Sanctuary Guitarist Recalls Split, Return and Meeting Dave Mustaine
Sanctuary punctuated the 1980s with an exclamation point with "Refuge Denied" (1987) and "Into the Mirror Black" (1989). Their initial effort was a chillingly dark record that towed the line between power metal and thrash. Warrel Dane's falsetto voice rivaled metal gods King Diamond, Rob Halford and Geoff Tate. Also, Dave Mustaine produced the album and played a solo on their cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," further marking this as a metal classic.
Dane injured his voice during the making of the album, which forced him to sing in a lower register than the previous recording. Although the sophomore recording didn't retain such incredibly high vocals, Dane sang with a greater sense of anger and developed his deep narrations. On the whole, the album showed more progressive traits with heavier grooves and prominent bass lines via Jim Sheppard. The album also showed a fuller production.
This album would also mark the band's swan song. Rumors formed that the band quit due to pressure from their label to become a grunge band, which guitarist Lenny Rutledge refutes. Dane, Sheppard and the newly acquired Jeff Loomis would go on to form Nevermore, which showed the three shed its 80s metal armor for 90s metal groove and progressive virtuosity.
Seventeen years after disbanding, Sanctuary reformed. A couple years after their reformation, Nevermore split. After a few years of shaking off the rust in front of crowds, mostly during one-off shows such as the metal cruises 70,000 Tons of Metal and Barge to Hell, once again the band landed itself in a studio and created its first recording in twenty-five years, "The Year The Sun Died." I spoke to the main man behind the music (Dane wrote the lyrics), Lenny Rutledge to get a sense of how they made this comeback. We had a bunch of catching up to do in the following interview including hearing about the band's split, return and getting Dave Mustaine on board to produce "Refuge Denied."
Rex_84: How did Sanctuary get back together. When did you start talking with the other members about reviving the band?
Lenny Rutledge: I think it was in 2009 we started talking quite a bit more. We'd seen each other at parties every now and then or some kind of event. Every now and then we would joke about getting the band back together, but it never seemed to really happen. It never materialized. In 2009, they created a video game called "Brutal Legend." I don't know if you've heard of that?
Rex_84: Is that the one with "Battle Angels" on the soundtrack?
Rutledge: Yeah, and Jack Black was a character in it. It was pretty cool. We started talking more, but when that came out, we decided it would be fun to get together and play a few shows. We started rehearsing. We wanted to do a reunion show here in Seattle. We were having so much fun we decided "hey man, let's keep going with this. Let's see where this will go." The chemistry was really good, and next thing you know, we started writing songs. Everybody was having a good time and excited about it. It felt right.
Rex_84: Nevermore split up around 2010. Did this allow you to focus more on Sanctuary?
Rutledge: What happened was Jeff Loomis was in Sanctuary, again, for about six months. We started up again in November of 2010. We did our first show in, I think it was January 2011. Then Nevermore broke up in April or May of 2011. When Nevermore broke up, Jeff also quit Sanctuary at that point. Then, we went on and found another guitar player. One didn't have anything to do with the other. The plan was, at the time, that Sanctuary and Nevermore would run concurrently. In fact, we did 70,000 Tons of Metal in 2011 and both Sanctuary and Nevermore played. It was cool. One night Sanctuary played, and then the next night Nevermore played. We staggered it.
Rex_84: Brad Hull replaced Loomis, right?
Rutledge: Yeah, and Brad had been in the band even before Loomis back in 1990/91 around that time. My cousin Sean, Sean Blosl, left the band and when he left the band, we knew Brad from another band from around town called Forced Entry. We asked him if he would be interested in coming out on the road with us. He was down, so we knew we hit it off with him pretty good. Brad went back to his band and that's when Loomis joined us, back in the day. Loomis was in the band for about six months and then the band broke up. Loomis left the band after the reunion, we like to call it a reinvention, then we decided to call Brad again and he was interested. So yeah, it's working out!
Rex_84: Why did you break up? Did that have anything to do with Nevermore?
