Unfortunately, all good things come to an end some time. Cathedral have always been a band that never cared about commercial success and they always did their own thing. In this last interview with them, Lee Dorrian (Vocals) and Garry ”Gaz” Jennings (Guitars) talk about why they disband, they make a flashback into more than two decades of existence, they remember good and bad times and in the end, they tell us not to feel sad but enjoy what they left behind. Observe the last words of the two mainmen behind the group, with a little spicy stuff hidden inside these lines. Their last album entitled ”The Last Spire” will be released somewhere in 2012. Until then, enjoy!
So, welcome to Greece once again. First of all I have to tell you that we don’t know if we must be happy for having you, or feeling bad for disbanding. But after 20 years, I can tell that we’ve had a lot of fun with your creations and this is the point I must tell you that even fans not liking the band, or not being very fond of Cathedral, have had always something good to say. So, we’d like to start with how you two met, because you were in totally different bands, you (Lee) were playing with Napalm Death and you (Gaz) were playing with Acid Reign. So, how did this love for bands like Black Sabbath, Trouble, Pentagram get joined by you?
Lee: We were into it, that’s what brought us together eventually. But Dan Lilker from Nuclear Assault knew Gaz, Acid Reign toured with Nuclear Assault. And Dan said ”oh, you should meet this guy from Acid Reign called Gaz, ’cause he’s really into Sabbath and Trouble and all others”. ‘Cause Dan was into that kind of stuff, not many of the people were into it.
He was into…let’s say everything!
Lee: (Smiles) Yeah, not many people were into those kind of bands, I mean I knew a few people. So, after saying I should meet Gaz a few times, this time was… in Leicester I think it was, around March in ’88 I think, I met Gaz backstage and went talking about doing bands and stuff, we started a good chat, a good conversation and then came nothing more of it. And then Grief, our bass player, the original bass player was doing a fanzine called MDBO and he saw the copy of a Candlemass gig, Grief was doing a projection…
Gaz: I basically met Grief outside, in a fowyer, walked past and saw his fanzine which was dedicated to doom metal which in 1988 was pretty much unheard off and talked about bands being on the underground, because doom metal was way underground. That kind freaked me out, because all these bands I’ve heard off, I know off, or others I hadn’t heard,I had some of them and some of them I’ve never had and I wanted to learn through his fanzine. So about six months down the line we mentioned maybe getting a band together, him and Lee were getting a band together, which of course is kind weird because previously we had talked about that kind of stuff. And we said ”yeah, give it a shot, shall we get on”. God knows what we’re gonna do, how we’re going to sound like, if it was going to be any good…
Lee: I think it’s basically an idea that came out being extremely drunk one night, in the cold light of daze so I said ”Let’s do a band together” but the reality was that the next day I was wondering ”How are we going to find members if we want to play that kind of stuff”, then we rememberd Gaz and Grief were in the lair of it, and they found me up, so we got together and had a jam with the original drummer of Sacrilege, Andy Baker, was in the group as a player.
Gaz: It was bizzare the first rehearsals, ’cause we didn’t know what… we knew what we wanted to do, but it was strange getting there, ’cause when you meet first time, me with different personalities, you don’t know what each others like… strange ones, but 20-21 years later down the line we’re still here doing it…
Lee: Not for much longer (laughs)…
Gaz: (laughs) Yeah, not for much longer, but we’re still here at least.
It’s very nice to see you both smiling, while remembering these because it feels like nothing was in vain after all, I mean you really had your good moments. If you weigh things, were the good moments more than the bad ones?
Lee: The thing is there’s been a lot of shit going, I think there’s only so far you can go before things kind of deteriorate, but we feel quite happy of how we were and how we are unless two records we did we’re really pleased with. I think… we’re not teenagers any more, and once we still feel quite good about what we do…
You ain’t middle-aged either, though…
Lee: Yeah, but if we go on too much longer, it could end dragging on, we wanted to go while we’ve still got something left.
While there’s still some spark on you…
Lee: Yeah, otherwise… several bands are carrying on for the sake of it, making records for the shake of it, every record we do, we’re 100% into it, we don’t wanna be in a situation where we’re done with the times we give 100% into it, so…
So, are you satisfied with ”The Guessing Game” as it is the last album? It was the daring one let’s say, as it is a double album, you never did that before, it’s about 85 minutes of music and if we accept the fact that each album reflects somehow of the mood on the current moment of its creation, what was the mood while doing it? It seems like you’re diving back to the ’70s roots of your listenings.
