Brewtal Truth: Dave Witte’s Food, Beer & Metal Life

Drummer Dave Witte gets a lot of grief (probably good-naturedly) for the fact that he has played in a lot of bands and on a lot of releases. Currently you can count him as a member of Municipal Waste, Brain Tentacles, Publicist UK, Deny the Cross and River Black, though the Waste is the one that occupies most of his professional drumming time. However, when he’s not rehearsing, recording and touring, he actually has a regular life as the co-owner of a vegan food truck, Go Go Vegan Go, with his girlfriend April Viar, and as a part-time employee/consultant at Ardent Craft Ales (which recently won an “Elby” award from Richmond Magazine for Brewery of the Year). We rang him up just before Muni Waste was about to embark on a brief tour with Exodus and squeezed him for some info.

You’re the co-owner of a vegan food truck now, so are you a vegan yourself? Last time I saw you we had burgers together.
I don’t know what I am yet. I haven’t eaten meat since the end of August. I’ve had a dash of dairy here and there and I’ve eaten seafood once or twice. That’s about it. I feel pretty good. I don’t get weird stomach pains and shit like that like I used to. I feel normal and regular. It’s easier [to eat vegan] on the road these days, that’s for sure. The quality of the food is much higher, too. Having the food truck has really opened my eyes to all this stuff. And watching that movie What the Health? really instilled some thought in me. It’s really good. It’s not punishing or anything like that; it’s not out to scare you.

Is the food truck your non-band job these days? What all do you have going?
That’s taking up most of my time, but I’m also on sub shifts at the brewery, at Ardent. I can’t sit still, that’s what it boils down to. [Laughs] I’ve gotta be doing something all of the time.

How did you get hooked up with Ardent?
I love those guys. They started out in a weird, like, shed in this [Richmond] neighborhood called Church Hill. Every Sunday they would brew beers and share beers and all these people would come by, and they would hand out the beer for free. People would bring their own [beer], so it was like a bottle share, like a neighborhood beer share. They developed a following. It took them a long time to get all their things in a row, but they finally got it together. The brewery is great, I love all the guys there. I’ve got a lot of good friends that work there.

What’s the place like?
It’s a great place to drink. They have a really great deck and a great patio outside. It’s a really cool environment. They have food trucks there all the time. I have my food truck there from time to time. And I love the beer. They’re doing pilsners and lagers which not very many people are doing here in town. It’s like old is the new new.

What kind of beer do they brew?
They make beers for every occasion. They make all styles, they don’t focus on one thing, and they’re very good at it. They make sours, IPAs, doppelbocks, German recipes, pilsners, porters, stouts, barley wines—all that stuff. So when you go there, there’s a variety all the time. I like to refer to it as the people’s beer at Ardent. They’re kind of like Rush in a way. They’ll go in and do their take on whatever is popular and do it really well. They’re not a one-trick pony.

What do you do on your sub shifts there?
I pour beer, collect glasses and talk to people about beer. I also help arrange collaborations. The first one was between Ardent and De Struise from Belgium. We did a beer called Power, a strong Belgian stout. It turned out fantastic. I’m also helping [Ardent] get into festivals and stuff like that—Dark Lord and some other stuff.

You’re about to leave for a tour with Exodus and it looks like you’ll be starting off at Rock Island Brewing Company, where one of the Wake Brewing brothers, Jason Parris, works. Do you know about Wake?
Yeah, those Wake guys want to make a beer with us. We’re going to do a beer called Inebriator, a doppelbock, you know, like Celebrator doppelbock. I think we’ll actually go in there and pour the shit in the [brew kettle] with them, too. That’s the idea anyway.

Obviously, the food truck Go Go Vegan Go is keeping you busiest these days. What’s your role in this business?
I do everything. [April and I] own it together. I’m cooking on there sometimes, I’ll work the counter. Most of the recipes are hers, a few are my minor contributions. We’re both multi-tasking, pretty versatile. We have people helping us from time to time when it’s too busy.

