Origin's Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas (referred to as III from here on out) turned 20 years old a few weeks ago in June and that feels like a pretty special moment worth celebrating. For many, III was the release that got them into Origin and turned them into a fan for life. III was a tech-death game-changer, the rabid and monstrous music created on this release seemed to arrive from another universe entirely. Causing a lasting impact upon its arrival, the influence III and future Origin releases would have on the larger death metal scene has inspired legions of bands worldwide. Without Origin paving the way, there would be no Archspire, no Beneath the Massacre, no Brain Drill, nor Cytotoxin, just to list a few among a litany of bands heavily influenced by Origin that are beloved by many.
We got lucky that everyone who played on III was game to talk about the album and all things Origin, which means you'll hear from (former) vocalist James Lee, (former) guitarist Jeremy Turner, guitarist Paul Ryan, bassist Mike Flores, and drummer John Longstreth. Before the interview portion begins, I've embedded Origin's III below if it's been a while since you've heard this album.
This was the band’s first release with bassist Mike Flores and vocalist James Lee. What led to the prior vocalist and bassist leaving the group and how did Mike and James come to be in the group?
James Lee: Well I had gotten the demo at random from a friend I was trading tapes. I almost didn't hear it. But when I did I was beyond impressed. I had never heard anything like it. Soon after I contacted Jeremy and Paul. It was just general correspondence at first.
I had sent them a homemade vocal demo I did. Then when I met them in person, I was running around doing vocals, lol. As they were finishing their first tour, they called me about trying out for the band. So I did.
Paul Ryan: Touring isn't for everyone and fortunately for Origin, we had options for immediate replacement. This was before the internet so the fact that we found quality replacements for each member was beyond lucky.
Mike Flores: Paul and I are both from Topeka and we hung out with the same crowd. The metal crowd in Topeka was pretty tight-knit. Everyone knew everyone and the band I was in at the time would do shows with Origin. When the bass position opened up Paul asked me to learn a few songs and when I had them down well enough I came to my first practice to audition. I had to learn a different way of playing bass. I had the speed but triplets were something I really had to work on. "Vomit You Out" was the first song I learned. It was pretty intimidating but here we are.
John Longstreth: I think most of us had been going through some difficulties balancing home life and band life. The band was very new, and not making any money on tour yet, and that's something every band must go through. In Doug's (Origin's bassist before Mike Flores) case, he was a business owner and a homeowner. When he decided it was time to leave, he messaged us and let us know he needed to focus on home life and wished us well. It was the right way to do things, and we wished each other well and amicably parted ways. I think Mark's (Origin's original vocalist) case was a little more personal as he was there from day one and the band was starting to morph into something he didn't recognize or agree with.
Given the two decades that have passed since III dropped and the benefit of hindsight, how do you all feel about the album now in 2022?
James Lee: I felt it was just a blistering and aggressive album. Which was the main intent on my part. Vocals wise.
Jeremy Turner: At that time, we were going for as extreme and crazy as we could, and as fast as we could. I think some of the material could have been tighter. I also would've used different gear for recording, especially the guitars.
Paul Ryan: I'm proud of what each Origin album is as it is a time stamp etched into death metal history and is also a personal soundtrack to my metal life's timeline. I've learned over the years now that this album represents what we were as a band at that time… as with life, you can't change the past you can only try to create a better future.
If anything, the Japanese bonus track on III of our interpretation of Death's "Flattening of Emotions" would have been included in later pressings of the album. If we were allowed to do so.
John Longstreth: I would leave it as is. Some things went down that caused some discomfort or didn’t make much sense, but those are lessons learned. What did we know back then anyway? It doesn’t matter. I’m proud of the album.
For a lot of people, III was the first Origin album they heard. Do you all feel that Relapse pushing this release harder helped? Or was it tied to doing more touring?
Jeremy Turner: Relapse did a good job pushing the first album too. I think it’s just that we were getting on bigger tours from the momentum from touring in support of the first album.
Paul Ryan: We had definitely made a name for ourselves early on playing as many shows as possible and touring all the time and playing with various styles of bands. We would play shows with all death metal bills but also get on shows with bands like Today Is The Day, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, etc. So I feel that helped us gain exposure quickly as well. The band had played hundreds of shows at that point and we were getting better every show and the songwriting for III was written with the lineup that was to be performing it. So we all together were better and more on the same page rather than learning other people's parts from the past.
Mike Flores: I think III got a lot of attention because the band had done so much touring already for the self-titled album. Death metal was thriving at the time and the bands' Origin was touring with were all solid acts. Everyone was striving to stand out in their own way and I think that contributed to the writing process and the musicianship.
