Sanctuary (Lenny Rutledge)

With "Inception" we wanted the listener to be kind of taken back to that part of time and see where we were coming from
on Fri, 07/14/2017 - 14:16
Lenny Rutledge
We talked with guitarist Lenny Rutledge about the "Inception" album and also got the chance to find out some things about the past of the band and their future plans. Read below how Lenny persuade Dave Mustaine to produce the first Sanctuary album and what he thinks about Scorpions, Motley Crue and... Donald Trump.
Hi, Lenny.
Hello, how are you?
I am fine but it’s kind of surprise because nobody has told me that we were doing the interview today.
Oh really?
Yeah. When you sent me the message to add you I was still at work but it’s ok for me, I have no problem doing that.
Ok, good.
How things going man? How are you?
I am good. It’s pretty early here. I got up pretty early today so I am right awake.
So, I did the math and this is the third visit for Sanctuary in Greece in five years. That’s something or what? You feel like having a special bond with the Greek fans?
You know, we always have such a great time there and the fans there are always so passionate like the first time we came. We came there back in the 90’s for the first time. After the reunion we came in 2011 and the fans were just so gracious and so passionate. We met a lot of people there that we really consider to be really good friends and every time we go there we just feel so comfortable. It’s such a beautiful country and we love Athens and Thessaloniki and everywhere else we‘ve been. You  know, my wife and I actually spent a little time in Santorini as well every time we’ re there too so we love it.

With "Inception" we wanted the listener to be kind of taken back to that part of time and see where we were coming from, without our producer and with no money or anything

So let’s talk a little bit about the "Inception" album. We did an interview together back in 2014 (it was also with Warrel Dane, in summer of 2014) and you talked about working on something like a demo tape, but it took you three years to release it. So what’s the story behind this whole concept?
I think we always knew that in the back of our minds that eventually we were trying to release it but, to tell you the truth, I don’t even believe it. We didn’t know exactly where it all was; we knew we had it and eventually I came across it in the top of my barn. It was in a very rough shape and we knew that it was gonna be a bit of a challenge to bring it to a standard that it would be something that we would be proud to release. You know, once we started to restore it and started to listen to it we felt like it was something that was gonna be very good for fans of the early Sanctuary. So, we hired Chris "Zeuss" Harris to re-master and remix and kind of restore some of it. We didn’t wanna do any re-records or fix anything with "Inception", as far as a new recording. We didn’t wanna do any overdubs or new solos; nothing like that. We wanted to retain the vibe of 1986; we wanted the listener to be kind of taken back to that part of time and see where we were coming from, without our producer and with no money or anything. 
You know, you see how our interpretation of the songs went and in my opinion they’ve got a much stronger and sharper edge to them. There is a punch involved that I think I was missing a little bit on “Refuge Denied”. I mean, “Refuge Denied” was a great record but there was something about it. Maybe it was a little too polished and some of that raw energy was left out. So, if you haven’t heard “Inception” and neither our fans out there it’s something you might be interested in if you are really an early Sanctuary fan. It’s not just the music. The final package is a great collector’s item. There are a lot and really great photos and stories and a lot of really cool stuff in there that you can get. So, it’s kind of a throwback to the old school when people used to buy vinyl and there was all kind of stuff in the vinyl, you know, a lot of things to discover. There’s a giant poster in there and you also get a CD with the vinyl. It’s pretty cool package.
Yeah I know because I have it. It’s kind of amazing how you managed to restore this, as you said there were enormous damaged tapes. The job that Zeus did to bring them to life is amazing…
I was surprised myself because the last time that we really heard it was really crappy. We did a really crappy mix down at the back in 1986 and that was all we had. It was really rough; it didn’t sound like good so I was kind of surprised that we managed to bring it back, to make it sound modern without re-recording anything. Zeuss has a lot of mastering skills and he knows how to make some basic tones sound awesome.

