Ari Lehman - FIRSTJASON Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Friday, 30 October 2009 22:17



In normal circumstances I'd throw together a brief introduction here, tell you about how Ari Lehman was the first ever Jason Voorhees, about his band FIRSTJASON, but seeing at it is Halloween I'm gonna break with tradition and let Ari give his own introduction.....



"Greetings to you and your readers from Camp Crystal Lake. As I preside over the dark nether regions far below the icy waters of Crystal Lake, preparing for my Monster Metal band, FIRSTJASON to cross The Pond, I am grateful for this opportunity to give a voice to the silent Jason Voorhees."



How did you get the acting job on 'Friday The 13th'? You had starred in just one movie previously?


When I was a boy, I lived in the same town as director Sean S. Cunningham, a perfect little arithumbplace called Westport, Connecticut. I lived right by the Long Island Sound, and I loved to go swimming first thing in the morning every day. I was a good swimmer, and a decent soccer player, and I could play Jazz Piano too. I always liked acting but it wasn't until my Father took me to see STAR WARS in Times Square that I really wanted to be in a movie. I went back to see it nine times! I decided that I wanted to be in the movies like Luke Skywalker.


Then a friend on my soccer team told me about an audition to be held at the Westport YMCA, for kids who play soccer. Sean S. Cunningham was casting his new comedy, "MANNY'S ORPHANS". I had no agent, so I snuck in the audition, got handed a script, read, and succeeded in landing the 80-line role of "Roger", a sex-obsessed kid often seen reading a Playboy Magazine. However, "MANNY'S ORPHANS" was not a success. Most Americans were not interested in soccer in 1978, so Sean S. Cunningham thought up a way to make up for the loss quickly - a horror named "Friday the 13th".


Sean S. Cunningham called me up and asked, "Can you swim?"  When I said yes, he replied "Great, you got the part! Come on down to the office and take a look at the script." When I got there, however, they handed me Kevin Bacon's script, in which I read that "the counselor goes off into a cabin to make out with his girlfriend". Wow - I thought, this is AMAZING! I was only around 13 years old at the time. Then, Sean walked in, and said, "No, no, that's not for Ari, he is too young for that - here's his role, Jason. Ari, you're going to be the Monster, what do you think?" "The Monster?" "Yes - his name is Jason Voorhees", said Sean S. Cunningham.



I've been lucky enough to meet Tom Savini on a couple of occasions - and see him do a display with his whip! How did you find working with this FX legend?


Right after I was cast I went directly to work with Tom Savini. His special effects studio was like a Merlyn's Workshop of Horror. Everywhere there were masks, horror props, trick weapons, blood pumps, anatomically correct severed limbs, eyes, heads, and busts of Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. I was instantly inspired by Tom's intensity, creative spark, and intelligent, irreverant sense of humour - truly the Frank Zappa of Gore.


arilehmansavThere's a great story about how Tom used The Doors to help create the Jason mask I wore. Tom and his assistant Taso Stavrakos were always stagefighting with fencing sabres, riding dirtbikes and joking around. In fact, there was so much horseplay that the first mold of my face we cast had a laughing smile! Tom had an idea to get me to sit still. Knowing that I am a musician, Tom asked me, "Have you ever heard of The Doors?". Then he put on "People Are Strange" from the "STRANGE DAYS" album. I was mesmerized by the music, held still for the entire album, and the mold was perfect!


You were on the set of 'Friday The 13th' for only around four days - could you ever imagine the legendary status that those few days would bring?


That status is truly due to the dedicated friends and fans of Jason Voorhees and "FRIDAY THE 13TH". The moment "JAWS" jumped up out of the water, people remembered how much they wanted to watch brutal monsters. Especially, after the female-driven, mystical, and underworld-style 70's horror gems like "CARRIE", "ROSEMARY'S BABY" and "THE EXORCIST". During the making of "FRIDAY THE 13TH", we all were just glad to have a good summer job. Most of the cast and crew were from the NYC theater and TV scene, and relished the opportunity to get out of the crowded city and go out to the bucolic Water Gap region of New Jersey where we filmed "F13". None of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams that "FRIDAY THE 13TH" would go on to become a horror classic, or Jason a horror icon. "FRIDAY THE 13TH" is somehow similar to "JAWS", in that it took a usually safe, tranquil setting, a summer camp, and turned it into a place of absolute terror, much as "JAWS" did with their lovely beach setting. In many ways, when I jumped up out of the water, Young Jason was like "Jaws in the woods". I feel that it was the right time for a simple distraction - as it is again today - and there is very little as distracting as Jason Voorhees running at you through the woods with various farm implements!


Your appearance in the movie meant that you get the 'Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon' treatment, right?!


True. Tom Savini requested that I did not reveal the mask to the other actors, so I would hang out on the far end of the lake, and get into character by staring deeply into the waters, imagining what it would be like to dwell down under there for eleven years. One time, Kevin Bacon walked by, and found me gazing into the lake. "Whatcha doin' Ari?" he asked. "I am getting into character." Kevin Bacon exploded in laughter!



