Copyright 2013 © MAW Enterprises
Corners of Sanctuary
How long have you been in the music industry?
Mick Michaels: I have been personally involved in the music industry since the mid 80’s. Though several of my family members played guitar, I initially gravitated towards the drums, staying with them for about five years. When I was about 12 or 13 I decided to make the switch to guitar and quickly found it much easier to write my own songs. It wasn’t long after that I found myself in my first band and I have been hooked ever since. I will say that my time with the drums did provide me with a solid sense of timing and rhythm that is essential for both guitar and songwriting.
How long have you been performing under your present name?
MM: Corners of Sanctuary has been together since 2011. At the time James and I were involved in a short-term reunion project with a band we played with back in the 80’s. We started talking about doing a new project that reflected more of our musical roots and interests. We wanted to write the type of music we weren’t hearing at the time. This was 2010. I already had a bunch of songs written that were brought to the table, most of which ended up on our first album “Breakout”. We started with them and six years and five albums later here we are.
Where did you grow up?
MM: I grew up in the suburbs just west of Philadelphia, in a second generation Italian-American home. It was great – at least to me. As a child I didn’t know the difference between rich or poor, everything and everyone seemed to be equal. I guess that’s part of the pureness of being a kid… there is no judgment, it is what it is. I definitely had a big imagination… I would dream up all sorts of things and do whatever I could to make them reality. It taught me to keep dreaming, keep striving… even when things don’t work out… and there was a lot of that for sure. Definitely a good asset to have in the music industry.
What era shaped your musical development?
MM: Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s was a unique time, especially for music. The music landscape was changing dramatically and reflected more of what people were feeling and experiencing. So music became more of what people wanted. There was an edge to it, there was diversity. The music hit a nerve and struck a chord. I was fortunate… having an older brother who played guitar, I was exposed to bands like Kiss, Black Sabbath, Zepplin, The Doobie Brothers, Rainbow, etc… But on the flip side, my father was into the Beatles and my mother liked Doo Wop, whereas my uncle was into Motown and R&B. My grandfather played in the Philadelphia string bands and was a multi-instrument player. So I was exposed to a cross-section appreciation of a number of musical interests and styles. For me, I find it as a great benefit to have especially as a songwriter. That diversity allows for depth and creates options when arranging and composing.
Who are your major influences?
MM: Besides members of my family, I would say bands like Kiss, Judas Priest, Accept and Savatage are big influences. As guitar players would go it would be Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, John Sykes, Jake E. Lee, Ace Frehley, Criss Oliva, and George Lynch. However, I never felt I tried to copy any of these great players, rather I worked to emulate them in some small way with my own playing, as if to capture some bit of interpretative essence that related to my individual approach. As with my musical background, my guitar influences are a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
How old were you when you started following a musician’s path?
MM: I started playing drums around six or seven. Drums were definitely a positive outlet for me at that age. I was considered “hyper” and rather than putting me on some form of medication as many people suggested to my parents, the drums were prescribed and it was awesome… well for me at least. The hours and hours of noise would drive my mom and neighbors crazy. I would write songs… well more like percussive overtures, and play them for family members. After about five years or so my musical aspirations began to change and started to gravitate towards the guitar. My older brother played and I know that was a huge factor in my decision to go to guitar as it grew into a bonding link for the two of us. Plus, I quickly found that working with the guitar made songwriting much easier. And in my heart I always saw myself more as a songwriter than a musician. The guitar was the vehicle that helped me begin to write better. Shortly after getting a guitar and learning a couple of chords, I set out and formed a band.
Who are the members of your band and what are their musical backgrounds?
MM: On drums we have Mad T. Prior to joining us full-time, T played in the band Powerless Rise. T has actually been working with Corners of Sanctuary from the beginning. He co-wrote several of our songs including “Only One”, “Shadow Soldier” and “Lost in a Dream” and was even a fill-in drummer on a handful of shows before joining in 2016.
On bass and backing vocals we have James Pera. James and I have been playing together since 1985. We share pretty much of the same musical backgrounds. James is a big fan of AC/DC and has a strong admiration for Pavarotti. To me it wouldn’t be a band without seeing James on my left.
Our current lead singer is Frankie Cross. Frankie joined the band in late 2013. His musical background is similar to James and I as well. However, he does enjoy some more “less mainstream” musical tastes, which I feel has always added more substance to his approach to vocals and gave COS’ music more edge.
I play guitars and keyboards. I occasionally provide some background vocals in the studio, but that’s as far as it goes. J Those tracks can be doctored for the sake of the listeners.
Tell me a funny story that has happened to you.