Gaz: No, we’re listening to all kinds of stuff, the style basically it was different…
Lee: We didn’t know if we were going to do an album because after ”The Garden…” (note: Of Unearthly Delights) because me and Gaz… there’s a five year gap between these two albums, we usually had a two year gap between our albums…
This was the biggest gap in your career ever, having already signed with Nuclear Blast, the people thought you were going to be a little more active…
Both: (laughing) the opposite!
You tended to have many oppositions, talking about you (Lee) were in the fastest band ever, in Napalm Death and you joined the slowest one, you also did a very happy album which was ”Caravan Beyond Redemption” and then dive into your roots and doing ”Endtyme”, so Cathedral were the night and the day together.
Lee: I mean, being in a band, I’ve always put it the way you listen to records, you go through phases and things you want more, just because you’re not in the public, people would see it as weird, the way you would listen to something very folky, it could be something pop then it could be something like ultra doom. I mean, we’ve just got wide taste in music and that moment in time when we do a record is what we feel in the most.
I can tell that, because on the one hand we have songs like ”Melancholy Emperor” and on the other hand we have songs like ”Caleidoscope Of Desire” or ”Blue Light”. I mean, this shows how open minded the band was and one of the facts why it was praised by all fans of music.
Lee: But it was also one of the reasons you get condemned, because people don’t understand it, people like things simply explained. They like things put in a box without questioning… So, as much as a lot of people love what we do, a lot of people don’t because they just don’t get it.
That’s what happened with one of the bands you love, Celtic Frost…
Lee: (laughs) Though we never got that far…
You lived it better when they made ”Into The Pandemonium” and it was getting 0% on Kerrang! and such stuff…
Gaz: Well, that’s extreme…
Lee: Not ”Into The Pandemonium” but ”Cold Lake”…
Gaz: ”Cold Lake”, yeah…
So, after many line-ups, we even had your replacer in Acid Reign in the band, Adam Lehan, then many musicians passes and then you had Leo (Smee) and Brian (Dixon) to join the band, a line up that lasted for 17 years almost, with a gap of… in about 2004. And how much do you believe this steady line-up helped the band develop its sound?
Gaz: I don’t know how the sound developed for me, it’s quite random, our sound is… It’s not like it’s… Well, if you listen to our first album (”Forest Of Equilibrium”) you’d never imagine we’d sound the way we do today. So, I mean we’re very individualists as characters. Leo is not in the band any more.
Lee: We all have individual tastes and somehow turns into opposition to each other. And soundwise it has a dynamic I suppose.
Gaz: I wouldn’t say that… It’s no disrespect for Leo and Brian, I don’t think we’ve had major development in the band because basically the stuff me and Lee were writing is depending on the phases we were going through, we’re listening to different styles, ’cause Brian basically… he would call for ideas but the basic stuff was written by me and Lee, pretty much we’ve been listening to a certain style of music and that’s where we wanted to go at that point. Leo had some good ideas, but his ideas were kind of crazy ideas, no row, he was… well, he was quite focuses on where to go, which is good because he opened new things for us to do. I still think that basic stuff from the day one to now is myself and Lee literally and so goes musically too.
Lee: I think we dig deeper in our music, we’re obsessed with that kind of thing where… Brian is in a lot underground stuff from a totally different angle. He’s into American rock-star ’70s thing, Gaz is into more classical heavy metal from the ’80s as long as late ’60s-early 70s rock and prog stuff, and punk… I think me and Gaz share very similar tastes ’cause we like to go diverse…
And all these get combined in the end…
Lee: Yeah, of course, and that’s why people can’t understand what we do a lot of times… I think in years to come, in 20 years time, people will look and maybe piece together what we did easier. ‘Cause people think we want to be something, we want to try something we’re not. We’re just doing what we do. We’re not trying to sound like a ’70s band, we’re not trying to sound like this or sound like that. Yes, we have our influences in a way but we’re not getting deliberate, we’re not trying to sound like a band from ’72 for example.
