Finding Basti Artadi

Hot on the heels of the recent WOLFGANG : PLUG & PLAY concert, the first-ever full concert in the country to be streamed on the internet live, WOLFGANG returns to headline the upcoming T5 ROCKFEST on October 15, 2010 at the SM Mall of Asia concert grounds.

Christopher Carlos (whose credentials include co-founder of rock club mecca SaGuijo) takes a closer look at the one of the most cryptic, mysterious figures on the Filipino rock scene. You can interact with WOLFGANG on their official facebook page Wolfgang : Philippines.

Chris Carlos: ItÆs no secret that WolfgangÆs songs (most obviously the early ones from the debut album) were very, shall we say, örootedö in feelings of anger, alienation and distrust. As the bandÆs lyricist, was this a conscious choice on your part? Do you find that singing about abstract emotions is ôeasierö than singing about everyday experiences?

Basti Artadi: Ya think? Hahahaàyeah. I was going through some rough personal stuff at the time so I put everything down on paper. Nothing was done with the intent of anything. It was all just me, pouring out my emotions on the paper that was in front of me. With regard to writing, I donÆt think anything is easy. It has to be honest and real and, s**t, in the end, it has to be good. I always try to make my writing as abstract as possible. That way, it can mean different things to different people.

C.C.: So do you think it is rubbish when people come up to you and say, ôYeah pareàI feel like I really know you from your lyrics.ö

Basti: I never get that. What I do always get is more of, ôYour lyrics meant something to me.ö Like in a personal manner. Which goes back to people interpreting my lyrics in a way that relates to them.

C.C.: In the late 90s, self-styled æcriticsÆ contended that other bands wrote about the ôteenybopper lifestyle,ö while you guys were there to sing about ôdark,ö or ôdementedö stuff. Why did you choose to go down that path? Would you say that you were (at the time) as a twenty-something ôgalit sa mundo?ö

Basti: I donÆt think it was a conscious effort, but I have just always felt that people tend to pay more attention when your topic is dark. Plus it goes with the music. I donÆt know but I canÆt really see myself singing about flowers with the music of ôBought and Soldö in the backgroundàhaha. Can you imagine? Hahaha!

C.C.: LetÆs talk about Æ98 û Æ99. Few will dispute that this was the moment when the Eraserheads started to fall apart and Wolfgang took ascendancy in our little pantheon. Do you feel that there was a reason why kids were choosing you guys? Was it just good timing or do you think we were all just angrier as the millennium approached?

Basti: I dunno. Did the E-Heads ever really lose their spot? I donÆt think so. Even after they broke up, they already had cemented their status in the history books. IÆm guessing that maybe kids were looking for something a little less accessible û- it was probably just good timing. A lot of what happens in this industry revolves around that. Although I wouldnÆt say naman that we reached that level of success where everyone knew our name. But I also think thatÆs a good thing. The best place to be is just under the mainstream radar where people know youàbut youÆre not on the level where their moms and lolas know you.

C.C.: ItÆs been said that the reason you left was that Wolfgang had peaked. WhatÆs the ôrealö story behind your decision?

Basti: Actually, it was because our record label had this plan for us to hit the States and see if we could do some damage there. They were gonna set us up in this house and weÆd start gigging. I just said, ôOkàwell, IÆll go ahead and meet all of you there.ö Mon (Legaspi û Wolfgang bassist) got his visa denied and everything fell apart. I guess thatÆs when we all had our ôtalkö and said, ôLookàif something ever comes up that warrants our getting back together, then weÆll do it.ö You see for me, personally, it just felt that there was nowhere left to go. We kinda had done it all and just kept returning to the same places and rehashing the same ideas. It became, ôWellàwe did that already so whatÆs the point?ö And then it would be, ôOKànow we have to release an album.ö And this was less than a year after releasing the last one and so on and so forth. It just got really hard to keep that momentum and still maintain a certain level of quality.

C.C.: When Wolfgang went into an informal hiatus, many people thought that it was the death knell for Pinoy Hard Rock/Metal. And yet you still have Razorback playing their brand of b**s-out Hard Rock. You have Queso and my beloved Greyhoundz keeping the torch you lit alive. Even Chicosci has made sure that the teenyboppers were listening to some sort of ôharderö music. Do you think Pinoy Metal/Hard-Rock will ever die?

Basti: I donÆt think musicàwhether it be Rock, Metal, Punk, etc. will ever die. It is ingrained in every one of us. Even if there isnÆt a single person who supports a musician playing a certain genre. As long as that musician is breathing, he will play that type of music because he loves itàit lives inside of him. And, man, the music that lives in you always has to get out.

C.C.: Do you still feel that same ôhungerö as in the early days? Do you still feel that you have something to prove? If not to others, then to yourself?

Basti: Every single time I walk onto a stage, no matter how big or small, itÆs a moment where I have to prove to myself and to others that IÆm worthy to be up there. Every single time I sing or write a song, it has to meet my expectations. Not just for the moment, but for the long run. I need to be able to play a song I wrote 3 or 4 years ago and still like it. Every single time I make an album, it has to be better than the last -- at least in my opinion. If you get on stage and youÆre not going to be great, then whatÆs the point? I donÆt need to chase the gold ring anymore, but I still have my personal expectations that I have to hit.

C.C.: Among the many songs that you and your bandmates have penned, was there any particular one that you were proud of?

Basti: We were always about albums. The album, as a whole, was the storyànot just the individual songs. Right now, as far as albums go, my favorite is ôVillainsö because it was the last one we did. And it wasnÆt the easiest to make. In fact, the odds were stacked so far in favor of that album being a total stinker that itÆs a miracle it turned out as well as it did, (in my humble opinion). But to be fair to the question, if I had to choose a favorite song, then it would be the first I ever wrote for the band that made the cut. ItÆs purely for sentimental reasons -- ôLeft Alone.ö Because thatÆs where everything began. Another favorite is ôHalik ni Hudasö because that was the first time I read Mon (Legaspi)Æs lyrics and realized he had a gift for writing.

C.C.: When I first got in touch with you, I made no secret that I thought the two greatest bands of the Nineties were the æHeads and yours. Tell me, does it bother you that, more and more, your two bands seem to be mentioned in the same breath? Does it piss you off that, in a manner of speaking, Wolfgang is considered the ôStonesö to the E-headsÆ ôBeatlesö?

Basti: Well IÆve never heard that before (the whole Stones/Beatles thing). But I think thatÆs cool. If someone compares you to the Stones, you take it. Noàwhy would it bother me? I actually like that band. IÆve got most of their albums.

C.C.: Finally, do you have any parting words for the Wolfgang faithful? People like me who have never quite forgotten your band and what it meant (and still means) to us?

Basti: I guess the only thing I can say is thanks for keeping the fire alive. And I hope to hear you screaming at the next shows. Ingat kayong lahat.

By Christopher A. Carlos
Images by Mayller Lopez