An interview with SAGA's Jim Crichton !

Date: November 2, 2004
Location: De Boerderij
City: Zoetermeer, Holland
Interview by: Clemens Steenweg

Very relaxed and signing a stack of flyers with the 5 members of SAGA on it, Jim Crichton, SAGA's bass- and keyboardplayer, sits in an old chair in one of the many rooms in "De Boerderij". The third concert of the European Network-tour is about to begin, but first he's got time to do another interview. After 27 years it's child's play, but nevertheless he takes his time to talk about anything what has happened over the years.
Holland has a special place in SAGA's heart because of the first acquaintances, and to say in his own words: "Here, people were singing the songs!" Now that isn't a surprise for SAGA anymore: just put your mike towards the crowd and they'll sing along! Word by word!
And ending with a message to the American TV-Networks, SAGA tries to wake up people, only sitting in front of their TV-screen!

Hope it'll work!
CS: Holland was one of the first European countries that bought and played SAGA-albums. Was it a surprise for you in the beginning, that this tiny little country did some groundbreaking work for SAGA in Europe?

JC: Absolutely! We came over with Styx the first tour, we played Paradiso (Amsterdam, CS) I think, and we were totally amazed, cause we hadn't played very many big shows before. The only big show we ever played before was Puerto Rico, before we came here, so it was much bigger venues, and people were singing the songs. In Canada generally they don't sing along, even if they like it they just don't sing, but here they sing! And it was a real shocker for the first time to hear them singing the songs. We didn't expect that!
CS: Last June 13th you played the Dutch Arrow Rock Festival. How was it to be part of a line-up with pure Top-World-Rock acts?

JC: It was great! It was a good show, I mean just a great gig! I wish we had done it before!
CS: Can you say that SAGA is more a liveband than a studioband?

JC: It's both, you know! I think everybody still really enjoyed making this album (Network). Everytime we make an album we do it slightly different just to keep it different, but this time we decided to do it more the old, old, old way, you know, less computerstuff and we recorded it on analog tape. I was out there with the razorblade cuttin' up the tape, so it was pretty funny! I think it makes it a punchier record: drums and bass and guitars always sound better on analog tapes! Most bands can't even effort to do it, they just have to make the album in like three days so they just do it on the computer! They cut everything up and they're done!
CS: Well, in that case I have another question about the analog days: you have a partnership with KORG nowadays, and you have the best of the best in synthesizer-equipment. Some 27 years ago SAGA played its first gig in “the analog days” in Cambridge, Ontario. Can you remember what kind of analog gear you had those days?

JC: All Moog! Everything was Moog, and some weird old Hohner pianets, and a String-machine, I don't know what it was called. We had 2 PolyMoogs, 2 MiniMoogs, a MicroMoog, a MultiMoog, a Moog-drum, Moog Taurus bass-pedals, a Stringmachine, I think that might have been a Roland String Machine. In fact we probably didn't have that at the beginning, I don't think they had made those yet! When Mike (Michael Sadler, CS) and I wrote the first songs there were no keyboards that would play polyphonic, so when we wrote "Humble Stance" and everything, we played the chords on tape-recorder one note at a time and made this music that was impossible to play, and then Moog came out with the PolyMoog and saved us, haha!

CS: You had some organisation-problems during the 25th anniversary DVD-concert in Bonn, 2002. Did you ever expirienced more problems of that kind?

JC: Mmm! I'm sure we've had more problems at different times, but that was just a weird situation: we hadn't played for exactly 12 months, so we were a little "rusty", and we needed really a lot of rehearsal, and then our rehearsalplace burned to the ground, so they put us in a room as this big (the interviewroom is about 3 by 3 meters!!, CS) playing like this for 4 days and it was just horrible, so everybody was pretty nervous for that show! We wanted to be in a room where the stage was set up and you could get used to the whole being-on-stage-thing before you go out and play to 8,000 people and have cameras everywhere! So, to go from that little tiny room to that big stage was really weird, and not playing for a whole year!
CS: But it went well in the end?

JC: I think so, yeah!

CS: SAGA was the first Canadian band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, in Budapest, Hungary. With what kind of thoughts and feelings you went over there?

JC: I didn't really know what to expect but I remember that show was an amazing show. From a press-standpoint we had to do like giant press-conferences and I remember specifically some of the questions they asked us. They would ask us what I thought were really silly questions and then people would tell me why they would ask them! One lady stood up and said: "Is it true that when you go in the recordingstudio, you record, and you're the only band in the studio and stay in there for as long as you want?" And I went: "Yeah!" (Haha.) "You know, as long as we can effort it to we stay in there a couple of months in the studio" and then I could see everybody writing and writing and writing and I asked the interpretor and I said: "What's up?" She said: "She's asking you this question, she knows the answer but they can't write this down unless you would say it, and they want you to say it because the bands in Hungary have to record 3 or 4 bands in every day in the studio!", so you get like 3 hours to record and then you have to pick up all your equipment and then another band comes in and another band comes in! It's horrible for the bands from Hungary to record like that, so they wanted to tell everybody that outside Hungary you don't have to rush, you know like she said, you can sit in the studio for a whole month if you want to! That was very strange questions, I couldn't figure out what was going on. And we had the ambassador from Canada there, everything was all very important!

CS: Not only keyboards always played a major role in the music of SAGA, there’s also the guitar that is a very important instrument, as well as the voice of Michael Sadler. Is it difficult to find a balance between those three in the songs?

JC: No, not anymore. I mean, I know if I write a certain kind a song I can almost hear what Ian (Crichton, CS) is gonna play, and I think on the new album it's been some surprises, it's been a couple of songs answering that I didn't expect, like "If I Were You", Ian wrote all those beautiful chords for that, so he's trying different stuff now.

CS: How difficult it is for you to come with new ideas, in other words: what is your inspiration to write new songs?

JC: Well, we usually use the same process: this year February and March everybody stayed at home and we blocked those out for writing, and then in April everybody came to Los Angeles and we had about 60 or 70 small songs. And I told everybody unless you really think it's a great song don't finish it, just write 2 minutes, so we have the basic feeling for the song. And then we all sat down for a couple of days to listen to 70 little songs, made notes on which ones felt really cool, and then we started rehearsing and arranging them. Rehearsing for about a month, and then we went in the studio for about 6 or 7 weeks, and we're done.

CS: Wouldn’t you do something completely different for a change? I mean, for example, making an album that one cannot recognise as a SAGA-album?

JC: We've done that a couple of times and we get really the shit beat out of us if we do that, yeah! In fact, most people don't know it but the album "Steel Umbrellas" was made for a TV-show, and the music had to be different because it was for a TV-show. We couldn't do dark classical music for this TV-show, so we kinda went in a different direction and had some fun with it. You know, some people love that album and some people hate it, and I think the same thing for "Pleasure And The Pain". It was just "grunge-central" so we thought we use less keyboards on the record just to make it a little dirtier sounding, just for fun. I know a lot of people hate that record too! With that it was the first time we ever get "booh-ed", we played a song of that and somebody booh-ed us. It was like weird, haha!

CS: "Network" is the 16th SAGA-album. What can we expect from SAGA in the near future?

JC: I don't know, you know, they just happen one at a time, and some of the songs on "Network" were inspired by all the insanity that's on television right now. In America especially the way they sell fear, and use fear to get everybody to do whatever they wanna do. I mean it's becoming funny to me now, so I think we wrote some kind of funny lyrics about how stupid it is that everybody's getting so afraid of nothing, but it seems to be way they're running the country, it's pretty strange......


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