From my point of view I’ve always been thinking that things were simple and you were always to the point on what you wanted to make. Next question is how did Scott Carlsson join the band, from the legendary Repulsion, back in the day?
Gaz: Yes, Scott came in ’92…no, it was ’94…
Did you find some things in common again?
Gaz: He’s a friend, being in the band once in the past, he knew what the band was about…we don’t even know what the band is about! He shares the same enthusiasm for life, underground movies and underground music, in the same kind of enthusiastic way.
Is he going to be on the last album you make?
Are there any plans or a title?
Gaz: ”The Last Spire”, it’s gonna be called ”The Last Spire”.
Lee: From ”Cathedral Spires”
Gaz: That’s the last album we do and probably we stick with it, we have some basic ideas of what we want to do.
Lee: After we do the last gig on London, that’s what we need to sit down and say.
I was going to ask about that, when the last gig will be and if you’re going to make something special about it. A special set maybe or a DVD after that.
Gaz: Hopefully we could do a DVD, we tried to do a dvd on the anniversary gig last year, but for some strange reason we were left to believe it was going to be far expensive footage, you can’t make a dvd with three cameras.
Lee: It’s coming out as a live album.
Gaz: For the last gig we’re hopefully gonna get it filmed.
Lee: We do have a few things in mind. One guest appearance in particular…
Gaz: If it works out, but it should be good, it should be interesting.
The things have changed a lot since you started the band, in which terms did the band remain the same in its ideas and how much different did it get about being open minded or widen its horizons through the years.
Gaz: They were widened as soon as we did the first album.
Lee: The concept stayed the same.
Gaz: Open mindedness was after the first album. We just embraced all the crazy ’70s and ’60s stuff and taking them all in enough. I think that’s basically just what we did and got open minded later.
Lee: The first album was just the starting point really.
Gaz: We weren’t focused on the first album.
Lee: In my sense is weird but… is as soon as you do something and then you stop and you try to copy what you do, it gets boring, so you try to do something else, you can stay to your roots but also expand it, ’cause I think if we just carried on doing ”The Forest Of Equilibrium” over and over again, it would be lying to ourselves, because we’ve been in bands… Napalm, one of the reasons I left the band is because it started being repetitive.
Yes, I’ve heard that you were kind of sick with the whole scene and you just wanted to do your own thing.
Lee: I think when we did the first album, lots of bands started playing ultra slow, that’s the same thing with Napalm, a lot of bands started playing ultra fast and it got kind of boring.
I was lucky to see you guested by them at Hellfest 2009 though, it was a great moment.
Lee: That was good for me !
I think a very crucial point was the change from ”The Forest Of Equilibrium” to ”The Ethereal Mirror” because first of all, the music became let’s say a little more groovy and up-tempo. This was because of you (Gaz). And second we had a big change in your vocal style (Lee). I’d like to ask you how much did you adapt to it, because the first album is let’s say so nihilistic, everything turns to zero in the end, you can’t find some happiness. ”Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain” as you say. On the second album we have you singing normally, quite big change and not anyone can do it, so how were you feeling after that?
Lee: I think we had the ”Soul Sacrifice” EP in the middle, because if you get ”Forest…” to ”Ethereal Mirror” then it’s a big change. But if you get the first album to ”Soul Sacrifice” EP, you see the thing was starting to change a bit, songs were getting a bit more groovy and the vocal style slightly different to the album.
I would be praising the concept of ”Cosmic Funeral” let’s say because it showed where the band would go.
Lee: That’s on ”Statik Majik”, after ”The Ethereal Mirro”.
Yes, and ”Statik Majik” was the development of what followed in ”The Carnival Bizzare” where I belive it’s the peak of the band concerning let’s say creativity, will to do what you wanted to do from the beginning, things going like you want, you also had Tony Iommi, I think it was one of the happiest moments in your lives ever, he said it was an honour for him, he said that when ”Forbidden” (the last Black Sabbath album) war released in ’96, he was asked about it and he said ”the guys were very kind to ask me and of course I would do it”.
Lee: The thing is after ”Ethereal Mirror” things started taking a nice start, after this American tour things were very shitty, we lost Day In Columbia, we had two years or more of just doing anything ready, so when we got the line-up together matching and had the songs ready for ”The Carnival Bizzare”, we just were very excited to get to the studio and I think it shows, there’s a good energy on this record.
