Sanctuary (Warrel Dane & Lenny Rutledge)

"We can describe our sound as the natural evolution of 'Into The Mirror Black'"
on Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:55

The new album of Sanctuary is going to make a buzz and pose questions about whether and to what extent is worthy of the band's reputation. So, what is better than to discuss about it with its own creators? Many interesting things have been said about ''that voice'', the complex evolution of the band, the relationships between the members but also about the fact that it feels natural to someone to compare them with Nevermore. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Warrel Dane and Lenny Rutledge...

Hello Warrel and Lenny. How are you men?

W.D.: We're great, how are you doing?

I'm fine. Where are you now?

W.D.: We're up at the Metal Camp, up in the mountains, outside of Seattle.

Finally, the new album is here. How do you feel that after 25 years Sanctuary are back with a new album?

W.D.: Well, we feel really good about it, because we made a really strong record.

L.R.: I'm not sure if you had talked to us 10 years ago or whatever, if we would thought we would be here now, but it feels great, we're having a good time with it, there's a great chemistry and we have a lot of fun, so...

I had the chance to talk with Warrel about three years ago, before the show you did in Greece. I tried to make him describe the album then and the only word I strongly recall him saying is "contemporary" which really fits for the new album. How could you describe your sound now?

W.D.: I think we can describe our sound as the natural evolution of what our sound was from back "Into The Mirror Black". I mean now – obviously – productions are better than they were 25 years ago, so the production definitely stepped up our sound and made us sound even heavier than we have been. I think that's a good thing. And, yeah, I think it's contemporary for sure.

It's been 4 years since you did the reunion. Why did it take you so long to release the new album?

L.R.: I think we kind of just dropped the gun when we were talking. We knew what the record was gonna be called and we were quite finished. We took a lot of time, we're kind of perfectionists and we write a little slow. We really wanted to release a really strong record. For us, it was like "It's been over 20 years, what's a little bit more time?". We didn't want to release something that wasn't ready, that didn't sound right, so I think we actually achieved what we wanted to achieve.

Are all the ideas fresh or are some of them coming from the past? Also, which was the procedure you followed and who produced your album?

L.R.: We had a producer called Zeus. He's done a lot of metalcore bands and stuff like that. But, he was a fan of the band, he came and saw us when he was 13 years old and we were on tour with Megadeth and has been a big fan since then. When he heard we were coming back, he contacted the record company and said "hey, if they record throw my name in the hat and see if they're interested". We met with him and hit it off with him. He's a great guy, he had a lot of great ideas and brought the best out of this, as far as performances go. And he knows how to get great tones and we're very proud of the production and everything he's done.

I really enjoy the album, but as you may already have mentioned from the interviews that you've done and from fans that have listened to "Arise And Purify" and "Exitium" that fans claim that they hear more Nevermore than Sanctuary in your sound. How do you feel about it?

W.D.: Well, obviously I'm the singer in both bands. A lot of people don't associate music with the band's sound, they associate it with the singer, and maybe that's why. The music on this record might be a slight reminiscent in places of Nevermore, but it is pure Sanctuary music for sure. But, the fact that I'm singing, I realize that makes people say "Oh my God, it sounds like Nevermore". We expected that, we were ready for it.

I agree with that. The voice is the same but as you said the music sounds like Sanctuary has evolved, but perhaps it's been so many years and fans of Nevermore are maybe waiting a new "Into The Mirror Black" or something, I don't know... Do you feel that these fans could be frustrated or let down somehow?

L.R.: I don't know... I don't think so. I guess it depends. There are a few people out there that if they really-really were hoping for "Refuge Denied" or something sounding like that, they might feel a little bit let down. But, I think that people have grown as well as we have too. I said "bring it on" as far as the Nevermore comparison. I don't really care. I don't really necessarily agree, but I think that everybody should have their own opinion. That's great and if we can pull in some other interested people from another audience or genre or whatever, we're ok with that. What we're hoping is that the people that think it sounds like Nevermore will embrace it and enjoy it. I don't necessarily agree with it, but it's ok.

W.D.: When Nevermore started we got a lot of the Sanctuary audience, because people were associating the sound of the first Nevermore record with Sanctuary. That's just natural I guess and everything is coming full circle now... (laughs). It's gone backwards, but that's not a bad thing. Both those bands have been slightly incestuous for years anyway... (laughs). It's a good thing that people are comparing this with Nevermore and hopefully we will get the younger kids. A lot of the times when we were playing Nevermore shows in the beginning, we'd play Sanctuary songs and they would be parents there bringing their kids, that they were getting into Nevermore and into Sanctuary at the same time. And now, kind of I can see the same thing happening. There's a new audience for us and an old audience. We're kind of lucky with that.

I understand that. Now, when your were writing the songs for the new record did you feel a pressure or a fear that wouldn't satisfy the fans and maybe kind of destroy that history and that cult status that Sanctuary have achieved with the two masterpieces you've put out?

W.D.: Well, I think that before we have to satisfy the fans we have to satisfy ourselves. And we've definitely done that...

