Interview with Lenny Rutledge from 1987
by Curt King
It’s not Heaven nor Hell…it’s SANCTUARY!
How many ways are there for an unknown band to get “discovered” or signed for a record deal? I am sure you’ve heard all the success stories and every imaginable way possible for a band to land that ever-so-lucrative record deal/contract! Think again.
For this melodic Power Metal band from Pacific Northwest it [i.e. getting discovered] was definitely not “business as usual” and I applaud them for being so creative and “pro-active” (or at least ballsy). So who are these creative D.I.Y types? One Warrel Dane (vocals), Lenny Rutledge (guitar), Sean Blosl (guitar), Jim Sheppard (bass) and Dave Budbill (drums).
Please join us as Demolish founder/editor Curt King chats with guitarist Lenny Rutledge and uncovers this unique band and brings their very interesting story to light.
CURT: Let’s go all the way back to the beginning, please tell us how SANCTUARY got started?
LENNY: The conception of the band started with my cousin and I —the guitar players in the band. Basically, we started playing guitar on the same day! You see, we kinda’ walked into a record store one day and we saw this $100 bill laying on the floor, which was kinda’ a trip, so we picked it up and ran out of the store as fast as we could and ran to the nearest guitar store and bought a guitar. And that’s how we started out playing guitar!
After we started getting proficient at playing, we went our separate ways. He went to another band and I joined another band. Later on, after we had played for about four or five years, we got back together and started a band called SANCTUARY. It took us a while to get all the assorted members though. We went through a lot of drummers and bass players because we were the only two members of the band that “stuck with it”. Basically we had to “steal” people from bands that were doing good because we couldn’t find anybody that would really stick with it. We stole our drummer from another band! They weren’t really doing that good but the drummer was doin’ really good —so we got him to join our band because we we’re doing well at the time.
For the singer, we just recorded a demo tape. One night we wrote this song called “Wally’s Song”. We had not really met the guy before we had heard of him. We had heard that he was into the kind of mystic, deep, dark-sounding type of songs. Then we wrote that song and the feeling we got from it was like: “f**k, this guy’s gonna’ love this song!” We had that positive attitude about it and when he heard it, that’s why he joined the band. So it was like the total feeling of that and him hearing the song and actually liking it (just like we thought he would). It just hit us off, we all hit-off really good from then on.
Was he in another band at the time?
LENNY: He had just quit a band from Seattle, so we just snagged him and that’s how he joined the band. From there it took like two years to get all the musicians that we wanted. We didn’t want to go with your basic type singer…we knew exactly what we wanted. We didn’t go and play all the bars or anything with just any ole’ singer would fit in —we just waited until we got exactly what we wanted!
Did you record your demo while you were in the process of completing the line-up or did you just start rehearsing and writing material from the get-go?
LENNY: Right, we were writing songs and we we’re playing some covers and stuff. When we finally got our singer, we stopped playing covers and wrote all originals. Then we went in and recorded a demo and got it played on a radio station out here at KCMU. We were number one or number two for a year straight!
With that same demo tape, you were recently signed to Epic Records and are about to release your début album entitled “Refuge Denied”. Tell us how that deal came about.
LENNY: That took place when KING DIAMOND and MEGADETH played a concert here. We had the demo recorded and we were doing OK, but we had only played out once! I went to the show with a friend and two girls. The two girls found out what hotel MEGADETH was staying in, so I talked them into going.
No way, so what happened then?
LENNY: So, what we did was: when we found out what room they were in, I just kinda’ pushed the door open and pushed these two girls in! I figured if Dave Mustaine see’s them then he’s gonna’ let us all in [laughs]. Sure enough, he saw them and the place was like “yeah, let’s party!” So we walk in there and I sat right down next to Dave. He shared his bottle of “Cavasia” (i.e. Courvoisier perhaps – ed) and we talked for a while. Next, we talked him out to our car and we put in our demo tape and he loved it! Then he just decided he wanted to produce us!
He flew us to L.A. And we talked to a few labels and stuff. We did a couple of shows with MEGADETH and then we recorded the album. His manager, Keith Rawls paid for everything. Now he’s our manager also (funny how that works huh! – ed).
Dave produced the album and we kinda’ share a bit of the production credit with him. After we got it all finished, then Keith shopped it around to all the [record] labels. We tried smaller labels at first and a lot of them were really interested, then a lot of the big labels were interested. One label is even flew us down to L.A. For a private showcase but nothing really happened with that. It was like thirty people standing around checkin’ us out —it was like the scariest time we’ve ever played!
