Podcast Interview

Nate Newton of Converge & Old Man Gloom: The Void with Christina Podcast Episode #71

This week’s guest on The Void podcast is Nate Newton of Converge and Old Man Gloom. Nate is an essential musical and human element of some of the most iconic American hardcore bands to ever rattle speakers, sear through pits, scream, squall and soothe hearts with their serrated edges and rough-hewn soul.
Nate and his merry bands of riff-wielding musical animals joined forces in the fertile Massachusetts hardcore scene which birthed and cross-pollinated a slew of bands who continue to drive hooks into new listeners and trickle down into new music. Listen to a two hour deep dive podcast interview into his musical world on iTunes, Spotify and all podcast platforms.

Listen to the Nate Newton (Converge, Old Man Gloom) podcast on:


Nate plays bass for the iconic Converge alongside acerbic vocalist and visual artist Jacob Bannon, frenetic and hard-hitting drummer Ben Koller and towering guitarist Kurt Ballou, an acclaimed record producer and engineer who has produced a ridiculously high volume of sonically startling 21st century heavy music from his own GodCity Studio (and just won a Grammy for High on Fire’s blistering Electric Messiah). Converge’s sharply crafted sound and stark and stippled visual world cuts savagely through the white noise; brutal yet filmic, rough and scratchy at the surface yet salty deep.

“I vividly remember having conversations with Jake where we were like ‘Where is the Dead Kennedy’s symbol of the Nineties? Where’s the Black Flag bars? Where’s the Misfits skull?!'”

Nate also plays guitar with the submerged and sludgy doom band Old Man Gloom, which features incredible visual artist and ISIS guitarist Aaron Turner on riffing duties, drummer Santos Montano and Nate on guitar. A year ago Old Man Gloom were dealt a horrific blow when their bassist and dear friend Caleb Scofield (who was also a member of legendary Boston hardcore band Cave In) passed away in a car accident, prompting an outpouring of anguish from his loved ones and cherished community, followed by a series of charged tribute shows. Old Man Gloom’s intricate, beautiful and guitar-driven records feel like riding a wildebeest alongside a mournful girl ghoul traversing a monkey cave that snaps between howling darkness and stillness; a place where riffs rule and the songs are always slyly winking at you. Old Man Gloom is a project that allegedly started as a way for each member to amuse (or mess with) each other. This monkey-themed band that makes seriously good music represents one of the most epic things about D.I.Y. music – artists that take the music itself seriously but never take themselves too seriously.

In this epic two hour podcast conversation with Nate Newton and myself, Christina Rowatt, we trace everything back to his first guitar at the age of thirteen, bands in Virginia Beach like AVAIL showing how it was done in all ways, from self-releasing “Satiate” to fuelling their fledgling band with support [slots] and love. We cover Converge (and their spirit animals) and the world of Old Man Gloom and why the unique Roadburn festival is worth the annual musical pilgrimage. We also have a deep discussion about Nate’s beloved bandmate Caleb and who he really was. How the harrowing experience of grief can make you really appreciate the magical act of making music with wonderful humans that you love. We also read from Nick Cave’s beautiful letter about the way grief and love will always be intertwined.

I recommend listening to the full two-hour conversation for the real experience. Please enjoy several taster-style text excerpts below:

The visual world of Boston hardcore in the Nineties

Christina: Can I ask what the posters were like, and the visuals of the zines in the Boston hardcore scene back then? Old Man Gloom has a really cool visual thing and so does Converge. Was that a consideration [in the early days]? Did everyone care?

Nate: People cared, but in the early-mid Nineties digital art and the availability of the tools were in their infancy for a lot of people. A lot of that stuff graphically – I feel like it took a few steps back. A lot of the Eighties stuff was like hand-painted covers and this real artistic visual identity for each band. And then in the Nineties all these kids went to college and got the same fonts packages and they were like “I can design this! I took a graphic design course, I can make my own record cover!” That’s really cool but some of the visual identity was lost for a while.

