|Owl, featuring Chris Wyse, far right|
But what if that person dancing is Mick Jagger?
“I was in the studio working on a track from his solo album and he was trying to describe a feel that he was going for on this track,” Chris Wyse explains.
“He got up and started to dance as he was walking me through how he heard the track in his head, and I must say it was hard to concentrate -- it was so surreal, but then you have to snap back into it because you have a job to do.”
This is one of the many great stories you hear when you talk to Wyse, a much sought-after session bassist. Thanks to tight relationships with music producers like Bob Rock (Metallica), Wyse has contributed to recordings from the likes of Jagger, the Cult, Ozzy Osbourne and Tal Bachman.
After many years as a bass man for hire, Wyse has moved front and center with the heavy alternative trio, Los Angeles-based rock band Owl. They have released a scorching new disc, The Right Thing.
Wyse (vocals/bass), Dan Dinsmore (drums) and Jason Achilles Mezilis (guitar/vocals) ignite from the opening drum roll that opens with a rousing cover of The Kinks’ “Destroyer,” which puts a futuristic snarl to the punky original.
Utilizing both electric upright bass and bass guitar, Wyse is a versatile, vibrant, vital player who surrounds himself with ferocious musicians. Born in Queens to parents who hail from Waterford and Mayo, Wyse became fascinated with music at an early age.
After immersing himself in the Celtic tunes his Irish parents fancied, he discovered Kiss, the Doors and Led Zeppelin in grade school, and soon landed on the bass as his instrument of choice after being inspired by Iron Maiden's Steve Harris.
Wyse soon began fashioning a style all his own. In fact, he was even profiled at just 17 years old in Guitar Player magazine for his innovative approach to the bass.
That innovation is all over Owl’s The Right Thing. “Gazing of the pictures of the wall you recall/we can listen to songs all day long and smile/because today is just like any other day I know,” Wyse sings, an intricate bass line draping over a jerky beat of spitting cymbals and bombastic guitars.
Buried under the fussy arrangements is something essential to great music -- a simple melody that sticks in your brain like syrup in silk. Wyse laughs and thanks me for my assertion that Owl’s sound reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots and early Genesis.
“I think what you’re hearing is the cross between our prog rock love with a strong desire to make music that is melodic,” Wyse says.
“We had these great melodies that we brought into the studio but once we got in there, we really experimented and just went with whatever sparks flew between the three of us.”
Wyse revisits his Irish roots on “Rover,” an epic track about visiting the family farms and bailing hay in the sunshine.
“Just a boy when I took my trip to Ireland/train on tracks that take me there to the village called Mayo/of course, my roots are here,” Wyse sings on “Rover” over a polka beat punctuated by bagpipes. The track gets hijacked in the middle by a dizzying, fast-paced musical interlude before resuming the heavy metal polka.
“It’s one example of how we turn rock and roll rules on their ear,” Wyse explains. “We wanted to be what I would call ‘creatively rebellious.’ Rock has fallen into this formula and we wanted to break those. We really had fun putting this together.”
Another band that Owl is reminiscent of is the Cult, which shouldn’t be a surprise. At producer Bob Rock's suggestion, Wyse cut the staggering bass tracks on the band’s Beyond Good and Evil in 2001.
In 2006, the Cult called Wyse back to bass and backup vocal duties, and they unveiled a series of live CDs followed up by the studio effort, Born Into This. He's been rocking with the Cult ever since as a full band member, including the band's 2012 landmark Choice of Weapon.
“That has been a great gig and I absolutely love the work I do as a session musician,” Wyse says.
“When you’re in those positions, you’re hired to do a job that traces over the vision of someone else. With Owl, it’s great to have the freedom to spread your wings a bit and do your own thing.”
This Owl hunts, soars and screeches like a demon bird from hell! Get yer metal on and pick up The Right Thing, which will set for release on April 9 on Overit Records.
Check out Owl's video for 'The Right Thing':