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Lost Sanctuary's Dan Baune: "I think people have more power than they realize you know. Good and evil are such juvenile and outdated concepts in mainstream media"

Interview with Dan Baune from Lost Sanctuary
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 08 April 2021, 11:58 PM

There is a time when a person feels that he has something to say or show others, such a voice that has to be heard, and its echoes spread upwards in the cold night air. Some will call it breaking the chains that holds, others will call it artistic freedom. The latter sounds so much better. Monument's Dan Baune returned home to Germany from the UK with a burning ambition to put to work his personal view and admiration of Heavy Metal and therefore, Lost Sanctuary was given life. His self-titled debut, signed to Rock Of Angels Records, depicts his variety of Metal, sending him back to his youth days. Steinmetal had a talk with Dan of how does it feel to be on your own, the new album, singing, philosophy, direction of the music and more..

Hello Dan, it is great having you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Thank you for having me! I've been very well, thank you for asking. I mean, it's been a tough year for everyone, the pandemic has brought a lot of insecurity into all our lives. It's certainly been a strain both financially and emotionally, but I just chose to stay busy you know, it's how I stay out of my own head.

After a long period of time in the UK, you moved to Germany, your place of origin. That was quite a move to make, and I hope that it went smoothly considering the complex period of time that we are living in. How does it feel at the moment in Germany with the pandemic, do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?

Yes, indeed! It's funny how these timings work out sometimes, isn't it? I moved about 2 months before the first lockdown happened, so life has been a bit of a rollercoaster to say the least, I still haven't really "landed" if that's the right word to use. But I have faith in the future, and yes, I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. But that's also who I am you know, let's call it positive realism haha. If I start painting the devil on the wall I'd go crazy, so I choose to believe in a better future. And I'm sure it's on its way, we just don't know how long until we get there right. I'm playing the patient game at the moment, everyone is in such a hurry to get back out there, and I really get that. But something tells me that rushing things isn't the right way to react at the moment.

You have been a member of the British Heavy Metal band Monument since the beginning of last decade, even with your move to Germany, did you remain a band member or rather decided to put your position on ice?

Well, that's a bit of a complicated one, because the band itself is on hiatus at the moment. Initially my move to Germany was going to benefit Monument as well, because it meant we'd be able to have a base on the continent, somewhere we could keep backline and so on, because up until 2019 we were playing much more in Europe than we were in the UK for example. If and when Monument picks up again, I'm sure I'll be involved, but as to when that might be I really couldn't say at the moment.

Let’s talk about your inner wish to express yourself. It is true that you have been a wingman for various bands over the years, with Monument as the one that I found to be most influential and prominent, however, one day, and I am being a sort of a storyteller style here, you decided that it was time for your voice to be heard. What events spiked your motivation to start Lost Sanctuary?

That is very poetically put and I appreciate it! To be honest, "Lost Sanctuary" has been a brain-child of mine for many years now, I've just always been so busy with my other work that I never had the time to do it. When Monument went on hiatus, I knew in my heart of hearts that now was the time to do it, despite the move and the crazy world we live in right now.

Yes, you are right, in my time in London, and before Monument too, I was very good at working with singers. I've played in many bands where the singer was the main songwriter and I had more of an arranger role. Monument is one example, but also previous bands such as 2 Cards Of 25, CalatrilloZ and so on. Naturally, I had written a lot of material over the years that I didn't have an outlet for, no band where it could be used. A lot of the material was too modern or heavy for the bands I was in. So, you know…it was time.

Sometimes as an artist I think you just feel a visceral need to put those things out there, purge them, get them out of your system to make space for something new. But in a positive way! I'm so very excited to be able to share this with the world you know. It's this interesting time now, just before the release, where these songs that have been growing and morphing in my head are finally done, and will be released into the world. And once they are, they are no longer "mine", they belong to everyone.

For how long have you been entangling with this vision of your own solo and personal sort of band? Have you already written material for safekeeping earlier on as you were playing different bands, like storing for a rainy day kind of thing?

