Interview with Lee Dorrian of
CRITICALTOM: [after some small talk] I hope my heavy Southern accent wonít throw you too much.
LEE: not too much . . . I just came back from Alabama.
CRITICALTOM: You did? [imagine my surprise] Well, you werenít too far from me, then. Did yaíll do a show here?
LEE: No, I went to Space Camp at NASA.
[More small talk I wonít bore you with. I just thought the bit about Space Camp was funny considering the subject matter of many Cathedral songs!]
CRITICALTOM: Iíve been a Cathedral fan since 1990. I have all of your releases and have been a fan through all of these changes . . . Do you know if you guys will be touring the States this time around?
LEE: Weíre playing at the New Jersey Metal Fest. I think the deal with that is if you play there you have to sign a contract that you wonít play any other shows in the area. Thereís a band called "Electric Wizard" thatís going to be touring the States. We were going to try and join on the end of their tour and do a few dates around America, probably a couple of weeks. But because weíre doing this show we canít do any more.
CRITICALTOM: You mean in America or just in New England?
LEE: America, yes. You canít do anymore than just this one. Heís got exclusivity. You know, he pays for the flight and every thing like thatóyou know, I understand his point of view. But it would be nice to do a few more shows. So hopefully weíre going to try and come back late in summer time, like late summer time.
CRITICALTOM: That would be great because I havenít gotten to see you guys live yet.
LEE: Well, the last tour we did in America was in 1996 and that was with Trouble.
CRITICALTOM: and I donít think you got down this way.
LEE: I donít think we came to Atlanta. No.
CRITICALTOM: On my promo all I have are the song titles and the picture. There havenít been any line-up changes or anything have there?
LEE: No. [laughing] Surprisingly enough there havenít been any line-up changes for six years.
CRITICALTOM: About the album . . . the general reviews coming out of Europe spoke of a return to your original sound. I donít really see it that way. Really, I think itís a new chapter. There are obviously some slower tempos, heavier production, stuff like that but to me it sounds like a new direction.
LEE: I agree with you. Iím get kind of a bit tired when people say all youíve done is gone back to your roots. Stuff like that. I mean yeah, weíve gone back to our roots, but we brought the older sound forward. We havenít blatently tried to do our first album over and over again. When we first started writing material for this album we knew we were going to aim at making the material a lot heavier, a lot slower, and a lot darker. And when we initially did start writing for this album, the material was extremely slow. But it was almost slow for the sake of being slow. It almost seemed like it was forced. So the more we started writing the more we realized we have to kind of not forsake all those other elements over the years, but incorporate them into the structure of the songs we were coming up with. As much as we wanted to be brutal and dark, we also wanted it to be varied and have a lot of contrasts. I think the main difference between this album and our more recent albums . . . number one, the production is a lot more stripped down, more raw. And the riffs are a lot more straightforward, in-your-face. Overall this album is a lot more focused than our more recent albums. Iím not saying Iím trying to deny our more recent albums. In recent times we almost got to the stage where, if we had carried on writing the way we have been with the last album, we would have started getting very predictable. Whenever we came up with the last couple of albums, pretty much whatever material we came up with was what we recorded. And through that weíd have many very different songs on one album. It was a bit disjointed really. But this time we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve musically, lyrically, and production-wise before we even started writing because weíd argued the point for about a year before we went into the studio. And so this time we were definitely a lot more focused, although itís kind of like a return to our original kind of attitude. Especially our approach to sound. I wouldnít say weíre trying to dig up our grave and exhume a corpse. Weíre trying to take our sound into the future.
CRITICALTOM: Itís a much more serious album, musically. I donít know if I used the word "focused" or not, but I think thatís true . . .
LEE: I mean to be honest with you, Tom . . . after all this time we kind of got a bit frustrated by the conception that people started having of Cathedral--all this quirky, humor kind of stuff. And people, especially in England, itís like "that band that wears bellbottoms and sounds like Black Sabbath and sing about disco", all this kind of stuff. Just because we had a bit of a sense of humor it got taken to the extreme. It was just time for us to prove to ourselves and to the people who listen to us we are a serious band, weíre serious about our music. We donít want to be seen as a joke band or a quirky humorous band all the time, although we have a sense of humor. It was time for us to rid ourselves of a lot of the clichés that weíve built up around us.
CRITICALTOM: Well I think youíve done that quite effectively. It seems to me that it [Endtyme] is a bit more experimental.
LEE: Uh . . . I donít know. I donít know if it is more experimental.
CRITICALTOM: Well Iím thinking of "Astral Queen" and "Ultra Earth".
LEE: I wouldnít say itís more experimental. I would just say that to me theyíre the typical songs Cathedral should be doing. Back to basics; I donít see that being that experimental.
CRITICALTOM: As far as guitar goes it seems Gary has consciously altered his style.
