Chris Loomis

INTERVIEW: Chris Wyse of The Ace Frehley Band and Owl

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Chris Wyse - Jim GilbertSoCalMusicToday.com’s Chris Loomis recently caught up with bass player Chris Wyse who is currently on tour with legendary KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Chris discusses touring with Ace and the chemistry within in the band, his band Owl, the experience of recording with Ozzy and what is was like to audition for Metallica.

Catch Chris Wyse live with Ace Frehley when the current Space Invader tour hits southern California this coming weekend at Ramona Mainstage on Saturday 12/6 and at House of Blues Anaheim on Sunday 12/7. All things Chris Wyse and Owl can be found at http://www.owltheband.net/ and the latest Ace Frehley news can be found at http://www.acefrehley.com/.

You are out with Ace Frehley right now on the Space Invader Tour. Thanksgiving was last Thursday right in the middle of the tour. How did you spend the holiday?

I spent it on the bus then in the hotel after a 17hr ride – I was exhausted.

No Turkey?

No – it was a work day for me. I called my Mom & Dad and a few friends. Being on the road isn’t’ always convenient, you can’t always fit in holidays. It just comes with the lifestyle, I have had many, many holidays that just weren’t holidays because of being on the road – it’s actually quite the norm for me.

How is the Space Invader tour going? Do you have a favorite memory or story from the tour so far you could tell us about?

Well it’s been amazing; it seems like a lifetime ago since the first show. The shows have just been explosive and fantastic.

There is some serious talent on stage with Ace and yourself – Richie Scarlet on guitar and Scot Coogan on drums. What’s it like to play onstage with this lineup?

Richie Scarlet on guitar is just a powerhouse with some amazing chops; he doesn’t stop moving the entire night he is just so into it. Scot Coogan on drums and is also singing a bunch of the Paul Stanley KISS songs which is just amazing and Ace is just completely on top of his game. We are just really having fun each night. Since the first gig, to the next, to last night the band has just got really tight. It just rough and tumble, we jam a lot onstage and improvise a lot. Richie and Ace do this guitar back and forth thing and we just never know what’s gonna happen . . . there’s a bit of Rock n Roll danger onstage.

We just have a lot of fun onstage. The other night Richie just comes up to me and grabbed my man-shit out of nowhere just to kind of wake me up cause he thought I looked to serious. I always look back at Coogan when he is singing and make funny faces. We take performing very seriously – we work hard but have a lot of fun – we take our fun seriously.

The band is just really tight and the songs are just rocking really hard. The next show is probably gonna be the best one yet.

Did you know Richie or Scot before you joined Ace’s band?

Scot Coogan (Ace’s nickname for him is “The Coogie Monster”) and I met years ago in Hollywood (probably over a decade ago) we had lots of mutual friends. We were actually trying to figure out exactly where and when but who knows. We did say that someday we would play together and here we are. The universe works in strange ways.

Richie and I had never met before until the first band rehearsal and we hit it off right away. We have had a lot of fun running around all day and getting jacked up on coffee and getting to know each other. Once we starting rehearsing it was just instant chemistry.

You get to showcase your bass playing on this tour with a bass solo each night. Tell me about that experience; how do you approach a bass solo? Was a bass solo your idea or did Ace suggest that?

No it actually wasn’t my idea. I would just king of naturally riff-around during rehearsals and every day I would just jam out and Ace would come in the room without me knowing he was there and he was really digging my little pieces and he said “man you should do a bass solo Chris” and the rest of the band really liked the idea.

The whole band is just so gracious and Ace is the boss which makes it just so cool that he would give me the opportunity to do a bass solo. So every night I improvise the bass solo, I experiment every night. Most nights are slam dunks but sometimes when you go out on a limb, that limb can break you now.

Some nights the last song ends and the guys go off stage and I am just standing there going “what I am going to play right now”. It usually turns out great but like I said it’s a real treat to have that opportunity each night. I can’t recall the last time I saw a bass solo in a band.

Maybe Michael Anthony with Van Halen?

Right or there’s Billy Sheehan but bass is his thing so that’s expected.

There is a great mix of new and old Ace Frehley solo songs as well as several KISS classics in the set. Each one of you get to sing at least one KISS song with you doing lead vocals on “Strange Ways”. How did you get selected for that song and how do you approach singing a cover song?