Yeah absolutely. Not even necessarily in a conscious effort. Sometimes you just faff about with your guitar and an idea pops out, so you demo it somewhere quickly and come back to it to finish it when it's appropriate. There are so many small seeds and ideas, you can never work through all of them. But it's an exciting time when you're in pre-production for an album and can go through all those "snippets" and chose what to work on, flesh out and make into a song.

As to the vision, it's been a dream of mine since I was a teenager to be honest, but I never found the right group of people to do it with. Being in Monument has given me the luxury of playing many cool festivals and countries, and I've met many amazing musicians along the way, some of whom have become great friends. So I'm glad it all happened when it did, and I was able to get so many amazing people involved on the album!

Your debut release, the self-titled “Lost Sanctuary”, other than being a matter of your musical vision that is clearly varied, and we will talk about that later on, shares a form of a dystopian viewpoint of our society, beliefs and questioning people’s faith and also their fates. Am I on the right track here? Was your view channeled through the outcomes of the pandemic?

Again, very poetically put! No, the pandemic actually had no influence on the lyrical content at all, but it's funny how these things seem to align and work out sometimes isn't it? There are dystopian themes, sure, but also more uplifting themes. I'd say half the songs are about topics that have been on my mind for most of my life, things like organized religion, war, necrocapitalism and all the rest of it. Things going on in the world that I think need to be addressed more openly, let's put it that way.

The other half of the songs is way more introverted, more personal. They are songs in which I work through certain struggles I have with myself. And my hope is that by sharing my vulnerability with the listener, it ends up helping both of us you know. This digital world has us so removed from our humanity at times, and the loneliness so many experience in lockdown just amplifies that. So if I can bring a little light, a little understanding into people's lives, even if it's just for the time it takes to listen to a 4-minute song, then it's something positive to hold on to.

Throughout the record, at least from what I could gather, you criticize and question the human condition against its government, sources of faith. It has been said that evil has been rooted within mankind since its very beginning, only waiting for opportunities to show its ugly face. What do you believe in when it comes to people in light of the record?

I think people have more power than they realize you know. Good and evil are such juvenile and outdated concepts in mainstream media. Life is complicated…. We all face choices daily, that add up to who we all are, in that messy, beautifully imperfect way we call "being human". But yes, I think thematically, the album explores not so much personal choices that lead to suffering in the world, but systemic conditions. The mental health implications of Social Media, the way people's need for faith or something to believe in is manipulated, the way money is being frivolously printed and distributed (especially in the West), the way our Western "growth" mentality isn't sustainable and is hollowing out the planet…things like that.

Would you say that through the record you are mainly stating the current state of affairs, or rather alerting of the problems and perhaps trying to find solutions, to open your listeners’ eyes and ears?

I think it's both. A social commentary, and an invitation to be more open, to see the world as it really is (and ourselves as we really are). Only from a place of acceptance can positive change occur I believe. And I'm not reinventing the wheel here, many artists write on such subjects. I'm just throwing my 2 cents into the mix you know, and I hope that through the language of music, it finds a deeper connection in people's hearts than just on a cognitive level. Because, let's face it, we all know what's "wrong" in the world. We all know about the downsides of capitalism, of the dopamine hits we get through our phones, and the dangers of global warming. But knowing alone achieves nothing, and only emotion can drive people into action, into changing habits, and hopefully, eventually lead to larger-scale systemic change.

It is as if we are twins when it comes to our main tastes within Metal music, through NWOBHM, Thrash Metal and Melodic Death Metal, that is kind of cool. It is quite evident that you are a fan of the heavier doses of Metal, portraying aggression, yet without forgetting being melodic and swinging in sprites of classic memories into the mix. With the variety offered on the record, how do you find your progression as a songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist?

It's been so nice to be able to indulge all those influences on one piece of work you know. In most band situations, I feel like I'm holding back and can only use a very limited part of my vocabulary. But, like yourself, I like a variety of Heavy Metal styles, and "Lost Sanctuary" is the album I always wanted to hear when I was a teenager. For me, it's the perfect mix. I love aggression, and a bit of grind, fast thrashy moments and pure mayhem. But I also love soaring guitar melodies that melt your heart, and epic choruses for the whole crowd to sing along with.

