Garry Jennings (ex-Cathedral, Death Penalty, Lucifer) Interview

by Matt Hensch

Matt Hensch recently sat down with Garry Jennings to discuss the reissue of Cathedral's "In Memoriam". They also discussed Lucifer's debut album, the status of Septic Tank, the progress on a new Death Penalty album and more. Here is the interview:

Matt Hensch for antiMusic's Thrashpit: What was going on in Cathedral during the time of "In Memoriam," which has recently been rereleased?

Garry Jennings: Myself and Lee (Dorrian) had been in bands before. I'd been in Acid Reign, but we were kind of a thrashy band, and obviously Lee was with Napalm Death. People in general probably thought Cathedral was a reaction to the bands we'd been in, but it wasn't at all. Trouble, Candlemass, Saint Vitus-they were our favorite bands, and we all wanted to be in a band that played that kind of stuff. When I was in school, my favorite bands were Trouble and Witchfinder General. In Acid Reign, I tried to incorporate a lot of the doom stuff that became Cathedral, so if you listen to Acid Reign, there are doom elements in there. When I left that band, I didn't know anyone who wanted to form a doom band.

It wasn't until I met Mark Griffiths at a Carcass show. He had a fanzine on sale, and I eventually wrote to him. Lee had left Napalm. Basically, that was how we got together and tried to form a band that was influenced by the bands that we liked. It was weird at first because we knew what we wanted to sound like, but we weren't that great at playing, and we were kind of limited. It came out sounding completely different to all the bands we wanted to sound like. We wanted to sound like Trouble and Candlemass. Whatever we created it didn't come out sounding like Trouble. It came out sounding like our interpretation of it. We created this weird doom music, I suppose because we were from extreme backgrounds as well. Trouble and Candlemass were more traditional metal from the old-school, where we had a bit more of things like Possessed, Destruction, Sodom, and Bathory. Not saying that came through, but we had been listening to that.

Whatever we tried to do in the studio, came out this weird thing we created. People seemed to take notice of it because it was so extreme and so full-on heavy. People still come up to us and talk about that record and "Forest of Equilibrium." It's weird after all these years, but we obviously did something right. From trying to sound like the bands we liked and sounding nothing like them, we created something different. Years later, bands influenced by doom talk about the early Cathedral stuff, so it's cool.

antiMusic: How does it feel to experience "In Memoriam" twenty-five years after its release?

Garry: It's kind of weird. It's raw; it's full of mistakes; we weren't very good at playing. But one good thing that Lee said was that our strength was probably our weakness in the fact that we were trying to find a direction, trying to sound like these bands, but we really didn't sound like them. Listening back to it is weird. The Pentagram cover is a bizarre thing. It doesn't sound like a Pentagram song; it sounds like a Cathedral song, like it was our song. I can't believe how slow we played it. "Ebony Tears" I still think is a good song. "Mourning of a New Day" is pretty extreme. "March" is a long, drawn-out instrumental, but it's pretty monstrous. If you asked me to play that stuff now, I'd probably struggle. The last time we played "Mourning of a New Day" was 1994, probably. "March" we only played seven or eight times, only the first few gigs, before it was dropped from the set.

antiMusic: Looking back on that era, what would you say is your greatest memory?

Garry: There are lots of good memories. Getting together with likeminded people who were into the same kind of music I was. I grew up in a town where I didn't know anyone into bands I liked, so to meet likeminded people and form a doom band was the greatest thing, really. There were lots of good gigs. Playing with Saint Vitus when they came to England was amazing, because I had always been a massive Vitus fan, and then we played with Trouble in 1991 as well. Just doing the demo and listening to it. Good memories there.

antiMusic: Lee mentioned in an interview in 2013 that several songs were leftover during "The Last Spire" sessions, hinting that the band may finish and release them. Are there are plans to make those songs see the light of day?

