There is not much one might do in doom or metal in general that Lee Dorrian hasn’t done. From getting his start at the beginnings of grindcore with Napalm Death to forming the massively influential Cathedral to fostering and continuing to develop an underground rock aesthetic few can predict or match with Rise Above Records — giving bands like Orange Goblin, Witchcraft, Naevus, Revelation and Electric Wizard a home in their early stages — his work over the better part of the last 30 years has not only resulted in badass records like Cathedral‘s 1991 debut, Forest of Equilibrium, or the 2002 Rampton album from the one-off project Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine with members of SunnO))) and Iron Monkey, but has actively played a role in reshaping what we think of as heavy. An inimitable stage presence, Dorrian put Cathedral to rest in 2013 after the release of The Last Spire (review here), but he continues his forward-thinking work with Rise Above, releasing landmark works from the likes of Ghost and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats as well as potential doom-shapers like Lucifer.
This week, Cathedral reissues their first demo, 1990’s In Memoriam, complete with bonus live material, and I’m thrilled to be able to have Dorrian provide his answers to The Obelisk Questionnaire to mark the occasion:
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Lee Dorrian
How did you come to do what you do?
Just from being a fan of music since I was a little kid. From a very early age I was fascinated by not only the music, but also the lifestyle and culture surrounding it. In my early teens I started doing a fanzine, this led me to booking shows in local pubs and venues when I was sixteen. This in turn led me to joining my first ever band, which was Napalm Death and it went from there.
Describe your first musical memory.
I have memories of listening to records with my dad when I was about four years old. In particular, I remember him playing Beach Boys over and over but I also remember rocking out in the living room with him to Slade around the same time. Also, one very vivid memory from around this time was continually playing the Small Faces single on Immediate Records called “Itchycoo Park.” For some reason it had a blue ink stain on the black and white labels and I used to watch it going round and round, whilst the sound effects on the track would make me dizzy, haha. It was my favourite single when I was a little kid but the first single I actually bought with my own pocket money was “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. After that I got into the Bay City Rollers, then became serious about rock ‘n’ roll and was a Teddy Boy at eight years old! I used to hang around with the older Teds and they showed me the ropes, what to wear, how to dance, etc.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
I guess it was hearing a track off the B-side of Scum on the John Peel radio show. He had been my idol (if that’s the right word), since I was 10/11 years old, so hearing him play a record that I was on was just completely surreal. Then I got to know him a bit, which was just amazing. Nothing I did after that really topped it to be honest.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
When Cathedral signed to Columbia Records in the US. As anarchist teenager, I said I would never be in a band that signed to a major label. The opportunity came to us, we didn’t chase it, or even desire it. All I can say is, we had some great times as a result but it also fucked everything up.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
Genuine artist progression leads to absolute greatness, though it depends on how you interpret it. I’m sure many artists I’ve admired early on, but not liked them so much as they’ve “progressed,” would view their progression differently than I would. I’m sure the same could be said for many people that have listened to some things I may have been involved with over the years: I might think it’s good, they might think it’s crap.
How do you define success?
Doing something you believe in and getting it right artistically. To me that would be more important than selling millions of records.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Swans a few weeks ago in London. Having said that, the first time I saw them in ‘86 was one of the best shows I have seen in my life.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
A planet where only cool people lived.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
My daughter coming back from vacation!