Converge's Jacob Bannon On Queen, Texas Wrestling and Being a Mixed Martial Arts Judge
Jacob Bannon, lead singer of the mighty Converge, returns to Dallas tomorrow night at Dada, as the four-piece promotes their latest, All We Love We Leave Behind. We caught up with him about the first record he bought, his first tattoo, how he got into mixed martial arts and his love for Texas wrestling.
Can you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
First album I bought with my own money was, I think, Queen's The Game. I believe it was 8-track, if I remember correctly. We had an 8-track copy in my house and we had a vinyl copy. That was pretty much it. I still love Queen. An absolutely fantastic band. Probably one of the greatest rock bands of all time. I still listen to Queen, probably, weekly. You know? My musical taste that I had when I was a kid has always stuck with me. It's never really departed or anything like that.
Were you introduced to that record via the songs on the radio or stuff that was on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert?
Well, popular culture then, we're talking - I don't know when exactly it would have been - Queen was one of those bands you couldn't avoid. Like, if you turned on television, you heard Queen. You heard "We Will Rock You." You heard anything like that in '80, '81. My timeline's really, really bad. If you were alive in America, you were familiar with Queen in some way. It was the first album I picked up. The album cover looked tough. The guys looked like a fairly bad-ass rock band. If I remember correctly, the cover of that record is metallic silver, a band shot like The Ramones. Just really stripped down. It called to me. It was everything a rock band should be. Sort of flamboyant, expressive, heavy in its own way. Not heavy like death metal heavy. Heavy in a sort of rock way. It was interesting to me.
What struck me about it, still thinking about it all these years later, is that it's in black and white and there's a gong in the background.
Yeah, that's right! There is a gong in the background of that one, like, in the center. That really tells you what they're going for that band. It's interesting, too, considering the band has always been Freddie Mercury and Brian May. For any casual listener, when you think of [them], you think of their powerful personalities; they're amazing players. The whole band was amazing musicians. It's kind of ironic that you have drums in the background. It's sort of telling because aren't drums usually in the background of that band? Also, for them to be featured with drummer and drums. It's kind of funny.
Converge started when you were 14, in 1990, correct?
Uh, yeah. It was about then. You're a kid, you're playing music. At that point, I was sort of legitimately trying. I grew up with my brother, he was an '80s hair metal guy, so I was really familiar with classic metal at the time and the stuff that dominated at the time. In 1990 or so, I really immersed myself in heavier music. You know, I was already familiar with metal, but that's when I really started to get into punk and hardcore. I felt a calling to that community.
Technically, is Converge your first band?
Yeah! Kurt [Ballou, guitarist] and I have pretty much grown up in this band. I found him as the guitarist in our town who could play a solo where I couldn't play a solo. I could hack through everything else, but there was no way I could play a solo. We needed somebody that had some chops. Personally, I feel like we didn't start writing music that had a slant on our true character until '93, '94, something like that. It started clicking. Started shedding our influences, start trying things on our own. Again, we were children; we were learning how to play.
This totally dates me here, but I was in sixth grade in 1990. On one hand, you had Steelheart on MTV, and on the other, you had bands like Obituary and Carcass putting out stuff.
Oh yeah, definitely! That was the world I was immersed in. I wasn't a purist where I came from a world that I was very familiar with Kix and random obscure bands like Nitro. Basically, anything that was around at the time, like Accept, Krokus, all the classic stuff, all the German stuff. I was definitely searching at that time for music, and it was funny, I was searching for something heavier. My brother turned me on to some heavier bands that weren't his thing. I remember going to the record store and buying LP cutouts, which were cheaper, like four bucks. I bought Ride the Lightning there. I don't remember exactly when that came out. I remember I was a child. I remember that and a Blue Oyster Cult record - they both had awesome covers. My brother gave me his copy of Motorhead's No Remorse when he got it. He enjoyed it, but it was a little too gruff for him. I had a concept of heavy stuff by the time I was getting into my double digits. When you're a kid and you're a male, you like fairly macho things. It's not really a far cry going from GI Joe and Japanese worldwide television shows to Metallica's Ride the Lightning. Then I jumped into punk rock and death metal. I was thankful when I was coming up, like you said, [for] Carcass, early Earache stuff. I was fortunate to be a music listener in all of that in such a diverse world. One month you get a Godflesh record, two months later you get a Nocturnus record. It was pretty awesome. You were learning about all this stuff all at once.
Frankly, this is me just being a fan since Jane Doe, but y'all are five for five with this new record. I mean, there's diversity. Who would have thought on your previous record to have a song with a singer from Neurosis do a Tom Waits song?
That's what made me more interested in what you guys are doing than bands that peter out after a couple of records with a very metallic sound.
Well, you know a lot of bands, to be honest, are fans of music. We know a lot of bands, and I'm not saying this to be derogatory towards bands, but a lot of bands' diversity in their listening palette is questionable at times. When you have bands start to experiment in the heavy world, they pull stuff from really strange places or they pull from some really obvious places. We're fans of music. We like musical weight. Oddly enough, like you said, Tom Waits or something like that. There's an immense amount of emotion, an immense amount of power in blues-oriented playing. It's not really that dissimilar from what we're doing on an emotional level. Maybe not on a sonic level, but definitely an emotional level, so when we bring those things together we're really happy about that.