What kind of places do you take the truck?
Mainly breweries and some food festivals. The launch was at the Veg Fest last year. That was the first appearance. We’ll do First Friday Art Walk and concerts from time to time. Once we get a few more things that we need, we’ll be able to do corporate business lunches and stuff like that. We’ll roll up and serve the whole office within two hours and then you go home and you’re done.

Are there a lot of food trucks in Richmond? Is there a big scene?
Yeah, there’s a little bit of everything. They all do their own things We’re the only all plant-based truck, though. That’s where we come in. We just got the whole truck wrapped and it looks fucking fantastic. I’m really psyched on it. The food’s really good, too. I’m not trying to break my arm patting myself on the back or anything, but that’s the reason we started the truck, because we realized the food is good.

What’s your signature dish, or dishes?
We’re known for the Not So Phad Thai Fries. They’re definitely our most popular item. It’s french fries with all the fixins that you’d have on Phad Thai: Sriracha, hoisin, spicy mayo, sprouts, peanuts, cilantro, red and white onion and scallions. Oh man, dude, it’s delicious. Kevin Sharp [Brutal Truth] had them and he was freaking out over them. It was really cool. We also do a fishless taco which is really popular. We do burgers and mac and cheese We won the vegan mac and cheese competition here in Richmond last year. That kind of gave us the confidence to move ahead with [the truck]. It’s always evolving.

Has there been a bit of a learning curve with owning a food truck, since this is a new thing for both you and April?
Oh yeah, we’re still learning stuff as we go. There’s mistakes being made. But you know who’s been helping me out a lot is Ryan Harkins, the guy that owns Grill ’em All [and also the drummer in Trappist]. I bounce everything off him: “Dude, we just had this problem and that problem,” and he’ll be like, “Oh man, that’s classic, I remember when that happened to me.” So. he totally talks me off a ledge sometimes. He’s been my saving grace. I mean, you have to worry about car problems and a kitchen at the same time.

What have you been doing musically recently? With all the bands you’re in you must have something coming out soon.
I hurt my arm pretty badly last year, I burned it out. I’m seeing an acupuncturist and taking care of it, but I’ve just been doing Waste stuff primarily. It’s feeling pretty good. I still have an issue, but I’m able to play and it’s pretty good. The next thing on the table would be writing more Brain Tentacles. We have a few shows lined up later on this year. The Tired Hands album will come out at some point this year; I’m not exactly sure when. We recorded that in November 2016, and we finally whittled it down to a manageable amount of music for one full-length. We’ll release it with two beers brewed at the Tired Hands brewery.

Is Tired Hands your improv project?
Yeah, it was a mostly spontaneous, improvised recording. We had some ideas back and forth. But the whole thing started when I went [to the brewery] and I saw [jazz guitarist] Mike Lorenz’s record on the wall. [Tired Hands owner] Jean [Broillet IV] was like, “Yeah, I produced that, I put it out.” I got to thinking and I asked Jean, “Have you ever considered writing music to all your beer titles and then putting it out through the brewery?” And then we started talking about it. It was me, him and Mike Lorenz, we got in a room together and wrote all this stuff. I’m really excited about that because it’s unlike anything I’ve done. It’s really loose, it’s very experimental. It’s quite a trip.

Municipal Waste with Exodus U.S. tour dates
Feb. 22: Seattle, WA (Neumos)
Feb. 23: Portland, OR (Hawthorne Theatre)
Feb. 25: San Francisco, CA (The Regency Ballroom)
Feb. 26: Anaheim, CA (House of Blues)
Feb. 27: San Diego, CA (House of Blues)
Mar. 1: Salt Lake City, UT (Metro Music Hall)
Mar. 2: Denver, CO (Summit Music Hall)
Mar. 4: Chicago, IL (Bottom Lounge)
Mar. 6: Washington, DC (Rock & Roll Hotel)
Mar. 7: New York, NY (Irving Plaza)
Mar. 8: Philadelphia, PA (Theatre of Living Arts)
Mar. 9: Richmond, VA (National Theater)
Mar. 10: Atlanta, GA (Masquerade)

Adem Tepedelen’s craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.