Drummers that Wept

Chris Wassell behind the kit
Chris Wassell behind the kit. photo: Kathryn Rogers Purselle, circa 1987

Can you imagine the Beatles without Ringo Starr? I didn’t think so… Even though every rock band has its many-sided histories inflated to biblical proportions, one thing holds true: the drummer is the anti-hero that shapes and defines the band. It was no different for the post-punk-goth group Wept that defined my youth with which I contributed with guitar, keys, and saxophone from 1986-1993. From Rudenotse, to Chris Wassell, to Matthew McGuigain among others, each incarnation of the band took on new uncharted intensities because of the genius behind the kit. And as I begin to bring closure to my 90’s archives, I’m compelled to share a parallel aural history of the band that impacted my life –  through each of the amazing ‘Drummers that Wept.’


Darow Han wasn’t officially our drummer (in fact he was a classically trained violinist that would later become drummer/rapper/multi-instrumentalist), but his minimalist snare improvisations accentuate Xopher Davidson’s already insane suburban narrative creating a new plateau of psychosis in this song ‘Those’ (1986). Oh and yes, that’s also Darow lending his violin skills to up the tension.


Rudenotse must have been from middle earth and I often wonder if he has become the real life Gandalf and wanders amongst us today. Even though most of our tunes were in 4/4 time, he claimed the songs were in backwards 9/8 (maybe they actually were?). Regardless, with songs like ‘Welcome’ (1986) he brought the band forward to the point where we were actually a rock ensemble rather than just an avante art project. His cryptic sensibility and inverted sense of humor was such a driving force we named the album after him.


Chris Wassell propelled Wept to new unprecedented levels. Born from hardcore/metal roots, he always brought an essential sense of gravity to the band’s ethereality, even with the more chill tunes like ‘Grabber’ (1987). Listen and weep as he paradoxically drives the song forward while playing slightly behind the beat. This is raw talent and regardless of the genre, his playing is Jazz…


In my opinion ‘Deforest’ (1988) is Wept at it it’s best: mixing heavy sonic noise with jazz influenced changes. Chris Wassell is the core of this sound effortlessly shifting between heavy grooves and complex bossa nova patterns. At this point we could no longer classify ourselves as ‘goth,’ ‘post-punk,’ etc. With Wassell as the backbone, we had morphed into something strange and new with a potential yet unreached…


Ok, so Roland TR-707 wasn’t a human but was a drum machine, our cyborg friend… like the ‘echo’ beat box in ‘Echo in the Bunnymen,’ TR-707 allowed us to experiment in times of hiatus with ambient songs like ‘Tea Room (1988).


Wept reconvened in 1993 with a pair of new songs. Still the most accomplished Wept work to date, ‘Glass Insulator’ is a sublimely dark improvisation that couldn’t have happened without Matt McGuigan behind the kit. He brought unprecedented power, precision, and subtlety to the sound. Recorded by the always (productively) critical Andy Hong of Tapeop fame, Andy had only one compliment that night and that was for Matt’s playing. This by the way is monumental.


In 2005, Wept came full circle with the two of the four original members (me and Wili Vorticez) recording an impromptu session with Wili on drums. As if tempting fate or failure, we dared a version of one of our earliest tunes, Telekast from 1986. Almost 20 years later, Wili channeled the ghosts of wept-mas past possessed by the spirit of all of our former drummers who had played this tune including Jason Reese, Rudenotse, and Wassell. This nostalgically remains one of my favorite sessions because like muscle memory we recalled and improvised on the tunes like old jazz cats.

Wept is preparing for another release in the upcoming year. Although my time with them has ended, their incredible body of work will and has had lasting influence on me and those that witnessed the DC scene at the time (read Anu’s more concise history here »). A big toast to the Drummers that Wept!


Wept basement show. photo Kathryn Rogers Purselle
Wept basement show. photo: Kathryn Rogers Purselle, circa 1987

Other Wept members:

Wili B. Vorticez: bass – CEO and C00 of Xarrier Infrastarwerx
Xopher Davidson: vocals
James Chandler: guitar
Brian Johnston aka IReverend Brainskan XIII: keyboards
jh0st: guitar, keyboard, saxophone