Billed as the only Filipino rock band to enjoy mainstream releases in the USA and Japan, in their ’90s heyday Wolfgang became one of the biggest rock bands to emerge from Asia. They played in Dubai last November, but their set at the Tres Kalibre festival was cut short after the other acts over-ran; to make amends, the quartet are back with a headline gig at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday March 7. Ahead of the date, we spoke to 39-year-old frontman Basti Artadi.
We hear you had some problems last time you played Dubai.
Last time we were here we weren’t able to play a long set – only six songs, not even half the set – so we want to make up for it this time. There were other bands playing and we were the last, and the show ran out of time. We tried playing our songs really fast so we could do as many as possible. [Laughs]
Did you get much negative feedback from that?
That didn’t happen. But these are people who haven’t seen us in a long time, and it’s disappointing if they’ve paid money to see us – people will feel like we’ve short-changed them. So we came out and explained what happened.
After breaking up and re-forming, are you guys still a ‘gang’?
We never took the name as two words put together. Initially it was a joke: our old drummer’s name was Wolf, so we said ‘Wolfpack’. Somebody said ‘Wolfgang’ and what popped in was Mozart. Back then just getting a name was the hardest thing.
It’s been 20 years since you formed in Manila. What are you proudest of?
One of the things that stands out is our ability, after a hiatus of about eight years, to still keep going. When me and the guitarist [Manuel Legarda] started writing again we hadn’t talked or shared musical ideas for quite a while – after we came up with the first song for our seventh album, we felt we still had it.
Why did you guys split up in 2002?
We had already done the rounds and we didn’t feel as though we were growing. They were struggling steps: we’d put out an album and the record company would say, ‘Thanks, start putting out another one’.
From a personal level I didn’t want to keep it going – I thought: What’s the point? Now I’m proud of all those albums, but if it comes to a point where you just write a song and throw some lyrics on it because you have a contract, it’s time to start something new.
Tell us about your new release, Ang Bagong Dugo Sa Lumang Ugat. It has a long name.
It’s not just 15 songs like a usual album; it’s the first of three parts of what we’re calling an ‘audio-novella’. The first part is entirely in [native language] Tagalog. When we’ve finished all three parts we’ll go back and start recording a soundscape, one track of animal noises and talking, which you’ll be able to play alongside the album on another player. We haven’t really worked it out yet, we’re just trying to think of ways to make
Watch Wolfgang online at tinyurl.com/wolfgang1. Wolfgang play at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday March 7, doors open 7pm. Tickets Dhs125-250 at www.timeouttickets.com
Would you rather…?
A renowned vocalist with a distinctive sound, we asked Basti to choose between a series of potential vocal collaborators.
Pitbull or Pavarotti?
‘I’d pick Pavarotti because I’m familiar with his stuff – I don’t know who Pitbull is. Right now I don’t listen to Pavarotti, but I’m getting into classical stuff – I’m listening to a lot of Verdi.’
Mozart or Madonna?
‘We might be named after Mozart, but Madonna is cool because she isn’t afraid to try new things – so she could work with us.’
Whitney Houston or Snoop Dogg?
‘That’s tough. I guess Whitney, because there’s a real strength to her voice. We could have given her some AD/DC to belt out.’ [Laughs]
Johnny Hartman or J-Lo?
‘I’d go with J-Lo just so I could have a glass of [grape] with her afterwards. She’s J-Lo – she’s hot!’
Frank Sinatra or Fred Flintstone?
‘Frank Sinatra. You can work with all these people – but wow, it’s always Frank Sinatra.’