Origin – Ripping with NostalgiaThursday, 21st July 2022
Masters at their brand of technical, extreme death metal, Origin show no signs of relenting in their quest to appease their faithful global following through the release of Chaosmos, the eighth and latest studio record for the quartet. Always consummate performers, the natural brutality and forceful nature to the songwriting continues to prevail – serving up plenty of dazzling tracks that inspire while causing others to perspire when engaging with the material either at home or in a favored venue/festival setting. Fresh from touring across North America as the pandemic restrictions lifted, guitarist Paul Ryan talked to us about those memories on this latest tour, the work behind Chaosmos, the influence they’ve had on the first and third generation of death metal musicians, plus what’s in store for the near future.
Dead Rhetoric: You recently completed two North American tours with Misery Index and Abysmal Dawn among others. How did the shows go, did you notice any specific differences in terms of the energy of the audience coming out of a lack of shows the previous two years plus due to the pandemic, and what were some highlights to you?
Paul Ryan: Yes. Some shows were more rabid than others. Some scenes were not used to being out to shows versus being in their living rooms, drinking beers and watching YouTube live streams. Some were foaming at the mouth to just get in the pit, go crazy, and have fun like the old days. There were a lot of strained necks, new bruises along the way. We did 42 shows in 45 days, and there was so much competition at the beginning of the tour because everyone was going out, even the clubs thought it may be hurting the scene a little bit. The people that came out, no matter what the turn out was, good or great, we didn’t have that many bad turn outs, the fans all wanted to be there.
Canada is always fun; we did that twice. The Eastern side of Canada, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City are always fun. There is always a Quebec rivalry between Montreal and Quebec City, who is the crazier crowd. They call Montreal the city kids and Quebec City the country bumpkins if I remember correctly. Florida was nice. We went from temperatures of 40’s and 50’s to over one hundred. And then Texas was hot again. We had an interesting double bill there -our package with Wake from Canada, Misery Index didn’t do the Texas shows, The Agonist, Hypocrisy, which was Amplified Live in Austin. It was a beautiful, nice evening, I was a little worried about playing there because it’s so hot. We played right as the sun went down.
Portland, Seattle, Vancouver was really good. Western Canada was good to us. Minneapolis is good. We hadn’t played Iowa City in over fifteen years, so that was huge. We played at a barbeque joint which was unusual. South Dakota was great as well for not playing there in fifteen years on a Tuesday. We ended at the Bottleneck, which is in our home area of Kansas, that is one of my favorite places to play because I grew up going to shows there. It was a solid tour. The first week of it I was oh man – we hadn’t gone a year or two without playing shows. I forget that this is hard (laughs). When you do it all the time, it becomes second nature. By the second week of the tour, I was back in the rat race of touring routine.
You are used to being at home and sleeping in your own bed, not on tour where you sleep when you can, and you are usually moving when you are sleeping. I’m glad that we can get back out there and do it. Most of our fans are pretty much our friends as we’ve been around now for over twenty-five years. I may not see everyone every tour, but I recognize people. Sometimes they will throw stories at me, and I will tell them they have to give me a little more (context), I have played a lot of shows.
Dead Rhetoric: Chaosmos is the latest Origin album. When it comes to the development of material, rehearsals, and refinement, do you believe the process has changed much over the years from the initial records to where Origin is today? Where do you think the band has evolved when it comes to your creativity and vision for a new album?
Ryan: Back in the early years of Origin, like with the initial EP and the first two albums, we all lived within the same spot within an hour of each other. We were in the jam room three times a week. About twenty years ago, I branched out and moved westward bound out to California, and after that I started writing tablature, and I would record on a pod, software based and take the quarter inch out and plug in to the RCA input tape deck, and record guitar demos. Later via lineup changes we did actual demos through digital audio software programs like Pro Tools. There are so many different things. We did demos to a click track, and then the invention of Skype happened, making it so much easier. Facetime, and Zoom, and it’s so much easier to do things from afar.
