Born of Osiris’ Lee McKinney on the Dangers of Technology, the State of Metal, and More

"I think we’re becoming one with our cell phones, whether we choose to or not"

Born of Osiris

Progressive metalcore act Born of Osiris have remained a consistent force in heavy music, thanks to the group’s penchant for marrying impressive technical instrumentation with undeniable melody. The Illinois outfit recently released its new studio album, The Simulation, which centers around a theme that’s a hot topic right now: the dangers of technology.

“We choose to have this phone, but it’s scary,” guitarist Lee McKinney tells Heavy Consequence. “I see people that are growing up, not going outside, playing video games, watching videos on their cell. It’s a dangerous thing.”

With Born of Osiris set to kick off a headlining North American tour next month, Heavy Consequence caught up with McKinney to further discuss the themes found throughout The Simulation, his thoughts on the direction of metal music and his upcoming debut solo album. Read the interview below.

On The Simulation and how Born of Osiris’ sound and style has changed from their first albums to now

I talk about growth a lot with albums, but with this one, we almost return to form. With this record, we’re returning to what we want to do. We realized we needed to stop chasing opinions. We did a 10-year anniversary tour of our first album and realized that people still like that sporadic tech side of us so, so we brought it back in the new album, as well as naturally being older and just having that natural progression as musicians.

On how Born of Osiris packed such variety into The Simulation

Our drummer is a real death metal guy and has the technical side. He’s a songwriter, and I’m a songwriter, and every record sounds different because the drummer and I want it to. We have this yin-yang approach, in that he’s the technical, death metal dude, and I’m the guy that is more structured in terms of song structure, having a solid verse and definite chorus. That brings those two sounds together. We do have a new member, Nick, who was a fan of the band a long time, so he has a cool perspective of not being in the band but knowing the band and saying, “If I was in the band, I would do this!” So, having a third person writing songs is a really cool addition and brings more variety.

On hearing fans’ reactions to The Simulation

For every record, it’s positive and negative, and as long as more people are keep coming to our shows, that’s all I care about. I stopped reading comments after our first few albums came out. I think for this one, it’s in the sweet spot of what we wanted to do and what the fans wanted us to do, not necessarily on purpose, but after doing the 10-year anniversary tour, we realized that we wanted to keep that sound. There was a great reaction to it, and people were saying, “You should go read the comments,” so I finally read one comment, and it was really good.

On the album’s single and video “The Accursed” being about people being addicted to machines, social media and virtual reality

I think we’re becoming one with our cell phones, whether we choose to or not. I’m 29, so I’m of that generation where people say we are addicted to their phones, but I would say that the younger ones are even crazier. Everything is in the phone. You get a phone at a young age, and it’s a style thing — every kid has one. It feels crazy. Also, with your phone in your hands, you have a calculator and can do perfect math. You can spell everything correctly. You have any answer to any question immediately. What if this phone was a permanent attachment? We have to live with it, and things will advance with technology and artificial intelligence, but we have to keep it at bay.

On his personal favorite songs off The Simulation

“Silence the Echo” is fun, because it’s the first time I’m playing an eight-string, so it feels heavy and big on bass. “The Accursed” is fun to play live. I’ve also been enjoying “Analogs in a Cell,” because it has some fun guitar parts. It’s a selfish thing for me to be able to shred, and the tempo and vibe of that song will be fun live. I think people like like to hear it live.

On the importance of the live show to Born of Osiris

It’s definitely important. A lot of us play different roles. Our keyboard player builds out light show. Everybody takes their own roles and excels different ways. This year, we’re bringing out a lot of lights and different things. We’re putting a lot of money into the show, but that’s how you know a live show is important to a band. We’re making less money on the tours because we’re putting more into the stage show.

On the Warped Tour having its final cross-country run last year

I’ve had memories of going to the Warped Tour when I was younger. We were all into punk before we were into metal. It was an evolution, so I have good memories from there. We were heavy for the tour, but we did it a couple of times. But being a metal band, it’s different. Sometimes it’s cool to be the heavy band on the bill, because people want to see some extra aggression, but it’s also the point that you’re on the fringe of what that tour is about, so a lot of kids don’t come. We had a great experience, but we were definitely the oddball heavier band. I respect it, and I think they’ll keep doing what they do, just in a different format.

On what it was like coming up from the Chicago-area music scene

It was interesting, because coming up in high school, Veil of Maya was a big technical metal band like us, and they signed to Sumerian Records, and then there was After the Burial, who also signed to Sumerian. And, then we signed to Sumerian. We had this really cool thing coming up in Chicago, and we were feeding off each other. People started calling all of us “Sumerian-core,” which is funny, because it was really just that they happened to come to our place at that point in time and snagged each of our bands.

On his thoughts on the state of metal music

There are a couple of things I find interesting lately. One is that people have been commenting on our new album, saying, “Thank God metal isn’t dead. You guys are bringing it back.” I didn’t know it was dead! (Laughs) Then, our tour manager told us, “I think metal is making a comeback!” Things come in cycles — dub-step, hip-hop — then people are sick of that and want metal again. So, maybe it is coming back, if it was dead. I don’t know. I’m hearing both ends of the spectrum.

On where he sees Born of Osiris 10 years from now

That’s a good question, because we’re getting close to our thirties now, and I’ve thought about this a lot. It depends on what your band does and how your band does business. Ten years from now, I would be a year away from 40, and I won’t look as good in skinny jeans. Will I lose the young kids? But, our band has never been an Instagram band. We do our best to look presentable, but that’s not why kids come to our shows. We try to be true and make music for the sake of music. In 10 years, we’ll know whether this is about music and being timeless or whether it’s a trend.

On his upcoming solo album

It’s guitar-driven, and it’s instrumental, so there are no vocals at all. It’s got quiet moments, and it’s got heavy moments. I wouldn’t call it a metal record. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and I’m pumped up about it. I played every instrument, except I had one guest saxophone player. I think every guitar player who wants to do it for a living grows up listening to the greats and wanting to do a solo guitar record. As an 11-year-old kid, I told myself, “I’m going to do that one day.” It’s that time.

Our thanks to Lee McKinney for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up Born of Osiris’ The Simulation album at this location, and click here to see the dates for their upcoming North American headlining tour with support from Chelsea Grin and Make Them Suffer.

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