Q&A with ORIGIN’s Jason Keyser
Hellbound: You guys play at some ridiculous tempos. Does this ever affect your ability to follow the music for lyrical performances?
Jason Keyser: Not at all, this is why we do what we do. If we couldn’t keep up with the pace we would pack it in and quit. The tempos are the challenge and makes it all worth it. I’m very big on enunciation live, sacrificing guttural incomprehensibility for distinct clear lyrical patterns. Metal uses lyrics and vocals as its own instrument in a far stricter sense of the word than any other style. If I am not sweating buckets on stage keeping the pace, I’m not doing a good job.
Hellbound: How do you come up with the lyrical themes for the songs? Is it a group effort to keep things consistent in the Origin vein?
Keyser: We stay consistent in theme, sticking to more thought-provoking, cosmic, Lovecraftian questions of the nature of our own existence. There’s some irony in the lyricism of this kind of music. The goal for some may be to “growl first, write lyrics later”; I prefer the best of both worlds. Death metal lyrics can be some of the most profound or thought-provoking poetry in the world when it’s not about smashing babies; it’s just a secret art, like a beautiful piece of graffiti in an abandoned building where only the bravest or grimiest may dare explore.
Hellbound: How did you connect with the other members of Origin? Who reached out first?
Keyser: Spend enough years in this scene and everyone eventually knows everyone. I spent many years in the band Skinless, touring the same circuits, making the same connections. Origin were making a vocalist change around the same time as I had left Skinless and went back to school. I had known John for years since he had moved to the same area of NY as I and played drums in Skinless before I was in the band. In 2010 I had just left for a year living abroad for college. I remember getting an email when I was staying at a hostel somewhere in India from John asking if I’d like to join. I replied with, “Totally, but I’m living overseas at the moment, so if you don’t mind waiting 8 months.” Thankfully they didn’t mind because it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Hellbound: Is it safe to say that Origin has a stable lineup now?
Keyser: I think that’s safe to say. While everyone but Paul has been changed out at one point or another, the last six years since we have had this current lineup has been incredibly smooth. We have our share of bickering and butting heads as any band does, but we always end up working together for what’s most important: the music and the fans. It helps and hurts that we all live as far away as possible from each other. Paul in California, Mike in Kansas, John and I in different parts of NY. We don’t have to worry about being around each other so often we get on each other’s nerves, but we also lose a little of comradery of being able to spontaneously get drunk together at a bar or someone else’s gig. Long story short, we aren’t going anywhere.
Hellbound: I know you’re technically the “new guy”, Jason, but being a veteran of the scene have you found the death metal community to be supportive of the band despite all the numerous roster changes over the years?
Keyser: Ha-ha – again, not the new guy anymore, but yes, the metal community has been endlessly supportive of member changes I would have never expected in all kinds of bands. Its almost common now; people don’t really bat an eyelash. Who would have ever expected to watch Suffocation without Frank Mullen? But as long as it works and the passion is there, metal has the most understanding fans out there. You get the occasional “BRING BACK JAMES LEE” guy, but you’re never going to please him. James has officially now been on less Origin albums than there are without him. Can’t blame people for getting attached, I suppose.
Hellbound: Skinless was your old outfit – a very different beast from Origin, but still brutal. Is there a style you prefer?
Keyser: Both have their good qualities. Skinless was an easier, more lighthearted style to perform live, and pulled intense violent crowds for just about any song. Origin is more complex obviously, relying less on slams and more on the technical lunacy. Skinless crowds will mosh regardless, but I’ve found it very rewarding convincing an Origin audience to lose their minds at the speed, blasts, and sweeps we bring.
Hellbound: What would the band ideally like to see come from this record and tour cycle?
Keyser: As long as the fans are happy, we are happy. Obviously everyone wants bigger crowds, bigger tours. It’s been several years since Origin has done a large scale Euro fest run, so we hope to get that going. Opening up for a large-scale act would be the dream, some kind of arena tour with Meshuggah or something. If Goatwhore can open for Amon Amarth, no reason we can’t go out with Meshuggah, ha-ha.
Hellbound: Do you think death metal is ever going to break that mainstream barrier it just seems to hover beneath?
Keyser: Absolutely. The more mainstream bands have been toeing the line of heaviness for years, and its been working. The underground will always be the underground, but there is definitely room for growth for those who want it.
Hellbound: I hear you are on tour now. How is that going? What is the reception of fans towards the new songs?
Keyser: We are not at this moment, but gearing up to hit the road with Summer Slaughter this summer. We did premier a proto version of the song “Accident and Error” on our tour with Belphegor last year, and it got a great response. We didn’t even have a name for the song at the time, we’d just let a random fan scream out a name from the crowd and that’s what we’d call it that night.
Hellbound: What has the response to the new material been like so far?
Keyser: It’s been great. Omnipresent’s direction seemed to throw some fans, being more of a slow burn to catch on. The two new tracks, however, have been met with great acclaim so far, with a lot of people likening it to Origin’s older work. At the end of the day, we play the kind of music we enjoy. It’s an added bonus that our fans enjoy it just as much as we do.
Hellbound: Can you highlight a particular show on this tour or any other that was really special for you guys?
Keyser: Every Origin show brings something new to the table for us. The unpredictability has become a staple of our live act. The moment we are bored on stage and going through the motions is the moment we hang it up. We’ve had pillow-fight moshpits, all manner of new and innovative pit games for people to beat each other up with, and the occasional “guy in a Satan costume on 10-foot metal stilts stage diving mid set”. I think one of my favorites ever was a show in Winnipeg where there was a fan front row who was obviously completely blind but just rocking the hell out to the music. I invited him on stage, let the people know what’s up, and helped him to do his first stage dive ever. Everyone took great care of him and it seemed like it meant a lot. I’ve seen him since then several times and now he’s always doing it. But at least I could help him out. We’ve had people propose on stage, then crowd surf hand in hand together to the bar for a shot. We’ve had all kinds of nonsense over the past few years. It has been awesome. Oh, and of course the infamous finger break.
Hellbound: Could you detail for readers who want to start their own bands how living on the road affects your personal life?
Keyser: It’s not for weekend warriors, that’s for sure. A lot of your life goes on hold or becomes irreparably damaged. I have seen countless bands with starry goals go out on one full tour and call it quits because they had to go back to their “real jobs,” while those that are willing to sacrifice certain social expectations are the ones who make it (whatever making it means).
Hellbound: Do you think you can ever possibly top Unparalleled Universe?
Keyser: I don’t think the point is ever to top anything; once you put hierarchical terms of value on the world you limit genuine growth. We always want to put out the best material we can, and we always will. Hail Space.
6 Songs to Die With according to Jason Keyser
Keyser: 6 Songs to Die With? Strangely worded question… Let me see if I can interpret.
Song I could listen to until I die: ‘This Time It’s War’—Bolt Thrower
Song to make other people die to: ‘Puncture Wound Massacre’—Cannibal Corpse
Song to play at my funeral after I die: ‘To Bid You Farewell’—Opeth
Song I wish would die: anything Five Finger Death Punch
Song that will never die: ‘Mob Rules’—Black Sabbath
Song to die with: ‘Seasoning the Obese’—S.O.D.
Band photo credit: Rodrigo Fredes