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 SAGA – “A Well-Kept Secret For The Last 35 Years!”

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Date d'inscription : 20/05/2012
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MessageSujet: SAGA – “A Well-Kept Secret For The Last 35 Years!”    Mer 15 Aoû - 20:19

SAGA – “A Well-Kept Secret For The Last 35 Years!”

By Martin Popoff

Canadian keyboard-centric classic rockers SAGA are back firing on
all cylinders with their beloved, Freddie Mercurial lead singer MICHAEL
SADLER reinstated in the ranks after only one record away. And just as
quickly, there’s an exhilarating new album, 20/20, giving the current
ambitious tour plans extra oomph!

“To never see those bastards again,” laughs Michael, asked what the
reason was he lit off in the first place. “No, it was a life decision.
There’s always rumours and conjecture and things like that. He must’ve
left because of musical differences or because there was a problem in
the band with the members. It had nothing to do with that. It was purely
my personal decision. I wanted to have a family, finally – I have a son
and daughter of my own. I didn’t want to be on the road. I always
really wanted to have a child, but I didn’t want to be on the road and
have my wife call me and say, ‘He took his first step today,’ or, ‘He
said his first words.’ You wait that long to have a child and then you
miss the importance of it. So I always said, you know, I’m not gonna be
touring and forced to be away from home. And the only way to do that was
to leave. And it was 30 years. I thought it was the perfect time to do
it. I kept a place in the back of my mind that if the time is right, and
it made sense to everybody, that perhaps we would talk about me coming
back. Didn’t know it would be that soon.”

And it was never a case of being satisfied that enough art had been generated under the fine Saga banner…

“No, not at all, not at all. My leaving was not about the music and
that kind of thing. I was not done with the band per se, I was done with
touring. So that meant leaving Saga at the time. But there’s way more I
have artistically to do, and I will. I’ll probably do another solo
record eventually, but right now, I’ve not tapped everything. The well’s
not dry yet (laughs).”

As for the making of 20/20, “It’s weird, because I was brought in,
not at the 11th hour, but when it was decided I was coming back, they
had already written 95% of the album; 95% of music was all written,
except for a solo here or there. So I was handed essentially a finished
product, which is weird for me, because I was always involved with the
songwriting in the past. But they had all this music, and I thought, oh,
maybe that could’ve been five bars instead… or they should’ve,
whatever. So it was a whole new ballgame for me. Apparently Rob
(Moratti, vocalist on one Saga album now, 2009’s The Human Condition)
had started very sketchy melodies on one or two very rough tracks. He
wasn’t really far into it, so it was pretty much bare and left for me to
do whatever I wanted on top of it.”

“For a singer, that was really great in the studio, especially,
having that as a soundtrack to sing to. Usually I’m singing something
and going, ‘Well, eventually it’s going to sound like that or it’s going
to sound like that. Wait ‘til we get the solo in there, wait ‘til we
get that part, wait ‘til we get the real drums,’ that kind of thing. I
was listening to almost the finished album. It was like karaoke for me.
It was really inspiring.”

Musically, 20/20 is full up with al the keyboard ‘n’ guitar
acrobatics one would expect from Saga, highlights for this writer being
‘Spin It Again’ and especially ‘Show And Tell’ which sounds like heavy
STEVE HACKETT, both vocally and melodically.

“Yes, well, I remember them having the music,” agrees Michael, “and I
thought, this sounds… the word I’ve been using lately is vintage, if
not old-fashioned. It sounds vintage Saga, 2012. I think the elements of
what got people excited about the band in the beginning are there. And
also, I mean, I got to listen to it as a punter. Because I’m hearing the
tracks fresh. Because usually, you’re there for the beginning, you get
used to the track, and you get a certain… You don’t hear it anymore.
It’s like trying to mix your own record. You should never mix your own
record, because you’re way too close to it. I just did what I felt
complemented the tracks that were there. On the other hand, it’s kind of
scary, because it was the last thing to go on the record. So the onus
was on me and I had no feedback because I was alone in California doing

Asked for his proudest moments on the record lyrically, Michael
reflects that, “funny thing is, I never really know going into it. It’s
what comes out when I read it afterwards, and then I discover. And when I
read these ones afterwards and I was doing the transcription for the
booklet, I realized that they’re fairly positive lyrics, about, like,
pick yourself up and dust yourself off. You know, everyone has problems,
but hey, and where’s that passion? It is trying to encourage people not
to dwell on disappointment. Okay, well, learn from your mistake and
let’s get on with it – it’s a very hopeful record. My personal favourite
is the ballad simply because it’s personal experience, and it’s for
anybody who’s ever been completely down and out and someone has come
forward and helped them, without being requested and not expecting
anything. And they do that to that extent, and it happened to me, at one
point in my life. And Lost For Words: I mean, thank you’s just not
enough. And the best way is in a song, to say it this way. So that’s a
favourite because it’s the most personal for me.”

