just like to me it’s like my favorite car is a Mercedes Sudan and it’s just like I would say that the S-550 to me is like the vintage reissues. The essence of a Mercedes Sudan is the same 20 years ago the way it feels to now really. So, the Ampegs certainly got it right like them. So, It’s the basic quality of the sound and I like it “tubeyness” and I like the tubes, they were the first ones so the qualities of the two are big deal for me.

Now, in your demo. You concentrated a lot on the pedals and the difference, can kinda go over that?

They just released the new chorus pedal and a new compression pedal so I was basically playing around letting you hear with and without and pieces of music that actually didn’t use a chorus on previous records or so but put it on because it sounds so good anyway. Has got a bit of a nice depth and swirl to it without being intrusive and of course the amp and the cabinets or something that’s stable in my sound so they also have a pre-amp which you can really fatten up your sound with. You can hear in the demos that I had it off and then I had it on it was like…..Double Godzilla all of the sudden.

Yeah, there’s a definite difference in tone. 

So that’s really neat and most of my stuff it’s all about a little bit of dry tone or a little bit of gain on the amp without being obnoxious and then if I really want the full blast I do that on purpose.

Photo credit: Tammy Greene

So, let’s go back to OWL a little bit. Now you stated you’re gonna put out singles instead of a full album. Is it because of your busy touring schedule or because the industry has changed so much?

Both. The fact that it’s acceptable again. You just put out one song and there’s no rhyme or reason why you have to do it one way or the other, which doesn’t mean I rule out records just that right now with Ace and OWL and trying to keep everything going, if I have a great song I just wanna get it out and share it with the people that are interested that’s kinda why I’m doing it that way. I’ll have to like hideaway for the next year and a half to do a full record.

Are you the sole writer for Owl?

Essentially with Dan and the band, we might grapple over, “I don’t like it that way, let’s try something else.” But I write a lot of it but I get help from Dan Dinsmore the drummer.

Are there any plans on getting back out on tour for OWL?

Yeah, yeah. Were actively resorting our game plan but first I was just featured in bass player magazine for this clinic and we just put in a new video of for a recent, most recent, EP called “Things You Can’t See” so if you go to bass player and look up “Things You Can’t See” video you’ll find our new video and it came out great. So, what we’re doing is we’re keeping the material going without having one big release and then we’re gone for two years. We’re just gonna keep putting stuff out.

Photo provided from Owl The Band website

Well, that is one of the songs I love, “Things You Can’t See“.

Things You Can’t See“, thanks!

I believe there are other sources affecting you in life, things that you can’t see but sense where you should or could be, it’s hard to explain it really touched me and that is one of the songs that I really like and appreciate.

Yeah. That song is great because what I like to do is leave the lyrics open for interpretation because it’s obviously a relationship dynamic. So, then it can be re-interpreted as your own relationship with yourself or your own life that maybe your missing something, there’s something going on in the background it’s on the ……. and the things you can’t see could be your own infliction of you blocking yourself.

Right, right.

So that’s what I like to play with.

That’s the impression I got.

Yeah, yeah.

And I really, really loved it.

Without saying it, it comes across but that’s the emotional content so I’m happy that you get it.

That’s awesome!! Well, I believe that is it, is there anything else you would like to add or that we didn’t cover?

Watch for more upcoming Ace shows, and look out for this new song “Believe” by OWL and were trying to get it out soon.

Perfect. And they can find your band Owl?  

Owl The Band.

Sorry, Owl The Band. 🙂 

Or else you gonna find a bird watching site, owltheband.net and then I’m on Facebook, I also have a fan page. And I usually get back to people, like a lot of people I get back to, might take me a minute, but eventually, when I get off tour I’ll go back and go, “Oh, I miss this person” and I’ll say “Hi”. If they have an appreciation for it I wanna contact them.

That’s great you do that. Thank you! It’s an honor to finally meet you!

Thank you!

Chris Wyse Demo/Question and Answer- Ampeg booth NAMM 2018

All photos by Tammy Greene
©2018.  Please DO NOT copy or use without permission.

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