He was known for that snarl and sneer. A hellraiser on stage who rocked hard, played hard, and drank hard. Prolific, he recorded and released 11 albums in 22 years with four different bands and won a smattering of vocalist of the year awards.
“If I could,” he lets me in on a secret, “I’d do more records.”
They say that you can’t keep a good man down. Indeed. And we are in for a treat because we’re in the midst of the second act of the life and career of Basti Artadi.
After battling a brain tumor and a health condition that could have prematurely ended his musical career, if not his life, he owes his return to an iron-clad will power and determination.
And he let me in on another secret: “The music, man. It keeps me going. No music. No life.”
“What started me down my present path in music is my health condition,” elucidated Artadi. “I remember the afternoon my doctor told me what my inevitable outcome would be. He just said it -- mouthing words through pressed lips that were stretched as far right as possible -- rather nonchalantly to my face like it was nothing: ‘Eventually your mouth is gonna move to the side of your face and your gonna talk like this, ‘hmmmph, hmmph hmmph.’”
One side of Artadi’s face wasn’t working. As a result, the muscles on the other side were pulling the other. Talking became difficult. His morale eroded but he quickly pulled himself up.
“And that wasn't the scariest part, man,” continued Artadi. “The scariest part was he couldn't give me a time frame. It could happen at any moment. It could be quick or it could take years. And I remember thinking, ‘Damn, this is the end? You mean, I won’t be able to sing anymore? And with the tumor, will I have another thing to worry about?’ I walked out of that office with a big cloud over my head but after a bit of thinking, I decided I was gonna do as much music as I could -- genre be damned! As long as it’s good music I’m game. I want to make sure there’s a ton of music that I will do. You know that musical tic tic boom? That’s literally me everyday.....”
Post-surgery, Artadi is able to smile now. “I have a lot of movement in my face. I can feel my mouth move back to the center. And if I keep practicing, I can smile without having to clench my teeth. I don’t slur when I speak (and thank God for that because people thought that I was drunk all the time). So the small favors are all good.”
Artadi has retained his sense of humor. He knows he has beaten the disease for now and he has a new lease on life. With it comes a greater appreciation for everything.
When Wolfgang recorded “Acoustica” in 2000, it set in motion a desire to explore new musical frontiers. That live album by the hard rock band was recorded with acoustic guitars and a toned down sound. Two songs on the album -- “Center of the Sun” and “Aquarius” -- featured the UP Singing Ambassadors.
“That year, I began to think about doing other music but it it’s time,” thought Artadi. “I pegged myself in a hole for so long. I can’t keep singing like it is 1995 (when Wolfgang’s first album came out) I actually don’t think I should be doing that anymore. Why am I saying, ‘no’ when I should be saying ‘yes’ to everything? It isn’t about the genre. It’s about good music that pleases you and others. Good music is good music.”
“I don’t have time to listen to people who should peg me as ‘that vocalist from Wolfgang.’ If I listened to everybody, my career would be even more twisted that my face. Some would say, ‘Ah, you should be playing or singing stuff like the first Wolfgang album. My response is, ‘Then why don’t you play the first album?’”
Artadi paused. Sucked some air in. The passion hasn’t dissipated one iota.
“Why don’t you hop aboard my bus as I start this new journey?” asked the singer.
The bus has seen stops with Basti Artadi and the Nice Ones, the Jazz Bastards, and Plan of Fools. All departures from the hard rock sound where he first made a name for himself.
Of the three, the Nice Ones is the outfit with a rock bent. The other two showcase Artadi’s tastes and range.
“You take a look at what guys like Raimund Marasigan and Ely Buendia are doing and they are so totally different from the kind of music where they first made a name for themselves,” pointed out Artadi.
The Jazz Bastards were inspired by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox where contemporary songs were re-arranged with a swing, jazz, or lounge music bent.
Plan of Fools is a super group that includes Rommel dela Cruz (Freestyle/Barbie’s Cradle), Marco del Leon (Paramita/Reklamo), Bea Lao (General Luna), Kim Lopez (Trinidad), Gabba Santiago (Tom’s Story), Louie Talan (Razorback), Tin Virtucio (Kosmikskala), and Princess Ybanez (Rouge). No, the music isn’t alternative but shockingly totally left of center from anything any of the individual members have done during their careers or with their respective mother bands.
“It’s country and folk-themed,” admitted Artadi with a chuckle. “You didn’t see that coming now, did you?”
“It was Bea’s idea and well, it’s something completely different. Really? Did you ever think you’d see a master bassist like Louie Talan playing the banjo? I am excited about the work we are doing. There’s a lightness to the music we are producing.”
This coming June 15 and 16 at the Globe Auditorium, Maybank Performing Arts Theater, BGC Arts Center, Artadi will be performing in a unique show titled, “Three In One: Perfect Blend.” Davey Langit will perform contemporary pop music while Lara Maigue will showcase classical music. Closing out the show will be Artadi.
“I think the cool thing about the show is that you have three different types of genres,” pointed out Artadi. “If the people in the audience listen to only one kind, we are hoping they will develop an appreciation for the other types. And that’s how you grow and expand the music, man.”
“The music scene today – if we’re talking about artists making music and the creativity levels – well, that’s off the roof! Whew! But in terms of people flocking to shows or even buying albums, that needs improvement. You need someone or some band to give it a push. It needs something to come along and jump start it again.”
Is that the Nice Ones or the Jazz Bastards or even Plan of Fools?
“No, man. I am not rock and roll’s savior or even the Pinoy music scene. I am just a man making music. It’s my life.”