When did the cult status and horror convention appearances first start?


At the advice of a Friday the 13th collector, I first started doing the Horror Convention circuit1stjason in 2004 at a Fangoria/Chiller Theatre Weekend of Horror at The Meadowlands. It was a huge event and I remember meeting Betsy Palmer, who played Pamela Voorhees, my Mother, in "F13", and Kane Hodder, who has played Jason is Parts 7 - 10. I was amazed with the warm welcome from the fans, and I signed autographs for five hours straight that first day. Since then, I have appeared at Horror Conventions, Horror Film Festivals and events all over the US and in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. FIRSTJASON recently completed a successful eleven city tour of the MidWest, and we are performing in Spain at the Festival de Cine de Terror de Molins de Rei, near Barcelona, the first week of November 2009.


I've read that you are a horror fan, so hanging out with other cult stars must be great at the cons?


Meeting great actors like Bill Forsythe, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson, Michael Berryman, Doug Bradley and Robert Englund, and fine actresses like Betsy Palmer, Leslie Easterbrook, Linda Blair and Virginia Hey is a special experience that I urge everyone to share at the conventions. (Uber Rock's very own resident uber-nerd has experienced this, meeting seven of the afore-mentioned stars!). I am honored to be able to call them my friends as well. Of course, the twelve actors who have played Jason are a special fraternity. The best thing about the conventions are the parties, and I am always getting requests for FIRSTJASON to perform, and to organize the concert components, as I did successfully at the last Texas Fear Fest. There, I brought in Death Metal pioneers MACABRE, The Misfits former lead singer MICHALE GRAVES, the great EERIE VON of Danzig and Samhain fame, FIRSTJASON of course, and Texas Horror-Punk legends THE HORRIFICS. What a night!!! To find out where FIRSTJASON is performing please check our calendar:


It was widely regarded that you quit acting after 'Friday The 13th', yet there have been several other roles....


Yes. I have acted and also done soundtracks for several independent Horror Film projects. Mymask1 acting is featured in HELL-EPHONE, TERROR OVERLOAD, THANXGIVING and MASTER'S DEVILS, to name a few. I composed, performed and recorded the soundtrack for "VAMPIRA: THE MOVIE" which received the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Best Independent Film of 2007. I am currently finishing the soundtrack for the Horror-Musical-Comedy about Shirley Temple, WICKED LITTLE PRINCESS, with Chicago DJ's Risky and RyanB. The soundtrack for WICKED LITTLE PRINCESS is an infectious mix of 1920's and 30's Duke Ellington Orchestra tracks with South-Side Hip-Hop beats.


Tell us a little about the movie that I believe is in production called 'Night On Has Been Mountain'....


I played the Invisible Man, so that was just a voice-over, but I did a decent impression of Cesar Romero's Joker voice for the character...


ariatdarkcarnivalWould you say nowadays that music is more important to you than the movies?


Yes, as always, I am a musician first. I live for the feeling of being at the edge of the stage, between a kickass Metal Band and a screaming crowd!



Who were/are your major musical influences?





Tell us a little more about your soundtrack work. Didn't you collaborate once with Bill Moseley, whose Otis character in 'House Of 1000 Corpses' & 'The Devil's Rejects' is only slightly less scarred than his legendary appearance as Choptop in TCM2?


Bill Moseley is a freakin' GENIUS! Just check out his band CORNBUGS with that Wildman of Guitar, BUCKETHEAD, and you will agree. It was a great honour to work with him on six songs for the VAMPIRA: THE MOVIE soundtrack CD. Director Kevin Sean Michaels had written several poems about the bizarre characters from "PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE". Bill Moseley recorded spoken word versions, and then accompanied himself on a haunting Theremin. I then produced the six songs in my home studio. The resulting wildness can be heard here:



How did your band FirstJason form?


FIRSTJASON formed to give a voice to The Silent One, Jason Voorhees! Based here in firstjasonChicago, where Metal lives, I reached back into my own experiences on the hardcore punk scene, watching my buddies REAGAN YOUTH live onstage in Thompson Square Park, NYC, and BAD BRAINS at CBGB's back in the 1980's, for inspiration. Ultimately, it was when I got the right people around me that I began to find the Voice of Jason. Here is a recent concert review: "Like young Jason rising from the deep to take his prey, First Jason caught me by surprise. Lehman didn't just play the keytar, he melted that motherfucker. He didn't just sing songs about Jason, he sang them with a passion and a power that was above and beyond what the subject matter called for...he threw a Jason mask my way, I put it on and started banging my head, smiling like a maniac." MP Johnson FREAK TENSION March 23, 2009. Listen to FIRSTJASON music here:



You seem to be blurring the lines between metal and punk with FirstJason's music, echoed by your choice of bandmates...


