Lenny Rutledge of SanctuarySanctuary – Going Back to the  “Inception”
By Dave Schwartz 

Sanctuary is hitting on all cylinders.  After reforming in 2010 on the pretexts of doing a handful of shows, four of the founding Sanctuary members:  Warrel Dane (vocals), Lenny Rutledge (guitar), Jim Sheppard (bass) and Dave Budbill (drums), decided that the response and chemistry they were feeling was undeniable.  They decided to reunite permanently.  

To catch you up on some quick history, Sanctuary inked a deal with Century Media in 2013 and soon after released “The Year the Sun Died” in 2014.  Tours quickly followed.  In February 2015, guitarist Brad Hull departed for personal reasons and remains friends with the band.  He was replaced by Nick Cordle on guitar.  And in 2016 ex-Panic bassist George Hernandez, who had filled in for Jim Sheppard on tour the previous year, was announced as the band's new permanent bassist.

Rutledge, while digging around in the upper loft area of his barn stumbled across the master tape of Sanctuary’s original demo’s.  First listen proved unimpressive but their producer, Zeus (Chris "Zeuss" Harris - Queensryche, Hatebreed), believed the tape could be resurrected. 

On February 24th Sanctuary will release these original demos as “Inception.”

DB:  Let me start by saying congratulations on the new record, “Inception.”  There is a lot of chatter around the Internet about this. 

LR:  Yeah, people are really responding to this.  It’s really cool.  The dem’s, as they were recorded back in 1986 are out there, you can hear them on the Internet, but they were really poor quality and when you hear the difference you’ll be amazed.  In my opinion, and I love “Refuge Denied,” but this has something different.  There’s an edge, a rawness, an aggression that wasn’t really there – I don’t want to say wasn’t there on “Refuge Denied” but – it was just polished a little.  It was rounded off.  The sharp edges are what you hear on “Inception” so I think that people who are fans of “Refuge Denied” are really going to enjoy this.

DB:  I know that some of the songs are subtly different – small variations in the intros and so on.  Were there any surprises for you listening to these tracks for the first time in years?

LR:  Yeah, there were some things that we were tempted to fix but we didn’t. When I first heard those guitar tones I was like, are you kidding me?  It didn’t sound right and Zeus was like listen, I’ll EQ this stuff and make it sound good and listen, I’ll tell you what, he worked a miracle.  After I found the demo tape I had it transferred to digital. 

And I brought it up in my home studio and was like, ewww, God I don’t know.  But when Zeus came over he dialed it up a little bit and created a mix.  And I was like, this really could sound cool, I get it now.  And we talked about going in and maybe fixing this and re-recording that but in the end we agreed that we wouldn’t do that.  We wanted everything to be as it was in 1986.  We wanted the listener to hear who we were, what we were doing and how much money we didn’t spend on that.  We wanted all that to be part of the experience.  

Lenny Rutledge and Warrel Dane of SanctuaryThere were a couple of solos I was listening to and I was like, Zeus, I could do that so much better.  And then he said, yeah but we really want this to be 1986, and I agree with him.  I thought about it and realized that that’s what we did back then and who we were.  Now listening back to it, I get it and it feels right and sounds cool.  There are a couple little blemishes that it would be cool to fix but now that I’ve heard it a few times I just feel like…  That could’ve been our first record actually-- we could’ve skipped “Refuge Denied” I think.  Not that that whole experience wasn’t amazing as well because it really was.  But I mean money-wise, financial-wise we probably could’ve skipped right through that.  We could’ve pocketed all the money and released that.  (laughs)

 This isn’t necessarily a secret but we recorded “Refuge Denied” for $20k all in.  We remixed the record and re-recorded “White Rabbit” and some other things and the whole bill came up to $50k.  Back then, that was no big deal.  Bands spent that kind of money on records all the time.  But as far as “Inception”, we spent $1,200 recording it.  We spent a little more mixing and mastering it and stuff.  But comparatively it was just a fraction of what we spent on “Refuge Denied”.  “Refuge Denied” was fun and a great experience for us all but it’s just amazing what you can do these days on a budget.  I mean we have the tracks from 1986 but the mixing and mastering I guess, that was all kind of modern technology. 

DB:  It is amazing just how much things have progressed.

LR:  Yeah, for sure man.  Everyone has a recording studio on their laptop or in their bedroom.  It not how it used to be.  I remember having to spend a fortune buying half-ass music gear to record us and it was pretty good stuff and all but I spent a small fortune on it.  The songs sound better now recording on these computers. 

DB:  You’ve mentioned the buzz that “Inception” has created.  I can’t think of any better way to demonstrate the buzz the new record has created other than to say you’re heading to Europe and playing all the big festivals. 

LR:  We’re doing 8 or 9 festivals.  One of them isn’t fully confirmed yet. 

DB:  Are you planning any dates aside from the festivals?

LR:  I don’t know.  We were talking about possibly doing that.  It is a little difficult from what I hear.  I mean that depends who you are.  If you’re one of the bigger bands you can book some dates in between.  Our booking agent is telling us that they’re trying to book things before Wacken.  Our festival schedule will end with Wacken which is a great way to end it.  There’s a week there before Wacken where we don’t have much to do and we’re not coming home.  We just figured that we’ll stay there.  I mean we’re flying back and forth to Europe 3 times this year and so we figured we would just stay for that one.  To fly 5 guys back and forth to Europe is like $7500 or $8000.  You actually save money by staying there even if you’re not actually playing any shows.  So yeah, we are trying to book some shows in between and right before Wacken is where we want them. 

DB:  I’m looking at your schedule right now. 

