There are bands that hold a certain mystique because they’ve made a lasting impression in a shortened career. Sanctuary is one of those bands.
I heard them in the 80s when the song “Battle Angels” invaded the Chicago airwaves. When I found out their debut album, Refuge Denied, was produced by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth I was sold. I picked up the cassette shortly thereafter and even caught Sanctuary on tour with Warlock and Megadeth at the Aragon Ballroom.
I view Sanctuary as a pioneering act because they were one of the first groups to successfully fuse progressive elements and thrash elements with heavy metal. They paved the way for later efforts of groups like Fates Warning, Death Angel and Flotsam and Jetsam.
Unfortunately, their career was short lived; the arrival of grunge music caused strife in the Seattle-based outfit, leading to just one more studio release, Into the Mirror Black, and the live album Into the Mirror Live, before disbanding in 1992. Key members Warrel Dane (vocals) and Jim Sheppard (bass) went on to perform in the popular metal act Nevermore.
Sanctuary has reformed and has a new album entitled The Year the Sun Died, scheduled for release on October 6th in Europe and October 14th in North America. Needless to say, I am excited. I managed to contact Lenny Rutledge and questioned him about Sanctuary’s reformation, new material and upcoming tour dates. Please enjoy some excerpts of that interview:
David Halbe: How’s the response for Sanctuary’s reformation been?
Lenny Rutledge: So far the response has been very positive. We are starting to see reviews in Europe and they have been really promising. You never know what to expect after all these years but so far everyone seems to really genuinely like the new material. Some people are actually blown away. Not sure if that’s just because no one ever thought this day would come and it is finally upon us.
Dave: I noticed you’re playing a few dates on the West Coast in November, what are the chances of a full-blown North American tour?
Lenny: Not sure about a full-blown tour yet but I believe we will try to hit as many regions as possible. We definitely aren’t going away anytime soon.
Dave:. Will any Nevermore material be featured in your live set?
Lenny: I don’t really think it will happen. We may entertain the idea of playing a Warrel Dane solo song. We are trying to retain a certain amount of our original identity.
Not only that but most Nevermore songs were performed on 7 string guitars and so far we have stuck with the old-school 6 string approach.
Dave: How did Sanctuary recruit Brad Hull (Forced Entry)?
Lenny: Brad was a friend of ours in the metal scene back in the day. He filled in for Sean Blosl after he quit the band and joined us on our last tour back in 1991. This time around when we re-activated the band, Loomis was actually playing with us for about 6 months but when he quit Nevermore in 2011 he also quit Sanctuary. At that point we asked Brad if he was interested.
Dave: What prompted The Doors cover “Waiting for the Sun”?
Lenny: Warrel and I are huge Doors fans and we intended on recording that song back in the 90s but it never happened. So it only seemed natural to revisit that choice again.
Dave: Were you involved in any projects of your own, prior to Sanctuary’s reformation?
Lenny: I was in other local bands and I also did some recording in a project studio that I had back in the day. I recorded local bands and a demo for Nevermore’s Dreaming Neon Black.
Dave: Who designed the Sanctuary logo, what does the knife represent?
Lenny: A friend designed the logo way back in the early 80s. My cousin Sean and I always wanted to start a band called Sanctuary. That’s all we ever talked about. One day we were at a record store and we saw a $100 dollar bill sticking out from under a customer’s foot.
When he walked away I leaned down and grabbed the bill and we ran across the street and bought a $100 Les Paul copy. We were like 15 years old and that was the beginning of our dream. I don’t know if the knife actually represented anything other than we thought it was cool. It’s a bit dated at this point but hard to redesign a logo that has been with you for that many years. It’s sort of a brand now.
Dave: Is there a chance Refuge Denied and Into the Mirror Black will be re-released?
Lenny: I don’t know about that. It’s possible. There is a combined release on Iron Bird Records I believe.
Dave: How long did this current line-up play together before you actually went into the studio?
Lenny: We all got back together in 2010. Brad joined us in 2011 and we were writing on and off for about 3 years or so. We write kind of slow and we are sort of perfectionists so we were in no hurry since so much time has already gone by anyway.
Dave: What’s your preferred media type: vinyl, cassette, CD or digital download?
Lenny: I like the nostalgia and sound of vinyl as well as having the large format artwork. Obviously digital rules the day in the past few years as far as convenience goes but analog is much warmer.
Dave: How important are social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to Sanctuary?
Lenny: I think any way you can promote your music to reach as many fans as possible is a good thing. FB, Twitter and YouTube definitely can be used as tools to get the word out.
Dave: Is metal a fad for younger generations or one of the last true forms of artistic expression?
Lenny: I guess this answer depends on the person. I definitely don’t think metal is a fad. It doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Although I do think the music business in general is in a bit of a fucked up state. Quality bands have a difficult time surviving in the current environment. Unless you’re constantly touring it’s difficult to make a living. New, younger bands that don’t yet have a following may find it even more difficult now that the general public trend is to not pay for music or CDs any longer. It’s definitely a challenging career choice.
Dave: Thanks again for your time – best of luck with the new release!
Lenny: Thank you and look for possible Sanctuary tour dates in Europe and the US.
Warrel Dane – Vocals
Lenny Rutledge – Guitars
Jim Sheppard – Bass
Dave Budbill – Drums
Brad Hull – Guitars