Interview with Owl guitarist Jason Mezilis

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.

Photo Credit: Kaley Nelson

How would you describe your guitar playing style?

Dirt rock.

What makes it different from other guitarists?

Because I had to learn to play backwards (due to a strange “twist” in my left arm bone), I developed an unusually strong fretting hand, and a somewhat lesser than average dexterity with my picking hand. That led to a style that is not as pronounced on 'flash', but I think very strong in emotive presentation. John Lennon said back in '71, “I’m OK, I’m not technically good, but I can make [the guitar] fucking howl and move.” That's a bit of a stretch, but it gets the point across.

What unique tones/devices/sound will we hear in your playing on Owl’s self-titled debut album?

I'm a very bare-bones style guitar player so I suppose the “unique” tones you would hear in my performance would be the meat-and-potatoes sound of a guitar going straight into the amp, all the way up with no go betweens or pedals at all! The most you'll usually get out of me would be a 'wah' pedal. The atmospheric nature of OWL, though, definitely calls for a bit more texture from time to time, perhaps a delay or flange here and there. And I do hit a mean slide.

What is your gear of choice for playing Owl music live vs. used when you recorded the album?

Occasionally this changes depending on the backline, what's available etc., when we're on the road but my ideal live rig exactly mirrors the recording setup. Customized mid-70's lefty Gibson knockoff loaded w GHS TNT (10-52) strings, straight into a mid-70's Marshall 50w super-lead JMP (bi-amped with a jumper cable between the two input channels with all knobs up to 10), into any decent 4×12.

Who are the guitarists who have influenced you the most?

Eddie Van Halen, Andy Summers, Steve Clark – the guitarists from my favorite bands. I would actually say my playing style with OWL is a favourable mixture of all 3 of those.

When did you first start playing guitar, and why?

My first instrument was actually classical piano. When I first got into rock and roll guitar, I used to transcribe the parts for piano and try to shred 'em that way. I mean, we're talking Joe Satriani licks…crazy stuff. But I think it was finally Van Halen's '1984' that turned the tables. To this day I've played “Panama” more times on guitar than anything else!

As a working musician in these tough financial times, how do earn money while keeping the creative dream with Owl alive?

In addition to playing in OWL, I work as a freelance producer and engineer. Currently I'm teaming up with a friend and fellow producer to build a new all-analog 'boutique' recording studio in Los Angeles. We just bought a brand new console – a beautiful mid-80's Neotek Elite. I'm very excited! The company is called Organic Audio Recorders, which will be open and fully functional in late summer ‘09 in LA.

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2 thoughts on “Interview with Owl guitarist Jason Mezilis”

  1. i am really thankful to the

    i am really thankful to the website that he took the interview of great guitarist Jason Mezilis. He is really a star and good to know what he thought and how he come in this field. i also wnaa to be like him, that’s why i am taking classes of guitar. the thing you forget to ask him why he not go for singing. I know that he has good voice but he’s concentrating on guitar. why?

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