Sanctuary interview with Warrel Dane: From the Vault

Below is a cleaned-up version of an interview D.U.’s editor conducted that appeared in Curious Goods ‘zine #5.

The bowels of the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., once again [February, 1991]. Warrel Dane [rest in peace], lead voice box of the Seattle, Washington band Sanctuary, and yours truly talked about stuff for a while. The band was there, gigging the Into the Mirror Black album that’s been out for a while now, after the Refuse Denied album, produced by none other than Dave Mustaine.

Curious Goods: Question number one: what’s the deal with the line-up change? I’m unclear about it. Who’s left?

Dane: Sean [Blosl, guitar] was the one that left.

Oh, right. I saw the dude from Forced Entry here.

Yeah. He’s not permanent. He’s just filling in for Sean until the tour’s over and we find a permanent member.

So what’s the official scoop on that? What happened?

Well, he just decided he didn’t wanta be in the band anymore, more or less. It wasn’t, uh, anything [pause] how do I put it? We’re still friends.

It wasn’t like, “He’s a dick,” or anything?

No. He just didn’t get along with some of us. And there was a lot of stress that goes on when you’re on the road, and touring for as long as we have. I mean, we’ve been on tour since last March, really, for this record, and that’s a lot of touring. Things get rough on the road sometimes. Some people just aren’t cut out for this business, you know? And if you don’t get along with people, you learn how to. And if you don’t want to, then you get out of the business, I guess. He wasn’t really happy playing heavy metal either.

Okay. Why don’t you give me some inside info on the new album and all that? Do you have any songs written?

We’ve got a bunch of song ideas that aren’t fully put together. I can tell you that the title of the record is going to be Psychedelic Prose. That’s about all I can tell you about it.

I recall that Sean would have a pile of tapes of riffs he did on a four track that he would make you listen to.

Yeah, that’s the way he would operate. Lenny [Rutledge, guitar] writes a little bit differently, but it’s the same idea. It always starts out with guitar stuff. We’ve got a bunch of stuff that’s written, but just not all put together yet. So after we’re done with this tour, we’ll be utilizing all the time we can to put it all together.

At this early stage of the writing, can you tell me how it differs from the first and second albums?

Oh, it sounds kind of like, uh [pause] it sounds like it has the aggression of the first record with the polish of the second record, the songwriting in it.

I understand you didn’t like Refuge Denied’s production. Not enough low end.

No, no, I didn’t like the production on the first record at all. I think the production on Into the Mirror Black was really, really good, and we’re thinking about using the same producer.

No more Dave, huh?

No more Dave after the first one. I mean, he was kinda pissed that we didn’t ask him to do the second one, but he was fucked up at the time. I don’t know what he was doing. He wouldn’t answer our calls or anything, so that was that.

Alright. What do you think of those parental advisory stickers that they put on the albums?

I think they prob’ly help record sales. Other than that, they’re really stupid. I mean, this whole country is based on freedom and being able to do what you want to and freedom of speech and all that bullshit. And the whole thing with stickering albums is really kind of infringing on that right, I think. But at the same time, I think it really does help sell records. If a kid sees an album with a parental warning sticker, he’s gonna want that one more than the other one that doesn’t have it. So I wish they’d sticker our albums. [laughs]

But they don’t?

No. Oh no. Fuckin’ the P.M.R.C., once they pick up on us, they’re gonna have a heyday, but they don’t know about us yet.

Do you feel that they’ll think your material deserves to be stickered?

Oh yeah, definitely.

This weedcore thing, there’s all these bands like Sadus or Atheist or Autopsy that do heavy pot. So are you guys weedcore?

[laughs] Oh, I don’t smoke much pot, but some of the other people in the band sure do a lot.

So is that part of your writing process?

No. [laugh] It can be. I mean—

There’s this way you play “White Rabbit” live with this long, drawn-out, psychedelic intro that you came up with at practice.

Yeah. Yeah, they were stoned. I wasn’t stoned. Maybe I was, I don’t know. I don’t smoke pot very often. I don’t really like to get stoned. It was the drummer and guitar player and bass player all got stoned when we were working on that. Yeah, that’s right, but as far as being a weedcore band, I don’t think it’s our, uh, claim to fame, is being stoned. [laughs] Yeah, I’ll get stoned every once in a while. I’ll do other things every once in a while. I have to be in the right mood, and I don’t rely on that for writing, but it can help sometimes.

How’s Epic treating you? You were complaining about that for a while, saying, “Man, we shoulda signed with Combat.”

