The first question I asked Jesuit’s Nate Newton when I interviewed him in 1998 was about his stint playing bass for Converge for a tour. Fifteen years later, that’s turned out to be a little more of a regular thing: I suspect that more people recognize Newton’s name as the bassist of Converge than they do from anywhere else. It’s worth remembering Jesuit as well, though — they were a brutally loud band, quietly pushing at the limits of what might be considered hardcore.
And, if memory is any indication, they were also a terrifically nice bunch of guys. I saw them in New Jersey a whole lot in the late 90s, and never saw a bad show in the bunch. More recently, I was able to see a reunited Jesuit take to the stage at Santos Party House, and show that they hadn’t lost any of the vitality that first impressed me. Magic Bullet Records released Jesuit’s discography in 2011. More recently, Newton’s other band Doomriders released a terrific album titled Grand Blood in late 2013.
This interview was conducted in spring 1998, and appeared in Eventide‘s fourth issue.
How’d you end up playing bass for Converge on their tour?
I’ve known those guys forever. Channel and Converge toured together, and they’re really good friends of mine. Steve from Cave-In was playing bass, and he couldn’t do it, so they asked me if I wanted to go. I said, ‘Hell yeah’.
Does Jesuit have any tour plans this summer?
Yeah. Right after I get back from the Converge tour, I’m leaving three days later with Jesuit. It’s going to be Jesuit and Botch, and then on the east coast, the Dillinger Escape Plan is going to be with us. It should be pretty good.
How long has Jesuit been around for?
Two and a half years, maybe. I don’t even remember, to tell you the truth.
What’s the lineup right now?
Me, Nate, on guitar and vocals, Brett Matthews on bass and vocals, Jason Hallard on drums, and Brian Benoit on guitar.
How did all of you get together?
Well, me and Brian were in Channel together. He wasn’t in Jesuit when it started out. Brett was in another band from here called Frame 313, and they were awesome. They were so good…. Our drummer Jason was in a band called Faceless. Channel broke up, and Frame 313 broke up, and we wanted to start a new band, and there weren’t too many people to start it with. We said, ‘Let’s try it out’. And, apparently, it worked. I was kinda surprised.
You’ve got the 7” and CD out on Reservoir, and I heard that you’re doing a seven inch with Hydra Head.
We’re doing a seven inch, and now we’re also going to do our LP on Hydra Head.
I remember a couple of years ago, before the label stopped, hearing that you were doing a seven inch on Happy Days…. What have been your dealings with the different labels that you’ve worked with?
With Happy Days, Rich is one of my best friends. He offered to do it from day one, and of course, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it’. I think Happy Days was a really good label.
I guess he just got sick of it, which I can completely understand. With Reservoir, Andrew had told me that he wanted to do a Channel record. I had never even talked to him before I met him through Jesuit, but after I met him, he told me that he was interested in doing a Channel record. I got hooked up with Andrew through Mike Dailey (now of Ed Walters Records-ed.); I guess he gave Andrew our demo or something. Andrew just got in touch with me and said that he wanted to do a record. That was kind of weird, because that’s never happened to me before, someone just calling me and wanting to do a record. Usually it’s somebody I know…. And Andrew has done so much for us. I can’t complain about anything he’s done; he’s a great guy. He’s helped us out so much.
I’ve noticed that recently, Reservoir’s gone more towards a power-violence sound…
…with the exception of, I guess, Jesuit and Hellbender. Do people ever see you and expect you to be closer in sound to, say, CR, just based on the label?
I wouldn’t say that people expect us to sound like CR or anything, but we have gotten pigeonholed into being in the grindcore scene. People are always calling me to play shows with grindcore bands and stuff-which is cool, because I listen to a lot of grindcore-but at the same time, it has made it a little bit harder for us to get shows with a different variety of band, which is something that we’ve always tried to do from day one.
Well, I remember that show that you played last summer in Red Bank with the Trans Meggetti, Quixote, and Midvale, which was a cool bill.
Yeah; too bad there were only fifteen people there. As far as bands go, that was definitely an awesome show.
How’d you get hooked up with Hydra Head?
We’ve known Aaron for a while. He offered to do a seven inch for us when we were on tour last summer. Basically, we thought about it. Like I said, Andrew’s done a lot for us, but on a lot of levels, Aaron can do a lot more for us. So, we talked it over with Andrew, and talked it out amongst ourselves, and decided to go with Hydra Head. Aaron’s a good guy.
