Saratoga - Biography


Saratoga started in August 1992 when Jerónimo Ramiro "Jero", well-known guitarist that recorded three albums with ÑU and founded in the 80's the group SANTA where he also recorded three albums, and Niko del Hierro, bass player that recorded with Jero in the year 1990 the disk "DOS AÑOS DE DESTIERRO" (TWO YEARS IN EXILE) by ÑU, who at that time was member of BARON ROJO, with whom he had recorded "DESAFIO" (CHALLENGE) in 1992, decided to create a band where they can show their real composition and playing style, getting closer to a different and more heavy metal sound, away of what they have been doing with their former bands where the music was other people's composition and it was also more hard rock in the case of BARON ROJO or more folk rock in the case of ÑU.

Starting from October of 1992 and once Niko left BARON ROJO, they began to search other musicians to consolidate the band, a drummer and a singer. The drummer position was quickly covered by Marcos Parra, a youth musician that began to be known in the circles of rehearsal places and music academies Jero knew him from his guitar teaching time in the ROCKSERVATORIO, where Marcos was led student.
Trio begins to rehearse and soon they composed songs that later would be part of SARATOGA's setlist, OJO POR OJO (EYE FOR EYE), SALVAJE (SAVAGE), CUALQUIER PRECIO POR LA PAZ (ANY PRICE FOR PEACE) and others. Unfortunately Marcos's decision of continue working with SARATOGA and playing in an orchestra to make some money making dance music turned very difficult to keep the schedules for the rehearsals and conflicted directly with the illusion and the future projects of Jero and Niko. Two months after joining SARATOGA, Marcos Parra left the band.

In December of 1992 and after listening many tapes of candidates, two new members joined SARATOGA: Antonio Dominguez coming from a group called MASSADA on the lead voice and Joaquin Arellano The Boy took the drummer seat after his group MURO confirmed its break up.

SARATOGA played their first concerts and they showed their music with a tape that had very good welcome between public and press. They play in small venues and also in front of large audiences supporting bands like MEDINA AZAHARA and RATA BLANCA.

But all that good expectations had a weak point: the vocals. Antonio Dominguez was a young singer with good presence on stage, but his voice was more closer to hard rock style like AC/DC than in the one that SARATOGA wants to define, more melodic and Heavy.

In May 1993 Antonio Dominguez is substituted by Fortu Sanchez, former singer of OBUS and an entire legend in the Spanish rock. In June the rehearsals began and songs like GRITA (SCREAM), OJOS DE MUJER (EYES OF A WOMAN), ERES TU (YOU ARE) and over all of them LOCO (CRAZY) were born. The new songs allowed to see a style that could be the right way for the band. Lately the band was called The Masters Meeting because the experience of all the members.

SARATOGA played in every place, with a lot of illusion and trusting themselves, playing the new songs and showing to the press a new tape that won several awards and that made LOCO (CRAZY) one of their most famous songs and very requested in their concerts.

Finally, in December 1994, SARATOGA signs with the company AVISPA that had in its catalog groups like MEDINA AZAHARA, ÑU, BARON ROJO, MURO, OBUS and others. SARATOGA thought that experience with bands of similar style was a guarantee for the future of them.

In October 1995 the first record "SARATOGA" was released. Recorded in a little more than one week, the band sounds compact and resolved, all the musicians are at a great level and the music is between the hard rock and songs with easy choruses (CUNAS DE ORTIGAS- CRADLES OF NETTLES-, ERES TÚ - YOU ARE- , etc.). The truth is the group path went very far away from the initial idea that Jero and Niko had, because they bet for a much more Heavy Metal sound.

However they hit the road with all the faith, playing many concerts all along Spain, even in festivals in front of thousands of people being the biggest rock show for those days and ended up appearing in some television programs.

But the truth is that the Spanish rock scene was quite different. The number 1 group was EXTREMODURO, and after them, PLATERO Y TU, REINCIDENTES, etc. For a band like SARATOGA that was worried to have a good technical level in their respective instruments and of making some harmonized melodies and tuned with the voices it was very difficult to go ahead, because that wasn't the style that was accepted, and the way was very slowly with the help of firmness and faith.

Amid this fight they decided, agreeing with the record company and the management office that while they got ready for the release a second record expected for March of 1997 a gap would be made and they would record a tribute to some Spanish heavy-rock groups: " TRIBUTO " (TRIBUTE). Bands like BANZAI, TOPO, ANGELES DEL INFIERNO and others which the members of SARATOGA had been part of like OBUS, BARON ROJO, ÑU, MURO y SANTA.

