Fender artist relations manager Michael Schulz recently returned from a humanitarian trip to Cuba to encourage music and skateboarding among the local youth. Scott Manning of So Cal fashion empire Bloodhorse and Rene and Yilka LeCour from Miami skateboard management company Sugars Drop Shop organized the group, which included pro skater Mike Kassick, Chris Pontius from Jackass, Samhain drummer London May, Captain and Casey television show host Chris Casey and several others.
Here are some photos from the trip, along with captions by Schulz.
Below are recent graduates from one of Havana’s music programs. The school chose five of their top guitarists to attend a ceremony where Fender donated five CD-60 acoustic guitars to help further their musical quests! They were overwhelmed and couldn’t believe it. They don’t have access to new guitars and typically have hand-me-down guitars that are in pretty bad shape. They surprised us with an impromptu jam which included a cover of Buena Vista Social Club’s infamous “Chan Chan”.
Here’s another photo of the students, taken by Walter Lohr.
Below is Ronnie, a Cuban skateboarder/musician, who loves punk rock music. It just so happened that Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong had donated two of his signature Fender Hellcat acoustic guitars for our trip so we gave one to Ronnie since he was a fan. He got very emotional and was in tears. He’s never owned his own guitar. He kept smelling the guitar and the case and enjoying that new guitar smell. He literally kept pinching himself and said in Spanish, “Music’s always been able to take me away. Now I can make my own.”
Fender was invited to a recently opened music club called Maxim Rock. It’s a very DIY club; They have a PA system, drum kit, and a few instruments that can be borrowed by local bands when they play at the club. We donated a few Fender acoustic guitars to help round out their gear, and they were extremely grateful to have brand new instruments.
The following night the club promoter invited a few of the guys in our group to jam with some local bands. Chris Pontius, Scott Manning and London May played mostly original punk songs with Pontius on vocals. They closed out the packed set with a cover of Neil Young’s classic, “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” inviting everyone to sing along.
The trip also included a skate contest at a skate park in Havana, complete with scavenger hunts and races. Below, you can see the kids taking off to find the prizes we hid around the park.
This guy won a set of Fender playing cards for highest Ollie.
Over 100 new skateboards were handed out to the kids during our trip. These kids have no access to new boards so if they break one, they’re done skating.
Below is Ronnie, who won one of the Rise Against shirts that bassist Joe Principe donated. I also gave him my board shorts and skating shoes since he’s never owned any, and Dimitri— one of the art directors for Jackass— gave him a brand new video camera with a fisheye lens so they can film a proper skate video.
The trip also included a small tattoo convention to showcase local tattoo artists’ work. We had a lot of help with artwork and clothing from Golden Rule Tattoo. Big thanks also to Mike Roche (TSOL), Jime Litwalk and Carey Hart from Hart & Huntington for donating an international power supply box, clean needles and cleaning kits, artwork and new machinery. Also, BJ Betts (tattoo artist who works with NIKE, Puma, Adidas, etc.) also donated artwork and a “how to” guide on tattooing.
One night, we headed to this venue called Mi Habana to check out this awesome rock band called Kents that covered the Rolling Stones, Beatles and Bon Jovi. Andreas (below) was on rhythym guitar and was playing a Squier Stratocaster that someone once gave him.
Dogo was playing “Rosita,” an early-1970s USA Telecaster that he bought off of a Canadian musician many years ago. He routed, by hand, a cavity for humbuckers and a Floyd Rose trem. As he told us, “You only have one guitar so it has to work for everything!”