When Revolver catches up with Jacob Bannon, the 41-year-old Converge frontman is hunkered down at the Massachusetts headquarters of his Deathwish Inc. record label and doing what he does, in one form or another, virtually every day of his life — creating art. "I'm just trying to finish up some mixed media pieces that I've been working on for an art show I have out in Texas in a couple of weeks," he reports. "But I kind of multitask every day, because I have a bunch of different jobs."
At the top of that list, of course, is fronting hardcore heroes Converge, who are releasing their new and ninth studio effort, The Dusk in Us, today. The record, their first since 2012's All We Love We Leave Behind, shows the band continuing to push out on the emotional and stylistic boundaries of heavy music (take a listen to the haunting title track, for starters) while also demonstrating that, more than a quarter century in, they're still capable of ripping through overwhelmingly aggressive blasts like "I Can Tell You About Pain" with both nimble, mathy complexity and blunt-force ferocity. For Bannon, it's a sonic space he feels fully at home within. "I found a place in aggressive music and emotional music when I was really young, and I feel real thankful for that," he says. "Because it's been a really powerful thing in my life, and it's also helped me get through a lot of things in my life. So I think it's a fantastic place to exist, just being an artist and a musician."
MUCH OF THE NARRATIVE AROUND THE DUSK IN US HAS BEEN FOCUSED ON THE FACT THAT THIS IS CONVERGE'S FIRST STUDIO ALBUM IN FIVE YEARS — THE LONGEST STRETCH OF TIME BETWEEN RECORDS IN YOUR HISTORY. BUT IT'S NOT LIKE YOU'VE JUST BEEN SITTING AROUND SINCE ALL WE LOVE WE LEAVE BEHIND.
JACOB BANNON No. Definitely not. If anything it's probably been the busiest five years of our lives in terms of being a band. We're pretty realistic people and we just want to get to work on a record when we can. So the amount of time, you know, it's just a talking point for people. Is it factual? Yeah, for sure. But the most difficult thing for us with this one was just logistics. Having the time to work on it. Because we're super-busy personally and professionally with all the things we're involved in. We were doing a lot of touring. Kurt [Ballou, guitarist] was engineering a variety of records. We did the Jane Live project. We did our Blood Moon tour. We did multiple U.S. and European and world tours. I released two Wear Your Wounds records and a book. Ben [Koller, drummer] released two Mutoid Man records. Old Man Gloom [with bassist Nate Newton] had a release in that time, too, I believe. So as much as some people have been harping that it's been a long time between records, yeah, well, it has. But all this other stuff also takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. We need to get that stuff done, too.
WITH EVERYONE BEING SO BUSY, HAS THE PROCESS CHANGED AT ALL WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING A CONVERGE RECORD?
We've been a band for so long that we just kind of work the way we work. Nothing really ever changes in that regard. There's no, like … I remember reading stories about bands where, in order to make a really large formulaic shift or something they'd go somewhere they'd never been geographically to record a record. We've just never worked that way. We know what works for us and we stick to that.
SO CONVERGE DOESN'T HAVE TO ALL GO LIVE TOGETHER IN A HOUSE IN THE DESERT FOR FIVE MONTHS TO SPARK INSPIRATION?
I think a lot of times when bands do that sort of thing it's a bit of an ego trip, you know? Instead of just being focused and being a regular human being and making a record happen. I'm not shitting on it — I'm just saying that's not something that's in our wheelhouse as people. We just don't function that way.
YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU RELEASED TWO WEAR YOUR WOUNDS ALBUMS THIS YEAR. DID THE EXPERIENCE OF DOING THAT PROJECT INFLUENCE THE DUSK IN US? THE TITLE TRACK, FOR INSTANCE, EVIDENCES THE TYPE OF ATMOSPHERIC, POST-ROCK SOUND THAT CHARACTERIZES SOME OF YOUR WEAR YOUR WOUNDS MUSIC.
With that song, I think what you're hearing more is our confidence after we did our Blood Moon touring. Just working in a more expansive style, a more dynamic style. Most people know us as being this, like, intensely aggressive band or this super, super heavy band. But we don't always play at 100 miles an hour, you know? So I don't know if Kurt or the guys really took influence from what I was doing with the Wear Your Wounds stuff, but at the very least, the Blood Moon sort of experimentation led to that song existing. And I love playing music like that so it's always a good thing for me.
SINCE THE LAST CONVERGE RECORD YOU'VE ENTERED YOUR FORTIES. YOU BECAME A FATHER. DID THOSE SORTS OF MILESTONES FACTOR INTO HOW YOU APPROACHED THE NEW ALBUM?
Yes and no. I mean, some of that is a narrative that's accurate. But a lot of it is not. We're not any different as people just because we've had things like that occur in our lives. They're obviously these pretty life-affecting things, but they don't really change who you are or how you approach stuff. The way we started working as a band way back when is kinda the way we still do it now. We're not really any different. I don't feel any different when I'm writing songs.
CREATIVELY, YOUR MOTIVATION HASN'T CHANGED.
It's never changed. Because I figured out a long time ago, when I was a kid, the stuff that is important to me and the stuff that I wanna write about. I knew what connected with me as a listener in a band. And so when I was young and impressionable and wanted to start my own band I wanted to write personal songs. And I sort of took a little bit of guidance from those bands and artists that I appreciated and liked. I wanted to create something that had that same sort of vibe. So I went down that road, and it's obviously evolved and kinda mutated over time. But at the core it's still the same thing it was when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. I'm just a better writer and a more experienced writer now than I was then.
IT'S AN AMAZING THING TO BE ABLE TO GET UP ONSTAGE AND SCREAM INTO A MICROPHONE AND EXPRESS YOURSELF IN THE SAME MANNER AS YOU DID WHEN YOU WERE A TEENAGER.
I'm really appreciative of the fact that we have this world that we've sort of helped build for ourselves. And I say "helped" because, although it's a very selfish thing we've built — it's personal music and we're going up there and doing it for our own reasons — the audience has helped us build it as well by connecting with it and experiencing our songs. But it is what it is. I'm not that introspective. I don't go back and think about that. I just sort of look at things and go, "Hey, I'm still doing the same thing I was when I was a kid!" I don't know if that's incredibly sad or if that's incredibly cool. But I still feel really motivated by it.