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debrewguy View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Saga May 2009
    Posted: May 18 2009 at 13:14
Long time Canadian  proggers, possible neo before neo progenitors, Saga is back with a new singer Rob Rob Moratti and a new album the Human Condition that brings a new energy into a classic band. Here's an interview I had the opportunity to do over the web ...
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Hello Saga,
 
PA - Welcome to ProgArchives, and how are you doing ?
 You've just set off on a new tour ? How does it feel to be back on the road after an absence of a little over a year ? Do you still get the same feeling as you did when you started ?

Ian: Its always exciting playing live, still the same after all these years,
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PA  - In reading up on you, I see that Saga's been around some 32 years as a band , and for some of you , 40 years in the music biz. I remember listening to "In Transit", and "Heads or Tales" way back in the day. Is it just me , or am I getting older ?(lol)

Ian: I think it's just you, the rest of us are motoring on! I haven’t been in the biz 40 years, I was in one band before Saga for a year.
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PA - The Human Condition is out May 19  in North America, and April 27 in Europe. You've also got the "Contact"  DVD/CD set which , quoting from one of the fans' sites ,Sagaplanet , debuted at #20 in the Netherlands, #6 in Sweden, and # 2 in Germany. Nice to see how many fans you have out there, eh ?

Ian: The human condition sat at 1# on the prog side of Amazon.de for 6 weeks, it was released in Germany, Austria, Switzerland at the beginning of April.
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PA - Add to that , you've just set out on tour, and later this year, you're headlining the FMPM Friday night show. Quite a busy year you have lined up ? How do you manage all this work ? Or does it ever seem like work even after all these years ?

Ian: It doesn:t always work like that, we get busy…then not busy, it comes in waves.
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PA - Any other plans for further shows in North America ? How was the reaction to the Mount Forest show last year , with Rob ?

Ian: People are loving Rob, he has an awesome set
 of pipes, Mount Forest was great.
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 PA -  How's the new guy fitting in ? What's the fan reaction ? His voice being different from Micheal Sadler's, how do the old songs sound with him ? Do you feel that this new "mix" of people adds to the group, that the dynamic brings out new things, in a sense keeping things fresh. Rob's in, Jim Gilmour's in  since 79, and on drums you've had Steve Negus, Christian Simpson, and now Brent Doerner, with Chris Sutherland sitting in on tour. Is it a case of having the pieces fit the mould, or the pieces come together to form a new entity or a new version of Saga? I saw an old  quote where Steve Negus stated that Saga is what it is because of the people in the group. Is the old adage the story - the whole is greater than the sum of the parts -, or is it a case of the group's leader(s) using each member's strengths to achieve a goal ?

Ian: wow, the old songs sound great with Rob, that was a part of finding our new singer, on the new CD Rob is himself which…I gotta say, is in no way a set back, as a matter of fact we have new life with Rob, newer sound,_, fresh, current and….prog!
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PA - Given how long you've been around, do you feel lucky to have started your career when you did, before FM radio started to narrow its' playlists, and MTV played a big role in breaking acts ... or would you prefer starting out in today's scene, where the internet allows greater contact, where niche genres such as Prog are no longer subject to the whims of the local market , of radio or label restrictions ?

Ian: It was way better for all bands in the 60s-70s-80s, with the economy , one could be what they wanted ,we were played because of the stations liking us, now its buy on’s,..so the solution, get out there live in peoples faces.
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PA - Saga started out as a progressive band, then after Heads or Tales , you had albums that were more pop oriented. Then from the 90s onwards , you've gone from one side of the fence to the other. With the Human Condition you seem to have struck a good balance between both sides of Saga. Were there label or commercial pressures at times to put out certain music,  or is it more a case of "here's what we've come up this time, where we are now" ?

Ian: Very observative my friend, there was preasure on this from CBS, on retrospect, it would have been better to stick our guns, but..this was only done on 2 records, Steel umbrellas and Behavior,…Pleasure and pain was a rushed record and also had its issues,
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 PA - Coming back to the new album, how does the group feel about it ? Do you see it as a fresh start with Rob as the singer, giving you a new "sound" to work with, if you will ?

Ian: 100%
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PA - Did it change  the songwriting process ? Over the years has that become more a group effort, or has Rob simply taken over the lyrics from Michael Sadler ?

Ian: All music has been written by Jim, Jim and Ian since 1994, also Jim G. and Jim C. wrote 50% or more of lyrics and melody, in the band sense we are the same, it was a pleasure working with Rob while we worked on this record, all records in the past I never heard any vocals until the mix was done, this time I was able to bounce off them!!
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PA - How did it feel to go back in the studio after a 30th anniversary tour, adding a new singer ? I've been listening to the Human Condition, and I hear bits of your past, parts that other bands took from you, some of your initial influences like Gentle Giant, and mostly a band that still sounds fresh & modern. On "A Number with a Name" & "You Look Good to Me" I hear some of GG's "Just the Same", yet with your own particular skill at playing prog with pop hooks. In songs like songs like 'Let It Go" & "Crown of Thorns", I almost wonder if Ian pulled an Alex Lifeson & pushed for a heavier guitar sound. Most everywere else, I hear Saga playing classic Saga for the modern day. And Rob's singing has me all over the place. It's as if you had taken the best from Dennis DeYoung, Steve Walsh, Roine Stolt, and come up with a vocalist able to take Saga to this new stage of your career. Having listened to & loved  Neo bands like Pendragon, Marillion, & IQ, I can't help but think it's like the inventors of the genre have come back to reclaim the crown, and show the "new" kids a thing or two.

