Jacob Bannon is known to many as the vocalist of the hardcore band Converge. He’s also a visual artist whose work has been featured on many albums and in gallery shows. I emailed him recently about art and music and the relationship between the two.
Which came first for you in your life: music or art? And how do they influence one another?
Likely visual art, as I was interested in drawing and things when I was very young. Music followed quickly behind of me. I was fortunate enough to be part of the last generation that directly engaged by music through physical media (cassettes, vinyl, etc). Because of that, the attention that I would give the bands I enjoyed was very focused. I would obsess over the details of their efforts. That experience definitely helped shape how I choose to approach creating music and visuals. As to how they influence another, I see them as one in the same. They are both related forms of expression.
How long have you been making a living as an artist and musician? What was the last “regular” job you held and when was it?
I’ve been working full time since I was around 17 years old. To put myself through college I use to build, repair, and deliver furniture. I started doing basic design jobs for a regional alternative newspaper while I was in college, and soon after started designing records.
Currently, I do a lot of things to get by. I am a freelance artist/designer where I work for clients in the independent music world. I am a fine artist and I create a variety of visuals through that which I offer to the public. I am a solo musician (under the “Wear Your Wounds” name) and a founding member of Converge. I am the co-owner of the Deathwish label, where I release and promote the music of bands we believe in. I am a partner in a Vintage Decor Gallery alongside my wife. And lastly, I work for the State of Massachusetts as a Licensed MMA Judge. I see all of those things as “regular” jobs though they are all entrepreneurial in some fashion. I couldn’t make a living doing one specific thing, but the mass of it allows me to exist for the most part.
On your site you write that you found some paintings by your father when you were younger and your “imagination started to race on its own.” What kind of things did your father paint? Has your family been encouraging of your pursuit of art and music? If so, how?
My father use to create some portraits and abstract artwork when he was younger. He would sell work the sidewalk in the city (Boston) before I was born. He let go of making art later in life to go in other directions. In some ways, my family has been encouraging but like many, my situation was complex when I was younger. It’s improved in some ways over the years for sure. My web of close friends has always been very supportive and I also consider them to be family of sorts. I’ve had the same handful of friends for over 20 years now and we all support each other.
Where do you find inspiration for your art and music? How have your sources of inspiration changed over the years, from when you were a teen to where you are now?
I take inspiration from my life and the experience of others around me, always have. As I’ve grown older my experiences have changed, so my subject matter and source of inspiration has also evolved. I tend to only be motivated to create when there are negatives in my life that I feel the need to purge. Art and music allows me to do that in a healthy way. In turn, listeners and viewers of my work have told me that it’s been a positive in their lives, as they’ve related to the emotion captured within it. Though that’s not the intention, I am forever grateful for that aspect of creativity. A negative turns into a positive. That’s the story of aggressive music that few ever talk about.
Between art and music, which is the one you spend the dominant amount of time on?
It really depends on the time in which you ask me. Right now visuals work has been taking up a lot of my time. A few months ago though, I was mainly writing and recording music. The focus is constantly changing in that regard. It’s all just expression to me and I’m fine with that.
We are all influenced to one degree or another by our surroundings. To what degree has growing up and living in and around Boston affected you? Have you ever thought about moving away?
I travel quite a lot. In 2009 for example I spent about 6 months of that year on the road. With that said, I’ve seen quite a lot of this world and it’s made me appreciate where my roots are. Culturally I see some of the generalizations that people have about New Englanders in my own personality, and I embrace that. If I were to move again, it would likely just be in another more isolated part of New England.
How does being on tour affect your ability to make art?
It puts a lot of it on pause. When we are touring I am concentrating on those responsibilities to the best of my ability, so there really isn’t any time for it.
Is there a difference between the things that inspire you to make art and the things that inspire you to make music? If so, what are they?
For personal work, no, it all comes from the same place regardless of the medium. Music, visuals, and writing are all the same for me. For client-based visuals, many people come to me for help solving their own specific visual problems, or with specific direction and subject matter. Creating on those terms is more craft oriented and non-expressive than personal work. It’s just as valid and has its place; it’s just not the same animal.