I am not trying to belittle "Refuge Denied" because I still love that record and that time it worked out but it sounds a little kind of dated

You know, there are people that were overwhelmed by your performance there, in the "Inception" album, and they kinda prefer it than the original "Refuge Denied" stuff. I listen to Sanctuary’s albums for 20 years so I cannot immediately relate to the new stuff but "Inception" sounds so good and I know some people that prefer that production over the original one. How do you feel about that?
You mean they prefer “Refuge Denied” over the “Inception”?
No, “Inception” over “Refuge Denied”.
I got to be honest with you. I am kind at the same way, you know, and that’s one of the reasons why I felt that people really had to hear it because we were hearing something that we thought was missing on “Refuge Denied”. I am not trying to belittle “Refuge Denied” because I still love that record and that time it worked out but it sounds a little kind of dated. I don’t know if it was rushed or what but to me it’s just a little polished. I think Dave Mustaine did a great job but there’s just something about “Inception” that when you hear it it’s almost like you just got a punch in your face. It has the aggression that was missing and I think when people hear it they’ll know it. I know a lot of people, I talk to people and they are like “oh yeah, I heard about that Inception thing you know whatever” but then, when they hear it, they are like “holy shit you are right”. It’s really different and people are amazed by it. I agree that it has something that was missing on “Refuge Denied” so it’s almost hard to explain it. It’s one of the things that you will know what I mean when you hear it.

Dave Mustaine was sitting over the corner [...]he looked over at me and he said "hey you" and I remember thinking "oh shit, he is gonna throw me out of here and I know it"

How you end up with a young band at the time with a producer of such a name a big name of Dave Mustaine back then?
Well, we were always trying to get to the next level. When we were here in Seattle, we were just working hard every day. We practiced every day, we rehearsed every day for like 6 hours a day, you know, the whole band getting together and we were just busting our ass. We felt like we needed to do something to get to the next level and we didn’t know what to do. I remember this really well; we had a recording and it ended up being the “Inception” but it was kind of a rough version. At the same time, Dave Mustaine and Megadeth were coming to town with King Diamond and they were going to be play in the Moore Theater and I remember telling to the guys “I am gonna try and meet them and I am gonna try get them this tape”. I don’t even know why I said it and I don’t even know why I thought it. 
That was crazy, I don’t even think if somebody would have said that to me I would have said “you are nuts”. I went there in hopes to get backstage. But I couldn’t get backstage. There was nobody would talk to me, nobody would let me. I was just nobody. But I was standing at the back of the venue and I heard somebody talking about where Dave Mustaine was staying and a friend of mine and a couple of girls went down there and we walked every floor the hotel. There was no security and we walked every room and every floor of that hotel until we found the loudest room. The door just happened to be cracked opened just a little bit and I kinda pushed the door open a little bit and I could see Dave Mustaine in the room in the corner and he was drinking. I pushed the two girls in and they were pretty hot girls; they could pose a distraction and they didn’t really notice us that much. You know, they were kinda party and they were excited that a couple of hot girls went in there. I saw Dave Mustaine over the corner and I remember he had this shark in his hand. It was like a rubber shark and he was holding it and he had a bottle of Courvoisier in the other hand. He looked over at me and he said “hey you” and I remember thinking “oh shit, he is gonna throw me out of here and I know it” but he just motioned for me to come over. I went and I started talking to him and he was the nicest guy. 
I was very shocked because everybody has heard about his reputation but he was really cool. He said “hey you wana drink?”, he gave me a drink and we started talking. You know, we have been sitting there and talking for a couple of hours and we were kind of buzzed and eventually I said “hey man I got to get you and I have to convinced you to come down to my car and listen to this tape. You got to do it” and at first he didn’t want to do it. I think we convinced him somehow, we had some party favors or something and we said “come on Dave down, we’ll hook you up” and we got him down to the car. Then, he listened to the tape and I can’t believe that he loved it. At first I thought he was mocking at me. He gave me his phone number and I was like “nah, this can’t be real”. I remember I went home that night and I called it just to see if it was real. That was back then when there were no cell phones or anything. So, I called his house and it was his voice on the answer machine and the rest is history. But a couple of weeks later he ended up calling us and telling us that he was really into that demo and he wanted to produce our first record and the dream come true man. I can’t believe it, I thought it, I said it and it happened. It was one of those perfect storms, you know. It was very weird; it was almost like divine intervention.