This good mood shows also on ”Caravan Beyond Redemption”. I think let’s say it’s the happy album, not happy I mean lousy but it pours of positive energy. And the big question is what the mood was when you did ”Endtyme” because it sounds like you’re ok with what you do but you did a dive into the roots again.
Lee: To me, I didn’t like the fact we were becoming safe-sounding. And I think on ”Caravan Beyond Redemption”, it’s been good to become unpredictable to that point but we almost started to be unpredictably predictable, or predictably unpredictable if that’s what was, ’cause people knew to expect something crazy, something unusual that’s gonna happen, it was a point where it became normal for us to do weird stuff, so i think by doing ”Endtyme” is just…annihilate all that’s happened, before we got too far onto this realm of…safety! That was the whole idea.
We made a special tribute about the band, and I was refering to that fact, because I’ve always been thinking that ”The VIIth Coming” didn’t get the recognition it should because of the impact that ”Endtyme” had to the fans. I think maybe even today, 10 years later they haven’t got over it, I think it was the big surprise at the right timing. It kind of shocked the world back then and it brought many fans towards you that weren’t into more happy stuff.
Lee: We drove many fans away as well with ”Endtyme”.
Gaz: I think ”The VIIth Coming” was probably the one album we’ve done which is kind of like… I think every band does an album which is… a lost album and an album that doesn’t work and I think ”VIIth Coming” was ours, it’s a strange one, it was scratching out for a new direction.
Lee: The thing with ”Endtyme” was I was so insisting, on a definite focus how it was going to be. By the time we’ve done it, I was like ”Well, we’ve done it”. When we came to do the next one, there was not such a definite idea how it should sound like. So it went to become more random again.
Is it real that…there’s a rumor about not having Dave Patchett (the band’s illustrator) on this cover (the one of ”Endtyme”) because the company didn’t have the budget to pay him, but I know that his cover is in the Japanese edition.
Lee: The Japanese paid for it. They paid for it to be in Japan.
So, was this a reason to leave Earache after that, let’s say?
Lee: There’s many reasons.
Gaz: There’s a lot of reasons. Mostly negative things, there’s many reasons for leaving.
Lee: It was good to get out.
Gaz: We had to get away from it. And once we got away, our relationship with the label guys was bad, because we were doing this day to day, but there were some good guys there.
So you did this album (”The VIIth Coming”) with Dream Catcher which was a one-off situation, then you signed with Nuclear Blast and suddenly let’s say the world falls down of our feet because you say you are disbanding. How would you like to be remembered? It’s over, we’ve had you in our lives but we feel a little sad.
Lee: Don’t get sad about it, the thing is we’ve had what we did in our lives, taking for granted we had a demo 22 years before, and we’re sitting now talking about what we did then and now, it’s quite an achievement. So, there’s no reason to be depressed, just enjoy what we left behind and try to enjoy the legacy of our music I suppose. That’s what we’re gonna do, ’cause it’s not we formed the band just like 2 years ago, it’s a long time, we’re not teenagers any more, so we just did what we could do, and we tried not to get too predictable. It’s been half of our actual life in this band, the biggest part of our lives.
So, are you going to do anything musically after that? You did one album with Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, called ”Rampton” in 2002 and you had promised me off the record that you would do something like Napalm Death in the future, I don’t know if that still exists.
Lee: We’re gonna make a band with Scott Carlsson and Nicke Andersson (ex-Entombed, Hellacopters). We were gonna do like a Discharge style band but it never happened.
Gaz: I don’t know what we’re gonna do musically, if it’s gonna be the two of us, it won’t be like Cathedral.
Lee: We’ll just have a break, when the band’s over because it’s not a rush into it really. Cathedral is definitely over, we’ll never be back. Unless we get a 10 million pound deal in Madison Square Garden (laughs) when we’re 80 years old or something, but that’s not gonna happen, so…
We’d like to wish you good luck in the future, I personally want to thank you for what you have offered us and I wish that many bands in the future will be like you in the open mindedness and the focusing of your movements.
Both: Thank you too, it’s been a pleasure.
Interview by: Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras.