After seven albums together with Saga, Jim Gilmour and Steve Negus (also ex of Fludd) took advantage of a break the band was on in the mid ’80s to work on a side project, dubbed the Gilmour-Negus Project, or GNP.
They sat down with mutual friend Robert Bevan, who’d made a career as one half of The Raes and began writing material. “I saw Robbie playing in a club in Toronto one night awhile before Jim and I decided to do the project. We met a few times and hit it off, so he just seemed a great fit for the project,” Negus recalled.
They called on the talents of a bunch of friends over several months, including Jeff Jones (ex of Ocean, Red Rider), John Albani (Lee Aaron, Wrabit), Rob Barttiluci of Belinda Metz who played guitar on most of the album, and Richard Fortin on acoustic guitar.
With Negus handling production, the culmination was SAFETY ZONE, released in September of ’89 on Virgin Records. Negus noted that it seemed a no-brainer for the production chores to fall on his shoulders. “We were a little frustrated with the whole Saga thing at the time. And it just seemed natural for me to do the production. At that point I’d had my own studio (Blue Room Studios) of some sort or another since the early ’80s anyway.”
He added that while he’d generally enjoyed his time with Saga, there were limitations and expectations of what the band was supposed to sound like. That, plus the number of members in the group, inherently stifled their writing processes at the time, which is what made SAFETY ZONE so unique.
“We all worte parts together in different combinations, and we all wrote with each other separately and collectively, that’s what made the project so special – everyone’s input. I think the record is quite different from anything Saga had done at the time, or since. We used a lot more acoustic instruments than Saga ever did and it’s very song-influenced – quite different from a typical Saga CD. GNP was reactionary to what was going on with the Saga writing at that time.
Following the album’s release, they assembled a touring backup band and headed on the road, playing in Ontario and Quebec with Kim Mitchell, as well as a western swing through radio promotions, and Negus noted that they probably would’ve kept on with GNP, had Saga not come calling again.
After GNP’s demise, Rae moved to the Middle East, where he entertained US troops in Saudi Arabia for awhile, then moved to Thailand in 1999. There he opened up his own outdoor bar and started up a band to tour the country off and on. On December 26, 2004 Rae was among the many missing victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster when Phuket was devestated by flooding. He was located a short time later safe and sound and resumed work at the Tai Pan Club. However, on February 9, 2006 Rae succumbed to liver and kidney failure in a Phuket hospital at the age of 52.
After their 2003 album MARATHON, his 15th record with the group, Negus left Saga, and released DARE TO DREAM in ’07. He also stays busy in between production work at his Blue Room Studios, session work and other projects.
SAFETY ZONE (1989)
How Many Times
Love Must Be The Answer
Eyes On The Prize
In Your Eyes
Safety Zone (extended)