The Dead Daisies are a U.S. based hard rock band made up of performers from Guns N’ Roses (Richard Fortus), Thin Lizzy (Marco Mendoza) and Motley Crue (John Corabi) to name just a few. In February, The Daisies arrived in Havana to perform a number of shows, record with local musicians and to hold music workshops. For musicians who have crossed the planet several times over, visiting Cuba was the band’s number one choice for places they had never performed in.
Visit Cuba’s A.J. Twist recently caught up with the band’s manager, Dave Edwards, to de-brief on their trip.
A.J.: By all accounts you had a phenomenally successful week in Cuba. You had two sold out shows and laid down some great tracks in the recording studio with local musicians. Did the week meet your expectations?
Dave: Yes it did turn out better than I’d planned. Projects in countries anywhere in the world that doesn’t have the resources we’re used to is always a challenge. The enthusiasm of the people in Cuba that were organizing the week was amazing! Two people in particular that helped us immensely were Carolina Sanchez and Susana Llorente Borrero. They, combined with the people we took with us, made it a huge success.
Dizzy Reed on a recording studio break in Havana
A.J.: How do you attribute your success in Havana? Surely the Dead Daisies were not well known before you got there but by the end of the week everyone seemed to know you were in town and were talking about the big Rock for Peace show.
Dave: A colleague and myself went to Havana months before the shows. We worked both the Ministry of Culture & Institute of Music to develop a marketing plan and promote the band prior to arrival.
They were fantastic in sending the music and video clips to the various outlets in Cuba. Once we arrived, we made sure that the band was visibly in the country and ready to meet and play for everyone.
Marco Mendoza with a vintage Cuban Chevy convertible
A.J.: Did you find there was a large heavy rock scene in Havana? Larger than you expected?
Dave: Yes there is quite a large scene. There is a love and passion for all genres of music, which seems to exist across all of Latin America. They’re open to everything and keen to listen even if they haven’t heard it before.
A.J.: Are there Cuba metal bands too?
Dave: Yes there are but we didn’t get to see them, as we were a tad busy. We met some of the band members, though, and they were all great people.
A.J. You seemed to have had a very busy agenda planned for your week in Havana between the recording sessions, rehearsals, press conferences, ‘meets and greets’ and conducting master classes for local music students, and so on. Did any of you have time to take in the sights and sounds of Havana?
Dave: I personally didn’t this time around but did a little bit of sightseeing last time I was in Havana. Amazing place to see and I’d recommend people go there before it gets spoilt!!!! The band managed to get out to some clubs, see some local music and experience the local hospitality.
A.J. Since the band had chosen as a group to play Cuba as one of their dream destinations, did it live up to their dreams?
Dave: Yes it did. They haven’t stopped talking about it since we got back! And all of them are asking when we’re going back again. They all loved the sights, sounds, people and their passion for life, music and food.
A.J.: The food?
Dave: The food is amazing with some great restaurants. Spanish-based cuisine that is ‘back to basics’ but fantastic. My favorite was a restaurant called La Guarida. We all went there for dinner one night and had an amazing time!
A.J.: Are there any plans to return?
Dave: Yes we are indeed in the process of making plans to return. Hopefully, December of this year, if it all comes together. We had lunch with everyone from the Buena Vista Social Club while they in Sydney, Australia [where the band is currently recording and touring] a few weeks ago. Amazing musicians and such nice people. We’re hoping to do a project together later in the year and record it in Havana.
Yes, all of them would do it all again!
A.J.: Based on your unique experience, what did you learn that you might share with other American bands that might be considering a similar trip to Havana?
Dave: They need to spend a lot of time planning but most of all, the Cuban organizations and people have certain ways of doing things. Best to work with them, not try to tell them how it’s done.
A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based travel writer and photographer.
Great photos by Katarina Benzova. Click here to see Katarina’s rock photography