Vocalist Warrel Dane of NEVERMORE and the reunited SANCTUARY was interviewed by Greg Hasbrouck for the ProgPower USA XII program that will be distributed to all fans at the festival. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Q: The obvious first question, is NEVERMORE done?
Q: Definitely not? There will definitely be another NEVERMORE album?
Warrel: Oh yeah.
Q: Perfect. And can you ever see yourself reconciling with [recently departed NEVERMORE members Jeff [Loomis, guitar] and Van [Williams, drums] or are those bridges burned?
Warrel: One bridge is burned, the other I’m still… It’s like getting a very painful divorce. If you want to repair the situation you can, but there’s one where I don’t want to. I miss those guys. I think they made bad decisions. I’m going to “emo” if I keep talking about it.
Q: Understood. Let me ask you this. At one point, there were all these rumors about disharmony within the camp. And on the [NEVERMORE] forum you made the comment, “After so many years together you become a family, of course we fucking fight, we make up…” Was that you trying to keep the peace and keeping the alarmist element from rearing its head?
Warrel: Kind of, yeah.
Q: So, were you genuinely surprised when they quit or was that a long time coming?
Warrel: Yes… I was. I was extremely surprised and very, very upset and still am. As I… uh, yeah… I don’t want to get messy.
Q: OK… more of general question about NEVERMORE. As a fan of the band, it always seemed that NEVERMORE had just a bit of bad luck, or perhaps was the victim of poor timing. When you look back on it, from the inside looking out, does it seem the same to you?
Warrel: I think we had our fair share of bad timing and we had our fair share of disorganization within the camp. That’s kind of what played into everything that happened. But I don’t think I would really change anything, because everything happens for a reason. And the reason I’m here right now, and I’m talking to you is for a reason… and those guys decided that they didn’t have as bad of an alcohol problem as I did… is for a reason. And, whatever…
Q: So I had a chance to chat with Jim [Sheppard, NEVERMORE bassist] a few times during the last tour. Aside from all that he was dealing with, he told me that there was a bad cold ripping through the band. I think he called the tour bus “a rolling incubator.”
Warrel: (laughter) Yeah… it’s a rolling Petri dish.
Q: (laughter) So… when you’re a guitar player or drummer, you can fake 90 minutes of energy. However, as a singer, your body is your instrument. When you know you’re taking the stage and you don’t have your fastball, is that scary as hell?
Warrel: Yeah. The two most important things for a singer when you’re on tour, sleep and as much water as you can drink. Stay hydrated, and you got to sleep. Sometimes that’s not always possible on a tour bus full of drunk people. I didn’t sleep a whole lot on the last NEVERMORE tour.
Q: Is that because of all that was going on internally within the band, or because of where you were at mentally?
Warrel: I have my own problems, so I’m not going to point fingers at anybody, but it was hard to sleep. But yeah… you learn how to use your instrument, you learn how to not damage it, and the most important thing for me is sleep.
Q: So that raises an interesting question. A few months ago, no one would have asked you what you consider your primary project to be, it would have just been presumed to be NEVERMORE. If I ask you that question today, how do you respond?
Warrel: That would be SANCTUARY right now. I am working on solo stuff, but the music is so different that it’s easy for me to go into different modes. And actually, well, there is a couple of ideas being thrown around for the next NEVERMORE, too, which is going to be really good, if the preliminary stuff is any indication… To tell you the truth, I’m not really happy with the last NEVERMORE record.
Q: What specifically weren’t you happy with? Can you put your finger on it or was it just an overall quality issue?
Warrel: No… I think the production was amazing. I really enjoyed a lot of the lyrics I wrote for it. (laughter) I just felt like it was more of the same and that’s just not what we should have been doing at that point. But there were a lot of factors involved with why it turned out that way. I’m still proud of it… it’s not my favorite.
Q: Yeah… nobody is. So, how long had you been toying with the idea of reforming SANCTUARY?
Warrel: Well… for a couple of years. We’ve [guitarist Lenny Rutledge and I] always talked to each other, but never really been friends again. And when the whole thing came about, that we were actually friends again, that’s when we started talking more about doing it. And it definitely wasn’t because NEVERMORE was imploding… which it was, at that point. NEVERMORE… the greatest band that alcohol ever ruined.
Q: (laughter) I love that!
Warrel: It’s true. We all just started talking with each other again. That was kind of the groundwork for it. And then we started saying, “Well, gosh, let’s make music again.” And my god! Lenny is writing some stuff that is so friggin great! Obviously, he’s been bottling this up for years, because he really hasn’t been doing anything… Well, he’s had bands here and there. But he’s really writing some great stuff that’s really inspiring me, and making me fall in love with music again, with the creative process… everything that revolves around that. Really inspiring me to write
really evil lyrics.
Q: So, as we find ourselves here in 2011, what do you think the biggest difference is between how you’re approaching this now, than if you were writing this as your third album back in 1993?
Warrel: Well… that’s a hard one. It’s kind of like a different phase. This record is not going to sound like the other two. It might sound very similar to the second one (“Into The Mirror Black”). It’s definitely not going to sound like the first one… (mutual laughter) … because we’re all a little bit older and I can’t come up with a c-clamp for a scrotum and a helium tank.
Q: OK… what can you reveal about the new disc? Are you targeting a release date yet? Are all the songs written? Is it just a matter of tracking them? Where is everything as it stands today?
Warrel: We’re in the writing process. I can give you, maybe, a little bit of an exclusive thing right now. I think the record is going to be called “The Year The Sun Died”. And there’s a lot of stuff playing into that, and you can read whatever you want to for right now into it. God, that song is really good. We’ve been working really hard on that. It’s not going to sound like the old ones… it’s 2011. It’s still gonna be that good I think, and there’s gonna be high-pitched screaming. I’m making sure of that. With NEVERMORE, high-pitched screaming was never really called for. You know, with SANCTUARY… of course it is.
Q: So if I can assume Jeff is not going to be the second guitar player [in SANCTUARY]. Do you know who is yet?
Warrel: Kind of… yeah… I don’t want to…
Q: Still under wraps… got it.
Warrel: It’s really been kind of interesting to me, how many people, of very high caliber musicianship, are contacting me wanting Jeff’s old job.
Greg: In NEVERMORE, SANCTUARY or both?
Q: So let’s talk a bit about your solo CD. First, how long had you had it in your head that you wanted to do a solo CD, before it actually came to fruition and you began making plans?
Warrel: Well, I’ve always wanted to do one, somewhere in the middle of my career, just because I have such affection for rock music. I always wanted to do something that was more rock… rock and roll, and not something that you had to wrap your head around and show off your technical skills with. That’s not a slam on anybody, by any means. It’s just something I wanted to try, try writing rock music. Even though it was still, obviously, a little bit metal. That’s why I wanted to do it, and I still want to do it again. I’m working on another one already.
Q: So, with respect to the next solo disc, will it be you and Peter [Wichers, SOILWORK guitarist] again? Will it be the same lineup?
Warrel: Well, we talked about it a little bit. Right now I’m working with Matt Wicklund, who’s currently playing in GOD FORBID, and he wrote a couple of the really great songs on “Praises To The War Machine”. We’re working on stuff together, were working very aggressively right now. And he’s writing some great, great stuff. And it is completely different from SANCTUARY, so it’s easy to separate that. The stuff Lenny is writing is really, really good. It seems like he’s been holding this stuff back for years and he’s been let out of his cage and it’s really inspiring. It’s just a really good time for me. And I thought this would be a dark period, because of everything… It’s turning out to be kind of a blessing in disguise, to quote METAL CHURCH.