CORNERS OF SANCTUARY have been very prolific in bringing out the music but have they reached all those potential fans? I don’t think so. Which is why I’ve interviewed Guitarist Mick Michaels. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
Can you please tell all our readers about the history and discography of CORNERS OF SANCTUARY?
Mick Michaels: Corners of Sanctuary formed in 2011 after a couple of us were involved in a brief reunion project with the 80’s band Seeker. The goal was to focus in on our roots and recapture some of the style and sound of the era of Metal we grew up on. After about six months of working on material we knew we wanted to pursue this as far as it could go. We originally started out as a trio but brought Frankie Cross on as lead vocals in 2013 and last year MAD T joined the band as our new drummer. MAD T had been filling in on a number of shows over the last couple of years.
The band has released several albums plus a handful of EPs.
Forgotten Hero EP 2012
Breakout album 2012
December Wind EP 2012
Harlequin album 2013 – Pure Steel Records Germany
Epilogue EP 2013
Axe to Grind album 2013 – La Mazakuata Records Mexico
Merry Metal Xmas EP 2013
Carry the Cross EP 2014
Live at the Trocadero Theater EP 2014
Merry Metal Xmas 2 EP 2014
Prelude to War EP 2015
Metal Machine album 2015 – Metalizer Records Germany
Driven Snow (Holiday album) 2015
Declaration of Metal (compilation album) 2016 – Exquisite Noise Records USA
Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you?
MM: I don’t think we found it difficult. “Corners of sanctuary” are the places that each of us can go to… where we can truly be who we are without the concern of being judged or ridiculed. These places can be anywhere or anything. It doesn’t matter. It can be a physical place but moreso it can be a state of mind. As a band, one of our “corners of sanctuary” is music and we hope that fans can also find some level of sanctuary with our music.
Who would say are the founding stones of the kind of sound you have? Who are your house Gods and how have they coloured your music?
MM: As a band, our biggest influences would have to be Judas Priest and Accept. But there are also stylistic adaptations from Savatage, KISS and Dio among many others. Besides the vocals, the guitar work is the key element in these bands, it almost takes on a vocal quality itself and builds texture – it is the cornerstone.
Individually, our tastes run the gambit, which for a band; can add depth and that extra flavor to the music if used properly and as long as it doesn’t detract from the song and create disconnect.
When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
MM: I think maintaining a concentrated focus on what you are doing is required regardless of it being fast or slow. However, there are different elements to consider when you decide to write a slow song compared to a faster paced song. A faster paced song can often carry the intensity on its own because of the pace – given that the flow of the song contains emotionally charged points. A slower song needs the same emotionally charged points for the listener to connect to otherwise it can get boring – but the impact has to be greater. With a fast song, the intensity is right out there and stays constant. With a slower song, there has to be a subliminal intensity build that catches the listener off guard and makes a statement.
How does your music work in a live environment?
MM: I think our music expresses itself very well in the live environment. We are often told that we are much heavier live than on the albums. And we can agree with that. The album recordings are a great representation of our sound but they are just one perspective of the music. The live perspective is a different beast all together. COS live is the raw, in your face sound that Classic Metal is known for.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? Are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans?
MM: I guess it would depend on one’s experience. There are a lot of people who say artists do not need a record label. All that is needed is a good distributor, a great booking agent and an excellent PR person and you will have your bases covered. I believe this to be true regardless if a record label is involved or not. There is only so much a label can and will do. The artist is as responsible, if not moreso, for the path their career takes. At the end of the day it’s up to them to make the call. For some, having a label releases some of that responsibility. And depending on the artist’s status, that makes sense. However, the responsibility is still on the artist’s to make the right decisions. Having a prominent label can increase the visibility of an artist. It just all comes with a cost.
Music is so accessible now that, as we all know, many channels exist which provide it for free. And more often than not, those freebies aren’t the greatest qualities. We have accepted that it exists and to some degree there is not much we can do about it. So we have chalked it up as free advertising for the band. It is still in our best interest as artists to maintain our own personal and professional integrity and accept fans no matter how they found our music.
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
MM: There is so much music available today because of the technology. Artists and fans have so many options to experience such a wide variety of sound and exposure. On the flip side, this makes it even harder for artists to be heard. Getting lost in the shuffle is easy – being able to stand out is the difficult part. Because of the ability to listen to music of all types, from anywhere in the world, at anytime we want, artists have been forced to step up their game and their production output to stay heard and to stay relevant. This too has its good and bad. We can get both the best and the worst from the artist – simply because of the artist’s passion for music and to fill the listeners’ need for more.
What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
MM: I think an album cover needs to provoke a feeling. That feeling doesn’t have to be some grandiose, ground shaking emotion. It just has to invoke something. When we are invoked, even in the smallest of ways, there is a need to dig a little deeper… find out more. I feel the album covers that say the least have the best hidden gems. In the end, it’s not the cover that makes an album good, it’s the music inside.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? What is the climate for metal in your country?
MM: Corners of Sanctuary does what it can to tour nationally here in the US. This also entails performing with more recognizable and notable acts. This combination raises the bar and keeps us very active. Markets are constantly expanding and contracting. As a working band, it is crucial to stay on top of what is happening to maintain some level of presence in the market place.
In our experience, Metal in the US is continuing to flourish. There has definitely been a resurgence of many 80’s and 90’s groups coming back to the game, offering bands and fans more opportunity to see and perform great shows. Metal fans are diehards and their loyalty is inspiring.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
MM: I think music will continue to thrive and grow because music is the soundtrack of peoples’ lives. However, music formats are another thing. We are in the digital age now and there is no stepping back at this point – it is what it is. Physical formats, as we have seen, have their highs and lows. Vinyl is making a huge comeback and in some cases seems to be outselling CDs. But people love convenience and digital formats provide that and so do CDs to some extent. There are always going to be those individuals who enjoy the total artist release experience: the physical CD, the artwork, the booklet and liner notes, etc. They are still important elements. If they weren’t, then album covers, song orders and thanks lists would have disappeared years ago. It is my hope that “the album” as it was intended by the artist for the listener to experience, will make its long awaited and overdue comeback.
What does the future hold?
MM: Corners of Sanctuary plans to release an EP in late March titled “Cut Your Losses”. The EP will contain four tracks and will include a music video release later this spring.
We are also in the studio working on our next full-length album titled “The Galloping Hordes”. The new album looks to release sometime this summer and we are real excited. It is a much heavier effort and will include songs written by everyone in the band.
We have a string of shows already scheduled including some mini tours and performances with Saving Abel, Tim “Ripper” Owen, Thrash masters Blood Feast and Savior from Anger just to name a few. This year has already moved into high gear for us.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me and for supporting Corners of Sanctuary. We would also like to specially thank all of our families, friends and fans for making this all worthwhile. Your support and belief is truly inspirational! U Rock!