Rutledge: Nevermore didn't exist at the time, but I think at the time, everyone was just tense. Everyone was partying too much. We were starting to get into fights. It was one of those things, like a marriage gone bad. It just wasn't feeling right anymore. We already had one guy quit the band. We weren't getting along. We got Jeff into the band, and I think things started going in a different direction, maybe. That maybe made things a little tense, too. I don't know exactly what it was. I know a lot of people ask, somewhere and somehow there is this rumor that grunge broke the band up. It's just not true. Grunge didn't break the band up and the band was never going to go grunge. That would be a crazy, crazy thing! I remember reading that a bunch of times, and I get asked that all the time. (laughs) Can you imagine after we released two Sanctuary records we went grunge? That would be pretty weird. I'm pretty sure everybody would turn their backs on us at that point. At that time, I'm sure, our record company, like any other record company, was probably hoping they could mold us into a grunge band. That just wasn't going to happen! It really wasn't that. We just weren't having a good time together. It was five guys being married who needed to divorce each other, quick! There was a whole lot of punching and hair pulling than making music and having fun, so we decided to call it a day.
Rex_84: When you started writing "The Year The Sun Died," did you seek to recapture the sound from your "Refuge Denied" and "Into the Mirror Black" or did you attempt to write something different?
Rutledge: I don't want to say that we were attempting something different, but I think since so much time as gone by, we've all grown and matured as musicians. It was inevitable that it would have to be somewhat different, especially from "Refuge Denied." There was a time when I spent a lot of time playing acoustic and learning a different style. I think when we started writing, that kind of found its way into the way things are written. Not to say that this is all acoustic, mellow music because it's by no means anywhere close, but I had a different approach. For me, it was a fresh approach! It made me look at things different. It was like starting over, being a kid. I wasn't a jaded musician anymore. I was coming up with riff after riff that I was really enjoying. To me, that's the way it should be, and that's the way it was back when we started. Once we got together and started writing, it was like we were in a time machine, at least chemistry wise. So we just continued writing, creating and having a good time. As long as the chemistry continues that way, that's the plan. We're going to keep moving forward.
Rex_84: We get our first glimpse of the album's sound with the Braveword's premiere "Arise and Purify." What do you like about this track and why did you chose it as the first song to be released in 25 years!
Rutledge: It's got energy. It's the opening track of the release. It's got cool guitar work in it. It's a good sample of what you're going to hear.
Rex_84: The audio levels seem much fuller. It seems to have more volume than the other two records.
Rutledge: That's one thing we're really proud of. Being a musician and somewhat of a perfectionist it's never completely one hundred percent. There are things you always want to go in and fix. We're pretty happy with the production. We had Zeus. He's a brilliant producer. He's done a lot of bands¬--Hatebreed, Shadowsfall. He's got a long list of bands. He's just a kick-ass guy! He did a really, really good job. This is a kind of a passion project for him. We've all grown as musicians and we know how to better craft our sound and make it work, but with him in there helping us too, it turned out cool. I think it's definitely a step in the right direction production wise, too.
Rex_84: What was the recording process like? How did you get together to record the album?
Rutledge: We recorded at Soundhouse Studios in Seattle. That is run by Jack Endino, who believe it or not, is actually the god father of grunge (laughs). He's basically the guy running the studio, a really, really nice guy! We did the basic tracks there. We were there for about a week. And then we came to my studio--we call it Metal Camp Studios--and finished the rest of it here. Luckily, that afforded us a little more time because, as people know, budgets aren't the same as they used to be because the music business is way different. People don't buy it as much as they use to. It's hard to make a living off it, so record companies don't give you as much of a budget. You have to find ways to be creative. We wanted to be able to spend enough time and get what we really wanted out of it, so we brought it here so we didn't have to spend five hundred to a thousand dollars a day recording, so we could really take the time to perfect things. We did a lot of it here, and in the very end we went back to Soundhouse so we could perfect a few things here and there. Yeah, it was a cool process.
Rex_84: Speaking of productions, Dave Mustaine produced your first record and played a guitar solo on your cover of "White Rabbit." What was it like working with him? Do you recall any stories worth telling?
