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INTERVIEW - CORNERS OF SANCTUARY: "We all experience hurdles and’s human nature. Writing songs is our way of overcoming ours."

Traditional American Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary recently released their new Def Leppard tribute EP titled "Defying" and "Metal Never Dies", a best of compilation that includes 20 tracks spanning the band's 11-year career. It features old classics and new favourites. All of which have been newly remixed, remastered by longtime producer Bill Metoyer (Slayer, Armored Saint). They are also working on a new EP and full-length album for 2023 and opening for TRAPT later in the year. With a lot going on for the band, we chatted with guitarist/keyboardist Mick Michaels to speak about everything.

Firstly, let’s go back to the beginning. What was your earliest memory of music and the moment you decided you wanted to be a musician?

I don’t know if this is the earliest memory, but I remember my younger sister, my cousin and I jamming out to the sounds of the Jackson 5 on the radio in our kitchen. What age was I? Not sure, but I know if was the 70s. Was that the moment I knew I wanted to be a musician...again, I don’t know. But I do know that being in a band was something I always wanted to do...long before I ever wanted to be a Jedi or adventurous archaeologist or even a guitar player.

Can you tell us about how you came to form as band?

In 2010 I was part of a project that was setting up to celebrate the 25 th anniversary of the band Seeker. It was a limited project, and we all knew that. However, I proposed the idea to a couple of the guys who were involved about doing something new and working on material that was true to our roots...something we would want to listen to. So after going back and forth a bit we put Corners of Sanctuary together in early 2011. 11 years have passed and it’s still going strong.

For those who aren’t aware, how would you best describe your music?

The official term is the New Wave of Traditional American Heavy Metal. That is definitely for those who need a branding or specific genre classification. For us it’s just good old Heavy Metal. But we understand for many, specific classification is very important. Call it whatever you like. If you’re listening, then that works for us! So thank you!

What are your main influences, both musically and creatively?

Musically and creatively, bands like Judas Priest, early Accept, and Kiss have a definite place for me even to this day. Guitar players as well like George Lynch, Jake E. Lee, John Sykes and my older brother also played a major role in those formative years as a player. I wanted to be more of a songwriter there are a host of artists who tend to inspire and who I listen to take lesson from. That list is a big one. But it is safe to say that inspirations can and does come from all over the place...anytime, anywhere.

What are you currently working on now?

Corners of Sanctuary is always working on new music. We have a new EP and a new full-length album in the works for 2023. Plus, we start working on our new Holiday song for the 2022 season later this month. Atop that, we have been playing out and promoting our two latest releases, “Defyng,” our Def Leppard tribute EP and “Metal Never Dies,” our latest compilation of songs from the last 11 years. Both are available on Sonic Velocity Records.

What was the writing and recording process like for the new EP?

Working on “Defying” was a challenge moreso mentally than otherwise. Being that it‘s a tribute EP, there was a lot of ground to cover and a lot of expectations to overcome...both from our point of view as well as what the reaction would be from the listeners. Since I never got into this to do other people’s music, it was a hard sell to me in the beginning. After going back and forth and discussing the idea, we decided to make the songs our own and do them the way we could only do them...our way. I think we did that and, at the same time, remained true to the essence of these classic Def Leppard tracks. That approach was the most honest approach we could have taken. I have come to the belief now that if you can’t beat’em, cover’em.

What, if any, are the main lyrical themes explored on the compilation album?

With “Metal Never Dies” being a collection of COS songs spanning the last 11 years, our main themes have always been about battles and personal empowerment...often time using the two together metaphorically. We all experience hurdles and’s human nature. Writing songs is our way of overcoming ours. It’s very therapeutic and saves a lot on medical bills.

How did you arrive at the EP title and 
compilation album, and what does it mean to you?

For “Defying”, we wanted a play on words stemming from the Def Leppard band name, plus something that sort of described what we were doing and what our attitude and intentions were with doing this project. We had a list of titles, but ‘defying’ is what captured that exact sentiment for us. “Metal Never Dies” was supposed to be released as part of our 10-year anniversary in 2021. However, with everything that was happening at the time, things had gotten shuffled around, and it did not release until 2022. So the title just reminds us that with
dedication and hard work, music never dies, thus, for us, Metal never does either.

What was the hardest part of writing the new material?

We actually don’t have an issue with writing new material. We enjoy writing so much that there is never really any stress associated with it for us. Maybe we are oddballs or have just been really lucky up to this point. But writing is something we want to do, so we never see issue with it. We write all the time, so it is part of the norm for us, just like rehearsals, recording and playing out.

How do you think the new material compares to your previous work? 

Any artist will say that the new material surpasses the older material because they have grown, so the music has grown. I’d have to agree with that, but at the
same time, there is always something about not really knowing what you are doing, as is the case when you are just forming a band and putting material together...and songwriting is like that at times, especially when you are a younger artist. Maybe it’s because we are more daring or don’t have all the information. But whatever it is, there is magic in that. So there are definitely new songs that trump the old ones, and there is the opposite too...some of the earlier tunes have an intensity that is unmatched simply because it was done without a net, in a sense. The newer material is supported by those earlier songs, so there is always something to fall back on if needed.

How excited are you to play the new material live, and what can fans expect for your shows?

It’s a double-edged sword. I do look forward to getting the new music into the set and out to the public...but it’s challenging as you know hands down what older material works...tried and true without fail, and for many of us, it takes years to hone that perfect setlist...throwing in a new tune is like throwing a wrench into a moving engine. But once in a while, it has to be done. But there is always this excitement, so see how it’s going to come off to the audience...their reaction, your reaction. 
Straight forward, classic Heavy Metal. There isn’t a lot of frills and stuff. We let the music speak for itself and for us...we are just the messengers in a way. Regardless, I’m sure they’ll come away with a renewed sense and appreciation for the classic Heavy Metal sound.

What have been some of the best moments for you being in the band so far, and why?

There have been many. Writing songs and working in the studio with COS is always a highlight for me. Then having the opportunity to travel and perform those songs with this band has also been an amazing thing. We have been throughout the United States as well as parts of Europe and the UK. We have been very fortunate and we are very grateful for the opportunities given to us.

Outside of music, what else do you enjoy in your downtime?

Spending time with my wife and children is always a top priority for me. Time is precious and a gift, and so are they. We never know what tomorrow will bring so today is the best present of all. That has always been my point of view, but the events of the last two years really hammered all of that home for many people. Don’t take things for granted, and live in the moment and enjoy. Additionally, I like to work out, watch movies, eat out and read on occasion...just like other people. 

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year, and what else would you like to achieve?

COS will be performing at the Keep it Metal Fest in September, as well as doing our 4X4 Tour this October and will be opening for TRAPT on their 20th-anniversary tour this November. We will continue to work on new material and have also begun putting together dates for 2024.


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