" TRIBUTE " was rehearsed during June 1996. At that moment Fortu was very far away from the rest of the band, on one hand, because his particular occupations that absorbed all his time, and on another due to the lack of spirit seeing that the things didn't happen as quickly as he would wanted to.
In October 1996 "TRIBUTE" was released and that same day Fortu decided to leave the band. It was necessary to react quickly and the group found the right substitute: Gabriel Boente, a talented singer, with a great vocal range with a lot of possibilities, ideal for the upcoming tour, where they would be playing songs that were sang by the best voices that never had the Spanish rock, male and female.
Although the tour went really well, Fortu's departure delayed timing a lot and "MI CIUDAD", the following album was in the stores seven months after that was thought, in October 1997.
As soon as it was released, MI CIUDAD was placed several days in outstanding positions in the sales list of AFIVE and demonstrating that SARATOGA, after "TRIBUTO", had bet to return to the more elaborated and risky songs, with a more heavy touch that in past times.
Songs like PERRO TRAIDOR (TRAITOR DOG), ROJO FUEGO (RED FIRE), the ballad LEJOS DE TI (FAR FROM YOU) or the title song MI CIUDAD (MY CITY) were transformed into anthems in the concerts and they are future reference for SARATOGA and for the Spanish rock.
The group continues going up step by step and playing live but the atmosphere inside the band, that in the beginning was very good, became strange and the coexistence of the members of the band was difficult mostly because they had different points of view regarding the band's life, from small details to important decisions. Everything concluded in December of 1998, with the departure of SARATOGA of Joaquin Arellano, drummer and Gabriel Boente, singer. Their decision was completely personal and voluntary and from that day the relationship with the band has been of great friendship.

The news of the departure of the singer and the drummer of SARATOGA were a great shock in the press. Most of them spoke about the dark future of the band, but while all wondered when the fatal news would be announced, Niko and Jero were in the recording studio testing possible substitutes to start again the engines of the most powerful of the battle ships.

By radio and press advertisings, musicians all over Spain found out that SARATOGA needed drummer and singer. They were asked to call a telephone number and then to go to the record company to pick up a tape with two songs to learn and play in the future audition. The two songs were SALVAJE y PERRO TRAIDOR.

By the middle of December 1998, four drummers were called for an audition. Although all of them had a high level, the one that played in second place highlighted clearly above the other ones. His name was Daniel Perez and he was found thanks to the school "PROGRESSIVE DRUMMERS" directed by Luis Garcia, reputed session drummer and who has played live with many bands like ÑU, SOBREDOSIS, RAMONCIN, etc. And he was a great friend of SARATOGA for years.

Daniel Perez was very well-known in the drummers world as member of a group of progressive metal called ECZEMA and mainly for his hability to mix with his instrument the three styles that he dominates: death metal, heavy metal and jazz-fusion giving a very personal touch that makes the band where he plays sound in a very different way.

Four hours after the test, Niko told Daniel Perez that he was the new drummer of SARATOGA.

For singer's position the things will go ahead with more calm, Niko nor Jero wanted to make the past mistakes again. They wanted not only a good singer, but someone that could assume the front position of the band on stage and his musical preferences needed to be similar to the rest of the band and mainly he needed to have desires of working hard.

They got more than 40 tapes from singers all over Spain and they decided to see first those that sounded better among those that lived in Madrid.

After picking up their respective tapes they fixed an appointment for two of them in the morning of December 22nd 1998. It was very cold weather and half Madrid citizens were sick with a cold. The second in the test, Leo Jimenez has a cold like most of the people in Madrid, and his voice was paying that. In spite of everything he made a very good impression, mainly in the ballad that he sang, "LEJOS DE TI".

Leo wanted to have a second audition because he was not very satisfied with his performance "he wasn't as good as he really could be", mainly because he was very nervous, because he had always dreamt of being the singer of SARATOGA. He was a great SARATOGA fan for years. Niko and Jero promised to contact him again once they had auditioned more singers and they could listen the tapes of the auditions carefully, because all of them were recorded.