Yeah, for a while we were thinking that. Still, I think, looking back on it, we would’ve been better off probably initially to go with an independent, just because they know more about breaking the kind of band we are than a major label really does. Epic is starting now to get behind us, and the first two records they really didn’t do a whole lot for. We got very unhappy with them about the way they handled Into the Mirror Black, and we took a stand where we said, “Listen, either you start doing some stuff for us, give us a video, give us some print ads, do something for us, show us that you’re behind us in some way at least, instead of doing nothing, or else just let us go, ‘cause we don’t want to be with the company anymore.” So they said, “Fine, fuck off. You’re not with the company.” And at the time it was a relief. And then two days later they called our manager back and said, “Well, we’re giving you your video and your print ads.” And we had a little more leverage with them after that. They’re promising us the world for our third record, so we’ll see what happens.

Music video for “Future Tense” from Into the Mirror Black:

If they don’t come through this time, that’ll be the last straw?

Oh yeah. Well, if they don’t come through this time, they’ll prob’ly drop us anyway. You know, they’ve got to push a band to really see any type of results. You can’t just take a band like us—

Is that the thing, they’re not seeing any album sales?

We’re having enough sales for them to be happy, but they don’t want to put any more money behind us to take us to the next level. I mean, I like playing clubs and everything, it builds character, but I don’t want to play clubs for the rest of my life. I will if I have to, because I love this music. But a record label, they know what it takes to break a band, and when we got signed, things were presented to us a lot differently. We thought that they were gonna be doing more for us, and then they’ve done two records for us and done nothing because they don’t really know how to handle this kinda music. They’re just still learning, really. And the label people figure, “Well, maybe we don’t need to do anything then,” y’know? We don’t sell a shitload like we’d like to, but we sell enough for them to keep us around, and they’re just now starting to pick up. Looking at the way they treat other bands, it took them three records to really get behind Suicidal, and now that they have, they’re doing really good.

“I’ve heard horror stories from other bands on majors, that labels will pick their songs for them and tell them what their album cover’s going to look like.”

And the thing with Prong.

Yeah. They haven’t really done anything for Prong. None of the bands on Epic that are metal, really, don’t get any attention, except for Iron Maiden, Ozzy, and Suicidal Tendencies. And that’s kind of fucked up, but with the way things work at a major label, you have to slowly climb the ladder of priority within the company. And if you stay around for a while, you’re more familiar and you have that, uh, seniority, I guess, over the other bands. But Epic has just dropped a ton of bands. A lot of the bands that were signed around the same time we were are gone now, and they’re signing more. Like, Blitzspeer [who opened for Sanctuary] just got signed. I’m sure they’ll get the same treatment we got at the beginning too. I mean, I just hope they can stick it out that long.

Right. Do you get a lot of creative control, or do they come in and say, “Look, man,” you know?

We have full, complete creative control over all of our product, everything. And that’s one good thing, because I’ve heard horror stories from other bands on majors. They don’t have control, that labels will pick their songs for them and tell them what their album cover’s going to look like and everything.

Yeah, you said once this guy came in and had some fucked up concept for your Into the Mirror Black album cover, and you were like, “No, man.”

Yeah, “No, this is it.” He didn’t really get it. I had to explain it, what it all meant. “I’m sorry, but a cracked mirror on the album cover just ain’t gonna cut it. That’s just stupid.” But we’re lucky enough where we have the artistic control from all sides, and a lot of bands aren’t that lucky, so it’s worked for us. So hopefully now they’re gonna pick up and take it to the next phase, which is making us a priority project on our next record. If they do that, we’ll just be happy. We’ll be real happy.

So what’s your opinion on the war in the Gulf right now? Do we have the right to be there, and with the oil and all that?

I think that we wouldn’t be there if there was no oil there, for one.

What with Bush saying we have to help this little country out.

That’s bullshit, really. I think so, anyway. I really don’t think that we’d be involved if it weren’t for the oil. Obviously, Saddam Hussein is clearly insane, he’s obviously a maniac, he obviously needs to be dealt with. This is the only way we know of dealing with it, obviously.

Do you dig all these people on the news that say he’s not insane, but he’s very calculating and he knows what he’s doing?

