I recently sat down to chat with Chris Wyse, front man and bass player of the hard rock band Owl, about some of his favorite gear. Owl's third album, Things You Can't See, is due out on July 28th and it was great to get some insight into the new music. Wyse also plays bass for Ace Frehley, and was the bassist in seminal rock outfit The Cult for a decade. Here is how the conversation went.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound? Wyse: I like my Ampeg Classic VR1 the best. I use six live with Ace Frehley. It's amazing looking and tall.
What about it makes it so important to you? Wyse: I can get a vast amount of tones from the VR1. Nasty to a perfect bell.
How was this gear used during the recording of Owl's forthcoming album, Things You Can't See? Wyse: The Ampeg VR Mini is a small version of the big one. It sounded amazing in the studio for the new Owl bass tracks. It is smaller and has a tighter sound so it does not shake the walls and you can still get the big type of sound, but more focused. I really love the silver look too. The visual of silver is an eye-catcher.
How do you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in your live set? Wyse: It really becomes about the energy with my p-bass and Ampeg and just singing my ass off. I've got a great band in Owl with drummer Dan Dinsmore and guitarist Jason Achilles Mezilis, and they kill it. Also love playing Steinberger NXT Upright. Great bow and finger sound. The passion has to be there. So, like an actor I think about the concepts of the songs.
What are the major pros and cons? Wyse: You may just reach people on that gut level. It is always worth it to take a risk live.
Do you have a backup for this gear, if so, what? Wyse: I have had to go with my bass guitar when I've had a problem with my upright bass, which creates some new expressions. I like to mix it up and be ready to change up things on the fly.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it? Wyse: I have 3 uprights and 3 bass guitars (P basses). I leave my number one bass home because it has a '54 neck and sounds great in the studio. Everything takes a beating live, but I like to use my stuff.
Give us your best "gear goes wrong" story. Wyse: Recently at Sweden Rock, playing with Ace Frehley, my bass went out in front of 40,000 people. It ended up being a loose cable. The thing is, all your energy can go out the window. I was grateful we got it fixed and going again, and the crowd ate up the bass solo.
Any final thoughts or comments on the gear? Wyse: Ampeg is a true classic. For me nothing beats them. The new Owl record is Ampeg-powered and strung with D'addario bass strings.
Check out the 'Things You Can't See' Album Teaser here.