DEATH PENALTY "The Gaz Chamber"

By Octopi Mills

 What follows is an interview with a fellow who is the stuff of legends. Gaz Jennings is a man who did a lot for Doom Metal with his olde and now ended band, Cathedral. He has returned with Death Penalty to show us he still has many charges left in his olde wizards wand; that being his trusted and tried model SG guitar, with which he has formed a horse-and-rider relationship to the very symbiosis of craftsmanship and profession. As an orator at a funeral once said to all of us in the freezing cold outdoors of a tent which covered the congregation and a coffin, I will say now to you in some difference but with the same delivery. I don't want to keep you all here in this cold at a funeral  to tell you what a great man this fellow is, as I am sure you all know this. Let's just remember that, and realize that with every funeral, there is something that springs from the compost of death. On behalf of myself, Mr. Jennings, and the good Doc here at Wormwood this evening, we would like to present to you an interview with this man and his rise from death...We give you Death Penalty now...Here is to the future


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: As a young man I was struck by Cathedral and collected nearly all the albums....after all this time the music is still played in my chambers, making me believe it is timeless...It was a pleasure to hear and review your latest project's new album, and in a like manner to do this is something I have looked forward to.What led to the formation of Death Penalty, and how did this project come about after Cathedral was ended? Do you plan on keeping Death Penalty going as a full time band and perform?

GAZ JENNINGS: Thank you very much for the kind words regarding Cathedral , it's always nice to know that people appreciate the work that we put into the band. I knew that towards the end of Cathedral that I wanted to do a record with some of the songs I had been writing knowing that Cathedral would be calling it a day. I'd had a lot of riffs that I had been working on knowing that they were a little different from what Cathedral were doing so I just wanted to get them out on a record. I had no intention of getting a new band together really , I just wanted to do an album with these songs on , it wasn't until I was speaking with Lee one day that he suggested instead of just doing a one off record why not make it into a proper band which is what we have done. So yes, I hope we can keep it going as a proper band , bear in mind the rest of the band live in Belgium and I'm the only one in the UK , and we would like to try and do as many gigs as we can.

WC: It is known, or said, that you recorded a lot of your past band's shows....Will any of these ever be possibly released? Also what could be said of this hobby; how do you go about recording them and will you do this if you play with Death Penalty?

 GJ: Yeah that is true that I pretty much recorded around 90% of gigs , rehearsals , demos etc ..... There's a few things missing but it's interesting listening back to all the old rehearsals of songs that we never used , unreleased studio tracks , cover songs we did. I've been recording and collecting stuff even from Acid Reign and as far back as my very first recordings which date back to 1981 when I was 11 years old. Ha , that stuff is pretty crazy , listening to me singing trying to mimic Ozzy when i was that 11 / 12 years old. I'm afraid that stuff is staying well hidden. Those recordings go from 1981 through to 1985. We were doing stuff that was influenced by Sabbath , Angel witch , Maiden , Kiss . Then I have Acid Reign stuff from 1985 to 1988 which is when I left. Again I've got unreleased rehearsal songs , live shows , reh / demos for both albums I played on. And then there was a demo I did by myself in 1990 called Morbid Doom where I played all the instruments myself. A couple of bits and pieces on there would of been for the next Acid Reign album had I still been in the band. And after that there's tons of Cathedral stuff including early rehearsals , songs that were only played once live , a Witchfinder General cover we did at the same time as the "Forest" album , some very strange unreleased songs we wrote around the time of "7th Coming" , a St Vitus cover with Jimmy Bower on drums from Switzerland 1996 , the infamous UK Disgrace gig in Switzerland 2001 on the Entombed tour which lasted all of 5 mins. Phew , there's tons of stuff. I very much doubt it will ever see the light of day but you never know. When we did the "Last Spire" we recorded a few extra tracks which are still sitting in the vaults one of which was a track that was around 35 / 40 mins long. Who knows , this stuff may see the light of day one day as Rise Above own the rights to the material so we wouldn't have to get permission to use it.

