In the ever-growing death metal scene, there are few frontmen that command a stage and carry a song like Jason Keyser of Origin. Jason joined Origin in 2011, but is no stranger to the role of lead vocalist. In 2004 he fronted the famed metal band Skinless, as well as local Upstate New York bands Mucopus and Detriment. He is a sight to behold on stage, being both intense and charismatic as he plays to crowds all over the world. Origin kicked off their All Things Dead tour in Clifton Park, NY at Trickshot Billiards with King Parrot, Beyond Creation, Abolishment of Flesh and locals Declension, and I got the chance to talk with him before the show.
Jeff Ayers: So Origin just got off the Summer Slaughter tour. How did that go for the band, any good stories from that tour?
Jason Keyser: It was probably the best thing we could have done. It was something we went back and forth about. Origin did it in 2009, and it was a bad experience for them internally and financially. I wasn’t in the band at the time, but I guess the structure of the tour was kinda garbage. They were a little apprehensive, but I was really pushing it, because I was like “We will get to play to two thousand kids a night, why wouldn’t we do it?” They begrudgingly accepted it, and it was one of the smoothest run [tours] and the most successful [Summer Slaughter]. The response was amazing for us, and there was no snags whatsoever.
JA: What a relief then.
JK: Yea, the cool thing about it also, was a great lineup and 90 percent of the bands all knew each other from touring together previously. So we knew [going into the tour] that no one was going to be an asshole, there would be no egos, and everyone would work together. So that makes us more comfortable, so we get more drunk, and we have better shows, and the fans have more fun.
JA: I saw that you guys were happy with your slot on the bill too.
JK: We were right in the middle. At first we were a little [put off] about it, thinking “We could be a little higher on the bill”….
JA: Yea, you are Origin!
JK: But the slot was Decrepit Birth, us, and then Goatwhore, which I think is a perfect slot.
JA: That is almost a tour right there!
JK: It was great for us. You know, more so than even being just a great tour, and being successful, was that every single night of the week, there would be dozens of kids coming up to us saying, “I’ve never even heard of you guys before today, but Jesus Christ! Now I know!” That is like the main thing you go for, that is long-term thinking. We had a great boost, great response. I almost died of heat stroke in Texas, and I don’t give my liver any chance to recover.
JA: Right, because tonight you guys are kicking off The All Things Dead tour. Can you talk a little bit about this came to be, how you hooked up with this great lineup of bands from all over the world?
JK: These are bands that were consciously sought after. I know, because it is after Summer Slaughter there were restrictions on this tour, so it is not hitting the biggest markets, which is fine by me. In my experience, when you go to smaller towns, not New York City or Los Angeles, but when you go to kinda the off the grid towns, those are where the maniacs hide out. We are playing Red Deer in Canada somewhere, and I am expecting [a show] like that to bring out all the lunatics of backwoods Canada. We played with King Parrot in Australia earlier this year, and they are like the same level of mania on stage that we think we bring. A little different style of music, but that is great, and they are just madness to the point that we were saying maybe we shouldn’t let them use our equipment, because of how crazy they get. Beyond Creation has a lot of the same tech-death metal stuff that we got, and they have been getting a lot of hype lately, people are really into them. We really hope people come out to this tour, because if not, it’s their loss.
JA: That sounds amazing. When this tour wraps, Origin is a part of the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise later this year. Have you guys ever done a metal boat cruise before?
JK: I have not. I haven’t even done one of the local Troy music boat cruises, I haven’t even been on one. This is going to be great. The lineup is awesome, and I know people that swear by [this cruise]. They go every year and it becomes a lifestyle to them, they have post cruise depression afterwards. So I am excited. I hear stories all the time about how insane it is, because it is just 24 hours a day. Shows, drinking, there is no escape. It isn’t like a metal fest where you can just leave, you can’t! You are stuck on that boat, with us.
JA: I actually got to talk to Rob Barrett of Cannibal Corpse recently about it as well, and he said the exact same thing. They are really excited to do it again.
JK: Yea, those guys are on it, and Napalm Death just got announced, so going to be all awesome bands just partying i guess, I don’t know. That is like the end of this cycle, though, because after All Things Dead tour, we have another U.S. tour that has just been announced.
JA: Will you be headlining that tour as well?