To answer your question, it took a few years of growing as artists and individuals. Especially within our little group – like Converge, ISIS, the whole mid to late Nineties Boston scene – we all really wanted to bring back that [visual] aspect of punk and hardcore.

I remember vividly having conversations with Jake where we were like “Where is the Dead Kennedy’s symbol of the Nineties? Where’s the Black Flag bars? Where’s the Misfits skull?!” All of us really wanted to bring that back. There was a short window where you could see a record and it could be any band. We want you to look at our records and know immediately that’s who that is. I don’t need to read what it says, I know who it is. So yes, it did. [Jake] really wanted to explore that – and in a lot of ways he pioneered it, bringing it into where we are now.


The mindsets that charged the making of Converge’s Jane Doe 

Nate: I think that in the case of that album in particular, we were coming into it from a specific mindset where there were multiple little sub-scenes at the time within hardcore, and we tended to get lumped in with stuff that we felt no connection to whatsoever. Obviously we were part of what was happening with the Hydra Head [Records] scene … but we still tended to get lumped in with these metalcore bands where we were like “How can you make a comparison between us and that? That’s not who we are, that’s not what we’re about.” I think it forced us all as musicians to self-evaluate.

We had a chip on our collective shoulder when we started to write Jane Doe. We wanted to write a record that nobody else can write. We want to do something that nobody else was doing. That early twenties ego thing where you’re like “I’m going to show you!” Our goal was to come out swinging and say, “We’re not what you think we are. And now you have to pay attention.” So that was the whole idea behind Jane Doe. Also, Ben was in the band for that record and it was the first time that someone was actually capable of doing the things that we wanted them to do on the drum set, if that makes sense. 

Listen to the Nate Newton (Converge, Old Man Gloom) podcast on:


Why You Fail Me is the real Converge landmark line in the sand

Nate: People like to cite Jane Doe as Converge’s landmark record but for me it was You Fail Me. Because that was the record where it felt like we really began to click as a band and really stopped worrying about convention or what people expected. We wrote Jane Doe and when it first came out it was not greatly accepted or critically acclaimed. People were like, “What the hell is this?!” I think there was this real focus at the time on genres. And doing things the right way. You know, like “Oh, you’re doing that wrong. You’re a metallic hardcore band so you can’t do this, that’s outside what you’re supposed to do.”

After a couple of years, Jane Doe started gaining popularity and the ideas about it changed. There became this expectation of us for the record that came after it. All of us were like fuck that, lets make a record that sounds nothing like Jane Doe. That was partially calculated and partially that we were sick of it. That we were growing as musicians and fans of music. We were becoming influenced by different things. Right around that same time, Songs for The Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age came out. We were all really obsessed with the recording of that record, [saying] “It just sounds so fucking weird!” And we thought it was cool. So all of us were like, “I want to make a hardcore record that sounds like that.” It doesn’t sound like that [laughs].

Jane Doe was a super compressed, super hot sounding record. We were like lets make this kind of dark … something with more peaks and valleys to it, ebb and flow – sonically and musically [on You Fail Me]. We were also thinking that if we make another record that sounds like Jane Doe: a) People are going to be bored by it. b) People will always expect that of us. It was important for us to set this precedent: that you’re never going to get what you expect from us.

What they will miss most about the talented, hilarious and loved Caleb Scofield

Nate: We had an ongoing theme on every record where Caleb would write a song and we would learn it and rehearse it. Then we would be recording the record, and he would be like, “I can’t come in tomorrow [for whatever reason].” On the day he couldn’t come in, we would take the song he wrote and completely change it, and record it. So when he came in to record it, he would be  like “What the?! You motherfuckers, you did it again.” It became a recurring theme on every record. How are we going to fuck with Caleb? We always worked out a plan of how we were going to do it. That’s Old Man Gloom in a nutshell. It’s just us fucking with each other and trying to make each other laugh.

