Paul Heck visited our studios on April 11, 2012 to discuss his new work with Red Hot Cuba. If you’re unaware of the Red Hot Series, go run and buy the first one — Red Hot Blue with artists David Byrne, Annie Lennox, Tom Waits, U2, and Erasure. The album made millions of dollars to fight AIDS (which is Red Hot’s company model). That first record launched a series of 15 other themed compilations to raise money for AIDS. To discover their discography, check out Red Hot on Wiki and their official website.

Paul-Heck-East-Village-Radio-Both-01_0

Paul was also my music supervision Godfather for my documentary East of Havana, where he secured music ranging from Trio Matamoros to MOP, and had Bryce of The Nationals create original music for my soundtrack. Paul’s latest compilation is Red Hot Cuba, which was genius timing because I’ve been waiting to get this passionate music-maker on the show. Ladies, and gentlemen, meet Paul!

Jauretsi: We have our guest in the studio today , Mr. Paul Heck.

Paul: Hola. Hola Sugar Barons…

Jauretsi: Paul is an American but he likes to think that he’s Latin deep down inside (laughs)

Paul: It’s the New Jersey in me… New Jesssey

Jauretsi: Anyways, I just want to introduce Paul. Paul has worked on multiple projects, amazing stuff, he’s mostly international you would say?

Paul: Yes.

Jauretsi: Yeah, sorry it’s a lot of world markets we’re dealing with here. Anyways one of the projects he works on at the moment is the Red Hot series. Actually Paul I was going to ask you, is there any way to describe what the Red Hot series is about? What its mission is?

Paul: Red Hot’s mission is to raise money and awareness to fight AIDS around the world. We’ve been around since 1990, we do records and films and concerts. One of our last projects was a Brazilian record that featured Gilberto Gil classic called “Soy Loco Por Ti America” featuring Los Van Van and Carlinhos Brown and that’s the next song we’re going to play right?

Jauretsi: Yeah, we’re gonna play a song soon actually and then we’re gonna discuss the collaboration with BAM , that you’re working on. You’re gonna head over to Cuba soon… and also East of Havana, which is a very badass documentary on the hip-hop scene in Cuba [self-mocking], you were down for that one?

Paul: That we worked on together, yes.

Jauretsi: Yes.Yes.Yes, a lot of good memories there that was 2004 and it’s 2012 now, so a lots happened politically since then…

Paul: We haven’t aged though, so…

Jauretsi: Yeah, I don’t know about that actually. Fountain of youth! It’s all in Cuba, people don’t grow old there. Anyways, introduce this song actually from the Red, Hot, Rio album.

Paul: So this is a Gilberto Gil classic, this is Brazilian theme record but this is a song that’s sort of about Latin American love called “Soy Loco por Ti America” and it features Los Van Van, the classic legendary Cuban band and Carlinhos Brown the mad genius of Bahia and it was produced by our good friend and collaborator Andres Levin.

Jauretsi: Yeah, we are going to be talking about Andres Levin, actually very influential Cuban- American that is going to be working on these projects. Here’s the track!

Paul was also my music supervision Godfather for my documentary East of Havana, where he secured music ranging from Trio Matamoros to MOP, and had Bryce of The Nationals create original music for my soundtrack. Paul’s latest compilation is Red Hot Cuba, which was genius timing because I’ve been waiting to get this passionate music-maker on the show. Ladies, and gentlemen, meet Paul!

Jauretsi: We have our guest in the studio today , Mr. Paul Heck.

Paul: Hola. Hola Sugar Barons…

Jauretsi: Paul is an American but he likes to think that he’s Latin deep down inside (laughs)

Paul: It’s the New Jersey in me… New Jesssey

Jauretsi: Anyways, I just want to introduce Paul. Paul has worked on multiple projects, amazing stuff, he’s mostly international you would say?

Paul: Yes.

Jauretsi: Yeah, sorry it’s a lot of world markets we’re dealing with here. Anyways one of the projects he works on at the moment is the Red Hot series. Actually Paul I was going to ask you, is there any way to describe what the Red Hot series is about? What its mission is?

