When Jacob Bannon was 13, he dreamed of screaming. “When a lot of kids were thinking about baseball cards and becoming astronauts, I was immersing myself in a culture that I still love to this day,” the vocalist for hardcore icons Converge says. Nearly two decades later, Bannon is still screaming. He and his bandmates—bassist Nate Newton, drummer Ben Koller, and guitarist Kurt Ballou—recently released Axe to Fall, the band’s most brutal and concise album yet.
Bannon was also young when he was first tattooed. “I started getting tattooed on living room floors when I was 15 years old,” Bannon remembers. “I think it’s funny when people go and get tattooed and they have it planned out 100 percent. You’re no longer allowing an artist to be an artist. I really want to give my artists as much free rein as possible to create something inspired.”
His most identifiable piece is the winged heart strewn across his throat. “I got that tattoo from Adam Barton back in 2002,” Bannon says. “His wings and his anatomical hearts are sort of his trademark and I had always wanted to get tattooed by him.” The rest of his pieces come from myriad artists, ranging from U.K. transplant Thomas Hooper to Jef Whitehead, who did Bannon’s hands.
In addition to running his label, Deathwish Inc., and getting wild onstage with Converge, Bannon is also an accomplished visual artist, having earned his BFA in design from the Art Institute of Boston. He was one of the pioneers of the whole skull-and-wings aesthetic that has since been blatantly lifted by countless clothing and design companies. “I see what they’re doing as decoration,” Bannon says. “They’re trying to create something that appeals to the masses. They don’t create anything, and I’ve had to send a lot of cease and desist letters because they just keep taking things from me with no authorization.”
The visual arts take up a lot of time in Bannon’s professional life. He oversees almost all of the artwork for Deathwish releases and has a healthy roster of freelance clients. “You could call [Deathwish] my day job, but I don’t make a living from it,” Bannon tells INKED from Deathwish’s Boston headquarters. “If anything, I give myself to this for 40 or 50 hours a week—sometimes more. Our bands have entrusted us to work for them.”
It doesn’t leave a lot of time to get tattooed. “I haven’t been tattooed in probably two years now, mainly because of time,” Bannon says regretfully. “I’m starting to get the itch again, though.”