Intervju med Michael Sadler i Saga!
Jag upptäckte Saga någon gång på 80-talet. Främst var det "Silent knight" som attraherade, men jag följde dem egentligen bara lite från sidan.
Under de senaste 10 åren har jag fått en personlig liten Saga-revival och lyssnat en hel del på både gammalt och nytt med bandet. Senaste "20/20" är inte alls dum och showen de bjöd på i Stockholm för någon vecka sedan, kommer utan tvekan att tillhöra favoriterna när årets konserter ska summeras.
Dagen innan giget i Stockholm fick jag möjlighet att snacka med en glad Michael Sadler. En sångare som fortfarande visade sig besitta en överjävligt stark röst.
Samtalet kom bl a att handla om tidiga videos, senaste plattan och ett framtida projekt med orkester.
How are you?
Michael Sadler: I´m doing fantastic!
How´s Gothenburg today?
MS: Rainy, grey but… (laughs) optimistically happy.
How´s the tour been going?
MS: Fantastic! It really has. I was expecting and hoping for the best and hoping for enthusiastic crowds but it´s just been outrageous. Last night in Copenhagen could´ve been the mid 80´s with the reaction we got. It was fantastic. Someone reminded me that it was 30 years ago we did the “In transit” album and part of it was recorded there. It was a great, great night but every night´s been really good. Everybody´s in a very good mood right now.
Good to hear. How´s Ian doing?
MS: He´s doing great. The first reaction from everybody was “It´s the alcohol blah blah…”. It had nothing to do with that. He´d been working really, really hard behind the scenes on the tour and before the tour started and the first week was just absolutely grueling. We did like 2000 km (?) in four or five days and it was just a pure fatigue thing and we were just fortunate to find someone to fill in for him for a few shows. There was never a fear that he would not complete the tour. He just needed to lay low for a couple of days. He´s done a couple of shows since being back and he´s playing like a mother… you know what. (laughs)
This Knut guy that filled in for him…?
MS: Knut yeah. I don´t know a lot about him. There were someone else lined up and then he couldn´t do it at the last minute and this was like a friend of a friend of a friend recommendation. He sat in the dressing room for about three hours with the gear back there. He learned everything and then walked straight out to the stage from the dressing room and did three shows with us. He did a fantastic job. I said to the fans that the thing happening with Ian was no big deal and he´s gonna be fine, but we had a choice. We could either cancel or continue and they were more than happy. They´d rather have 4/5 of the band than a cancelled show. He was great, absolutely great.
I´m not a musician myself and I´m always fascinated with people like that. He sat for three hours and then went out and played the show.
MS: I know. And it´s not like your standard AC/DC songs. There´s some pretty intricate stuff. The arrangements and the lines he had to learn. I´m really impressed with that. It was a lot of fun.
I´ve been listening to your latest album “20/20” for the last couple of days and it´s a really great sounding album.
MS: Thank you! The strange thing about that record was that, prior to me coming back they had actually written 99% of the record and had it already recorded. Rob (Moratti) was actually already working on the vocals when the decision was made for me to return. I was down in LA by myself and I was basically handed the finished record. It was almost like singing karaoke. The tracks were just sitting there. The only frustrating thing was that I had nothing to do with the music and I have always, since the beginning, had a very technical part of the music. From that point it was frustrating, but from a fresh ears kinda thing it was great because I was not used to the songs and I wasn´t burnt out on the songs and I could bring freshness to them. The guys heard nothing until it was completed so they were kinda sitting up in Canada going “Oh my god, I wonder what he´s gonna do?”. (laughs) It was really exciting to do it that way. They handed me the tracks and I listened to them and people asked me what I thought of the record and my first reaction was “vintage”. Not old fashioned in that sense, but vintage in the terms of that the key elements of the core sound were back but very modern sounding production wise. When I first heard it I was very, very pleased. I thought “Alright, we´re back on track.”. The next one we do and I´m sure there´s gonna be a next one because we had a nice meeting with the record company the other night and I will definitely be more hands on with the music this time around. Life is good.
I was actually thinking that it has that classic Saga sound to it. There´s one song that really stands out for me and that´s “Anywhere you wanna go”. That is such a great song.
MS: We start the show with it. I like that one, well, I like all of the songs. I´m really proud of this record and I´m really proud of the vocal work I did on it. That´s another thing, because I had the chance to do vocals for the first time without Jim Crichton. On every other Saga record Jim was behind the glass and we had a working relationship. Sometimes we wouldn´t have to say anything to each other, it was just that kinda thing. Suddenly I was working with a different engineer which brought in fresh ears, so I was trying all these different things to approach the way I sing. I was a little bit nervous what the guys would think obviously. (laughs) I didn´t send them anything and when they got it nothing could be changed because it had to be mixed, so it was like it or not.
These songs that ended up on the album, were those the only ones you sang on or were there others that didn´t end up on the album?