I can imagine. That would be tough. So how did you play?
LENNY: We did really good, but they supposedly had some kind of “signing freeze”…something weird was going on. Then, Epic Records calls us up the next day and says: “sh**, we’ll sign you right now!”
*Rockin’ onstage in Holland 1988!
Wow, most bands do not get a record deal early on in their career (let alone a major label deal) and help from a popular character like Dave Mustaine, do you feel “lucky” in any way?
LENNY: Yeah, we definitely feel lucky! We made the right contact and it was definitely a LOT of luck, but [I mean] it was a combination of not just luck. Epic didn’t listen to the tape and say: “Dave Mustaine produced it, it’s gonna’ sell a million albums.” They listened to it and said that it’s got Dave Mustaine’s name on it (also our engineer was the same guy who engineered both the METAL CHURCH albums) and not only that —the music’s good! They listened to the music and they liked the music. Nobody’s gonna’ sign you unless you have good music! If you have good contacts and good music, then your obviously gonna’ “make it” easier. I’m sure some people can go by their contacts alone and go somewhere, but our musics’ good too!
Tell us about the recording of the album and how was it different from your previous efforts?
LENNY: We recorded it at Steve Lawson’s studio in Seattle. It took a little less than a month to record it. We were in a hurry so it went really fast. The demo was totally different. We started it over and did it from scratch. We went through it really fast because Dave was getting ready to go on tour and he only had like a month to do it, so we had to do it right then and there. We mixed it there and after we got signed to Epic, they re-mixed it —so it does sound a little better than it did in just that month.
“There were only two good places to play at and SLAYER shut both of them down! They were just too wild.” – Lenny Rutledge
Some people insist that Mr. Mustaine is a very arrogant person, what was it like working with Dave and in the studio?
LENNY: It was great! We had a lot of wild partying times…it wasn’t just sit there and play —we’d sit there and PARTY [ha ha]! It was interesting as we always kept it interesting and we were always on our toes. He also taught us a few drinking games!
You have some very eerie song titles, do you ever take, say, a “mystical” approach when writing song lyrics? Give us some of the titles and or what they are about please.
LENNY: Well, a lot of it is like, let’s say “Veil of Disguise” for example —it’s like a vampire story. “Ascension to Destiny” is more like if aliens we’re taking over the Earth. “Battle Angels” is kinda’ like an “armageddon” type thing. Wally writes a lot of lyrics about armageddon. “Termination Force” is again, like armageddon! “Die for My Sins” is like the saints that sin on Saturday and ask everybody to repent and die for their sins on Sunday in the church! “Soldiers of Steel” is about a movie called The Keep. Our lyrical approach is very serious, it’s not like ANTHRAX or anything like that. Nothing against them, but we are very serious. We also do a cover of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’S “White Rabbit”, only now it’s heavier and it’s real “crunchy” and “grinding”. Dave also plays the guitar solo on that one. The last song is called “Sanctuary”, and that’s a song about when you die and when you go to the other side. Wally describes it as a place in between Heaven and Hell. It’s not Hell, it’s not Heaven…it’s SANCTUARY —maybe like a purgatory.
Is that what your band name represents?
LENNY: Yeah, kinda’, in a way. The whole thing is mystical and scary. Not Heaven or Hell, just kind of different and beyond. Our music is tough to describe. It’s tough and grinding and it’s got both melody and speed in it. We’ve also got the slow parts and the speedier, crunchy parts, but speed isn’t that important to us. We like both. We’re not too prone to having “speedy” songs all the way through. We only have a few like that. We like the best of both worlds. Let’s say, like KING DIAMOND meets METALLICA.
I’ve got a lot of feedback from bands in the Pacific Northwest stating there aren’t too many places to play —is that true? You also mentioned that the radio station, KCMU, was giving you some healthy airplay. Isn’t that the station that has those wild “Brain-Pain” parties? If so, please tell us about them…
LENNY: Yes, well those parties are every Sunday night. I usually don’t go to them that much. Our vocalist [Warrel] and bass player [Jim] goes to them all the time. I’ve been to a couple and about thirty people get together and drink some Old English forty-ouncers’! It’s a lot of Thrash Metal and other stuff, but it’s all high-energy Metal —it’s a cool show. They still play us a lot too. The guy who does the show [Jeff Gilbert pic above -ed] really pushes us hard and has been really good to us.
