Converge interviewBy Devin Braden
It's about five and a half or six weeks, and we only have two days off. Tomorrow is our first day off.
Yeah, we have about an eight-hour drive. And, just like any band, we need to go get a brake job and an oil change. It'll get done. And, honestly, it'll be nice to have a day off. We try to not have days off as much as possible -- we try to make the most of our time out.
Yeah. Yeah, it has. It started at home, and we usually don't start tours at home. We rarely play home, actually -- mainly because of a lack of venues.
A friend of ours works really hard to keep a good relationship with a bunch of venues, and he does a great job, but it's always an uphill battle for him. Our last show that we played with him was a benefit for the East Boston Skate Park, which is a non-profit skate park, and we only got to play four songs because the owner came up to me in the middle of our set and told us to cut the show.
I don't know that that's true.
Okay, yeah -- I guess that we've been out with them twice.
We toured with Cave In twice in their lifetime as a band. They're still kind of a band, actually, but they're tied up with their other projects. They never actually stopped. And Ben, our drummer, is still playing with them. He played on the Perfect Pitch Black tour, and he actually recorded with them for that cassette single that was floating around for awhile.
Well, we've been a band for a long time -- I'd say, realistically, since 1991. Some would say 1990. At this point, we want to do things that are entertaining for us; to us, this isn't a job. A lot of bands go out and do giant package tours, or they do giant festivals that are soulless and horrible -- that's exactly what we don't want to do. Now, don't get me wrong -- we've dabbled in that, we've tried them out because we've had to.
Yeah, we had a horrible experience at Metalfest. For years, actually. The first Metalfest -- we were actually banned from the Palladium after that. We got just a few songs in and we had a run-in with security. They got into it with some kids, and they got into it with Tre [McCarthy], who owns Deathwish with me, and one of them smashed him with a full size Mag-Lite. He had to get, like, 10 or 12 stitches. And Ian from Reach the Sky unfortunately had to get involved -- it was a mess, and we were banned from there for awhile. But time passed and we patched things up, and [the show on the DVD] was our first time back at that venue. It's difficult when you're not used to that kind of atmosphere. Festivals are a bit of a double-edged sword -- they bring a lot of interesting people and a lot of interesting bands together for one unique weekend or one unique night, but more often than not, they're also quite corrupt. There's a whole political side of it, a pay-to-play side of it. And, honestly -- we're a hardcore band. We're a punk rock band. People can say whatever they want about what they think we are and classify us in some random subgenre, but ethically and morally, we subscribe to something that is not that world. We've tried to put ourselves out there as an alternative to that world and show bands and show promoters that you don't have to treat people like garbage. It doesn't always work that way, though -- the big boys tend to win.
Oh, everything's changed, but we knew that [it would] going into it. We weren't stupid. We weren't just a bunch of dudes that said, "hey, we should start a record label and put out CDs." We officially got into the record world as Deathwish right as Napster was exploding. Prior to that, Tre had some experience releasing 7"s for bands like Inkwell and Converge on his own label in the mid-90s and late-90s. I released the first Converge 7" in 1991 when I was a kid. I released the Halo in a Haystack 12" LP when I was a kid -- I saved money [for it] working at a nursing home. We knew how to do things ourselves, and the reason we did things ourselves was because there weren't any other options. We knew that [in order] to do things correctly -- to do things as pure to our vision as possible -- we'd have to do them ourselves. And that's evolved over time into Deathwish, into [guitarist Kurt Ballou's] God City [studios], into me designing records.
It's youthful fanaticism. This entire genre of music, this entire subculture, is based on fanaticism -- everybody wants everything before everybody else. That will never change. What we try to do is empower the listeners, the buyers, and supporters of music -- whether it's Deathwish or Converge -- as best we can without giving away everything. We have to survive in some way, but we try to work within today's limitations to make it happen: stream records for weeks at a time, free downloads with vinyl. We're trying to give people what we would want as fans of music -- I mean, I don't want to buy a record twice. The irony is that people talk about how record sales have plummeted in the past 10 or 15 years, and they have to a certain extent, but you know why? It's because the medium was expendable back then. Say you owned some album on cassette, and that cassette wore out and fell apart -- you'd just go out and buy the cassette again. Even if it was used for two bucks, you would still put money into the music industry multiple times. And you would buy multiple copies of multiple albums -- especially with tapes. They weren't selling 30 million records to 30 million people; they were selling 30 million records to 10 million people. That's really what it comes down to.
Right. As a collector of music and a fan of music, my mission plan has changed -- now, I really depend on my iPod and my iTunes more so than anything else. I've also spent a lot of time collecting vinyl from bands that I really cherish and appreciate. I still do that because I like the larger medium -- it's just my thing, it's something I dig.
[At this point, a passer-by shouted a question in our general direction regarding a supposed collaboration between Kurt Ballou and William Elliott Whitmore]
I don't know that they're working on anything together, actually. Willie is a friend of ours, we toured with Willie.
