Lenny Rutledge of Sanctuary – I’m just not anti American, and I’m not anti cop.”

Seattle’s legendary thrash metal band Sanctuary recently released  Into The Mirror Black (30th Anniversary Edition) to celebrate 30 years of their second studio album. The album release on October 9th via Century Media Records and was remastered by Zeuss (Queensryche, Iced Earth). The new edition includes previously released studio demos and an entire, newly mixed 10-track live album from 1990, which was partially released on a rare promo-EP. Additionally, this version includes previously unpublished photos, liner notes from Rutledge and Sheppard, and more. We recently spoke to guitarist Lenny Rutledge and vocalist Joseph Michael about stuff and things.

Zoran Theodorovic – Happy Halloween.

Lenny Rutledge – Yeah. You know, I’m not so sure it’s gonna be a happy Halloween this year.

Z – Do you enjoy the trick and treater’s?

Joseph Michael – I don’t think that’s gonna be any.

L – I Actually, I live in a spot to where they’re afraid to come down my driveway.

Z – Are you guys big on horror movies?

L – Yeah, I mean, I’m not I’m not the type of guys could do, you know, uh, tell you everything and anything about it. But I love it when you know what I’m watching. In fact, I just watched some movie called The Green Inferno a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty brutal.

Z – The Cannibal movie, right?

L – Yeah. Yeah, because I you know, I looked up some of the most twisted movies, and I decided to watch a couple of them. That one was pretty good. And so was there was one called Revenge. But some chick that takes revenge out on on some dudes that mistreat her. It was pretty good.

Z – Have you seen a Serbian film?

L – No, I know what it’s all about. And I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch that one.

Z- I’m not interested in interested in in it either, but, uh, it’s supposed to be up there, but I’m not really into, uh, torture and rape.

L – I hear you. I have a friend that that mentioned it to me. And he said it was one of the most brutal movies. And he told me what the story line was. And I’m like, Who the fuck thought that was a good idea to make a movie like that. But somebody did it. And so,

Z – So how have you guys adjusted to the Covid-19 world? How did it immediately impact you.

J – We’re not adjusted

L – We weren’t. Well, it’s Yeah. You know, I I think it’s kind of like you’re you’re forced to to live certain ways because of whatever mandates or whatever. And of course, you know, there’s, you know, we try to be safe, but, um, I know we’re all over it. I’m sure everybody is, but, you know, I try to I try to be safe, You know, when I can, and and and following up what I have to to keep, you know, people you know, say you can do, uh, safe distancing and all that crap. But, you know, I don’t know. I I think we need to get back to work and and get everybody going, you know, Hopefully we can do it safely. I don’t want anybody to, You know, of course, you know, get hurt or sick or anything, but I think I think it might be doing more damage. You know, then that actually people out there working and living their normal lives. Uh, that’s just my my thought.

Z – How much of what we are being told is my most likely false?

L – Oh, I guarantee some of it is I mean, and and and that’s part of it. I mean, how do you know what what to believe and what not to believe? I mean, we all heard it. We all heard. You know, masks don’t don’t wear masks. Masks are bad, don’t you know? And now it’s like all you have to do is wear mask. That’s, you know, it’s a mandate now, so, you know, it kind of makes you wonder.

Z – Have either of you been involved in social uprisings
pepper sprayed. Have you been at shot with rubber bullets?

J – No.

L – I’m you know, I try not to get too political, but I’m not a real big fan of destruction of property and crap like that. I’m all for people voicing their opinions. And if they want to protest, that’s one thing. But a lot of these protests turned violent and destructive and that kind of shit, and I’m just not anti American, and I’m not anti cop, and, you know, I it’s just not part of my you know, I love my country, so, you know.

Z – What is it about Washington that has kept most of your life there. Are there any foreign countries that are comparable to home?

L – I asked myself this all the time. Why do I live here? Um, I love it here. It’s beautiful, but it rains a fucking lot. And, you know, I I love sunshine. Uh, but I don’t know. I mean, I feel comfortable up here. I think you know, for the most part, it’s a really cool area. Um, I love Greece a lot. I love Santorini. I love, uh, you know, to go to Europe a lot, too. So, um, there there are places I I love to go and I love Southern California, too, by the way.

Z – How’s that new material coming along?

