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Gary Jennings Cathedral - Interview
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Perth was lucky enough to witness the final show ever from doom metal legends Cathedral back in 2012 at Soundwave Festival and while there was maybe not a lot of attention given to it at the time, it was a big deal for the doom metal fans around the world who all credit the band as being one of the pioneers of the genre. 3 years later and the band are about to re-release as part of a special 25 year anniversary package, the first recordings from back in 1990 called "In Memoriam" which set things up for the debut record that is "Forest of Equilibrium" which is considered a true classic. We caught up with Gaz to talk about the legacy of Cathedral and the upcoming release.



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Andrew: I guess the first thing we have to mention is that we are in Perth and the last show Cathedral did was actually in Perth for Soundwave. How was it for you?

Garry: Yeah that's right! A handful of people there, I remember it.

Andrew: It was a nice privilege for us to have but how did it feel for you guys on that last show?

Garry: I wouldn't say it was emotional or sentimental or anything like that. We knew we were going to be splitting for a while anyway, it's just one of those things where the band had run it's course for what it needed to do. It was not like we were all crying about it and everything, we just felt we had done what we had done and that was it really. I suppose once we walked off I kinda felt that was it really, we'll never play together again. But we had a good time playing over the years, it's not like we were really upset about anything. These things in life happen, things come to an end and you just gotta move on and not dwell on it. I suppose looking back maybe had I not still been involved in music to a certain point and maybe if I had just walked out on music completely and got myself what people would call a regular job and then 5 or 6 years down the line I would of looked back and thought 'Oh shit I wish I was still playing' and you would miss it. But because I'm still involved in music, it's part of the parcel, I don't really think about it to tell you the truth. But I enjoyed the club shows we played over there and I enjoyed the festivals but there was nothing emotional about it or anything.

Andrew: Well it was 3 years ago so how do you still feel about leaving the band as it is?

Garry: It's just one of these things like I say, it done what it had to do. I don't know where else we could of gone with it because on every record we tried to do different things with the music we were doing. Some of the records we really good, some of them probably not as good as what they could of been. Not every record we did was a good record, we tried and sometimes it just didn't come off but I mean the band had just run it's course and we had talked about calling it quits since about 2005. In a band you go through stages of being popular and then sometimes trends change and other bands come around and you kinda fall out of favor sometimes and then your record sales or your gigs aren't as well attended as they used to be and then you think 'Ah well what's the point? Maybe we should just knock it on it's head instead of carrying on'. And I think around 2005 when we did that Garden record ("The Garden of Unearthly Delights"), we talked about that maybe being the last record we would ever make. We felt around then that maybe it was time to call it quits so we did the tour in 2006 and we played with Electric Wizard and Grand Magus. So before that we did a tour and some of the turn outs were OK, they weren't great but some were good and some were bad. But when we did that tour with Electric Wizard and Grand Magus, and I'm not saying it was just us, that tour the billing helped as well and most of the gigs we did around then, they were all packed out! It was wierd, all of a sudden we had some kind of resurgence in popularity and we thought 'What's going on here?' 3 or 4 years ago noone was really coming to see us and now all the gigs especially in Europe like Germany, we've never really done well in Germany and we did 5 or 6 shows in Germany and they were all absolutely jam packed! It was really odd, it was wierd for us but it was good! It kinda gave us a shot of enthusiasm and made us think about it so we carried on and we did the guessing game and again we felt like after that, what could we do after this?

We did a tour after that, that went well for us but then we just felt where could we go musically? And then we talked about maybe calling it quits and we said 'Well why don't we just pack it in and do 1 more record that was I suppose similar to the first album. It's never going to be recreating the first record but very similar in the way we tried to do it and just finish like that. So that's basically what we did, there was no falling outs or musical differences or personal differences. The band had just literally run it's course and I think once the enthusiasm starts to waiver off a little bit, I think that's when you have to start questioning if you are 100% committed and I know for myself and Lee (Dorrian, vocals) especially, our enthusiasm as we got older started to dwindle a bit. So I think the time was right to pull out of it. We could of continued but with the enthusiasm slowly waning, how committed are you going to be a couple of years down the line and it's best to get out whilst you're doing it. We could of done more records and they may be just mediocre records which you see countless bands still going and going and putting out records and you think, why do they bother? Because noone is interested to tell you the truth and I really didn't want Cathedral to be like that. I'm sure there's many people over the years who probably thought 'Why did that band go for 20 years because nobody cared' but it's one of these things. We bailed out at the right time I felt and we left quite a decent legacy behind and each record we tried to do different material. Not all of them were good but some of them were pretty good stuff.

Andrew: Yeah and you are certaintly right that Cathedral has definitely left a huge legacy. Countless bands have credited you as being a huge influence on them so how does that feel to have that said about the band?