As a songwriter, I think this album has taught me how to make all those different shades in my musical color-pallet work in a single production. The same goes for my role as producer and mixing engineer on this album. And it was great fun playing bass on this record, and singing too. I love both those things and rarely get the opportunity to indulge in them!

I believe that it was your first time taking the mic. Guitars and bass I think that those were rather natural for you, as you are mainly a guitarist, however, listening to you as a vocalist was rather interesting. How did it feel manning the vocals and being the one behind the vocal melodies? Did you have prior training or simply acted upon your gut to see what happens?

Many people don't know this, but back when I was still in Germany in my late teens, I actually sang and played guitar in a local Blues-Rock band. Singing has always been a passion of mine, a way to express things even more viscerally that I can through the guitar at times. But for many years, I was too busy with my work as a guitarist and studio engineer, that singing kind of fell by the way-side. I'm pretty much an auto-didactic when it comes to singing, I just do what feels and sounds right to me, which is completely opposed to the way I learnt guitar, with proper training, music college and all the rest of it. I kind of enjoy that juxtaposition! I think in a way it's easier to write good melodies if you don't overly complicate things. Some of my best guitar melodies I write with my voice.

Earlier on we talked about the dystopian nature of the record, and it can be also felt through the music. How did you know how to relate the music with the lyrics? How did you find that fine line?

To me, a song is like a story, it has dynamics, highs, lows, and a variety of emotions. I like these many layers in a song, it adds interest. 6 minutes of one and the same thing always bores me. But if you're asking about the process, I generally write a bit of the music first, which then conjures themes and images in my head almost immediately. I find the best work happens when I let both streams flow freely side by side. Often a Chorus is first, and when I have that in a place that feels good to me, writing the rest of the song around it (both musically and lyrically) comes with ease. But it's a very different game than working with a singer, which I also enjoy very much. So it was definitely a challenge, as I haven't written like this for quite a few years!

You made some interesting collaborations throughout the record, finding the right people to take the tunes that in your mind needed an additional touch of grace, or brutality. How did you know exactly who to pick for what? Did you have a long list of candidates or you simply knew that this individual could be a great fit for a specific song?

Great question. The latter applies in most cases I think. Many times, I'd be writing a song and I'd think "This would be perfect for So-And-So to sing on". Like Doogie for the ballad, or Ras and Matt for the more "American" tunes. And some were pure indulgences, like Bob's keyboard solo. I just really wanted his sound somewhere on the record, so I made space for it you know.

Other than being the multi-instrumentalist, you also took upon yourself to mix and master your own album, which I found the overall work to be exemplary. To be honest, I didn’t see that coming, but it sounded to me as if you have been doing this for quite a while. How did it feel to go from a recording artist to an actual engineer? How hard was it to take a swing at the studio?

Thank you for those kind words. Oh, you make it sound like this was my first rodeo hahaha! No, I've been recording and mixing bands almost as long as I've been playing in bands. I started doing my own demos very early on, and have been working in studios around London since my early 20s. But yes, only in recent years have I really begun to focus on certain genres of music and a certain production style. And that's why I really wanted to do the work myself on this record too. I'm not a fan of a lot of modern productions, where everything is so over-processed, it doesn't sound like a band anymore, and every snare hit blows your head off. The last thing I wanted to do is send this off to some pre-set mixer and have it come back sounding like every other Metalcore record on the market this year. I like a sound that's both organic and live, and modern and explosive enough to compete in today's landscape. It's a fine line I'm treading, but it's what I believe the music deserves, and I think I'm getting pretty good at it.

One of the songs, probably the darkest, and longest, on the record, “No Man’s Land”, had quite an effect on my thoughts. Actually making me picture the entire thing, as if it was part of a movie script. I felt that it is dealing with submission to blind faith, being dragged or herded by a faceless personality that promises the world and gives nothing, showing the true nature of lies. What is your take on it? What can you tell about its musical experience?

