With The Dead The Main Objective Was To Sound As Colossal and Brutal

WITH THE DEAD – “The Main Objective Was To Sound As Colossal And Brutal As Possible”

“To do a record like this, ourselves, where we were in control of everything – it was a no-brainer really,” says former Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian about his new band and their self-titled debut, With The Dead. “It’s doom in reverse – moody.”      
Joining Dorrian in With The Dead is the founding rhythm section of occultist doom overlords Electric Wizard: guitarist/bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening. “Tim wrote all the material really – all the music at least – so he had a definite vision in his head of how he wanted the songs to come across,” recalls Lee. “The band was born out of him and Mark jamming really. There was no one else in mind to do it. Tim’s a real killer bass player. Over the past ten or so years, he’s got more and more accomplished as a guitar player, so it just made sense that he would play both instruments on the record. If we are to do anything live at any point, then we’ll have to find a bass player cause Tim said he wanted to play guitar if we were doing any shows.”
At the risk of putting the cart in front of the horse, as With The Dead has just been released via Dorrian’s own Rise Above Records, the previous statement beckons the question, will With The Dead ever play live? “I would like to think we’re going to play live,” answers Lee. “Without trying to sound cryptic, the desire is there to play live. I wouldn’t want this to be a band that just does one record and that’s it; just a studio venture and nothing else. I think we could go further with it and do more records at least. After Cathedral, I kind of said to myself, ‘I’m never going to be in a band that’s going to be as much full-time as that again.’ Even though there were years with Cathedral when nothing happened, you’re still bonded to it because it was still in existence. After two decades of doing it, all the frustrations had taken their toll a little bit. I guess we felt like we’d done all we could do. In many ways, that was very sad, but also relieving to end the band on a note we felt quite pleased with; the last record and stuff.”
“Since then, I’ve dedicated myself more or less 100% to the label, because it’s more than a full-time job really; to stay on top of it and keep it running. All these things added to what we’re talking about – I never really intended to be in another band again. Especially one that was going to have a proper album out and do interviews for it; but then again, if I was going to do another band I wouldn’t be doing these things? Of course I would. I suppose I like to drift along as opposed to getting obsessed with something and getting too carried away with it. The thing is… the band seems like it came out of the blue. I didn’t want to jump out the gate before we’d actually – I just wanted the record to be finished and make sure it sounded good, before we started blabbing off about this new band we’ve got. It could have turned out not so good, but fortunately it turned out exactly how they wanted it to sound. So it just seemed right to let people know about it.”

The origins of With The Dead date back to Halloween 2014. Tim and Mark “had also been in Paralysis together, for a long time really. Tim lives in The States these days; he has done for quite some years now. He’s married to an American girl and lives in New Jersey. I guess he felt a loose end and wanted to do something. Tim came over to The UK and hooked up with Mark, and suggested maybe working on something together. In the meantime they asked me, if they did get something together, would Rise Above be interested in releasing it? I said yeah, of course. Tim was willing to record an EP; I suggested that EPs are a redundant format these days, so if you are going to do something, it would need to be an album really. These were all conversations I was having before I had any intention of actually being in the band. The idea initially was that Mark was going to do the vocals, or he and Tim were going to share them. During this time, Tim was sending me songs he was working on; and I was really getting into them. I thought they sounded really killer. There was nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking about this material, it just sounded really fresh to me. It sounded straight from the gut, proper, raw and heavy. No frills, it had everything it needed to have. And these are just four-track recordings with a drum machine. That convinced me we should definitely do something with the band, at least on the label.”
“I suggested that he come over in October last year. He got together with Mark and had a few rehearsals. Then at the end of it, they recorded everything they’d worked on together to maybe build on it and make an album out of it. I went down to the rehearsals – still not officially in the band – and hung around for a couple of days. When I heard the recordings, I didn’t think they sounded that great. They didn’t sound like they were recorded properly; they sounded a bit rushed. So I suggested those initial recordings should just be used as demos really; as a sketch pad for the actual record, if we were going to do one. I suggested going away from all this for a few months, and then come back. Reconvene in six months, go through the songs again and then record them properly. At least then you can have time to be absent from them, but still focus on little parts or dynamics that you might want to add. During that time, they asked me three or four times if I would do the vocals on it. Because I was so much into the material, I kind of agreed. Although, we did the photo shoot when I was not in the band. I just thought, Mark lives in The UK but Tim doesn’t. If I am going to join the band, it’s going to be another six months before he comes over. So we did some photographs with me in them.”
One of those photos serves as the With The Dead album cover; markedly different from the highly detailed illustrations that adorn the Cathedral discography. “I wanted the record to be as simplistic as possible really. I didn’t want to spend six months agonizing over finding an artist – obviously I didn’t want it to be the same as Cathedral. As much as I love Dave Patchett, I wanted to do something new… that wasn’t completely new. The record was quite spontaneous, the way it was actually recorded; I just wanted to capture that vibe all around really, and not have some kind of tormented search for a killer sleeve. I thought that picture looked quite powerful, the music’s quite simple and straightforward, so the whole package should be really.”

