The first Jason Voorhees, Ari Lehman, talks with TV STORE ONLINE about being part of the FRIDAY THE 13TH mythos, bringing Jason to life from the depths of Crystal Lake as well as his rocking heavy metal combo of doom and badassery First Jason...
TV STORE ONLINE: You have got to tell us what Ari Lehman was like a kid and where do you think your interest in movies and music comes from?
As for music...I was very strongly interested in music at a very early age. By the time I did FRIDAY THE 13TH, I was already studying with a very famous jazz pianist that was living in Westport, CT. I remember now, being in the car as I was being driven to the set of FRIDAY THE 13TH and telling the Production Assistant that, even though I was working on this movie, I really wanted to be a jazz pianist.
TV STORE ONLINE: The set of FRIDAY THE 13th must have been a blast....
Peanut". It was such an easy job really. I was fourteen and I got to hang out at a summer camp. I got to be surrounded by incredible creativity. It was very inspiring.
TV STORE ONLINE: Developing that interest in music, and in particular in jazz...What kinds of jazz records were you listening to at fourteen years old? Where you listening to Monk?
TV STORE ONLINE: Let's talk about the grand daddy of soccer exploitation films MANNY'S ORPHANS ...
LEHMAN: Laughing...I've told the story of how I first met Sean Cunningham for that so many times...So I'll skip over that...but I did actually sneak into that audition to see Sean for that.
LEHMAN: I guess so. But FRIDAY THE 13TH and MANNY'S ORPHANS are films that exist in two different genres. Was I trying to become Roger in MANNY'S ORPHANS? I guess so. Being a kid though, and just being handed that dialogue...I was used to it. I was Roger's age. In MANNY'S ORPHANS, Roger is always carrying around a Playboy Magazine. Sean wisely provided all of us kids a stack of Playboy Magazines to kept us occupied between takes. It kept all of us quiet on the set. Irwin Keyes worked on MANNY'S ORPHANS too. He was so great. He would hang out with us kids and tell us jokes. MANNY'S ORPHANS was a film about kids just hanging out. I didn't see playing Roger as something different than me just playing myself.
When I was going to play Jason...There was a different dimension to that. I did think about kids that are different or kids that are autistic or mentally retarded and how they're treated as if they're different than the rest of us. In my opinion, when Jason jumps out of the water at the end of FRIDAY THE 13TH, that was those kids' opportunity to get a little bit of revenge for how they had been treated. For me, it had nothing to do with the fact that one of the film's characters had just severed my moms head. I was really thinking about those kids.
LEHMAN: Not really. It was trick. It was all about being Lon Chaney. It was about transformation. When someone works on your face for four hours and you don't see what they've been doing, and then when you finally do see it, it really puts you into that character.
TV STORE ONLINE: Still though, it's really fascinating in how you chose to jump from the water and grab Adrienne King....It seems like there was a choice made to scoop her the way that you did....Jason could've just jumped up and pulled her backward....
LEHMAN: That was all worked out....I said, "I'm going to put this hand on the boat so I can lift myself up..." FRIDAY THE 13TH had wrapped in August and there was no scene shot of me jumping out of the water at the end. Then in October, Sean Cunningham called me and said, "We need you to come back..."
Sean wasn't happy with the ending and he had seen Brian DePalma's CARRIE  and wanted to shoot a new ending. That's why when you watch the film now...The leaves on the trees on the lake have changed color. It was supposed to be a dream sequence. Savini called the sequence "Alice's Dream". I never thought it was a dream sequence though. I considered it then, and still consider it, the point where the monster gets his vengeance.
LEHMAN: I'm not working on that anymore. What happened with it was that it got pitched out as a television series and for a minute it looked like it was going to happen. A few names got attached to it and they were going to give me some money to create a sort of "sizzle" reel to get it started and then it fell apart. I've been thinking about telling the story in graphic novel form now. There's a new FRIDAY THE 13TH film coming out soon. Hopefully we'll see some sort of origin story there. I've also just recently sat down with Victor Miller, who of course, was the screenwriter of FRIDAY THE 13TH, and we've been talking about the possibilities of a origins story for Jason as well.
TV STORE ONLINE: What's your favorite sequel in the F13 film franchise?
TV STORE ONLINE: One thing that your fans may not know about you...While you were studying music at NYU post FRIDAY THE 13TH, you befriended a couple young filmmakers by the name of Alex Winter and Tom Stern and did the musical score for their amazing short film SQUEAL OF DEATH (1985)....
LEHMAN: Where did you see that? On YouTube? Alex and Tom were hilarious. If you hung out with them all you would do is laugh. You would laugh until you couldn't breath any longer. All I really remember about it now is that Tom Stern came to me and said, " We've got this movie and we'd like for you to come and do the music and sound effects for it." We just did it at NYU film school and with the most basic equipment. We had to time sequences out with stop watches and pray that they would turn out alright. I used a DX-7 Yamaha Keyboard. Miles Davis played one of those too. One thing I remember about Tom Stern...He was in the same dorm as I was...I remember he covered his entire dorm room in 8x10s of Larry "Bud" Melman. I swear...You'd walk into his dorm room and there must have been at least 500 8x10s and they were all perfectly tiled as well...laughing.
