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This second part of Comrade Aleks' Cathedral retrospective picks up where part 1 ended, and follows the rest of the band's career through the words of drummer Brian Dixon.

Interview with Cathedral.
"Brian Dixon joined Cathedral as their drummer in 1994, and pretty soon became a natural part of the band. Long tours, intensive record sessions – he overcame all the obstacles on the way and was with the band until the end. He was present for the creation of 'The Carnival Bizarre', 'Supernatural Birth Machine' and other legendary albums. So, after regularly listening to Cathedral's classic albums, I took the decision to ask Brian a few questions about his experiences in the band."


In the hot seat: Brian Dixon.


Hi Brian! How are you? How does it feel, now that three years have passed since Cathedral disbanded?

Hi Aleksey! I'm great thanks.

It does seem a long time since Cathedral... we still keep in touch. I talk with Gaz most days... putting each other onto bands or songs we've over looked along the way. I miss the band but hey! Life goes on...

You came into the band in around 1995, after Mark Ramsay Wharton vacated the drumstool: do you remember your first meeting with the other members?

My first meeting with the Cathedral guys was when I auditioned for them in early '95. They were looking for a drummer and bass player. I saw the ad in Kerrang mag and gave it a shot. I dragged along my friend Davey Rimmer who now plays bass in Uriah Heep.

We played 3 songs together. "Ride", "Enter the Worms" and "Midnight Mountain". It wasn't really Davey's thing but they asked me back the next day and I did the songs again with another bass player...

I spoke with Lee and Gaz a little afterwards.... I got the call the next morning and the rest is history. I didn't even meet Leo at the audition but anyway they chose him on bass.


The long-standing Cathedral core members.


What attracted you to Cathedral's sound? They'd released 'The Ethereal Mirror' not long before, and I guess that this album was something new at the time.

I wasn't really that familiar with the band to be honest although I was at a Sabbath show they played at ... I'm a little older so I wasn't really aware of a lot of new bands. I was literally still listening to the old ones ha and still am!!

I really liked Gaz's Iommi style sound and playing. Great riffs! Lee's lyrics and vocals fitted with them just perfectly... As well as being a fantastic frontman!

Since that point and until the end you were part of the band, and the core line-up – you, Gaz, Lee Dorrian and Leo Smee remained constant all this time. Did you have a certain formula for working on the songs? Are there albums in Cathedral's discography where the percentage of Lee's or Gaz's ideas prevail over other ones?

Lee and Gaz did write most of the songs yes… Occasionally Leo would put an idea forward, such as "Skullflower" from VII Coming. A great riff I thought ...

"The Caravan beyond Redemption" was the one record we all kind of threw ideas in... which is probably why it's a little different haha. But mostly Gaz would make a rough demo and send it out to us all to work on at home before getting into a rehearsal studio... I really liked the "Caravan" record... it was a happy period I think. "Heavy Load" I thought was a pretty cool track...

Cathedral – 'Heavy Load':


Do you remember the point in your career with Cathedral when you understood that the band had reached the status of an iconic one?

As for Cathedral being iconic. I think when it's all happening you don't really see or feel it. You just try and make the music as good as possible ... It's afterwards you realize how fantastic some of the stuff the band recorded really was!

I still believe the band will be further missed by people as time goes on...or maybe like I discover bands I've missed over the years maybe there are lots of younger kids will get into Cathedral. Who knows? They definitely left their mark in music history I reckon..

Yes, the mark! How would you describe Cathedral's brand? You know – this vibe created by music, lyrics, artwork and so on…

Cathedral have so many qualities I think from the Out and out Doom to the more '70s Rock side and the prog elements also...tied in with artwork made them kind of unique in many ways.

Aside from being just a Heavy band they could certainly write good songs ...memorable and catchy a lot of the time. Sabbath I think have those same qualities too...many people don't see past the heaviness but they also wrote very memorable melodies to those brutal riffs.



'Hopkins (The Witch Finder General)' is one of the most famous Cathedral songs, and it has that crazy video. How did you record this track, and what do you remember about shooting? You know – that was really something when I got the VHS with this clip, back in my school years in the '90s! It was (and still is) really killer!

"Hopkins" I think was the second song I ever recorded with the band. I think we did it pretty much in the order it appears in on the record. It is still a killer song I reckon!

The video was just perfect too. That was a fun day filming in London... I think there were lots of edits to get it just rights... using clips from the movie etc.

Was the process of recording Cathedral's albums always the same, or were there some really memorable sessions?

I personally find recording pretty stressful - drums setting foundation of the songs, it's important it's got the right feel.

And different producers work in different ways for sure. Some album sessions were more fun than others haha… "Caravan beyond Redemption" was a fun time I seem to remember. "The Garden of Unearthly Delights" turned out really well I thought. "Endtyme" was more of a natural organic approach… Jamming live in the studio.

Cathedral – 'Hopkins (The Witch Finder General)':


Cathedral always looked like a band with the vision; it's all in the artwork, lyrics and the sound. Moreover the band was always a professional one, or at least so it looked… How much effort did you put into it to keep this reputation?

It was always pretty different keeping the band tight and professional as we all live in different parts of the country.

So we only really got together to work on stuff coming up. So live work we would normally have really little time to rehearsal. Working on new material we normally gave ourselves quite a lot of time when possible to create something special..

How did you collaborate with Dave Patchett? Was it only Lee who dealt with Dave, or were you all included in this process?

