Garry “Gaz” Jennings played guitar for Cathedral, which alone is enough to enshrine him in the halls of doom metal Valhalla. Now that the legendary doom metal act has been put to rest, however, he’s not just resting on his laurels. He has two bands going, Death Penalty and this month’s cover act Lucifer, plus a reissue of Cathedral’s 1990 demo, In Memoriam, out soon. He took some time to answer questions about all three acts over email.
Why did you decide to join Lucifer?
I was initially asked by Lee [Dorrian, Cathedral vocalist and Rise Above label head] to try and write a couple of songs for Johanna [Sadonis] as she was gonna get a new project together after the breakup of The Oath. At the time she didn’t have a guitar player and I knew that Lee believed in her ability as an artist and wanted to continue working with her on the label. So as I’m always writing riffs/songs, which is what I enjoy doing, I agreed to help write a few tunes at first, but as time went on I ended up writing all the music and playing on the album, which I had a lot of fun doing.
Are there any moments on the Lucifer album that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of the whole record, not just my contribution but everybody’s contribution and performances. I think we made a superb debut album. And when you take into consideration the way the album was put together in such a short space of time it’s pretty damn good achievement.
How is the collaboration with Johanna similar/different from collaborating with Lee?
To me it’s pretty much the same to be honest. The material may be a little different but for me it’s just about trying to write the best material I can come up with at the time and then I give the material to Lee/Johanna or, in the case of Death Penalty, Michelle [Nocon], and let them work their magic. It’s weird, because sometimes I’ll have a melody in my head where I think logically the vocals should be and then I’ll get a demo back with the vocals on and the vocal melody is in a completely different place to where I thought it should be and sound. And, to be honest, the ideas that Johanna and Michelle come up with are fantastic. It was different in Cathedral because a lot of the time we didn’t hear what Lee was gonna do until we actually got to the demo stage of an album. We trusted him 100% . He knew exactly what the song needed. I’ve enjoyed working with them all.
How do you know when a riff is a Lucifer riff versus a Cathedral or Death Penalty riff?
Of course I don’t write for Cathedral anymore but the 2 other bands will have riffs that people will say sound like they could have been written for Cathedral, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I write in a certain style and some riffs could be used for both bands but I think Death Penalty is more Heavy Metal and more raw whereas Lucifer is more melodic hard rock. Of course, it was a little trial and error when I wrote for Lucifer at first. I would send songs over to Johanna which had different styles and she picked out the ones that were more suited to what Lucifer were about. Some of the songs that never got used were kinda like Darkthrone, but as I’ve got to know her a little more and work with her and also find out what kinda bands that she really liked, if I write for Lucifer in the future I’ll have more of an idea what kind of material to write. To me as soon as I write a riff I know straightaway if it’s a Death Penalty riff or a Lucifer riff.
Does it feel like there’s less pressure when working with Lucifer? Less expectation to live up to the legacy of a legendary band (If you ever felt that way in the first place)?
I don’t think there’s any pressure at all to be honest. I think we are just enjoying playing. I’ve never felt any pressure really. I just enjoying playing so whether it’s a success or not it’s just fun to play.
How involved were you with the In Memoriam reissue?
The only contribution I had really with the reissue was a few bits of memorabilia that I had to dig out of the attic that Lee couldn’t find. He has a lot of stuff he’s collected over the years as I do but he’s moved house a couple of times and I think some of the stuff is still at his mums house in Coventry. He asked me if I could find a few things and luckily I had most of my clippings in order so was able to contribute a few things. There was one poster though that both of us were looking for and we both couldn’t find it. I think I had the original video tape that Lee then got converted to DVD.
What’s it like to go back and revisit a 25-year-old document of your art like that?
It’s cool and very strange at the same time. I mean I don’t listen to the demo at all these days, but when I got a vinyl copy I put it on and it blew me away. Hardly any, if any bands at all, were playing like we were back then. Ok, maybe Grief and Winter were the only 2 and maybe Post Mortem to an extent but when I listen know it’s crazy that a bunch of young guys who wanted to sound like Trouble, Candlemass and Saint Vitus sounding nothing like them and created something completely different that years later people still come up to the myself and Lee and talk about the first demo and, of course, Forest [of Equilibrium].
Do you feel it’s held up?
Yeah, I think it’s done ok. In terms of speed, or lack of it for that matter, there’s bands now that play way slower, so I suppose it’s not that slow by today’s standards but I still think it’s super heavy.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
No. You can only create what you can at that given time and there’s no way I would change a thing. We couldn’t play that great, the songs were primitive , there’s mistakes on there, the tuning is so low but change it … No way. It’s part of our legacy and it was the first step in a very long and creative career for us.
***Look for Rise Above’s reissue of In Memoriam on July 24. Preorder it.