“I don’t have crazy chops, I don’t read music, and I don’t shred,” Nate Newton says. “But those skills aren’t necessary for Converge. We’re a hardcore band, and I play strictly for the song, as any adept hardcore player would.” The Boston-based group, which was formed in the early ’90s, blends hardcore, punk, and metal influences into its driving sonic assault. Filled with abrupt stops and starts, screaming vocals, busy drum patterns, and dissident chord voicing, Converge’s music is simultaneously chaotic and precise.
Newton’s overdriven bass tones propel the band’s latest release, You Fail Me. “The best way to get serious growl on your bass is to get an old tube amp and turn it up loud,” Nate offers. “On the new album I played through an Ampeg V4 that was cranked so loud that the floor shook and my head hurt. That’s when you know it sounds good.” Newton likes bassists who can get a “gnarly” tone and who don’t overplay. “I grew up listening to players like Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler, and Joe Preston of the Melvins.” He plays mostly with a pick, though he uses his fingers on parts of the band’s slower tunes. “I eventually return to the pick—unless, of course, I drop it, which happens a lot!”
A self-taught player, Newton switched over from guitar to bass when he received the call to tour with Converge. “At first I thought playing bass would be just like playing a guitar with fewer strings, but I learned otherwise quickly. The bass is a really powerful ensemble instrument. In a live setting, when someone messes up on guitar, the song is still salvageable. When a bassist screws up you hear the mistake, but you feel it as well. Everything feels amiss after a bass player flubs.” How would he know? “I mess up a lot when Converge plays,” he confesses, laughing. “But our live show is all about the energy we can create with the audience, no matter what—mistakes included. That’s hardcore.”