There are few drummers in the underground music community that have had a more far-reaching impact on heavy music in the last decade than Richmond’s Dave Witte. This New Jersey native relocated to Richmond to join the leaders of the American thrash-revival, Municipal Waste, and continues to still session drum and spark multiple off-shoot projects. Witte has drummed with leading and obscure acts alike, including Burnt By The Sun, Discordance Axis, Melt Banana, Human Remains, Birds of Prey and his latest focus, Argonauts. His drumming has influenced a new generation of thrash, heavy-groove, and metal drummers with a relentless approach that embodies speed, precision, and impeccable sense of timing without the use of a metronome. From his laser-fills and smoking-fast double bass, to his tasty d-beats, Dave Witte is unquestionably one of the US’s top extreme drummers.
We were fortunate to pin Dave down for interview that touches on his prolific drumming career, influences, drum routines, and insight into his work on the forthcoming Municipal Waste album and their inception into the Nuclear Blast Records family. We also take a look at his writing processes and plans for his newest band Argonauts, which features an all-star line-up, including Dimitri Minakakis (original vocalist for Dillinger Escape Plan), Brett Bamberger (The Postman Syndrome), and John Adubato (Burnt By The Sun).
Without further ado, let’s hear from Dave Witte.
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
Blow The Scene Pictures by Dante Torrieri.
Joshua BTS: Hey Dave. Really appreciate you taking a few minutes for Blow The Scene readers, very cool.
Dave Witte: Ya. No problem at all.
Joshua BTS: Rad, let’s dive right in. You’ve had a very prolific career with drum sessions for a lot of leading hardcore and punk bands. As of late- What projects have been your prime focuses? I know you’ve just had some shows with the Argonauts, including Philly over the weekend. Including the Argonauts– What do you have cooking right now?
Dave Witte: We just finished recording the new Municipal Waste album, which will be on Nuclear Blast and comes out in February. Really excited about that. I think it came out fantastic. Really excited for people to hear it.
Joshua BTS: Awesome.
Dave Witte: Talking about doing another Birds of Prey, we’ve dropped a couple on Relapse thus far and have some other stuff kicking around.
New local project I just started working on that doesn’t have a name yet. I have a couple other projects that don’t have names either, that I’m not ready to talk about.
Joshua BTS: Right on.
Dave Witte: It’s all in the developmental stage. But mainly Municipal Waste and Argonauts are taking the front seat these days.
Joshua BTS: Cool. Can you share a little history behind Argonauts and how you came together? There are some pretty major players in the band, including Dimitri [Minakakis], formerly of Dillinger Escape Plan. Did you meet each other on tour? Or was this something that was sparked more out of the blue?
Dave Witte: Ya, we’ve all known one another for like ten-plus years. John and I started Burnt By The Sun together and when that dissolved, John and I wanted to keep writing together. So we picked up Brett who we’ve known for years as well. We did Postman Syndrome and played shows with his old band as well.
Dimitri was actually looking for a guitar player and was looking to do something, so he contacted me about John and I put him in touch with him. John wasn’t interested but he was like, “Hey, I’m doing this thing with Dave, and what do you think about that?”
Dimitri thought about it and politely declined. A few weeks later he called back and said he was interested in doing it.
Joshua BTS: How is it scheduling and rehearsal touring with several acts? I take it both bands are based out of Richmond right now?
Dave Witte: Actually, everyone lives in New Jersey but me.
Joshua BTS: Oh Ok. [Laughing] So how does that work?
Dave Witte: I’ll drive up for practice or they will drive down for practice. It’s not a full-time gig so it’s more of a project. Brett leaves in about a week with his other band, East of the Wall, and they’ll be gone. So we work on it when we can. Everyone has lives- y’know?
Joshua BTS: Right on. So what’s your rig look like these days? You have any new pieces of gear you are tinkering with for these tours?
Dave Witte: Just using a five-piece. I am using these new beaters that Trick makes. They are all metal so they never wear down. My drum kit is now all completely metal now except for the sticks.
Joshua BTS: I assume you using Trick pedals as well?
Dave Witte: Oh ya. Trick pedals and whole Trick drum kit. I bought my first Trick drum kit in 2000. I’ll never have to replace it.
Joshua BTS: Awesome. So when you are doing studio work, I know you have said that you try to avoid using a metronome when possible. Is this true for all of the projects that you are working with including the new Municipal Waste album? Or do you approach each band differently?
Dave Witte: No click. No metronome. I never have. I played a click once when I filled in for Soilwork. I did one show with Soilwork years ago and that required me to play with a click. I was not very good at it. [Laughing] Not for me. I see why people use it. I like more of a push-pull with the music, kind-of-thing. More organic.
Joshua BTS: That’s cool, I got you.
Dave Witte: That’s cool that people can do that, and they do it really well. I just like to do it without though.