Garry: At the moment, no. I think there are probably about five songs leftover-four of them relatively short, but there's one that's about forty-five minutes long. It's called "Society's Pact with Satan." We had to record it in different stages because it's pretty complex, but it's not actually pieced together. Lee never finished the vocals. We did one song called "Winter's Retreat," there's one called "Silver Tomb," there's an acoustic one that we did, and there's the long one. Two of them have the vocals done. The good thing is because "The Last Spire" was released on Rise Above Records, Lee owns the rights to the material. It's a case of whether he gets to finish doing the vocals. The longer time goes on, the less likely I think it'll happen. The chances are quite slim, but the fact that he owns the rights of the material gives them a chance that they could come out. The songs are okay; they weren't the strongest ones. From a collector's point of view, anyone who was into the band would be interested to hear what they sound like.
"Silver Tomb" Brian (Dixon) and I quite liked, but Lee wasn't too keen on it. We also did a cover by an Australian band, which never got used as well. We were going to use it on the flexi disc for Decibel, but we used "Vengeance of the Blind Dead" instead. The long one is the one people have talked about. There's some good riffs and keyboards on it. Lee needs to sit down with it, but he's busy with his label and other stuff. I think it'd be quite time consuming, but we'll see.

antiMusic: Turning gears, you were recently involved in Lucifer's debut. I want to know how you approached writing that album as opposed to a Death Penalty or a Cathedral record.

Garry: This story is a strange one. The Oath split up, and I knew Lee wanted to keep Johanna (Sadonis) on the label. She didn't have a band, so he asked me to write a few songs for her. They got a band together, including Andrew (Prestridge) from Angel Witch and Dino (Gollnick), the bass player. They had this other guitar player who they did the "Anubis" 7'' with. They were using some of my songs, and some of his. On the second of January, the guitar player rang up, when the other three were there to record, and told the band he was leaving and they weren't going to use any of his songs. Lee asked me to write a few more songs for Johanna, and try to write this album in a week. I took a week off work, and that's what I did. I wrote nine songs, sent them all to her, and she plowed through them. She worked on the ones she liked, Dino came up, and we rehearsed the new songs and went into the studio and recorded the album.
It's a really, really good record considering how it was thrown together. We didn't have six months to work on it; we had two or three weeks to write, rehearse, and record. The band had Roadburn lined up to play; I offered to help them out if they didn't find a guitar player. I did some gigs with them, so now we're doing an American tour, so it's kind of weird how it all worked out. I got Death Penalty as well, and Septic Tank with Lee and Scott (Carlson). From going from one band in Cathedral to three bands at the moment, it's crazy.

antiMusic: Speaking of Septic Tank, is that an active thing going on between you guys?

Garry: Yeah. Septic Tank initially started in the studio during "The Last Spire." Lee said let's do a quick Discharge/Slaughter project, so we wrote and recorded some songs in an afternoon. We did the 7'' and some other demos, and we've done more over the past year. We've got enough material for an album. A big difficulty, because it's only a project, is getting Scott over to England to record. I'd say we got about fifteen or sixteen songs written; we just need to get in the studio and record them properly.

antiMusic: Are you writing a new Death Penalty album?

Garry: I've written it already. We've rehearsed a couple of songs. I want to make the album a bit shorter, more compact, more cohesive and doomier than what the first album is; more like Cathedral but a little more melodic. There's some good stuff; I'd say it's better than the first record. I saw a review of the first album saying Death Penalty doesn't sound like Witchfinder General, so I wrote two songs that are completely like Witchfinder General. The others are more like Trouble. There's one that sounds like Autopsy's slower stuff. I don't know when we're getting around to recording it, because I'm doing the Lucifer thing at the minute, but the material is cool. The first song sounds like Mercyful Fate meets Possessed, which is a weird combination. Michelle (Nocon) has this cool King Diamond thing going on. There's about four or five different voices on the chorus, like a choir. It sounds good.

antiMusic: Cycling back to Cathedral, do you ever feel bittersweet having to discuss Cathedral post-humorously?

Garry: No, not at all. It was a part of my life. I'm forty-five years old, and I was in Cathedral for twenty-three years. A big chunk of my life was in that band and with Lee as well. When I meet genuine fans, they're so into it, and they know quite a lot of things about the band, and it's a part of their lives as well. I love talking about Cathedral, because it's who I am, it's what I was; I still get asked a ton of questions about Cathedral. I loved being in that band, and it was a big part of my life; I have a lot of respect for what we did. There are no qualms with that, not at all.

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