Paul: Red Hot’s mission is to raise money and awareness to fight AIDS around the world. We’ve been around since 1990, we do records and films and concerts. One of our last projects was a Brazilian record that featured Gilberto Gil classic called “Soy Loco Por Ti America” featuring Los Van Van and Carlinhos Brown and that’s the next song we’re going to play right?

Jauretsi: Yeah, we’re gonna play a song soon actually and then we’re gonna discuss the collaboration with BAM , that you’re working on. You’re gonna head over to Cuba soon… and also East of Havana, which is a very badass documentary on the hip-hop scene in Cuba [self-mocking], you were down for that one?

Paul: That we worked on together, yes.

Jauretsi: Yes.Yes.Yes, a lot of good memories there that was 2004 and it’s 2012 now, so a lots happened politically since then…

Paul: We haven’t aged though, so…

Jauretsi: Yeah, I don’t know about that actually. Fountain of youth! It’s all in Cuba, people don’t grow old there. Anyways, introduce this song actually from the Red, Hot, Rio album.

Paul: So this is a Gilberto Gil classic, this is Brazilian theme record but this is a song that’s sort of about Latin American love called “Soy Loco por Ti America” and it features Los Van Van, the classic legendary Cuban band and Carlinhos Brown the mad genius of Bahia and it was produced by our good friend and collaborator Andres Levin.

Jauretsi: Yeah, we are going to be talking about Andres Levin, actually very influential Cuban- American that is going to be working on these projects. Here’s the track!

GILBERTO GIL

Jauretsi: There was some awesome drums on that song actually…

Paul: Yep, Soy Loco Por Ti America. There’s a story where Los Van Van was in Brazil and playing a big music festival and Carlinhos was there the same day and so they got together and they rehearsed and they were gonna play the song onstage and they’re about to go on, the artist before them just played the same song. It’s like this famous anthem, so they were like “Oh, Damn!”

Jauretsi: So, they didn’t play it?

Paul: They just , I don’t know , either they didn’t do anything or they played a different song that wasn’t this song from our album. But it was just funny how you prepare these things live and think “Oh it’s gonna be so great!!” and then some huge artist [goes on] before you, and you can’t play the same song again so…

Jauretsi: Yeah, the song must go one basically, the art of improvisation huh? It says Red Hot actually produced 16 albums and more than 10 million dollars towards AIDS charity.

Paul: We’ve given away over 10 million dollars, though that’s been across the board, mostly from record sales but we’ve been doing more and more shows lately including a long running series. Eight years now with The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It’s sort of every even year on World Aids Day December 1. We usually have two concerts, so it’s usually Dec 1 and 2. We’re incredibly excited because this year it’s gonna be a Cuban focused project called Red, Hot, Cuba.

Jauretsi: Yeah, lets talk about that project actually, now I realize with your other Red Hot albums, such as South Africa or Brazil compilations, there’s no real travel issues going back and forth [the country], or bringing artists back and forth, so I imagine Red Hot Cuba has a whole new wrench in the machine [concerning Cuba and US travel bans], tell me about how that’s affecting the whole gameplan.

Paul: The great thing about BAM is that they’re essentially the producing entity, so they are going to handle a lot of those [travel] license issues, they had a big Cuba Si! festival last year.

Jauretsi: Yeah, tell me about Cuba Si!, I attended some of those events. That was the most amazing greatest hits of Cuba in New York last year.

Paul: They do good work, I have to get Nick from BAM in here, our line producer to discuss it, but the good thing for me is that they’ve been down these roads before and they’ve worked and gotten licenses from OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] so we’re literally in these discussions now for the concert. But what made our lives a little more difficult is to actually bring U.S artists down to Cuba in the late summer and Fall, in order to get the ball rolling with some of the musical collaborations. So as you know it’s exactly the things that you’re not supposed to do, which are illegal, which is actually collaborating with Cubans.

Jauretsi: Making an album [with a Cuban] is like the biggest cardinal sin [for the US Administration]

Paul: So you can license something from a Cuban artist and pay them for it, but you’re not supposed to actually create with them. But hopefully we’re gonna work through all these licensing issues and be able to go down there. We’re trying to do a series of maybe four or five short trips, 4 or 5 day trips with 1 or 2 artists instead of trying to get everybody together at the same time. As you know, there’s flights I think 2 times a week.

