Saga's Michael Sadler: "I try to be a mix of Peter Gabriel and Freddie Mercury"

Portrait of Saga's Michael Sadler against an orange background
(Image: © Mark Robert Halpe)

Where’s home?

An undisclosed location in the States. I’m at my sister’s place in Ontario at the moment as Saga have got some shows up here.

Your earliest prog memory?

It’s a vivid one – the drummer in my first band came back from Toronto with Gentle Giant’s Three Friends on vinyl. My mouth was on the floor. I recall saying, “I don’t know what this music is, but I want to do that!”

Your first prog record?

I had to have my own copy of Three Friends, and then the floodgates opened. I discovered Yes and Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sealed the deal for me.

The first prog gig you attended?

Gentle Giant again! In Toronto’s Convocation Hall, 1974. Their musicianship was incredible and they made the music entertaining to watch. They were supporting Wishbone Ash, but we didn’t want to lose the memory of Giant, so we left before they came on.

Favourite piece of technology?

We use X Keys on stage to trigger sounds from our laptops. They’re these paper-thin keyboard things which are really useful, and look amazing.

Your prog Mastermind subject?

I’m interested in so many things, but I pull myself back from knowing too much about any one thing. I just like what I like, and try to keep it that way.

Favourite prog venue?

The best venue for a prog show is a theatre, rather than a club or arena. I saw Dream Theater in the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in LA: it sounded fantastic and the surroundings suited the genre.

Outside of prog, what are you into?

I love movies: intelligent sci-fi like Inception, the Marvel and DC universes, and I’m a big Tarantino fan. And I got into NFL football in the mid-80s. For some reason I gravitated towards the Miami Dolphins and have been going through agony ever since!

What do you collect?

Memories, and coffee mugs. I always bring one back from every territory we play.

Any guilty musical pleasures?

I really appreciate well-produced, slick pop songs. I know a lot of it’s contrived, but every once in a while a good one emerges. I used to be a prog snob, but my horizons have broadened since.

Who’s your all-time prog hero?

Peter Gabriel has been influential, both musically and in the way he approached the role of frontman. Live, I try my best to be a hybrid of Peter and Freddie Mercury!

Your last prog purchase?

The David Barrett Trio’s first [self-titled] album. They supported us in Toronto three years ago. I was so impressed I’m recording an album with them at the moment!

What was the last prog gig you got to see?

Any of the shows I saw on our last Cruise To The Edge. IO Earth come to mind – they were good.

Ever had a prog-related date?

No – female prog fans aren’t that plentiful! My wife’s not really into music. She just likes what she likes, and because of that, she’s actually a great barometer for my writing.

What’s the most important prog song for you personally?

Close To The Edge sprang to mind immediately, or anything off that album.

Who in the prog fraternity do you call for a good night out?

I’m a very boring person in my private life, but if I ever did, it’d be [Saga keyboardist] Jim Gilmour.

Which prog musician would you most like to work with?

I’d love to do something with Peter Gabriel, really just to watch his process and see how different or how similar it is to my own. I think we’d come up with something fairly cool.

Which prog music would you play to get yourself into a good mood?

I hate to come back to Gentle Giant, but maybe Octopus or The Power And The Glory. That night on stage, they looked like they were having so much fun. I can relate to that.

Who is the best prog artist you’ve ever seen live?

Moon Safari come to mind. Again, that was on a Cruise To The Edge. Here were five guys, all really good-looking, and who can all sing and play their instruments like virtuosos. A Swedish Gentle Giant!

Can you recommend a good read for Prog readers?

My wife introduced me to Dean Koontz – he writes very cinematically. I just loved his Odd Thomas series.

Your favourite prog album cover?

In The Court Of The Crimson King is so iconic. The first time I saw it, I thought, “My God, what is this?!” And any of Roger Dean’s surreal landscapes – Tales From Topographic Oceans is beautiful.

What are you up to at the moment?

We’ve got the new live album out, Live In Hamburg, which shows where Saga is at this point in time – there’s a high level of energy and fun in the band at the moment. Also, I just played my first show with the David Barrett Trio and I’m recording the vocals for our album with [former Rush producer] Terry Brown. It’s a marriage made in heaven.

See Saga’s website for more.