he Christmas season is upon us and ROCKWIRED had a feeling that we could rely on the metal band CORNERS OF SANCTUARY to deliver the goods in terms of yuletide cheer and their own signature brand of metal guitar riffage. On the surface, a metal band doing Holiday themed music sounds tongue-in-cheek but the Holiday spirit amongst these ragscallions is most definitely for real and will not be denied. You're not a faker when you have just issued your sixth Christmas-themed album. In recent years the blasting of Christmas music through the overhead speakers of this or that retail outlet so soon after Halloween has practically been scientifically proven to bring out the inner GRINCH in people and who can blame them? There is a maddening redundancy to all of the frivolity. Who cares if it's BING CROSBY or MARIAH CAREY doing the deed?
A MERRY METAL XMAS VI is one hell of a holiday package filled with all of the rock 'em and sock 'em and good intentions that make Holiday themed music the novelty that it is but instead of issuing a horrid metal version of HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS, CORNERS OF SANCTUARY go the original music route with songs that speak to holding onto the joy of the season come hell or high water. The single HOLD ON TO CHRISTMAS sounds like a Holiday classic to this old metal head but I've got a feeling there is something in the song's fat, juicy heart that will resonate with just about everyone this season. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with guitarist MICK MICHAELS of CORNERS OF SANCTUARY regarding their Holiday release and their forthcoming EP WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND. Here is how the interview went.
Before I got on the phone with you it just dawned on me that anyone making a Christmas album is going to be recording it well before Christmas during some off season. About how far back in the year did you guys start recording this album?
After we released last year's Christmas single and some other stuff, I started to get some ideas and I started writing them down. Of course, I didn't get around to doing anything with it for a couple of months but I at least needed to get the ideas down. I started touching upon these ideas in the spring and then it wasn't until July or August that we started to put everything together and finalizing everything and then we got things recorded around the end of August into early September.
CHECK OUT CORNER OF SANCTUARY'S NEW SiNGLE
HOLD ON TO CHRiSTMAS!!!
So how surreal was it to be recording Christmas songs during that time of year?
I hear ya. You actually start to get antsy about it. As soon as everything was recorded we were like "Crap! We've still got a few months before we release this thing!" As a band, we love Christmas. It's kind of a big deal for all of us and having the opportunity to write original Christmas music or Holiday music is kind of a cool thing. It gives us an opportunity to try something different and to experiment.
Well now the album and the single are out there for everybody to hear. How do you feel about the album that you guys have just put out?
I like it! I really do. I love Christmas and I love Christmas music. I really get into the traditional stuff and I like some of the new stuff that is coming out and everything in between. I remember in the eighties when it was taboo for metal bands to do Holiday music and if they did do it, it was this tongue-in-cheek kind of thing. You had bands like DOKKEN who did something and so did TWISTED SISTER but no one ever really got serious about it and stuff like Holiday music just got left up to the old standards like BING CROSBY and DEAN MARTIN. As time moved on I think it became more and more the thing to do. On a PR end for a band, you get a lot of rotation because of Christmas music and not just on metal stations. That is pretty much true across the board. If you are looking at it from a business angle, it is defintiely a huge plus in terms of getting your name out there.
You guys have taken to recording a Christmas album with all original music which is really saying something. With that being said, what moments off of the album have you guys the most excited to get people to hear and why?
The first single HOLD ON TO CHRISTMAS is something I would love for people to take in and experience. I think it is the first time we've ever tried to do something with a popular crossover feel. Of course it has the heavy guitar sound and that exploding type of eighties rock guitar lead. As a Christmas single, I think it pretty much covers all the bases for us. It's a really basic song. I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel and I'm not trying to be Yngwie or anything. It's just a really simple song and it's catchy. That is what it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be uplifting. It's supposed to bring a smile to your face. It might even make you chuckle a little bit. If the song can do all of that for you, then it has done its job.
This is a project you guys do every year. Why a Christmas album?
In modern times there is a lot grouchiness and cynicism about the Holiday season and people complain about it. A lot of people take their frustrations with the season out on Christmas music. Sometimes you have radio stations playing Christmas music right after Halloween and the HALLMARK CHANNEL has been running Holiday themed movies since god knows when. After releasing the album and the single, people have told us that they don't really get into Christmas but say that HOLD ON TO CHRISTMAS is a cool song. A few programmers have told us that they weren't planning on playing any Christmas music on their station but that they're going to keep our song. We're getting the most praise from people who aren't all that in to Christmas music and it's great. It proves to us that people and demographics really aren't as rigid as we are made to believe. People have a softer side and everybody likes certain things. People have made a point of telling us that HOLD ON TO CHRISTMAS is a good song. Not a great metal song. Not a great great rock song. It's reactions like that that keep us going.
And with all of the Christmas stuff out the way, how are you guys holding up as a band?
As a band we're holding up pretty good. We did a west coast tour in September and we've been going back and forth a lot between being on the road and being in the studio and recording. We've been working on the next album as well as an EP and the Holiday album. This has been going on all year. We finished our tour on Halloween with the band LAST IN LINE at the Sherman Theater up in Pennsylvania and then we took the rest of the year off to focus on working on the EP. If all goes well, it should be released before the end of the year and then we're still working on our full length album which should be out some time next year. We don't have a date just yet. So we're holding up. The break has been good because we've been on the run for a while but now we're looking forward to gearing up and hitting the road in 2020.
And will this EP be independent of the album that you guys want to release or will there be some overlap in material?
Yes, the EP will be its own thing. The EP should've been out months ago but that's the way things work. Better late than never. It's going to have five studio tracks and three live tracks from our West coast tour. That is one reason among others why there was a further delay in getting it out there. We decided to record what we were doing. We recorded a show we did at the WHISKEY with the IRON MAIDENS and so the EP will have some performances from there as well as some other places. We decided to add some live tracks to the EP just to give the thing some diversity.
Over the years I've been quite impressed with the output of the band. You guys know who to stay busy.
We're a band that plays music. That's kind of the job. If we were a soccer team and we weren't playing soccer, we'd have a problem. We enjoy writing and we enjoy what we do. At times it's taxing but then again so are a lot of things. The goal is to keep writing music and get better and better at the craft. Not everything is going to get hit out of the ballpark, but we keep trying and we keep on enjoying it. With the way the digital world is, you get to share what you've created with people a lot sooner than you would've been able to before. That is kind of what I love about releasing EPs and singles in between albums. It keeps things fresh for us and keeps our fingers on the pulse so to speak so were not just loafing around. We're not a big band so we have to keep working. We're an in-the-trenches band so we have to keep going in order to stay afloat in a sense and new music does that for the indie bands like us.
What is the big takeaway for A MERRY METAL XMAS VI?
Not to sound corny, but I would love for them to share in some of the joy and fun that we had in making the album and our enthusiasm for the holiday season in general. However you choose to celebrate or however you believe or whatever your faith is is beside the point. This is just the time of year when the world can just enjoy something for what it is and not make a judgment on it. As artists, you want to break free from outside of the box and I would like for people to hear this album and think that there is something else to us as a band and that we are just regular people with families and dreams. I think this album is the perfect opportunity to make something that is uplifting as opposed to adding to the frustrations that people already have.
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