Jauretsi: There’s so many flights now Obama freed up flights last year. You can go directly from Key West, from New Orleans, more from New York now, and now Los Angeles. A lot more flights opened up, and the few travel agencies that exist are all booked out and there’s a big influx of Americans heading down to Cuba right now, because of these new “People to People” licenses that Obama cleared. You couldn’t be doing this project at a better time.

Paul: I hope so, it’s gonna be fun we just gotta put the few pieces together, get the artists to commit and go down there and have some fun and make some music.

Jauretsi: So, it’s a two part project? It seems like you actually want to bring [American] artists to Cuba. Tell me about the one that’s actually New York based in December. Basically, one is sort of you’re trying, and the other one is kind of in the bag. Tell me the one that’s in the bag.

Paul: The show, the Red, Hot, Cuba show is going to happen. There’s funding for it, so it’s gonna happen. So, we’re going to be bringing a bunch of Cuban artists up for that to perform and collaborate and sort of reinterpret. I guess it’s sort of about this phrase “Neo-Cuba”, it’s whats new in Cuba now. Nothing wrong with The Buena Vista Social Club, but we really want to reflect what artists are doing musically now and mix them with other international artists. Whether it’s Rodrigo y Gabriela or possibly Dr.John, Alo Black, there’s a bunch of different artists we’re talking to, to try to throw into the mix.

Jauretsi: That’s amazing. I see the word here “Neo-Cuba”, sort of running around the proposal on the Red Hot Cuba project, it’s funny my blog is called The New Cuba, so there’s this whole mentality of pushing Cuba into the present, pushing it into the future and just, you know, helping modernize it basically.

Paul: Yeah, well it kind of comes from Andres levin, who we can talk about more, but I guess when I was with you in Cuba back in 2004 there was that phrase “Cubaneo”, which is kind of like the way of Cubans, the stuff you have to do…

Jauretsi: El Cubaneo, the Cuban way man, we hustle.

Paul: Yeah, when you have no money and you gotta figure out how to feed yourself and your family. So Neo Cuba in a way is a flip, saying it’s a new time and there’s new opportunities and new possibilities and, you know, it’s time to get to know each other better from my perspective.

Jauretsi: Absolutely and theres so many laws that happened last year between Raul Castro too that have opened up to that.

Paul: Yeah, there’s a ways to go, as we’ve seen especially with the Miami Marlins baseball manager sticking both feet in the mouth

Jauretsi: I was just thinking about that in the last 48 hours, you know they brought that guy into the Marlins to actually attract more ticket buyers to the stadium and he did the reverse.

Paul: Yeah, they built the stadium in Miami and then it was like wow! There was no sensitivity training on that one…

Jauretsi: I can’t hit him, I can’t hit him while he’s down. But that was just not a smart statement there yeah. Alright I’m gonna play a little bit of Celia Cruz, I’m picking Celia Cruz just because she ended up leaving her country and always vowed to go back and see her
homeland. Homegirl sort of passed away and never made it back to her soil again. Although
she was buried with some Cuban soil [in her casket], just to kind of unite her with her land. Anyways, I’m going to play some stuff right now it’s “Yerbero Modero”. It’s Celia Cruz when she was with Sonora Matancera.

CELIA CRUZ

Jauretsi: Let’s go down the list of artists for this project — Juan Formell, Los Van Van, Kelvis Ochoa, Juan Luis Cortez, Cucu Diamantes, Carlos Varela. A lot of these artists and more are going to be involved in this Red Hot Cuba project and hopefully some of the US bands will be allowed to record in Cuba, most of them definitely playing Dec 1 and 2 [2012] at BAM. Tell me about the band Yerba Buena, which is pretty much the band Andres is in with his wife Cucu.