If we would have recorded our third record back in the day, I think it would have sounded in between 'The Year The Sun Died" and "Into The Mirror Black" and probably a little closer to "Into The Mirror Black"

Wow, what a great story that is. So, after “Refuge Denied” you released an album that is considered as a U.S. metal masterpiece. Then I am thinking about “The Year The Sun Died” so I have this question. If you hadn’t broke up back in the ‘90s, could you perhaps guess or imagine how the sound of the Sanctuary would have been evolved in the third album if it was going to be released in ’92-’93 period?
I know at the time we were working on another record, we were working on something called ‘Psychedelic Prayers” and we had a couple of songs that we were working on. I could say that they didn’t sound anything like “The Year The Sun Died”. There’s definitely a space between that period; I think a little bit different now. When I am writing now I look at things a little bit different and part of it was because I took such a long break and I sort of had different musical influences. Also I played a lot of acoustic; I didn’t play metal for a while so that sort of shaped me. I think in writing new songs for “The Year The Sun Died” and I think the same was Warrel because, you know, after Warrel was in Nevermore for such a long time I think it became a different thing for him. It wasn’t so much about singing as high as you can and over the years it also becomes a little more difficult to sing that high as well so for him. It’s a little more of his normal range to sing like he does on “The Year The Sun Died” so all that being combined I think that shaped the way we sound now. So, if we would have recorded our third record back in the day, I think it would have sounded in between “The Year The Sun Died” and “Into The Mirror Black” and probably a little closer to “Into The Mirror Black”.
So, after almost three years since the release of “The Year The Sun Died” what do you think about that album? Is there something that perhaps you would have done differently? 
I got to be honest with you and I don’t know how many people would agree with me but it’s my favorite record and I know a lot of people saying that. I mean, not above all but it’s our favorite, the favorite record for the Sanctuary. There is something about it. I feel very proud with just the fact that after so many years we actually did what we wanted to do. We put out a great sounding record with quality songs. We were kind of worried if could we still do and record songs that were relevant and they weren’t cheesy and we wanted to make sure that they were still really cool and meaningful and had feeling. And I think we did it and that’s all we wanted. We just wanted to make sure that it was something that we were proud of and the fans could enjoy and I think it worked out well. You know, most people that we talk seem to really give a positive view on that record.
I personally love the album and I put it very high in my list with the best albums of the 2014 but I know for fact some people that they don’t. It’s not that they didn’t like it. They were in denial and they didn’t even get to listen to the album. So, if you meet a person like that what would you say to him in order to persuade him and listen to “The Year The Sun Died”?
I think part of that it seems to be that some people kinda feel that we sounded like Nevermore which I’ve heard a little bit of that. But I actually take that as a compliment. I think if you are a real Nevermore fan and you listen to the guitar playing of Jeff Loomis and the songwriting of “The Year The Sun Died” they are not even close; it’s a completely different thing. I think the only thing that is close is probably Warrel’s vocal range so I guess it just depends. I mean, there are a lot of people out there that have an open mind and they hear it and they love it and there are people that criticize us a little bit more but it’s OK like I said. You know, hopefully we pull in fans that were Nevermore fans and became Sanctuary fans so we are open to all sides.

