When you are about to meet a rock star, certain thoughts circle your brain: Is he going to be mean? Will he be mentally present? Will he be wearing black — or eyeliner? Is this going to be the most terrifying experience of my life? Just when we thought our time of worshipping our music icons have come to pass (we are, after all, in the age of social media superstars), we nd ourselves in some kind of rocker resurgence. Our icons, particularly those whose music we’ve vicariously lived through in the ‘90s, are teaming up with new people and churning out new songs. Basti Artadi, who was only recently caught in a social media misunderstanding, is one of them. Famously known for fronting Wolfgang (perhaps you’ve heard of them?), Basti is one of those so-called rock stars who have, whether carefully or unconsciously, remained enigmatic to the public. We know him for his gritty vocals and on-stage persona, yet we don’t hear of any off-stage antics or embarrassing screw ups, or even those stories from that friend-of-a- friend who’s met him. He’s kept silent, saving his voice for when he is singing — until now.
By now, the clarification has been made: Basti is well and able to sufficiently rock, mocking that benign tumor that’s causing the right side of his face to slack. However, it’s no reason to be less busy. Or even be a tad temperamental. For this interview, GIST went to his home and he opened the gate for us himself, something that’s atypical for a rock star. Rock stars don’t open gates. Rock stars sit on the porch and sip on some kind of beverage while a burly man wearing sunglasses waits at the door, screening guests. He is in a cheery mood — Basti, I mean. There is no burly man. “What do you want me to wear?” he asks. And while he was in a black shirt, he readily agreed to change into a white button-down, which immediately transformed him to Lord of the House. All the thoughts that circle one’s head before meeting a rock star disappear in his presence. He fusses over us and prepares the room, moving tables and chairs himself to accommodate our gang. Black shirt aside, he just seems like a regular guy who happens to be something of a music icon in the country. Still, none of us can say we aren’t remotely starstruck.
One would think a medical condition that would jeopardize your passion would be cause for repentance, at least from the so-called rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that we’ve all been convinced actually exists. You can credit Basti’s longevity in the business to the fact that this lifestyle wasn’t the selling point of jumping in — he really is, was and always will be just in it for the music.
“When you say ‘rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle,’ there’s this picture of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, where you’re doing drugs and then you turn around and you’re doing girls…. I never did any of that. I didn’t want to do that. For one thing, I’ve never been interested in drugs,” he says. “I’ve had too many experiences of friends who are dead or crazy now from it. I was scared to even try it because I was worried I’d get hooked. Whenever it was about music, it was always just music that I was interested in. As boring as that sounds.”
Still, he admits that his youth was not devoid of antics or angst. He was just as angsty as the next guy, growing up. “I did do a lot of stupid things, most of them I don’t remember. I jumped off a moving car. Tequila. I think once you get into your teens, you just have a switch that just makes you hate or question, or kind of pissed off at everything. It wasn’t an evil angst. It was just regular hormones. What was I so pissed off about? Girls. Goddamn. I don’t know if I was really angry at anything. It was just the usual not being satis ed with where I was, what I was doing, or not knowing what the hell I wanted to do with my life. And girls. (Laughs)”
Along with this maturity came a different outlook on the industry and the people in it. The usual bar scene would be like your typical high school cafeteria where the rockers, the semi-rockers, the baby rockers and the rock fans converge. This is where you might have found the younger Basti saying, “These guys, they’re not rock enough, f*ck them.” “Which is stupid,” he says. “The way you look at music and the way you look at your contemporaries, that changes, too. Now, everybody’s cool and there’s no wishing ill on anyone. I think it just comes with being a kid. You think everybody’s out to get you — and everybody is. I’m kidding. You mature and you grow out of that and you realize that our music scene is really small and we should be taking care of each other.”
The industry reciprocated this support when Basti posted about his condition on Facebook. “I realized a lot of people give a shit, which was really great. I didn’t expect that at all and I’m really grateful for it. I was also shocked because all the information was there, but some media out ts assumed something else and straight up reported it. But then I corrected it right away which was great, but I wish it didn’t have to come to that because I have some family abroad who thought I was dying. So that wasn’t too cool. But I can’t emphasize enough how thankful I am,” he says.
There’s also this thing that comes with realizing that you won’t have — for singers at least — your voice forever. Call it a renewed sense of urgency, or sense of purpose, or just an overall invigorated mindset when it comes to taking action: whatever it is, this Basti is doing it. He had just nished doing the musical, “American Idiot,” and is currently working on his solo project with Roboto, while getting ready for the rst gig of his new band, Plan of Fools.