Yeah, he's done a lot of interesting tours. He actually toured Europe with us. [Directed at Kurt] Hey, are you doing something with Willie?
Kurt: Not that I know of, no.
There it is. There's the official answer. But, yeah, we toured Europe with Willie. A friend of ours used to run a label called Aurora Borealis -- they did the KTL records, the Grails record, a Crebain picture disk, a bunch of random stuff. Anyway, this friend of ours -- Tony -- [that] used to help us out with press in the UK is a partner in that label and is friends with Willie. He used to also work at Shellshock distribution, and he actually works on Southern [Records'] distribution now. He put us in touch with Willie and Willie was gracious enough to tour with us in Europe. It was awesome.
Yeah, we're supposed to pick up footage in a week.
It's fan-filmed and professionally filmed. It focuses mainly on Japanese tours that we've done. We've amassed a significant amount of footage from those tours. It's been a long time coming. A friend of mine, Ryan Zunkley, who shot our last video -- he's basically video-dumping it to a hard drive. It's something like 20-some hours of footage, and that takes a long time. It's moved slower than we want it to, but whatever -- shit happens. We wanted to get it out maybe six months ago, but it just didn't happen.
Well, we hope to go through all the footage between this tour and the European tour. We'll see what happens.
Torture [laughs]. EVR were gracious enough to give us the rights to do that. It is really important to all of us for that to finally happen. I don't have a copy.
Yeah. I don't have a lot of Converge releases, actually.
That's ridiculous. You know, we want to do some special manufacturing things for [the re-press] and we have a couple of manufacturers that we're just waiting on quotes from. And, yeah -- it's horrible. We're at the whim of the manufacturers right now.
Yes. I mean, we have great relationships with the people we deal with, but they're still doing a gazillion records, you know?
There are great pressing plants in the UK and the Czech Republic, and there are a couple of them still in the states -- there's Musicol, there's United -- but it's a long process. And, also, it's an expensive process. You have to pay for vinyl up front.
Right, all of it's paid for up front. With a CD, you don't have all of that. The cost of pressing an LP is monstrous sometimes. We got the Blacklisted bill right before we left -- while we were assembling all of those like crazy to get them out -- and it makes you take a breath.
I believe we did 2000, and I think we pre-sold 1200 or 1500. And then the band has their own copies on their own color.
Yeah, our tours are following each other.
Yeah. Andy, who works at Deathwish -- he's also in Meltdown and used to be in Sinking Ships -- he's the booking agent. He books Trash Talk and Blacklisted. When we were booking this tour, Matt [Pike] and Merrick, who run [the] Kenmore [Agency] and rent the front offices from us, and Andy had to keep talking to make sure their tours didn't cross each other. And it worked out -- it's cool.
I've never played with Obituary. I'd love to play with them -- they're one of my favorite bands of all time.
[Another person in the lobby yells out "Ringworm"]
Ringworm? Yeah, we did some shows with Ringworm. We did about a week with them on the Red Chord/Darkest Hour tour. Human Furnace is a really good friend of mine, and they're also one of my favorite bands of all time.
I call him Fernie [laughs].
Yeah, we do. We try to mix it up.
Well, as a person, I grew. And, as a person, my life changed. I write about my life, and all of my lyrics about the things I go through. Hopefully they're not repetitive -- I don't want to sound like a broken record. Between which two were you saying there was a shift?
Okay, yeah. We started writing the songs for You Fail Me pretty close to the release of Jane [Doe]. We played [the song] "You Fail Me" live for two years.
Yeah, it was a lot looser -- more jam-oriented. We just knew we had these two riffs, but we didn't really know how we wanted to resolve it. I had the lyrical content, but for the most part, [the song] was more like weird, later-era Black Flag: grim, dark, and not really predictable in any way. And we actually wrote the end of that song when we were writing The Poacher Diaries. Sometimes, you have songs that you kick around for a good long time. By the time that album was ready to be recorded, some of those songs were, frankly, old to us. The reason why there was such a long pause between Jane Doe and You Fail Me was more business-oriented -- that was a difficult, difficult time for us.
Yeah, we had a really turbulent relationship with Equal Vision [Records] at the time. And they're good people -- they're still good people -- and I respect them a lot, but we just had a difference in opinion as to what our agreement was, so we had to work that out before anything happened. It got real ugly for about seven or eight months, but then finally worked itself out. Now we're all on good terms and, frankly, we think it was for the best. As a band, we never really fit that well in their world. We appreciate their work and what they did for us, but the label just wasn't that diverse -- it wasn't diverse like Epitaph/Anti is, where you can be label mates with Tom Waits, The Locust, Bad Religion…
Right -- Atmosphere, et cetera. Their whole thing there is just the level of quality. They want to put out interesting records. It's a bit of a different vibe there than at EVR, and it was just more fitting for us at the time -- it made more sense. We're a very self-reliant band -- we don't need anybody's help, and we don't really ask for anybody's help. We ask for minor things from the record labels we work with, but we're not a band that asks for tour support -- no one's buying us anything. They're just paying for our records, getting our records out there, getting them into stores, doing their job, and we love them for that. Everything else we can do ourselves, and we don't really need anybody else's help, so the Epitaph relationship is a really healthy one.