The new record will probably come out sometime in 2018

What will the future holds for Sanctuary? Is there gonna be a new album? Do you have any new material already written?
We are working on stuff. We have quite a few songs and they are not all finished but we are working on like 7 or 8 songs right now. The music is probably 80% ready and we are working out the vocals but Warrel is in the middle of recording a solo record right now. So, we are waiting on that and then we probably finish it. The new record will probably come out sometime in 2018. I know we kinda moving that date around a little bit but…
Yeah almost perhaps two years after it... (laughing) 
It seems like you make an announcement and then, you know, it’s kind of a rough announcement and then people kind of hold you up to a bet. But we are working on it and I am pretty sure it’s gonna be in 2018.
You mentioned a Warrel Dane solo album. He told he was talking about an album with covers so, is it something like that or is it a solo album with a new material? Do you aware?
I think it might be some of both, I am not sure. I know there is some original material on there too. You know, one time it was gonna be called “The Shadow Work” or something like that but I am not sure if that’s the title or not. You‘ll have to ask him.
When you started a band which bands were your influences and what band you looked most up to back then?
Well, I really was a huge fan of old Scorpions, you know, Uli Jon Roth stuff and pretty much anything Scorpions. Also UFO and I loved Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and all that stuff. But as time went on I guided into bands like a little bit of Trust and Savage and stuff like that and I really liked Savatage so it was kind of that old school metal stuff for the most part.
Back in the day I thought that the mainstream music was the whole Motley Crue and hair metal thing. So, back then, how you escaped that route?
You know, I like some of that. I was a big fan of Ratt. I thought Ratt was cool. That Warren DeMartini’s guitar playing was awesome. I do like Motley Crue too. I think Mick Mars is kind of an underrated guitar player. He is not like Yngwie Malmsteen or anything but there is something about the way that he plays that is really unique. So I always thought that was kind of cool but, you know, some of that hair metal stuff was overdone. I liked more of the hard-edge stuff like Motley Crue and Ratt. I thought they were pretty cool.
If I ask you for one name which was the guitarist that inspired you the most as a young kid and which band can you call your all-time favorite band, what would you answer? 
Well, Schenker is definitely my choice. If I could only pick one it would have to be him and then absolutely no matter what I can always listen to the Scorpions. I could listen to them every single day. But there are many. I love UFO too but I think that the Scorpions it would have to be up there. And again I like Iron Maiden too but I think I like more Scorpions’ albums. You know, I like a few Iron Maiden albums but I could probably say the first like seven Scorpions’ records are just amazing to me.
It’s kind of weird because all the bands that you mentioned so far are kind of this melodic genre but Sanctuary has all this aggression inside their songs. So how do you like all these melodic bands and Sanctuary became something completely different?
We are all really like that melodic stuff but then as we were starting and a lot of thrash stuff was really popular as well, we were really into that Megadeth and King Diamond and Metallica and Exodus things and stuff like that. We really loved that stuff too, so it was like we tried to kind of incorporate a little bit of both. Sanctuary has always kind of been famous for moody songs but also for some upbeat kind of thrashy stuff too.
So what is you motivation to do what you do at this spot of your career?
Well, we just feel really fortunate to be able to do this and to be all connected with fans. It’s great to be out there and talk to people about the music and see how people react into it, it’s just something that feels like it’s part of us and it’s nice to be able to have that creative outlet and to be able to share it with people.
I have a couple more questions. The first one is that I spoke so many times with Bobby from Overkill and he always stand up for your generation and in the question “youth versus experience” he stands for experience more than the youth, you know, the great bands of the past are still here and somehow they have their stage. So I ask you what you choose. Youth or experience?
I have to agree with the experience part of it. By the way, Bobby is a great guy, man. He’s gotta be one of the greatest frontmen of all time and we talk about a band with experience and just stained power, those guys have been together forever. You see them nowadays and you can see it. I mean, there are good or better than they have ever been and I think that’s a really cool thing too. I think that’s part of the whole experience thing and some of these bands from the older generation they’ve lived it and they‘ve just molded in. Hopefully you can see that in Sanctuary too but, yes, I have to agree with Bobby. You know, we were on a tour with Overkill in 2015 and what a great experience was, man. They are a great band to be in tour with. We would love to do that again.

I feel like some people believe maybe Donald Trump is a joke, you know, that they don’t necessarily take what’s going on seriously. Maybe it’s a bit of a joke, I don’t know.

So my last question has to do with the political kind of things. How things are going on back there in the States? It has been now almost six months with Donald Trump in the administration. What do you think about his presidency so far?
Well, I don’t know. I wouldn’t say I am a Trump supporter but I wasn’t really a supporter of either candidate just because I did vote but I didn’t vote for either one of them. I didn’t feel like the either one of them really represented my beliefs and I don’t really consider myself a super political person but I probably lean a little more left. I mean, as I am getting older I am a little more to the middle I guess but I don’t know... I feel like some people believe maybe he is a joke, you know, that they don’t necessarily take what’s going on seriously. Maybe it’s a bit of a joke, I don’t know. I feel like I‘ve seen everything and then something happens and I am like “oh shit, I can’t believe that just happened”. Some of them are funny and some of them are kind of scary. Hopefully it all works out in the end but I guess we have to hope and kind of trying support and hopefully it all works out.
Okay Lenny, thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you again and I hope to see you in your show in the 21st of July here in Athens. If you have any last words for the Greek fans, please, be my guest...
We are hoping to see everybody in there on July 21st in Athens and we are very excited about it. We are going to play songs from the “Refuge Denied” and “Into The Mirror Black” and “The Year The Sun Died” and, you know, there are some surprises too. So, come and check us out, we are all looking forward to see all of our friends in Greece.