Deadhouse Interview: Ari Lehman of First Jason

The Deadhouse has always had its main focus on horrorpunk and horror movies since the beginning. While these two mediums always have some crossover, never is it more evident than with Ari Lehman. As both an actor and musician, Lehman has attacked the genre from both angles with success. It’s actually becoming a point to be more familiar with Lehman for his musical endeavors more so than his brief exploits in Crystal Lake.

Given the cross audience that is shared between The Deadhouse and Lehman‘s projects, it seemed like a no brainer that our paths would eventually cross. So without further a due, the newest Deadhouse Interview with the one and only, Ari Lehman!

Who are you?

I am Ari Lehman, the Actor/Singer who has the honor of playing the First Jason Voorhees in the classic Horror Film, Friday The 13th. I now have a musical project called First Jason, we have recorded two albums, Jason Never Dies! and Heed My Warning, and are currently in the process of recording our third album to be titled American Original based on a line from Friday The 13th.

What is your current project?

Currently I tour all over the US and EU with my band First Jason, at Horror Conventions, Punk Rock Clubs, Metal and Film Festivals. We are getting ready to produce our next project, which is a double effort, a Book and Album that gives some insights into what it’s like to tour all over the USA, with the bizarre honor of being considered the personification of Jason and an Ambassador of Horror everywhere.

Being on tour has given me a unique perspective of this fine country we live in and the changes that it is currently going through. In this book and album, my aim is to reflect upon these changes, with accuracy, yet without taking sides. A philosophical and poetic approach with the lyrics, and a more blues and funk oriented sound in the music, while still maintaining a dark and heavy style overall as we always do.

First Jason has performed at some of the top venues including The Viper Room, The Whisky A Go-Go, Housecore Fest, The Palladium, Savage Fest and Indianapolis Metal Fest.

What first got you interested in the horror genre as a whole?

Long before I had the great fortune to be cast as the first Jason Voorhees, I was a fan of classic horror films: The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein. And I recall at summer camp how my friends and I would debate seriously about the actor played each character the best. Bela Lugosi to me was the definitive Count Dracula, but one of my friends objected strongly: he felt it was Christopher Lee! We even made Super 8 horror films at camp, sometimes using stop-motion. I remember doing a version of Earthquake by shaking the camera and having the “actors” wobble and stumble haha!

Now that I have been on the horror “scene” for years, I have had many great opportunities and experiences to enjoy some of the best offerings, and I have developed a taste for the mystical, psychological and other-worldly dark side of horror, as opposed to the graphic violence and graphic brutality. In my opinion, physical violence is not as compelling in a cinematic context as is the chilling revelations hidden within the ever-present human psyche.

What are some of your favorite horrorpunk bands?

Calabrese, Koffin Kats, Grave Robber, Gutter Ghouls, Coffinsville, Doyle, Screaching Weasel, Misfits and Samhain.

What about bands that don’t fall under the horrorpunk umbrella?

Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Reagan Youth, Rollins Band, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Fela Kuti, King’s X, Twelve Foot Ninja, Gojira, Macabre, Deftones, Machine Head, Testament, Cradle Of Filth, Clutch, Seeed

What are your favorite horror movies?

Some of my favorite films include: Der Golem, Nosferatu, Faust (by F.W. Murnau), The Phantom Of The Opera, The Mummy, The Curse Of The Werewolf, Night Of The Hunter, Spellbound, Vertigo, Deep Red, Opera, Phenomena, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Friday The 13th, The Seventh Gate, Hard Candy, The Orphan, [rec] and Zombieland.

What are some of your favorite non-horror movies?

Lawrence Of Arabia, Star Wars, I Vitelloni, Amarcord, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Cul De Sac, Citizen Kane, Salvador Dali: A Soft Self Portrait, Thunderbolts Of The Gods and Magical Egypt.

As you were relatively young at the time of filming, did you have any idea how pivotal of a role you played horror genre? When did it really come into focus for you?