Garry: It's very nice of course! It's the same for myself when I talk about bands like Trouble and Candlemass and stuff like that, I'm sure they've heard it a million times but it's a nice thing to hear when someone says to you that you have had a massive influence on their music that some bands are playing now or played a few years ago or whatever that bands were influenced by then. Of course it's very nice, it's wierd because you don't really think of yourselves as innovators, or pioneers is probably the wrong word. But I suppose in terms of doom metal when we came around, it was a form of music that was very underground and I think what Cathedral did was open quite a few people's eyes to it. Doom metal is still the least popular form of any type of metal really, it's more popular now than it ever was because there's even lot's of sub- genres. You got death doom and drone doom and all this stuff, I mean 20 years ago you never had that, it was just doom metal. I think what was maybe a little different about us as opposed to traditional doom metal bands like Trouble and Candlemass was we had a bit more extremity to what we were doing. It was very full on, Lee's vocals were very tortured and gutteral and we obviously played so slow to the extreme. Of course around that time death metal was huge and as I said now you got a lot of things like magazines who sometimes do specials on doom metal. 25 years ago you had no such thing as a doom metal special so I like to think that we opened a few people's eyes and ears and people took it onboard and of course I think we did because...and it's not an egotistical thing...but even now people still come up and say 'Oh Forest of Equilibrium, you guys did this and that', it's an innovative album' because even down to the sleeve and the layout and presentation, the first song was the flute and the accoustic guitars, the special thanks list is all these crazy obscure bands of the time. I suppose it was completely different to what a lot of bands were doing but we set out to do that sort of thing. So like I say we still get people talking about Cathedral and how influential we were and are but the wierdest thing for me is people come up and say 'Gaz you are the riffmaster, you're a great guitar player'. I always found that a bit strange because I don't really feel as though I'm that kind of way inclined, I just try and do what I do really and basically do the best of my ability. But I suppose the nicest thing I've heard people say about myself is he is an underrated guitarist which is nice because I would rather be underrated than completely overrated so that's kind of cool! Noone has ever said, 'Well he's overrated that guitar player', it's always he's underrated which I can live with that, that's nice. But lot's of people make nice comments about myself and about the music we did and how we have influenced a lot of bands. We never even thought we would ever be an influence on any bands but it's a cool thing to have.

Andrew: Absolutely! And now you are releasing "In Memoriam" which is coming out soon. Tell me a little about that and why you decided to do this.

Garry: Well basically it's due to the fact that it's the 25th anniversary of the actual recording of [the] demos but I also think Lee wanted to revamp the sleeve and put the live DVD on there as well. I think "In Memoriam" was released in 1994 on CD and vinyl as well but I don't think he was entirely happy with the packaging at the time so he wanted full control over it now because being on Rise Above, he has 100% control in what he does and what goes on. So I think he wanted to take his time over the booklet, the sleeve and layout, the DVD so that's really one of the reasons we put it out now.

Andrew: 25 years is a long time especially in the music business so how do you still feel about those songs? Do you feel they have held up pretty well over the years?

Garry: Ha! To a point maybe, they are dated in terms of everything like even things that come out last year are relatively dated, sometimes they can be in terms of sound. But I mean they still stand up to a point, things like "Ebony Tears" and "Mourning Of A New Day" are pretty cool, a song like "March" is of it's time. I couldn't even play that now if I tried! It's wierd, I haven't actually heard that in a long time. I did play it when I got the vinyl a couple of weeks ago and I was thinking 'What was going on in our heads when we did this song?' It's like a constant drone of this 1 particular thing, the bass is on 1 note all the way through. "Ebony Tears" is a good song, that's stood the test of time. "Mourning Of A New Day" we hadn't played that live since 1994 and the Pentagram song is so slow it's unbelievable compared to their version. It almost doesn't sound like a Pentagram song when I listen to it, it sounds like it could of been a Cathedral song the way we played it, it's a pretty good cover. Looking back on it [all], it's done OK. In terms of speed or the lack of it really it's pretty slow but in terms of today's standards, lot's of bands who play in this doom style or whatever they wanna call it like sludge or whatever are way slower and heavier than that demo but at the time it was pretty extreme and pretty groundbreaking really. There's only a couple of bands I can think of like a band from the States called Post Mortem who had relatively slow parts in some of their songs and the only other 2 bands I can think of really are Grief and Winter were the only 2 other bands who were doing something before us. I know we had a massive impact on the Austalian band Disembowlment because I used to write to Paul (Mazziotta, drums) when he first started and he's a huge Cathedral fan. And we had a massive influence on their first couple of demos and their first album so there's a big influence ona lot of bands.

Andrew: Yeah there's a lot of doom bands even here in Perth and they all credit Cathedral as being a huge influence so it goes worldwide which is quite amazing.

