Warrell Dane and George Hernandez of SanctuarySanctuary talks about life after Warrel
By Dave Schwartz 

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season; corporate parties and sharing good cheer with friends and loved ones all paused for just a moment on December 13th 2017 when it was announced that Warrel Dane, front man and vocalist of the band Sanctuary had passed away. 

Dane was doing what he loved.  He was in Brazil working on a solo record. 

As the news spread across the metal community, fans of the band Sanctuary reflected upon the first time they heard Daneís voice and the band's debut record, ďRefuge Denied.Ē  Amongst the good tidings of the holiday season, a musical community mourned another loss.

Daneís passing served as another reminder that although the lines may be invisible to us in a given moment, we humans are all connected. 

Then after the New Year a remarkable rumor started to swirl-- Sanctuary on tour?  I reached out to Sanctuary bassist George Hernandez.  We spoke on January 7th, the day of Daneís memorial.  

DB:  How are you doing today George?  I thank you for taking the call.  I really do appreciate it.  I know this is a trying day for you guys with the Warrel's memorial today.

GH:  It is.  Iíve just been doing some reflection as I have been for the last month and I think weíre going to have a good turnout of folks that really did appreciate Warrel and his body work this afternoon and Iím looking forward to it.  Warrel is gone and it will be nice, you know I think under the circumstances, for us all to just kind of celebrate his life and reflect on what he did and what he contributed to the Seattle scene altogether. 

DB:  Absolutely, this is an opportunity to come together as a family and really celebrate all that he accomplished.  He had an amazing backlog of work as you know, being a part of it and all.  It was a sad day to hear of his passing.

GH:  It really is, I wish it were different.  He was one of the guys from the scene that has always inspired me to be the best that I can be. And he always will.  I love him for that.  I remember running into Warrel after so many years of not seeing him because he was really busy with his career and we had a drink.  I congratulated him on his career and I asked, Wasnít it tough for you to be a metal musician in the '90s and he said yeah, but not as tough as it was for most. (Laughs)  It just hit the nail right on the head.  He was pretty good at doing that. 

DB:  Hopefully todayís memorial will be a celebration of his life and a remembrance of his successes.

GH:  Yes, I know that it will be.  It is unfortunate, The Great Dane, he struggled with diabetes and you know, alcohol and this, that and the other.  It really weakened him in the latter years.

Warrel Dane of SanctuaryDB:  This had been an amazing year for Sancutary Ė a year filled with triumphs that included going to Europe and appearing at many of the festivals and then with it culminating in December and the passing of Warrel.  I was happy to hear several months ago that that success would be continuing in 2018 with a planned tour with Iced Earth.  Naturally with the tragic events that have occurred, I anticipated that Sanctuary dropped from the tour.  Iíll admit that I was surprised to learn yesterday that the tour is still on.

GH:  Well, yeah, itís funny, itís wild how things unfold.  If thereís stuff thatís meant to be, itís meant to be.  This certainly hasnít been forced and I'd have to say the universe has a funny way of working.  Warrel did accept this tour with Iced Earth.  He liked the deal that was presented to him and he felt good about it and he was looking forward to doing it.  And you know, at the end of the day anything that we do from here on out is always going to be run through these filters so to speak that is Ė would Warrel approve of this?  Would Warrel be into it?  Would he feel good about it? 

So it [the tour] is on and it miraculously came together via this whole group of bands that turned us on to a singer that is committed to doing [the tour] and is very excited to work with Lenny (Rutledge, Sanctuary guitarist)  Hopefully it blossoms as much as it can so that we can continue to do this.  I know that Warrel wouldíve wanted us to do this.

Itís wild.  We talked to Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth guitarist) and heís like, what are you guys going to do?  We had a couple of video auditions that we got and we were deciding and we didnít think Warrel wouldíve approved of that Ė although they were good, you know.

Shafferís like, you know my lead guitar player (Jake Dreyer), they just got signed to Century Media, a band called Witherfall.  Their record wonít be out until mid-February and itís amazing, it's an amazing record.  Shafferís guitar player plays in that band and recommended their (Witherfall) singer Joseph Michael.  We got in touch with them and listened to a couple of songs and he (Joseph Michael) is real excited about it and weíre really excited about it too.

I haven't heard Lenny so excited.  You know, heís the mastermind.  Heís a great businessman, a great leader.  Iím always comfortable doing anything we do in Sanctuary because Lenny does a fantastic job at whatever he pursues.  I havenít heard him so excited.  Joseph Michael has a very strong youthful voice is very similar tone both high register overage Warrel.  Itís unbelievable, it really is.  So you know, here we are.  The tour is on. 

DB:  This is an amazing turn of events.  That old saying that opportunity is found within every tragedy is coming true for Sanctuary.  And the worst tragedy in the world for any band is to lose your front person.  This is astounding.

GH:  It really is.  Weíve all heard the stories.  Theyíre far and few between.  One of my favorite bands, ACCEPT, they had to set that band down many, many, many years before they found a replacement.  For things to come together the way they did, itís really quite miraculous.  Weíre excited, as I was saying, the guitar player for Witherfall plays in Iced Earth and his singer is going to come jam with us and they are label mates of ours. 

DB:  Itís those invisible connections that we all have.  Itís amazing how the puzzle fits together. 

Warrel Dane and Lenny Rutledge of SanctuaryGH:  It really is, yeah.  Iím looking forward to playing with these guys and playing for the Sanctuary fans and I think itís going to be well received because I think his (Joseph Michaelís) voice is as strong as when Warrel originally did our first recordings.  Heís very impressive.

DB:  The tour as you know starts on February 22nd and itís a good long one.  Youíre going to have the opportunity to get in front of the fans and really celebrate Warrelís life and the music that is Sanctuary. 

GH:  Absolutely and weíre going to continue to do that.  Thatís going to be a focal point for the band and always will be.  Heís always been an inspiration and always will be.  I want to be my best for Warrel Dane as well as for myself.  Itís sad that heís gone. 

DB:  Weíre there any recordings made of the festival shows the band did in Europe over this past summer?

GH:  I canít really answer that.  Iím not sure.  I know that in this day and age you can pop on YouTube and see the show from yesterday.  So there is a lot of that out there but quality recordings that could be put out in the future, Iím not sure anything like that exists.

DB:  I know it's obviously way premature to get into where Sanctuary is going.  Your future is a moment by moment, day by day right now and thereís nothing wrong with that really. 

GH:  No, and it has to be that way.  When we were looking at different auditions prior to meeting Joseph Michael from Witherfall, we didnít know if this was going to be something that all the guys wanted to continue to do. 

And we didnít want to make some last minute choice just so that we could go out and do this tour with Iced Earth.  That wasnít going to be the right decision.  But with such a similar voice and a voice that is as strong as Warrelís was when he recorded those records, this has become a wonderful opportunity.  We had to take it.

DB:  This tour seems like the absolute right and perfect thing to do. 

GH:  Yes, yes indeed.  (Laughs)  Itís, itís supposed to happen Dave.

DB:  As humans, so many things that we do in life we fight, we struggle to do the right thing.  Other things just hit us in the face, we have to do them.

GH:  Yeah, itís a beautiful thing.  Iím happy to say that the opportunities that Iíve had with Warrel Dane have been some of the best of my music career and Iím content to have done what I have done. 

I want to thank George Hernandez for sharing a moment with DaBelly.  The Iced Earth/Sanctuary tour begins February 22nd in Indianapolis and ends in Chicago on March 29th.  Check out their social media! 



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