JK: We are actually playing support on that, which is fine. Because you have to do everything. You got to do the festival run, you have to do a headliner run, and then you got to do a support run. That is the most general thing to do.
JA: That gets you in front of the most fans, and the most diverse crowds.
JK: Exactly. This next tour is a little different. We are hitting the road with Unearthed, Darkest Hour, Carnifex, Black Crown Initiate and I, The Breather. This is different for us, [because] it isn’t really our style. But I think that is the best part. Then after that, in November, we are going to Europe with Aborted and Exhumed, so we are real busy. So after December I’ll be able to stop and sit down for a minute. Not really though, because we are going to South America in March, and doing all sorts of other stuff. It’s good work if you can get it, and we are trying to push as hard as possible.
JA: Speaking of pushing, your new album Omnipresent just came out, and it has been gaining real good reviews from fans and critics. Are you guys happy with the album and the response?
JK: Absolutely. It was kinda funny the way that was released. We are on two different labels now, Nuclear Blast in U.S.A. and Agonia Records in Europe. We used to be on Nuclear Blast in the states and Europe, but the Europe label wasn’t pushing us as much as they should. Even though they share the same name they aren’t autonomous, and they are going in more of a rock direction over there. So we were looking for a new label [in Europe] and we found Agonia out of Poland. They are an up and coming label, but they are really pushing us and wanted us to be one of the front-runners on the label. We are really happy with them, and you can’t complain with the way it is [essentially] dual publicity for us. It is two labels working real hard to expose the album, and they aren’t really competing because it is two different continents.
JA: That is a great way to look at it.
JK: So anyway, back to the original story, the way it got released was that Agonia put out the first song, on YouTube, and it was a song that was a little out of context. The whole album is definitely best heard front to back. So they put out this one song, that is really part of a three-part thing, one song that we cut up [into three songs]. So it was this weird, kinda mellow song, and it was different than people were expecting. People lost their minds for a second, commenting “What is this? What is Origin doing?”. But it was completely out of context. Not that I cared, I like the song, it isn’t a bad song or anything, but it was perceived wrong. Then we put out a second track, and the internet breathed a sigh of relief.
JA: So you are back in Upstate New York, lets talk a little about this kind of homecoming. What is it like to be back, seeing as you kinda cut your teeth up here, so to speak? Because this show is a treat for Origin to play this area.
JK: Yea it’s great. I haven’t played a local show in this area with any band since maybe 2009. Things change though, I’m getting older, and everyone is, so the more I do larger tours with bands and national tours and such, the more I’m gone and the more I fall out of touch with people. So we will see, if people come out of the woodwork [to this show] and say “Hey remember ten years ago?” then I will think that’s cool. But until that point, I think no one even remembers me up here [laughs].
*The show was attended by almost 150 people, many of which have been part of this local music scene for many years, so I can only assume that Jason was happy with seeing some old faces.
JA: I know that you said how busy Origin is, but I also know that you, personally, like to be a part of a lot of auxiliary bands when you can. Is there anything in your wheelhouse to that effect, like another Mucopus or something?
JK: Oh, Mucopus. I wish. Justin, the guitarist of Mucopus, currently lives in Japan, so that is gone. But me and John Longstreth [Origin’s drummer] actually have a project called CRATOR that we are working on, but we have to wait until John’s drum DVD comes out. I have actually been slacking though, I got to write a couple of things for that. But, whenever friends of mine hit me up for guest vocal spots, I throw down for those. I did guest vocals on this album for a band called Dictated from the Netherlands, which is two hot, sexy ladies shredding guitars in death metal. That is coming out on Metal Blade Records, very soon. I also helped out on my buddies Splattered Mermaid from Sweden, and stuff like that. I keep busy as much as possible, but the lulls are just as extreme as the busy times. Feast or famine.
JA: Being out on the road so much, are there any up and coming metal bands that you might have just discovered, or you can’t stop listening to?
JK: [laughs] I don’t know, I’m getting old, I have been listening to the same ten albums for years now. I just listen to Bolt Thrower and Brujeria all day long. But seriously, check out that Dictated album, they are really good. There is a band called Troglodyte from Kansas that do Bigfoot themed metal, and they all dress up in Bigfoot costumes, they are fantastic. Also, Tentacles, from right here in Upstate New York, if you haven’t checked them out, do it already, they are amazing.