Ian: Dude, you nailed it, I couldn’t have said it better,..I’ll have to remember this.
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PA - In visiting the fan site Saga Planet Germany, I was surprised by all the solo & side projects that the band members have put out over the years. Does this ever cause friction within the group ? Or  are side or solo projects a benefit of being in a successful band, a financial necessity, or just a way of keeping things fresh.

Ian: Solo projects were done between Saga records, like to be busy, idle hands are the devils playground ☺
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PA - If I may, I'd like to ask if there was more to Michael's departure than was let on. I read one of his missives to your fans stressing very clearly that it was for personal reasons only. It was almost as if there were sources outside the band that might be saying otherwise. From my view of things, seeing his & Steve Negus' websites on your official site would seem to indicate that you're all on good terms. Was there really anything more to either departure ?

Ian: There might have been, but he never said, he was able to leave, so he did,
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PA - Or in the case of Michael, was it just that playing Europeen tours takes him too far away from his family for too long ? Or is it the Los Angeles lifestyle that makes it hard to face the rigours of touring ? ;-)

Ian: Well did you read what he posted on Insideout records site as to why he was leaving, I rest my case.
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PA - I see some meet & greets scheduled on some stops of your tour of Germany. This seems to be something that many bands are getting into. Indeed with the spread of the internet, it seems that many fans love that level of contact with their idols that wasn't there 25-30 years ago. Does that add to the workload, or does it add to the pleasure of playing for your fans ?
 
Ian: Its definitely more work, we don’t do them all the time,
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PA - How do you describe your music now ? Do you feel it's changed after all these years ? In some progressive music circles , Saga is considered the first Neo Prog band, before Neo was actually a genre. And in many ways , a lot of your music seems to fit that tag very well. Genesis, one of your initial influences is said to be the "Godfather" of Neo. You've a mix of Progressive rock like Rush & Yes, some AOR &  pop, always in a very modern & distinctive sound that is uniquely Saga. When I think back to your beginnings, I recall tags such as pomp rock where you were lumped in with groups like Styx, Kansas, hell, even Foreigner which I never quite understood. Then once the Neo Prog movement started in the U.K., it seemed like you had already been there, done that ,and were already moving onwards. Did you ever think of your music influencing  that next generation of progressive bands .?

Ian: I didn’t think that as we go, I understand that’s been true, ..its cool.
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PA - Do you ever still wonder why you enjoyed more & longer lasting success in Europe, particularly in Germany & Denmark, than in Canada or the U.S. ? Was it just a case that your initial breakthrough was in Europe, where you were able to tour and build upon those first hit albums, compared to the U.S. , where you can play 50 shows, and still not have covered much of the country ?

Ian: In Europe the people have followed us through, in Canada and the U.S. we were , and everybody else, subject to fads, grunge, boy bands etc..but I feel people are ready for the Human Condition, we have new representation now there and next week in New York there is meetings on us doing shed touring and a bunch of U.S. dates on the eastern sea board
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PA - Just a few more questions to wrap the interview -
 First, any bands out there that you particularly like ? Second , How does it feel to be part of a group of bands like Styx, Rush, Foreigner, Journey , that are still able to put out albums and tour regularly, and most satisfying ,(if it was me at least) to be one of those acts that have survived all the musical trends that have popped up over the years ? And you're still true to your sound, while keeping it fresh .

Ian: It feels great, and I appreciate being here, these bands are based on there own music and stick to it!!
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PA - Third, any of the band members that are part of the ProgArchives community ?
 
Ian: Not knowing this.
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PA - And last but not least, do any of you need someone to look after your mansions in L.A. while you're on tour (or so goes the rock n roll fable)


Ian: Funny, no I have 30 playboy bunnys doing that!!:)
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PA - Thank you for your time, and here's to hoping I can make it out to Montreal to see you at FMPM this September . I don't suppose your tour bus is coming through Moncton New Brunswick on its' way to Montreal ? :-))

Ian: Wow, you're in Moncton, excellent, we’re putting 6-8 shows on the east coast, plan do them right after Montreal, maybe meet you there! Thanx. Ian.
"Here I am talking to some of the smartest people in the world and I didn't even notice,” Lieutenant Columbo, episode The Bye-Bye Sky-High I.Q. Murder Case.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2009 at 13:26
I hope by eastern seaboard he means Detroit. Smile  I volunteer to help out the Playboy bunnies with watching his mansion while they are on tour. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 31 2009 at 21:58
Great interview you asked some great questions and got some interesting answers.  
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