For the uninitiated, here’s how Jacob Bannon typically sounds: “RRSSSAAAAATTT!!!!!!!!! NAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! RRRRRRRYYYYYYYYNNNNNNNJJJJJJJJAAAABBBBBBBB!!!!!!!” Okay, he says actual words, but they can be difficult to decipher amid Converge’s skull-crushing hybrid of hardcore, punk, metal, and noise. Even without checking the lyric sheet, it’s safe to assume Bannon isn’t singing about mischievous kittens and colorful rainbows. The song titles and lyrics for Converge’s fantastic new album, Axe To Fall, make that plain: On “Worms Will Feed,” Bannon howls, “Saw you slither around their necks / sinking teeth into their flesh / spitting venom seeing red / you will fall where you lay your head.” “Wretched World,” “Cutter,” “Losing Battle,” and “Reap What You Sow” offer similarly dour pronouncements, with “Cutter” ending “I may get better but we won’t ever get well.” Watching the wiry, heavily inked frontman bounce around the stage during Converge’s aerobic performances—as well as seeing his work as a prolific visual artist—it’s clear Jacob Bannon has some demons. That’s precisely why, just before Converge stops by the Austin Music Hall on its tour with Dethklok and Mastodon, The A.V. Club sought to learn what makes him happy.
1. Friends and family
Jacob Bannon: My parents got divorced when I was a kid, when I was 2 or 3, something like that. So basically my family consists of my mom. That’s pretty much it. I have a brother, but I don’t really speak to my brother often. So yes, I have my girlfriend and her family and her sisters—they’re all close to me. Her family’s all pretty close to me. I’ve never been a guy who’s been defined by that kind of family. So I guess family for me [is] like my close friends and my loved ones.
2. Mixed martial arts and combat sports
JB: I’m not a sports fan in the traditional sense. I never have been. So like, I really personally don’t enjoy baseball or football or things like that. The things that appealed to me as a kid were one-on-one sports and combat sports especially. When I was a kid, boxing was a really big deal to me.
A friend of mine saw me running with my team the other day, and he said it was me in front with just a row of monsters behind me. [Laughs.] I don’t see any of them as “monsters.” There’s a couple of bigger guys, but no one I find to be intimidating in any way, and I think that’s a positive thing. There’s some interesting parallels. For me, combat sports is really interesting because not only is it something I just dig as a sport, but I also really like it for a measure of camaraderie and the communal end of things. It has a lot in common with punk rock and hardcore. It’s a lot of people searching for something that they’re not really getting in their daily life in some way. It’s a whole lot of people trying to deal with frustration and anger in a physical way and a positive way where they’re not being destructive out in the street or doing things that they would somehow regret. They’re doing it for the name of the sport.
3. Art and music
JB: When I was a kid, I was into skating and BMX and things like that before I found music … I broke my kneecap twice, and when you break a bone like that, it’s a significant injury, and you really decrease your mobility for a year or more at times when you do that. So it pretty much crushed me as a teen, and I didn’t have the ability to do a lot of the stuff that I was doing up to that point. Up to that point I was skating and riding BMX at a pretty high level for a kid at that age. So it really just took my ability away to develop like the other people who I was riding with or skating with at the time. It just took me out completely. And that made me look to other things in ways of expressing myself.
JB: I have an American Staffordshire terrier, which is essentially a big, dopey pit bull. It’s a larger bloodline of a pit bull, so it has more in common physically with a mastiff than he does with a smaller 30- to 40-pound pit bull. He’s more like a 100 pounds or so. A little bigger. I’ve had retired greyhounds in the past as well. The two that I had both passed away.
They still kill 20-30,000 greyhounds a year legally in the States. That’s massive. No one really talks about it. You have PETA, on the other hand, regarding what they deem as “aggressive breeds.” Pit bulls they feel, generally, that they are a dog that cannot be rehabilitated in some way. Actually, a few years ago they were trying to use me as a spokesperson for PETA, and I was fine with doing small things for them until I found out that certain aspect of the PETA mandate that’s out there. It’s just the way they handle their business, and I pulled all of my public support of PETA because of that. It’s just simply untrue. All it does in this society, with the rules that govern things here, is it instills more fear into people by just saying these dogs need to be decimated off the face of the earth rather than rehabilitated. They’re doing more damage to animals than they are good with that ideology.