February 2009 - DENNIS CORNELIUS
It was in 1995 when I first noticed the name Dennis Cornelius, after I had bought a copy of REVELATION's '...Yet So Far' album. I didn't need a long time until I became a huge fan of his vocal style and guitar playing. He also pushed the band into a more progressive direction, and added his own musical signature to their sound. This is always the best proof for a musician, who has a vision of his own sound, not only in the world of Doom. With his own band OVERSOUL he was continuing to unfold more of his creativity and 'Seven Days In November', what is the only album from his band, is nowadays an essential album of heavy progressive Doom. Some years have passed since the release of that album, and in the meantime Dennis is busy working on the upcoming full-length debut of his new band MEMORY DRIVEN. So there's is enough that should be revealed by this interview, including the time he was bassist in PLACE OF SKULLS.
Hello Dennis. Currently you're working on the upcoming debut of MEMORY DRIVEN. What are the latest news about the recordings? Have you found a label or will it be a self-released album?
Hello Klaus. We are sending the master cd and artwork out to I Hate Records this week. They will be releasing it sometime in the next few months. We are honored and grateful that I Hate is helping us get this out.
I suppose, that there was a bit of confusion because it's not too long ago when the band was called DWELL WITHIN. Why did you change the name and how would you describe the differences between both groups to someone, who has never heard your music?
Well, the name didn't change. DWELL WITHIN broke up in August due to Patric Barrett leaving the band and my intense desire at that point to want to play guitar again. MEMORY DRIVEN was born shortly after with some co workers of mine and I asked Chris Greenway from DW to join me in this new venture. As for the differences I would say that MD is more progressive. Some of the newer material we've written is definitely keeping with the melodic feel I love but adding more progressive time signatures. I'm definitely exploring the depths of creativity with these guys. DW was more straight up raw emotion.
Let's go back in time to the point when you joined REVELATION in the early 1990's. Most readers already know that you replaced John Brenner on guitar/vocals and that you recorded '...Yet So Far' at the end of 1994 together with Steve Branagan on drums and Jim Hunter on bass. I still remember my surprise 14 years ago, when I noticed in the booklet that Steve Branagan was the only member from the old line-up of the band. What was the reason for all the big changes in the line-up during that period?
John needed to remove himself from the scene at that time for personal reasons that I believe he's gone to lengths to describe in some of the interviews I've read. In 92-93 I was all about what REVELATION were doing and honestly my goal was to join the band and play along side my heroes. I never really thought that it would happen until John and Steve talked about keeping the band going. I had been friends with those guys for some time and I even sat in for a few songs at one of their rehearsals which seemed to have left a big impression.
Josh Hart had been invited to play with Unorthodox and really who was I but some nobody that wasn't really involved in the Baltimore doom/metal scene. I do thank Steve for sticking it out with me and Jim for joining us. That time in my life was tough but I think I really grew as a musician. I had huge shoes to fill. Thinking back on it now we probably shouldn't have continued as REVELATION because it really was a totally different band. But we thought that as long as we stayed true to the idea of it, the music that came out would be just as honest as John's material.
I suppose that REVELATION wasn't your first band. What have you done before you joined them?
I had only two bands before. My first band was called MORTICIOUS. We released a few demos and an attempt to record an album but it never really got much further than that. I credit those guys with getting me started. None of us knew how to play an instrument but we wanted to be in a band together. It was quite a mess for that first year. We played our first show with REVELATION at a community center in Northern Virginia and that was when I decided that I wanted to play doom metal. Of course it took me a little longer to get there.
My second band was sort of a side project that got started during MORTICIOUS. I had 3 bands practicing in my basement, us, DECEASED and ABOMINOG. King Fowley would always show up a little earlier than the other guys and we'd end up jamming. Doing QUEENSRYCHE and KANSAS covers until we started writing our own tunes. Les Snyder joined in one time and that's really when DOOMSTONE was formed. I was only involved in the first CD and a 7". But it was a great learning experience to jam with guys of that calibur when I still barely knew my instrument.
Personally I think that '...Yet So Far' is a masterpiece and one of the most important albums in the history of Doom Metal. What do you think about it when you listen to it today? Is there anything you would like to change?
Oh, I'm sure like most artists there are the inevitable "I'd like to redo those vocals" or "I wish we had extended that section" but for the time and given the limited experience I had I am still quite happy with that album. It was really the first time that I felt separated from what the bass and drums were doing and it was such a liberating feeling. Working that material with Jim and Steve was a glorious time and I still look back on those days with fondness.
