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September 12, 1971 - January 30, 2005
Wes Wehmiller: bassist, composer, athlete, photographer...and one of my closest friends for the last fourteen years.
His passing affected me deeply. We literally grew up together on the electric bass. As long as I've been a serious bassist (essentially, when I got to Berklee College of Music), he was right there with me. He was one of the best bassists I've ever heard, to the point where I found myself copping little licks and stylistic coolnesses from him here and there. As I often said, he made me wish I was a drummer or a guitarist, so I could have been in a band with him on a regular basis.
But Wes was a whole lot more than just a bassist. He wrote over 30 rock tunes for his own band, I, Claudius (one of which, "Bite," ended up on View). He was an incredible roller and ice hockey player. Put him on a bicycle and he rode like Lance Armstrong. His photography "hobby" turned people and places into works of art. (His photography graces the cover artwork of View.) He was multi-talented, and a rare master of all trades at that.
I will miss him so, so much.
Click here to go to the official Wes Wehmiller Tribute Website, and learn far more than you can here about what a truly amazing person Wes was.
Wes’ family and Berklee College of Music have established The Wes Wehmiller Memorial Scholarship. Donations can be sent to Berklee College of Music (Office of Institutional Advancement),
Online donations are currently being accepted at the Berklee College Of Music website. Click here for details.
In honor of Wes, here's a tune from the one and only gig the original Bryan Beller Band ever played. It's a cover of John Scofield's "Blackout," on which Wes played bass while I played the lead. Fittingly, he's the only one on this tune that doesn't solo. But all you have to do is hear this one track to know what an absolute genius he was. Click here to listen.
June 24, 2004
Wes also wrote a whole bunch of killer heavy rock tunes for a half-joke, half-serious band he formed with his friends called I, Claudius. One of their tunes that really stuck with me was "Bite," so much so that I asked him if I could record it for View. Thankfully he agreed, and we laid down the biggest, heaviest version of it we could.
lead vocals/lyrics - Colin Keenan
baritone guitar - Griff Peters
main background vocals/rhythm bass guitar/songwriter - Wes Wehmiller
more background vocals - Mike Keneally, Nick D'Virgilio
drums - Joe Travers
bass, spoken word - Bryan Beller
(c) 1995 Maximum Music BMI
This is something I wrote in honor of Wes just days after his passing. Some references may be tough to follow for those who didn't know him, but hopefully it conveys a sense of who he was and what he meant to those close to him.
There are so many stories to tell, so many incredibly unique and charmingly idiosyncratic things about who Wes was and what he chose to do, that it defies logic and sense to try and pick a couple and just tell them—for me at least.
So how do you celebrate someone whose talents and interests were so mind-bogglingly diffuse? I stopped and thought for a second—what did Wes really want? What did he really see?
I think he looked around this earthly plane and saw imperfection. Lots of it. Some times he noticed a concentrated amount of imperfection in someone—a "loser."
Some times this concentration of imperfection was centered in a group of equally flawed people, who earned the official pluralization of this sen timent: "What a bunch of losers."
This critical—some would say "discriminating"—eye towards life in general betrayed an essential truth about Wes, one perhaps not widely known enough. Sure, he was the quiet one in a group, and wasn't always the first to offer his opinion. But if you got to know him, and he got going on a subject that he cared about, he was utterly transformed, and he'd produce a flood of words and ideas and thoughts about the way things should be. It was startling, and yet reassuring—in Wes' world, there was a vision, an ideal, a "perfect life" to be had.
The only question is, what was it? Well, I can guess at a couple of things.
First of all, Canada is the most powerful and influential nation the earth has ever known. And the Greater Canadian Federation has its own laws, all vast improvements over our current setup.
Every night is Hockey Night in the Greater Canadian Federation. TV programming becomes very simple under this arrangement.
The basic Canadian laws are actually the unwritten rules of the players in the National Hockey League. Everyone knows what to do and what not do to. If you take a cheap shot at life, an enforcer settles it with you the next time you're out in public. A good, clean shot, of course. Justice becomes very simple under this arrangement.
Tap water is abolished. Pellegrino and various brands of spring water are available both on tap and in bottle dispensers stationed in every home. Cars are fitted to accommodate 32 ounce water bottles.
Socks come off automatically—you just look at them and they roll up off of your feet. This prevents unwanted sock removal injuries, a major factor in the cost of health care in the Greater Canadian Federation.
Motorists must be respectful of bicyclists. Any motorist who gets in an accident with a bicyclist must serve a mandatory one-month sentence as checking dummy for the Los Angeles Ice Dogs—Los Angeles being the capital of the southwestern province of the Greater Canadian Federation, of course.
There are laws governing gigs as well. First off, the serving of a deli tray backstage can result in a venue's license being revoked. Instead, hot, steaming plates of chicken and asparagus are standard in every green room, with a new, freshly cooked serving brought every 6 minutes.
Special rules apply to those who overplay and showboat on a gig. This is a respectable family establishment, so we can't really discuss what happens to those people.
Manufacturing is big in this great new world power, this Canadian colossus. Factories work double shifts churning out the very best hockey gear, bicycling gear, photography equipment, and specially-enhanced music computers pre-loaded with Pro Tools and every patch known to man.
And, best of all, Jim Tyler is the national luthier, and his factory runs like a clock, producing a brand new, handcrafted bass every hour on the hour, which Wes would personally inspect and decide whether or not he wanted to keep.
Of course, this is all a fancy, rhetorical way of saying that Wes wasn't nearly as passive as some might have believed. He was a force in motion, deeply passionate about what he enjoyed in life—the music, the cycling, the hockey, the photography, the rock climbing, the off-roading, the rollerblading, and plenty more—and pursued those passions with as much vigor as anyone, but all with an effortless grace. Just because he made it look so easy doesn't mean he wasn't out there going after it. He just did it all without breaking a sweat, without making a scene of it…without showboating… without being a "loser" about it.
So we can all rest easy knowing that, wherever he is, it's a world of his choosing, where what he does and what he knows is without limit, a world where the perfect groove is playing over the PA system of a gorgeous hockey rink with perfect ice, where everyone he ever loved and respected was in the stands, watching as he controlled the puck from one blue line to the other, deking out both defensemen, breaking away and going 5-hole on the goalie as the red lamp lights and the sirens wail…and afterwards, as in a dream sequence, he suddenly finds himself standing before Tony Amonte, Eric Lindros, James Jamerson, Pino Palladino, Danny Morris, his family, his friends, and everyone who ever mattered to him.
The whole crowd before him isn't saying anything.
They're just nodding respectfully, murmuring, "Yeah… yeah."
And he smiles, and says, "Wicked."