Red Menace: Cuba's Heavy Metal Underground

SXSW Panel Reviews

Red Menace: Cuba's Heavy Metal Underground
by Gary Miller

Red Menace: Cuba's Heavy Metal Underground

Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 15

"There's a Cuban culture and we are not a part of that," said Joel Anderson of Cuban metal band the Ancestor. "We're part of that only when it's convenient. When the government wants to do something for the long-haired youth, they give us money to put on a concert. You must understand that in Cuba everything is political." To wit, Maxim Rock, the one Havana venue open to metal bands is state-owned and run, something Scriptorium zine writer Alex Salazar Sanchez calls a mixed blessing. It has the best equipment you'll find in Cuba, but at the same time, "It's kind of a ghetto," he says. "You have the place, but now it's difficult to arrange shows in other parts of the city." The cost of renting a sound system represents half a year's salary on the island. "You also need to buy lights, drumsticks, instruments," adds Anderson. "You split the cost between all the band members and you always find a way. You might have 500 to 600 people there and earn some money, but you will never make your investment back." As filmmaker Tracy Noelle Luz put it, "It took me four hours one day to get toilet paper and these guys are trying to get drum kits."

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