LEE: Heís stripped it down a lot more. Thereís not so many solo parts. Basically this album is a lot more about riffs than anything else. They always have been, really. Riffs are the main emphasis. Heís altered his sound. His tone has gone back to B [or D, Iím not sure]. Heís gone back to where we were on Soul Sacrifice or Ethereal Mirror. So Garyís changed quite a bit on this album.
CRITICALTOM: Would you say the change in focus from Carnival Bizarre came from having one less guitarist?
LEE: Yeah, definitely. Gaz was in a situation where he had to kind of prove it to himself that we could make the band work with one guitar player. When he was put in that situation he has improved as a player.
CRITICALTOM: I think so too. Heís all over the guitar.
LEE: The thing that did it for us was we toured with Black Sabbath back in 1994 and we had Victor with Pentagram playing second guitar. And Joe from Pentagram was on drums. Basically three quarters of the way through the tour Victor had to go home. So we had to carry on the tour as a four piece. The first night we had only one guitar Tony Iommi came up to us after the showóand we were like shitting ourselves, we had never played with only one guitar beforeóand Tony told us after the show we sounded ten times better with only one guitar. So the fact that HE said that . . .
CRITICALTOM: Well, you canít get any advice better than that!
CRITICALTOM: I donít think that takes away from the band at all. I think what that does is allow you to play a little more tightly and he [Gary] cannot hide behind someone elseís playing . I think he rose to the challenge and I like all the music from that period. I like Carnival Bizarre, though after "Night of the Seagulls" I think it gets a little weakóman, I hate to tell you that! I liked Supernatural Birth Machine pretty good. And I like Caravan Beyond Redemption a lot. I think it is a strong album. That was a couple of years in the making too, wasnít it?
LEE: It seems like every time we do an album we have to wait two years before doing another one.
CRITICALTOM: Itís a good thing for some bands. You know, I wouldnít mind a new Cathedral album or E.P. every year, but you donít want to wear yourself thin.
LEE: True. But at the same time you donít want to be sitting around. You want to be on tour and playing. We loved doing our E.P.s. We used to have a lot of fun doing it. I mean, when we recorded Soul Sacrifice and Statik Majik we didnít know what the hell we were going to come up with. We just recorded what came into our heads.
CRITICALTOM: I think Hopkins: Witchfinder General is great. "The Devilís Summit" was cool. I mean, it was something different. It amazes me that you found a couple of sax players to get in on that.
LEE: I was living with one of the guys. A lot of diehard Cathedral fans really like that E.P. But a lot of other kind of hated it.
CRITICALTOM: Iíve always enjoyed those little excursions.
LEE: Yeah. So did we. It was a good release. When you do an album you obviously have to be a lot more together. And you have to be a lot more specific on an album. When you do an E.P. itís like the reins are free and you can do whatever the hell you want. And thatís when a lot of good crazy stuff comes out.
Though this interview went well over 30 minutes, it was at this point that I unwittingly disconnected the phone jack to the tape machine and lost some more of this interview. Itís a shame too, because I think it was an excellent conversation. I spoke with Lee about the meaning of songs like "Stained Glass Horizon" from Supernatural Birth Machine, "Freedom" and "The Unnatural World" from Caravan Beyond Redemption, and "Whores to Oblivion" from Endtyme. These songs talk about how deceived many people are in religion. I explained how I identify with these songs but for a different reason than most. Lee explained how he grew up in Catholic school and how he saw through all their bullshit. I donít disagree with that, but I then informed Lee that not only am I a Christian, but am actually an ordained minister. My appreciation for the songs comes from the fact that I know for a fact that Christianity for many is a political tool. I especially appreciated the two songs from Caravan. It is a way of controlling and manipulating people. I support free though, free expression, and HEAVY METAL! Lee didnít seem too surprised and said heíd met people like me before. I said, "cool."
We went on to talk about other topics including forms of Doom and the term "stoner rock" came up. I said I donít think Cathedral is a stoner band. This is where I discovered the broken connection and fixed it. The tape picks back up . . .
LEE: . . . to me now what Stoner Rock has come to be associated with is kind of boring. Itís becoming a bit stale and a bit nice. A bit too acceptable really. Itís like nicey nicey kind of music. And Iíve always thought Metal, when it gets too nice weíve got to make it aggro again.
CRITICALTOM: So I know youíve listed Black Sabbath and Trouble as influences, would you include Candlemass?
LEE: Yeah, of course. Thatís one of my favorite bands; a big influence when Cathedral first started. They were one of the only Doom bands around. Actually, I know Leif Elding very well. I saw him last week. Theyíre going to be recording a new album soon.
CRITICALTOM: Itís not really Doom anymore though, is it?
LEE: Apparently itís going to be a real step back.
[more small talk about Candlemass]
CRITICALTOM: Itís been a real pleasure. Thanks!