Kurt Ballou - Converge

April 7, 2002

You guys have been together for about 10 years?

Yes, actually about 11.

How did the band get started?

The founding members were in high school together. It was just something to do after school. I was in the band from the beginning. I was 17 when we started. Some of the other guys were 14 or 15 when we started.

You combine hard-core, heavy metal, and punk rock. How does that mixture meld together?

Yes, that's true. We just developed our sound over the course of 11 years. That mixture is not premeditated. It just comes from the scene of music in which we have played in over the past 11 years. The bands that we like and have been influenced by. Our friends' bands that we play with on a continual basis. All that has led to the evolution of the music that we play. Saying that it's the combination of punk, heavy metal, and hard-core is a label that other people are applying to us and not a goal that we're trying to obtain.

You've released two other albums called Petitioning The Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing. Tell me a little about those two albums.

It's all part of the evolution of Converge. As long as we've been together, we've always tried to do as much as we could. Part of being in a band is writing music and that has always been our passion so we've always tried to write music as much as we could and record as much as we can and continually put out records. As we've maintained our inspiration to do music, we've continued to put out new albums.

You've also done several EPs.

Yes.

Is Jane Doe your third album?

Tough to say. Jane Doe is the second album that was re-recorded as an album. Petitioning The Empty Sky was not actually recorded as an album. It was originally a 7" EP and then we recorded some additional songs to be released as an album. Then we've done that with a previous record called Carry And Killing which preceded Petitioning The Empty Sky which was a collection of different EPs that we put together on a record. Jane Doe is our second full length album.

It's been said that you've literally shaped a new path for which every new band must follow. Do you feel you've done that?

To say that, I think, would be too self-centered. There's a lot of people out there doing innovative music. There's also a lot of people out there regurgitating music that's been done by innovators. We've always strived to innovate. Music means a lot to us. The goal of music is always to create sounds that raises an emotional response both for the performer and for the listener. In our case we pay more attention to the performer than we do the listener so it's always been our goal to do music which gratifies our need as a release of aggression but also as a release of our creative instincts. Through our creative instincts, we've always tried to be innovators in the music that we do both pushing ourselves to a new level, but also pushing the kind of music we play to another level whether bringing in other outside influences or just new sounds that other people haven't explored before. For the most part, our experiments in new sounds have been successful. People have copied it I guess. I don't hear it as much as the critics seem to hear it. I've never heard another band that sounds like Converge in my mind but apparently the critics have. I take that as a compliment.

You did a split album with Agoraphobic Nosebleed and you've also done a split album with Hellchild. Can you explain what these split albums are?

Tre usually done as just two bands that are friends with each other and want to work together. That think it's a cool idea to put out a split record. From more of a business perspective, it's something you do to tap into each other's markets. Whereas one band might either be strong in a certain market with a certain group of fans or in a certain area of the world and the other band on the record might be strong elsewhere, you do a split record and it's just advertising for the other band that's on the record. People typically buy splits for one of the bands on that split and then become exposed to the other band on that split. Both Hellchild and Agoraphobic Nosebleed are vastly different bands from us and they also were on different record labels so for the past few records we've released on Equal Vision Records. Agoraphobic Nosebleed was on Relapse Records which is much more of a metal audience than we have on Equal Vision, so by putting out a record on Equal Vision we were exposed to a lot of metal fans but also a lot of metal press. Metal press is much, much, much more organized than hard-core press so it got us into Terrors Magazine and into Metal Edge. Stuff like that. Stuff that we wouldn't have been exposed to on Equal Vision. The Hellchild thing was a bit of a clusterfuck that was originally supposed to be on Howling Bull Japan which was going to help us break into Japan because Hellchild's a Japanese band and we were helping them break into the U. S. But it ended up being released on our singer Jake's label, Deathwish, in the U. S. instead of on Howling Bull. It didn't have quite the business advantage that we had hoped it would but I still loved the work with those guys. They're a great band.

Tell us about Jane Doe.

Jake can answer that question better than I because he's the lyricist. The best I can describe it is conceptually Jane Doe obviously is an anonymous figure of womanhood and how the loss and the recovery that's involved in female symbols in our lives, whether that be relationships or mothers or grandmothers or whatever that may be, it's just an all encompassing generic symbol of womanhood. That's probably the bes I can do not being the lyricist.

I take it Jake does all the writing.

He does all the lyrical writing. I do the majority of the musical compositions but we do arrange songs collaboratively. Anybody can bring music to the table. We don't have any one set of writing formulae that we call on.

Are there any tracks on the album that you feel stand out?

I take the album as a whole. The album was written in a very short period. Judging from a music writing standpoint, I wrote it with a fairly focused vision of what I wanted to it should be listened to as a unit I think.

You had Matt Ellard produce it?

He wasn't really producing it. It was more engineering. It was a self-produced record. I did a lot of the engineering as well. He and I tag teamed the engineering responsibilities.

Are you recording any new material?

We don't have any set plans on when we're going to record. We've been writing material and we plan on releasing another EP on Equal Vision Records as soon as we can.

You're also going to issue a live DVD.

Yeah, once we can get enough satisfactory footage to put together a good live DVD we will be doing that. The advertising has been out for a long time because the original label that it was going to be on was a little overzealous when they thought they could release it. There's been a lot of advertising and promotion for it but we still need to get more footage and better quality footage to put together something that's worth releasing.

You've been doing some heavy touring for over a year now.

Off and on. We haven't been out for more than four weeks at a time ever.

You just get on different touring packages.

This tour with Hatebreed that we're doing right now is actually the first support tour we've ever done. When we started out, we were doing headlining tours playing to 30 kids. Now we do headlining tours, we play to maybe 300 or 400 kids. Supporting Hatebreed, we're playing to twice that many at least every night so it's pretty cool to do that. It is a little bit strange because even when you're doing headlining tours playing to 30 kids, it was 30 kids that were there to us that knew who Converge was. Knew Converge material. On this tour, we're playing to a lot of kids that have no idea who Converge is and don't know our material. There's a lot of nu-metal kids that would not typically come to a Converge show. Converge has typically had more of a punk ethic about doing shows than the current tour we're on. We usually play lower door priced shows at smaller venues. Sometimes places without stages whereas this tour has been really big PAs. Really tall stages and barricades in front of the stage. Higher door prices. That's cool. That's what you need when you're the size band that Hatebreed is. That's what you need to do to be on a tour and sustain it. The size band that Converge is, we feel a little more comfortable in a punk environment.

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