Lee dealt with Dave and all the artwork. All stemmed from Lee's ideas as far as I know... "Carnival Bizarre" is my favorite piece.

Did you discuss the meaning Lee and Dave put into the concept of the artwork? Or did you just guess what all the bizarre images and characters meant?

I know the artwork is very important to a lot of fans. I think often it was already done prior to the recording and would possibly influence the record slightly. Each are unique and created in Lee's mind. "Carnival" and "The Garden" being my favourites.


Full-length discography with Brian Dixon, 1995 - 2013.


Some people suppose 'Supernatural Birth Machine' isn't the band's best album: how do you value this work nowadays?

"Supernatural Birth Machine"... some love it, some don't!! Ha… I've met people who for them is their favourite!! It probably was too soon after "Carnival", it did sound a lot like "Carnival" when we first started working on it, but somehow it changed along the way. I didn't listen to it much for a long time, but I'm pleasantly surprised by some of the stuff on there. There are a few tracks we never finished on that session.

How do you see today the strong points of Cathedral in the '00s?

I think Cathedral's strong point was we never changed to try and be more successful or trendy. We just did whatever we wanted to do really. I think most of the time it worked - who wants to jump on a bandwagon? Things just change so quickly… if you try to follow each fad, you're always a day late. Stick to your guns!

The band did play a lot of gigs and tours here and there, what were the most difficult parts of touring for you?

Touring was not too difficult during my time in the band. I believe the earlier US tours were long and tortuous ha… We normally had fun, I enjoyed the lifestyle. I would take it easier now for sure!

What were your main rules for tours which would help survive them without too much pain for body and mind?

Ok... survival on the road? To be honest there was lots of drinking going on with most of us; if I had my time over I would rather do it sober I think. Although it was fun at the time haha… I think we mostly travelled with our headphones on listening to our individual favourite music... it's kind of private time and can "switch off" a little from each other.


Cathedral live, Bloodstock 2010.


Can you name your most memorable gig or maybe a whole tour?

My most memorable gig was maybe playing just before Van Halen at the massive Rosklide festival in Denmark 1995.

My first Japanese tour in 1996 was really special.

Really? How did you get on that fest with Van Halen?!

We landed a slot on the Mainstage at Roskilde Festival in Denmark 1995.The Offspring had moved stages and this position became available and we got offered it. It was actually Van Hagar but still pretty cool. It was a strange line up that day: Cathedral, Van Halen, The Cure and D.A.D... ha... All of these bands had huge trucks and we had a car with my drums in!!

I heard that idea of Cathedral disbanding was already sounded out after the release of 'Garden Of Unearthly Delight'. What happened back then?

To be honest the band looked set to disband a few times. I don't remember the details to be honest. Obviously it had been a long road and various changes in musical direction and maybe "VII Coming" was a little lighter especially compared to "Endtyme"... I think that caused unrest in the band. After "The VII Coming" it was talked about I recall. I'm just glad we got to record "The Garden" album... "The Guessing Game" wasn't quite so strong I didn't think.

Cathedral – 'Corpsecycle':


And you're saying that 'The Guessing Game' wasn't so strong – why do you think so? What didn't satisfy you about this album?

I think it was still a strong record and certainly a lot different to "The Garden" album. It could've maybe have been a single album but then again the novelty of a double was pretty cool too. I didn't think it sounded as good as "The Garden" in my opinion.

I guess that you recorded three full-lengths with Kit Woolven. Was he the one who understood the abilities and potential of the band better than anyone else?

Kit Woolven I think actually came about as he was a friend of our manager at the time of "Carnival Bizarre". He's such a lovely guy and that album turned really well. The songs were really strong and the line up was new. I think there was just an exciting vibe to that record that worked. So as it was so successful working with Kit we went back for more with "Supernatural"... Same band, same studio, same producer… this time maybe the songs were not as strong and maybe we rushed back into record again without reflecting more on what we had done and where were going musically.

He did "VII Coming" which I thought sounded really good although maybe a little safe and generic for the band at that time .Some great songs on there though.

'The Last Spire' was recorded with Jaime Gomez Arellano: did you tell him that it would be Cathedral's final album? Did you set a funeral mood for this record?

I was literally only there one week. I recorded the drums and left. Just Gaz and I recorded all of the tracks at first. It turned out well in the end I think... interesting that none of those songs ever got played live.

Cathedral – 'Tower of Silence':


You worked with big labels all this time, did they ever push you to do some concrete things? Or was it enough for them that you're Cathedral?

I think we did get asked by a label to produce more "Hopkins" style songs at one point... we probably did the opposite!! Haha.

Candlemass' main man Leif Edling once said that he doubts if they will ever be able to record a proper full-length album, but they still exist as a band which plays live. Did you discuss such a possibility with Cathedral?

Cathedral was always a great live band I think. I'm not sure we are the type of band that would jump on the Metal Cabaret circuit and carry on the same songs every night for years. It would be nice to maybe do some festivals one day. We were always a creative band so much so we ended on a final record instead of a tour like most people.

Brian, you took part in The Skull's European tour in 2016. What are your impressions after that? How did it differ from tours you played with Cathedral?

The Skull tour was really good fun, everybody in the band is great and super nice guys! We are all "mature ", so it wasn't a crazy mad tour haha… Just really relaxed and not stressful! My old body was aching but that was the only bad thing. We all got along really well - musically and personally. Which counts for a lot in this business!!




Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.


Visit the Cathedral bandpage.

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