Although tagged by some as "this generation's Black Flag," Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon is a long way off from becoming Henry Rollins -- off stage anyway. Onstage, Bannon is a whirling dervish of emotion, complete with violent fist pumps and blood curdling screams. Offstage, however, the singer is quiet, introspective and a gifted visual artist responsible for most of Converge's haunting album covers. The groups' most recent work, Axe to Fall, is the band's best album since 2001's Jane Doe and arguably the best heavy album of the year. We caught up with Bannon in one of his quieter moments and asked him, among other things, about the art of touring with cartoon characters.
Westword (Andy Thomas): The first song on your new record, Dark Horse, touches on a friend of yours that passed away. Is it tough to sing about things like this in front of a room full of strangers or do you view it as cathartic.
Jacob Bannon: I think sharing music and creative ideas with people in a personal way is a bit difficult, although I do I feel the best music is made that way. The music that I want to hear deals with people's everyday lives. I don't want to hear songs about hypothetical situations that people never lived. That's the way I have grown as a listener, and, in turn, those qualities have come into my own creative process. It's difficult, but it's not impossible.
WW: You are currently on tour with Dethklok. Talk about how it is to open for a band who gained their notoriety from a television show and the phenomena behind it.
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JB: I don't know if I can talk about the phenomena because I'm not all that familiar with it. My first experience with the band was looking into them when we first got offered the tour. As far as them being a 'real band' or 'not a band' -- however people want to define it -- they are extremely talented musicians. Brendon [Small] is a cult figure in his own world, as far as being an animator, but he's also a Berkley trained guitarist, so he's no slouch. His second guitarist played with Frank Zappa for a long time -- you're talking about people who are essentially virtuosos. You can't take anything away from them in that department.
If anything they're the most talented band, as far as players, on the tour. As to how their popularity came about, well, that's music in 2009. Things are evolving, and people find music in different ways. It's not like that formula was invented with them: The Monkees did it; The Partridge Family did it -- it's an alternative way of experiencing music. I think the thing that's interesting is that it's extreme music. It's defined as death metal by the cartoon, but it's not. It's more of a classic metal thing with gruff vocals, I mean, Hate Eternal does not sound like Dethklok, it's a different animal. There's a large division in the audience because there are kids who got into heavy music because of the show and are more into video games and those aspects of youth culture rather than the fanatical underground fan base of heavy music.
So our band is a new experience to those kids. It's a challenge for us to go out and play in front of a few thousand people who don't know who we are. We're a very polarizing band; we are very abrasive. A first time listener who wants to hear more palatable music is not going to get us. With that said, there are several people that do; there are several people who hate us too!