Select Page

SAGA: Epic Acoustic Symmetry and Beyond

SAGA: Epic Acoustic Symmetry and Beyond

Photo Credit: Alexander-Mertsch

SAGA: epic Acoustic Symmetry and Beyond

Saga has been presenting their sweeping progressive rock tapestries to the world since 1977, unveiling an intriguing auditory adventure on each and every album.  Symmetry is the next exhilarating chapter in the Saga legacy, featuring imaginative acoustic renditions of their classic songs.  Inspired by the final tour of founding member Jim Crichton in 2017 where they opened their shows with an all acoustic performance, Symmetry presents another side of Saga that longtime fans will want to revisit time and again.  Highwire Daze recently interviewed guitarist and Saga co-founder Ian Crichton to find out more about the vibrant world of Symmetry, the Canadian bands connection with Los Angeles with their song Say Goodbye To Hollywood, creating music in a pandemic age, and other topics of interest.  Read on…

How did the idea of Symmetry come about and what was it like revisiting these songs in a different way?
The idea came – we did a final tour with my brother Jim Crichton in 2017 in Europe – and we wanted to do something special – so we came up with the idea of opening up for ourselves acoustically. It’s something we’ve always talked about doing in the past – about doing these heavier prog rock sort of songs acoustically – let’s do it! So, we put a set together – a 50-minute set – where we opened up for ourselves – and we had a giant backdrop which was actually the front cover of Symmetry – like an old library overgrown and all that which covered the main show. Anyway, people really liked it – it went down really well – so that sparked the idea of doing a record like that – and it took about a year and a half to do it – I was touring in between. But then with the event of Covid last year – I was touring in February – we got shut down March 14th – and I’ve been here ever since. But that made it really possible to get down and finish the record.

What was it like to record this music in the middle of a pandemic and all of this social unrest in the world? Was it more difficult to record?
You mean keeping your eye on the ball and that sort of thing with all of this crap going on? Once you get into the music and stuff, it actually helped make everything else go away. So, there was no problem that way. It actually of helped, because I kept touring with Saga – we still tour – and that kind of shut everything down. And it was a challenge of making a record that’s not just a couple of acoustic guitars and cut down of songs. We wanted to keep it exciting and keep the same kind of feel – only on acoustic instruments.

I would like to talk about three of the songs on Symmetry then and now. The first single on Symmetry is Tired World. Give me a little background on the song and what it was like to do this remake of it.
Tired World was on our first record – I was 20 years old when we recorded that. We played three years in the clubs before we started breaking out into shows. We used to play that every night and it was a great little thing, because you get a great long guitar solo in it. You really got your chops together playing in the clubs every single night. And do to it acoustically – yeah it was challenging. The solo that I did on that song – it’s pretty long – and I really had to think about it. I’d be playing banjo for a while – so what I ended up doing was implementing part banjo / part guitar and building a solo that way to make the same kind of excitement. It was pretty challenging, but we’re happy with the record.

Wind Them Up is the second single and the second song I’d like to talk about. Give me a little background on that song then and now…
Wind Them Up was one of our biggest hits. I arranged Wind Them Up myself and I re-wrote the ending. I thought if we were going to do an acoustic record, it would be nice to tackle one of the bigger hits.  So yeah, I sat down and mapped that whole thing out on acoustic as a bed track and we just when from there.

And then the third track I wanted to talk about was Say Goodbye To Hollywood, then and now. Highwire Daze is based in the Los Angeles area and I was wondering if you have any connections to the Los Angeles/Hollywood area?
We certainly do Ken. My brother Jim – our relationship with Los Angeles started in 1986/87. We chose a famous producer to do one of our records Wildest DreamsKeith Olsen whose done mega records – and we went down there and had him produce us. We were living in England at the time – Michael, my brother and myself – and that lead to Jim moving to Los Angeles. We actually made a studio in his ranch house on Burbank there – and then when he moved out, he built a regular studio right beside Sound City in Van Nuys there. Jimmy built a full-on studio there for 25 years – and we recorded every Saga record in Los Angeles from 1987 to 2005. I spent a lot of time in your area Ken.

And tell me about the Say Goodbye To Hollywood song then…
Okay, well that song was sparked – once again we were in Jim’s studio in Van Nuys. We were hired by Stephen J. Cannell to do songs in his upcoming show Cobra – which ran 22 episodes and was not a hit. The album we did called Steel Umbrellas was on the back of this TV show. It was kind of a different record for us. Anyway, Goodbye To Hollywood was one of the songs and that was going to go into the show too. That was about all I could say about it. That was the sign of the times, the TV show and all that kind of stuff. It didn’t mean I wanted to Say Goodbye To Hollywood. (Laughs) Because I love it down there. It’s like 10 degrees up here right now in Southern Ontario…

Have you managed to play any live dates at all during the pandemic?
No. I had an offer from Quebec City to do a show and then the Covid numbers went crazy – up and down and up and down. At one point we were going to have this beautiful theater and we could have had maybe 300 people in the theater and then do a sort of small pay for view, put it on the net show. I was sort of working on that for a while. It just fell apart – their numbers went crazy up there with Covid and no one was going to be allowed in. Plus, the fact that Mike Sadler – our singer – Michael, he lives in Missouri in the States and he couldn’t get over the border – so that kind of shut that down. We’re all kind of in that mode, until everyone gets vaccinated or whatever is going to happen here.

