Origin Vocalist Jason Keyser Talks ‘Omnipresent’, Anthropology & More

By Andrew Bansal

American technical death metal stalwarts Origin recently released their sixth studio album ‘Omnipresent’ via Nuclear Blast Records, marking the recording debut of vocalist Jason Keyser who has been touring with the band for the past three years, and turning out to be an album extremely well received by fans and critics alike. To coincide with the release, Origin embarked on this year’s Summer Slaughter run and devastated the stage at the House Of Blues Sunset Strip in Los Angeles last month. Following the remaining portion of Summer Slaughter, they will head out on their own North American headline tour. I recently did an interview with Jason Keyser to discuss this new album, his role in the band, his anthropology background and lyric writing, among other things. Enjoy the conversation below.

Jason, it’s good to have you on Metal Assault. You’ve been touring with Origin for a couple of years and now you’ve made your recording debut. It must be a good feeling to complete yourself as a member of the band in that sense, to feature on an album.

Yeah it’s definitely nice to have it concrete, finally. The cool thing about these guys is I was never treated like a temporary guy, the fill-in guy or even the new guy. Right from when I joined, I was a full-on member with all the responsibilities and privileges that it brings. But yeah, it’s good to finally have it on recording.

As opposed to somebody who would come into a band and record an album, it must have been better for you to be out touring first and then do this album, because you got to know all the members well and you were comfortable with them.

Yeah, for sure, getting to know the members as well as to know the style, because I came from Skinless which is like a more groove New York death metal type band. I was used to playing those songs every night with slower pace and more groove, so it was nice to tour with Origin and get to experience their speed and technical aspect, something that I had to engrain in my muscle memory before going into the studio. So I went in with all the relevant influences and it definitely helped in that respect. It was a good three years I toured with them before recording, close to 500 shows at least!

That’s a lot! And the title of this album ‘Omnipresent’ is a powerful statement in itself. What was the reasoning behind it? I think it fits perfectly.

It generally just encompasses how the style of Origin’s technical, precise, rapid-fire death metal has become so prevalent these days. I think Origin arguably could be said to have been one of the first bands to start pulling that out, and now you can see that influence everywhere in all kinds of bands. Everybody is doing the fast, precise death metal. There’s also a running gag that all the members of the band are as far away from each other as humanly possible, in different states. Like me and John live in New York, Mike lives in Kansas and Paul lives in California. So, we used to goof when we’d get on stage and instead of saying, “We’re Origin from Topeka, Kansas” because that’s not really relevant anymore, we said, “We’re Origin from everywhere!” (laughs)

That’s awesome. But in terms of the lyrics in the songs, specially on this new album, how much have you contributed? Is it all your lyrics?

It’s all me on the new album except for lyrics to the first song which Paul wrote. They handed over the keys to the car to me and told me to do whatever I want! So yeah, I wrote about 90 per cent of the lyrics on the album.

Cool, and I’ve been told that you’ve studied anthropology. Is that right?

Yeah! I actually graduated in 2013 and missed my college graduation because of Origin shows that we were scheduled to play in Mexico in Guadalajara. The Hell & Heaven Fest was on the day of my college graduation, but I was like, fuck it. I don’t care about actually walking across the stage. It’s all obsolete tradition anyway. But we played in Mexico City, I came out in a cap and gown and a gas mask during our intro music, and I feel like I chose wisely in that respect.

Yeah, sounds like it! But the reason I brought it up was, do you use any of that knowledge when it comes to writing lyrics or for anything in terms of your approach towards being in this band?

Sure, I wouldn’t say I directly use too much of the anthropology, but it definitely influences you and gives you a different mindset on how you see the world. I don’t sit around like Margaret Mead or Malenowski, which are obscure college references, but the whole general theme of this album is people, over-population factors and all that stuff. The song titled ‘Malthusian Collapse’ on this album is actually a reference to 19th century anthropologist Thomas Malthus who wrote about how eventually with population increase there would be a tipping point which would result in a collapse and that would be the downfall of all humanity. So yeah, anthropology does influence me in Origin, now that I think about it.

