Every year he somehow gets busier and busier. He can’t stop, we won’t stop. He seizes every opportunity to play, even some lone cymbals at a festival’s [Amplifest 2015, Portugal] hallway, while getting pumped up to go on stage with Converge. But it could have happened with Mutoid Man. All Pigs Must Die. And some others. Remember when he jumped on to play “Fuckin’ Viva” intro with Trap Them while rocking a Tragedy t-shirt? That’s how Ben rolls. One of the nicest people out there. Now chatting with us about what’s coming, including some real exclusive Converge shows.
The latest news tell us that Converge will have a double-nighter at Roadburn, doing “Jane Doe” in its entirety and playing along Chelsea Wolfe or Von Till for the “Blood Moon” collaboration. How did you engage in doing something as big as this?
The timing was right for it and the idea came together pretty naturally. We’re all pretty tight with Brodsky, Von Till, Chelsea and Ben [Chisholm] already from being former/present band mates, friends, label mates, etc. It is shaping up to be a really cool experiment so far and we’ve been doing a lot of preparation for it. It’s a ton of work but it will be a special, unique experience and totally worth it.
You’ve never played at Roadburn so far, but you’re on many attendees’ wishlist every single year and I’m sure you’ve been getting over-the-top feedback from your friends who already had the chance to perform there. Was the festival’s reputation decisive for you choice to go ahead with this?
Walter has been trying to get us on Roadburn for a while now, but we always seemed to have some sort of scheduling conflict. We’ve thought that a “slow song set” was a really cool idea for a while now so we’re really excited that it’s finally happening. Also when I get into my 60’s and don’t feel like playing blast beats any more we’ll have this set to fall back on.
Those Converge fans who will not be able to travel to Roadburn will surely be grinding their teeth in envy as the “Jane Doe” performance will be absolutely exclusive. Is that really a one-timer?
As of right now we’re planning on this being a one-time thing but you can never predict what will happen in the future. If another cool opportunity like this presents itself in the future we will definitely consider it. Our plan is to see how this run goes and then see what happens from there.
You will play some slower stuff from your catalogue on “Blood Moon”. Can we dream with Converge performing songs like “Cruel Bloom”, “Wretched World”, “Grim Heart”, “In Her Shadow” or even “Minnesota”?
You are definitely on the right track there. Some of the song selections will be pretty obvious but we will throw in a few surprises as well.
Steve Brodsky will be with you at Roadburn for “Blood Moon”. Considering that “Jane Doe” was recorded with two guitar players, is it possible to have Steve chiming in to perform some “Jane Doe” songs?
Steve has played “Jane Doe” with us live a few times before and it sounded great, so it is very possible he’ll be joining us for some “Jane” stuff.
I’ve seen you live a couple of times and it amazes me so much how you’re still so full of energy. Dominick Fernow said that he really doesn’t know how Converge are still able to perform such high-demanding songs, after more than 20 years. Do you exercise regularly, eat well and such?
Over the years I’ve realized that there are a few things that will directly affect my level of playing, especially as I’m getting older. My main concerns for playing my best these days are sleep, eating healthy and supplementation. If you sleep like shit and put garbage into your body then you are not going to get a good response when trying to do something so physically demanding. I also can’t take any time off from practicing. Even when I’m home I try to practice at least 3 days/week, especially right before a tour.
Not to mention that you don’t really get live breaks like Kurt or Jake. Mutoid Man are touring regularly and sometimes you get to do an APMD gig. Is your mindset exactly the same for each band when it comes to play live? I mean, Mutoid Man has an easy-going attitude, while APMD has the ‘fuck off and die’ thing.
“The Fuck Off and Die Thing” is actually the title for the new APMD album! I approach all the bands basically the same. I try not to make anything that I play “easy.” Even when I’m playing simpler 4-on-the-floor type beats I like to play hard and put some energy and enthusiasm into it. Playing a show should be entertaining to the people that are there to see you. I like to be basically out of breath and feeling like I’m going to die the whole time I’m playing a show.
You often share some drum cam videos of yourself playing live. Do you like to see them, perhaps to correct something or just because it’s really cool?
I just think it’s a cool thing to put out there for free for fans of my drumming to check out. I never really had anything like that when I was a kid since there was no internet like there is today. I try to think of things I really would have geeked out on when I was in high school and try to put as much of that out there as possible for people who appreciate what I do.
Your passion for music is visible and I really enjoyed seeing you one time rocking a Blind To Faith t-shirt, showing that you’re still interested in what underground’s heavy music has to offer. Are you always trying to find some new bands and listen to the demos that people give to you on tour?
I play a lot of shows these days so I get to see a lot of cool bands that I probably wouldn’t have seeked out otherwise. Blind to Faith are friends of mine from Belgium who used to be in the amazing hardcore band Rise And Fall. I always like to show my support for friends who are making rad music however I can. Unfortunately my Blind to Faith shirt flew out of the back of the Mutoid Man van on the highway so I need to get another one.
Mutoid Man has been getting a lot of recognition with “Bleeder”. It has been getting praise everywhere and people in Europe really want to see MM live. Were you expecting that kind of reception for a project that probably started by being a jam between old friends?
We had no expectations whatsoever when we started out. When MM started it was just Steve and I having a friendly jam session in a practice space the size of a shoe box in Brooklyn. We did everything ourselves, and the reception from that first EP really lit a fire under our asses. Since “Bleeder” came out everything has been going right so we’re continuing to ride the wave wherever it might take us.
Apart from Converge’s journey at Roadburn, what other stuff do you have to do in the nearest future?
So much stuff! Converge is playing Neurosis’ 30th Anniversary in March, writing new songs and playing some more shows/festivals in Europe in the Summer.
Mutoid Man will be doing a lot of touring in the U.S. and Europe, writing new material, collaborating with some amazing people and hopefully getting our own beer, 8-bit video game and late night metal show!
APMD has a few shows planned in Europe and we’re currently writing a bunch of new songs with Brian Izzi from Trap Them added on second guitar.
Nothing is set in stone yet but there are some whispers in the darkness of Killer be Killed getting together to write a new album.