As an established and respected musician who has worked with the likes of The Cult, Mick Jagger, and Ozzy Osbourne when not fronting his own successful band, Owl, you would expect that Chris Wyse doesn’t get fazed by much.
But when it comes to Kiss, all bets are off, so getting a call from former guitarist Ace Frehley to join him on the road in support of his new album Space Invader did get Wyse’s inner child a little bit more amped up than usual.
“It’s exciting for me for sure,” Wyse said. “Kiss is the band that turned me on to being a rock musician. I was an eight-year-old kid reading comics and all that, so it made quite the impact. Opening up Kiss Alive II, which I know many Kiss Army fans have done before, I just stared and imagined being at the concert and listening to the records. So yeah, it definitely had an exciting element.”
Hitting Wyse’s native New York on Monday and Tuesday for a pair of gigs at BB King’s in Times Square, Frehley and the band have drawn positive reviews thus far, and you can hear it in Wyse’s voice that he and the rest of the band (Frehley, Scot Coogan, Richie Scarlet) are having as much fun as the fans are. And those fans, they run the gamut from diehard Kiss fanatics to kids who weren’t even born when Frehley had his makeup and platform boots on.
“It’s a cross section of all ages and it’s pretty cool,” Wyse said of Ace’s current demographic. “Very young to grandparents, and it’s pretty neat. I think they’re ready to rock, they’re excited to see Ace, and the lineup’s a real high-energy lineup.”
Having first worked with Frehley on the Behind the Player DVD, Wyse immediately hit it off with the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee both personally and musically, leading to this current collaboration both on certain Space Invader tracks and on tour. Yet despite his reputation around the music business as a true pro, how does one go from accepting a gig with someone like Frehley to learning the catalog in record time?
“There was so much material, of course, that up until the end, we didn’t necessarily have a setlist organized,” Wyse admits. “There’s a lot (of songs) you would think would be no-brainers, but then you keep going deeper and there’s so many songs to choose from. I personally go through and kind of graze over some of what I would consider obvious or more famous songs, and I already had quite the education on Kiss and playing Gene Simmons’ bass lines on a lot of stuff, so the cool thing for me is that a lot of the gigs I’ve done have already been in tune with that.”
That’s precisely why Wyse stays in demand. And as he puts it so well, when it comes to learning new material, “You can only do one at a time.”
“Once in a while I’ll have difficulty with something, but I’ve got a way of working and a system to be fast because I’ve done so many different gigs,” he adds. “With a lot of these all-star bands, a lot of it’s very last minute and you have quite the setlist at the end of the day, but you still have a big crowd and it’s your profession and what you do, so you need a system and a working order for yourself to get you in it and fast. So I try to work right away, take notes, and that’s not the rock and roll part of it, but that’s what keeps you in the game and strong.”
Yet with that all out of the way, now’s the fun part – getting on stage and playing. And though this is his job and he has to pay the bills and put food on the table, when it comes down to it, Wyse admits that there are few things cooler than looking to his left on stage every night and seeing Ace Frehley playing guitar.
“I’ve had many, many cool experiences, and this is right up at the top,” he said. “And I’m proud of Ace that he’s doing so well and is on top of his game. He has such a strong record now, he’s in the Hall of Fame, it’s a great time for him, and to be part of it is a blessing and quite an honor.”
Ace Frehley plays B.B. King’s in NYC on Monday, November 24 and Tuesday, November 25. For more info, click here.