Christina: What was Caleb like? What was the most vivid thing about him as a human being?

Nate: Caleb was an enigma. He was incredibly talented at everything he did. He was one of those people who – when you met him – would come off as this serious, quiet guy but then as you spend more time with him you realise that he’s the most twisted, hilarious person you’ve ever met. We’re always talking, making jokes, trying to make each other laugh. And Caleb would hang back in the rafters and then just pounce with some verbal venom that was so brutal and so hilarious that you never saw it coming. That was Caleb in a nutshell. I would be thinking I was the funniest human being on earth for half an hour, just blabbering on. Then all of a sudden he would interject some three word thing that would crush me in front of everyone [laughs].

Caleb was very much an incredibly talented musician. He could play his ass off. But dude could write a riff like nobody. We’d get together and be writing songs for an Old Man Gloom record. I’d have some ideas, Aaron would have some thing that makes no sense to anyone but just [say] “Play it, it will be good I promise.” I’d be feeling good about everything I wrote and Caleb would be like [casually] “I’ve got a few, I don’t know” … and then he would just play something and I’d be like holy shit, where do you keep finding these riffs? How do you do this?! How do you make these massively heavy, catchy riffs? Just right out of the box he was always like that. He was mellow about it but we knew that he’d always come with something good.

Nate: [On the accident and sudden loss of his dear friend]: It is sad. Obviously. It is kind of brutal, losing your friend. And it hurts. Like I said earlier, [we use] the band as a way for us to always be together and spend time together. The whole thing really was an eye opener for us. It made us realise that you can’t wait for awful things to happen to inspire yourself to spend the time with the people you love. In that regard it really lit a fire under all of us to start making an effort to make this happen. It made us realise how important this was. We miss Caleb immensely. And we go out and we do these shows and its incredible and amazing and I’m with some of my best friends in the world, having the time of my life, but it is bittersweet. Especially with Cave In. When I’m looking out at this room [at Roadburn] looking out on the mainstage looking at four thousand people singing along to Cave In songs. And I’m just thinking, this shouldn’t be me. This should be Caleb. He should be the one singing this. But on the flipside it is really therapeutic for all of us. It is really good having all of us together and all of us remembering why we love each other. So if there’s a silver lining, its rediscovering that.


The first spark of the Converge connection and immersion in New England hardcore

Nate: [My first band] Channel’s very first show in a club was in this place called The King’s Head Inn, which was kind of like my CBGB’s or something. A friend of mine put this show together with some bands that were touring the East Coast that none of us had even heard before: Jasta 14 and this band called Dive. Jasta 14 went on to spawn Jamey who sings for Hatebreed now. And members of Red Sparrows. Dive featured Matt Kelly who now plays drums in Dropkick Murphys. So this was probably 1994 and Aaron Dalbec was on tour with Dive. He played in Converge at the time (this was before he started Bane). That was our first show and immediately Jamey came up to me and he was like “that was awesome, I want to put out a record from you guys” because he had just started Stillborn Records. I became friends with Aaron, we all became penpals and that was it. Jamey and Aaron were my introduction to the New England hardcore scene. Then Aaron writes me and he’s like, “Hey man, Converge is going on tour, we want Channel to go on tour with us.” Channel broke up and I started another band called Jesuit. Again, Converge took Jesuit on tour.

It was 1997 that Steve Brodsky started playing bass in Converge. [But] Cave In had just started taking off and they wanted to start touring. Converge were going out on a US tour with Today is the Day and Steve couldn’t do it. So they called me and said, “Hey man, can you play bass?” I said no [laughs]. And they said, “Well do you want to play bass?” I said, “I mean … I’ll hold a bass?!” [Laughs]. They said “Come up here and hold a bass and jump around and do this tour with us!” That was the summer of ‘98. That was it.




You Might Also Like