As far as the scene here goes, it is definitely suffering since there is no place to play! There were only two good places to play at and SLAYER shut both of them down! They were just too wild.
Huh? What happened?!
LENNY: They got the crowd going and they ended up tearin’ the place up!
So there you have it folks. What an amazing story on how they were “discovered”. Best of luck to the band. I think they could rightly make their mark on the Metal world. If you enjoy your Metal with lots of power + finesse then give them a shot. Warrel’s vocals soar, the riffs are catchy and melodic and there is enough grinding and or “crunch-factor” to satisfy your Thrash urges. What more could you ask for?
*We hope you enjoyed that relic from the 80′s. This is a partial interview as the original tape is now M.I.A. So let’s just call this a “part one” until the original C-90 is un-earthed and transcribed fully!
Refuge Denied (1987)
- All tracks written by Lenny Rutledge and Warrel Dane, unless stated
- “Battle Angels” (Sean Blosl, Dane) – 4:30
- “Termination Force” (Rutledge, Dane, Jim Sheppard) – 3:49
- “Die for My Sins” – 3:37
- “Soldiers of Steel” – 5:24
- “Sanctuary” – 3:54
- “White Rabbit” (Grace Slick) (Jefferson Airplane cover) – 3:07
- “Ascension to Destiny” – 4:52
- “The Third War” – 3:47
- “Veil of Disguise” – 5:43
Cover art by Ed Repka
Into the Mirror Black (1990)
- “Future Tense” — 5:08
- “Taste Revenge” — 5:00
- “Long Since Dark” — 5:04
- “Epitaph” — 6:02
- “Eden Lies Obscured” — 5:21
- “The Mirror Black” — 5:07
- “Seasons of Destruction” — 4:51
- “One More Murder” — 4:21
- “Communion” — 5:37
Into the Mirror Live (1991)
- “Future Tense” – Studio Version
- “Long Since Dark” – Live
- “Battle Angels” – Live
- “One More Murder” – Live
- “White Rabbit” – Live
- “Taste Revenge” – Live
*sorry, you will have to click & watch on You Tube as the embedding is off!
*Into The Mirror live is live promotional EP of the band recorded on May 12, 1990 at The Country Club in Reseda, CA, during their “Into The Mirror Black” tour. Approximately 1000 CD copies of this were made and less than 500 were ever distributed to radio stations and record stores. Because of contractual problems with Epic Records, the full version was never released for public consumption. Warrel Dane has stated on several occasions that he has the master tapes and copyrights of the full show and intended to have it finally released.
*according to Wiki
*After their début LP was released, they toured alongside Megadeth and the German band Warlock.
After the tour, they entered the studio to record their second and final studio album, Into the Mirror Black in 90′. The above video clip for the song Future Tense was made and it received some air play on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. During the tour for Into the Mirror Black guitarist Sean Blosl left the band and was replaced by Jeff Loomis.
Shortly after, the word on the street is that continued pressure [from Epic Records] to fit in with the flourishing Seattle grunge scene caused disagreements between band members (about the band’s musical direction). So in 91′ Sanctuary officially disbanded.
Refuge Denied and Into the Mirror Black were re-released as a double CD set by IronBird Records on February 22, 2010.
- After disbanding, Warrel Dane, Jim Sheppard and Jeff Loomis formed the band Nevermore in 91′.
- Dave Budbill lives in Florida, and is now the drummer for Alive Inside.
- Sean Blosl is creating music and film independently through Golden Flower Media.
- Lenny Rutledge became a musical producer, and has his own studio. Additionally, he helped Nevermore on the demo sessions of their 1999 album Dreaming Neon Black.
Warrel Dane announced in May, 2010, that Sanctuary will reunite to record a new album. Warrel confirmed on Nevermore’s official forum that he can still hit the high notes he did in Sanctuary’s early days. However, he did not say whether he’d be implementing them into the new album. Sean Blosl is currently working on a film called “Into The Heart Of Shiva” and won’t be taking part in the reunion.
Recently announced that their only US appearance in 2011 will be at ProgPower USA held annually in Atlanta. They will be headlining on Friday night. The dates have yet to be announced. The band will also be playing on the 70,000 tons of Metal festival [which will take place on a cruise ship!] in January of 2011