L – We’re we’re working on it. You know, we have a lot of a lot of good ideas. Uh, we’re taking our time and making sure that we, you know, we do, we this comes out the way we want it. Um, so we’re we, you know, we’ve always written a little slow. Um, but, you know, we’re trying to make sure that we just present all the all the best stuff.

Z – Have you given yourselves any sort of time constraint?
Have you said let’s do it in three months, six months or five years

L – No, we I you know, I don’t know that we give ourselves time, restraints. We do try and set goals. And hey, let’s try and do you have this done by this time? It doesn’t always work out that way, because it’s it’s if I think it’s hard to manufacture artistic, you know, art you know? I guess so. It happens when it happens. Sometimes you have a really creative spurt where, you know, you may end up writing. Um, a bunch of great songs are great pieces, and then they don’t get finished or finalized until later. You know, we we do a lot of that where they’ll be a start, and then you kind of move on to something else. And then you come back to that that part or piece and finish it as a song. Um, when you get the the final inspiration for it or something, there’s a there’s a lot of that that happens.

Z – Sanctuary came together in 1985 and your first demo came out about a year later, most of it being a re recorded for the first album, right?

L – Yeah. And eventually that demo ended up being Inception. So yeah, we recorded it, and I think it was 1986. Something like that, Or maybe late 85. And, uh, yeah, later on became became Inception.

Z -Talk a little bit about that time period and putting that out.

L – Well, um, we had quite a few songs at that point. I think we had, uh we had eight songs, Uh, that we were really we thought were really good. And we were having a hard time, as a lot of bands do, Kind of getting to the next level. We didn’t really know what to do, what? How to go about it. And I remember one day I told the guys as ridiculous as this sounds I told the guys I’m gonna go and there’s gonna be a Megadeth, King Diamond concert here, and I’m gonna go and I’m gonna try and find Dave Mustaine. And have him listened to our demo, and I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous and it, you know, it was and I don’t know how that happened, but, you know, I tried really hard to get backstage blah, blah, blah. I’m a dude, first of all, so, you know, they don’t really, you know, allowed to, I thought I kinda struck out.

And then I was getting ready to leave the venue, and I’ve heard some people talking about where Dave was staying and we went to the hotel and I walked every floor until I heard the door. There’s a door open and there was some party and going on. And sure enough, it was his room. So we we kind of pushed our way into the room and I saw him. We sat down and we hit it off really well, believe it or not. And, um, I convinced him it took me a long time. It wasn’t that easy, but I convinced him to come out to our car and listen to the demo. And, um, I it’s ridiculous as all that sounds. It actually happened, though.

J – How did you convince him?

L – Well, there may have been some party favors involved. He was definitely down for a party. And that’s pretty much what we offered him. Hey, come down to the car and we can, uh, we can party in the car, and that’s exactly what we did. And it was It was a great I mean, it was definitely a good way to get him down there. I mean, it worked out for us, so.

Z – In the 80s in the Northern California area, methamphetamine
was a big thing back then and actually burned up a lot of people’s lives and careers. I guess you were able to, escape that relatively unscathed, for the most part, is that right?

L – Yeah. I mean, really wasn’t it really wasn’t a thing for us. I mean, you know, it’s younger guys. We experimented with with things, but I don’t. You know, luckily, none of us developed any crazy drug problem or anything. I mean, if anything, we you know, we drank a lot, you know? But we we like to have a good time. And like I said, we’re a little experimental, but nobody, nobody over did it, you know? I mean, there’s Seattle is famous for people, you know, overdoing it on drugs and drug OD’s and all that crap. But luckily, none of us, you know, went down that road

Z – And now you came out of an era of actual album sales where there was a lot of money, was a lot of money wasted on drugs, hookers and other non essentials?

L – I can’t confirm or deny. No, Uh, yeah. Listen, I mean, we had a lot of fun that that’s all I can say. And you know, it’s funny because you say that and, you know, I remember our first record when we when we recorded the first record with Dave, we paid for it before we had a record deal, and I think it only cost us $20,000. and back then that’s pretty good for for, you know, recording a record. Um, And then we got a huge advance of $150,000 and I can’t tell you where that money went. I’m not sure I know we remixed the record and had a really good time.

Z – Talk a little about the importance of Eddie Van Halen to you?