Jun 16   Loreley     St. Goarshausen, Germany
Jun 17   Graspop Metal Meeting     Dessel, Belgium
Jun 18   Hellfest     Clisson, France
Jul 12     Bang Your Head!!!     Balingen, Germany
Jul 15     Gefle Metal Festival     Gavle, Sweden
Jul 25     Metaldays     Tolmin, Slovenia
Jul 28     Headbangers Open Air     Schierenhöhe, Germany
Aug 05  Wacken Open Air     Wacken, Germany

With Headbangers on July 28th and Wacken on August 5th, with 7-8 days there it seems like an ideal time to add a show or two.  It would be great for the fans to have a chance to see you beyond those larger festivals. 

LR:  Yeah, that’s the thing, a lot of fans migrate to those festivals and from what I heard, sometimes with all of the people gone the clubs will close down during those weeks.  The clubs don’t get a whole lot of draw because everyone is focused on going to the festivals.  Fans in Europe save all year for these festivals. Some of the people who go, they go to 2 or 3 or 4 of them.  I guess it can be pretty spendy.

Warrel Dane of SanctuaryDB:  Another exciting thing happened.  Your song, “Battle Angel” appeared in an episode of the Netflix series "The OA."  Were you aware this was going to happen or did this just sort of pop up on you? 

LR:  Yeah, the producers have to get permission and all that so we knew this was coming.  They have been talking to us for quite a while, 6 or 8 months.  They really wouldn’t tell us much because it’s all kind of a secret.  They wouldn’t tell us much about the plot of anything.  They did tell us how it was going to be used.  They said that they thought they might use the song a few times and that they wouldn’t know when the show would actually air.  I guess that when they released it Netflix released the entire season on the first day.  Maybe that’s the way things are going now.  People like to binge watch.  I thought it was a pretty cool deal.  I watched a bit of the show.  I did skip right to the point where “Battle Angels” came up just because I was curious.  I wasn’t sure if I would like the show or not and then I got sucked into the show.  It’s actually pretty good.

DB:  It sounds like they have a new fan.

LR:  Yeah, it’s about a guy…  You know I didn’t watch it from the very beginning so I want to go back and see it from the beginning.  It’s about a guy, a scientist or something and he’s doing experiments on people.  It looks like he drowns them in some apparatus and then revives them.  But he has this equipment where he can test their experiences after they died so it’s kind of like “Flat Liners.”  It’s pretty interesting.  I don’t profess to be an expert on the whole plot but that’s where it seemed like it was going.  And it almost seemed like they were in a terrarium thing.  The guy was capturing all these people and dragging them into his testing facility.  He drowns them and then records their experience while dead.  He then revives them and throws them into this terrarium.

DB:  Sounds pretty twisted.

LR:  Twisted but interesting.  I guess they picked the prefect song.

DB:  Warrel has been online talking about some of the new material you’ve been writing.  He’s said there’s a new album in the works that’s titled “Dead Again.”  It sounds like you’ve put some effort into new material.  Is this something that’s going to come out 2017? 

LR:  Well I wish this was out in 2017 but I’m going to be realistic and say that we’re probably not going to record it until late 2017, maybe the 3rd quarter.  We’ll see what happens.  Yes, we are actively writing.  In fact Warrel and I were on the phone last night and he’s going to come over and check out some more of the new tunes.  You know a lot of music is written when he’s not present.  A lot of times he’s off doing other stuff.  So he either comes over and listens or we give him copies and he takes it from there.  Once he gets a vibe on it he starts to write the lyrics and stuff.  He does have some of the music.  We’ve got a really good head start.  I mean especially if we don’t record until late 2017 we’ll have time to write some really good stuff because we already have 6 or 7 really great song ideas.  We’ll see what happens.  “Dead Again” is one of the songs.  I don’t know if that’s going to be the title.  I know that Warrel said it was but he could change his mind.  He’s a super creative guy and since saying that he may have already changed the title a couple of times.  (laughs)  So I’m not sure what’s going to happen.  We’ll wait and let him announce it here when we start recording.  He’s got some other things that he’s working on as well.  He’s working on his solo record and so he’s a little preoccupied.  We won’t have his full attention for another few months.  But yeah, a new Sanctuary record is coming and my feeling is that it’s going to be released in 2018.

Lenny Rutledge and Warrel Dane of SanctuaryDB:  I’ll admit that I’m excited for the new material but I’m not in a hurry.  Sanctuary has plenty of cool things happening in 2017 with “Inception.”  It’s just great to hear that you’ve got more new material in the pipe. 

LR:  We really didn’t plan it this way but it’s cool that “Inception” worked out.  Honestly, I didn’t know or expect to find those demo tapes.  I mean I kind of in the back of my mind knew I had them but I forgot about them.  And then once I found them and the condition they were in, things just all worked out.  And then it was kind of like, well it’s a perfect time to release “Inception” because it’s in between our normal release cycle and everything.  You know a lot of our fans love that higher pitched vocals and there wasn’t a lot of it on “The Year the Sun Died.”  This has been the answer to that.  It’s kind of like, hey we’ve got some really cool stuff and we just thought it answered to the people that really wanted to hear some of that really high pitched stuff.  I swear it’s like someone tightened a vice around Warrel’s balls.  This album is from before “Refuge Denied” and if you though he sang high on that album, I mean my God.  (laughs)

I want to thank Lenny Rutledge for sharing his time with DaBelly.  Sanctuary will be playing many of the European festivals this year and, for those of us in the states, there’s rumor of a North American tour in May or June.  Keep your eyes open for the announcement. 

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