WC: You are known as the Riffmaster General; a title known to often do you play your guitar and do you keep a sort of riff library in some form or other? I have heard many guitarists of yore did this; perhaps Jimmy Page, if i recall...I assume you mostly play the SG as the main model for your guitar

 GJ: Ha ha ! Is that what I am known as ? That's pretty awesome. Do I think of myself like that ? Not really but it's nice if other people think that of me. I practice now and again but I don't really sit down to write a song , it's usually when I'm just practicing that a riff will appear from somewhere. I do have a silly amount of riffs that I record on my phone and in the past where I have tons of old cassettes with shed loads of riffs on there. To be honest I'm quite prolific when it comes to writing riffs but that's not to say all the stuff I write is of use or any good. Sometimes I listen back to things I've written and think " Jesus, that's pretty crap " but other times I listen and I'm quite surprised by some riffs. Like a couple of months ago I got myself a new phone and was listening back to the riffs I recorded on my old phone and there was a riff on there from Nov 2013 which I can't even remember writing and when I heard it I was like " wow that's pretty killer , gotta use it for the next album ". On my old phone there was over 156 ideas / riffs on there. Again some pretty cool , some not so good. I just record things as I go along so at least you got em. And yes the SG is my main guitar. I practice sometimes with my Flying V but always use the SG for recording and playing live. I've only ever used the V once live and that was at Wacken 2009.

WC: For the new Death Penalty material did you use any of your old musical creations or did you merely start anew? What can be said of your approach to writing this material? Do you handle lyrics and other concepts within this context, or is it left in democracy of the other members?

GJ: For Death Penalty most of the material was written from scratch for this album. There's 3 songs and 1 riff which were written for Cathedral but never got to the rehearsal stage. "Eyes of the Heretic" and "Immortal by Your Hand" were written back in 1997 for the "Caravan" album. Of course these weren't the titles back then , they didn't have song titles, just working titles. The riff in the mid section of "Written by the Insane" before the solos was again wrote back in 97 for the same album. And "Children of the Night" was written for "The Last Spire" but we used "This Body Thy Tomb" instead. I thought it was too good a song not to use so hence the reason we used it on this album. My concept to what Death Penalty is doing is the same as when I was a part of Cathedral .... If I like it and think it's good I'll use it no matter what style. I don't write the lyrics , I leave that to Michelle as I think lyrics are a very personal thing and if the singer writes the words they know how and what they are expressing whilst delivering the vocals. I think Michelle does a great job with the lyrics. She as quite an usual way of writing where she will repeat the same line throughout the verse but only change maybe one or two words which I think is very unique and very cool. Also I can't write lyrics to save my life anyway , if I wrote lyrics they would be utter dross ha ! I just stick to writing the riffs.

WC:: What are your interests and heart's treasures outside of making music? Do you ever rove the English countryside in search of inspiration for new ideas or have any places you like to travel?

 GJ: I used to like travelling when I was younger and of course being in a band it goes hand in hand but as I've gotten older the travelling is less appealing. Of course I know if we play gigs in different countries you have to take it as it comes but when I was 21 / 22 I would have travelled all year long but as I've got older it appeals less. When I'm home I love nothing better than getting up and taking my beautiful dog for a walk in the countryside for hours but in the knowledge that home is nearby.

WC: How did the reunion for the live Cathedral shows and such go when you performed with your old mates Adam and Griff? Has there ever been any talk to do music together again with them or Lee Dorrian...I know of the Septic Tank project, and wonder if you will ever release more material with this music in the future?

GJ:The reunion for the "Forest" show was fantastic. It really was good fun to see and play with those guys again even though myself and Lee played 2 sets that night and I was very ill. I was ok doing the Forest set but when we did the second set it took a lot out of me. I had some kind of fever. Pretty tough going. I must admit though even though the gig was great we sounded better in rehearsals.  I don't know if Griff or Adam were nervous cos they hadn't played in front of a crowd for a long time or the occasion just got to them but in rehearsals there was no pressure and it sounded awesome. Mike Smail was fantastic on the kit. He is such an incredible drummer. He told me when he came over he didn't want to disgrace himself or us  and that he'd been practicing every night for something like 2 months solid before he came over. What a true pro. I don't think we would ever make music together again , besides I'm doing Death Penalty so there's no reason or time really to commit to anything else. Also Adam is in a band with our old drummer Mark and they sound pretty damn good , well, they should do cos there both very talented guys who know how to play. As for Septic Tank , yes, we would like to do an album in the near future , it's just finding the time and commitments from everybody involved to try and make it work. You have to take into account that Lee is very busy these days running his Rise Above label and know that Cathedral are no more it's become is priority and takes up a lot of time. Scott lives in LA and has his own commitments and Gomez is busy with his studio and producing. I hope one day we can do it cos I personally think we could create a serious amount of noise and make a very good record.