The singer auditions went on, but no one of them really convinced the band. One day a letter for Jeronimo Ramiro was received in the record company. It was Leo that reminded the promise of a second test and also sent a cassette with three songs of a project in which he has sung called "AL BORDE", according to him, that three songs showed his way of singing very well. The truth is that Jero and Niko liked his melodic style and his voice with very high tones so he was called for a second and last test together with another finalist that also caused very good impression. The rehearsal was already carried out with Dani on drums and playing the whole group live. Leo memorized the letter of six songs of SARATOGA acting with the ease and security that only the big ones have.
A few days, February 13th 1999, Jero told Leo that he was chosen as new SARATOGA singer.The following step was to focus again in the rehearsals of the new songs for a fourth record. These songs were almost finished because Jero and Niko had continued working in them in spite of ignoring who would record with them.

By the middle of April of 1999 they started recording and two months later "VIENTOS DE GUERRA" (WINDS OF WAR) was finished.
The result is devastating, quick and overwhelming rhythms with wild and incisive guitars, an entire gift for the lovers of the real metal. Songs like VIENTOS DE GUERRA (WINDS OF WAR), SOLO UN MOTIVO (Only one motivation), MAS DE MIL AÑOS (MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS) and HEAVY METAL leaved the public amazed. The record quickly was placed in the first positions of the lists and everybody was surprised with SARATOGA because in spite of the successive line-up changes, they have known how to stay among the best Spanish rock groups.
In October of 1999 the group started a winter tour that took them to most of the Spanish cities, like Murcia, Barcelona, Irún, Salamanca, Pamplona, etc. Audiences had the opportunity to check live the power and the desire of SARATOGA's shows.

A big proof was the performance in the Festival VIÑAROCK 2000 where more than 5000 people sang the songs of the quartet from Madrid, being SARATOGA, as it was said in the specialized press, the best live act in the festival.
With the purpose of taking advantage of the good moment of SARATOGA, the group and their record company decided to record a live show to get the potential and the ease acquired in the tour recorded in an album. The recording took place in only one concert in SALA CARACOL of Madrid May 19 2000.

More than five hundred fans suffered impassive the suffocating heat of the venue without losing a second of the powerful performance of the band. The force of SARATOGA raised the audience to an ecstasy of Heavy Metal and the communication between the group and the public was very intense. Apart from some small technical problems, Jero, Niko, Leo and Dani were immense during the two and a half hours of the show. All the big songs of SARATOGA were played, all of them sang along fiercely by the public, plus some select versions of foreign bands played with the personal stamp of the great ship live.
In September 2000 the double live CD TIEMPOS DE DIRECTO was released. All the musical press was unanimous to say that the album showed the power and the truth of SARATOGA, and their decission because the live album was recorded in only one take.
In December was released METAL GODS a TRIBUTE to JUDAS PRIEST made by several Spanish bands. In that record SARATOGA played PAINKILLER.. SARATOGA's cover is probably the best in the album, with Leo showing that he is one of the biggest Spanish rock singers ever and that he's not very far away from the best singers in the international rock scene. Along with SARATOGA in the CD we can hear more Spanish rock bands like BARÓN ROJO, HAMLET, KTHULU, AVALANCH, SOBER, etc.

After all this great work all along the year SARATOGA started to gather prizes:

Heavy Rock nº 207 Tiempos de Directo number 1 in spanish CD list.

"EXCALIBUR METAL" prizes in 2000 poll from Los + Mejores magazine: Niko Best bass guitar player and Leo best singer.

HEAVY ROCK magazine poll, ROCKFERENDUM 2000:

JERO Best guitarist
NIKO Best bassist
LEO nº 2 in singers list
DANI nº 3 in drummers list
SARATOGA best live act

Leo guested as second vocalist in AVALANCH record "El Ángel caido" in the song "Las Ruinas del Edén".
While all this was happening SARATOGA were playing all over Spain, special mention to Viña Rock 2001 where SARATOGA was again he best band in La Oreja Metalica stage. Serious technical problems happened during the show didn't affect too much the spirit of the band. With their big stage presence and energy they made more than 7000 people enjoy the show of the best heavy rock band in Spain nowadays

After touring all the summer SARATOGA decided to stop and take time to record their sixth album before tour again in the fall of 2001. The new record was expected for February 2002.
The recording started on September 21 2001, SARATOGA entered the studio to start recording the drums of the new songs. During the next five months and using a new way of recording than in the past SARATOGA carefully added all the parts for AGOTARAS their sixth album and without a doubt their best recording.

AGOTARAS was released on March 1 2002 and the long time awaited record was acclaimed by the press and mostly by the fans that got the prize for their trust in SARATOGA. The next months will be on the road the band has signed many shows all along Spain, including some of the most important festivals.