Adam Lehan is about Cathedral’s early days – Part I
Last time guitarist Adam Lehan talked about his first years in the music industry. Let’s continue with the Cathedral times!
In 1989, Lee Dorrian left Napalm Death because he was reportedly tiring of the punk scene and did not like the death metal direction which Napalm Death was taking. He and Mark Griffiths (a Carcass roadie) met and discussed their love for bands like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Pentagram, Trouble, and Witchfinder General. Were you familiar with the early Napalm Death and Carcass? Were you aware of Mark used to publish a fanzine, Under the Oak, in the late 80’s?
I was of course aware of Napalm and Carcass, it was especially difficult to be ignorant of Napalm as they were all over the media at the time, even on childrens’ TV. I didn’t see Under the Oak until I joined Cathedral though.
Do you consider both bands the pioneers of grindcore?
So, Cathedral was founded in 1989 by vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarists Mark Griffiths and Garry Jennings, drummer Andy Baker, but soon afterwards, Ben Mochrie replaced Andy on drums and you also joined on guitars, thus Mark switched to bass. How did you get in the picture exactly? Did they perhaps audition other guitarists or were you the first choice?
I’m actually not sure if they auditioned anyone else, I got my foot in the door through knowing Gaz.
You crossed your ways with Gaz again, right?
It was Gaz who got me into Cathedral, after I’d been writing to him about Morbid Doom.
Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you mostly jamming on covers? How were the first Cathedral songs born?
I joined literally just before the demo was recorded, so I’m not sure if they did any covers to begin with. Ebony Tears and Mourning were already written when I joined, I just came up with melodies to go over the top. I was there when March came about though, that was fun.
In October 1990 you released your first demo titled In Memorium. Did this demo introduce a very dark and doomy atmosphere, emphasized with a raw and ugly sound instead of gothic melodies and symphonic instruments?
I suppose it did, certainly symphonic instruments were never considered. We didn’t have a lot of money to play with, in fact I think we had to borrow the money from Ben’s dad.
Is Lee Dorian’s Death Metal/Crust Punk/Grindcore background clearly reflected by strong death metal and rock ’n’ roll (stoner) elements in the songs and all of these factors are perfectly synthesized and balanced in all of them?
I think if you listen to Cathedral and in particular the earlier stuff you can certainly hear Lee’s background coming through.
Is it correct that prior to the band signing with Earache, the master tapes remained in a box under Lee Dorrian’s bed, forgotten about, subsequent demo’s had already been recorded which finally led to a deal with Earache?
Haha, I have no idea. I can’t remember that…however it sounds like something that could have happened, haha.
Although Lee already established its label Rise Above (after a Napalm Death song), why didn’t he sign Cathedral to his own label? Didn’t have he any experiences in the music business, in financial things and stuff or…?
Only Lee can answer it, but my recollection is that initially he wanted to concentrate on the creative side of the band without having to deal with the rest of it.
Was his goal with the label focusing on signing doom metal bands and supporting the doom scene?
Again, that’s a question for Lee but he got the label going well before I knew him.
Did this demo gain you worldwide attention within the underground?
It did, which came as a big surprise actually! None of us expected it, in fact I remember the rehearsal before recording the demo didn’t go very well and we pretty much thought we were gonna blow it. Then Earache and Roadrunner I believe started chasing us.
At this point you did your first tours supporting acts like Morbid Angel and St. Vitus. What do you recall of those tours?
The Morbid Angel tour was better exposure wise, but I was a bit awkward around them, being a bit quiet anyway, especially the singer who if I can speak in typical English, was „a bit of a nob”. The Vitus tour was a lot more fun, but a bit frustrating watching them play to small and sometimes unappreciative crowds… This was well before they became what they are today, certainly in the UK. They were all sleeping at Ben’s place I think.
After the demo Ben left the band and Mike Smail (Dream Death, Penance) became the new drummer. Was he meant to be a permanent member or only a session one? How was he joined you exactly?
