JIM GILMOUR is the well-known keyboardplayer/vocalist of the Canadian band SAGA, but he recently managed to take some time off the busy schedule of the band in order to record his 2nd solo-CD. The particular album is filled with high quality progressive rock which is different from SAGA. Of course it was very interesting to do an interview with this highly skilled musician from Canada to talk about that new record, but also about SAGA and other things from his music career…

Let's get back to the beginning of your career, what were your first music experiences?
At the age of 9, I got my first instrument – the accordion. I competed in several accordion competitions in North America, where I once finished in second place. At 17, I began taking lessons and practicing the piano and the clarinet. Around the same time, I also enrolled in the Faculty of Music program at the University of Toronto, and attended opera school.

Although you joined SAGA in 1981 as their main keyboard player, the band already had a huge following in especially Germany, did you feel that back then, because joining a band which already had a lot of success must have been hard, as to deliver the demands required in keep it successful, because if you form your own band you can built it up much easier and be part of the band, so didn't you feel like an outsider?
I never felt like an outsider. We all got along from the beginning. In fact, I was writing music and collaborating with the guys as soon as I joined. If anything, I was very excited, curious and scared to death - all at the same time. I was the new guy, full of ambition, and ready to blaze a trail and set the world on fire. On my first tour I was nervous and shaking the whole time.

The late 70s and for you in the 1980s must have been good times for SAGA, being that successful, any funny stories to share with us?
I will never forget my very first performance with SAGA in front of a sold-out crowd at the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens - home of my favourite hockey team - the Toronto Maple Leafs. As you can imagine, I was feeling very nervous that day since my friends and family were going to be in attendance. Instead of taking a limousine to the show, I rode the public transit subway system (TTC). I also walked straight through the front entrance of the Gardens with all the fans to get to my dressing room.

The first time we played behind the old Iron Curtain is another great story. We were the first Canadian band to play in Budapest and I remember the show was on a very cold and dreary day. The armed military were everywhere. For diplomatic reasons, the Canadian Ambassador and many Russian observers were also around. Thinking back, I can recall the Government requesting SAGA to remove “Careful Where You Step” from the set list. At the time, the lyrics were considered too controversial. In a moment of defiance, we decided to play the song in support of the fans that came to the show. Here’s another funny story. I accidentally spilled shaving crème all over my passport, which distorted my photograph. Customs didn’t believe it was my face in the picture, and it was hours later when they finally cleared the band to return home.

It seemed like SAGA was and still is primarily a band for the European audience, because you never had a real break in the USA and how's the popularity in Canada?
We have been away from North America for too long and we are hoping that will change now that we are represented by InsideOut Music America. They are huge fans of the band with ambitious plan for us. Stay Tuned!

Today SAGA is still very popular in Northern Europe, so I guess you will focus on more albums and live performances for the European market in the future
yes trying to play everwhere.
Are you referring to Germany and Scandinavia? We have a very special relationship with the fans in those countries. We are like best friends who love to spend time together. The longer we are away, the more we miss each other’s company. Look for us on tour beginning in April 2006.

Can we expect a follow-up to 2004's 'Network' soon?
It is hard to believe we are working on our 17th studio album. Next year we celebrate 30 years as a band as well. For the first time since the 70’s, the new CD called “Trust” is being made in Toronto, Canada. Those who have heard a few demos say it reminds them of the older SAGA sound. I am very excited about this project.

Then we're going to talk about your new solo-CD, but first your first one from 10 years ago, I forgot all about it, please tell us about that record?
The process was basically the same as the one used for my second album “Great Escape”. I created the music on my keyboards first, and then I entered the studio to record the CD with guitars and drums. On “Instrumental Encounters”, the songs were influenced by the music and sounds of Vangelis and Yanni.

Was there a big demand for a follow-up CD?
Here is the reason for my new CD. It has been 10 years since the release of my first album “Instrumental Encounters” and I thought it was time to follow my heart and create the ultimate progressive keyboard album. From start to finish the “Great Escape” was my own concept and vision, incorporating all the music styles I love – classic rock, today’s sounds, jazz, folk and pop music.

Then please tell us all about the new CD and the stories behind the songs?
Modern technology allowed me to be at home and every day I sat at my KORG keyboards and let my imagination run wild. The creative process was pure escapism! The writing and arrangements were done there, and then I entered the studio to record the CD with guitars and drums. There were no pressures or deadlines so I was able to work in a relaxed and creative atmosphere. At the time I was listening to Pat Metheny, pianist Bill Evans and Thievery Corporation. I though my CD needed a theme so I turned to my camping and hiking experiences in the Canadian wilderness for ideas and inspiration. I worked very hard to create something special and I am extremely happy with the result. The feedback to-date has been overwhelming and I am already thinking about the next one.

All the players are exceptional artists who also happen to be my friends. You know Christian from the last SAGA album “Network”. He shared drumming duties with Roger Banks who can be heard on several projects engineered by Tom Lord-Alge. John Bianchini and I have worked on several projects together, and he also produced and played on my first solo CD. It has been my dream to work with a female vocalist, so I added Corrina Tofani’s angelic voice to several songs.

The album was released on Progrock records, one of the better quality labels in the USA, sort a INSIDE OUT MUSIC prog specialized label truly behind it's acts, how did you get them interested in releasing your new solo-CD?
You can thank the President - Shawn Gordon. The “Great Escape” is the album I have always wanted to make and Shawn and his team made it happen. Shawn is also a keyboard player so it was a natural fit.

Back to SAGA once again, because can you tell me about the following experiences/events:

- A gig to 75'000 fans at the world famous Nurburgring racetrack
I will never forget that show. It was in 1993 on our reunion tour in support of “The Security of Illusion” album. Elton John was on before us and during his performance the audience were yelling SAGA! SAGA! SAGA!

- in 1997 Canadian prime minister made SAGA National Cultural Ambassadors
That was a great moment too. We were celebrating our 20th Anniversary in Offenbach Germany when the show was suddenly interrupted. The band was called to the front of the stage and a SAGA fan from Canada presented each one of us with letters signed by the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Ontario. The letters acknowledged our many achievements and thanked us for sharing our love of music with audiences around the word.

- GNP project in the 80s
That was an interesting time in my career. Steve Negus and I wrote radio friendly songs and showcased the material on a limited tour of Ontario. The CD was released only in Canada on the Virgin Canada label. Sadly, Robert Bevan, the lead singer, recently passed away. Did you know that Sebastian Bach of Skid Row auditioned for the lead vocalist position?

- in early 90's writing music for an American TV cop show called 'Cobra'
At the time we were very excited to be working with one of the hottest producers in television – Stephen J. Cannell. We spent six months in the studio writing and recording music, but for some reason it just didn’t fit the directors vision for the soundtrack. In 1994, SAGA released “Steel Umbrellas”, a new studio album from those sessions.

Then finally, what are the plans for the future (Saga and yourself)?
Our focus is to continue improving our skills as musicians by creating new music and performing for fans everywhere. Upcoming is the DVD release of the “Worlds Apart” album - recorded live last year, a new studio album called “Trust”, and a tour in support of the new songs. As for me, I am always looking for new opportunities, especially in film. I would love to provide the soundtrack music to an independent movie or feature flick. Working with other artists, especially jazz musicians would be an exciting and rewarding experience.

Thanks for answering the questions, have a good career with your band?
Thank you! See you on tour with SAGA, or on the trails in the great Canadian wilderness.

More info at: http://www.jimgilmour.net  and www.saga-world.com