Converge Singer Jacob Bannon on Art, Rob Halford + Running Deathwish Inc.
Whether it's the non-stop tour grind, running the increasingly successful Deathwish Inc. label or creating the visual imagery that's an intrinsic aspect of Converge, there's hardly a free moment for Jacob Bannon.
With Converge's latest album, All We Love We Leave Behind, topping many year-end lists (and continuing to shred the hardcore rule-book), Noisecreep caught up with the band's omni-faceted frontman (actually on the first date of their current European tour) to discuss art, music and selling home furnishings.
Did you really eBay a 5 minute Skype conversation with your hand? What did the winner actually receive and what did you do with money you made from that?
Yes we did. It was a ridiculous idea that we came up with during a 17 hour drive on tour. The money from the auction is being donated to a charity fund assembled for our friends in Baroness, who were in a bus accident earlier this year. We are also donating other items to help them out as much as we can.
You recently did a piece of artwork called Frankenstein. It was for a Universal Monsters series for Alamo Drafthouse, right? What did you try and put across with that piece or art?
I was asked to contribute to The Universal Monsters Art show curated by Mondo Gallery. I contributed a painting of Frankenstein to the show as he has always been my favorite of the Universal Monster characters. It was a great show to be a part of, and I was honored to be part of it. I was also part of a few other great art shows throughout the year as well.
Does being a visual artist fulfill you just as much as being in Converge?
They are both positive things to me, for sure.
Do you see a separation between being a visual artist and a musician? Is it all done with the same "brain"?
They are both creative efforts. I don't really see much difference between the two things.
You just opened Diamonds & Rust, an antiques and home décor store in Beverly, Mass with your wife. What do you sell there? Do you see an art in the construction of furniture or other things you sell there that aren't necessarily in mediums that you're known for?
We offer a variety of new/vintage industrial and mid-century furniture and lighting, textiles, art, and other collectibles and accessories.
I see an art in everything, definitely.
What vocalists inspire you?
I've always admired Rob Halford since I was very young. He is one of the most impressive lyricists and vocalist ever. Especially in early Judas Priest, 1970 to 1980, etc. As for artists that are sonically more in line with Converge; Rennie Resmini (Starkweather), Dawn Crosby (Fear of God), John Tardy (Obituary), John Brannon (Negative Approach), Blaine (The Accused), Charles from Rorschach, and a ton more I'm sure.
What is your personal definition of a "hardcore" band in 2013.
I've always perceived hardcore as a genre free of all rules. Where music and art was free of a lot of the bells and whistles that accompany other sub-genres of music. That definition is still the same for me.
Do you still feel that hardcore culture is relevant in 2013? If so, what, in your personal opinion, should it be accomplishing as an artistic, cultural and philosophical force?
It's not a culture in my opinion but a broad definition of a kind of music. As to the ethics and morals people associate with the term, that is all personal choice. For example, the things that I value and find interesting may not be the same as the person sitting next to me and that's the way it should be.
Converge as well as Cave In both came out of the Boston hardcore scene of the late '80s and early '90s. It was musically a low-point for the scene. How did what was going on there at the time influence you guys?
Cave In were more of a late '90s animal, and we are generationally a little different from one another. Musically I didn't see that time as a low point at all, I consider the late '80s/early '90s to be the golden era of independent and heavy music for many bands... Slayer and Sonic Youth are prime examples. I'm honored to have been listening intensely at that time.
What was the spark or the moment where you realized that you wanted to dedicate yourself to music?
When I was a teenager and started this band. I wanted to make music that moved me, and that's the only real goal I've ever had in making music.
With labels selling fewer records and the record business itself being in a terrible place, what keeps you excited about doing Deathwish? Is it profitable?
Deathwish as a business has grown every year since we started a decade ago. We aren't a label in the traditional sense (we don't follow the dying model), so perhaps we are a bit insulated from what you are describe. As to why we created Deathwish, we wanted to help promote art/music that I believe in and see artistic integrity in.
What makes you want to sign a band to Deathwish? Are there any new bands you've signed or are about to sign that you're excited about?
I enjoy every artist that we work with in some way. I feel that our label represents the very best bands out there in aggressive music, honored to work for them all.
Are there any bands: both recent and historical, that you wished you signed? Any bands from hardcore history that you would have loved to have toured with?
Not really. We've worked with all of the artists we've wanted to.
As for touring with bands, I think we've toured and/or played with everyone I'd ever want to see. I'm very thankful for that.
The songs on All We Love We Leave Behind seem simpler and in some ways hookier than a lot of your past material. Do you agree? If so, was there a reason, conscious, (musically or emotionally) or unconscious, for that?
No, I don't agree. I feel the songs are fairly complex musically and emotionally.
The words "career-defining" are often bandied about every time Converge releases a record. How do you feel about that?
I don't really think about what other people's opinions are regarding our band, I just enjoy making music that I find to be fulfilling.
Do you see yourself making aggressive music – whether in Converge or not – in 20 more years? In that respect, are there artists you can model yourself after?
I don't put a clock on anything. As long as I feel motivated to create music and art, I will, it's that simple. There are no artists that I can model my life after and I wouldn't want to.
What keeps you from feeling like you're going through the motions in your art and music?
We write songs that are emotionally fulfilling and artistically challenging. Our songs have dynamics and vary a great deal in personal subject matter, always have. For me that keeps things interesting. Visually I enjoy forward movement and progression in my work, and I always find that to be exciting no matter what I am working on.
If you were to write a song or create a piece of artwork today, what would you want it to convey?
I wrote the bones of a song earlier today. A few melodies that entangle with one another. I'm excited about what it may turn into over time.