L – I think Van Halen 1 was one of one of the most important records in a long time. I mean, obviously when that record came out, it changed the guitar playing as we know it, you know, and I can’t think of. I mean, I know some people, you know, they think that grunge was a a big thing, too. And Nirvana, I think that was pretty important. But for me, you know, Van Halen. And that was a big thing. And and for every guitar player, I mean, I can’t think of a guitar player that likes rock or metal that didn’t worship Eddie Van Halen. I mean, just an unbelievable talent. And it was it was it’s sorry to see him go. I mean, 65. And that’s way too early.

Z – And how did the writing and recording process change from Refuge Denied to Into The Mirror Black?

L – I think obviously the transition between, uh, Refuge in near you can tell that there’s kind of a different approach with the songs, and you know that that’s one thing that we always try and do. I always try and sound a little bit different, you know, in every record, it doesn’t sound like we’re just re recording the same record. And I think one of the things that we really wanted to do was we felt like we were kind of being, uh, kind of pigeonholed into just being a thrash band. And we we knew we weren’t just that not that there’s anything wrong with that because, I mean, that’s that’s where a lot of our roots lie. You know, we were really into that stuff, but, um, we were we were much more than that. And I think, um, that’s the statement we were trying to make on Mirror is to show that we still had, you know, a lot of aggressive energy. But then we could write songs like, you know, Nearer or Eden. Uh, you know, that that’s a little bit different, or Epitaph you know what I mean. Um, so we wanted to show that we had that diversity in that range.

Z – When did it begin to fall apart?

L – From the day we started (laughs) Um, you know, uh, we had a lot of fun. Like I said, and there there was a lot of really good times, but there was always a tension in the band, and I think that there was a lot of power struggles. Uh, there was once things started taking off, there were definitely egos, and it’s just one of those things that I feel like eventually it was gonna it was gonna end. I mean, it just was, we I think we all kind of knew it. And I’m surprised that it made it as far as it did, because I don’t know why I can’t. I can’t always put my finger on. I mean, there are some things and some things I probably wouldn’t say, You know that just because it’s hard to say without being a dick, but, you know, because everybody thinks it’s not their fault. But then again, I look back, and I’m sure you know, a lot of it was partly my fault as well. But
I think it’s people we weren’t very tolerant. And I know the second time around when we got back together in 2010. They’re still tension sometimes. But we just had We were better equipped to handle it. Um, and we were more tolerant. And, you know, I just think we we we grew up.

Z – We often hear about management pitting member against member. Did you experience anything like that?

L – Wow. That’s a good question. you know, I’ll bet you at the time, we probably did think that, um I don’t I don’t know if I can think of something specific, but I can tell you that as someone who was kind of the leader of the band, I you know,
you sort of you sort of get blamed for when everything goes right, you don’t always get the credit for it. But when things go wrong, you definitely get blamed for it. And sometimes you get the credit as well. But I mean, so there was that, and I I always think that, you know, that could also cause tension as well.

Z – Looking back, could Sanctuary have become more like like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden and jumped on the grunge train?

L – Yeah, I like that stuff. You know,but Sanctuary couldn’t become that. I mean, hey, I you know, like I said, I mean, if I had a side project or something like that, I mean, I thought Alice In Chains were a phenomenal band. I still do. Same with Soundgarden. So I like that stuff. Um you know I think there was a point where our record company wished we were that, um and and was hoping that we could do that. But can you imagine what Sanctuary fans would think? I mean, that would be the end.

Z – Its been said that 20% of Into The Mirror Black’s publishing royalties are being donated to help prevent child abuse in the U.S., is that correct?

L – You know, I’ve been asked this a couple of times, and it’s it’s interesting because So what happened was my cousin. At one point, he kind of decided that he was done with the music business and just said, I’m out and didn’t want anything to do with, any of the legal stuff or anything. And he just said, From now on, you know I’m out of here. Donate all my, uh, donate all my royalties to, uh, charity. So that’s where that came from.

Z – Any final thoughts you’d like to share with any who might be reading this?

L – Hopefully when the Covid is over, everybody will come out and see. It’s, uh we’re hoping to, you know, get out there again. We have some touring schedules for 2021. Uh, hopefully we’re over this nightmare, and we can get out there and share the music with live fans.

Categories: Interviews, sanctuary

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