MM: To be honest, not a lot of funny things happen. I’m a pretty low-keyed person, most often keeping to myself. However, I guess what could be construed as funny now but not at the time, would have been an incident back in 2016 while we were on tour and driving through Indiana with our truck and trailer in tow. We had sold out of t-shirts at the show the night before. Something we did not expected to happen and of course we were not prepared for. So we decided to find an overnight company that could drop ship the shirts to us at our next hotel. So James, our bass player, is calling all these companies up and working them on the price. We finally decide on one and we are scrambling as we try to get an image off our phone and send it to them to use. All this while we are driving mind you. During this process, a state police vehicle pulls up alongside us and gives us the once over. Within seconds he is now behind us and lights flashing. We pull off to the side of this major highway. James is in the passenger seat and still on the phone. The officer walks up to James’ side, he rolls down the window and while on the phone says to the officer we are trying to order t-shirts. There is a dead silence in the car. The officer looks at James, looks to the back seat where the rest of the band is sitting, then looks at me and says to step out. I step out while James remains negotiating our t-shirt order on his cell phone, not at all phased. The officer meets me at the back of our trailer. Cars and tractor trailers rushing by… He asked me if I have any weapons he should know about. I say no. Again I get the once over. I ask if there is a problem. He doesn’t answer and then asks me to get into his vehicle. Immediately I hear banjos in my head… again I asked if there is a problem. He directs me to get into the vehicle. I don’t protest and follow his instructions. As I get in and take a spot on the edge of the front seat I quickly realize there is a police K9 in the back seat now breathing over my shoulder. I’m frozen in time. Keep in mind this whole time the rest of the band is still up in the truck and James is still on the phone. At this point I am panicking and immediate go into Sunday church mode… yes sir, no sorry, absolutely sir! While checking my ID and running a background check on me and my vehicle, the officer asks me a barrage of questions regarding my travel. Assuming we were a band, the officer begins to asking about the music and CD sales. He also asks “Who is the guy on the phone… your manager?” James always gets that, he just has that look. I say sort of and that he is the bass player and I go on to tell him of us selling out of t-shirts last night in Ohio and we need to get more before the next show, blah, blah, blah. After about 25 minutes or so of questioning and a very large police dog over my shoulder, the officer says I didn’t do anything wrong but gave me a warning to maintain safe driving distances with other vehicles. I graciously say “thank you” and “have a great day” and quickly make my way back to the driver’s seat with a sigh of relief where I find James just getting off the phone to inform me the t-shirts are bought, paid for and will be dropped shipped to our next hotel. Mission was accomplished.
Where would you like to be in five years?
MM: As a band I would think we would be working on a new album and expanding our musical horizons. In respects to touring, I would like to see us in a more European setting and working with much larger bands such as Judas Priest and Accept.
Personally, I would like to see myself working with other artists producing and writing. Even venturing into other avenues related to the music industry. Being an artist is all about creating… creating is universal and can take on many forms. I am open to the possibilities.
What inspires you to write?
MM: I find inspiration in so many places and so many things. I have written songs based on a word or phrase I’ve overheard, or from a feeling or from something I saw or read. Inspiration is all around us; however, it is easy to get caught up in the trials of the moment and of the day. We can get unfocused and disconnected. We must look for the inspiration, seek it out and learn to be aware of it. It’s a challenge to stay inspired, especially as an artist. When the moment hits, it’s always best to go with it
What is your philosophy on life and how does it affect your music?
MM: I look at songwriting as an extension of myself. It is an outlet: mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical. My basic philosophy is “to each his own”. We have to do what is best for ourselves even if that means going against the grain or ruffling some feathers along the way. When the plane is about to go down, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else. You can’t help someone if you are dead. Though that is an extreme example, the premise is the same. We have a responsibly to the world to be good and supportive citizens but we also have a responsibility to ourselves to be good and healthy individuals… and no one can do that for us but ourselves.
I also believe in fighting for what you believe in and making sacrifices, not excuses.
How this affects my music is that I frequently write about overcoming odds and the war we fight within, often using metaphors and physical world struggles as depictions and backdrops. This provides the listeners a vivid mental picture to see and allows them to imagine themselves as part of the action, setting themselves as the main character.
Please add the names of the places you have played and the city they are in.
MM: There are been many… far more than I can remember off the top of my head. Some of my favorite places, however, have been the Trocadero in Philadelphia where we played with UDO… the Music Factory in Battle Creek, MI where we played with Manowar’s David Shankle… The Music Club in Middeltown, OH… a really cool place in Massachusetts called the Bar… Reverb in Reading, PA where we have played with Saxon, Anvil and Stryper to name a few… the Best Bar in NYC… Black Label Cycles in Kansas City… and I can’t forget our hometown favorite, the Rusty Nail in Ardmore, PA, it’s a home away from home… so many places… all killer memories.
Do you have any causes that tug at your heart strings, or that you support? Abused pets, world peace organization, save the whales, etc…
MM: Each year the band holds a benefit show to raise money and awareness for cancer research. It is a really great time and very successful. Everyone rallies together for a common cause and for the love the music. All the members in the band have lost a loved one to cancer.
We have also been involved with creating programs for children to learn and experience music. Unfortunately, music programs nationwide have seen a decline in both enrollment and funding. Music can provide growth on so many levels and from personal experience, have found it be a positive and uplifting outlet.
Personally, I am part of the International Rhino Foundation, to help save and protect our rhinos. I have always been fascinated by rhinos… very powerful and majestic creatures. The rhino is sort of my animal totem. It is my duty to do what I can to protect them.
Please tell me about your performance schedule and new releases.
MM: We have been supporting an EP we released in March called “Cut Your Losses” and are now preparing to head out on the road for a short Midwest tour covering Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. When we get back, we are finishing up the summer leg our tour with supporting the Bulletboys for their PA performance. After which we will have a few weeks off.
We recently finished work on a new full-length studio album titled “The Galloping Hordes” and look to have it drop early this Fall. In support of its release, we will be heading to California in November for a West Coast tour to begin promoting the record. The tour is being sponsored by our friends at Metal Babe Mayhem and brings us to the region for the first time. We are really excited and appreciate all the support we have received in making it all possible.
I just want to extend a huge thank you to all our families, friends and fans for all your support… we are very grateful and could not be able to do this without you! COSnROLL!