When do you think the seven inch and LP will be out?
The seven inch is out, and I’m going to finish mixing it this week when I’m in Boston. It’ll probably be out in a month and a half. I’m pretty happy with it. The recording is for a seven inch and that Black Sabbath tribute series thing.
Who are you doing the split with for that?
Actually, it’s a four way split. It’s going to be us, Overcast, Cavity, and Cable. I think it’s going to be a really good record. I’m really happy with how our song came out, which is cool, because we’re not usually that good with covers.
Have you done any other covers?
We haven’t recorded any others, but last Halloween, we played a show and did Misfits covers for the whole show. It was kinda fun.
How old are the songs that are on the Reservoir CD?
I guess now, they’re almost two years old.
And that’s your most recent release, right?
Nate: Yeah. We have a lot of other songs.
Has that ever been a problem-having newer stuff that you want to play, but also having the most recent thing that people have heard of yours been songs that you’ve had for two years?
Not really. Our set-we usually keep it really short anyways-so we’re always like, ‘We’ll play this tonight, and then this tomorrow night’. It hasn’t been that much of an issue. We’ve had a couple of problems, not with people wanting to hear songs, but with people in the band saying, ‘I don’t wanna play that fucking song anymore!’ We have a pretty solid list of songs that we like to play every show; we’ve never really had that much of an argument about it.
How did your tour last summer go?
It went really, really good. We toured with Piebald, and I was really happy about going on tour with them, because A-they’re our friends; and B-we were just really into the idea of touring with a band that sounds nothing like us, and caters to a completely different audience. It went really well; we got really mixed crowds, and I think that a lot of people that never would have heard Piebald were exposed to them by coming to see us, and vice versa. We did really well; I’d never been on a tour that went that well before. We actually made money, and were able to eat everyday (laughs) and stuff.
When you were first starting out, did you ever run into people who wanted Jesuit to sound more like Channel?
Oh yeah. All the time. As a matter of fact, every once in a while, we’ll be out, and be billed as “ex-Channel”, or I’ll read a review in a zine that says, “Oh yeah, this has ex-members of Channel in it”. I don’t really know what that’s supposed to mean. I don’t really think we sound like Channel, but honestly, this is probably taking what Channel was doing to the next level. Personally, I feel that musically and lyrically, it’s a lot better than Channel was. Every once in a while, people will expect us to sound that way. Every once in a while, people yell Channel songs at us when we’re playing. I’m just like, ‘Guess what? That was a different band. We’re Jesuit’.
Do you write most of the lyrics?
Actually, no. It’s a fifty percent split; Brett and I both write lyrics. Sometimes we collaborate, just throw stuff into each other’s songs. Usually, it’s right down the middle, half and half.
When I was looking over the CD, I noticed that the lyrics seemed to be very…. I don’t know if “grim” is the right word…. The imagery is very dark.
Well, we’re all some pissed-off, depressed dudes. (laughs) I can’t write about happy things, because they always come out sounding really stupid.
Do you feel like you have any kind of a niche in the hardcore scene?
What bands do we fall in with, is that what you mean?
More or less.
I guess we fall into that relatively new noisecore deal going on. Botch definitely falls into that category, Converge does, too. I think it was something that Deadguy really brought to light; not saying that they started it, but they definitely made it popular. Today is the Day is definitely a band that falls into that category. Nineironspitfire was a band doing it that was really good. Yeah, as a band, we fall into that category. It’s kind of weird, because it’s hard for bands like that to play shows. Not that it’s hard for us to get shows, but it’s hard to get billed with bands that are going to complement each other. A lot of people don’t know how to react when watching bands like us; they just stand there, like ‘What the hell?’ We kind of like it when people dance and sing along, but that never happens.
You’ve toured with a band that sounded nothing like you, and this summer you’re going out with a band who’s more in the same vein as you. Which do you prefer?
I don’t really know yet, to tell you the truth. Our issue with touring, to tell you the truth, is less about what the band sounds like, and more about if they’re our friends. I’d rather go on tour with a band that I know we’re going to have fun with, instead of going on tour with a band that maybe sounds like us, but is a bunch of assholes.
Do you know the guys from Botch already?
Yeah, those guys are great. We’re going to have a lot of fun. They have the same fucked-up sense of humor that we have. We’re going to be causing mischief all across the United States.
