Richard Fortus, the rhythmic guitarist from the famous US rock band, visited the island as part of The Dead Daisies.
There’s much jazz in The Dead Daisies’ melody of Yesterday, mostly achieved through keyboards and guitars. The rhythmic of this instrument surprised more than a few in Havana’s Maxim Rock Theater last month when the multinational band offered its first concert in Cuba. Richard Fortus plays it like no one else, with that southern taste he also uses when playing in Guns n’ Roses.
Follower of Robert Fripp, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck and Wes Montgomery, Fortus is an experimented instrumentalist, and with A. Bumblefeet, he completes the set of guitars in the mythical US band. Richard is also part of The Dead Daisies, a group that visited Havana, thanks to an invitation of the Cuban Music Institute and the Network in Defense of Humanity.
As an exclusive for JR and taking some minutes from his last performance in Havana—at Salon Rosado de la Tropical—Richard said that performing in Cuba has been one of the best things that has ever happened to him and he wishes for his fellow country men to perform here also.
“Being in Cuba is a life experience. Something I did not think it would happen to me”, said Fortus, who studied in the University in South Illinois.
How did a boy from Saint Louis, Missouri, follow the way of rock when he was surrounded by so much jazz?
It is a long story. You could feel Chuck Berry and many others that were born in Saint Louis. There’s much blues in the city indeed, but it is also a city of rock and roll, not only jazz.
You mentioned jazz and I know how much passionate you are about blues. Any unfulfilled dream with it?
I love jazz and blues. They are part of my life. I grew up with them. I don’t think I am done with both styles;otherwise there will be no reasons for me to play and make music. I play them both a lot, with orchestras in the United States. I do not think about playing a solo, but I do like to play with some exponent groups of these genres like Kim Massey and other artists.
How much contributed bands like Pale divine, The Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love to your way of playing the guitar?
All those groups are part of me. I wrote some songs for them. I am proud of having been part of those groups, even when I am with Guns n’ Roses and The Dead Daisies now.
The 2000s was incredible for you: started to play with Guns n’ Roses. Which was your first thought when they told you were already part of the band?
It was a long time ago, 13 years I think. I received the news almost in late 2001. The effect? I hardly doubted. Obviously, I knew who the members of the band were and its work, which I loved. It was different from what other bands did. But it was also another style, very different from the one I played. However, I was very happy because I had friends in that group and I was going to be able to play with them.
During that time Tommy Stinson, Robin Finn and Bryan “Brain” Mantia were good friends of mine. It was an interesting experience and I wanted to be part of it.
Guns n’Roses has marked hard rock in a phenomenal way. How is the band doing now? Will there be any new album because since Chinese Democracy in 2008 there has not been another one?
We just recorded, now we are finishing and we think about presenting something new this year. I don’t know if we will launch a complete album, but there will be certainly new music. And the band is doing great.
Richard, will Axl Roses and all your colleagues from the band come to play for the Cuban followers?
I hope so. When we go back home we will have good opinions about this experience here in Cuba.
Perhaps you can convince Axl Roses…
Yes, I will try, but what The Dead Daisies did this week open the path for other bands to come and play in the island in the future.
Speaking of The Dead Daises, tell us how are you doing with this project?
I started with The Dead Daisies a couple of years ago. It is a very personal project. The members are my best friends and I am thrilled of being part of it. We write songs and music together. I am proud to be there.
We are in Abdala Studios. Does it mean The Dead Daisies is recording with Cuban musicians?
Actually we have not recorded anything; we rehearsed here with them. Maybe we will do something later. But it has been a fantastic experience to work with the Cuban artists nevertheless; there are fabulous percussionists and also wind instrument performers. That is a very well known fact worldwide.
Translation: Adriana Perez (Cubarte)