John Longstreth: It was just the right time. I think Relapse was really surprised when we turned it in, and probably didn't quite understand what they were hearing judging by their initial response to it. It all worked out shortly after because Relapse got us out with Arch Enemy, Nile, and Hate Eternal and that was a big push for us. Also, Milwaukee Metal Fest was at its height and was branching out before its inevitable burnout, so we benefitted in getting put on a lot of American metal fests following.
How much touring did the band do in support of III? Are there any memories tied to tours for this album that stick out?
Jeremy Turner: The last tour I did with Origin was the Nile, Arch Enemy, Hate Eternal tour in the summer of 2002. I got to see Hate Eternal rip it up every night with the Erik Rutan, Derek Roddy, and Jared Anderson (RIP) lineup which was such a treat. Those guys were so great to tour with. Watching Nile every night was great as well. Dallas Toller-Wade was/is a monster on guitar!
Paul Ryan: The album came out June 11th, 2002, and we were on tour from day 1 until about the end of December 2002. We were on the largest metal tour of the summer that year as Arch Enemy did their first tour with (former vocalist) Angela Gossow in the states. We toured/played live shows with bands such as Hate Eternal, Nile, Bezerker, Immolation, Vader, Crematorium, Scar Culture, All That Remains, and Arch Enemy in support of III. *Maybe more beyond those bands but I can't remember. We only toured North America for this album.
John Longstreth: The Arch Enemy, Nile, Hate Eternal tour was extremely beneficial for us. We learned from a lot of big people that had been around for years before us. The band didn't get off the continent until around '05 which is criminal, but also a silver lining as people had been waiting a long time, and that was reflected in the demand for our overseas shows.
What led you all to push Origin’s sound to new heights and extremities on III?
Paul Ryan: The early demo lineup of Origin only played 4 shows whereas the lineup before the S/T album probably played closer to 100 by then. By the time we recorded III the band had probably played at least 200 more shows together so we had grown together as a band live as well as musicians and had a good feel of what we could do together
John Longstreth: Yes. Death metal was becoming more extreme. It was becoming a competition regardless of what anyone said or says. Morbid Angel, Death, Deicide, and Cynic, were already established, and as a drummer, there was a lot of pressure to be faster and faster AND technical at the same time. More of everything all the time. EVERYTHING FASTER THAN EVERYTHING ELSE! So yeah, we kinda went to war. We had some super ballsy thinking in the band. Go for the throat. I think this was the mentality of every death and grind band ever…….. we just had a bit more to capitalize on given our peers and place in time.
III, like your debut album, both clock in at under 30 minutes apiece. What led you all to opt for short releases for the first 3 albums as well as the shift toward lengthier run times from Antithesis into the present?
Paul Ryan: The first few albums to me were just high-intensity shoot 'em up bang-bang kind of stuff. The newer albums have about the same amount of blasting and intensity but to make a longer album that holds the listeners' attention there are more compositional dynamics and various tempo changes (and different genres) used.
John Longstreth: Back then we wanted to hit hard and hit hard again. We all loved thrash metal of course, but we couldn't have any of that in our music because it was too flashy. We mostly loathed black metal for all of its pageantry and lazy playing. "Why are these guys getting all this attention for literally murdering humans and lazy playing?!? we have murder and ripping blast beats here in Kansas! WHAT GIVES?!?!?" Mainly we wanted to trim the fat. Everything had this sharp punchy feel to it. Don't waste anyone's time. Just ATTACK.
I think Jeremy and I came back in refreshed on Anthesis and in turn the entire band was refreshed. We felt more comfortable in our own skin. Origin had gone through puberty, and our aspirations took a step up.
How do you all feel about the worldwide influence Origin has had in the death metal sphere? Is it humbling? Or, something that you don’t really care about?
Jeremy Turner: At the time, we were just trying to be the most extreme thing out, and trying to be something different from everyone else. The influence we may have had on the genre is/was definitely icing on the cake. It's definitely humbling.
Paul Ryan: We may never get the press and accolades but you can't put on a modern death metal album without hearing Origin's influence and what's more humbling is that some of the 1st generation death metal bands had to copy techniques that Origin was first to use to stay modern and keep up!
Mike Flores: I feel like Origin has made a mark and opened the doors to a different kind of death metal. Not just trying to be brutal but also inviting a technical aspect to the music. Trying to utilize every part of our abilities to make better songs from sweeps to gravity blasts to having three vocals going at the same time to compliment the highs, mids, and lows.