Well, obviously he knows what he’s doing. He may not be completely insane, he may just be a little psychotic. But obviously there’s something wrong with the man. I mean, he has people in his cabinet executed in front of the fucking congress in Iraq for disagreeing with him. You hear all kinds of stories about the one guy that disagreed with him. His wife pleaded with Saddam Hussein to send him back home and not kill him, and he sent him back chopped up in little pieces in a bag. It’s hard to say what’s true and what’s not, because you know god damn well that our government isn’t telling us the whole story. We don’t know everything, and if we did know everything, I don’t think that a lot of people would feel the same way that they do about this war. There’s no way that they can tell us everything to begin with, just because of security reasons, but, y’know, we’re getting a very distorted picture of what’s going on over there. We only see a small part of it, and to really judge the situation we’d have to see the whole picture. I hope it’s resolved soon, but I really only see this heading towards another Vietnam. And when people start coming home in body bags in larger numbers, I think that there’s gonna be a lot more people that are anti-war when this starts to happen. When your relatives and people you know start coming home dead.

That’s what’s going to happen when the ground war starts.

Right. Y’know, it’s too bad that this has to happen. I have really strong feelings about it. I don’t think it’s right. I think that we should’ve given more time for the economic sanctions to be completely effective, because there was every indication that they were starting to work. Not to say that would have stopped Saddam Hussein, because clearly he’s fucked up in the head and I don’t think he’d really care if his country was starving and didn’t have medicine or other supplies. I don’t think he’d give a fuck because he’s so screwed up. So that may not have worked, but we really didn’t give it enough time and I think that we may have jumped the gun a little bit on starting the war. At this point, it may be the only way to resolve it, but it just makes me sad to see it happening. [pause] So I could moralize more about whether it’s right or wrong, but I don’t think I could say at this point. I just personally don’t believe in war as an option.

Okay. How’s the scene in Washington State? Or have you been on tour so long you don’t know what the hell’s going on back there?

[laughs] I really don’t know. [laugh] We haven’t been home in a long time. We go home for, like, two, three weeks tops, and then we’re back out.

I was gonna ask if it’s hopping or if some locals are getting signed.

Everyone is signed, man. Everyone.

Do you know who’s grabbing them in particular?

Metal Blade just grabbed a band called Panic. They’re good friends of ours. And Columbia has War Babies and Alice in Chains, but they’re not new. They got signed a while ago. My Sister’s Machine just got signed. Um [pause] I can’t really think of any bands in Seattle that don’t have a record deal. There’s, like, a few. No, we have a lot of different labels up there signing bands, although Epic does have, I think, five bands from Seattle now. Screaming Trees, Sanctuary, Metal Church. I believe they’ve signed the band that’s formed from the remainder of Mother Love Bone. Soundgarden also. We have so many bands on major labels there now that just a year ago wasn’t the case. When we first got signed it was only Queensrÿche and Metal Church.

Can you give me a rundown on what name brands of instruments everyone plays?

I have a Samson ND 757 Broadcast Series 3. I like it a lot. Len likes Gibson guitars. He’s been trying to get an endorsement. I don’t know if it’ll happen. Dave [Budbill] plays Tama drums. Jim [Sheppard, bass] has Fender stuff.

What do you think of the Grammy heavy metal category and the fact that this year they finally nominated Judas Priest and Megadeth and stuff?

I think it’s good that they’re recognizing this kind of music. In past years I think that, uh, they’ve only nominated the trendy bands. I think it’s good that they’ve nominated Judas Priest and Megadeth and Anthrax. At least they’re going away from only nominating the trendy bands that had a buzz. I think it’s good. It’s about time that they started recognizing heavy metal as real music instead of just something that kids listened to that parents couldn’t stand.

Right. The last thing is, what metal category would you put yourselves in, so if someone came you and said, “What kind of stuff are you?” you could say speed or something?

I don’t know. I hate that question, because I never know what to say. And a lot of people have different ideas about what we are. A lot of people call us a thrash band, a lot of people say we’re definitely not a thrash band, progressive speed metal. I don’t know. We have elements of all those kinds of music in our style. Y’know, we’re not a full-on speed metal band, we’re not a full-on thrash band. A lot of our songs are really progressive, but then a lot of them are more towards the roots of how heavy metal sounded when it originated, like Priest and Sabbath and that stuff. So I dunno. It’s hard to put a label on what we sound like exactly, especially for me. I can’t really be objective, so I don’t know. But, y’know, we certainly don’t want to be called a thrash band.

There you go. What do you frown on?

I don’t want to be called a thrash band, because I see that as being too limiting. Y’know, we don’t want to limit ourselves to one style of music anyway, so for one to label us a band like that would really be against our favor, I think. I mean, I love all kinds of thrash metal music, but we don’t want to be considered in with that whole category. But we can still thrash with the best of them if we want to.

That’s about it. Do you have anything to sign off with to say to the fans that read this?

Uh, look out for our new album. It’ll be out hopefully by August or September and it’s gonna be a killer. ■

Sanctuary live photo: Curious Goods. Sanctuary group photo: Epic

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