We talk with Cult/Owl bassist Chris Wyse
You’ve definitely heard Chris Wyse’s bass playing. Whether in his current high profile gig with The Cult, with his left-of-center hard rocking trio Owl or on recordings from Ozzy Osbourne or Mick Jagger, the Queens, NY born musician is certainly a journeymen and a killer player. I had a recent conversation with Chris about The Cult’s present tour, what his band Owl is up to, his night with Mick Jagger and his approach to both electric bass as well as bowing on upright.
Like a lot of bands, The Cult is presently playing one entire album on their tour (Electric in this case) plus a smattering of others songs. How did that idea to feature one album come about?
On the last tour a few years back we did the same thing with the Love album and it went over really good. With The Cult you have these particular records that the fans grew up with and are part of their lives so I think it’s great for the fans as well as a great experience for us. Plus the Electric record makes for a great set from top to bottom.
And you guys get to play songs that you might not normally play.
Yes exactly, that’s been the fun part for me because I really enjoy playing “Aphrodisiac Jacket” and “Memphis Hip Shake” and stuff like that.
Can you speak to mixing upright bass with playing electric in a rock context; how did you come to that?
At a very young age I was getting write-ups in guitar magazines for my bass solos and style. I really pushed it over the top, playing two things at once with tapping, real shredder playing, but I also wanted to be innovative and approach things from new angles. I went to college for music and found the upright bass there and then had to learn how to play with a bow. Then it got really exciting trying to see how I could incorporate that all with adding delay, distortion to the upright, like any other rock bass player would.
And with The Cult you find you can incorporate your upright playing or is that what your band Owl is for?
I have utilized upright in The Cult a bit, those guys are really great about me bringing my creativity into the band, for the records I’ve recorded with them and live. But I can’t overwhelm a band that’s already been established with my thing. The drummer of Owl and I, Dan Dinsmore have known one another since high school, so we got back together to feature my center songs, our approach, things that I like I do that doesn’t fit The Cult.
I love that I both bring something to The Cult and what I get to do with Owl. People always ask which I like better and I always say it’s apples and oranges. I’m having a great time with both.
I have a lot of relationships with different producers and Marti Frederiksen who was producing Mick’s record called to ask if I could come out for the day. Darryl Jones who was playing bass on the record couldn’t make it that day and Marti didn’t want to stop the flow. He told me to bring my upright and when I got there he kind of wanted me to show off a bit, which I thought the bass playing was already too busy. But they ended up keeping some of my bow stuff I played over the top of “Visions of Paradise.”
But I got to hang out with Mick Jagger, share a couple of bottles of wine with him. Darryl came back so I didn’t get to finish the session but it was still a fantastic experience. For those guys to think of me when there’s an opening is nothing but a compliment all the way around.
Let’s talk about covering The Kinks “Destroyer” on the Owl record. It’s a great heavy version of a song not too many people cover.
In Owl we try to do a lot of off-center things, that’s really what it’s all about. Dan wanted to do a cover, suggested “Destroyer” and Jason (Jason Achilles Mezilis plays guitar and sings in Owl) and I worked it out with him and it really popped. Of course when it came out that good we said: ”Dan, you’re a genius!”
So what’s in the immediate future for you and The Cult and Owl?
The Cult tour is pretty extensive for the rest of the year, probably adding dates as well. We have a lengthy states tour, some 30 odd shows, then we break for two weeks, then we go to Australia. During the breaks I am sure I’ll work on some Owl music, maybe do a show, then we have the new Cult record we are probably going to get into next year; Owl will release some singles and videos.
So, you’re basically pretty booked-up for the foreseeable future, a very busy working musician.
I think one of the many things my mom and dad instilled in me, I was raised right, was to always work on your craft.