I’m excited to hear their new stuff.
Ohhhh man. They just recorded their new LP for Hydra Head. It’s amazing. It far surpasses everything that they’ve ever done.
I saw them last year, when they were touring with Ink & Dagger. I remember Mike Dailey going off to them, and he was the only person doing it. Everyone else was kind of like, ‘These guys are okay….’
They’ve gotten a lot better. I’m really happy to be going on tour with ‘em.
Is it coincidental that both of you are on Hydra Head?
Yeah, kind of. Aaron is putting a lot of work into his label now-a lot of money, a lot of really hard work. He wants to do something good with his label, and put out good music. He wants to put out really weird and heavy music. I think, with this style of music, there aren’t too many bands that are doing it that are good at it. There are a lot of bands that are trying to do it where it just isn’t coming out that well. Aaron is trying to get all the good bands, basically. I talked to the guys from Botch before they signed with Hydra Head, and I was just straight-up- ‘You guys should sign with Aaron. He’s the man’. He treats his bands really well, too.
Well, just from the stuff that I’ve gotten to review from him… Everything sounds pretty good, has really nice packaging….
He’s the man when it comes to graphic design.
I’ve noticed that he’s been advertising a lot more lately, too.
Actually, there’s a full-page ad for us in the new Punk Planet. I was like, ‘What?’ I didn’t even know, and I went to a big chain record store here, Planet Music-I don’t know if you guys have those up there-it’s huge. Me and my girlfriend were standing at the magazine rack, and they had the new issue of Punk Planet, and I opened it up and was flipping through it, and saw “JESUIT” really big. I was like, ‘What the hell?’ It was a Hydra Head ad. It’s crazy. It’s kind of neat. I’m standing there, in this huge record store, and as people walk by, I’m like, ‘Check it out, man-that’s me!’ (laughs)
I’ve seen ads for a twelve inch on CrimethInc that Jesuit’s on with a couple of other bands-is that happening?
Yeah, that’s been out for a while. I don’t know how well it was distributed. I don’t think Brian has a lot of time to put into his label. Catharsis really does a lot. I don’t know what his station in life is right now-I don’t think he has a permanent address-so I don’t know what he can do with his label. I know he puts his heart and soul into it, but I don’t think that doing the label is something that he’s about as much as doing Catharsis is. I don’t know how well the record is getting out, but it’s out, and it’s called In Our Time. It’s an awesome comp, nice packaging, fat booklet.
You’ve done a lot of touring-what’s it been like to see the country like that? Are there places that you’re looking forward to going back through?
Definitely. I love touring. It’s the only way I want to live. The plan after this summer is for all of us to quit our jobs, we’re going to get a booking agent, and we’re going to tour constantly. I can’t wait to get back out to California, and to Canada. I’ve seen so many things that people my age don’t get to see. I’ve met so many great people…. It’s awesome. I can go anywhere in the country and pick up the phone and call up a friend. It’s cool, you know? I just can’t wait.
What do you do when you’re not in the band?
Right now, I build cabinets and countertops. I don’t like it very much, but it pays the bills, I suppose. Also, I’m a stagehand, but it’s been really slow lately. I’m getting ready to join the union, the United Stageworkers Union. Once I do that, I’ll be doing that a lot more than I am now, and hopefully, I’ll be able to quit building cabinets. That’s what I’ve been doing.
What music do you usually listen to? Is it more music in the style that you play?
I’ve got really eclectic musical tastes. I listen to Today is the Day a lot, but that’s because they’re awesome. I’ve always been into Today is the Day. I listen to Ida a lot. Low. Lately, I’ve been listening to Rodan a lot. I’ve also been listening to a lot of swing, like the Mighty Blue Kings, stuff like that. People always come over and go, ‘What the fuck are you listening to this for?’ That’s cool, though.
How long do you see the band going for?
I have no idea. We have some goals that we want to fulfill. We want to get our LP out, because none of us have been in a band that’s had an LP out. We want to tour as much as possible. Our plans in the next year or so are to go to Europe and Japan. We’re talking about going to Australia, too-I just got a couple of letters from Australia. That was crazy. That’s what we’re planning on doing if we have the means, which I think we do. A lot of doors are really opening up for us now, which is pretty cool.
Anything to say in closing?
Rock and roll.