■ The Cuban Brother tells us about music in New Orleans, sausage-making in Cuba and singing karaoke with The Hoff
What’s your favourite on-the-road moment?
In 2010, we toured the States with the Bullrun Rally, a crazy automobile race that covers more than 3,000 miles. They gave us our own wicked, two-storey tour bus with images of our own faces on it and one night we were driving to Vegas through the desert, having a bit of a party, when we got pulled over by the police.
We told them we had a guy travelling with us who was the world’s greatest Will Smith impersonator. Out steps Phil Cooper, who’s a small, 19-stone, Welsh DJ with ginger hair and a huge, Henry VIII beard, wearing an oversized tracksuit and singing Summertime. We were all p***ing ourselves laughing and the police just stood there shaking their heads at us in bewilderment. They cautioned us but allowed the party bus to continue on its journey.
What’s your favourite city?
New Orleans is an extraordinary city with a similar vibe to Havana — it’s so musical and celebratory, regardless of any past hardship, with an amazing energy you just don’t find in many cities.
In the French Quarter parties can come out of nowhere; one minute there are 15 people having a drink, the next there are 150 people spilling out into the street, dancing. There are loads of bars on Bourbon Street where s***-hot musicians play blues, funk and soul every night. Spanky’s bar has been in the same family for about eight generations and is so welcoming. I jumped up and did a couple of numbers there with the band before drinking whiskey sours with them until 5am.
What have you ever taken from a hotel room?
Back in the day, if it wasn’t nailed down we’d take it: ridiculous things such as lamps and laundry presses. Now I only take it if I really want it. I have a beige robe with a thick, brown belt and a Berber-style wide, pointy hood that I took from a hotel in Macau because my daughter looked like a mini Jedi in it.
What has been your most life-changing experience while travelling?
In 1997, I headed to Cuba to learn to play conga drums properly and stayed in a casa particular homestay in Havana with a lovely couple called Pilar and Pedro. At the time everybody needed to have their own little hustle going on to make extra cash because the country was in dire straits. Theirs was making sausages in a tiny shed using a really old-school sausage-making machine. They’d have faced jail had they been caught but they trusted me enough to ask me to help.
We had salsa music booming so the machine couldn’t be heard. I’m stood there feeding meat into sausage skins while Pedro’s winking at me conspiratorially and we’re all sweating inside a tiny, boiling hot shed for four-hour shifts. That incredible experience instantly informed my ideals and shaped what I consider to be hardship.
What’s the worst meal you’ve had abroad?
Bland, rotten croquettes on Christmas Day 1999 in Amsterdam after a Christmas Eve show. I had a romantic notion we’d find a fantastic restaurant but our only option was disgusting croquettes from a vending machine in Dam Square. Merry Christmas.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve spent the night?
The Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang. We arrived in North Korea in a 30-seater original Rolling Stones touring plane to play a gig at the Gumball 3000 Rally in 2012 and ended up in the karaoke bar of the Yanggakdo Hotel with David Hasselhoff and the boys from Jackass until 8am. Hasselhoff actually sang the Baywatch theme — it was so funny I almost s*** myself laughing.
Have you ever come close to being arrested?
I got busted in Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in New Orleans with Ryan Dunn and Johnny Knoxville once. We were naked and climbed up the world’s longest dancing pole — it’s 50ft high. We were encouraged by the girls to do it but the management didn’t like it. It didn’t end well and there are pictures out there of me being bundled into the back of a cop car, naked and still laughing. I was charged with affray, public nudity and resisting arrest.
■ For the Cuban Brothers’ UK dates, see thecubanbrothers.com