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In Their Own Words

Lee Dorrian On The Legacy Of Napalm Death
The Quietus , June 2nd, 2010 09:13

Cathedral and Rise Above main man Lee Dorrian talks about his time with Napalm Death and the lasting impact it has had on him...

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A lot of people probably still think I’m the same person I was in 1988 because they’ve got a record there which makes Napalm Death timeless for them. Their vision of you is from that time. But in reality I might be the same in many ways but I’m certainly not a person who wants to hide the way I’ve grown up and the fact I like to try new things with Cathedral. I want to bring that into what I do musically. I don’t see the point in trying to stay ‘true’ to what I was. If it’s not how I feel then what’s the point of it? That kind of music that I did in the old days is still true to my principles and beliefs but if I was to do that style of music now just for the sake of it then it wouldn’t be true, it would just be pretending.

The new Cathedral album uses fantasy as a means of storytelling and social allegory but that is not how I grew up though. I grew up listening to Discharge and hardcore and stuff like that; there was no time for fantasy or escapism in Napalm Death. That was literally just like banging your head against the wall until the wall broke or whatever. But the wall didn’t break. All that probably broke was your head. You have to get to some point in your life where you can start enjoying your life to a certain extent and not feeling responsible for everything that goes on round you.

In fact this was probably one of the many reasons that I left Napalm Death! Another reason was the musical direction really. At that time, if I was going to stay in the band, I wanted them to go almost in the same direction that Cathedral did really. But just to mix the speed with extreme slowness but instead the band wanted to go in a more death metal direction and that really wasn’t me. I just thought if we go down that route we’re just going to sound like everyone else and we’re quite a unique band. Also by the time we left, we’d just done the Mentally Murdered EP and I couldn’t see where we could go after that. I thought we’d reached our peak. There were loads of reasons really. We were standing on a soapbox and everyone who was looking at us was pointing their fingers at us and analyzing everything we did. Not my idea of fun really. We’d had a great time in the band and achieved everything we’d set out to achieve.

But after I left and I would hear Napalm on Steve Wright In The Afternoon on Radio One. [sarcastically] Oh that was great that was... I’d just left the band and it was a really hot summer and I was slogging round delivering furniture in a van. I was dropping off wardrobes round at people’s houses and hearing that shit on Radio One. I didn’t exactly do myself any favours by listening to that.

It’s hard to say why we all went on to do so much varied stuff afterwards. Justin Broadrick, Nic Bullen, Mick Harris, myself... I suppose there was the outlet, Earache and collectively all the people in the band did have very diverse tastes in music. All of the things that did start off in the band were allowed to develop and turn into something a bit more serious. It’s no secret that Justin was into Throbbing Gristle and Swans and stuff like that which led to him doing Godflesh. And it didn’t hurt that I was into Trouble and Melvins and Sabbath which led me to do Cathedral. And it’s no secret that Mick was into avant garde and dub and stuff like that which led him on to do stuff like Scorn. I suppose we were in a situation where we were given the chance to do different things because Napalm were quite a popular band. I suppose if we were different kids without those kinds of musical influences it would have been a lot harder for us to continue and do something outside of Napalm Death but the truth of the matter is we were in the right place at the right time to be able to not even be able to not even think twice about getting a deal and pushing forward to explore those ideas. It was quite easy.

Having said that the core of that group, when we were 14, 15, 16, we were seriously, seriously into music for that age. It wasn’t just something that we did. It wasn’t a case of “Oh look, we’re in this band that’s just going to annoy people.” It wasn’t like that. The joke factor was there to an extent but that was more of a private thing. It was just about how extreme we could be and how fast we could be. It was a case of trying to blow your mates away. There wasn’t any big picture beyond that. I just think it was a group of people with different ideas and influences and Napalm was the catalyst... the springboard onto doing other things. It must seem quite weird from the outside but to me it makes sense. It’s very simple.

But also I think the late 80s was a really great period. I’d go and see bands like Spacemen 3 and Loop and it didn’t seem unusual. Early on with Cathedral we did a tour with the Young Gods and The Cranes. How bizarre is that? Even Thee Hypnotics, who were a lot more of a rock & roll band, I’d go and see them and it just didn’t seem to matter. For some reason around about 85 to 89 people were just doing their own thing. At last! Thank god! Maybe it was because I was old enough to embrace it more and more fully understand what was going on but still, truly great times I think.

Who ever persuaded Napalm Death to jam with Sir Patrick Moore, Craig Charles, a jazz funk band and a school orchestra deserves a medal. Live on TV in 1989.

I got on stage with Napalm Death for the first time in 20 years recently in France and I completely fucked my voice up! I totally fucked it up and I had to go on stage with Cathedral 20 minutes later. But it’s one of those things. Shane’s been on at me to do it for ages. Hounding me to do it for years and years and years but I couldn’t get out of it this time so I just went for it. It was a good laugh actually. It wasn’t really a big deal. People seem to have made a big deal about it but it was just old mates having a blast really. The thing is with Napalm, even though they’re totally different and don’t have any original members left, to me they’re more than just a band I used to be in it’s what they stand for and as an entity in general. The basic principles of the band. The intelligence level of the band. It’s way more important than having some kind of rock star thing about it, about being bitter about the fact that you used to be in them or whatever.

Cathedral's Guessing Game is out now on Nuclear Blast. The box set Grind Madness At The BBC featuring Napalm Death is out now on Earache. Watch this space for a Godflesh reveiw and feature coming soon.