To Chaosmos, when we started in 2020, we did 70,000 Tons of Metal and in February we did 3 weeks of shows in Central and South America, co-headlining with The Faceless. In March 2020 we were starting to do an Operation: Domination tour, there were 35 dates booked and we only ended up playing 4. Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit. By the 17th of March, we knew COVID had come forth and the world was changing. We got denied entry into Canada, and we took a long trek over to New York. By the time we got to Albany, nine more shows were cancelled. We dropped off John the drummer, he lived in Queens, and Jason lived outside of Albany. We got pizza, beer, and wings, and in the grocery store there was panic. We left all our merchandise in New York. I did a 24-hour drive back to Kansas. We were eating at truck stops. We dropped off the gear, fans were kind enough to buy our merchandise, so we weren’t stuck with a lot of debt, and I made it home. I didn’t know what was going to happen. 2020 I squeaked by. Around 2021 I was like, I didn’t know when things were going to change, but I know if I write a song per month starting in March, we could be in the studio by January of 2022 to have an album out in the summer.
I sat down, put on one of my favorite movies Conan the Barbarian, inspirational movie to come from nothing and the warrior, conqueror, king. It gets me inspired. Each month I created a new song for the album. Two or three nights a week I would create these ideas, by September I had six songs formed. I started going to Nate’s studio, he used to be in Soulsucker. He helped me out recording demos to a click track that I could send to the other guys. It was stock, the basic song structures to the guys and would Facetime with my bass player. John created drum parts. We would go through the fretting and chords with the bassist, and by January 2022 we were in the studio. By mid-January to the end of February we tracked the album. We sat at home wondering when everything was going to open up and then things opened up fast. It worked with our schedule; they could get the album out in June.
We did the pre-tour with Misery Index before the album came out. We played two songs from the album before they released the first single. People got a good idea of those tracks once they came out.
Dead Rhetoric: For the last few records after being on Relapse Records, Origin has had distinct deals with Agonia Records from Poland and Nuclear Blast for North America. How do you feel this has worked best for the band in terms of attention and promotion – do you believe both staffs have the proper understanding of what the band is all about and getting the right publicity for the group?
Ryan: I think there is more conflict between the labels than there is between Origin and the labels (laughs). When Entity came out, we did a single album signing for Nuclear Blast, and that was after our Relapse contract ended. That was solely Nuclear Blast worldwide. We made a joke then that Nuclear Blast at the time were signing a lot of different bands. Rock revival, Nuclear Rock beat. It didn’t seem like they were interested in us within the European market. Earache was signing these different rock bands, but I love the early Earache catalog. There was something going on in Europe that just didn’t grab me, a 70’s rock revival. Agonia was being very pushy, quality control was very good, but they weren’t the biggest label. They made us an offer that works in Europe. Origin is a solid name, and the bigger thrash bands like Slayer, Testament, Exodus, Nuclear Blast had Meshuggah, Metal Blade had Amon Amarth. We are not the biggest fish in the pond over there, we got more attention with Agonia. That was the conceptual idea why we went with them. Technically after Chaosmos we are now free over there. We are not in a contract under anyone, we are now free agents.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the challenges of building the brand of the band on the road in those early years to get to a sustainable level where you could focus more on this full-time? What helped you get through those struggles, setbacks, and obstacles that had to occur and still manage to focus on the goals and tasks at hand?
Ryan: In the early days, I put all the chips in. I had previously played in some DIY bands, I just had not toured. Luckily before then I had done some regional stuff. Before Origin got signed, we had played in 14 states. I felt pretty confident, and relatively good with money, so I bought a van and a trailer. That worked well. It made more sense, because we weren’t making as much money. We did really well selling our merch, it was tough. I befriended Cephalic Carnage, who I knew five years prior to Origin’s existence. We were fortunate to go on tour with Cephalic Carnage and Exhumed, they were a little older and more seasoned. We were able to adapt, improvise, and we were able to understand how to make things work and tour for our band.
You weren’t getting that much money back then. Here’s a six pack of PBR and a slice of pizza, good luck. We were a new, exciting band. What kept us going was that excitement, playing with other great bands every night, earning a name for ourselves with our music and our live performances. Exhumed and Cephalic are each individualistic bands that have their own style, playing shows. Exhumed you need a body suit after watching them, and Cephalic back in the day, they were full of smiles, serious musicians, but they had this funny South Park, Colorado attitude on stage. Origin, we were the straightforward, beatdown, blast beat band. Our original singer was mean and tough. We were going up there and earning fans every night. No one had ever heard us before. We were a good live band, we brought something different to the show than the other two bands. In some ways we weren’t stealing fans but earning new fans within the genre and grew fast because we were touring with great bands.