Paul: Myself and Andres Levin and Cucu, his wife, is a Cuban born singer and artist. They’ve been spending a lot of time in Cuba the last couple years. Actually just finished a feature film about sort of their adventures of touring and playing there and Andres is a long time collaborator, he was sort of the main musical architect of the Red Hot Riot album. We did our first Fela Kuti tribute about 12 years ago, so it just seemed a perfect opportunity to work with him again, cause he’s really been hands on with all these Cuban artists and really knows the pulse of what’s happening. So, some of those artists you mentioned we’re reaching out to, but we haven’t necessarily confirmed yet. But it kind of gives you an idea of what we’re going after.

Paul: Yerba is the band Andres has had since we did the Riot record and it’s sort of evolved into Cucu’s band, Cucu Diamantes. So, it’s just an amazing mix of… I can’t even describe it… it just sort of embodies what I guess Neo Cuba is about.

CUCU DIAMANTES

Jauretsi: Yeah, Yerba Buena played at that million person concert in Havana.

Paul: That’s right.

Jauretsi: Which happened like two years ago I think it was. That was sort of the closest thing they had to a Live Aid [concert] down there with international attention. I am going to ask you a question, cause you worked on East of Havana in 2004, you went for the shoot down there. Is there any preconceived notions you had about Cuba when you got there? If anything what did you
learn about the country?

Paul: I don’t think I had any preconceived notions I was just excited. I remember sort of practically talking you out of having me come along, cause I was like “I don’t really need to go”… and then I thought “What am I saying? Just shut up and get down there”

Jauretsi: I could not have your spirit in the project without your body being down there.

Paul: Indeed and many many of my friends have asked, “What was it like?” I mean it was hard, ’cause we were working non-stop and then you know food is an issue.

Jauretsi: You remember all those days in Alamar that there was not even a place to buy bottled water?

Paul: Yeah, so it was an amazing opportunity to work directly with [the Cuban] people and see more of what their lives are like on a daily basis, because we were definitely not in the tourist section of Cuba. So it gave me a better appreciation for what people have had to struggle with there for decades.

Jauretsi: Yeah and we went deep, deep in there. Tell me about some of the people you met like [record Producer] Pablo Herrera ? I mean these are people that even I didn’t expect to meet down there.

Paul: Pablo was like my brother from another… Cause I guess he’s Pablo Herrera and I’m Paul Heck and I spent a lot of time of our trip there in his apartment working with him and some of the local artists like [rapper/poet] Soandry and…

Jauretsi: Danay.. the singer Danay was amazing too.

Paul: Danay! Just sitting in his room with the MPC and a digital recorder working on these songs. So that was just a trip.

Jauretsi: Yeah, he was the only game in town in terms of having an MPC player at that time.

Paul: And he could use it! Man, I had an MPC, but he taught me things that were just like, when all the buttons fall off how to use a tiny little screwdriver to still be able to push the function buttons on an MPC. So he’s a sweet guy.

Jauretsi: About half our characters have left the country, I don’t know if you know. So when you go back in December, you won’t be able to contact a good portion.

Paul: Yeah, well I know Pablo is in Glasgow, I think?

Jauretsi: Scotland, yeah. He’s in Scotland and then Soandry is still in Cuba. Magyori is in Oakland and Mikki Flow is in D.C. Anyways it’s gonna be an awesome new day when everyone can celebrate down there together. By the way there’s a bunch of vinyl here right now that Paul Heck has bought actually on a digging trip to Cuba.

Paul: Well, it was that one afternoon we got off course [from shooting] to just kind of explore some things and someone took us to a loft in old Havana, which was something like 121 degrees up there, there was this ladder and this old guy had probably a few thousand old records and a tremendous amount of dust and mold
to go with it.

Jauretsi: I remember it was a gold mine when we found it!

Paul: It was too good to be true and I tried to find the best records that didn’t look like they were completely falling apart or covered in scratches and found Irakere. You know it’s funny because as a long time crate digger you often are attracted to records that just have beautiful covers, ’cause they often tend to be great records as well, so there’s just some amazing groups that I’d never heard of. I bought them just purely because the covers were just so gorgeous and kind of spoke to me at the time. Truth be told that was some of the stuff I put into the East of Havana sound track… little bits and you know little borrowings
here and there. Little bits of samples on some of the film score, so it inspired me to get to work on the music that eventually ended up in the film.

