Spotlight of the Week: Dave Schoepke

Dave Schoepke is a composer and drummer known for playing with The Willy Porter Band since 2002. He also plays in soul-blues band Tweed, heads the improv recording project Blank Radio, is a session musician, and releases music of his own. Last year he released his album “Tessellated Resonance” which was all his original drum compositions – easily one of the most avant-garde records we heard from Milwaukee in 2020.

ME: To start, Dave, tell me about how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.

DAVE: Well, I’ve known Allison for quite some time actually. She and I worked together at Cascio, 2002-2003, and became friends there. She’d been an acquaintance of mine, and I’d been following what she’d been doing since she launched [Wisconsin Music Ventures] I think about a year and a half ago. It was kind of one of those things where you’re just watching it and seeing how it’s going but not entirely sure what it’s about. A good friend of mine, Paris Ortiz – he knows Allison as well – he sent me a message one day and said “you know, I think you should talk to Allison.” I don’t think he knew that she and I were old friends. So I hit her up and we chatted a bit about stuff, and then learning more about the whole thing I was more intrigued. We talked more, I got involved, and at the point I could see the whole thing was different than anything I had been a part of in my career. You’ve got a group of musicians running an organization that is employing musicians through booking gigs and is patron-supported. Seeing that the whole thing was kind of an angle of support for musicians as opposed to, for the lack of a better word, the manipulation of musicians for whatever sort of benefit. I don’t mean that so much in a negative way but I looked at this whole thing as something really actually for us. When I realized that, I was in.

ME: Right on. Once you know what you’re in for you can’t really say no.

ME: I’d love to hear more about your last record that came out about a year ago now, “Tessellated Resonance,” which we covered on Breaking and Entering. Why did you want to put this record out? What place did it come from?

DAVE: Well, thanks for taking the time to check it out, I appreciate that (laughs). So it’s my second solo album; I did one in ’19 and for me I would say it’s a continuation of the process in the sense of the first album being me just getting this out of my system, like this lifelong dream of mine to make an album of drum music that I’m just pushing through my psyche. “Tessellated Resonance” was more of me looking at it in a more focused way where I said “okay, here’s the first album that was cool for what it is, but now I’m gonna approach it in this manner” which the intent essentially was that it wasn’t so much what I was going to do as much as what I wasn’t going to do. What I had pulled away from what I’d done on the first album was not trying to come off as anything being a drum solo. The intent was to come with more structure and aiming for more song-form material. And I’m not stupid; I realize that when you do this from the drum set it’s hard to grasp. When I started this whole thing I did make a conscious decision that I’m really not aiming for drummers – it’s not an exposition. You get so much of that from drummers where it’s this display of technical prowess, which I have no problem with, but I don’t think that’s my strength as a player.

ME: Sure, cool. I love experimental and avant-garde records so it was right up my alley. Glad we could bring it to the blog, for sure. Thanks for sharing all that.

ME: Here’s a fun question for you. What do you think is the best pizza in Milwaukee?

DAVE: Wow, so it’s been a long time since I’ve gone out for pizza…I think Balistreri’s off of 68th.

ME: Okay, I’ve heard really good things about that one.

DAVE: Yeah man, I mean I’m more hip to a really thin crust deal. I like my pizza to be simple; I like all kinds of pizza but for the most part I like it really simple. Generally when I go out to eat, I don’t go out for pizza. My wife makes a really good homemade pizza. Generally when we go out to eat – I’ve got a couple kids – it’s about what can we not make at home.

ME: Totally. The reason I ask is because this past weekend I tried Tenuta’s in Bay View – that was a really good pizza. That was probably the best pizza I’ve had in the city so far. I was blown away.

ME: So it’s your birthday today, happy birthday.

DAVE: Thank you!

ME: What are your plans for the day?

DAVE: Well, I’m teaching; I’ve got some lessons later on. That’s about it. I might be doing some work on a drum book, and that’s going to be a sort of online course which will have videos and stuff, so I’ll probably work on some video content for that. Not a heck of a lot really.

ME: You having a nice dinner at least?

DAVE: Tomorrow we’re going to the Bavarian Inn. I’m a big fan of German food.

ME: There you go!

ME: My last question for you is, what are you working on now? What’s to come?

DAVE: Okay, so there’s actually a lot of things in the hopper. Since having kids I’ve tried to pull back on how much I’m involved in, and generally what that’s become is I’m not quite gigging as much as I was regardless of the pandemic. I’m still in a couple bands; I play with Willy Porter and a band called Tweed, which is like a blues-soul thing, and a Zeppelin tribute band. Those are the main things I do as far as playing out. Tweed’s working on an album and Willy Porter’s working on an album, so those are on deck to be finished probably sometime by the end of summer or early fall. But the bulk of my time at this point is being spent on collaborative projects from my solo work. I’m working with Dennis Hawk, who’s up in Appleton, on a collaboration; he’s a flutemaker and plays guitars and keys and sings so we’re doing a kind of ambient thing. I’m working on a duo project with Les Vegas, who’s the keyboard player for the 5 Card Studs; it’s another more experimental thing. Then I’m also working on another solo album. And then the fourth thing, which is the first thing that’s coming out, is that I’ve got some holdover music from the last album that I’ve done a collaboration with a producer in Germany, and I’ve got a four-song EP coming out with him; half of it’s going to be stuff he worked on and half of it’s my solo material. Singles will start coming out in September. Those four things are all kind of till next summer, and then somewhere around there the Tweed album will come out and the Willy Porter thing. It’s a lot going on.

ME: Sounds like a lot of fun to be had in the next year.

DAVE: And I’ve got a gig next Friday through Wisconsin Music Ventures at the Silverspot Cinema with my trio, which will be a lounge-jazz-funk sort of thing. We’ll play a couple of my solo pieces but most of it’s going to be standards.

Visit Dave Schoepke’s website here.

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