Being the frontman for With The Dead has allowed Lee to once again be cathartic. “One of the things I do miss about being in a band, there wasn’t a place for you to get your demons out anymore. I’d been so used to that for so many years, having a platform to get things out of your system… that was taken away when Cathedral ended. It was one of the things I found a bit enticing about joining With The Dead because I had the freedom to go back into that and have a way to get these feelings out of me once more – in a way that was fresh as well. There were no ties to something I’d said on the previous album, or something that was hanging on I had to follow up. It was the same kind of principle, yet starting all over again, which I found quite exciting really. It was a good way to get all this crap out of me.”
Quite surprisingly, “all the vocals were done in like two hours. And for the lyrics, I put a deadline of half an hour each song – in terms of actually writing the lyrics. So I had a long time to think about them, but I didn’t have a long time to exorcize them; which was deliberate. I didn’t want to feel drained by having to spend ten weeks on one line of a song, which is what I used to do in Cathedral sometimes. I used to wear myself out trying to make sure the line was perfect, to the point of it being impossible almost. I wanted this to sound as natural and raw… straight from the gut really. The production of the record is deliberately primitive; you can hear mistakes and errors left, right and centre really. The main objective was to sound as colossal and brutal as possible. The focus was to make the most brutally aggressive and heavy record we possibly could; within the realm of music we’re known for.”
In closing, where did the band name, With The Dead, come from? “I just wanted it to be called The Dead. Again, I wanted things to be simple and not complicated. But Mark didn’t like The Dead, he was more into the idea of With The Dead; he heard it on a trailer for a film somewhere. I just thought, well okay. It looks and sounds pretty good, and it suits the image we’ve got. It just seemed to fit really. We’re influenced by a lot of horror movies, obviously. The fact that we used makeup; I would never have considered doing that before. For some reason, I had this vision in my head – that’s how the band should look. Just to make it a bit different from what I’ve done in the past. Keep it fresh.”
“It’s quite a nihilistic journey from start to finish really. Then again, I’m not necessarily a nihilistic person myself. These are just expressions from things inside of you, feelings you come across in day to day life. I compare it to the second LP by Trouble – The Skull; it’s probably the most depressing metal record I know, in all aspects – it’s heavy on the soul, heavy on the sound, the presentation, the writing. Back in the ‘80s or ‘90s, if ever I felt down or depressed by something, just playing that record start to finish, would make me feel happy afterwards. The level of depression that’s conveyed, you almost relate to it to a point that it’s actually more depressing than you actually are. It makes you feel somehow enlightened and exorcised. That’s actually the kind of thing that comes off with an album like With The Dead. We’re not encouraging depression in people. But for heavy music to tap your head, you need to have heavy experiences. It needs to be heavy all around. If we were singing lyrics about positive things, like Christianity and shit like that – even though Trouble were; Trouble were singing about Christianity in a very jaded, melancholy way. If you’re talking about things in a positive way, in any kind of sense, I don’t think heavy music sounds heavy.”


Source: Bravewords