“When I was younger I was very hesitant to do other things. It was rock or nothing. But then as I got older — and I guess that’s just the usual way it works — you become wiser with age. So then I started thinking, ‘Keep your
mind open. A good project is a good project.’ Then when I got this (points to his mouth), that just kind of emphasized it more. I went to the doctor two years ago and he had told me about the whole moving of the mouth situation and that I would eventually have a hard time if I didn’t have it corrected. So I thought, ‘Get as much of your voice on record, in case.’”
And while he is taking all these seriously, he’s not about to do it too much. “I went to the doctor last year and I think I’m scheduled next year for an operation. So hopefully, if everything goes all right, it should make that kontra. It won’t be like a regular mouth. It would be here (motions to his forehead). Todo pangit, huwag na lang,” Basti jokes. He jokes and it just makes him so much cooler.
SAME GUY, DIFFERENT TUNE
He calls himself a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” guy, and this attitude is re ected in the way he writes music. “There’s a big thing I do, I got it from Bob Dylan. It’s a style of writing called stream of consciousness where you just write what basically comes out. I do that a lot. There are times though when it’s really an effort to tell a story and put things down, but a lot of times I just go with that.
Sometimes, to tell you the truth, it does not make sense. Like, what the f*ck did I just write? But that’s the beauty in that. What your interpretation of something isn’t necessarily somebody else’s interpretation of that same thing. And that doesn’t necessarily make it a failure. If three people can listen to one thing that I’ve done and they get three different things from it, then that’s great,” he says.
Not oddly enough, it’s also this openness that led him to joining Wolfgang. He recalls the circumstances under which the band was formed: “The band got together not because of similar ideas or anything. We just had similar taste in music. We were four guys with a mutual friend, who was Miguel Ortigas, and we had approached Miguel at one point separately, saying we wanted to form a band. And he was like, ‘Why don’t you guys get together?’ We weren’t friends. We weren’t hanging out. I think we had given lists to each other of what songs to get ready,
and then we got into a room one day and it was just ‘Whoa, pwede.’ You can tell right away when you play together if there’s something or there’s nothing. And there was really something there.” He remembers — or doesn’t — playing a Black Sabbath song like Mr. Crowley or Bark at the Moon, and not having anything. “We didn’t even have a bass drum. The bass drum had a hole in it. We didn’t even have a vocal thing. I was singing through a karaoke. Good times,” he adds.
While he still has his favorites, now, it’s no longer rock or nothing. “The way I listen to music now, I’m just open to anything. I think I sing better now. Although I don’t have what I used to have. I used to have higher notes and the ability to say words really fast straight, like with Very Free. Now I can’t do it because this gets in the way. But I sing better now because I know how to sing. I know how to use what I have, that’s just because I’ve been doing it so long.”
That and he had two days worth of lessons at Yamaha. “It was terrible. You go there. The window was open and people are walking and looking at you. I never came back. Most of the things I know now, I do because, one, the shower, and two, actual singing.” He even does karaoke. His go-to songs? “Anything by the Eagles. The Lion Sleeps Tonight. A-ha, de nitely Take On Me, even though I can’t hit the notes. Usually the stuff you can’t do live, you just do it there because who gives a shit, right?” And Queen!
Far from being that angsty teen, the Basti now radiates with positivity. His current disposition: Steady. His priority: his twin daughters who just turned six last July. “That’s my main thing, just to make them grow up and not be sagabals in the world, not be useless,” he jokes.
On being a rock star in the literal sense of the word, Basti shared a most unusual anecdote, starring Piolo Pascual. “He had a running video the other day, and he was like ‘Out running this morning!’ And he’s wearing a ninja mask. That sucks, man. And it’s not at all like that for me, which is great. I’m walking in the mall and every now and then someone will come up and ask for a photo. I’m sure when Sara Geronimo walks in the mall, katapusan! Everybody and their moms would be like, “Si Sara nandito!” If it’s like that, then I wouldn’t like it. It’s just steady for me.”
When asked if it’s usually girls who ask to have a photo with him, he answers with a hard “No.” “It’s dudes, man,” shaking his head.
That’s the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for Basti, and it’s not a bad way to live — fanboys included.
(Photos by DENISE VIÑA; Sittings by COCO MACEREN; BTS by GELO LOPEZ)