Its still a guessing game for Cathedral
Since 1989 when Lee Dorrian became disenchanted with the Punk scene and the Death Metal direction, his former band Napalm Death was taking he took what was a rather eccentric step at the time of starting a Doom Metal band. The "In Memoriam" demo surfaced in 1990 followed by another demo known as the "Forest of Equilibrium sessions". When "Forest of Equilibrium" was eventually released in 1991, it was greeted by cries of "what the f..k is this". A completely different beast to Napalm Death in every way but what they achieved was creating a sound linking traditional old school Doom Metal with a extreme metal aesthetic. The album stands up to this day as one of the most important Doom albums of all time. Since then Cathedral have always been a band to push boundaries and have never stuck to the conventional approach to making metal music. The back catalog of albums is one of the widest, diverse collection of recordings ever produced from a band in the Metal genre. From extreme Doom, Progressive Rock, Stoner Rock, Psychedelic, Traditional Heavy Metal to Jazz, Folk and everything in-between, they have always been unpredictable. The new album "The Guessing Game is no exception, its a ambitious monster of a album spanning two discs of eccentric musical themes, while there is still the faints sounds of their doomy beginnings, the album is the weirdest, most Progressive recording to date. I was lucky enough to track down Garry "Gaz" Jennings for this interview, hope you enjoy it.
Hello from Seattle, first up i must say i am a long time fan after first hearing you for the first time when "Forest of Equilibrium" was released in 91. Like most fans would be wondering, why was there such a long break between "The Garden Of Unearthly Delights" and the new album for the band?
The reason for such a long period of inactivity was due to whether we wanted to carry on as a band. When we did the garden we seriously considered it to be our last album. We toured after the albums release but took time out to see if we wanted to do another record. After a year or so break lee and myself got together to write and see what kind off stuff i could come up with and to see if the material was any good so we just took it from there.
Hearing the new album for the first time, my first impression was the album seems to sum up the band's career by combining all the sounds and styles the band has ever done into the one album. Was this just a accident or the plan all along?
I agree. We just tried to be cathedral and do whatever came to us really and luckily it turned out good. There's all elements of what we've tried to do throughout our career.
Cathedral has always experimented with progressive rock elements but this album seems to be more progressive than any album before it. I know the band has always been big fans of obscure 70's rock but was there a particular inspiration that pushed the band in that direction for this album?
Lee and myself were listening to a lot of euro crime soundtracks so a lot of influence came from that plus a lot of the cool bands we both dig. There was a lot more emphasis on more prog and less of the heavy stuff.
Cathedral has become a huge influence on the doom metal scene and people still rate the first album as a major turning point in the history of doom metal, how do you feel about this?
I'd like to think that we've played a part in making doom more popular but then again bands like Candlemass,Trouble,St Vitus were there before us and are a major influence on most doom bands that are just starting out. As for our forest album I'm glad that after 19 years people still dig it.
I read the band had excess material for the recording sessions that led to the new album. Was it material that has been around for a while or did you go into the recording with totally brand new ideas in mind?
We had more material written but a lot of it never got to the rehearsal stage. The material was out and out doom in the vein of Trouble, Revelation, Celtic frost, Dream death etc...Hopefully we'll get round to using this stuff in the future.
How do you rate the back catalog when you hear them now? What do you personally rate as the high-points of Cathedral's recording output?
Some of the stuff we've recorded is pretty good and some not so good. Supernatural sounded good when we were rehearsing the songs but the sound of the album ain't too good. I really liked caravan when we were rehearsing the songs cos it was a real band effort with everybody contributing with writing and arrangements but the material is too much of a mish mash of styles like freedom and heavy load etc....In saying that heavy load is probably my favorite song. Fave album is probably the garden. i think some of the production on the albums haven't been that great, in saying that the production on carnival ain't brilliant but the album has got a great vibe and a lot of energy. I enjoyed making that album
Picking songs for your live-set must be a nightmare, how does the band come to a mutual agreement on what to play?
We don't. ha ha ! Some songs we have to play live like hopkins but as for picking the set, it's a nightmare. I always want to play more obscure songs but Brian always wants to play the more obvious songs, so me and him have debates over that which can be quite heated but we come to some sort of compromise, where as Leo will just pick an obscure song we've never played in years and just shout it out and everybody kinda looks at each other lost for words.
"The Garden Of Unearthly Delights" got some amazing reviews when it was released, probably the best reviews i personally have ever read for a Cathedral album . Is that something you thought about when making the new album and does critical success mean much to the band?
We never give it much thought really. Of course getting great reviews is great cos it helps when people read them and it they read its a good album. We have been quite lucky cos we have never had any major bad reviews.
Is it a challenge keeping the band sounding fresh after all these years and was there any point in the past where you thought about splitting up?
Of course it's a challenge we don't wanna keep doing the same stuff over and over. We have to challenge ourselves to keep it interesting. As i said in the first question, we were near to calling it a day after the last album.
Moving away from Cathedral for the time being, i have to ask about your passion for 70's rock especially the obscure variety. The 70's was a incredibly fertile time for music, what has happened to music these days apart from the obvious, computers, internet etc and why was the 70's so experimental and musical in your opinion compared to today's mainstream?
Lee and myself just dig music from the seventies. Simple as that really. More freedom to experiment without commercial restrictions.
To celebrate the release of the new album, The Guessing Game, you have announced 6 live shows in late April / early May 2010. Taking in England, Scotland and both Southern and Northern Ireland, it seems like it is going to be one of the all time great doom tours. Is there anymore news on that ?
Hopefully should be a good tour cos the two bands who are supporting us are both killer. In fact along with Hellfueled, The Gates Of Slumber are one of my fave bands at the moment.
On the new album you have no other than Alison O`Donnell from Mellow Candle singing on "Funeral Of Dreams". How did that come about and with all due respect to Alison, are these 70's rock musicians still easy to find these days?
I don't really know how it came about really. Lee got in touch with her and asked if she'd like to sing on the album and she agree which is like the coolest thing ever.
I must also make mention of the lyrics to "Journey Into Jade" where the band celebrate the band in song. They are great lyrics and one of the many highlights on the album, where and how did you come up with the concept for the track?
Again Lee came up with the idea which i thought was a real good idea. I think they sum up whats been before and if there's any future left for us.????????
Cathedral has always had very visual lyrics that conjure up many different themes and images and you even have the artwork to match the music with the great work of Dave Patchett. Has Cathedral ever thought about doing a movie, say like Pink Floyd's The Wall with the animation and involve some of that art?
I don't know that one you'd have to ask him yourself I'm afraid. I very much doubt it.
Has the US got any chance of seeing the band perform in the near future? We are all dying to see the band live. Personally i haven't seen the band live since 1992 so its been a long time between drinks.
I think the idea of a tour is out of the question as three of us all have regular jobs but if the chance came to play a couple of festivals we'd love to do it.
Thanks for the interview, its been a honor to interview you. Is there any final words or thoughts for the Cathedral faithful out there?
Cheers for the interview to all the people who have supported us thank you for being there throughout the last 20 years stay heavy and be true to what you believe in and dont follow trends.