L.R.: Yeah, I mean, we honestly didn't think too much about it. There wasn't a whole lot of calculation going on. When we got together, really our intent was to play just a couple of shows and we started having so much fun and the chemistry was so cool that we started developing ideas. And it just had a sort of a natural flow to it. We didn't really think that much about it. We started to be really excited about the things we were creating, the music that was coming out of it that we thought that "Hey, maybe it would be great to record another album". The reaction has been pretty good. All I have to say is that we are forgetting the reaction. We hope to reach as many people as we can with this and we hope that they like it as much as we do, but we're just glad that it's finally out and we can go out and share it with everybody.

Although it's the same band, the sound is a bit different, so if you had to make a comparison between the old Sanctuary and the new Sanctuary, which are the main differences and the common things between them?

L.R.: First of all it's the production. Especially, if you compare it to "Refuge Denied". To us... this is a coming progression to us, what it should have been, what out 3rd album would have been anyway. Some of the actual solos and stuff are better, we have more technicality to it I guess, but definitely it's the production. It's a little more modern...

I think the overall tempo is also kind of slow. You don't have this kind of "let's go and kick ass" with the songs...

L.R.: I guess a lot of things on this record are moody. There's a lot of mood and there's energy and it's heavy and obviously there's some stuff that's fast and some stuff that's slow, but for us it's just about mood...

Warrel, your lyrics are once again very-very dark. What were you thinking when you were writing the lyrics of the album?

W.D.: I'm not sure what I was thinking. I usually let the music inspire me. This record really is a story, a concept album so to speak I guess. It's about a prophet of doom in the future that predicts the death of the sun and gathers a cult following. Really, when you'll read the liner notes it explains the story a little bit better, because there are little quotes between all the songs that kind of tell a little bit of the story. But at the same time the story is a bit vague, because I want people to paint pictures within their minds about what's going on. The conclusion isn't very positive, everybody dies... (laughs)

It comes with the last song, the same titled, that I believe is the best song of the album. "What if there is nothing more, what if there's only emptiness" you sing... There's vanity there... All is in vain... What kind of message is that for the young people, man? (laughs)

W.D.: (laughs) Well, you know, I'm all about gloom and depression. I've always had been, so that's one of my faults or attributes, I'm not sure which.

I think it was mentioned before that when you split up, back in the beginning of the 90's it was about musical direction issues. What really happened back then?

L.R.: We got to a point where egos where clashing and we drunk a lot and we partied a lot. It wasn't about creating music as much anymore. And I think we kind of lost our way. Of course, a lot of people talk about that grunge thing. That was going on, but that didn't have anything directly to do with us breaking up. We were really just a couple of dicks that couldn't' get along anymore, so we decided to call it a day and it was probably the best thing for all of us at that time. Eventually, we found our way back to being good friends and everything and we worked though some of our issues. Actually, we can still be dicks, maybe we drink a little more than we're supposed to (laughs), but we found a way to be a little more tolerant and just work through it. We've grown up a lot since then too...

Warrel, do you feel that you can deal with your old voice when you're performing live?

W.D.: We still do "Battle Angels" live and I think I pull it off really good, considering it's so many years later. We play a lot of the old songs and I can still do it as long as I am doing it consistently. With Nevermore, I don't think that music called for high pitched vocals at all and so I wasn't using my high voice in those years. Here and there a little bit... I think that might be because of the 7-string guitar issue, but this record is all 6-string guitars. I talked about that in some interviews and some people were asking "Are you slamming Jeff Loomis by saying this is all 6-string guitars?". No, I'm not slamming Jeff Loomis at all! I love the guy! We're still friends, but I'm just trying to explain "this is all 6-string guitars".


Since you mentioned it, we don't get much of "that" voice in the new album...

W.D.: Well, in the first three songs, it's definitely there... I think this is 2014, it's not 1988. If anyone expects the dog whistled screams of that first Sanctuary record, they're not gonna get it. I mean, frankly, some of that songs on "Refuge Denied", I can't sing anymore. That happens with male vocalists, as they get a little bit older. It happens with everybody. I deal with this the best I can, but, yes, I still can sing "Battle Angels" I do it pretty fucking good...

L.R.: And we still do a handful of songs, even from "Refuge Denied". There are some songs that we do pretty well, so we play probably five from "Refuge Denied" and five or six from "Into The Mirror Black" and then we play some of the new ones now too. But, there is a rumor that we may release some stuff that was the demo for "Refuge Denied", which if you're really into that high pitch scream stuff, there may be a release coming out in the future...

W.D.: [editor: Warrel starts laughing]. And I sing even higher than I did on "Refuge Denied".

Is this true or are you just kiddin' me now?

L.R.: It is a rumor, I can't confirm that yet. I'm just saying in the future look for it. I believe, it'll be there...

W.D.: Oh and by the way, at one point we were doing "Veil Of Disguise" too and I can still that one like crazy, so... My high voice is definitely still there. Anyone that says that I can't sing high anymore is an idiot. Come and see it live...

Well, I saw you live and you did great. In the first couple of songs –till your voice was warm – it was kind of tricky, but then you delivered it very good... So, how do you see your future with Sanctuary? Do you have any plans? Can we expect another album perhaps?

