Artwork by Lala Gallardo
Feature 01.11.2007:

WOLFGANG AND RAZORBACK ARE ALIVE: THE REUNION CONCERT 2007

THE TWO LEGENDARY HARD ROCK BANDS TALK TO PULSE.PH ABOUT THEIR LIVES, PLAYING TOGETHER AGAIN, AND—YES!—THE POSSIBILITY OF NEW ALBUMS. PLUS: COVERAGE OF THE INCREDIBLE FIRST REUNION GIG LAST SATURDAY



“It’s been three years, man,” Basti Artadi said to the jampacked crowd at Music Museum last Saturday, January 6, 2007. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

The fans didn’t have to be told how long they went without seeing Wolfgang and its iconic frontman perform live, but it was really nice to hear that he missed us too. The Music Museum was full to the brim as early as 7PM, with people sitting in the aisles and lots more unable to get inside, standing around on the sidewalk still trying to get tickets. Tickets for the second show, scheduled for the following Friday, were immediately sold out even before the first show. “We scheduled a repeat because people kept calling us for tickets,” Tirso Ripoll shared after soundcheck for the Saturday show. They weren’t prepared at all for the amazing response from the fans. “We’re quite overwhelmed,” he went on. “We’d know better what to do when this happens again.”

So, they have plans of another reunion concert? Tirso emphasizes that they’re not really plans, just eventualities. “Basti happened to be coming home and Mon also was able to get free, so that’s why we said, Oy, Basti’s coming home, let’s see if we can put a little show together, you know, just for fun,” Tirso recalled. “That’s all what this is all about anyway, just for us to have some fun. So, if he comes home again, then maybe we’ll do it again. I don’t know when he’s going to come home again, that’s the thing. But it’s not like he comes home every year, you know?”

This visit of Mr. Artadi’s was actually a long overdue Philippine wedding for the couple’s family and friends. “I was here to get married, finally have a celebration with the family, you know, mostly family, most important thing. And there, it just so happened that when Manuel and Tirso found out that I was coming home, they asked me if I wanted to do something, I said yeah, of course. And there, it’s as simple as that.” Simple, sure, especially when it’s put in simple terms that the Wolfgang-Razorback Alive reunion concert is turning out to be one of the best gigs in recent memory.

Basti’s actually well settled down in the US, enjoying the married life and working at the corporate office at the Gap in San Francisco. He’s a coordinator for the Corporate Operations department, but insisted that it’s not very impressive. “It’s not as important as it sounds,” he maintained. “It’s cool though, because without us, without the coordinators or Corp Operations, the company would basically fall apart, because you know, we manage the day-to-day operations of everything, so it’s cool in that sense, but it’s not…” he broke out into a big smile, “I’m not the vice president or anything, so.”

As many of you know, Basti was also in a few bands, notably Kitaan and Lokomotiv, which he left after recording their album, Rock n’ Roll Death Toll. “I think with Lokomotiv, there was a sense of something was starting to happen,” he conceded. “I mean, people were starting to prick their ears up and all, but then I don’t know. I guess, the bell hit, you know what I’m saying? 12 o’clock, midnight struck, and I had to go, I thought I was going to become a pumpkin. So I just decided I had to get my life going already, I couldn’t wait anymore. I wasn’t thinking about myself anymore, I had to think about somebody else, too.”

For now, Basti is working on quality time with his wife, putting off having kids for maybe next year. “It’s nice, me and my wife like traveling and all, and that would be something we’ll have to think harder about if we did have kids,” he shared. “So we’ll wait, we’ll see how it goes.”

They’ve grown up, these rockstars, and they’re all currently busy with grown-up concerns, particularly their respective jobs and kids—Tirso’s wife had just recently given birth to their second child, a daughter this time, and Manuel Legarda’s wife is expecting in May. Louie Talan, who is handling his studio Wombworks, playing for seven or eight other bands and holding down his day job, puts his son before his list of preoccupations. He shared that his son introduced him to Tenacious D. Is he following in his dad’s footsteps? “Well, I bought him a guitar,” Louie replied. “He has a red Strat and he plays it once in a while. He can do a little ‘Voodoo Child.’ No pressure, I mean, if he wants to, yeah. It’s got to be fun. If I force him, it’s not… It’s gonna be like me way back being forced to play piano, and I don’t want that for him.”

