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The World According To Converge’s Jacob Bannon: “Perfection is the mind-killer”

(Image credit: Deathwish Inc)

Over the past three decades, Jacob Bannon has rearranged the face of heavy music with Converge, decorated album sleeves with his artwork and helped shape tastes co-running Deathwish Inc. This is what he’s learned from life at hardcore’s sharp end.

Hustle to succeed

“When Converge started, we were super-young and super-poor and just trying to figure shit out. I was putting in 20+ miles a day on my bike to get to school, plus working in furniture stores, unloading trucks and whatnot while also trying to be a creative person. It was a hustle – a big, big hustle. And it continues to be. I think it’s really important to be like that for a while and to understand the reality of what most of this is. I’m glad I was doing all of that, because then I could shift gears and be OK with the fact that it’s always an uphill battle.”

Try to find a different voice

“A lot of the emotion and nuance I put into Converge gets lost because of the volume. People just think I’m a monster, they don’t realise that there’s at least some intended prose and some intended meaning behind the vitriol and anger. Wear Your Wounds has a different voice and it hits home in a different way.”

Appreciate great collaborators

“To get this bunch of people with broad musical, creative vocabularies who’ve already sharpened their teeth on their own material to come together and build something different has been fun and unique. The fact that everybody understands the artistic character of what I’m trying to accomplish with Wear Your Wounds is awesome, as is having all of them just jumping in and writing songs and being open to collaborating. They don’t want to just be machines playing music that I write; they add their own soul and that’s really special to me.”

Pressure is part of life

“I don’t feel like I’m coming off the rails very much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above feeling like that – it’s a reality that many people deal with every day. It might be a client deadline, or it might be the guy downstairs parking in my space for the 40th time in a row when I’m trying to carry 6,000 things into the office. I think I would feel that pressure pretty much anywhere, I don’t think it’s something that’s unique to music. I do know that I have to multitask to exist, but I don’t have any hang-ups about that. I definitely know artists who get bitter about wanting to do certain things or not wanting to be dependent on making commercial art or whatever, but that’s life. It is what it is. You can’t really control the landscape like that; you either create a self- sufficient alternative or accept it for what it is.”

Don’t get hung up on perfection

“One thing I think can be the mind killer for a creative person is trying to find perfection. More often than not what you define as a flaw in what you do is what else someone sees as a strength. It’s all about the process, and it’s all about getting past resistance. It’s about trying to be OK with that, and evolving as an artist and making better stuff every time you make something. By ‘better’ I don’t mean technically proficient, but trying to capture exactly what you want to capture.”

Step back and take stock of what matters

“I think that we often lose perspective, and we think that our time and our importance and self-worth is dictated by certain things, and our lives are weighed by certain scales. But the scales don’t really mean much, or they don’t really mean anything at all.”

(Image credit: Justin Borucki)

Put your head down and run

“In terms of whether there’s an end point, I don’t know. I suppose I’ll know if and when I get to one. But for now I just like making stuff and I still have something relevant to say. At least relevant to me. I’m not an artist that has to write a song every day, or has to paint every day, or needs to make a crazy collage that looks like this today. I have to do that for clients to a degree, but I don’t have to do that for myself. Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where all I do is utilitarian, non-personal art – you never know. But right now I’m moderately young, I have the time and energy to do it, and I’m already in it – this is all I’ve got.”

Don’t make assumptions about your heroes

“Usually people are shocked at how we [Converge] are as people – we’re really silly. You often have some sort of perception of an artist that isn’t accurate, because you just know them through their art. It’s been pretty rare where I’ve actually wanted to meet a musician. The few times that I’ve tried to do that or felt compelled to do that, I never really got what I intended to get out of it. Most of the time I would rather just have the relationship with a record or a song, and keep that intact.”

Pay it forward if you can

“Starkweather [longstanding Philly metalcore act] are the real deal. They’re one of those bands that exist in the darkness, and when they choose to surface they do whatever they want and it’ll be totally moving. When I had the opportunity to release some music for them, I was adamant it would happen. With Burn and 108, they’re unique bands and historically very important. The fact that I can help do something positive for them has been a dream for me – the same goes for Ringworm and Integrity as well.”

Don’t sweat the imitators

“It’s weird – if you acknowledge it you’re egotistical, if you ignore it you’re being flippant and disregarding other peoples’ artistic efforts. But it is what it is – nobody’s original, everybody’s lifting something from somewhere or at the very least taking some sort of inspiration from something. I take it as a source of flattery to a degree, and there have only been a few times where I’ve felt a little slighted because it’s been such a direct lift. But what are you going to do? It’s the internet age and everyone thinks they own everything on the screen in front of them. But I’ve never really paid too much direct attention, because if you start reflecting on that sort of thing, if you start looking at what you’ve created from that perspective, that’s the first big leap out the door in terms of being a relevant artist – when you start getting bitter about this or that instead of putting your head down and doing the work. If someone wants to lift something from us, cool – hopefully that shapes things in a good way. But they’ll never be us or Deathwish or any of our bands. Who knows, they might be better, but they’ll never be us.”

Keep the spark alive

“There’s a Peter Pan syndrome with anyone who carries on with what they started doing as a kid. I found the spark for art and music when I was young, and it’s a very real, true thing for me. When I heard heavy music for the first time, I knew it was something I connected with. I found a commonality with this community, and I never let go of it because I never wanted to – it’s what I truly enjoy, and I feel I can give something back to it. You can also see what happens when people stop, when that spirit’s left them. I mean, if someone stops making music or art because it makes them a happier or more productive person then that’s great. But more often than not it symbolises giving up something they loved to do, and if they don’t replace it with something that they love equally then their life can go in a different direction.”

Being a parent is about growth, change and challenge

“It hopefully allows you to grow emotionally and psychologically, and challenges you in ways you never thought you’d be challenged. It brings you an immense amount of happiness, and also frustration. You learn a lot about yourself, the things you need to improve upon and the strength you never knew you had.  And it’s not a lobotomy – it’s a true trial and a true test of who you are as a person. You think you’re this great person with these great values? Now here’s your chance to prove it: here’s a mirror that’s going to soak up everything that you do, and it’s going to shine It back at you with a light brighter than you could ever imagine. Are you ready for that? If you’re not ready, get ready, because you won’t have a choice. You have to welcome it with a smile and be OK with it, and that’s the challenge most people face: it’s a challenge of themselves.”