L.R.: Yeah, we're writing now. We have some ideas that we're working on, there's a few ideas that we didn't put on the new record and we're working on that stuff. There's definitely going to be more. As long as we're still walking around we'll probably do more records and tours. We're having a good time and there's no reason for us to stop.

Now, let me get to some more personal questions here. Lenny, we know what Warrel did with Nevermore and his solo album, but what have you been doing all these years?

L.R.: I had a studio for a while. I recorded bands from down town. I was in a few local bands... and you know I was really living my daily life. Nothing really exciting. There's was a time that actually I took a break from music for a little bit too. I kind of regrouped and I played a lot acoustic stuff, which kind of gave me a different perspective on how I write and how I wrote on this record. So, it was more of a restart and refresh for me...

I think I can mention that. Your guitar playing on the album are really-really good. Are all the solos on the record yours or is Brad playing also?

L.R.: Some of them are Brad, some of them are me. On "Arise And Purify" that's Brad, on "Frozen" we switch off, I might do the one in the middle, he does the first one. We kind of go back and forth.

Warrel, recently I read an article that you are planning to do another solo album, but this time it will be a cover album. Could you share some details about that?

W.D.: I was proposed by the record company to do another solo record, of cover versions, kind of like Johnny Cash did all these covers. I'm not sure when that's gonna happen, but I'm picking some of the songs and most of them are 90's alternative songs that are going to be transformed into metal anthems. Kind of what I did with "Lucretia My Reflection" on my first solo record. We'll see what happens with that. It'll happen at some point, but right now Sanctuary is too busy to really think about that... (laughs)

The whole Nevermore thing is still in the ice?

W.D.: It's in a limbo. It's floating around in the air somewhere. There's always a possibility, so I would never close that door, but we'll see what happens...

What plans do you have for the near future? Are you going to tour for the new album?

W.D.: Of course...

Have you already booked any dates? Should we expect you to come back in Greece?

L.R.: Yeah!

W.D.: We'll be in Greece in March. I can't say much beyond that...

That's enough information... (laughs)

W.D.: Yeah! We're gonna do a two week tour here in the States in November and we're planning shit all the time. We're gonna tour as much as we can for this record. Like I said, there's gonna be a European tour in March, but I can't really release any information about that, because it's not all confirmed.

I understand that. Now, back to the first album, how was it to work with Dave Mustaine back then?

L.R.: It was great! For us, it was obviously our first experience of recording and everything. He was our hero and he taught us a lot. It was a good experience. I'm not sure that the production on that record was all that great, but I don't necessarily think he was all responsible for that. We all learned a lot from him and he was a mentor to us and it was a great experience for us all the way around...

W.D.: I think that without Dave Mustaine's involvement, we might not be talking to your right now. Because, every band has to find their way inside the music business and he was our way inside. He took us under his wing and he taught us a lot. He has a really bad reputation in the press, because of his personal beliefs and everything, but even though my ideology does not line up with his I still respect the guy a lot and I always will. Because, as I said, he gave us our start...

Going back to when you were 18 years old, which was for you Lenny and for your Warrel the milestone that changed your life? Maybe an album or something that changed your perspective in music...

W.D.: I don't remember if it was 18, it might have been, I don't know. But, the record that made me want to be a singer was "Unleashed In The East" by Judas Priest. One of my friends in school told me "You have to listen to this band, Judas Priest". I have never heard them and when I heard "Victim Of Changes" it changed my life...

L.R.: For me, I'm not sure how old I was, but "Tokyo Tapes" and "Taken By Force" by Scorpions, they were mind blowing to me. I remember when I first started playing music, that was what I was listening to. And "Van Halen I" was obviously a big deal for any guitar player, especially back then. When that came out it was life changing...

Now, that you're 25 years in the music business, what do you think of this whole music business kind of thing?

W.D.: (laughs) It's like any other job. There are elements of that, that suck completely and there are elements that make you really happy at the same time. It's like any other job really. There are a lot of dickheads in the music business, there's a lot of people that will lie to your face, that will stab you in the back and pretend that they're your friend, but I think that it's like anything, I guess.

L.R.: It's all different now of course, because you have to be a lot more creative too. Obviously the music business is a business, being in a band is business. You have to be creative to find ways to make money and survive. It's not like it used to be. So, to keep going and have longevity you either have to have a side job, or be creative and make money.

Do you hear any new music these days?

W.D.: Yeah, sure! I really like the new Cannibal Corpse (laughs), the video for the song "Kill Or Become" is just crazy. Also, I loved "Surgical Steel", the new Carcass. It's no secret that I listen to a lot of death metal I guess...

L.R.: I listen to it too. I like Mastodon a lot, so I listen to a lot of their stuff too..

Ok, that's all from me... Any last words for your fans here in Greece?

W.D.: Start your own religion, because there are too many wars and the ones that we have right now just don't work.

L.R.: Hey look for us on tour. We'll be out there. Come to our shows and say hi!

Thank you both guys. Take care...

Both: Thank you!