TV STORE ONLINE: Before we talk about First Jason....We should discuss the Ari-Ben Moses Band....Where does that interest in Reggae music come from ?
America to play from Africa or the Caribbean couldn't bring in all of the musicians in their band due to visa issues with the government. So I started working with them and I just became the kid that these bands would call when they came to The United States. I started working with a band from Nigeria and I ended up touring with them for ten years. They were called Maja Sasek and The Prisoners of Conscious. They were on Interscope Records at the same time that Dr. Dre was there. I played the Jamaican Reggae Sunsplash shows. I played the Reggae circuit for a while. I got to open for great Reggae artists like Rita Marley even.
TV STORE ONLINE: So how did First Jason come into being?
These guys at the horror shows all listen to metal or punk. So I decided that I needed to re-access what I was doing. I realized that I hadn't yet found my true sound. I went back and started to listen to that stuff that I had been introduced to on the set of FRIDAY THE 13TH. I went back and listened to stuff like The Misfits, Reagan Youth, and Minor Threat. I had also become interested in heavy metal as well. Listening to all of those bands really inspired me, because each of those bands really developed their own unique sound. I knew that was what I needed to do. Being that I love jazz piano and keyboards and such, I set out to try to develop a heavy metal guitar sound via keyboard. Who knew that all these years later, I'd be touring all around the USA, screaming these songs out on stage about Jason Voorhees and playing a keytar that is attached to a machete...laughing I really think that there is something to this. I really think this is were I was always intended to be.
LEHMAN: Awesome! Thanks. It's all blues stuff. There are some blues on Jason Is Watching!
LEHMAN: Awesome! Thanks. It's all blues stuff. There are some blues on Jason Is Watching!
TV STORE ONLINE: When you play the keytar...The keytar has been the butt of many jokes over the last twenty years...Yet you've managed to make it cool...
LEHMAN: C'mon man... Don't forget about Edgar Winter!
TV STORE ONLINE: Sure, but was Edgar Winter really that cool ?!?!
TV STORE ONLINE: Listening to First Jason...One hears a eclectic mix of possible influences. It seems like you can hear traces of bands like Living Colour and King's X in the First Jason music....Even Reggae as well....
LEHMAN: Right on. Yeah I think so. I think you can hear a little Jimi Hendrix in there too. Hopefully some Slayer and NOFX as well. I think that's just the way that music evolves. When it starts out, it shifts and conjoins and then when it coagulates it becomes all-in-one. That's the alchemy of metal. Everything blends together. Heavy Metal does have elements of classical music and funk in it as well as many other styles or genres of music. Metal is also the home of the great virtuoso musicians of our day.
LEHMAN: Absolutely. All done through that amazing hardcore thrash sound.
TV STORE ONLINE: What are some of your all time favorite albums?
LEHMAN: I have so many favorite albums. Probably one right at the top would be Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love. Then Sly & The Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On. A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. Survival by Bob Marley. Miles Davis - Decoy. Metal Bands that I listen to all of the time are, Kings-X, Gojira, The Deftones, Machine Head, and Macabre.
TV STORE ONLINE: The song writing on First Jason - Jason Is Watching! is cool because the songs seem to be a manifestation of some sort of inner monologue for Jason Voorhees himself....What was the idea or process behind deciding to go that direction with the lyrics and songs for the album?
music gets violent and our rhythms get brutal.
TV STORE ONLINE: And your songs are pop songs too!
LEHMAN: Oh yeah.
TV STORE ONLINE: Just as The Misfits, The Ramones and NOFX write pop songs....
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you think that says about Ari Lehman? Ari's a guy that has studied jazz for so many years, yet he also has this terrific pop sensibility about him as well...
LEHMAN: In my opinion, the greatest achievement for any musician is to write a great melody and a great lyric. I think that's what I'm trying to do in my own little way. Plus, I think that I'm trying to streamline things as well in First Jason. Because we are just two guys up on a stage, I need to be able to play bass and guitar on the keytar yet keep the songs minimalized so I can sing them directly and emotionally at the time.
LEHMAN: It's funny. Every time I've done something...I've gotten really excited for it to be released and most of the stuff that I've done hasn't come out. I did a film recently called EASTER SUNDAY and I'm certain that that's going to come out. I play a Postman in the film. People have seemed to enjoy the photos that I've posted up on Facebook of me in the Postman's uniform. People tell me that I'm doing a great job on set. I don't know if I'm always the best actor for the roles I'm getting though, but I do bring an great enthusiasm and moral to the set when I'm there.
TV STORE ONLINE: Looking back now on FRIDAY THE 13TH...What's been the best part of the whole experience for you?
Just that I'm part of the mythos of it all. The best part about it, is that I'm associated with the history of the Jason Voorhees character. That really means a lot to me. I'm not associated with the big and brutal character, but the young, green and slimy figure of Jason. Without taking it too seriously, I get to play around with it, and I really have a lot of fun with how much people enjoy that young Jason character.
TV STORE ONLINE: Young Jason was the first twerker too! Compare Jason coming out of Crystal Lake with Miley twerking and...
LEHMAN: Laughing...Post that picture on Facebook for me!
For more with Ari Lehman please visit his official website HERE:
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Upcoming First Jason Tour Dates:
Winnemucca Convention Center - Winnemucca, Nevada
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013