Lauded for his work with The Cult and, more recently, with Ace Frehley, as well as with his own trio, Owl, bassist, vocalist, and songwriter Chris Wyse is a creative master of bass tone. “There’s an underdog-y attitude about the bass,” he opines. “There’s no escaping the fundamental bottom notes that are guiding the chords. As a bass player, you can totally change the feel of the song, put a spin on the sound by playing a different inversion; I like the power in that. And I like knowing that I’m guiding it right, not over-playing, or doing anything distracting.”
Being conscious of the rhythmic aspects of the bass is key, he offers. “With The Cult, I played a lot of driving eighth note grooves. There’s a way to look at that — do you see it as just thumping an eighth note, or do you look at it like one drum? You can create a powerful, driving sound with just one note, as long as you play that note with conviction. Make it mean something.”
A major factor in his tone, of course, is his bass amp. “The Ampeg bass amp was my dream rig,” asserts Wyse, who has played with such artists as Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osborne, Tal Bachman, and Scott Weiland. “When I finally got the Ampeg backline with the full SVT, I felt like King Christopher. To me it’s the ultimate rig. My tone was from two 15s in the beginning, and I experimented with an aggressive kind of finger style. Then I added overdrive and things like that, and I realized I wanted to have an aggressive sound without the overdrive. Sometimes I want a round, punchy EQ, with the gain pushing it quite a bit. I love the natural compression that comes from the Ampeg’s gain. Another tone I like is the ‘nasty,’ with everything full up except the volume. Of course, you can dial that back and get rounder. My attack is part of that too.”
Onstage with Ace Frehley, Wyse relies on the Ampeg SVT Classic. “I use six SVT Classics up there, so that should cover it pretty well,” he laughs. “With Owl, I might use a smaller rig like the Ampeg Portaflex series, with two 12s, which is just amazing.” Ampeg’s SVT, of course, is an all-time classic and needs no introduction. Inspired by the iconic Ampeg B-15 bass amp, the Portaflex series combines Ampeg’s vintage-style cabinet design with a selection of modern, powerful heads, each of which delivers the company’s legendary all-tube tone.
“There’s only one Ampeg,” insists Wyse. “All the other brands, to me, are just trying to do what Ampeg does: Get a great, classic, versatile tube sound. But the only one that’s got it is Ampeg. There’s no comparison. It’s like reinventing the wheel when you try other amps. Ampeg is the one that always does it for me.”