"All I wanted to do was play a few songs, and look where it's brought me"

Rob Sas on stage.
Rob Sas on stage. / SUR
  • Rock musician Rob Sas came to Spain to semi-retire, but he is busier than ever hosting a radio show, teaching guitar and playing to thousands in gigs across the Costa del Sol

“He sounds like a lawyer, looks like a hippy and swears like a trooper.”

That’s how 61-year-old rocker Rob Sas was once described by an acquaintance and, to be fair, it’s quite accurate.

Born in 1957 in Harrow (UK) to Polish parents, Rob grew up speaking English with a strong Polish accent and had to be given elocution lessons when he was seven-years-old, as he was getting a “hard time” at school.

It’s a gorgeous day when I sit down to interview him at a road side bar on the outskirts of Marbella, and any hint of that Polish twang is long gone, replaced by an accent best described as “BBC English.”

“I used to be fluent in Polish, but I can still understand it,” he says while sipping on a cold beer.

Adorned with long hair befitting that of the rock star stereotype, Rob runs the Deep Purple tribute band Deeper Purple, as well as the Rob Sas Band, a classic rock cover band.

And as if that isn't enough to keep him busy, he also produces a weekly rock radio show, teaches guitar lessons and manages property rentals.

So how did it all start for the well-spoken English man who has been living near San Pedro since February 2012?

Rob told SUR in English: “I got my first guitar back in 1976 when I was 18 and took it from there. I had some lessons for a few years and then started to teach myself. It was a case of what did I need to do to make guitar happen. But I was serious from the beginning.”

Rob’s first job was in the accounts department at Wall’s Ice Cream in Hammersmith and he then went on to work in the family business for many years, dabbling in property investment, rentals and pharmaceuticals, while also visiting schools as a peripatetic guitar teacher.

But in the meantime, his career as a musician grew.

“One of the first things that I got quite excited about was when I stood on stage next to Nick Simper who was the original Deep Purple bassist, that was in Drayton, London in 1993,” he said.

“I guested with the band he was in called The Good Old Boys. I remember being quite excited about it as Nick is a lovely guy and now a friend of mine. And all the guys in that band are mates.

As a result of that I got invited to join Quatermass 2, which was headed by drummer Mick Underwood, who used to be in Gillan and Straps, but that was later on. Somewhere in the middle of that I was with ex-Status Quo drummer John Coghlan for three years touring the UK and Europe, which was good fun.”

Despite Rob’s impressive rock resume, he said that it was since he moved to Spain to semi-retire that the music has really taken off.

He said: “When I moved out in 2012 I was kind of burnt out from doing lots of stuff in England. I was always teaching and gigging, it was like being on tour all the time without a break and after a while it does wear you out.

“When I was learning in the early years all I wanted to do was play live, I love playing live, but too much of a good thing is exactly that after a while. I used to sit in a chair and think, ‘Oh I’ve got to get up for a gig,’ and think, ‘Oh God,’ but now, when we have a gig, I really look forward to it, there’s less pressure, and I enjoy it much more as a result.

“And of course the Spanish and English audiences are very different. The English audiences are much more reserved, the Spanish are much cooler, more lively and kind of more respectful, and they know how to rock.”

Before Rob moved to Spain he was living in Ley Hill near Chesham, but he had a house in Spain near San Pedro for over 40 years.

Asked whether he made the right move in coming out to Spain, he replied: “Definitely.”

“Everything made me want to move out here, the weather for one, and the lifestyle. I was visiting many times a year, and each time I left I used to get quite sad about it.

“But England was driving me crazy, the traffic is horrible, the weather is horrible, so I knew sooner of later I was going to move here. I wanted to move here 10 years before I did. One day I just said I’d had enough. It was probably around the time when I organised a festival in Ley Hill. It was gloriously sunny and hot, the following weekend it was wet, it was cold, it was drizzly and overcast and dull and I remember looking at that and thinking, you know what? No.”

So in February 2012 Rob moved over to the Costa del Sol with his girlfriend, Jacqui Penfold, who then became his wife in 2014.

Deeper Purple

And it was during his stag do in San Pedro in 2014, that the idea for the tribute band Deeper Purple was formed.

The band’s first gig was at Duquesa Castle shortly after playing to 150 people, which Rob described as one of the highlights of his musical career.

“It was a fantastic and there was an amazing atmosphere,” he said.

“We were all very drunk on stage and there was a lot of banter going on. We didn’t expect anything much of the band and that was how we started. Since then the band has been coming back every year.”

The band consists of Rob (guitar), Luca Ravase (singer), Phil Crombie (bassist), Joe Orban (keyboard) and Gary Brown (drums).

He explained: “We are pretty much a family. So we are pretty damn close. One of the unique things about us is that in four years we have only rehearsed once.”

Rob, a dad of three, who has four grandchildren, added: “Since we formed Deeper Purple we’ve been lucky enough to play Estepona Bull Ring twice, and that was sensational. We also played the Mijas Auditorium, another great venue, and toured the UK a few times now, including a festival at Blackpool Winter Gardens.”

Rob joked: “It’s almost like I’m not being allowed to semi-retire gracefully, they keep saying come back and do some more!”

The Rob Sas Band

Rob is also the front man of The Rob Sas Band, a classic rock covers band that plays everything from Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Whitesnake, to Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath.

He said: “I started to form that just before I moved to Spain, as I wanted to hit the ground running. It’s a great band with a great bunch of guys.”

The band members are Rob (guitar), Risto Hankala (bass), Andy Mackechnie (drums) and Tony Eriksson (vocals).

Radio show

Rob produces his own two hour radio show once week, that is broadcast on three different radio stations with repeats on two stations: Central FM Spain in Benalmadena, Pure Rock in Canada and ARFM in the UK.

“I’ve been doing that for five years and again I’ve been very fortunate to speak to some of the biggest names in rock. I’ve spoken to all of the current Deep Purple line up and I’m fortunate enough to make good friends with a lot of the stars I interview.

“The radio show is great fun. It came about when I knew I was moving over to Spain, I had it in the back of my head that it’s the sort of thing I could do. My friend Andy Charles from Castle Radio FM asked me to do a show for him, so that’s how it started and I’m indebted to him.”

Career highlights

As for the what memories Rob looks back on most fondly, he says it’s his time playing with Deeper Purple.

He said: “We have achieved so much and I came out here with the view of being semi-retired. But Deeper Purple has gone from strength to strength, and despite me wanting to retire I’m being dragged almost by the ear, to go on tour and to do festivals. I didn't expect that in my older years and I love it very much indeed.”

What's next?

“I’ll keep doing what I'm doing,” said the lively musician.

“I love playing with the Rob Sas Band and I’m fortunate enough to be working with some great musicians. We have a Deeper Purple tour starting in March and the radio show will just keep going.”

As for whether he will stay in Spain, Rob has already made his mind up.

He added: “What’s not to like here? When I used to visit I used to think this is my home, and I’m just going back to England to work. I used to visit six to seven times a year. I just love the laid back lifestyle and everything about it. There’s not a chance in hell about moving back to England.”

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