You announced a few upcoming shows. What are you looking forward to the most about these Out Of The Shadows tour dates and do you think that they’re going to happen?
In June? Yeah, we’ll your guess is as good as mine. I got a call from our tour manager a couple of days ago – tickets are selling really well and that makes me nervous – happy at the same time but it’s in this world – right? I’m told that the Norwegians are urging for shows to go back on and all that. After all this time I just don’t know. But I am going with the flow. If we could do it, it would be great – but we’ll see.

What do you think has kept you so passionate about Saga since 1977?
It’s been like a family business with Jim and myself – with brothers – we played when we were very young as kids – we went into various bands and all that sort of stuff and ended up starting Saga. And hell or high water, we were hellbent on making this into something. And once you’ve put so much time into it – depending on if everyone is still getting along and all that stuff – I didn’t see any reason in discarding something like that. With Saga, I’m very fortunate – we’ve been playing original music my whole life. For me, it’s better than going off and playing other people’s songs. I haven’t done that. This has more satisfaction.

Photo Credit: Alexander-Mertsch

What do you think has made you and Michael Sadler work so well together after all this time?
Well, I’ve known him forever. I met Mike when I was 13 years old or whatever. He was around. Mike and Jim were in a band called Truck – it was a cover band doing Genesis and Gentle Giant and all this. Up here in the clubs you could play Monday thru Saturday night, week after week after week – it was so healthy for bands in the 70’s. You weren’t making a fortune, but you were making enough money. You were playing every night and it was in a world where everyone liked going out to bars and seeing bands. So yeah, it was really healthy. And then comes the 80’s and everything starts shutting down, you know. Different generation don’t like to go out to bars anymore to see bands and all that. But Michael, I’ve known him forever and it works.

Do you still keep in touch Rob Moratti? I understand you’ve actually played on some of his solo albums.
Yeah, I speak to Rob still. I’ve played one solo on one song per record. He did one of my favorite Saga records, The Human Condition.

What do you think about The Human Condition in retrospect – the one Saga record without Michael Sadler on lead vocals?
I love it! When Michael (briefly) left the band, I spent the entire year, day after day, right up to New Year’s Eve – first of all, I had to find a singer – and I could not find another Mike Sadler. Michael’s got his own voice and stuff. So, I gave up looking for that. Basically, I just wanted to find a great singer – and the band was going to change a bit of course because Michael wasn’t there. And I wanted to make sure it was really good – and boy, I never worked harder in my life I tell you. I’m very happy with that record. I like all the songs on it very much. Rob did a fantastic job!

Are you involved with any other projects outside of Saga?
I had been in the past – 15-20 years ago I put out a couple of solo things that were okay. I’m involved with something right now, but I can’t really talk about it – I’ll see where that goes. But mainly Saga. But it’s the biz – it still works – it still draws in (many) people and it works.

Any chance of any brand-new Saga albums coming up?
We’re talking about it. No set date or anything like that, but there are discussions going around about doing another record like that. And I’m getting a lot of requests to do another acoustic record too – and tour acoustically too!

What do you hope 2021 brings for Saga overall?
I hope the world gets healed and we get back to business and all that. Good will to everyone really. Saga is an endless thing – it’s the Saga story forever!

Do you have any messages for Saga fans out here in the States?
I’d like to say from the bottom of my heart that we miss you. It’s been a long time since we’ve played for you. We’ve had a lot of requests on the Internet and stuff like that. We’ve had a lot of challenges too in being able to secure shows there, but I’m still going to keep trying. We’re still looking around for promoters – not at the moment because of Covid. But we hope to see you soon.

Symmetry by Saga is now available worldwide via earMUSIC!

Current line-up
Michael Sadler – vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizer, drums (1977–2007, 2011–present)
Ian Crichton – guitar, synthaxe, banjo (1977–present)
Jim Gilmour – synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, clarinet, saxophone, harmonica (1980–1986, 1992–present)
Mike Thorne – drums, electronic drums, vocals (2012–present)
Dusty Chesterfield – bass, keyboards, Moog synthesizer (2019–present)

(Interview by Ken Morton)

Saga on Facebook

Skip to content