I kind of get to show off my personality on this one singing lead. Interestingly I did not select that one . . . I think maybe there is a tradition of the bassist singing that one. It was a song that none of the other guys really thought of doing and they said “oh that’s Chris’ song” and I was like holy shit I get to sing a Peter Criss song. He has like a tone from hell, just an amazing voice. You always think of him as a drummer but there is Beth, Strange Ways and Black Diamond which Peter sings lead on.

I thought I just have to do it with my own voice and be confident and not get too caught up with trying to mimic him. I am a singer as well as a bass player – I just do what I do.

So how cool is it of Ace to give me a bass solo and sing songs? It’s so cool to have all elements of what I am in Ace’s live show.

You are a busy guy . . . Your band Owl where you sing lead vocals and play bass has two albums out. How did Owl come to be and what can we expect in 2015 from Owl both new music-wise and touring?

The new EP Things You Can’t See will be available soon in 2015. To me it’s kind of shocking I am even talking about my own third album. It was Matt Sorum when he was in the Cult that said man you need to do your own thing – you have some great material you really should do something on the side. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse for a studio so I put together a team and had a lot of material I had put together over the years and I was like wow my own concept is finally coming out.

We are a little different – we are a rock band that’s not for everyone. We liken ourselves to the era of Hendrix and Zeppelin where those guys kinda scared people into a musical journey. Now that we have a third record almost ready to be released is unbelievable and the fact that there are three personalities in a band lasting that long is pretty amazing.

The plan now that I have control of (and things could change) is we will be doing shows in New York for sure, probably a couple in New York and then getting around the Northeast. Probably Philly and Chicago then definitely LA, San Francisco and San Diego and there are some other things brewing I can’t let out of the bag just yet.

Owl is my outlet to do all kinds of things like I play the upright bass and just scare the hell out of people. Musically I am just doing some of the most insane bass shit I have done in my life. If I didn’t do Owl where would I get to do these kinds of things?

You were (or maybe still are) a member of the Jam Band Cardboard Vampyres with Jerry Cantrell, John Corabi, Billy Duffy and Josh Howser. Will there ever be any live shows in the future with that group?

No. That’s never going to happen. We were like the heavy metal brother of Camp Freddy.

As far as cover bands go I have been working on something on the side that is kind of a black suit-upright bass-Sinatra meets The Doors-jam-psychedelic thing. I will be talking more about that in the future as it’s going to be an all-star kind of thing.

One other interesting jam band thing was Billy Duffy (The Cult) and I had a band nobody has even heard of with Josh Todd (Buckcherry) as lead singer. We wrote about five songs and had Dean from Good Charlotte as the drummer. It was a really good band but other things happened and pulled our lives in different directions. I also have a collection of songs I wrote with Jerry Cantrell before he decided to resurrect Alice in Chains.

What was it like auditioning for the vacant bass player spot in Metallica after Jason Newsted left the band?

Metallica is the only band I ever auditioned for and that was through a recommendation from Bob Rock. That was such a unique experience especially being in their movie. I think I was kind of a wildcard to them; I was younger than they were and hadn’t been out on the road much but damn I could play the hell out of all their stuff. I was actually there for about five hours and it took them about a week and a half to call me back. And not only could I play their stuff I could play it all on the upright bass and play it with a bow. But Robert (Trujillo) won the gig.

I know I kicked ass on that audition.

Having played with so many great musicians in your career, I have to imagine one of your career highlights was recording with Ozzy Osbourne back in 2005 for the Under Cover album. Could you ever have imagined that would happen and what is your fondest memory of that experience?

Playing with Ozzy was a big one! When I was younger I always told my Mom and Dad I was going to move to Hollywood and play with Ozzy. I was just a teenager and they were like yeah that’s cute – one great thing about them is they always encouraged me. So all these years later, I had the pleasure of calling up Mom and Dad and saying guess who I am in the studio with? So they were like Oh my God who is it? I’m like I am here with Ozzy and they were like wow that’s a special one because you had said that. So yeah Playing with Ozzy was really special.

Any last words from Chris Wyse?

It’s been a wonderful ride so far, I just hope it continues on. I just wanna rock till I drop. Next year 2015 will be the year of Owl.

Chris – Thank you for your time and best of luck with all your upcoming projects

Thanks for the interview.

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