Well, I do believe that everyone should find their own meaning in a song such as this, so I almost don't want to ruin it for the listener by explaining it to death you know. But you summarized the content very well, it is indeed a song about misplaced faith, not just in a religious sense, but politically too. People tend to be too trusting in my experience, they believe everything they read or see on TV. Lemmy would say, tongue in cheek: "If it's on the news, it must be true".

It's actually a song we wrote many years ago (when I say we, I mean Sebastian my drummer and I). After Dio died, we really wanted to create something that paid homage to him, and we were big fans of his time in Black Sabbath especially. This song is very heavily influences by that last Heaven & Hell record "The Devil You Know", but we wanted to do it even more moody and evil. So we did it the way, say, Nevermore would have done it. Drop A guitars, haunting acoustic guitar chords and so on, but with a Vinny doom drum-beat and a groovy Geezer bass-line. And vocally, I'm always a fan of choirs and layers, but with this one less was more, so I really focused on just getting one lead vocal to be just right for the song. And just right doesn't mean perfectly in time or in tune or whatever, I mean it in the sense of the emotional content it delivers. It was a challenge, but I hope we made the little man with the big pipes proud, up there on his cloud.

It would be great if you could take a song that you find that is a game changer on the record and talk about it, perhaps a song that has a great impact on you on a personal level.

Oh, that puts me on the spot…it's so tough to pick a "favourite child"! But I think I'd have to say the first single "Open Your Eyes". When you're making an album there are always some songs that you think are going to turn out great, and they end up being a struggle to get right. And then there are some songs that you don't think are going to turn out to be something special, but somehow they do (probably because you weren't trying so hard and flow did it's thing). "Open Your Eyes" is an example of the latter. I wanted to include something a bit akin to Monument on the album, just as something for fans of my previous work to be able to connect with. This song was originally intended as a Monument song, but got turned down, so I thought "Hey, why don't we do it on this album, a quick 3-minute thrasher, but let's do it even faster than Monument, and down in C or something". And that's what we did, and it just worked beautifully. In hindsight, I think it has an early Bullet For My Valentine / All That Remains vibe, that was unintentional, but I think that's not a bad thing at all.

Do you see Lost Sanctuary becoming a full time band in the coming future? Are there plans in that direction?

I'm honestly keeping my options open and not committing to anything at this point. It's so nice to have the freedom to do that, and not be labelled or pushed onto some shelf! Sure, I'd love if we got to do it live sometime, and for the next album I'd like to get a full line-up together. But for the time being, I'm just really happy to be sharing this body of work with the fans. And if people want to see it live, we'll make it happen…. after Covid most likely.

I also already have another exciting project coming up this year, which I'm in the middle of recording at the moment. It'll get announced later this year, let's just say it's a fun little all-star kind of thing that I think you'll all enjoy. Plus, I'm currently building my very own recording studio in Germany, which I'm hoping to finish by year's end, so all these things are keeping me busy for the time being.

How do you view 2021? Will it be as bad as 2020 or is there something to hold on to?

When looking at the numbers, it's disheartening isn't it. Last year was a piece of cake in comparison. BUT! With the vaccines and such, I think we're definitely going to get a better grip on it this year. I don't think it will magically "go away", it will be with us for many years to come, like every disease, but I do believe that it will eventually become as manageable as the influenza, with new updated vaccines every year or so for the more vulnerable people in the populus. That's my fond hope anyway, I can't pretend to know enough to make an accurate prediction. Ask Rob Halford…I think he's read Nostradamus! ;)

What do you miss most of the cultural life?

Oh man, where to begin…. just the sense of community I think, first and foremost. That place for everyone to escape to and experience unity. For us in the Heavy Metal community, those venues and festivals are our "places of worship" you know, places to feel like you can be yourself, unapologetically. I think people really miss that, and so do I. Although for me, I also just miss going on stage with my friends and melting people's faces. Being in a band also lends a sense of family and togetherness that I haven't experienced anywhere else in life. And I miss that most of all probably!

Dan, I wish to thank you for this interview for your effort throughout it. You made a great surprise with this record, and I am glad that the turnout is amazing. Thank you for the great music. Cheers sir

You are so very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to listen to "Lost Sanctuary" and for all your interesting questions. Be safe all, and remember: You're not alone! \\m/



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