What was the reason that REVELATION didn't record another album with the '...Yet So Far' line-up? You've toured with Solitude Aeturnus and Saint Vitus here in Europe so that was the best promotion for your album. What happened? Do you think it was a fault of Hellhound Records?
Maybe partly, mostly it was my relocation in 1996 to Oklahoma, some 1400 miles away from Baltimore. I don't regret moving other than I couldn't jam with Steve and Jim. Everything else in my life fucking sucked at that time. I am filled with joy thinking of those tours even if there was some drama involved. It was a great experience and I believe I've formed some lifelong friends from it.
Is it true that you formed COR/OVERSOUL shorty after the demise of REVELATION?
It took about two years to get back into playing music again. Patric Barrett moved out to Oklahoma from California in the summer of 98 to jam with me.
As far as I remember it was in 2002 when you re-united the '...Yet So Far' line-up for a second time. One year later you appeared here at the first Doom Shall Rise Festival, before this line-up split again. I'm really confused, because I always thought that REVELATION was John Brenner's band. Please, could you clear up my confusion?
Around 2002 and the proliferation of the internet Jim, Steve, and I, really had a hope we could work together again even long distance. We thought to get the name around again we might play a few higher profile gigs like the Born Too Late fest and DSR. As far as I knew through conversations I had with Steve and John it was ok for us to try and continue with the name. I've told John from the first time he got involved with the scene again that he should take back the name. I tried to convince him for 3 years. I did understand his reasons for sticking with Against Nature but if you're like me it's all REVELATION in my mind.
Meanwhile the complete REVELATION discography has been re-issued, but '...Yet So Far' is still out of print as well as the excellent 'Frozen Masque' compilation CD (includes also the 'Mourning Sun' demo plus two additional live tracks) which has been released through The Miskatonic Foundation in 2003. Are there any plans for a re-release of both CD's?
Plans are in the works as I type this. Tim from Shadow Kingdom Records has offered to help us out on this one. Hopefully "Yet So Far" will see the light of day again before the year is up.
You've named MEMORY DRIVEN after the title of the first COR demo. Why didn't you chose the name OVERSOUL again?
I thought about it. I did like the name. There were so many OVERSOULs out there I didn't want to hassle with it, legalities and such. MEMORY DRIVEN just had a more progressive feel to me and it was evident even in the first few rehearsals that I was playing with some really talented musicians. With these guys I felt alot like I did when Jim and Steve would get going on an idea that would compliment my own.
All of your bands and even a few of the bands that you'd joined have a strong progressive edge in their heavy sound. From where comes this influence? When did you discover your interest for more complex song structures?
Most of my creative impulses were directly related to my love for Brenner's music. I discovered other bands as well that held a certain fascination for me. It was that first time I would hear a timing shift on the drums but the guitar melody never changed. That's the stuff that makes me smile. Tim and Dave, my drummer and bassist for MD, are constantly thinking of ways to counterpoint the guitar or vocal melody and it spurs me on to come up with even more interesting lines. I'm looking forward to writing sessions for our next album.
It's well-known that you've played bass in PLACE OF SKULLS for a few years. I think that your influence was one of the reasons why 'The Black Is Never Far' is the most progressive album in the discography of the band. Can you agree and what's the reason that you left the band?
I might be a little bit biased but I think that it is the best Place of Skulls album. Victor is God, or God speaks through Victor. However you want to look at it. Victor and I have had many talks about the nature of our collaboration and I think he would agree that we fed off of each other. Victor would have some idea and being me I would of course try to counterpoint it with Tim if I could. It inevitably pushed some boundaries within us all I think. Victor wrote about 95% of that album, I just like to think I was the guy there saying "dude that's fucking badass!!!" Giving him the feedback he needed to forge ahead. Of course, I'm probably overstating my importance to it but it's what I feel. Those were some of the best writing sessions I've ever had the honor to experience. I miss Victor every day.
Are you still in contact with Victor Griffin?
We keep in touch through email or phone calls. I'm hoping to collaborate with Victor once again at some point in the not too distant future.
Ok, Dennis, as much as you love to compose and play music but I think that this isn't your only interest in life. What other stuff do you like? From where do you seek inspiration?
Inspiration comes from a lot of places but other than my wife I don't have any other interest but music. I work at a guitar store and my dream is to be on the road touring as much as possible.
At least, I would like to close the circle and finish the interview with a last question about MEMORY DRIVEN; Is there any chance that you will come over to Germany?
The chance is significant. Hopefully we can get some tour support and get our butts over there ASAP. Germany is my home away from home.
Thanks a lot for your answers! I wish you all the best and I really hope that you will record more brilliant music as you did in the past!
Thanks for the interview Klaus! It was a pleasure and an honor.