Music Festivals

Converge's Nate Newton on Being a Fan, a Dad and Always on the Road

It’s easy to forget sometimes that the people who play music are also usually big fans of other bands.
Converge bassist Nate Newton isn’t afraid to wear his adoration on his sleeve. He’s a big fan of the Smiths and doesn’t hesitate to say that he’ll fly halfway around the world to see the band play together again, no matter where or when that might happen.

And it just so happens that his other favorite band, the Misfits, is playing on the same day as his band at this year’s Riot Fest, the fourth iteration of the annual end-of-summer festival at the National Western Complex.

“I have to say, I’m pretty excited to see the Misfits,” says Newton, a self-professed lifelong fan of the original horror-punk outfit, which will be fronted at Riot Fest, for the first time in decades, by Glenn Danzig. “It’s pretty fucking cool. That’s just something I never thought I’d see. I won’t believe it until I see it, until they’re on stage.”

As a fan, Newton never turned his back on the band, even through all the infighting among members and questionable lineup changes. But having all the original members back together is clearly a dream come true.

“I saw them when they did the reunion shows with Michael Graves singing,” says Newton. “They nailed the whole vibe; they were amazing. I felt like I was twelve years old again. And I saw them when Danzig did shows with Doyle. They were a lot of fun, too. I think there’s going to be something amazing about seeing Doyle, Jerry and Danzig on stage again. It’s like seeing Morrissey and Johnny Marr again. It wouldn’t matter if they were good. Just seeing them together will be enough.”

Of course, the real reason that Newton and his band are coming to Denver this month is to perform. Converge has been going strong for 25 years, garnering more attention with each of its eight full-lengths and numerous other releases. The band is on tour nearly nonstop, playing its manic amalgam of metal and hardcore all over Europe and the United States. It’s a lot of work, even for hyperactive, young punk kids — and Newton and his bandmates aren’t exactly kids anymore, which complicates things for a band that is on the road half the year.

“The band has grown a lot,” says Newton, “but we still do everything ourselves. Things other bands have a manager or tour manager or travel agent for, we still do. When we go on tour, I’m the one advancing all the shows. We do everything.”

Newton is careful to point out that he and his bandmates love what they do. It’s just that as they’ve gotten older, Converge has become a much bigger beast.

“It’s stressful, because the band has grown a lot over the last few years, which blows my mind,” says Newton. “That stuff has become more work than it used to be. Right now we’re handling it, but it’s definitely more work than it was in the past.”

There are, however, advantages to being such a long-running but still creatively fresh band. For one, Newton says, Converge plays so frequently and has been in the game so long that, for the most part, everyone stays dialed in without having to schedule lengthy stretches of rehearsals prior to a big show. It’s an interesting fact about an act known for its tight and ferocious live show.

“If we’re going on tour, we’ll schedule a couple days before the tour to run through the songs,” says Newton.

And if being in one of the best-known heavy bands on the planet weren’t enough, each member of Converge is involved in some other project that, on its own, could be considered a full-time gig. Guitarist Kurt Ballou is a highly sought-after producer and owner of GodCity Studios in Massachusetts. He’s also played on dozens of other bands’ albums over the years. Singer Jake Bannon runs the popular record label Deathwish Inc. with friend Tre McCarthy. He’s also a well-known visual artist whose work includes creating iconic album covers, and he still manages to make music outside of Converge with projects like Wear Your Wounds. Drummer Ben Koller stays busy playing with the hardcore project All Pigs Must Die and the weirdo-prog-metal band Mutoid Man.

Newton, too, keeps busy with his other band, Doomriders, which owes more than a little of its sound, if not its aesthetic, to the aforementioned Danzig. He’s also got a wife and young daughter to look after.

“A lot of us are just wrapped up in dad life,” says Newton, chuckling but clearly not joking. Doomriders, he says, is taking things slow since its bass player, Jebb Riley, decided to leave.

“Jebb left the band because he was too busy with work stuff, as a tattooer,” says Newton. “He’s really grown as a tattooer. There came a point where he had to make a choice, and this was the right one; it’s what had to happen. Jebb is family, though. He’s always part of [Doomriders], as far as I’m concerned.”
Newton and company didn’t have to go far to find Riley’s replacement, Doomriders’ front-of-house sound guy, Chris Johnson.

“Chris was the logical choice for us,” says Newton. “We’re getting going, firing on all cylinders again.”
As for Converge’s Riot Fest appearance, Newton says, the band has little planned aside from its normal, blistering live show.

“We’re just going to try to not suck, pretty much,” jokes Newton.

Like a lot of people, he just can’t quit thinking about the Misfits reunion.

“The Misfits — honestly, that was the big thing. Misfits? Really? Yes!,” he says. “I’m glad we’re playing on the same day. We’re flying in, playing, flying out the next day. Gotta get back to changing diapers.”

Converge at Riot Fest
1:30 p.m. Sunday, September 4, Riot Stage, National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt Street, 303-297-1166.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Oakland Childers has been a music journalist since he was sixteen.