They’re also all still playing in Razorback, which has become more active recently, after only leisurely playing only on the odd weekend the last few years. They’re starting to write songs with Manuel as their new official guitarist, who may have given the band a brand new energy. “It’s great,” Tirso explained, “because it’s not like you have one or two people writing the songs. The way we work was everybody always wrote the songs, so of course, Manoy coming in with a huge input with everything, it’s nice, it’s fresh, it’s different, you know, it’s all good. It’s cool, we’re only just starting, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s gonna really sounds like. I don’t think we even know ourselves. But it’s sounding really good and it’s sounding really fun and it feels good to do it. It was pretty seamless how he fit in. I guess, you know, because we’ve known each other for a pretty long time.”

Writing new songs means a CD is in the works, but they aren’t looking too far into the future yet, putting off concerns such as whether to sign to a new label or even what the album’s going to sound like. The concert last Saturday was recorded, as well as documented on video, but even there, they’re not thinking of public distribution yet. “We’ll record it, we’ll see if it comes out good,” Tirso said, tentatively. “If we can do something with it after, we’ll do it.”

“We shall see,” Louie agreed. “Right now, the whole point is just to capture everything. Same goes with the studio stuff, if ever we record, it’s just to have it first and then decide what to do with it after.”

While the current musical landscape has grown the last few years, the boys of Razorback are unfazed that it’s a wholly different sound that’s out there today. “If you listen closely, a lot of it is still the same,” Louie advised. “I mean, at the end of the day, it’s all derived from the same pentatonic scale…”

“That’s because he’s playing in all the bands,” Manuel pointed out, eliciting a laugh from the other two.

Louie went on to say, “The look may change… (“But the song remains the same,” Tirso quipped) …and there are, like, antics, like some are screaming and some are crying and some are just complaining. But I don’t think the sound has changed that much. If you uncover the whole façade of music, it’s just the same chords.” Manuel is right, Louie would be an authority on the subject, being the most actively out there among them, gigging with 7 or 8 bands. We ask him if all this doesn’t drive him crazy? “No. I’d go crazy if I didn’t have that.”

When asked what their thoughts were right after soundcheck, waiting for the concert, they were all decidedly relaxed. “Right now, it’s what I’m going to wear,” Manuel shared.

“Me, it’s how to pace the beers because I don’t want to get too disabled to play,” offered Louie. Which prompted a discussion of where they were planning to eat and how they shouldn’t eat too much. Louie laughed at this, telling us, “See, these are our thoughts. Pre-show thoughts.”

It was a long wait to the show—soundcheck ended at 6 to get the theatre ready for open house at 7. Many fans came early to ensure good seats and sat rather patiently in place until the show started a little before 9PM. There was an air of excitement throughout the Music Museum, energetically charged with good vibes. Manuel, Tirso, Louie, Wolfgang bassist Mon Legaspi and Razorback drummer Brian Velasco all came out and assumed their assigned places, as a slideshow of photos splashed through the screen and the giddy crowd cheered on. This giddy crowd very shortly started whooping for joy as Basti joined his friends onstage as everyone launched into Wolfgang’s “Center of the Sun.” Everyone in the audience got to their feet, and were all screaming, stamping their feet, raising their fists, singing along, jumping up and down. It was as if the entire room felt that same energy. It was almost staggering.

Right after “Center of the Sun,” Kevin Roy joined them onstage and everyone played Razorback’s “Giyang,” with Basti singing back-up vocals. Interestingly, these have been each’s band’s covers of each other—Razorback has been known to play “Center of the Sun” at their gigs, while Wolfgang would play “Giyang,” and usually when the other band was not around. It was a historic moment, right there.

The rest of the evening had the two bands taking turns, and then playing together on covers. Razorback started off, playing “Munting Paraiso,” “Baño Song,” “Voodoo Who Do?”, “Minsan Lang,” and “Temple.” The lights, designed by Shakira Villa, were particularly stunning, especially on “Voodoo, Who Do?” where each musician had a spotlight trained on them, going on and off evoking the effect of the “Voodoo, Who Do?” video.

