Basti Artadi, Rock Star Risen
Difficulty pronouncing the word “fuck” is what initially perturbed Wolfgang frontman BASTI ARTADI. “You notice I say ‘fuck’ a lot, and when I would say that word—because I don’t have strength here anymore—” he says, pointing to the right part of his lips, “it would flap. And I thought, wait a minute, that’s not right… And I kept telling my friends about it until finally one friend goes, ‘You know, I noticed one side of your face is not as animated as the other.’ And he goes, ‘Open your mouth wide.’”
Basti Artadi in our 2016 Style Issue, photographed by Artu Nepomuceno at Muebles Italiano, Paseo de Magallanes; styled by Anton Miranda, with grooming by Joan Teotico and Mayve Cañamo.
Basti opens his mouth to demonstrate, and when he does, the “O” that a mouth usually outlines begins to shape unevenly, the left side cooperating more than the right. He traces his lips. “There it is. And I never noticed it until he pointed it out. I called the doctor the next day and he said, ‘Oh that is Bell’s palsy.’” The doctors were certain: Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis, causing muscle weakness on one side of the face. It occurs spontaneously and usually only temporarily—so they advised Basti to wait it out. But when three, four, and then five months went, and still no improvements, he asked for an MRI scan, hoping to find out more. The result was like drawing a “winning” ball in the variable lottery of life. They had found a tumor.
Difficulty pronouncing the word “fuck” is what initially perturbed Wolfgang frontman Basti Artadi.
“I won the lotto of tumors, ’cause this thing is so rare. So, at the base of your brain, when you look at the skull, there’s a bone that goes here,” he says, mapping it out in the air. “There are these two bone tunnels that are filled with nerves. My tumor grew in that tunnel and pushed up against the top wall, and as it kept going, it pressed and killed the electrical current that controls the right side of my face.” It’s called schwannoma, a benign tumor at the nerve sheath. It is small, at around 22mm in diameter, but the impact is evident: a little tug just below his right eye, a slight dip of skin by the cheekbone, and the downturn of his right lip. Extensive amounts of talking wears him out, and in the middle of the interview, he rests his palm gently on his cheek near his mouth, massaging the face that now has to work double-time to compensate for the paralysis.
In the future, Basti says, he may not even be able to talk, much less sing.
In the future, Basti says, he may not even be able to talk, much less sing. And though he is blessed the tumor hasn’t grown in the past six years (he reaches out to knock on wood after he says this fact), the area in which the tumor had formed is so delicate, that removing it is impossible. It will only make the situation more vulnerable to harm. “There are people who have tumors that have grown to a walnut size, and when they try to remove that, there is damage. Like there was a little girl that I read about and they had to remove her tumor, and they asked her, ‘Okay, what are you willing to give up? Your taste or your hearing?’ And she chose to give up her hearing,” he says, of his kind of questionable luck.