That’s interesting. Coming back to the music on the album, there’s also a cover of S.O.D.’s ‘Kill Yourself’. How did that get included and were there a number of other options that you guys were thinking of?

That one just kind of came to us, days before we entered the studio. It was a song that we kick around with when we start playing together in our practice space, and we knew that we needed more material for the album, so we just decided to do that one. We all love the tune and it’s a tribute to those dudes, and also an inside joke because the whole album is about how horrible humanity is, and after doing so in a very verbose and quasi-poetic manner, it’s funny to just say ‘Kill Yourself’ in two simple words. What’s being said so poetically in 13 other songs is perfectly wrapped up with this cover as the final track of the album.

Right, that makes perfect sense. I was reading about what your drummer John said of Origin’s general working process. He described it as masochistic, chaotic and senseless. Would you agree with that?

Honestly, when I came in to record the album and we all met up in Kansas to jam for a couple of days before going into the studio, I got all the warnings from everybody in the band about how everybody hates each other by the end of an album recording. But I had a pretty smooth time and it wasn’t a problem for me at all. The other guys were also saying that this time around it was as smooth of a recording process as Origin has ever had. Everything got to do what they wanted to do, and the album finished perfectly on time!

And finally, you’ll be on this year’s Summer Slaughter tour by the time this interview is published. With Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus, Goatwhore and all those bands, it’s honestly the best lineup that festival has ever come up with. You must be psyched to be a part of it.

Yeah, it’s particularly great for us because we’re already friends with 90 per cent of the bands on the tour. So we’re ready to go hang with our bros in Dying Fetus, and with Decrepit Birth whom we’ve toured with a lot before. It’s going to be one of the best Summer Slaughter tours mainly for this reason, because if bands and band members are having a good time, everybody is in a good mood for playing and the shows are more intense, the fans are happy and everybody will be happy. It’s going to be a blast. We’re playing in the middle of the lineup and it is what it is, but we play for a half hour or so and then kick back, drink all the headlining bands’ beer, chill out and watch the six awesome bands coming on after us every night.

Related links:
Origin ‘Omnipresent’ album review
Summer Slaughter Los Angeles gig review

Origin links: facebook | twitter | instagram

Remaining Summer Slaughter tour dates:
8/06 – Detroit, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
8/07 – Niagara Falls, NY @ Rapids Theatre
8/08 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
8/09 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
8/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero

Origin North American headline tour with King Parrot, Beyond Creation, * Abolishment Of Flesh, ** Your Chance To Die:
08/13/14 – Clifton Park, NY – Trick Shot Billiards *
08/15/14 – Quebec City, QC – L’Agitee *
08/16/14 – Ottawa, ON – Maverick’s *
08/17/14 – Indianapolis, IN – Killzone Headquarters *
08/18/14 – Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews *
08/19/14 – Omaha, NE – The Hideout *
08/20/14 – Winnipeg, MB – The Zoo *
08/22/14 – Red Deer, AB – VAT Club *
08/23/14 – Edmonton, AB – Pawn Shop *
08/24/14 – Kamloops, BC – Pogue Mahones *
08/25/14 – Osoyoos, BC – The Cauldron *
08/26/14 – Kelowna, BC – The Level **
08/27/14 – Seattle, WA – Studio Seven **
08/28/14 – Portland, OR – Branx **
08/29/14 – S. Lake Tahoe, CA – Whisky Dicks **
08/30/14 – Fresno, CA – Frank’s Place **
08/31/14 – Las Vegas, NV – Backstage Bar **
09/01/14 – Cottonwood, AZ – Main Stage (ORIGIN, KING PARROT, YOUR CHANCE TO DIE only)
09/02/14 – Amarillo, TX – Wreck Room **
09/03/14 – Oklahoma City, OK – Chameleon Room **
09/04/14 – Fort Smith, AR – Hero’s (ORIGIN, KING PARROT, YOUR CHANCE TO DIE only)
09/05/14 – Johnson City, TN – The Underground **
09/06/14 – Newport, KY – Thompson House **
09/07/14 – Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub **
09/08/14 – St. Louis, MO – Firebird **
09/09/14 – Kansas City, MO – Riot Room **