Jauretsi: You know in Cuba they don’t use the word “sample”. Instead they use the word “Bawckgrownd”, which is a thick Cuban accented way of trying to say “background”. It’s the Spanglish version.

Paul: Yeah exactly it’s the background, flavor, atmospheres…

Jauretsi: If you want to say “sample” in Cuba, you have to say “Bawckgrownd” to the rappers/producers or they get stuck. So tell me about the song you have set up right now..

Paul: This is a classic old Arsenio Rodriguez song called “Achero con Palo” from a record probably from the mid 50s. He’s just classic legendary Godfather of Cuban music.

ARSENIO RODRIGUEZ

Jauretsi: Hey, you’re listening to the Sugar Barons show, we just heard another track. What was that, Paul?

Paul: That was a classic old Irakere song, a song called “Boliviana”, so I guess it was tribute to a ..

Jauretsi: Bolivian chick?

Paul: Bolivian chick yes. This is from one the beautiful records I got when I was in Havana with you in 2004 working on East of Havana.

IRAKERE

Jauretsi: I live for those diggin’ sessions man, so much fun to get records down there.

Paul: Are there still things you can find?

Jauretsi: Yeah! I got some of my favorites which I still play on the show today. I also like to search for Propaganda records, I call them… Just a lot of State speeches and soundtracks to State songs and stuff like that.. CDR [The Committee for the Defense of the Revolution] has a song for example, maybe we’ll play that later.

Paul: What, do you have the ten LP box set of the 10 hour Castro speeches?

Jauretsi: No, it’s like random speech records. They are kind of all recorded on vinyl down there, you just gotta look for them. For anybody that is tuning in late we are discussing the Red, Hot, Cuba project with Paul Heck whose worked on a ton of the Red, Hot series, “Red, Hot Rio”, etc. What other countries
have you worked on actually?

Paul: Well, the Fela, we did Red, Hot Riot, which was a Fela Kuti tribute in 2003. We’re working on a new one, but it’s not a sequel. It is a Fela centered record…

Jauretsi: Red, Hot Fela record was an incredible record. Which artists were on that?

Paul: D’Angelo, Macy Gray, Femi Kuti did a killer version of “Water No Good Enemy”, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Jorge Ben, Tony Allen, Sade, Reese, Caleese, Ray Lima, Manu Dibango… Tons of artists! It was hard to get them all on the back cover actually.

Jauretsi: Wow. Wow. I’m like “name a few..” and you’re like “there’s fifty there going on…” Anyways, about the Red Hot Project there is a specific angle to it, it’s to raise awareness in some of these countries when it comes to AIDS and a lot of the money at least 10 million has gone so far with all the records?

Paul: Yeah, we’ve given away about 10 million, which is important cause a lot of people say “Oh, we’ve raised this much money, but they didn’t give away that much” But we’ve actually given away over $10 million from the sales of our records and the concerts that we’ve done. The thing with Cuba, you know, is the [struggle with] access to medicine and supplies. For this show at BAM, we’re probably looking to be able to donate, you know, things as simple as condoms to organizations in Cuba.

Jauretsi: It’s serious lack of medicine supplies down there. Also, talk to me about this whole anti-homophobic messaging that I believe sometimes Red Hot brings into these countries?

Paul: Well, it’s just, all these issues are interrelated

Jauretsi: I know, I guess I ask that ’cause in places like South Africa and Cuba, it’s kind of a big machismo
society, so…

Paul: Senisex in Cuba, works with LGBT issues and we love what they do, so we are going to be working in association with them with some of the proceeds we will raise from the concert.

Jauretsi: Nice. Alright, I’m going to go on to a favorite track here. A song called
“Guajira Bacan” by Azuquita. This band is amazing they come in with a lot of different layers and flavors.

GUAJIRA BACAN

Jauretsi: I kind of wanted to go back and talk about East of Havana for a second…

Paul: Yeah, Jauretsi I think you were a fan of the Fela record and it was something we just started talking about in terms of the film and working on it. I was honored to be asked cause I’d never really worked on a film before. So, thank you again.

