With a playing style that incorporates the physical dexterity of extreme heavy metal to the fluidity of ‘70s jazz fusion and savage attack of primal hardcore and punk, Dave Witte is a drummer that has never had patience for preconceived genre limitations.
One of the heavy music scene’s most prolific drummers of the last two decades, Witte’s passion for playing began back in middle school when an uncle turned him onto the instrument. One BMX bike/drum kit trade later, the young upstart was on his way. A self-taught musician, the New Jersey native learned by analyzing and playing along to performances by the likes of Neil Peart, Dave Lombardo, Phil Rudd and local hero, Ripping Corpse drummer Brandon Thomas.
Witte first made his mark on the underground music community via Human Remains, a wildly inventive death metal band he helped form in 1989. In 1992, he co-founded Discordance Axis, a seminal grindcore power trio whose breakneck tempos and chaotic songwriting approach proved to be the perfect arena for Witte to experiment, and in the process, redefine extreme drumming as it was known then.
1997 found Witte joining seminal New York City powerviolence band, Black Army Jacket, touring the US and issuing a full-length a year later. During that same period, the drummer formed Major Burns, an angular noise-rock band that further proved Witte’s diverse musical tastes and malleable playing style.
Keeping in line with that diversity, Witte continued to bring his ever-expanding drum skills to a variety of projects, touching on a myriad of musical styles along the way. One of those projects saw Witte joining forces with former Spazz bassist/vocalist Chris Dodge to form East West Blast Test, a 2-piece that explored everything from John Zorn-inspired free-form jazz and post-rock to crust punk and countless other genres in between, over the course of two studio albums. What makes East West Blast Test even more impressive is the fact that Witte and Dodge were never even in the same room during the project’s entire lifespan, instead trading sound files via email.
Eager to get back into a full-time band situation, Witte formed Burnt by the Sun in 1999, a forward-thinking metallic hardcore outfit that released three studio albums on Relapse Records before splitting up almost a decade later.
Witte has also been sought out for his live skills, hooking up with influential avant-garde rock band Melt-Banana as their touring drummer since 2001. A year later, Witte was invited by industrial rock icon Alec Empire to play Japan's famed Fuji Rock Festival as part of his new band. Despite meeting the band for the first time after landing in Japan, and only having one day-of-show three-song rehearsal, Witte and the band rose to the occasion, flooring the 100,000 plus crowd in attendance. Empire was so impressed by his performance that he invited Witte into the band for headlining sets at the UK's Reading and Leeds Festivals later that summer.
In 2005, Swedish metallers Soilwork were in a bind. The band was set to launch their inaugural stint on the Ozzfest tour and their drummer couldn’t make the first tour date. Being huge fans of his work, they knew Witte was up for the challenge of stepping in for their drummer on short notice. As expected, he delivered and helped Soilwork kick off the Ozzfest run in style. Witte has also given live drum assistance to stoner rock gods Atomic Bitchwax and Brooklyn post-metal troupe Anodyne.
Witte relocated from New Jersey to Richmond, Va. in 2003 and soon after was asked to join Municipal Waste, a band that shared many of the same ‘80s crossover metal influences as the drummer. Eleven years, countless world tours and four studio albums later, Municipal Waste are one of the most popular and respected acts in the heavy music scene. Signed to Nuclear Blast, the group’s latest album, 2012’s The Fatal Feast, debuted at #1 on the Billboard New Artist charts.
Even though Municipal Waste remains Witte’s prime commitment, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept his plate full in between their tours. Japanese psych-noise icons Boredoms selected Witte to participate in 88BoaDrum, a Nike-sponsored event that featured 88 drummers performing an original 88-minute composition in Los Angeles, CA and Brooklyn, NY on August 8th, 2008.
The last decade has found the drummer releasing new music as a member of Birds of Prey, Hope Collapse, Hex Machine, King Generator, and Argonauts. 2012 brought on the formation of Deny the Cross, a band that counts former members of Spazz and Plutocracy within its ranks. In 2013, Witte announced Brain Tentacles, a project also featuring Yakuza mastermind Bruce Lamont, and if that wasn’t already enough, the drummer also started another band called I.B.U. with members of Brutal Truth and Infest, among other groups.
Voted by the editors at Spin magazine as one the “100 Greatest Drummers in Alternative Music’ in 2013, Witte is still driven by the same restless spirit and intense love for music he had as a kid in Jersey. If history is any indication, Witte will continue to take creative risks and find new ways to keep surprising us.
- Carlos Ramirez, 2014