Basti and Mon came back onstage and the joined bands performed their version of “Come Together,” right before Wolfgang played their set, which included, as Basti promised, “something from every album we ever put out.” They did “As Oceans” and “What Grows in Your Garden” from their first album, and “Very Free,” “Sanctified” and “Mata ng Diyos” from Wurm. Since they didn’t play songs from all their albums yet, it was clear they would have a second set after their break, which came after both bands jammed on “War Pigs.”

So far, Manuel Legarda had not left the stage at all, even when the bands were changing up for each other’s sets. He looked more than comfortable playing for both bands—he looked happy. Asked earlier how it felt to be playing their songs again, he smiled and said, “It’s fun. You know, you actually have to go back and relearn what you did before and discover things that you did before that you stopped doing already, so it’s interesting.” Now that there’s going to be a second night, he plans to also relearn a couple more of their songs. “We’re gonna maybe change a few songs in the setlist. Not drastically, I mean, we haven’t really had much time to practice, to rehearse, so maybe we’ll just change two or three songs.”

Tirso, who also had his voice box at various songs during his sets, started off their second set by continuing the tuning of his guitar into Alice Cooper’s “I Never Cry.” Kevin joined him on vocals and pretty soon, the rest of the band join in the impromptu cover. At the end, Tirso dedicated it to his wife, greeting her a happy birthday. Razorback had its own reunion towards the end of the second set, which included “Tunay Na Kulay,” “Payaso,” “Wakasan,” “Nakaturo Sa Yo” and “Mana.” After drumming for both bands the entire night so far, Brian Velasco gave way to his idol, original drummer Miguel Ortigas. Miguel played “Tabi ng Bulkan” and Juan dela Cruz Band’s “Nadapa sa Harina.” A funny moment during the guitar solo of “Tabi ng Bulkan,” Tirso was using his voice box and Kevin stood beside him and started mimicking him, resulting in Tirso cussing Kevin out. Kevin retorted, “This is the best band to be in!”

To start their second set, Basti took out and read a poem a fan sent him years ago, almost a decade ago actually, about everything eventually meeting their end, “But tonight, we can pretend.” Then, Wolfgang held true to their promise of playing songs from all their albums, including “Weightless” from Semenelin (“Semenelin Reynes,” Basti quipped), “Tulisan” from Serve in Silence and “Judas Noose” from Black Mantra, with Francis Aquino of Monkeyspank and Loquy upping the energy level even more.

Then, they surprised everybody with a brand new song entitled “RP Death Squad.” “Manuel told me he had some spare riffs left over from Black Mantra, and so we decided to write a song just for tonight,” Basti announced. “Who knows, if you like it, we could write more.” We do like it very much—it’s set in the signature Wolfgang style, but with new elements. It’s one of those things that people haven’t stopped talking about yet from that night, especially that part about “writing more.” New albums from Razorback and Wolfgang? Christmas again so soon?

The concert lasted three hours long and perhaps the audience wasn’t on its feet jumping continuously for all those three hours, but the energy was there all evening, and at the end of the night, we were clamoring for more. Both bands, with Brian Velasco back behind the drums, took the stage to jam on more of their (and our) favorite covers, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and The Cult’s “King Contrary Man,” with an encore of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

Fans didn’t want to leave the theatre even half an hour after the show was over. The giddiness was still there, and still so electrically charged. “That’s the best gig… ever,” said my friend, giving voice to all that leftover energy shared by the capacity crowd at the Music Museum. She was also cursing the fact that the second night was already sold out, she would have wanted to watch again. “Pero okay na ‘yon,” she decided, referring to that first night. “Okay na ako doon.” Her grin was the same as mine, and the same as the one on everyone filing out of the Music Museum, too happy to go back to real life.



Performance photos by Eric Fernandez, interview photos by Richard Garcia. Check out more photos of Night 1 here and here. Watch out for photos of Night 2, coming soon here on Pulse.ph!

View the Reunion Microsite here



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