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Mick Michaels Corners Of Sanctuary - Interview
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Corners Of Sanctuary

Hailing from the city of Philadelphia, New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal band Corners Of Sanctuary have wasted no time since their inception 5 years ago with several releases including their latest album "Declaration Of Metal", a compilation best of set. With a new album also in the works slated for a 2017 release, we caught up with guitarist Mick Michaels to talk all the latest with the band.



Andrew: So how's things with you and the band at the moment?

Mick: They're good, we're staying busy. We have a few more shows that we're finishing up for this year. We've gone back into the studio, we're working on material for a new album that we're looking to release sometime next year. No date really has been settled yet but we're not going to rush it so we'll see how it goes. But we've already started laying down tracks and stuff.

Andrew: OK cool! Obviously you have a new compilation album that just came out recently, "Declaration Of Metal" which is I guess a 'best of' so to speak.

Mick: Yeah it's a best of, it covers our 5 albums and it also includes a brand new track called "Hide No More".

Andrew: Yes I was just watching that video actually which is cool stuff. I guess we'll get into your influences a little later on but I kinda hear a little bit of a King Diamond vibe in your music.

Mick: Well that's cool! I think we've heard that, I guess our biggest influence primarily as a unit would be Judas Priest and I know Mercyful Fate had a lot of Judas Priest influence as well so I guess it would carry over to King Diamond, so yeah sure!

Andrew: Yeah it's weird because I know as you said that you're more Judas Priest and that kind of stuff so it was a bit surprising that I picked up on King Diamond for some reason. Maybe it was the vocals a little but there was certainly something that I heard that translated to that stuff but regardless it's cool stuff!

Mick: Oh thank you!

Andrew: You guys had formed fairly recently around 2011 which considering how many albums you have put out, you guys have been super busy since you started.

Mick: We do think busy, absolutely, we get asked that quite often. Our biggest thing is we enjoy music and we enjoy writing music so it's kind of like being no different to being any other artist like a painter or a sculptor or something like that. It's not uncommon for an oil painter to be working on a few pieces at one time so we kind of do the same thing. If you look at the past, we came together in 2011 as this unit and our last full length album was released in 2015 and then prior to that "Axe To Grind" was released at the end of 2013 so there was kind of some pace in between those albums. The first couple of years we had some albums that popped out in quicker succession and I think a lot of it had to do with when we got together, we came to the table with some material already that as a unit we were able to kind of clean up, fix up, put our spin on it type of thing. So there was music that was catalogued as individual artists as well and giving it to the band, the band ran with it and then as the band started to take some steam, then the albums got spaced out. The 5th album that is included on the compilation was our holiday album so I know some people don't actually consider that a new album but it had 10 songs on it so there was some originals and then some traditional Christmas holiday songs that were kinda metal'ed up a little bit!

Andrew: OK cool I haven't heard that! I've seen Christmas metal albums before and it's always a pretty cool take on the traditional Christmas songs.

Mick: Yeah we took some of the more traditional ones, we took maybe some key elements from the songs and kinda re-arranged it a little bit and then added some of our own flair to it and we did some of our own arrangements as well so we kinda broke it up that way.

Andrew: Looking back on the 5 albums you have put out so far and your career so far, what do you think has been the most challenging aspect of being in this band?

Mick: Album wise or just in general?

Andrew: Just in general because obviously these days the state of the music industry as it is, it's difficult to gain some tract like music sales and things like that. So what's difficult about being in a band these days, is it the touring, creating music?

Mick: Well I think right now, like you said the state of the music industry, is maybe how people are connecting to music. I think getting people to come to shows is probably a little harder than it has been in previous years, I know times have changed and the internet has made music and seeing the artist a little bit more accessible so people don't feel the need to come out to the shows much anymore. So show attendance is probably not as big as it once was maybe because there are so many other things to do, so much more distraction. I think that's the thing and I think the hardest thing that this band has experienced is that we have such a stylised style in terms of we don't have a growler singer or screamo or something like that, it's more a classical traditional sense and it's such a small, niche market in a sense that either you get it or you don't. So I think the band as a whole is probably the hardest thing, getting that out there and getting people to respond to it. I mean the demographic if you're 35 or older, most people would get it but if you fall under that it's a hit or miss and if you fall under 25 you're probably not getting it unless you were already brought up on some of that stuff.

Andrew: Yeah I agree with that, I think it's a generation thing. A lot of metal these days tend to have that growly stuff and the downtuned guitars whereas the older generation essentially grew up on the kind of music you play so I think you're right on point on that.

Mick: It's been challenging, when we first started booking all our shows, we immediately found we were just lumped with death or thrash type metal because that's primarily what's out there in the scene. That's just the way it is, it's fine and we hold our own but sometimes it's hard when you play in front of crowds that aren't really expecting that kind of music, it's a little bit more work I would say. And again it's not a bad thing, it probably actually turns out to be a good thing as long as you're performance is well. Earlier this year we did a show with Grim Reaper and that one was our crowd for our music, that New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sound, that classic sound working with Grim Reaper. So it really went over well, it was an energetic show both for us and for the audience and for all the bands that played that night because they were pretty much all in the same vein so everybody was just building on the momentum that was there. So that's probably the most challenging thing but it's working for us and we don't expect to switch vocals and go to the growling so we're just going to keep doing what we do and make the best of it.

Andrew: Yeah exactly. So you guys are from Philadelphia right?

Mick: Yes.