We were big fans of Dream Death and Penance, so he was the obvious choice. It was just temporary, I don’t remember him being asked to join.
In 1991 you released a second demo Demo #2. Can you give us any details about it?
All I remember is catching a bus afterwards. Honestly! My mind is scratchy these days. Catching a bus in Coventry.
Between July and August in 1991 you entered the Workshop Studios, Redditch, to record your first album Forest of Euquilibrium. How did the recording sessions go?
I was only there briefly to put on my guitar parts, but I think there was some friction between the producer and Mike, haha. Drumming talk. Too many drum fills, something like that. It was great actually because it was the first time I’d played my solos and harmony parts so I was hearing how it would be for the first time just like the rest of them…hopefully they liked it.
Do you agree with that before this album metal in the UK was dominated by death metal, hardcore/punk, thrash, and grindcore? Is this what paved the way for Cathedral in terms of popularity and poised you for expanding into some different genres?
Death metal and grindcore were more popular sure, but there was also Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride… I don’t feel that we were consciously poising ourselves for anything, it was a purging if anything. None of us were in very good periods of our lives emotionally.
Was Forest of Equilibrium groundbreaking for its use of slow death-like tempos, down-tuned guitars, and growling vocals, that had slight echoes of death metal?
I suppose it was, but I guess I’m the wrong person to ask…I always feel a little awkward with the term „groundbreaking”. There were a lot of doom bands around, maybe not in the UK, but they were around, and a lot of slower Death Metal bands around, maybe it was the 70’s influences that set us apart I dunno. Like I said, I feel awkward, haha.
Styles like death metal and thrash are based on technicality while the slower bands are based off feeling and emotion and this release takes advantage of that with fierce precision. What do you think about it?
I would agree with your evaluation. Looking back I have sometimes wondered if I made a mistake with the way I recorded the guitar (I only single tracked rhythm, but double tracked the leads) but actually I like the sound, it seems quite cold and stark.
Are Gaz Jennings’ and your guitar lines injected with such pain and yearning that the songs seem to just scream like tortured souls?
I guess that’s what we were after, yeah.
How do you view, that Cathedral’s debut has only one rival, and that’s Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut album, both are slow, heavy, and inspired generations of bands to come?
I think again I’m the wrong guy to ask…certainly as you’re directly comparing Forest to Black Sabbath which is a mind blowing compliment but still just that…mind blowing! I feel it had many other rivals though…Trouble, St. Vitus and Candlemass had certainly all come out with incredible albums that should be considered rivals. Although I feel rival is the wrong word. If it has inspired many bands over the years, I’m truly very flattered, truly. I have been absent from the scene for a while so it is sometimes suprising to me when I hear these things.
Would you say that the early 90’s was a good period for doom, when a lot of bands appeared on the scene such as Revelation, Penance, Sorrow, Winter, Confessor, Count Raven etc.?
It’s certainly my favourite period, but I’m kind of like that with my music…if you could see my iTunes theres pretty much nothing on there that was recorded after 1995, haha.
What were your views on the British scene, with Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, that also started making name for themselves at this point?
I thought it was great, especially Paradise Lost. Their first two albums still get a lot of hammer on my iPhone, haha.
You went on tour along with Carcass, Entombed, Confessor, it was the legendary Gods of Grind tour. How did it go as a whole? Did you get on well with the other acts?
It was one of the best tours I did definitely. Everyone got on great, everyone. I honestly can say nothing bad about that tour, and I doubt any of the others would either. Of course I brought along a VHS copy of the classic Sword and Sorcery shit storm Deathstalker on that tour, which I think I lent out to Entombed at one point, so how could it fail, haha.
Did Carcass try to distance themselves from the chasing Grindcore pack, citing melodic rock as a new-found influence at this point?
I don’t think so…I don’t remember them going out of their way to do that.
(to be continued)