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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Converge

Interviewed by Arnold Hablewitz
Interview With Converge's Jake Bannon from 2002


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.


First off, can you give us a brief rundown on how the band formed and who is in the band now?
Well the band's been together for just a huge amount of time, over ten years now; it's going on eleven years. We basically formed out of suburban boredom and being fans of music, just like any other band really, that's involved in contemporary aggressive music. We just wanted to emulate things that were around us and bands that we really appreciated. We just started writing songs and playing together at that point, and that was founding members myself, and Curt our guitarist and head songwriter. We've stuck together this long, and we've had various members but right now we have probably our most productive and progressive and most solid lineup that we've ever had, where you have myself in charge of vocals, lyric-writing, and visuals for the band, sorta the conceptual development for the band. You have Curt, very heavily involved in the creative process, the songwriting process, as well as Nate Newton, our bass player, who's been in the band for now, going on 4 years, a serious amount of time, and our most recent drummer Ben Kohler, who's been in the band for about two years now. And that's where we're at right now.
MSJ: So what happened to Aaron then?
Aaron was in the band for about 7 years, and his life is getting particularly heavy, particularly crazy, and he had a whole lot of responsibilities calling including this band. And via that, his play was suffering and his participation was starting to suffer. Rather than losing a friend, we asked him to step down, collectively. We thought this was the best decision for the morale of the band. Y'know when you're in a band for that long you just don't want to lose a friend. We felt that if we were going to continue to play together on the level we were, [that meant] asking for a certain amount of dedication and responsibility to be shared, and he couldn't, then we were just gonna simply start hating each other in time and we didn't wanna do that. And so we said "ok, let's take a breather and why don't you step down 'cause you can't do the band full time." It was definitely a friendly parting, but it was still sad.
MSJ: Any plans to find a replacement?
No, he never really was a member of the songwriting or creative process at all, he was mostly just a member of the band who…played live and that was really it. It didn't really affect us in the least as far as being a creative body.
MSJ: How would you categorize this music, 'cause I had a hard time doing it and maybe you can give people an idea better than I could?
I don't really categorize the music all that often. I'm not really a fan of categorizing music into all these genres and sub-genres. I'd just call it aggressive…it's aggressive music. It has a very high emotional level to it that pop and traditional rock and even traditional punk and hardcore don't really have. So it's an extension of a lot of those things but I would just call it aggressive emotional music. I don't really feel that bizarre little classifications do any bands justice. There's always subtle nuances that are usually the defining factors in the band and are always left out when you say a band's a "metallic-hardcore" band or a heavy metal band or a punk rock band or whatever. You're sort of missing the personality of it.
MSJ: So when you don't categorize the music that leaves you open to incorporating several other different styles?
I wouldn't say…well, we're a fairly progressive band and we don't put a leash on ourselves as far as what we do and what we don't do. We have our own…we're our own creature. When you hear Converge, you experience Converge, it IS Converge. It's not anything else. And even if we do grow and throw in some more influences with more of theme show, and progress in some way that we become better musicians or better songwriters, it's still very much us. We've never done an about-face in these ten years, and we're not gonna do one now. We progress as a band, we have a certain way we work together, a certain style that we've created together and that's what we are, this creature.
MSJ: Why is the album called Jane Doe?
When the title came up, we were on tour in Europe. Nate, our bass player and myself were talking about some of the work I was doing at the time, a sort of nameless, faceless victim of circumstance. The loss of direction, the loss of identity, just the feeling of being lost emotionally. Just not really having a place or fitting a place. He was just talking about some names, and he was like "y'know what, what about 'Jane Doe'?" And it just sorta fit really well. It really sums of some of the things I was conveying metaphorically that I was conveying lyrically at the time. The irony of all that is that any of the material I was writing at the time never actually made it onto the record. The name "Jane Doe" took on a whole new meaning when I was going through a huge amount of emotional turmoil in my life when I was dealing with the loss and grieving of a relationship that just fell apart in five years, and the title just took on an entirely new meaning at that point.
MSJ: Does this have anything to also do with the visual aspect; the CD layout or the CD booklet?
Sure, well the entire record, rather than me creating something which would be the traditional take on album art with maybe a live photo or lyrical content next to it, I chose to do fine art collage pieces representative of the emotional content of each song. I went through the entire record and it took me a considerable amount of time to go through and handle it that way, and the record was a much more visual record than anything so I didn't feel like having a traditional booklet would do the album justice of trying to convey that emotional depth. And we're a very visual band, and I'm a very artistic person, and it just really works well.
MSJ: I've heard about plans for a DVD, what can you tell us about that?
There's always a huge amount of live footage floating around, and we just saw a need to get it out to people, because there were people out there bootlegging it and making a significant profit off of what we did. We completely support people videotaping our shows and just being part of the community. It's amazing. There's been a huge amount of instances though, where we ask kids for videos, just one copy to see what they are selling. A lot of times we were met with huge amounts of "Hey, this is mine, I videotaped this." No real respect for the artist or the art itself. So we put out a huge call for submissions to kids who wanted to contribute to a project. We tried to collect all the footage we could and find some of our best moments throughout our years of playing out and put 'em all on one collection, one DVD, and that's all it is. It's more like a Metallica "Cliff 'Em All" kinda piece, both high quality and low quality footage. We also wanna put it out with CD pricing and CD packaging so that it's fair and it's available at all traditional album retailers.
MSJ: What do you foresee in the future of Converge?
Continue to tour, continue to write…
 
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