Toronto singer/songwriter Sebastian Agnello, despite his enigmatic yet prolific career as everything from pop star to shit-disturber, remains a fairly well-kept secret. His most recent notoriety came from successful gigs as music director/back-up band for Kinky Friedman last fall at the Bamboo, but the last 15 years have seen other popular and commercial pinnacles.
Currently Sebastian's main projects are Sebastian Country (which released an album on Cabbagetown Records called Full Moon & Welfare Cheques), a country fusion swing outfit; and SCAB, a hard rock political trio. As well, he works in the studio "seven days a week" with various country-western acts, does a lot of commercials, stays active as a protest/folk singer and is working on an acoustic solo album. He's in at The Black Swan on Friday and Saturday for what seems an amalgam of it all.
"The Swan gigs will basically be a combination of everything I do," he says. "We're going to concentrate about three quarters of the show on SCAB material (Bazil Donovan handles bass, Jim Dumanski is on drums). I guess it's punk, or something like that, but it's very political and super-controversial. Musically speaking we're all over the map - we do everything from sambas to funk. The rest of the show will be Sebastian Country material, for which we'll bring on our harmonica player, Lance Bennett. So that part of the show will be country music, only played by SCAB plus Lance."
Before these priorities, though (SCAB, a spin off project of The Sharks, was formed in 1981), Sebastian released three singles under his other country name, Patches, which saw country chart action Canada-wide, leading to tours with Grand Ole Opry legends Charlie Pride and Hank Snow, among others. Through it all he's opted for politics over pop.
"I've been doing the protest stuff - so called Queen Street music - since the mid 60s when I was in a band called The Lords Of London, which was the biggest Canadian pop band at that time. We had a number one record on the CHUM AM charts in 1967, if you can believe it, but I quit that band at the height of its career just before we were to sign to do the Ed Sullivan show. We had a hit called "Cornflakes and Ice-Cream", and did Upbeat in Cleveland, which was like Dick Clark, and Swing Time in Detroit, if you remember back that far. But I quit because it was too commercial - and to get more involved in politics and philosophy. Which I did by starting a new act called Spuff."
Spuff ended up recording one album for Mainstream Records, at the same time that Janis Joplin and the Amboy Dukes were signed there. They did tour dates in Canada with the Mothers Of Invention and with Jimi Hendrix on his last tour - at the Gardens in Toronto.
Upcoming Sebastian gigs include 3 nights of Sebastian Country at The Horseshoe and a solo folk show, "all protest material" at the Free Times Café.