EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ORIGIN’S PAUL RYAN
Between the inclusion of Paul Ryan on our Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists list, the release of their latest album, Entity, and their co-headlining tour with Hate Eternal, which begins tonight, Origin have been crowding the metal spotlight of late. I took some time to talk with Ryan about the new album, the current metal scene, the band’s progress, and the tour. Read our complete conversation after the jump!
You’ve had a somewhat inconsistent vocalist situation since James Lee left the band. How did that work on Entity, in terms of writing as well as recording? Who is your current performing vocalist?
After James and Origin parted ways, we worked with a guy named Mica Meneke. From October 2010 until December 2010 he worked with us, then about three weeks before we went into the studio, due to personal reasons, he had to leave the band, and we basically went into the studio without any lyrics written at all. Then Mike [Flores, bass] took half the songs when I was laying down guitar tracks, and when Mike was laying down his tracks, I took the other half. The vocal patterns and lyrics were all written in the studio.
That seems like it would be… difficult.
It was difficult. It was never complete – it was either Mark [Manning, former vocalist] or James in the past, but never one of us. I mean, I did backup vocals, but I was never the primary frontman for the band. And Mike did this as well.
Do you think that the vocals are worse or different than on previous albums because of this?
I had to set down guitar and not think about vocals, then write vocals and not think about playing guitar. I mean, I tried to think of the vocals as if I were only doing vocals and how much actual vocals I could do or how long I could scream. I listened to previous Origin recordings of Mark and James and, you know, listened to some Cannibal Corpse, some Deicide, stuff that I enjoyed signing in the past, just working on my voice. I wanted it to be similar, but not too different. It was difficult. I have a longtime respect for vocalists and writing lyrics; it’s more challenging than I thought, and helps me appreciate it a little bit more and think of it in a different way than I did before. I don’t know if I feel like there’s anything lacking… I think we did pretty good.
Can you tell me how you, as a member of the band, feel that Entity is different from your last album, Antithesis, or from any of your previous releases? It’s obviously different, but I was wondering what exactly you and the other members of the band felt about the album.
I think it has better songwriting, and is maybe a bit more musical, more dynamic. I think it’s got better production, our performances are better, our actual tracking of the album is better. We’re a better studio band than we were last album. I think the songs are more developed.
What’s it like playing the new stuff live?
We haven’t performed it live yet. The only one song we’ve done live is “Expulsion of Fury,” which is fun. We did that a couple times in Europe. Every time we played it, the crowd got really into it. The thing that’s different on this album, is that it’s more dynamic, with different drop-offs. It was cool to see the crowd move to a song that we’d never played before. You play tech death metal and get a golf clap for it a lot of the time. It was good to see the crowd response to the song, it was killer. Favorite song to play live? I don’t know yet, just hypothesizing. I’m looking forward to playing the new songs just because they’re new.
Are you guys excited for the tour?
Absolutely! We’ve toured with Hate Eternal before, done a lot of shows with them, but we haven’t toured with them since 2002. Vital Remains are a strong band, they’re good to tour with. For the death metal community, guitar-wise, there are some pretty damn good guitar players up there. It should be a killer show for the people that are into brutal stuff. I’m excited to get back on the road, play the new songs, see some old friends, and have a good time while doing it.
Can you describe the band’s progression over the years, musically, lyrically, and in terms of the band’s structure?
I’d just say that music has changed since then, even in death metal. We came out when it was hard to get recognized just playing kind of old-school death metal. Origin kind of battered its way into the scene by just going over the top with brutality. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, guitar shredding and soloing was really big, but then it kind of died out and everything was bottom heavy. Origin was very staccato and rhythm oriented. The second album came out and we sped up the tempos and were so staccato, we were just more crazy over the top death metal grind-esque. You know, a lot of people really got into the song “Portal,” and we thought shredding became a big deal so I started opening up my techniques more on other albums. We wrote riffs that were based around arpeggios. It was a big deal then, even though it’s not a big deal now. I’m really proud of it, and I was at the time it was released. At least in my knowledge, it hadn’t been done a lot before. Antithesis was just a maturation of our sound, especially with Jeremy [Turner, guitarist] coming back to write songs and collaborating with Mike to write things. Now we’re on album five, and just waiting to see what the future brings.
