In Memoriam – An Interview With Cathedral

cathedral 1The Final Spire marks the swansong of doom metal institute Cathedral. Ghost Cult looks back with guitarist Garry Jennings on the remarkable career of his band, recording an album whilst knowing it would the last one and the Cathedral musical legacy.

The Final Spire is very much a doom metal record, akin to band’s first three records. Would it be a fair statement to say you guys came full circle with the new album?

I think from an outside point of view people will perceive that we’ve come full circle but to me it’s just the natural cycle where the band has come to. Obviously knowing it was the last record we were gonna make there was an emphasis to keep the material on the slower side but bear in mind a lot of this material was written back in 2008.

What I really like about The Final Spire is the whole “Once More Unto The Breach” attitude giving the material a really vibrant and passionate feel. What’s the secret?

Honesty. Being into what you’re doing is obviously a major plus point. Also having a ton of good riffs helps as well, haha!

At which point became it clear for you that Cathedral had run its course? How did this influence the writing and recording process of The Final Spire?

It’s weird because I don’t think the band has run its course as such it’s just that we decided we wanted to lay the band to rest. I don’t think the material has dried up as such because I’ve still got a stack of riffs kicking about but we felt that 20 years was a long time for a band and we didn’t have 100% commitment to put into it anymore and if you can’t do that then things are going to suffer. Even though I still have riffs available some of them aren’t suitable for Cathedral. We also didn’t wanna make albums where maybe the material was not up to the standard we felt we needed to achieve.

Lee Dorrian said in the album’s biography that this is the second album he always wanted to make. How so and how do you see things?

Yeah, I see where Lee’s coming from in that the material I suppose you could say it is almost a follow up to the forest album but in saying that if we hadn’t made all the albums in between then we wouldn’t have ended up with this record. I’m just really pleased that the last album is pretty much an out and out doom record with a few different elements thrown in.

A lot of the material written for The Final Spire didn’t make the cut. Will that material see the light of day in any form or shape?

I’m not sure what will happen with the material. We actually recorded around 5 extra tracks when we were in the studio. One of the songs was actually around 30 mins long and had all kinds of styles integrated into it. It would be nice if it saw the light of day in the future. The only reason it’s sitting around doing nothing at the moment is that Lee didn’t have enough time to finish writing lyrics for it. One good thing is that Rise Above (Lee’s own record label.red) owns the recordings so if Lee ever feels like it he can go and finish off the track in his own time. As for the other songs I have no idea. Two of them date back to 1994 when they were written.

What are your personal highs and lows in your years with Cathedral?

The high’s far out way the lows. touring with Sabbath, having Tony Iommi play on one of our albums, touring with Motorhead, Trouble, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, meeting Kevin from Angel Witch, meeting Phil and speaking to Zeeb from Witchfinder General, having Mike from Dream Death play on our first album. All these bands that I grew up worshiping. To meet them and play gigs with them was just incredible.

Will the band hit the road in some massive farewell tour or is The Final Spiral the final chapter in the long and illustrious history of Cathedral?

I’m afraid no more gigs. This record is the final statement of new material. As I said there is stuff recorded but not finished so that may see the light of day in the future but I’m not sure.

Nowadays retro is all the rage within the doom, prog and stoner rock/metal genres, in retrospect taking a lot of queues from the things you did with Cathedral. Do you think Cathedral paved the way for a lot of those bands?

Without doubt. Who in 1989/90 wanted to form a band and play as slow as we did? Not many people. Death metal was all the rage. For example and this isn’t us being big-headed or anything but you look at our thanks list on the first two albums and see all the 70’s prog / rock bands we mention. That stuff is rife now with people mentioning obscure bands these days and getting into a lot of those bands. Back in 1990 nobody in metal was into those bands. Nobody had heard of them that’s why. It wasn’t till people saw our thanks list and went out and tried to find the stuff. That’s why we put them lists on there. There are bands now that sound and look like they’re from 71 / 72. I’d like to think that by us being into those bands and mentioning them we played some part. In fact I’m pretty convinced we did. Again remember now with the internet finding out info about obscure bands and records from the early 70’s is easy. Back when I was discovering all that stuff it was much more difficult. The records cost an absolute fortune and were usually in the hands of private collectors who wanted to keep all that stuff to themselves.

With the chapter closed on the band what are you guys going to do in your post Cathedral life?

Well obviously Lee will be spending a lot of time running his label and he also now has a company which promotes gigs. Scott lives in LA and works for a film company streaming on line films. I’m sure he will continue playing gigs with Repulsion as well. I’m not sure what Brian will do. He has a side project with some friends so I think he will continue with that. As for myself. No idea. I have enough material written for a solo album. More N.W.O.B.H.M than Cathedral. I’ve been rehearsing with my son on drums. Just need to find a singer and then maybe get round to recording it later in the year.

Finally, given The Final Spiral is Cathedral’s swansong, how would you like the band to be remembered?

That we took an unpopular and neglected style of metal, doom metal, and brought it to people’s attention. And I think we did as now doom is now considered a more accepted form of metal. Also that on our day we were a pretty rocking band when we were on form.

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