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In part 1 of a retrospective look at Cathedral's iconic career, Comrade Aleks goes back to the earliest 'Forest Of Equilibrium' days for a chat with Mark Griffiths and Adam Lehan...

Interview with Cathedral.
"This interview doesn't really demonstrate a professional approach to the matter - its structure isn't perfect. Indeed, it actually consists of two interviews, one of them quite brief. Well, it's pretty easy to find interviews with the core members of Cathedral, Lee Dorrian and Gaz Jennings. But sometimes I think that it's good to show another side of bands, and the internet can help with that... So, I was lucky to get in touch with two ex-members of Cathedral, who left the band in the early '90s. Mark Griffiths (guitars, bass) was one of its founding members: he spent three years with them (until '92) and took part in the 'Forest Of Equilibrium' recordings. After that he played in Year Zero, and ran his solo project Arkazum - that's why I had more questions for him. Adam Lehan played guitars from '89 to '94, and was one of those who gave birth to one of the most iconic doom metal masterpieces – 'The Ethereal Mirror'. I would like to thank both Mark and Adam for the time they spent answering my questions."

Cathedral – 'Ride' (Official video):

Part I - Mark Griffiths

Hi Mark! Thanks for your time! Well, I haven't heard anything for some time from Arkazum, not since your last official album 'Imperium' was released in 2013. What is the status of your project?

Greetings. I'm not doing much music or indeed listening to it at the moment unfortunately.

I'm not really interested in promoting Arkazum any more than it is. Hiding in the depths of the underground is fine by me. No-one is interested in my stuff and I thank No-one for their interest. I just like playing music and recording it when I have the chance.

Mark Griffiths as solo project Arkazum.

How did you arrive at the concept of Arkazum? What did you aim to put into it?

Arkazum came through the Father. I just wanted to make music for myself & write songs that I wanted to hear without restriction, that no-one else had done. Also to record at home with the emerging PC DAW technology like Sonar Cakewalk and Cockos Reaper.

How do you see your evolution as a musician from 'Muzakra' to 'Imperium'?

I'm not a musician, just a fellow that likes making tunes and songs up. I got more into computer recording and as such got a little better at getting a sound I liked. I'm just an amateur home studio hobbyist!

Demo-era Cathedral, 1990: Adam Lehan (Guitar), Ben Mochrie (Drums), Lee Dorrian (Vocals), Garry Jennings (Guitar) and Mark Griffiths (Bass).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but your first band was Cathedral back in 1989. What are your best memories of this period? Was it fun back then to start an exploration of forbidden and forgotten doom metal realm?

My best memories of Cathedral is creating lyrics, making and recording music and being with some great people for a couple of years. There was nothing really like Cathedral about at the time and that's why it had to be invented!

You wrote the lyrics for the first songs, right? What did you aim to express through them?

I wrote lyrics that would fit the feel of the song. I expressed feelings of dreams I had or the way I was feeling into words that sounded good together.

Cathedral – 'Forest Of Equilibrium':

How did you work on 'Forest of Equilibrium'? What kind of goals did you set before you to reach that sound?

Believe me we lived the life of the "feel" of that record and it eats you up. We all lived pretty much far apart from each other so we were trading tapes with each other and getting songs together. Garry and Adam came up with some seriously killer music that fitted in with the idea we had of a heavy, bleak, slow sound but also have a bit of a feeling of majesty.

Which bands influenced you when you were writing the 'Forest Of Equilibrium' pieces? I mean besides Sabbath…

At the time I guess Hawkwind, Trouble, Vitus, Fields Of The Nephilim, Rudimentary Peni, Motorhead, Dead Can Dance, Crass, The Obsessed, Antisect, Amebix, Asylum, Celtic Frost, Candlemass, Stillborn, Paul Chain, Carcass, Carnivore and Type O Negative….and loads of bands.

How much of your own influence in this album?

A lot. Myself and Lee guided the lyrical and artistic direction.

'Forest Of Equilibrium'.

Speaking about the artistic side of the release… How did you get to collaborate with Dave Patchett, for whom it was his first Cathedral artwork?

Lee saw an exhibition of Dave's work while he was passing by in an art gallery in Coventry and left him a note – as fortune would have it Dave lived in the next block of flats to Lee. We visited Dave and Lee had a lot of imagery in his mind that he expressed to Dave. Dave Patchett's entire flat was an artist's studio, his artwork is incredible.

You also took part in the recording session of the Soul Sacrifice' EP, how would you characterize this material? Was it a marker which slightly showed the band's further development?

I think we were at the turning point of the band and I started to feel that I didn't feel part of it anymore. It was at this time I started losing interest in it all. Ho hum. Yes you are right the band was a bit more experienced at this point. I enjoyed this EP though and still do! Further Cathedral releases seriously lack the songwriting skills (in my opinion) and feel of Adam Lehan though.

Cathedral – 'Soul Sacrifice':

Mark, what drove you to leave Cathedral and join Year Zero back in '93?

Well a mixture of things, I was getting really fed up of touring and also the direction Cathedral were taking really wasn't for me. My home life was suffering, I had no money and I felt very depressed… After I left and heard some of the killer songs on The Ethereal Mirror I did feel like I had made a mistake! I think also all band members were getting on each other's nerves a little too much without thinking through the consequences. Ah well! With Year Zero all the lads were local to me and I didn't have that pressure to go away touring, I wanted it to be low key again. Hmmm. Hindsight is great.

'Forest Of Equilibrium' band picture.

How did it turn out that Cathedral started touring so much during that period?

Well we'd signed to Columbia/Sony and you have to tour to get your name out there if you wanna be famous. I didn't wanna be famous….

How did you spend your time on these tours? With what kind of bands did you usually tour?