Rutledge: The whole thing was very surreal. It was funny in how we met him. The band was kind of at a point where we were doing pretty good in Seattle. They were playing us on college radio. We could sell out a show here, but we kind of needed to get to the next level. We had this demo and I told the guys I'm taking this demo tonight because Megadeth and King Diamond are coming to town. I'm going to track down Dave Mustaine and I'm giving it to him. He was my hero back in the day. I was totally infatuated with Megadeth and Dave Mustaine. In my crazy head, I was going to track him down, and force him at gunpoint to listen to this and he was going to help us out. It turns out, (laughs) oddly enough, I got to the concert and I couldn't get back stage. It just wasn't going to happen. I happen to be behind the venue when I was getting ready to leave. I was with a couple of buddies and a couple of girls and I heard him talking about where he was staying at a hotel.
We walked this hotel, floor by floor, listening for the loudest room. We came up to the loudest room and the door happened to be slightly open. We took the two girls we had with us who were pretty hot, we pushed opened the door, pushed the two girls in and the two girls distracted him. Sure enough, it was their room and I see Dave Mustaine sitting over in the corner. It was funny, he had this rubber shark in his hand that he was playing with and he was drinking a bottle of Courvoisier. He looked at me and said, "Hey you! Come here!" I thought, "oh shit!" I knew that Dave had a reputation, and he was going to throw me out of here. He said, "Hey man, you want some Courvoisier?"
We instantly hit it off and started talking and catching a buzz. I was having a great time, and then finally I convinced him to come down to the car and listen to the demo. I still, to this day, it happened as it happened and I still think in my head, "how does that happen?" because it sounds crazy to me. It worked out just the way we wanted it to. It was a dream come true! We had a lot of fun times with him. He was definitely an interesting guy and a mentor to us. He shaped and molded us and kind of showed us the way. We are eternally grateful.
Rex_84: As a bonus track, you recorded The Doors song "Waiting for the Sun." How do you change it and shape it to sound like a Sanctuary song?
Rutledge: It's a lot heavier than the actual song. It's definitely got a metal edge to it. Warrel put his own spin on it, too. Warrel's got a great voice in that register, kind of like Morrison. We were always really big fans of that song. In fact, we talked about doing it for our third record. Our third record was going to be called "Psychedelic Prayers." I don't know if it was going to be a concept album or what, but we had already talked about songs we were working on. This was right about the time the band broke up. At that time, we had considered doing "Waiting for the Sun" back then, too. Warrel and I are great fans of The Doors. We thought it would be a good song to do now because we're always thinking of stuff we would love to make our own. That song was always near and dear to our heart.
Rex_84: I love your cover of "White Rabbit." I think it's tremendous!
Rutledge: Yeah, Warrel brought that in when we started. Then we had the idea of having Dave play on it. That brought it up to the next level. It was great to have in the studio playing next to us and not just producing. That was cool. One of these days, it would be great to have him join us on stage and do that live.
Rex_84: This track seems like a polar opposite to the title track. Was that what you were going for? Were you trying to use the sun to convey an idea?
Rutledge: Warrel is kind of the lyric guy. It's kind of a loosely based concept record. It's based on a prophet who predicts the end of the world, the sun dies. It's a woman named Lenoir. She ends up having a bunch of followers and all sorts of chaos ensues. If you listen closely and look at the liner notes, there is a pretty cool story. That's something for people to get and look forward to. When I was a kid, I loved doing that. You would get an album and follow along to the songs. That's what this whole thing is. Warrel always has cool lyrics. That was the thing I always liked about King Diamond albums. You would get a King Diamond album and follow along with the lyric sheet. He had cool stories. That's something you can expect on "The Year the Sun Died." There are a lot of cool stories on it.
Rex_84: Sanctuary has stayed busy on the road. What was it like for you to get back on the stage again to play that Seattle show with a band that has been split up for the last twenty-plus years?
Rutledge: It was pure adrenalin. For me, that was the first time I've played in front of a crowd in a very long. The other guys had an edge on me. Dave Budbill had a band he was in and Jeff, Jim and Warrel were still in Nevermore. For them, it was probably just fun. For me, it had been almost twenty years since I played in front of a big crowd. It was slightly scary, but adrenalin, like a good scary. Once we got out there and we were enjoying it and the crowd was enjoying it, it all went away. Pure adrenalin!
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