What do you call a beautiful woman on a drummer’s arm? A tattoo.
Drummers always get a bum rap. Why is that? Ever seen a good band with a shitty drummer? No. Know why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST.
Drummers rule! We hit stuff, get peoples’ butts shaking, and ultimately determine whether or not the band is going to perform well. You CANNOT have a solid band without a solid drummer, so this column is for the hitters.
In the metal world, few players are as renowned and respected as Dave Witte. A Gumby-armed beast hitting for the likes of Human Remains, Burnt By The Sun, The Discordance Axis, Melt Banana and (if those are foreign to you) Municipal Waste, this guy a regular machine behind the kit! He also has a mighty penchant for taking A++ pictures of awesome foods he encounters during his vast travels, and we wish he’d send us some.
After a chance (re)meeting at this year’s A389 X Bash in Baltimore, I’m proud to say that we get to add him to our roster of Drummer Spotlights. Gold star, folks! Grab a beer and read along.
G- How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started?
D- I’ve been playing a long time now. Early on, I banged on a lot of blocks and stuff at home, but I got the message around 10 years old. I lost interest to BMX for a while, but then came back to it as I gravitated more towards music. I’m 42 now, so I guess that puts me 30+ years on and off.
My uncle Victor was the earliest influence and provided me with sticks. He’s got the meanest shuffle I know. Great blues player.
G- How long have you been playing professionally and what was your first project?? Do you remember the moment that you really felt that drum performance was your calling?
D- I guess I didn’t realize I was playing professionally at first, I was having fun and taking risks and it all snowballed from there, ya know?
My first serious project was Human Remains. I poured my heart and soul into that band and pushed myself super hard, as I was way into blast beats at that time. Naturally, at that young age, I wanted to be the fastest dude ever, ha.
As I discovered more music, I branched out with my playing and eventually learned when not to play, which was super important for me. Growing up, I drummed along to AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and I knew EVERY Metallica song; They were my total heroes until I heard Slayer’s Reign in Blood. The fill in Angel of Death changed the game and, from then on, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do.
G- Let’s talk gear for a second… What is your current rig looking like? What kind of drums and cymbals are you using primarily, what configurations, and what companies are backing you up at this time?
D- I proudly play and endorse the following: Trick Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Vic Firth Drumsticks and Aquarian Drum Heads.
I use a five-piece kit: 22”x16” kick, 12” and 14” Rack Toms, 16” Floor & 5.5”x14” Snare, Paiste Alpha & Rudes (15” Alpha Hats), Vic Firth Rock N and Aquarian Triple Threat Snare, Super Kick 10 and Force 10 toms. Can’t forget the Trick Pro1-V double pedal, the tank of bass drum pedals!
G- How often do you find yourself practicing independent from your performances? Any warm up tips or advice you can offer for our readers?
D- Not as much as I should. I usually start playing more when a band is writing new material. I love the creation process, stock piling ideas and seeing which ones work. I play in multiple projects, so I can find a home/outlet for ideas that won’t work in certain places.
To warm up, I do all singles to loosen up and get the blood flowing. Playing in general, to break a mild sweat, is what really helps the most before a set.
G- What drummers, then or now, do you hold as personal inspirations or players you often learn things from?
D- The guy I cite most going up was Brandon Thomas of Ripping Corpse/Dim-Mak. He’s probably my favorite drummer. Dave Lombardo, Neil Peart, Tim “Herb” Alexander and Pete Sandoval were huge parts of influence, but Brandon had this whole creative take on things that I have never seen duplicated. He just had a way of swinging while being brutal, precise and really standing out creatively. He always had the fills that took a minute to wrap your head around while sounding awesome and being perfectly in time and complimenting a song. A truly great, unsung drummer.
G- A lot of musicians of your caliber are beginning to release instructional DVD’s and workout books… Any plans for something like that in the future? A “Witte’s World of Thrash Drumming” series, perhaps?
D- I don’t really know if that’s for me honestly. I’m the worst at conveying information haha. It has crossed my mind here and there in the past, but it would have to be totally unique and fun for me to do.
So, you never know, but not anytime soon.
G- If you could be the drummer on any recording in history, which one do you wish it could be?
D- That’s a tough question! There’s so many awesome drum performances over the years (that) it’s hard to say. I don’t think I’d pick any one in particular, but it would be wild to entertain the thought of being in Mitch Mitchells’ shoes for a set with Hendrix. It sounds so fun, the energy is of the charts, he’s just going off, but totally holding it down for the songs as well. Imagine that?!! Being able to feed off Jimi Hendrix live! That would be amazing.
G- What is the worst drum-related injury you’ve sustained from playing? What happened and what was the injury?
D- Just recently actually, drumming at Argonauts practice. That band is really dark and heavy and I hit like a cave man. It’s really therapeutic as well, I might add.
Anyway, I came down full force on the floor tom, hit the rim, and fractured the my hand/pinky. I just got carried away.
G- What is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
D- Still to this day, my favorite show was in DC at the Safari Club in the early 90’s. It was the wildest thing I had ever seen at that point in my life. I was drumming for Human Remains.
King Fowley/Deceased arranged the show for HR & Nokturnel (who were our buddy band, we played so many shows together). There we some other bands on the bill as well (Biovore, Silence, Deceased of course and maybe some others.) I wish I had a flyer for it still. The place was so packed and people were going crazy the whole time. People climbing into the drop ceiling and climbing out the other side of the room, pushing up against us on stage… There was no room between the “front line” and the crowd. There was even a huge “Wild West” style bar brawl too, people just punching people at random. Seriously, it was like watching a movie.
I’ll never forget that show. I could talk about it and all the stuff that happened there for hours.
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming drummers everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional drummer?
D- Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. Treat everyone how you want to be treated. Everything goes up and down. Have fun, but keep yourself in check, as it’s easy to get carried away with excess. Always remember, people are coming to watch you and people are also paying to see you. Put your all into it and play a great show. Be professional.
Also, not every night is going to be perfect, (so) learn to adjust and roll with the punches. Eat well, and water is the key to it all… Stay hydrated!!
All that being said, this is most important, learn to play a part of the group and to function as a unit.
Wear Today Hear Tomorrow Question:
Do you wear hearing protection when you perform? Why or why not? Do you think it is important for your fans to protect their ears?
D- Yes and no, its very important to protect your ears. That china cymbal is a killer J
I think it’s very important to protect your ears for the long run for sure. I don’t wear earplugs in moderation. I always have them in at practice, but sometimes live, I’m missing the energy and take them out.