Being twenty-five minutes late for an interview with a legend of doom metal completely sucks. However, it is with a big smile and while calmly finishing a cup of tea that Lee Dorian, lengendary frontman for CATHEDRAL and founder of Rise Above Records, meets us in the lounge of a mysterious art deco hotel of the 9th arrondissement of Paris. An encounter with one of the last punks of metal, to discuss creative renewal, catharsis and nihilism, in a very intense and intimate discussion.
Interview WITH THE DEAD – Lee Dorian talks about forming an unexpected new band.
Written by Gus on 2015-09-18
Excerpts, check the podcast for the full interview.
We just had a definite direction and the definite idea was to make the more brutal, uncompromising heavy suffocating record we could possibly make.
Gus : Lee Dorian hello, it’s a pleasure to meet you. For our listeners who may not know you yet, can you tell us a bit yourself?
Lee : Well I was born in Coventry in the late 60s and I guess through time I got into music and ended up starting doing a fanzine when I was about 12 or 13 and then through doing a fanzine I met lots of people in bands and became friends with them and then started promoted shows in Coventry, my hometown when I was like 16 or so. And then through that I ended up being asked to join a band called NAPALM DEATH but I didn’t have any experience of being in bands before and I didn’t have any intentions of wanting to be in a band or anything like that. I was just good friends with them and used to follow them everywhere and when one of the original members left they asked me if I wanted to join and I just said yes. And I was in that band for about two and a half three years when I left NAPALM DEATH I had already started running a record label called Rise Above Records, which I still runs to this day and also around the same time I started a band called CATHEDRAL who I was with for over 22, 23 years. We ended about two three years ago, we did out last tour of shows and now I’m still doing Rise Above Records as we said and I’ve started a new band called WITH THE DEAD who’s just about to release our debut album now.
Gus : Listening to the record I was very impressed because usually when people from the same band start another band later in their career they usually have the same sound, the same vibe. But here, WITH THE DEAD I was really impressed because it’s very different from both CATHEDRAL and ELECTRIC WIZARD. How did you manage to immediately get your own identity with that band?
Lee : I guess probably by not thinking too much about it because it was a new fresh thing, there wasn’t like a baggage hanging over from previous records. Or there wasn’t kind of, within ourselves, any expectation to be a certain way, we just had a definite direction and the definite idea was to make the more brutal, uncompromising heavy suffocating record we could possibly make, that was the main focal point. And I think once that focal point was there the new album got kind of these new ideas that make you veer off in different directions, try a little bit of this, try a bit of that but the main focal point was to be as intense and heavy as possible so that just made it a lot easier overall, when you’ve got one main focus all you’ve gotta do is put yourself one hundred per cent in the music and even if you can tell that there is resemblance to things that we’ve done before in the various bands that we were in before I think just putting your heart and soul and everything you got into making one band like a new thing and it’s gonna sound fresh, which hopefully it does.
If ever I was depressed when I was younger I would play a depressive record and it would make me feel happy, because there is like a vibe in the music that was coming from somebody else that you almost felt like they were on the same level as you.
Gus : You said that you needed some place to express yourself with the band and I think that really shows through your vocals because they’re not like they used to be in NAPALM DEATH and they’re not like they used to be in CATHEDRAL, they’re exactly in between in my opinion and since you’re a huge fan of hardcore punk from 70s and 80s do you think that because you didn’t think about it those roots of your own music background shown through the record?
Lee : To be honest with you, the early hardcore bands like DISCHARGE or ANTI-CIMEX or ANTISECT or bands like that, those to me are like in my blood it’s kind of easy for me, I mean try to do other stuff and try to think too hard about another vocal direction is always a bit taxing on the brain, with this I didn’t want there to be any strain at all, I wanted it to be straight from the gut and straight from the heart without any fanciness or messing around just complete direct verbal assault is what I wanted but obviously not in a stupid way, I didn’t want it to be over the top like NAPALM, stuff like that cause it wouldn’t fit the music. And yeah, it just felt very natural and very instinctive it just came out the way it came out and it wasn’t overanalyzed and overthought and I think that’s just from years and years of having it inside me I suppose.
Gus : The more I listen to WITH THE DEAD, the more I realize how hateful and spiteful it is like you’re trying to swallow the listener in pure darkness, especially with a song like “Screams From My Own Grave” which to me is really really terrifying. You mentionned that a lot of things happened to you. Were they really that bad?
Lee : Some pretty bad things happened to me, in my personal life but that’s kind of private stuff. Not to the extent of maybe what you might think because it wasn’t that bad in terms of I wanted to bloody do myself or anything. But life throws weird situations at you and sometimes things are gonna go really smooth and some things are gonna be completely messed up without you knowing that things are gonna happen they do and things are taken away from you and tings can leave you feeling completely desperate and completely alone and the thing is, it’s not like I feel this nihilistic all the time in my day to day thinking but you also have to consider when you make a decision to make a record that we made this rule that it’s got to be completely nihilistic and completely uncompromising and completely destructive sounding, then how can you have lyrics that don’t represent that kind of feeling, you know for better or worse you’ve gotta channel everything into making something heavy, you’re not heavy writing about light subjects you know so therefore these dark feelings, these anxieties that you have to come to the forefront when you’re letting all this stuff out of your system and once it’s out it is kind of an exorcism. And on the other hand I’m not trying to make people feel depressed, it’s the opposite it’s a cathartic thing. If ever I was depressed when I was younger I would play a depressive record and it would make me feel happy because there is like a vibe in the music that was coming from somebody else that you almost felt like they were on the same level as you, going through a tough time or they had some kind of anxieties that kind of hit a raw nerve with you and through that you almost had that kind of relationship with the record that when you get to the end of it you’re feeling lightened because you’ve shared this kind of tormented experience. And if something’s gonna be heavy it’s gotta be heavy in every way
Gus : I’ve got to ask: given that you wrote the first one really really fast, is the second one already on the way?
Lee : Not necessarily no. Maybe that one will be written fast fast but not fast in advance, I wouldn’t like to think that we suddenly become a band that spends too much time on it because that would defeat the whole objective and why we did it in the first place but the thing is when you do a record you capture a moment in time of where you are in that period in your life and that comes across on the record, a year from now things could be different and we might not feel the same way. I think a lot of the feelings I conveyed on this record are kind of gone now so unless I’ve got some more turmoil in my life, which I hope i don’t have it might be hard to be as pissed off on the next one as it is on this one. But they’re always ways you can find, you can always find things every day that will piss you off you know and if you can find a way to channel them it can lead to great things I think.
Full interview to be found in the podcast.