MS: No. I don´t know if they wrote any other musical numbers at all. Usually that is the process, where you get it down to the final 10 or 11 songs or whatever ends up on the record. There´s usually some debris, some tracks that never made it, but I´m not sure about that. That is what I was handed, those 10 tracks and that´s what I had to deal with. I wouldn´t be surprised if there´s a few things floating around that never made it.
Any plans for a DVD from this tour?
MS: There is actually. This came up even before the tour began and the record company approached us and said they would very much to do a Blu-ray in Munich, which is the last show. It´s perfect timing because the last show of the tour the set will be absolutely smoking at that time and it´s a bit of a home town for us in Germany anyway. We have a lot of history there, so yeah, there will be a DVD from this tour.
Doing a show like that, do you get more nervous knowing that it´s being filmed?
MS: I get nervous anyway and I´ve always said that if I don´t get nervous before a show then it´s just a job. If you´re not getting nerves then you´re just going through the motions. The mention of nervousness or anxiety knowing that there´s cameras, I just know that they´re there and I just make sure that they notice to stay out of my way basically. I know what you´re asking. It´s not a matter of thinking “I gotta be careful what I do because people are gonna watch this later.”. They´re gonna watch this right now if I do it anyway, so I just treat it like a show and all I think is about is that they´re gonna capture what we do that night. No anxiety. Believe me, I have anxiety enough and I don´t need any extra. (laughs)
Will it turn into a live album as well or is it just a Blu-ray?
MS: Well, if it turns out well enough it will be one of those double packages where you´ve got the DVD and then the audio part on CD. From the way we´re playing now, that´s definitely the plan. It´s a pretty strong set we´re playing and it´s a very eclectic mix. After 35 years and 20 albums there´s a lot of material tho choose from and what I´m trying to do with putting the set together… I mean, it´s only an hour and a half or an hour 45 minutes to fill in and it´s a new problem now. It´s not a matter of what are we going to play. In the beginning we only had eight songs because we only had one record, now it´s what don´t we play? I´m trying to represent so many albums as possible and bringing out a few surprises. There´s a couple of tracks that we haven´t played for a very long time and we´re bringing those back so it´s a great mix, I think. It´s the closest we can get to give you a good cross section of the last 30 or so years.
Great. Some old stuff. I always wondered about that insect that has appeared on so many albums? Where did it come from in the first place?
MS: (laughs) It´s actually known as GB, Golden Boy. That was a creation of the gentleman who came up with the artwork for the very first record. He was told about the Chapters idea and that it was a continuing story and he was kinda given a sketchy outline of what the sci-fi story was about and that´s the creature that he came up with and he kinda evolved through the years in terms of artwork. That´s pretty much the central character of the story, which will all one day be revealed in whatever form we finally decide on. I´d love to do a Chapters tour with all 16 Chapetrs with an orchestra. I think the easiest way to do that, my plan would be… if I can make this happen, you obviously can´t travel with an orchestra. The idea would be to line up an orchestra in each city. If it was Germany alone or say three in Scandinavia and seven in Germany, you take the major cities and it gets scored and you send the sheet music out to all the orchestras in each of those cities. It´s gonna look the same every night, you roll in, they´ve rehearsed and you just go for it and record every night as well with a lot of visuals and back screen projections and I think that would be the ideal way to finally make sense of the story and perhaps a book to go along with it that really, really spells it out. Then there´s also the video game. (laughs) It´ll be slightly educational of course. (laughs)
That would be cool!
MS: Yeah, it would actually.
Did you know that the song “Careful where you step” or the beginning of that song actually, was used as an intro for a Swedish TV-show (Dokument utifrån) for a long time during the 80´s?
MS: I did not know that.
It was a show with news documentaries and it was just the intro of the song.
MS: Really? It´s one of those songs that we almost wouldn´t be able to leave the building if we didn´t play it. At that very beginning of the song the reaction is immediate. Well, it´s good to know. Maybe if you find it you could pass along the information.
Absolutely. I think it was in the mid 80´s or something.
MS: When it was hot. (laughs)
Exactly. I found the video for the song. Sort of a live video. What do you remember from it? You were wearing leather pants and you had a big moustache.
MS: (laughs) We all have a past, sir. (laughs) I don´t remember much about it. Just that there were cameras rolling and you were obviously lip synching and you were trying to pretend you were performing the song. I know it was done on a sound stage and you make it look as convincing as possible. The idea of making videos when we were starting out was all brand new. I just remember thinking “Why are we doing this? Who´s gonna see this?” (laughs) and along came MTV.
Yeah, that must´ve been one of the first videos shown on MTV?