Dave Witte: I do a lot of single stroke rolls. Basically everything I do is single stroke. Not a lot of doubles or paradiddles or anything like that. Usually I try to jam with people that are way better than me. It gives me the opportunity to stretch out and try some new stuff. I just bought the Rudimental Ritual by Alan Dawson. I am going to try that out. Actually JP from Clutch turned me onto it. Said it improved his playing tremendously after mastering that. I really look up to him, he’s a great player.
Joshua BTS: If you were to give any words of advice to aspiring drummers- What would they be? I’ve certainly seen your influence with a lot of the up-and-coming thrash drummers, especially your work with Municipal Waste. For these kids that are trying to play 200 mph with different variants and all kinds of fills- What advice would you give them?
Dave Witte: That’s cool and all, but you’ve got learn to walk before you can run. That’s the problem. A lot of these guys want to be to be the fastest guy in the world. That’s great. I wanted to be that guy too. But I think it’s really important to learn the basics and establish good timing and get a feel before you go running down the speedway. Because if its not tight and solid, when you go fast, it’s not going to sound good.
Joshua BTS: Right on.
Dave Witte: That’s my advice. Learn the basics and develop really good timing, then work on the speed.
Joshua BTS: Who were some of the players you looked up to when you were first coming up as young drummer?
Dave Witte: Phil Rudd, AC/DC..Dave Lombardo, Nicko McBrain.
Brandon Thomas is one of my bigest influences -a local guy, drums in a band called Ripping Corpse. I learned a lot from him just watching. And Neil Peart.
Another really influenatial player to me would be Tim Alexander of Primus. He realy taught me how to loosen up and how to groove, so-to-speak.
Joshua BTS: What does the rest of 2011 look like for you as we head into 2012? Any more touring?
Dave Witte: I think there are like five or six Municipal Waste shows. Writing some Argonauts stuff. Maybe another show or two with them as well.
I am going to be drumming for The Atomic Bitchwax on December 10th up in New Jersey. They called me for a show I’m gigging- They’re old friends of mine from New Jersey I’ve known for a long time.
Joshua BTS: I know you are a self-proclaimed lover of good beers- Any Fall flavors that got your mouth watering right now?
Dave Witte: I am a big fan of Barley Wine, so it’s a perfect time of year for me right now. There’s a beer for every situation of course. The winter months are always my favorite because of the strong stouts. Barley wine and stouts are my favorite.
Municipal Waste was invited to play the Three Floyds XV Anniversary on November 12th and I’m really stoked on that.
Dave Witte: Yes.
Joshua BTS: Very cool. So how did that work out?
Dave Witte: Great. Gerardo [Martinez], the head of Nuclear Blast in the United States- He’s supported us since we started touring. I mean, he’s always loved the band and been very vocal about it. He’s shown us a lot of support and when the time was right to look for another label they were on the top of the list.
Joshua BTS: Awesome. You guys will have a lot of rad label-mates over there.
Dave Witte: Ya, it’s nice to be lumped in with a really great group of bands.
Joshua BTS: How would you compare the forthcoming Municipal Waste album to your prior albums?
Dave Witte: It’s a blend of everything we do at it’s best. I’m stoked on it. I’ve gotten the best sound out of the drums that I’ve ever gotten out of a Waste album on this album.
Joshua BTS: Any projected title for the new album?
Dave Witte: Still milling it over.
Joshua BTS: Right on. Where did you record the album?
Dave Witte: I did the drums up in New Jersey at Trax East with my old friend Eric Rachel. And all the strings and vocals were down here at this studio called Minimum Wage. The mixing is taking place up at Trax East.
Joshua BTS: Nice. Well thank you for taking time for this interview. Any closing thoughts on Municipal Waste or Argonauts as we wrap up?
Dave Witte: Totally man. Thanks for calling and thanks [Dante] for being at the Argonauts show in Philly. And as far as Argonauts, I think because of the specific people in this band, there have been some pretty great expectations and people who are interested in us already and we haven’t played but a few shows. That’s cool and all, but we’re to take a step back from all of that and just focus on being a band and writing some more songs.
Dave Witte: We’ll see what happens. The sky is the limit. We’re not going to write a rap song. It will be mainly dark, groove-based-heavy. Who knows what’s going to happen- I’m just excited to create it.
With that band and Municipal Waste I have my total yin and yang.
Joshua BTS: Do you have a time-line set as far as when you want to have an album out or anything like that?
Dave Witte: That’s what I wanted to get at, glad you asked that question.
People have been asking what we are doing and we’re kind of shying away from that. We just want to write more songs and be a band before we get involved with any type of label or anything like that.
Joshua BTS: So you are trying to let it all happen organically, as opposed to forcing the issue?
Dave Witte: Ya- There is no forced agenda or anything like that. There’s no goals right now other than to play some shows and write some songs.
Joshua BTS: Awesome. Looking forward to doing a followup as things develope and future tours and releases come about.
Dave Witte: Ya- For sure.
Dave Witte w/ Municipal Waste “Sadistic Magician” Official Video
[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RDGLQuBkaE[/youtube]
Dave Witte at New England Metal & Hardcore Festival 2008
[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mazPrKI3TU0[/youtube]