Jauretsi: So, I de-virginized you basically?

Paul: Yes and I recently finished a second film, so that was exciting. You’ve mentioned some of the artists in the film who’ve left the island, but one of the main characters in the film, Soandry, is still there. I was curious, I know you’ve been down there to see him, whats the state of things?

Jauretsi: Yes, Soandry is amazing. He was just an amazing rapper and community leader. We went through a lot of young Cubans when we went down there, and basically scoured the rap festival and listened to every band. There was a lot of young Cubans, and they came in so many shapes and colors and sizes and some didn’t speak the truth, some spoke the truth, some were afraid to speak on camera but spoke to me off camera. For some reason, when we met Soandry he was just super vocal, strong, fearless, so he became our person. Anyways, I went down there for a couple years early to see the rap festival. We ended up shooting during the 2004 festival [which got cancelled by the Cuban State]. It’s 2012 so a lot of years have
passed, but to answer your question, the Rap Agency took over. The agency selected 7 bands to represent all of Cuban hip hop [to promote to the world] while there was an estimated 500 rap bands in Cuba.

Paul: The Rap Agency is…

Jauretsi: The Rap Agency is the governments way of saying “we are taking over and we are going to be in control of this underground movement”. So, once the Rap Agency existed, which is pretty much a bunch of old Revolutionary guys being in charge of Hip Hop. So, go figure. Once that happened you couldn’t book a show, you couldn’t do anything unless the government approved in advance. Having said that
Soandry was mad respected and although his band was not in it, a few of the other bands in the agency all collaborate with Soandry. So, he’s involved and intertwined with that community today and throughout the years, the Rap Agency responsibilities seemed to have been transferred to other State organizations such as Hermano Saiz among many.

He’s been working on a lot of events with them and stuff like that. I went down there recently and noticed his lyrics have gotten stronger, his voice has gotten stronger, I do believe theres going to be one amazing band emerging out of Cuba that’s gonna change the game. One of them is called Aldeanos, I don’t know
if you’ve heard of them?

Paul: No.

Jauretsi: It stands for “The Villagers”, if you google Cuban hip hop, they are all over BBC and CNN and stuff. Aldeanos are very close friends with Soandry, he’s part of that crew too. They’ve gotten in trouble a lot in Cuba. Anyways the underground movement by all means continues to exist, and they’re not part of the Rap agency scene, but they also have allies there. So, it’s a very close tight scene. Two out of the three [East of Havana] characters are not in Cuba anymore. So Magyori was the female rapper in the movie which you remember, the tough revolutionary chick. She left, she’s in the States now, Mikki Flow is also in the States. They are struggling U.S style, I mean their medicine was free down there, you know, they had to come to America and re adjust to taxes and a whole other mess of things, but they are happy, they have partners, they’ve always told me that they can speak their mind here, and that’s what they came for. It’s a complicated conversation.

Paul: Well, it’s good to hear I’m looking forward to going back. Hopefully this fall and seeing Soandry again, it’s been too long.

Jauretsi: If your fellow American producers visited Cuba, what advice would you give them?

Paul: Talk to people, get out! Cubans are incredibly friendly. Don’t just stay in the tourist areas basically.

Jauretsi: Cool. I’m gonna play a little bit of Beny More “Oh Vida”

OH VIDA

Jauretsi: [another song plays] That was Orchestra Cubana de Musica Moderna. Where did you get that record Paul?

Paul: I got that in Havana with you baby.

ORQUESTA CUBANA

Jauretsi: Thanks for spending some time over here.

Paul: My pleasure , thanks for having me.

Jauretsi: If any listeners wants do homework on this Red Hot Cuba project, where can they look it up?

Paul: Go to BAM, basically it’s a big part of BAMs “Next Wave Festival” in the Fall 2012.

Jauretsi: You’re listening to the Sugar Barons show, this is Jauretsi with Paul Heck. Closing up with a little TNT “The Meditation”. See you next week!

TNT BAND – THE MEDITATION

Paul Heck Interview Recorded Live at The Sugar Barons show on 4.11.2012 at Miss Lilys Variety in Soho, New York.