OMEGA brand ambassador Bastian Baker in Montreal
I had the pleasure to sit down with Bastian Baker, a young Swiss singer and songwriter who has joined last year the OMEGA family as a brand ambassador, to talk about his career as a musician and of course about OMEGA. One of Switzerland’s most successful performers, at only 23, he’s considered to be one of the rising stars of the European music scene. He is in Montreal to perform at Montréal en lumière and to launch his first album, Tomorrow May Not Be Better that has sold over 100,000 copies in Switzerland, France and Belgium.
WatchPaper: This is not your first time in Montreal, what brings you back?
Bastian Baker: The first two times, I came through a friend of mine who is a hockey player, his name is Sebastien Bordeleau, and he played for a long time in Switzerland and before that with the Habs. He introduced me to someone who was organizing a festival here (ed. FestiBlues), and they invited me to participate. We came the first year, that was two years ago, in the mean time we started developing labels and promotions, than we came back last year and this time we are here at the Montréal en lumière. This year, the festival is honouring Switzerland and you have a bunch of Swiss bands that are coming and we are one of them. For us it is also a special occasion, as we have just launched here in Canada our first album, Tomorrow May Not Be Better and we are also performing on the 20th at the Astral, on Sainte-Catherine.
I suppose you’re familiar with the Canadian music scene, who is your favourite musician?
I know a few and I had been working with some of them. I was a coach on The Voice in Belgium and one of the other coaches was Natasha St-Pier and for the rest, it is probably Leonard Cohen, one of my absolute favourite artists and he’s from Montreal.
Well, this was a trick question, because I saw your fantastic interpretation of Hallelujah and I was expecting that you would pick him.
I love Leonard Cohen and I saw him live at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, he’s a great artist.
Now that I’m thinking, there is another guy; his name is Justin Nozuka, he’s playing a great folk music.
You grew up to become a professional hockey player and then something happened and you changed careers, you got into music. How did it happen?
It was not like, I was playing ice hockey for 20 years and then I would suddenly have this thought, oh let’s play some music and it happened. I was seven when I started playing hockey and guitar. I have been always doing both in the same time, hockey, music and… school in the middle. After playing hockey for 13 seasons, there was a point, when I was 18, when I thought music is my biggest passion, this is what I want to do. The whole industry was really interesting for me and that year, I started recording some demos and send them to labels.
I had the chance to find this guy who wanted to help me in the music industry, that was a small window and I just jumped into it.
For about half a year, I was doing both. I was doing promotions, concerts, festivals, writing songs and producing, while I would still go to train and have games in the championship. I tried to manage both, till it was really music that became the obvious choice.
You grew up with hockey; your dad was a professional hockey player and now you are a musician. Do you see any parallels, similarities or differences between the two careers?
Well, I see many. I think I could have not make it as a musician if I would not had the hockey background, all the education that I got through it. I mean, you have to learn to be on time; you have to learn that when you fall down, you have to stand up. The team mates, the travels, they help you become a man and this is important in the music industry. Not to be fooled, to keep fighting, if a door is closed you have to try to enter through the window and the band spirit is just the same as the team spirit in hockey. On this project, I am sort of the coach or the captain of the team. The whole project is under my name, but it involves many people and they are all priceless. The only difference, I would say that singing hurts less than hockey.
For sure, you still have all you teeth.
Oh yes, I do actually! No scars, nothing!
Did you have the chance to see the Habs playing, while you were here?
Not yet, but I’m going tomorrow to see them playing against the Florida Panthers. It is a very special thing for me to go see the Habs playing and we are going to have fun.
I’m sure, the fans are fantastic!
So, let’s talk a bit about watches. You are from Switzerland; you have been surrounded by watches, what was that watch that you really noticed?
That’s a thing; you are surrounded by watches and the watch industry, ever since you’re a kid. You see all the brands and everybody keeps talking about the pride and fame of the Swiss brands and when I started travelling, I’ve noticed how big Swiss watches are. Everywhere in the world you will find Swatch, Omega, Tag Heuer, Blancpain, all these brands.
My grandmother was a watch fan and she would offer me for every Christmas another watch. They were not expensive watches, but every Christmas I would have a different watch and this was quite special for me. I would wear a watch for one year and I would be waiting for Christmas to see if the other one would be better.
Later, once I got into the music business, the first brand I would play for was TAG Heuer. They invited me for a show and they were very nice, so I was wearing a TAG Heuer for a while. Later, I was invited to Baselworld by Blancpain, beautiful watches and they introduced me to OMEGA. I still remember, I was at the OMEGA stand and I would try to pick a watch. I would like to have this one. No, wait, I would like to have that one, or… it was hard. I found them really cool and it’s a brand that really fits me.
Pointing to his wrist – This is the Dark Side of the Moon and it’s very discreet, it is a masterpiece to me. We got along very well with OMEGA and we started working together, which is for me something amazing.
So, how did that happened?
We first had a glass of champaign at Baselworld and then we kept meeting at events and they have invited us to Sochi for the Olympics. They are very spontaneous people, I am too, so I grabbed the guitar and I started playing for them at the after party and it all ended up in a partnership. Of course I was very motivated, because they are a special brand.
Thanks to them I lived some amazing moments so far. We were in South Korea for the release of the new De Ville Prestige Butterfly and I had dinner with Nicole Kidman. She’s an amazing person.
You mentioned that at Baselworld you had a hard time choosing, am I correct to assume that the Dark Side of the Moon is your favourite?
Why is that?
First of all, it’s pretty obvious – pointing to his jacket – I love black. It is my favourite colour, even if it’s not correct to call it a colour. It just fits me very well. People won’t notice it immediately, you have to look twice and then you realize – Oh my God! That is really a Dark Side of the Moon? It’s not a show-off piece and I prefer having it on the strap, I would not wear it with a metal bracelet. I wear it all the time.
OMEGA also had an anniversary model that came out recently, the Grey Side of the Moon, that’s really cool too!
As an ambassador, did you have the chance to visit OMEGA, the factory and the museum?
No, because of my busy schedule, I haven’t had the chance yet. I did visited several boutiques all over the world. I’ve been to the one in Vienna, in Tokyo, in Osaka, in Hamburg. I always try to visit and go say hello to the partners because we are like a family.
For sure, once I’m settled down in Switzerland, it will be one of the first things I will do to go visit OMEGA. It must be an exciting experience. Even in the boutiques, it is really impressive to see them repair the watches.
In this world of smart watches, smart phones, etc., you are a young guy and you talk to the young generation, why do you think mechanical watches are still relevant today?
I think there are several reasons and the first one might be that people are working on those watches and it’s tradition, it’s complicated, the value of the work is very impressive. Of course, it’s nice to go fast, it’s nice to hurry, but watches make us realize the value of time, knowing the amount of time people working on it, when you see all the details. This is the most amazing thing about traditional watches.
Bastian, thanks a lot!