One of Canada’s highly regarded progressive rock bands has always been Saga. Songs like Wind Him Up, The Flyer and On The Loose are ingrained in our rock and roll psyche and are probably being played on a classic rock radio station at this very moment. While the band has always possessed a unique sound, their brand new studio album 20/20 is a timeless addition to Saga’s catalogue. It marks the return of lead singer Michael Sadler to the fold after a multi-year absence, one that, as he explains below in our exclusive email interview, wasn’t due to any sort of band turmoil. Get the scoop of Sadler’s return to the fold, 20/20 and Saga playing live after the jump.
Andy Burns: I feel I’ve got to start with, welcome back! You sound simply fantastic on the new Saga album, 20/20. It feels like a very timeless effort. To give everyone a bit of context, you left the band in 2007, rejoining in 2011. Why was that the right time for you to rejoin?
Michael Sadler: I guess it was just instinct. A kind of gut feeling that told me that if it was going to happen then it was going to happen now. Contrary to the inevitable rumours, there were no differences of opinion regarding musical direction or personal conflicts in the band. I originally left for personal, family reasons to help raise my newborn son at the time. But now that he’s over 4 years old and we have developed a bond between each other, it seemed like it was time I got back to doing what I’m meant to do.
Andy Burns: No doubt, Saga could have simply been a touring entity with you back in the fold. How important was recording new material for you?
Michael Sadler: I suppose it was important for me to record a new album as a way to officially signify my return and to re-establish myself with the fans. Plus, if one is going to make a return, it’s nice to come back armed with an album like 20/20, an album the band and I are very proud of.
Andy Burns: Could you give us a little insight into the Saga recording process – are songs created in studio or are they brought in close to fully formed? How many songs were actually worked on for the new album?
Michael Sadler: Normally everyone goes through a writing phase on their own, and then everyone gets together and listens to what each other has been up to. After a kind of “filtering” process, it’s then determined which pieces are to be developed into songs. By the time the band hits the studio the songs are pretty much ready to record, with the exception of a certain degree of experimentation. As far as 20/20 is concerned, it’s difficult for me to say how many pieces or songs were considered because I was brought back in after all the songs had already been recorded, with the exception of one or two overdubs here and there.
Andy Burns: Six Feet Under is a fantastic kick off to the album – how did that song come about, and how did it wind up the album opener?
Michael Sadler: Again, I’m not really the one to ask regarding the actual writing of the songs for the album. But after hearing all the songs finished and mixed it was then the very difficult and crucial task of coming up with exactly the right running order for the record. And that is no easy task. But after numerous attempts at it, no matter which version I came up with, I couldn’t get away from Six Feet Under being the first thing you hear. I just felt that of all the songs, that one sounds the most like Saga right out of the gate!
Andy Burns: Your voice throughout the album is really remarkable – once again I use the word timeless. How have you been able to maintain its strength over the years?
Michael Sadler: I don’t really have any secrets or any special exercises that I do. I suppose in a way I’m just very lucky. That and the fact that my vocal technique training in a church choir when I was a boy has probably contributed to my voice’s strength & longevity.
Andy Burns: I know Saga has a diehard fan base – how important is their reaction to 20/20 to you? Does that ever come into play when recording a new album – “I wonder what the fans will think?”
Michael Sadler: What the fans think of what we do is absolutely paramount to us. We learned a long time ago that it’s the fans that are responsible for your career, and it’s those same fans that made it possible for you to survive in a very competitive business. It’s fine to experiment with your sound from time to time, it’s only natural the longer a band is together, but one should never lose sight of what attracted the audience to your music in the first place.
Andy Burns: You’ve got tour dates in Canada and then off to Germany. Are you looking forward to playing the new material live?
Michael Sadler: Absolutely! As a matter of fact we’ve had a chance to perform a couple of the new ones live already and the new material is being very well received.
Andy Burns: Can you give us a hint of what else will make it into the Saga set list this year?
Michael Sadler: A little bit of everything really. We’re trying to cover as much of our back catalogue as possible. The problem now, after amassing such a large cache of songs, is deciding which songs we’re not going to play. But it’s a nice problem to have when you think about it!
Andy Burns: Thanks for your time, Michael!
Michael Sadler: My pleasure…
Thanks to Michael Sadler for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop, and Alix Cook at Rebel Music Publicity & Promotions for helping make it happen. Saga’s 20/20 is out now on cd and digital download from Eagle Rock. You can keep track of the band at http://www.sagaontour.ca.