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Ian Crichton on rediscovering his mojo with Six by Six – a power trio that offers the perfect platform for his blazing prog guitar style

Six By Six's Ian Crichton
(Image credit: Alexander Mertsch)

Ian Crichton explains that he “got a lot of mojo back” while recording the self-titled debut from Six by Six, the longtime Saga guitarist’s new collaborative project with keyboardist/bassist Robert Berry and Saxon drummer Nigel Glocker. 

Fans of the Canadian prog veteran can hear the proof in his effervescent playing, whether surging through melodic, shred-heavy runs in tandem with gospel choirs (Save the Night) or running roughshod on his whammy bar through a series of choice leads.

You could argue Crichton’s gleefully aggressive approach was a natural reaction to Saga’s last album, 2017’s Symmetry, which was a crystalline, acoustic reimagining of various hits from their five-decade career. Then again, Crichton suggests it’s been a lifelong quest to get as in-the-red as he is on Six by Six.

“To tell you the truth, I’ve been dreaming about this for years,” he says of now working in a guitar-forward power trio. “In the very early days of Saga – like the first three records – people were going, ‘where’s the guitar,’ [because] I was in amongst the keyboards playing a third harmony. 

“When we got to On the Loose, [Saga’s highest charting Billboard single, off 1981’s Worlds Apart] there was a lot of guitar happening, [but] it took [some] screaming and shouting to get up there. Still, Saga is a keyboard band; [Six by Six] is a guitar band.”

That Six by Six begins with a song called Yearning to Fly is fairly fitting, Crichton rising to the occasion on the chunky rocker with an uproarious swell of trills and clouds-bursting vibrato. 

Axology

GUITARS: Ernie Ball Music Man Silhouette and Ernie Ball Music Man Silhouette Special, 1964 Fender Strat, nylon- and steel-string Takamine acoustics AMP: 180-watt Diezel Herbert, Roland JC-120, 100-watt Soldano rack mount

That intense expressiveness is no Icarus-like folly, though, with Crichton’s style ultimately complementing the tune’s compact, prog-pop arrangement. He elaborates: “I like to play quick, but I really like things that make you feel: notes, melody and attitude. That’s what I try to get across with my soloing.”]

Primarily recorded at Berry’s Soundtek Studios in San Jose, album epics like Reason to Feel Calm and Battle of a Lifetime expertly bend and sway through ethereal synth-scaping, hard-edged waltzes and trem bar-finessed leads. Still, Crichton notes that he adopted a looser, off-the-cuff guitar aesthetic that differs from the “super precise” Saga catalog.

“I didn’t pay so much attention on this record to being clean, or worry about a string rattling,” he says. “There’s some noise in there, but it all adds to the ambiance – that’s where the mojo comes in, when you’re not worried about anything.”

  • Six by Six (opens in new tab) is out now via Inside Out.

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Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling (opens in new tab). This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.