We had to adapt with new members, the changing touring scenarios. We learned how to survive. What keeps you going when you are tired, empty inside, and you are beat 23 hours of the day is a grind to do that one hour on stage. You get up there and give your all, sometimes you are beat, and then you never know. It could look like a dull show and it turns out to be a rager. Everyone ends up cheering and having a good time, stagediving, crowd surfing, moshing – that’s what keeps you going. If you can’t get your rocks off playing live, I don’t know. The kids today, put their phone in front of them and look at their guitar and look at how many likes and comments they get. That’s nice and all, but it’s nothing like performing live, having people scream the lyrics back at you loud in your face. For me, playing death metal is a positive release of negative energy. I enjoy live death metal more than listening to CD’s as much as I used to. I am going tonight to see Cartilage, a newer band from San Francisco, goregrind band.
Dead Rhetoric: You have obviously been a major influence on the scene due to your longevity and consistency as far as your discography and live performances. How does it feel to be such an influence on the scene, does this make you strive harder to continue to be stronger and even more original with your output?
Ryan: It’s been humbling. Call it brutal death, technical death, extreme death – it’s awesome to know that there is some Origin influence in it. Some of the first original bands have picked up some of the techniques that Origin used, instill it in them into their style. I read in articles that Origin wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a Carcass, Deicide, Suffocation, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower. I wouldn’t exist without that music. The first wave with Slayer, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Voivod, I consider that the original wave of death. There are other terms. Then I started the late 80’s/early 90’s, true first generation of death metal. Then there are bands like Origin, Nile, Exhumed, Cephalic Carnage, Dying Fetus, Skinless – the second wave…all the Relapse bands were great.
Nowadays there is a third generation with the deathcore/metalcore, they are developing a different and new thing with the piano tapping guitar playing. I tap a little bit, but there are more piano-taur, this new technical metalcore/deathcore thing where you do breakdowns, super technical stuff. Those bands cite Origin as an influence, so it is humbling. The ceiling is only so high for certain genres of music, we’ve lasted twenty-five years and that many albums. I am proud to be a part of that.
I have integrity, I’m influenced by the same twenty albums I grew up with. I have seen bands water down their sound over the years. To me, the music, whatever is going on internally, the integrity of the band is more important. I want things to sound like Origin, sometimes though I wish I was in a band like AC/DC where I could ride out the same six chords. Unfortunately, that is not what our fans want, and obviously I do create music first for myself. We have a certain pride as musicians as what we bring to the table. It’s important for me to write good songs more than the techniques I am using. I play guitar, it’s the style that I play, I have homed in my craft to a certain level, and I am happy for that.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Origin over the next year or two to support this release? Are you hopeful to get another studio record out quicker than the five-year break between you last two releases?
Ryan: The album came out June 3rd, we have had 12 days of playing shows with the album out officially. We have something in Europe, we put that on the backburner. The world is a different place right now. We want to tour; we haven’t been to Australia and New Zealand in some time. We want to get back to Canada, Asia again, Japan. And South America. We want to get back to every territory we usually tour. I just got back from the North American tour a few weeks ago. I’m not creating music per se yet but practicing some of the songs we didn’t play on the tour yet. Listen to a couple of older tracks, come up with a different set for the next run. I pride myself on trying to be as good as I can. My chops are my tour chops. I like to call things pre-season or spring training. I will play a song or two and sip a beer at home. Last night I played the new album, and I only pushed pause twice. Live you play three or four songs, then the singer talks. Next week I will go back to certain live shows and play along to them, to revisit some songs in case we change the set up. We are a little faster live than we are on the records. When I am playing Origin songs, everything is like the Matrix where things just slow down. I’m more relaxed and my mind feels at ease. When I am listening to Origin, it’s a completely different mindset. I want to be ready if some tour comes up on the quick, sometimes they come up out of nowhere.
The reaction to the new album that I’ve got has been very positive. I hope that turns into more touring, touring with maybe a bigger band that we have never toured with before. Something a little more extravagant where we are not the headliner. Try to promote the album as best as I can.