Garry: Yeah it's very nice! I do think sometimes we do get let out of...not lists but sometimes when I see people mention innovative doom bands sometimes I think we don't really get the credit that we maybe deserve from a lot of people. I mean bands like Electric Wizard are always on people's list but sometimes people miss Cathedral off maybe because over the years the material changed quite a bit. I suppose people talk about that first record and obviously the first demo but by the time we got to "The Ethereal Mirror", some of it was similar like the slower, longer songs but of course the sound was a very classy produced different sound to what we were doing and then we went off more to like Sabbath like when we were doing "The Carnival Bizarre" and "Supernatural Birth Machine" and all that stuff. So we upped the tempo and went probably more Sabbath than slower more extreme doom that we were playing so maybe a lot of people then discredit us or think well they changed style. Yeah we did change but all we really did was we never changed the influence. I can say hand in heart that all the bands when I was growing up and all the bands I wanted to sound like or I was influenced by bands like Trouble and Witchfinder General and Dream Death, when we did that first demo, those bands played a huge part on the way we wrote stuff and my influence on writing and what we wanted to be. But when we were doing stuff like "Caravan Beyond Redemption", "Endtyme" and even "The VIIth Coming" even though it doesn't sound like it, we were still listening to bands like Trouble and stuff like that and that was still our main influence. Of course we had different influences coming along, we listened to a lot of 70's stuff. We expanded and opened up our horizons and took a lot of things on board but the basic ingredient for Cathedral was Sabbath, Witchfinder General and Trouble. That's where our heart is in all those bands, that's what we learnt. Sometime it never came across like that but we still loved all that and I still love them bands now and I still try to write things that are on a similar scale. I got Death Penalty going now and obviously done the record for Lucifer so I still listen to all that stuff, still a massive influence on the way I write really.

Andrew: Yeah I can definitely hear Black Sabbath on Death Penalty and especially on Lucifer as well. Tell me a little about those 2 bands and how they are going at the moment.

Garry: Yeah the thing with Death Penalty, I had a lot of songs around for a while in terms of writing for Cathedral but I had other things in the background that I was really writing for myself. I've always written songs over the years and just recorded them and sometimes I know they probably will never get used but I just recorded them for myself, it's just one of those silly things I do. But I knew I wanted to do a project at some point because Lee had always said to me for years 'If you ever want to do an album, I can put it on my label and we can do this' and I just thought yeah I'll do it one day. But because I was in Cathedral, I never found the time and everything that I was really writing at that particular point was for Cathedral. I had been writing a couple of other things but I just kept them in the background as my main focus was on Cathedral. Once we split I seriously tried to get it together, so yeah put the band together and did the album and I was more than pleased with what I came up with. Some of it is quite diverse, you can definitely hear the Sabbath influence and some of the Cathedral riffs in there but there's [also] stuff like Iron Maiden and Motorhead, it's all stuff I've liked over the years. I think the next Death Penalty record I've already written about 15 songs and I'm trying to make it more cohesive, maybe more 4 or 5 minute songs and definitely more in the vein of Witchfinder General. I think more doom on the next record and less of the Maiden type stuff or maybe more of what I have done before. When we get around to recording it I'm not too sure yet but it's already written. There's a couple of songs like Witchfinder General, there's a couple of songs that sound like Autopsy and stuff like that and the only real different song is the first song which sounds like a cross between Mercyful Fate and Possessed which is kind of wierd. Michelle (Nocon, vocals) is kinda doing some kind of King Diamond on the chorus where she has 5 different vocal lines where she's doing this King Diamond choir thing which sounds really good so hopefully it will sound good when we do it.

The Lucifer record was I got asked to write the album for them really because the guitar player bailed out in the studio on the first day of recording. He left the band and Lee asked me if I would write a record for Lucifer and he gave me a week to write it so I was like 'OK I'll try to write an album in a week then' and the next thing I went over and recorded with them and now I'm actually playing gigs with them so it's going alright. The differences between the 2 bands is there is going to be similarities between the riffs because it's me and some people are going to say that Lucifer riff sounds like a Cathedral riff and the Death Penalty riff sounds like Cathedral but of course they are going to because it's me playing and it's my style on how I do things. So some of it will be similar but when I write for both bands, I know instantly which riff will suit either band, I just know straight away. Death Penalty is probably more like old school heavy metal, more raw kind of thing like Witchfinder General and Trouble whereas Lucifer is probably more melodic hard rock sort of thing, less of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and less rawness so I have to balance it out. But at the minute it's going OK and fingers crossed I'm in a good place writing, I have a lot of stuff kicking around. I'm always writing riffs and sticking things in my phone just for later dates. It's quite wierd, sometimes I surprise myself with some of the stuff I come out with because I don't mean because it's particularly good or anything. I might write a riff and then leave it and then sometimes 3 or 4 months later I'll go back and listen to it and think, geez what was going on when I wrote that? It's pretty cool, I don't even remember writing it but it's just things on the spur of the moment. So I always keep a check of what's going on with my writing but I've got tons of stuff kicking around on my phone. On my old phone I went through that and there was 160 odd riffs on there and I was like, geez what am I going to do with all this? It's stupid, they will all never get used but some of them are good and some I listen to and think, na not too good. But there's some good stuff and luckily I have quite a good catalogue to go through.

Andrew: OK cool! Well we are looking forward to seeing "In Memoriam" coming out and I'm sure the Cathedral fans out there will snap it up. So thanks for taking the time to chat to us today, it's been a pleasure!

Garry: No worries, cheers Andrew!

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on July 2nd 2015