by Mark Kadzielawa

Ian Crichton has a lot to be happy about. His long running band, Saga, is back with a new singer, and a great new record. The new face of Saga is now fronted by Rob Moratti. Moratti replaces Michael Sadler who sang with Saga since its inception. Sadler quit Saga after 30 years behind the microphone for personal reasons. This was a big change in the Saga camp.

The remaining members had no doubt about the future of Saga, and quickly began the search for the new vocalist. Toronto’s Rob Moratti was the answers to their prayers. The former singer of Final Frontier was able to fill the void left by Sadler.

Saga released The Human Condition. It’s a first record showcasing Moratti’s talents. The Human Condition provides a fresh start to an already established band. The band prevailed, and the reports are positive. Saga’s fan base accepted the new incarnation of the band.

Guitar player, Ian Crichton, talks about the recent changes, and shares the excitement of re-making Saga.

When Michael Sadler left the band was there ever a time you felt like giving it all up?

Ian Crichton: Well, there was no thought of stopping at all. It was little bit shocking at first. Michael probably thought the whole thing was gonna fall flat on its face because the world evolves around him. But it’s not the case at all. The actual fact of the matter is that may brother and I, and Jim Gilmore have written every single note of music since the early 90s. We’ve written every album. And we covered the lyrics and melodies two, so Mike only came up with half the lyrics and melody in the past 18 years. No music. We had a great chance to make it happen again. We were thinking to ourselves it’s a shame we didn’t do this like 15 years ago, really. It makes a little harder after 30 years, but the at the bottom line we thought if you make a really good record, and if you really believe in yourself, then what the hell. There is a lot of great singers out there. We had to take our chances.

You’ve mentioned that you regret not parting with Sadler 15 years ago, was there any friction in the band back then?

We could’ve done it back then. It just would’ve made it a little easier. Our new singer does not have a lot of live experience, but he has a lot of recording experience. He’s only 5 years younger than us. I mean we just came back from playing Europe, and the reactions were great. We love his voice, and it was great to see how we developed as a live band. The difference between the first and the sixth show was night and day. Rob is doing a great job.

How did you go about finding the new vocalist, and how many candidates did you go through?

It took about a year to do that. There were many candidates. We posted two of our hits on our site for people to download, sing to, and upload to our site. About 40 people did that. Some of them were really good, and some were just funny. We found really good people through studios, people we know, and just word of mouth. We narrowed it down to about six singers after eight months. There was a guy from San Diego, a guy from Rochester, guy from Montreal, and Toronto. In addition, we considered a female vocalist. There was a girl named Niki from Finland. She was great she sang all the old songs amazing. You wouldn’t believe how good she was. It was really a toss up. We did an audition at Metal Work studios in Toronto last March. We had the six singers fly up, and as it turned out Rob from Toronto won the day. He was great, just perfect for us.

Were there any special requirements you had in mind when selecting a singer?

Well, we pulled a variety of the songs from our catalog. We pulled like six or seven songs from ballads to heavy songs to whatever. We wanted to see the range and the character of the people singing. We did the auditions with all old Saga songs; no new tracks were used.

What made Rob Moretti be the one?

Well, he just won the day. We loved his voice.

As far as being matched personality wise, how did that work out?

That’s worked out fine as well. We’re not quite the same people. We are much more used to being on the road, and Rob is not. So we’re little bit more crusty than Rob. Rob’s an Italian and he likes his luxury. He likes his hotels, and the rest of us are road dogs.

With the new person coming into the band, how did it affect the dynamics of the group?

It affected them in a good way. We really love Rob’s voice, and he just fit like a glove. Dynamically it was perfect. We had to work on the live performance, but it’s really good now.

When you wrote the new songs, did you need to change anything to fit Rob’s style?

I’m used to writing songs with Michael for 30 years. We would write to whole album, take it back to Los Angeles to record. And I would hear him sing the songs. With Rob, I would usually send him a piece of music I’ve written. He would work on that, add his vocals, and send it back to me. He’s got great recording gear at his place, so when he sent his vocals back it sounded like finished product. It was amazing. I was hearing vocals right away on the sketch ideas. Which was real nice, when it came to the recording. For guitar solos it’s nice to know what note he is ending on or starting so I can play the proper thing coming in which was not the case in the past.

When listening to the new record, it really feels like a new band.

It is, in a way. It’s us with a new singer, and that does make it feel like a new band. After 30 years of doing the same thing, we just kept doing the same thing. And you couldn’t really help it. Each record comes out, and some were better than others. But, we made no real changes throughout that time. Now, with the new singer coming in we had the good reason to go ahead and implement many changes. That’s what was gonna happen with the new singer coming in anyways. We tried changing styles in the past, but it never really worked with the audience. It comes from being in a band for so long. You want to try new things all the time.

When you are around for 30 years your fans have certain expectations from you. How did they react to this big change?

Surprisingly, they reacted fantastic. It was all little weird at first before anyone heard anything. There were all kinds talks going on. Which kid of worked for us anyways, it got them talking. So when the album finally came out the reactions were great. I mean I haven’t seen a bad review yet.

So, where do we go from here?

We try to work on touring Canada and United States for the first time in years. We had our ground covered in the 80s, but the 90s were not good for us in terms of record deals and promotion, so we mostly covered Europe. Things are changing for us. We got new representation, and they are working us like crazy. We want to play anywhere at this point.

Do you find the Internet working out for you in spreading the word around?

Well, I think it’s great in terms of getting the information out there. The downloading of music is another thing. As soon as that started to happen most of the band went to half sales or two thirds of sales they used to have. Which really slows down the business when you are in the band. The information part is really fantastic, but I don’t really go to any of our forums.

I don’t really get the downloading thing, there is nothing like being able to hold a record in your hand when you are listening to.

The record business was healthy back then. I mean if you want the record, you go and buy it. I mean I’m a great believer the records should be properly priced too. I’m in a little bit argument with our record company right now. They released our new record here, and it’s selling for $22.00 which I think is overpriced. I strongly believe the price of $15 or $14 is just fine. Especially in the times we are now. Don’t go overprice the record when there are downloads. Give people incentive to buy it. There is not much profit but that’s OK, that’s fine. Don’t overprice it to the point where nobody is going to buy it. I wouldn’t want to go and buy a record for $22 bucks. I’m trying to fix all that.

How do the old songs sound when you play them now with Rob singing?

They sound great. That was the tricky part of getting the new singer. We needed someone who could sing the old stuff really great. That’s t where Rob shine out. He sings it amazing. Once we got that down, it was time to do a new record. We are not changing anything in the old songs. They stay very close to the original versions.


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