But very much so, 20/20 proudly upholds the tenets of the singular
Saga sound, which are, according to Michael, “signature-wise, probably,
those trade-offs between the guitar and Jim Gilmour, with the complex
lines that they play together. It kind of goes back to the WEATHER
REPORT days, where there’s violin and guitar playing the lines. So I
think that maybe makes a difference. I mean, the rest of it, it’s, I
don’t want to say standard, but they’re pad sounds and things of that
nature. Perhaps the chords that we implement. But really, I think what
makes it different is the dueling guitar/keyboard thing.”

“But I have a problem calling us prog, in the traditional sense. I
just think we’re a really good rock band with serious prog influences.
But just, I don’t know, I wouldn’t put us in a prog category. We
probably are because of the keyboards. Especially in the beginning, no
one was using as much keyboards as we were, and all these innovative
things, so in that respect we are. But I think the difference is the
rhythmic side of the band and the rock side of the band. We are a lot
harder than the traditional prog bands.”

And why this album cover and why this title?

“20/20… I was trying to come up with a title, and I just thought,
finally, I just went why don’t we just call it 20? It’s the 20th studio
album. Just call it 20. Nice big 20; it’s a nice image. Then I took it
one step further. My wife said, why don’t you make it 20/20? And I
thought… and then the vision thing, and then 20/20 hindsight, learn from
your mistakes, you draw on that, 20/20 foresight, the future. And then
Darrell (Jim, keyboardist, long story) coincidentally had problems with
his eyes, and then I thought, well, that’s kind of… So it just made
sense, and then the cover, it’s the strangest story. You can hire a
graphics arts company and say we want this kind of thing, this kind of
thing, show us what you can do, and spend thousands of dollars in
development. One day, Dean, our guitar tech, just threw us this image he
said, ‘Just for fun I did this.’ He’d sent it to Jim Crichton and
myself, and I remember we were looking for a cover at the time, 20/20,
and we just went, ‘That’s it!’ And all he did was take a stock photo of
that apparatus, and Photoshopped Einstein in there.”

Back to Michael’s coming back, I asked Sadler if part of this – and
it’s something I’ve often thrown at guys in a similar situation – is
whether there was an element of, “What’s anything better I can be doing
for work?” In other words, singing for Saga is a pretty cool job, and
it’s probably the one that Saga’s singer can make the most money at
anyway (if the singer is Michael Sadler).

“It’s not only that. It’s what I do,” answers Michael. “My wife said
it best, when the decision to come back took place. First of all, I
said to the band, you gotta make sure that Rob knows that we’re talking
about this. Because I don’t want him to just get a phone call and say,
‘Thanks a lot, Rob, you’re out, Michael’s back.’ That’s totally
disrespectful. So make sure he’s in the loop before we decide, and most
important, I discussed it with my family, with my wife, and I did it
initially to be with my son the first couple of years, while he was
growing up. And then we were talking about it, and she said you know
what? She looked at me and said, that’s who you are, that’s what you do,
just do it. Whatever, whether you make a fortune or not make a fortune,
this is what you do. And that’s the person I know, and that’s your
makeup. Once I got the seal of approval from her (laughs), well, go make
some money! (laughs).

And now it’s time to tour. Michael says the band’s traditional base,
Europe, is still goin’ strong. “Yes, all of Europe; Scandinavia is
really bouncing back now. And a lot of territories are starting to open.
Really because of the record, apparently. Italy, Spain; we’re expanding
in Europe. We’ve got to get back to the states. People always say,
well, why aren’t you doing a lot of the states? And really, it comes
down to touring. I mean, you know, why are we big in Germany? That’s
because we pounded Germany in the beginning. That was the first market.
We just pounded and pounded it because you go where the market is. And
then we started going to the states when we had Worlds Apart happening,
and some airplay on AM radio, FM radio, whatever, Top 40. And we just
ended up not going there anymore. Because the audience kind of dropped
away after Heads Or Tails, so we went where the market was, and we
foolishly, probably, never revisited it, and concentrated our efforts on
that. But we’d like to change that. We’re in the process of trying to
do that, but it’s a big country (laughs). And at home too; at one point
people thought we were a German band here in Canada. Because every time
they heard on the radio that we’re in Germany, or they heard Canada,
they heard the word Germany, because we were always there. And I can’t
really blame them. It’s about your presence, and we just weren’t here. A
well-kept secret. For the last 35 years! (laughs).”
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