MS: Yeah, I know that we made “On the loose” right when MTV was starting out and it was very fortunate because the record was breaking at the same time and MTV was just starting out and because it was just starting out, not a lot of people were making videos so we went into seriously high rotation which obviously helped the profile of the band. They really, really helped in the beginning. You´ve got the combination of “Worlds apart” coming out, “On the loose” being on the charts in America and splattered all over the TV on MTV, so you probably saw the song twice an hour. It was a great tool and still is. Now it´s less about music, MTV in the States, but in its heyday it was great and so instrumental in launching the band.
Definitely. What are your thought on the music industry today, besides that no one´s selling albums anymore? You´ve been doing this for such a long time and Saga´s been around for such a long time.
MS: It´s different now than what I would´ve answered five years ago. Five years ago, if you would´ve asked me, I would´ve said that it´s in dire, dire straits. We´re all gonna see, like we did with vinyl, there will eventually be no CD´s and it´s just the way of the future. You just have to accept it for what it is. In terms of what is out there, five years ago I would´ve said that everything is programmed and not real, everything is packaged and a project and it´s not about the music anymore. What I have found in the last five years is something very encouraging. A lot of young bands are playing good, honest rock music like the Foo Fighters and it just feels in the air that there´s a return to… I used to drive my step daughter to school and I dropped her off and I´d see all these boys wearing Van Halen shirts and Led Zeppelin shirts and I was thinking “These little boys don´t wanna listen to Justin Bieber or Backstreet Boys.” And they´re rediscovering real musicians playing their instruments and they´re getting a vibe from it and there´s all these bands wanting to be like that. I don´t wanna say there´s an 80´s revival because that sounds so cliché, but there really seems to be a return to the honesty of making music. Unfortunately for them, like you say, you don´t sell records anymore per se, it will be downloads for them, so it really does come down to the live thing again. Live is the way to make your money and it´s funny because I was talking to an attorney friend of mine, a very good friend of the family, and he said it´s completely changed. You used to do a tour to support a record. Now you put out a record to support a tour, so you can call the tour something. Like Bon Jovi´s 2013 tour is called “Because we can”. (laughs) That´s what they named their tour. “We´re on the road because we can.”. (laughs) But it is encouraging from that point of view and I hear about these young bands all the time and I try to keep my ears to the ground. But as I said, had you asked me five years ago I would´ve said the music industry is pretty much dead in terms of what it used to be. It really seems to be turning around again and that´s a very good thing.
Absolutely. Are you involved in any other projects? Working on any other music?
MS: At the very moment, no. I filmed a live performance of my “Clear” album five years ago in Los Angeles that is ready to be released. Obviously I´m not gonna have it out at the same time as the Saga product. I´m planning on releasing that around Christmas or shortly thereafter. I did work with an orchestra, I worked with a big band and a pop band and all Saga material. When I was out of the band for those four years, there was a period there in the space of three or four weeks where I did three different genres of all Saga music. One set to classical, one to swing and one was a guitar player named Rudi Buttas, one of the guitar players from the very famous German pop band called Pur. I sang on his record actually and then he asked me if I wanted to do some shows. No keyboards! So you´ve got one version with actually no keyboards, just guitar players, one version with a full blown orchestra and you have to imagine, for example the chorus in “Wind him up” with 80 singers singing that with me. It was just astounding. Then it was a genuine swing band doing swing versions of five or six Saga tracks. I had a bit of an identity crisis going on after that. (laughs) But it was a lot of fun.
Nice! After this European tour, what´s happening? I know you´re doing a cruise.
MS: Yeah, that´s in March. We have a little break coming up around Christmas time and then we´ve got shows in Canada after that. We´re just gonna stay on the road as the shows come in. We´d like to try and get into Asia for the first time. We´ve never been to Japan strangely enough. Alos, our goal for next year is to reemerge in the American market. We just neglected it. I think people in the States thought we´d broken up a long time ago because we just haven´t gone there and it´s just really a matter of going in there and touring. It´s a big territory and you´ve got to put aside a good five or six months of just being there and just pounding it. A lot of bands are going out in these package deals like Kansas, Styx, Journey and that just seems to be the way to do it. If we can get on the right one, I think that´s one of the goals for next year as well. I nice thing about it and I put a lot of the credit to Facebook, the fact that there seems to be a renewed interest in the band and there´s an excitement about the band with the new drummer Mike Thorne and I´m back in the band and we have “20/20” which is getting great reactions from everyone. There just seems to be something very, very positive happening right now and we´d be foolish not to capitalize on the momentum.
Any chances of you guys playing Sweden Rock Festival?
MS: I don´t know. It has come up and I know they´d like to fill that bill fairly quickly and I´ve already seen ads for next year and I´d love to get into that show. It´s great exposure and our fellow countrymen Rush are gonna be on that bill as far as I know.
And Triumph played there not too long ago.
MS: That´s right. I´ll keep my fingers crossed.
Alright. Excellent talking to you Michael!
("Careful where you step" som intro till Dokument utifrån 1987.)