John Longstreth: It’s very humbling. I’m always surprised by it. It’s always one of those things that I’m happy to hear about but is always a little nerve-racking. I don’t quite know how to accept compliments and I can get a little fumble-y and am apt to run away and hide. “OK! THANKS! I GOTTA GO PEE!” Some people are so cool about it, and I wanna hang out and chat and have a beer, others ……. not so much, but I appreciate it all the same.
For those that don’t like the band that doesn’t matter. We’re here for our specific purpose and it’s not gonna fit with everyone.
You all just released a new album, Chaosmos, what keeps Origin inspired and eager to continue after over two decades together as a band? What keeps you all playing so many live shows as well?
Paul Ryan: Music is an endless journey… it's the soundtrack of my death metal life. So many bands water it down and lose their credibility and that's just not who I am as a person. I do enjoy touring but not as much as I did when I was younger… For me, at least, less is more.
Mike Flores: We all love the music. We love playing our instruments and creating music together. Getting to see how our music affects people. The excitement of people at the shows. It's a great feeling.
John Longstreth: I wanna see how people are going to respond to seeing a 60-year-old play this stuff! I wanna see if we can even get there. What the hell else am I going to do? We're always trying to do it better and better live. We also have to give back. We're very lucky.
How did the addition of new vocalist James Lee and new bassist Mike Flores impact the music on III?
Jeremy Turner: If I remember correctly, the only ideas/songs written were "Inhuman" and "Larvae of the Lie" when James joined the band. James joined not too long after our first tour supporting the debut album. James' voice and range were more in the direction of where we wanted to be.
Paul Ryan: Both Mike and James brought their own individual styles to the band and contributed greatly to the sound of III.
Mike Flores: Most of the music was already coming together by the time I joined. It was faster than the self-titled album and more intricate. The songs were faster than on the first album but that wasn't a problem. For me, I had to learn how to play triplets and fives and learn to play sweeps. That was not easy. I started to play chords on bass to make parts sound thicker. It was fun because it was hard. We were all good at our instruments but were all trying to be even better.
John Longstreth: James and Mike came in pretty quickly and helped finish off the Origin – S/T album touring cycle so they had plenty of time to acclimate and be a part of the III writing. When James came in it was his birthday. We told him to hang back and listen through once cause we play a bit more aggressively than it sounds on the album. He disregarded that message jumped right in and nailed it. He was hired after one rehearsal I think. Mike was basically hired before he knew it. Paul Ryan mentioned "let's have Mike over next week for a try out" and it was instant.
III also saw 2nd guitarist Jeremy Turner take on a bigger role songwriting-wise versus your debut album. Was this a matter of Jeremy having more material ready during the writing phase or a band decision to let Jeremy write more?
Jeremy Turner: Actually, I wrote a majority of "Vomit You Out" (along with original vocalist Mark Manning and Paul Ryan), some of "Sociocide" (with former Origin bassist/guitarist Clint Appelhanz writing a majority of that song), and "Infliction" for the debut self-titled album. As for III, I wrote a majority of "Inhuman" (along with Mark Manning) all but the first riff of "Awaken the Suffering" (Paul wrote the 1st riff), and "Insurrection". I just happen to be a slower writer than Paul.
Paul Ryan: Jeremy had made major contributions since the beginning but he made more strides as a songwriter on III (He later contributed to Antithesis as well). I still confide with Jeremy and Clint (who played on the first Origin EP and Echoes of Decimation) for an outside perspective from time to time.
What is your favorite song(s)on III?
James Lee: Being that it was my first real album as a vocalist, I have a strong attachment to every song. But for me, "Larvae of The Lie" and "Implosion of Eternity" stick out. Vocally anyways.
Jeremy Turner: My favorite song on III would have to be "Meat For The Beast". The picking patterns and groove on that song are the shit!
Paul Ryan: I like them all as they have stood the test of time but now as the band has been around 25 years and has done more in the latter half we only focus on one song live from the first 4 albums.
John Longstreth: "Larvae of the Lie", "Awaken the Suffering", and "Portal".
Tying into my prior question, what is your favorite Origin release and your favorite songs from the band? Are there any personal favorites that you wish the band would play live?
James Lee: My favorite album is Antithesis. The way that one came together was impressive. We hadn't all played any of it together until after it was recorded. And it all went well live.
Jeremy Turner: I think my favorite album is Echoes of Decimation. I just like the dark feeling that album has. My favorite songs are "Endless Cure" and "Saligia".