WC:What books or authors do you hold to be dear in terms of your own interests? Are there any works you would recommend to us here at this time?

GJ: To be honest I'm not a big reader actually. I do read but it's usually biographies or autobiographies and they're usually for comedians , musicians or sports stars really. I'm also a pretty slow reader so if I do read it takes me awhile to finish a book. Books that I've read recently include books on George Formby , Sid James , Kenneth Williams , Lou Macari , Laurel and Hardy ..... I think you can see what kinda stuff I read.

WC: When listening to music do you return to old things you deem classic or are you listening to newer stuff as well? Are than any bands or albums that you hold dear that you would like to share or talk about, past or present?

 GJ: Of course to me it all starts with Sabbath , there's where I get all my inspiration from and the bands that came after them that were influenced by them. Trouble , Witchfinder General , Candlemass , Dream Death , Angel Witch , ST Vitus , Pentagram , Witchfynde , Carnivore , Acid etc....,Kiss are one of my fave bands ever. All those bands I mentioned have played a huge part on my song writing past and present. This might sound silly but those bands style are in my blood so no matter what I write now or what I write in say 5 years time it will always have elements of those bands because they have and still do have a big impact on the way I write , my guitar style , my sound etc ..... It will never leave me and to be honest I don't want it to cos I love playing in that style. Yeah I might branch out and throw a few different things in along the way but it all comes back to Sabbath and Witchfinder General and Trouble. They are the 3 most important influences on my style of playing and writing. And you can't get any better.

WC:: One question we like to ask many of those who pass through here regards the paranormal or supernatural...Perhaps you have an experience or an old tale you would share with us at this time?

GJ: Again, sorry to disappoint on this one but I've never experienced anything like this in my life I'm afraid. I'm waiting for it but it just ain't happened as of yet. But seriously if you were a ghost why would you come back and hang around a graveyard or haunt a church if you had access to do and go where you wanted to in the universe ? Surely there would be better places  and more interesting things to do than spook people at night in a graveyard. I know if I come back I won't be hanging around a cemetery at night. If I die before Tony Iommi I'm gonna come back and hang round his place I watch him practicing and writing riffs. Ha !

WC: Who would you like to meet, living or dead if you had one or two folks to choose from?

GJ: I'd like to meet Zeeb Parkes ,Mathew Hopkins and Lorraine Kelly.

WC: Old Halloween draws near....besides the Blind Dead trilogy, are there and films you would recommend for such an occasion? Do you have any films that you enjoy in the horror genre you would mention?

GJ: There's some great films out there but amongst my faves are "All the Colours of the Dark" , "The Devil's Wedding Night" , "Baron Blood" , "Requiem For A Vampire" , "Madhouse" , "Lisa and The Devil" , "House of Whipcord" , "Weekend Murders" , "Seven Blood Stained Orchids" , "Nosferatu" etc ..... I do like splatter / Gore / Slasher films like "New York Ripper" etc .... But films that have atmosphere and great scenery are awesome.

WC: What does the future hold for Death Penalty or any of your other projects? Is there anything else you would like to mention at this time? I would like to thank you for this interview...We here at Wormwood appreciate it

GJ: The future for Death Penalty will hopefully be good. We just wanna keep doing what we are doing and having fun doing it. The main priority is to try and make the next album as good as if not better than what the debut is which is gonna be tough but we're gonna give it our best. And also do try and do more shows than what we already have so far. Thank you very much for the interview. All the best. Gaz