Andrew: I've never been to Philly myself but I did live in Pennsylvania many years ago but Philadelphia seems to be a pretty interesting place from what I've heard. What's the music scene like there at the moment?

Mick: It's definitely a diverse music scene however it's going through transitional time right now. Just in the past year and a half a lot of venues that would host the heavier bands like rock and metal are unfortunately closing, there just doesn't seem to be enough people getting out to see these shows. I mean there's a rap presence here, there's a folk presence here, we have classical stuff, so there's still places that you can go to play. It's just that a lot of it is bars that provide live entertainment either on certain nights or something like that so it's like the more club type venues that we were once used to, they're just pretty much disappearing.

Andrew: Oh Ok that's a similar problem that we have in Australia as well funnily enough and I'm wondering if that is the result of the state of the music industry or a change in the culture?

Mick: Again I really do think it's the accessibility that people want or expect now. If you have a family, a wife, kids and you gotta go to work the next day, maybe heading down to the city and put money off for parking, you gotta get money to get into the venue, maybe get a drink, you gotta eat, then it becomes a pretty expensive night. I'm not making any excuses for people, I mean I can understand it just because it's just getting outrageous. I could go out or I could just hop on the web and maybe catch some of these guys as someone is always filming something, so I think you're right. I think the culture has changed and we've been traveling around so we're seeing it in other areas too other than just Philadelphia, we've seen it out in Chicago and even in New England. But New England has a pretty good crowd of people that seem to come out but I know it's not as large as it once was but that's just kinda where it's at.

Andrew: Do you do many shows over on the west coast as well?

Mick: We haven't gotten out that far yet. We were actually supposed to do something this month that we were putting together before the summer started but most of that fell through but we're planning on some stuff for 2017. We've done the east coast, we've done the mid-west, we're gotten as far as Kansas City.

Andrew: The west coast is a different vibe than the east coast so I would imagine the music cene might be a little different there as well. Taking you back to the beginning of the band, how did you guys first form together and for you personally, what made you decide to want to play music?

Mick: So we got together in 2011 as Corners Of Sanctuary, prior to that with the guys that formed the band we were involved in a reunion project for a band we were in the 80's called Seeker. That started in 2010 and some of us hadn't seen each other in a good number of years so we wee having some music remixed and remastered, we were doing some new music that we were going to release for a 25 year anniversary type thing. But during that time we started chatting about like, 'Hey what do you think about doing a new project, we go back to the roots. The old school sound, the stuff that we kinda grew up on?' So some interest had sparked and then we got together a few times just to see if we could get it to click and we did thankfully and after about 6 months, we brought in the bass player and the we went in to start recording an album and we just went from there. What got me into playing, I actually started playing drums when I was 6 or 7 or 8, something like that. My parents got me a Ludwig set and so I wanted to play drums so that's how I started. But I switched to guitar about 5 years after starting, my older brother played guitar, my grandfather played guitar. When you were in Pennsylvania, you know the Mummers that they would have on New Year's Day in Philly? The string bands and stuff, my grandfather was in the string bands in the 50's so there was always music so that's kinda where I got most of my inspiration for wanting to be in music. I connected to metal because it just seemed to click with me, it was empowering and it had that aggressiveness in a way that kind of made you feel like you could possibly do anything.

Andrew: Yeah I know what you mean! I find it fascinating how people from all around the world get into metal because heavy metal is still considered at least in the mainstream world, to be that bastard child of music genres I guess. Was there any particular guitar player that you thought really helped to shape the way you play guitar now?

Mick: Well I would say my lead guitar playing if that's what you want to call it, a lot of Ace Frehley type influence. However my rhythm playing which is kind of where I have a lot of my focus is definitely Glenn Tipton, KK Downing, John Sykes, George Lynch, Jake E. Lee, those kind of guys have just kinda really - not one in particular but a combination of those, like little aspects that seem to resonate with me but those are the guys that really influenced me a lot.

Andrew: OK so obviously Judas Priest is a big part of your sound and on the band as well. Have you ever seen Judas Priest live before?

Mick: Yes.

Andrew: Phenomenal aren't they?

Mick: Yeah they are and after when KK left, I was really bummed out because he was my favorite. So I did see them the last time they were through here and I just wasn't sold on Richie (Faulkner, guitarist) until I had seen them live and I was like, 'Man this guy has got it going'. He's phenomenal and he's really brought some new life into the band so I'm very excited about that.

Andrew: I was lucky enough to catch Judas Priest in Australia last year and just watching Rob Halford sing, even after all these years he's still got it, absolutely amazing!

Mick: Yeah he is amazing, he's incredible.

Andrew: So aside from the new album that you have going on, what else have you got coming up? Some more shows coming up as well?

Mick: Yeah we just have a handful left for this year and then we're going to, like I said, working in the studio towards the new album so when the show's [are] complete], that will probably be a full time thing. I do know we have another video coming out before the end of the year in promotion for "Declaration Of Metal" for the song "Only One", it's going to be a combination of a lot of live footage from the last 6 months of our shows so it's kind of a cool thing to show some stuff while we've been on the road. I know we're going to take a few weeks off for the holidays because this has been a pretty busy year for us and then we'll hit the ground running for 2017, we got a lot of things in store.

Andrew: Cool, sounds good! Well we've been getting a lot of press releases from your publicist regarding your band so we've been helping to promote you guys out because we definitely love the traditional New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, really dig that kind of stuff. Thanks for your time today!

Mick: Appreciate it, thank you!

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on October 6th 2016