John Longstreth: I would love to bring back "Fornever", "Echoes of Decimation", or "Consequence of Solution" live.
What is the cover art for III attempting to showcase?
John Longstreth: That was all Chad Michael Ward, and I believe we sent him partial lyrics along with the message that it should look like some sort of Hellraiser and Event Horizon mash-up. I concocted the title as a loose play on Kurt Angle from WWE, but with evil-sounding words crudely translated to Latin as. "boundless shapeless inhumanity," or something of the like.
What was the songwriting process for III like? Was it jammed out as a band during practice? Individual members presenting partial songs or full compositions? A mix of the two?
Paul Ryan: We were in a barn in between tours while writing the music for III! Some of it was written as a group and others were written individually. The vocals/lyrics are always done last on Origin albums but we did play "Portal" live before we entered the studio.
John Longstreth: Both. Paul or Jeremy would bring in a part of a song and we would work from there. It was in a room in Lawrence, Kansas. We didn't have air conditioning or heating and we definitely felt the seasonal elements full on. I always credit that to keeping us pissed off enough to create some really twisted music. For a couple of weeks, we had a propane jet heater in there and had to get rid of it because we were getting high from it and fearing for our health!
What led to the band's line-up shifts after III going into the band's 2005 album, Echoes of Decimation? Additionally, what led to the return of drummer John Longstreth and guitarist Jeremy Turner on the group's 2008 album, Antithesis?
Jeremy Turner: After we recorded III, there were a lot of things going on, and I felt I was in a different place from everyone else at the time. I felt they would be better off without my constant conflict. I did the Nile tour with Arch Enemy and Hate Eternal, then I bowed out. As far as returning to write for Antithesis, John mentioned just writing for the album, since I couldn't tour at the time, and I agreed to do that. The drawback of not touring with them was that it wasn't sustainable for me to be a part of the band following that.
John Longstreth: I felt like the band wasn't getting along. We had acquired a very unscrupulous booking agent who was taking us for a ride. It was a good tour that was turned bad very quickly by people that didn't have our personal or professional well-being in mind, and that was too much pressure on me. My original intention was for the band to take a break and I go work with Skinless for a few months. I kinda went at it without much discussion so they replaced me. Simple as that.
In general, I think everyone took stock and realized we had a pretty damn good thing together, and wanted to give it another go. I know I had gone out and looked around for three-ish years and in the end, I missed my guys, so it was pretty easy for me to come back for Antithesis. We kicked it back and forth over the phone for a week or two and decided to get back together.
What was the feeling within the band regarding III before it was released?
James Lee: There was pretty serious anticipation on my part for sure. I felt it would probably be well received. And I felt it was for the most part.
Paul Ryan: We were pretty damn confident about III.
John Longstreth: When we went into the studio, the material didn't feel as aggressive as it ended up being. I remember having a headache right before tracking drums, and someone gave me like 5 Tylenol Migraine and HELLO caffeine rush. Next thing ya know, I'm playing everything 10-15bpm faster and guys are all like "KEEEEEP GOING!!!!!!"….. James Lee knocked out his vocals in maybe 2 days. We got into this razor focus and all the material just caught on fire. We left the studio pretty damn excited. I don't think we felt we recorded some legendary game-changing album, but we definitely surprised ourselves and that's all ya really need in the end.
What led the band to feature a re-recorded version of “Mental Torment” from your debut album on III?
Mike Flores: We re-recorded "Mental Torment" as a way to show people what the initial intent was for that song. It was a bit faster on III and I had a different bass sound than Doug had. We had a better idea of how to approach it and make it better.
John Longstreth: We felt it a proper way to introduce Mike and James. Also, the first album as a whole was too slow, and we wanted to update some of the older songs. We'll probably do this more in the future.
Would it be fair to say this album helped shape the Origin sound moving forwards?
Paul Ryan: I feel if you put on any Origin album of any era of the band you know its Origin immediately. I'm proud of the Origin discography, like I said before each release is a snapshot of what death metal was at the point in time it came out! Thanks to all our fans worldwide for 20 years of love for III and 25 years of Origin as a whole!
John Longstreth: It was definitely the first step forward as a full band. The first album was mostly written by the time I got there, and I didn't feel it was my time to contribute yet. By the time we toured the first album and went through a couple of lineup changes, we had solidified as a unit. I'm not going to comment on Echoes, but I think Antithesis was probably the proper follow-up to III.
Last words anyone? Anything else you’d like to share?
John Longstreth: The Last Word is my favorite cocktail!