Interview with Owl singer/bassist Chris Wyse
By Maxie Willis
Owl is a rock band featuring three exceptionally talented rock musicians who have joined together to create something that is more than the sum of its individual parts. The band is a collaboration between bassist/singer Chris Wyse (The Cult), drummer Dan Dinsmore (The Clay People), and guitarist Jason Mezilis (Your Horrible Smile). Wyse and Dinsmore met growing up in New York and have now realized their dream of playing in a band together. Local Los Angeles luminary Mezilis rounds out the line-up.
You are the bass player in The Cult. Tell us about spearheading your side project Owl.
The idea of Owl really came out of the fact that there was no outlet for what I like to write and play. I like song writing and I like progressive music so I combine the two. The beginnings of some of our songs were riffs and melodies I started writing when I did "Beyond Good and Evil," my first album with The Cult. Owl spawned from visions I had of a new sound I had been working on for a handfull of years. I remember Billy Duffy and Jerry Cantrell coming to some Owl shows and giving me the thumbs up, which was very encouraging. We recorded the Owl album at Matt Sorum's studio in Los Angeles.
How would you describe Owl¹s music and musical influences?
Owl's music has a hook-heavy consciousness as well as a no-boundaries attitude. I feel we made a very cohesive album even though we leave the realm of what you might expect. I love dissonance and utilizing non westernized scales and beats. At the end of the day a song you can remember is always a great place to start. We have a background of following all the classic heavy bands like Zep, Sabbath, Floyd, Hendrix and Van Halen. All these groups followed their own artistic voice and sounded to me like some of it was movie music.
Photo Credit: Andy Buchanan
We hear you¹re a big fan of Iron Maiden's Steve Harris. Was it his playing that made you want to become a bass player?
Steve Harris is one of those innovative players that wasn't afraid to be different. His playing is so in your face. There is only one Steve Harris and he changed my life. I was a kid and heard "Number of the Beast" and said to myself, "That's it!! I know what I'll be doing the rest of my life!" I learned and played every Iron Maiden record, and that inspired me more than anything. I used to love to sing along with Bruce too What a powerhouse!
What are the sonic differences between playing the bass in Owl vs. in The Cult?
The Cult's bass lines have changed over the years depending on each record. Some of it is very supportive but yet pumping with the drums. I've done the last two albums with The Cult and the bass parts are very melodic and driven. My signature drive sound is very present. Ian and Billy have been very cool about that. I even played upright bass on" Brother Wolf Sister Moon" with a bow live. Owl's music is much of the time on upright bass, so I find myself filling in space with more delays and sound effects and techniques. Being a trio calls for everyone to fill their space. We also play with some odd meters and melodies.
What made you incorporate the upright bass in your playing in addition to the traditional electric bass guitar?
The reason the upright came in to my life was because it was the next step to go back to the roots and take on the bow and fretless fretboard. The upright is the traditional bass and the bass guitar is only 50 some years old. It's the baby but now the norm.
What specific bass gear do you use?
I'm a no-nonsense P bass with Ampeg guy. I have a Messenger electric up-right that's on the record.
What can we expect from Owl coming up?
We are going to be playing throughout the summer around Los Angeles and New York. We also may do acoustic sets. Some of the real melodic songs translate nicely and its another outlet for the band. I love my group. Dan and Jason are monsters.
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