Yeah, things really have changed.
Yeah, I’ve been a fan of this music for as long as I can remember, since I was a kid. And you know, the style has changed, and it’s still changing. I don’t know what’s going to be happening in music over the next couple years or even where we’re going. I try to pay attention on both sides, from the biggest bands to the littler bands. We’re still a death metal band; we’re still somewhat technical, somewhat brutal. I don’t know what’s going on in the scene entirely, whether it’s death metal or metalcore or thrash metal coming back again, but it just seems like heavy music in general is a lot bigger than it was a decade ago, even after thirteen years. You found out about bands in magazines, and now there are actual resources and websites where you can find out metal information on a daily basis. And there’s just more people playing music, I think. There are just more knowledgeable people playing music just out there.
There are some interesting new sound effects on Entity that we haven’t really heard before in much of your material, like the stuttering section in “Consequence of Solution,” and that electronic ringing noise on “Committed.” What inspired those sections?
Well, I was just trying to make it shriek and terrifying sounding on “Committed” – you know, crazy new tones we’ve never done before, and a kind of odd timing structure. It’s actually a bit challenging getting the count down. It’s a different kind of philosophy for Origin. On “Solution,” it just became, you know, kind of like a death metal jam ,and the song kind of became a journey, trying to do different stuff. The guys I play with are so talented. It’s not like we’re doing anything super technical to us, we’re just trying to add progressive elements. We have these skills and we can incorporate them into the songs and make them song cool, so why not? I don’t want every album to sound exactly the same. It’s fun doing some stuff we never did before on record. Some other guys who used to be in the band probably wouldn’t have thought it was cool, but we’re pretty open-minded. Music has changed, and you have to understand that a band has to evolve. You know, we have played with a lot of different types of bands and tours to mix and mesh styles. Summer Slaughter’s a big example of that – there’s probably a lot of kids that absolutely hated us, but if there are people at each show for other bands that have never heard of us, and like us, that happens. I appreciate music. I appreciate talent. There are a lot of great musicians out there and we’re just trying to keep Origin relevant in the scene today in our own way.
How difficult is it in the band with the distance between members?
Well, we’ve gotten better with it. Basically, I sit and compose these songs and will record guitar tracks and just kind of go “here’s another song” and we start building the album. So they learn the songs, just putting the music onto their iPods or whatever, and they get an idea at least of what the music’s going to be, and I get on Skype and show my bass player what I’m doing and he can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. He learns the songs then starts to incorporate his own style. We’ll get together for a few days and learn a couple songs, then go back to our ways. It got easier as we learned how to deal with it and actually appreciate being around each other instead of hacking out in the garage – nothing wrong with that, but we’re all looking forward to seeing each other and playing music, not bringing our baggage on tour. I think it keeps our morale higher, and we’ve made it work for a decade now?
Would you say you’re the main songwriter?
I wrote six to seven songs on each of the first three albums, and all the guitar parts. Mike and John [Longstreth, drummer] come in and change the compositions around, and the dynamics. I like what I think these guys will want to play. We reuse some material that comes from the past and shows up later. The first riff on “Expulsion “came from Echoes of Decimation-era stuff. Same thing with the last album – some stuff was really old and showed up on Antithesis.
All right, thanks for your time. Anything else you’d like to add before we go?
Check out the album! And we’ll be on tour for the rest of the year. Follow us on Facebook, or whatever. Thanks for the interview, and thanks for mentioning me in the Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists list. I woke up that day not expecting that [laughs].
Entity is out now on Nuclear Blast. Origin’s co-headlining tour with Hate Eternal begins tonight; support comes from Abysmal Dawn and Vital Remains. Get dates here.