No, we just do whatever. We have crazy ideas that we throw at them, and they go, "yeah, that's cool." They've never told us that something's a horrible idea. We messed with them a bunch when they asked about No Heroes because I don't think they believed that No Heroes was written and about to be recorded. We were like, "we're down in the studio -- we're ready, the record's done," and they were really funny about it -- they asked if we had a title for the record. We said, "yeah, it's called The Rapist." We got a serious e-mail back from one of the guys there that we get along with very well and is one of our main contacts, and he was like, "I'm not really sure about that -- we're going to have to run it by Marketing. I'm a little concerned as to how we're going to get retail placement." [Laughs] Converge - The Rapist.
Yeah -- our agreement is to do four records with them, and it'll be our third. They gave us the freedom to do the DVD ourselves.
Well, we ask them -- we want them to be happy and to be comfortable with the role that Deathwish is playing, or the role that other labels are playing, and they're supportive of all of that.
Um, kind of [laughs]. We started writing in Europe last year. We had a couple of song ideas we started messing around with because we had atypically long sound-checks in Europe, so we started working on some ideas. We want to try to pursue that this fall and see what happens. If we can get a record done this winter that we truly enjoy and want to show to other people, we'll be excited.
Maybe. It's tough to predict, and here's why: we're not one of those bands that wants to craft the perfect record; we just want to create a record that is meaningful to us, that challenges us, that is something real to us. That can happen in two months, or that can happen in four years.
Led Zeppelin wrote perfect albums; we don't write perfect albums [laughs]. You know, I listened to Jane a couple months ago, and I think it has some parts that I really appreciate, and some moments where I think we could've done better. It's a really emotional record for me. It's a really dark record for me. And all of our records have a certain amount of meaning to me -- Jane is one of them, You Fail Me is one of them, No Heroes is one of them. They all have a part of me in them, so I can't measure them against each other. We knew immediately when we put out You Fail Me that everyone was going to dislike [it] because, first of all, the visual aesthetic wasn't the same as Jane Doe, and we knew that any follow-up to a record that a lot of people are emotionally attached to is going to be looked at in a negative light. It's the history of music, it's the way it works.
You know why? It's because we don't turn on ourselves. You see bands, and I won't name names because I'm political like that…
They can fill in their own names, right [laughs]. But you see bands of this genre that leave themselves for any number of reasons: they leave themselves for money, they leave themselves for some bizarre quest for fame and ego. I'll tell you something -- we've driven the same van since 2001. It got 230,000 miles on it. [We have had] the same trailer since 2003. We're a fucking punk rock hardcore band -- we aren't trying to be anything else. We just want to write honest music, and if you consider doing that, people will hopefully be receptive to what you're doing. The day that we decide the things we're writing are no longer relevant to us and aren't really challenging us anymore and don't have anything relevant to say, we'll stop. We're not one of those bands looking for old glory; we're not looking for a 'Greatest Hits' record. We just want to leave a positive mark in this world -- that's it. There need to be more bands like that.
We're really appreciative of where we're at and where people hold us in that respect, but I want to see more bands trying to do that instead of trying to make the radio song or the kick-ass video. It's just tired, it's insincere -- I don't want any part of it.
Oh yeah? That's awesome. Thank you. You know, I actually got to do an interview like that back when I wrote for a fanzine. I interviewed Harley Flanagan from the Cro-Mags, and during the interview, I watched him open a bottle of beer with his eye socket. It changed my life forever.
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Jake is the man. Converge are the shit. f*ck Off
I saw the interviewer open a bottle with his asscrack and it changed my life forever.
HEY JAKE YOU WANT A BOWL OF BROWN M&M'S WITH YOUR VEGAN DELI TRAY BRO?
god, i honestly can't stand to listen to this guy talk for more than 30 seconds. he bothers the shit out of me.
why is it a great interview? cause it's jake bannon? who gives a shit? it was long and boring. converge has sucked for years already too.
Dumb questions.....I see you go on the road with a lot of friends....you know Red Chord...Cave in...stupid f*cking questions in this whole interview. I feel Jakes time was wasted here.
Translation: I read the first two questions of the interview, then let my ADD get the best of me and went to yank one off to nonexistant fincher n00dz while listening to No Heroes and pretending to know Jake personally.
"he's just a hardcore kid lucky enough to be living out his dream of driving from city to city in a beat-up van" really? if converge are driving around in a beat-up van it's probably a personal choice rather than something out of necessity.