Touring! We were on tour with fellow friends and bands Carcass, Napalm, Brutal Truth, Saint Vitus and Paradise Lost. We did gigs with Dream Grinder, The Cranes, Young Gods etc.

Year Zero was a promising band, both albums are pretty interesting. Didn't you think that you could achieve any more with it?

Thanks very much for your kind comment. I felt Year Zero had reached the end and I had put all I could do into it. I moved on and started playing with Blackstar.

What was the chemistry like in Year Zero? How did you usually work together?

We were good friends and had a laugh during rehearsals, As usual and being human everyone is pulling in different directions. I usually wrote the majority of the music and lyrics so there wasn't much deviation from that, Murray came up with a few good riffs and ideas as did Russ and Mike. I have to say that we weren't the best of musicians but we liked creating our own little noise. Year Zero is what it is and I like to smile at doing our own thing and being given the chance to do it with Hellhound.

Year Zero – 'Savage Wound':

How did your experience from Cathedral reflect on Year Zero material?

Not much really. I was already writing songs for Cathedral and some of those ended up on Nihil's Flame. Playing in Cathedral made me more able to play my instruments and try and structure a song.

Did you feel that the music you played with Year Zero was in demand during that period? Why did you decide to disband?

No, Year Zero were not in demand whatsoever nor was the music we performed. We put everything we had into it at the time. I'd pretty much got bored of listening to and playing music in bands in the '90s.

Okay, thanks for your time Mark! It was interesting to learn these things! Oh, and probably it's still a good time to say Happy New Year!

You are welcome Aleks, thank you for your interest in my previous musical endeavors and happy new year and my best wishes to all.

Part II - Adam Lehan

Adam, how did you get into Cathedral? How did this story start for you?

I had replaced Gaz in Acid Reign after he left them and I used to bump into him in pubs in harrogate, I loved his Morbid Doom demo so when Cathedral came up I was already nagging him to do something. Not sure what the others thought of me at first as I'm very shy but they liked me enough to let me join up.

Adam Lehan, in Cathedral days.

The Doom direction was an unpopular and unexplored one in those days; how did you choose this road? And did you discuss with the band which way to turn as - on the one hand – Candlemass showed the success of epic doom metal and – on the other hand – Pentagram, Saint Vitus and Trouble paved their own different way too?

I don't think we really sat down and planned it, certainly it didn't feel that way. Also in the beginning we weren't just listening to doom, we were still into listening to a lot of death metal stuff which I think leaked into the first few Cathedral releases.

What are your memories about the band's work over 'Forest Of Equilibrium'? What do you see as your own best achievement on this record?

My memories of Forest are mostly not to do with the recording, I think I was only at the studio for 2 days to track my guitars. I remember a lot of pot noodles and cheap beer, none of us had much money. I'm very proud of it, it's certainly my favourite Cathedral album, and I think" Serpent Eve" is my favorite song, I think my style and Gaz's style came together perfectly on that song.

'The Ethereal Mirror'.

What was the atmosphere like in the band back then? Did you feel yourselves pioneers of the new genre?

I can't speak for the others but I don't think we ever considered ourselves 'pioneers', although looking back I suppose I can understand why somebody would think that now. We just did what we did and were continually shocked that other people seemed to like it too!

How do you remember Cathedral's switch from the thick and deadly slow style of 'Forest of Equilibrium' to the more vivid and groovy material of 'The Ethereal Mirror'? How natural were these changes?

The change between albums was very natural, we got Mark in on drums for the "Soul Sacrifice" EP after "Forest" (me and Gaz had both been in bands with him before ) and the stuff on the EP was very different to "Forest". We were also in a position where we could rehearse a lot more than before so that coupled with all the live work we were doing meant the band became very tight and the ideas were flowing. Although we were certainly a bit shocked ourselves with how "Ethereal Mirror" came out it's really kind of obvious it was coming if you listen to the "Soul Sacrifice" EP. I remember sitting with Lee and listening to the tape of "Ethereal Mirror" just before it came out and wondering if anyone would like it.

Cathedral – 'Ethereal Mirror':

How do you see today the strong points of Cathedral in the early '90s?

I suppose the strong points were that we were doing pretty much the music we wanted to and not really concerning ourselves with anything else...maybe we should have been haha!

Why did you leave Cathedral, especially after this album which was supposed to be a sort of turning point, something that attracted more listeners to the band?

You have to remember that when it came out Ethereal didn't feel like a turning point, it was our new album but none of us were really sure if we totally liked how it had come out...there had been some problems with the producer and the label and if we had done the album on our own at the same studio as Soul Sacrifice things would have been very different. In general I liked it and thought it was the best we could have come up with at the time. Things were starting to go downhill between us as people though and I don't think any of the chaps would disagree. Lots of petty little things soon became bigger and (to a 23 year old guy at least) in the end got to such a state that i made the decision to leave during the Mercyful Fate tour in 93, although i didn't actually leave until the end of the next US tour which was with Fight. Honestly, i think we just needed a holiday haha, seriously, a month off and away from each other probably would have sorted it all out but it's easy to say these things 23 years later. I still love them and occasionally get mail and stuff from Doz, we're all still in touch these days due to social media and whatnot.

'The Ethereal Mirror' band picture.

How did you understand that it would be better to continue in the same direction as 'Ethereal Mirror' set? I mean with the EPs 'Statik Magic' and 'Cosmic Requiem'.

I don't think we saw it that way, in fact I'd say certainly Lee and Gaz probably saw "Statik Majik" as a direct reaction to Ethereal and what was going on with Columbia, Lee in particular wasn't happy or certainly didn't feel comfortable dealing with a major label at the time. I don't see "Statik" as the same as "Ethereal" at all, but I think the fellas got back to it on the following album, albeit without me haha.

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Interviewed on 2017-02-06 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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