FirstJason2Yes, that is accurate. The assist is Nefarious who also plays bass for MACABRE, and our drummer is Cleaver who also tours with THE CRO-MAGS. As many a bandleader will attest to, having the right personnel is critical. The combination of sounds and human energies in this trio is extremely powerful, while being completely flexible as well. In fact, Nefarious is the one who inspired me to create the Mighty KeySword Of Doom, that is an essential component of the FIRSTJASON sound and magnetic onstage appeal. Our debut CD "JASON IS WATCHING!" just got 4.5 out of 5 stars from DREADCENTRAL'S music critic, Scott A. Johnson, and is available here:



Educate our loyal readers on what exactly is the 'Keysword'???


arikeyswordI am a keyboardist, so I developed what has been described as a keytar on steroids - The Mighty KeySword of Doom. It's an analog synth, that I duct taped to a giant wooden Chinese sword, and attached a guitar strap to. I then put it straight through a 1/2 stack or similar with distortion. The result is that I can play just as loud but twice as fast as a guitarist! You can view pics of me playing the Mighty KeySword Of Doom here:



I guess that FirstJason will continue to play the horror conventions......


Yes. FIRSTJASON has appeared at TEXAS FEAR FEST, HORRORHOUND WEEKEND, FANGORIA WEEKEND OF HORRORS, ROCK AND SHOCK & DARK CARNIVAL to name a few. I am involved with planning several concerts at conventions next year, since 2010 is the 30th Anniversary of the release of "FRIDAY THE 13TH". 



Tell us some more about your appearance at that Spanish Horror Festival soon......


We are all very excited and honoured to be appearing at the Festival de Cine de Terror de Molins de Rei, near Barcelona, Spain. This is a very significant event, and Quentin Tarantino and Stephen King have been guests in the past. This year, the focus is on children in horror, and FIRSTJASON is proud to be selected to perform in concert. There will be scores of independent Horror Films featured, and filmmakers from around the world. We did a hot promo for the event featuring the amazing Sofiya Smirnova: Here is the event website:



Do you have a favourite rock-themed horror movie? Are you down with 'Trick Or Treat' or are you more of a 'Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare' man?!


'Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare' is excellent, but it's hard to beat 'Trick Or Treat' with both Ozzy Osbourne AND Gene Simmons. Meanwhile, my favorite Rock moment in Horror is in Argento's "PHENOMENA" when MOTORHEAD is accompanying the scene when they remove the body of Professor MacGregor, played by Donald Pleasance. IRON MAIDEN'S music is also featured there. The Italian Horror-Rock Fusion band GOBLIN performs the original score.



What are your thoughts on the state of horror at this moment in time?


ari13thThe future is all about independent horror, although some Raimi features like "DRAG ME TO HELL" and "30 DAYS OF NIGHT" show the promise of originality. Soon the film Industry will experience what the music industry already went through. Everyone will be able to download films all the time, cheaply, within the next two years. That gives independent filmmakers a chance to reach audiences that they never could before, and offer their films for a bargain price in order to compete. It's an exciting time to be a part of this new growing independent horror scene.


What did you think about the 'Friday The 13th' remake?


I had fun with it, and that's what "F13" is all about - scary fun. I felt that Derek Mears did a superb job (as Jason Voorhees), and I am glad to hear that he will be returning to the role. Perhaps the producers were aiming at the younger crowd, realizing at the outset that they could never remake a classic; they did not try to. Instead they chose a fun romp in the woods with Jason!



They gave Jason long hair in the remake - what do you think he was listening to in thatarihorns ramshackle old abode he was holed up in? King Diamond? Helloween? Manowar?





There is a section on Uber Rock dedicated to bands reliving their Gigs From Hell, but I wanna try something different for Halloween - do you have a convention appearance from Hell? A crazy stalker lady showing you more than affection, maybe? A meathead kicking off due to the autograph charges? Anything?!?


Well, there was that one time that we performed at The Hannah House in Indianapolis, a famous haunted mansion known for harboring many actual ghosts. I started the show by thanking everyone for coming, including the ghosts. Somewhere in the middle of the set, I was singing right over this huge stage light - and it just went out suddenly, even though we could all see it was still plugged in. The band stopped playing, but I just laughed and kept singing in the dark. As soon as Cleaver hit the drums again, the lights went on just as mysteriously as they went out. Everyone was a bit freaked out by that, and a bit drunk by then too - the place went wild!!!



Finally, the Über Röck 'N' Röll Test!!! Ten random either/or questions designed to see just how cool you are!!!!  


Alice Cooper or Kiss?
That's a tough one, but it's gotta be Alice...


Misfits or Rob Zombie?
Another challenge. Here: Early Rob & Late Misfits...


Kane Hodder or Chainsaw Cain?


Footloose or Tremors?
A Bacon Fest? I'll take TREMORS for a laugh...


PG-13 or NC-17?
NC-17 for me please...


Metal or Punk?
BOTH Obviously...


Charles Manson or Marilyn Manson?
Marilyn. Horror, not Murder, OK?...


Blackie Lawless or Lucy Lawless?
Blackie from W.A.S.P of course...


Freddy or Ash or Pinhead or Michael Myers?


Friday The 13th or Halloween?