Yes, I was 14 years old when we filmed Friday The 13th, and I find it very gratifying that people actually still watch this movie on a regular basis. Honestly, it’s only recently that fans are widely beginning to accept the idea that the young, Crystal Lake Jason really is significant, and as you say, pivotal.

Pamela Voorhees, Jason’s mother, as brilliant played by Betsy Palmer, is of course, the antagonist in the film that I was in. It was years after, in 1983 I believe, after the famous hockey mask worn by the late Richard Brooker, that I began to get some recognition from classmate about Jason Voorhees. Friends would walk up and say “Ch-ch-ch Ah-ah-ah” to get my reaction. At first I was surprised, but finally realized how much the fans love Jason and the whole Camp Crystal Lake Mythology. It’s an American Original!

How did First Jason originally come together?

Originally I was playing keyboard and singing as a touring professional and recording artist with Interscope and Tuff Gong Records, travelling around the world with some of the top names in Reggae and African Music. I even got to perform Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa. However I immediately sensed that there was a different spectrum of tastes on the horror scene as soon as I started doing Horror Conventions. So I went from doing World Music to doing Underworld Music, drawing upon bands that I had seen while living in NYC like Reagan Youth, Bad Brains, White Zombie, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys.

Upon moving to Chicago, I met “Nefarious” from the band Macabre, who upon joining the band suggested that I drop the cover tunes altogether. He was insistent that I bring my keyboard skills more into the mix, compelling me to design and play a Heavy Metal Keytar, that deeply influenced the future sound and texture of First Jason. Also in Chicago, bands like Maggot Twat, The Ugly and Johnny Vomit had a strong influence on my writing style and sound. I liked the no-holds-barred full assault of these Chicago bands and endeavored to bring that energy into First Jason from the very beginning.

Getting to open for so many great bands, and share the stage with bands that I have great respect for has empowered and enabled First Jason to grow into a project that can hold it’s own in any context, in a nightclub, at a festival or in a huge arena, we have developed a unique and powerful sound that is darkly soulful and electrifying.

How did you come up with the wicked Machete/Keytar combo that you wield on stage?

The Heavy Metal Keytar was created in response to “Nefarious” from Macabre urging me to bring my Keyboard skills into the First Jason mix. At first it was an Alesis Micron Synth, duct-taped to a six-foot samurai sword I got at a cosplay convention, with a guitar strap on it. This was driven through guitar distortion pedals and a Bass SansAmp DI into a 4 x 10 Bass Amp. The use of a wah-wah pedal also magnified the guitar-like sound and the Electrice Machete was born!

Eventually Roland Keyboards came up with the Lucina Keytar that I play now, and it’s AMAZING! This Keytar not only has an authentic distortion over-driven electric guitar sound, but it has a wheel that gives me the ability to bend notes and use whammy-bar vibrato too! It’s like they designed this instrument for me, it has been like taking five-pound-weights off each hand, the sound is simply astounding and the range of control is absolutely superb! I could go on forever but just come here it LIVE!

If you could co-headline a tour with any band past or present who would it be?

Frank Zappa

What do you have planned for horror fans in the future?

The next project is called First Jason: American Original and what makes it unique is that we will be including many contributions from fans and friends all over the USA. Photography, poetry, artwork, costumers…everything will be included as we reflect upon the new Dark Arts movement that has swept across the USA, bringing together punk and metal bands, tattoo artists, horror filmmakers, haunted house owners, hearse enthusiasts, horror themed dance troupes, ghost chasters, paranormal investigators and more. Our goal is to reveal the more philosophical side of the Horror Scene, celebrating the great American Horror Literary tradition in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Paul Bowles and Stephen King.

We welcome everyone to join us in the design of this new book and album project, First Jason: American Original!

So there you have it fiends and ghouls, the one and only Ari Lehman, the kid who 35 years ago jumped out of a cold New Jersey lake and into the collective nightmares of audiences everywhere. I would like to thank Ari for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us and give us a glimpse into his madness!

You can stay up to date with all things Ari and First Jason related by visiting the Official First Jason Website and also be sure to give the band a Like on their Facebook Page!

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