Cuban-descended Mavericks bandleader Raul Malo feels liberated these days, and he’s made career decisions accordingly. Watching his bassist Robert Reynolds repeatedly succumb to opiate addiction, he made the tough choice to fire him (“It was either him or the group”). And when he began tracking eclectic new songs (such as “Pardon Me,” the salsa-spicy “All Night Long,” and a swing-paced “Stories We Could Tell”) on old ribbon mics, he switched his sessions to mono, and dubbed his new disc “Mono” as well.
Some right-wingers don’t like it. But what’s your take on Obama’s recent re-establishment of relations with Cuba?
I get that. I heard all my life how that embargo’s a good thing, down with Fidel and no negotiating, blah, blah, blah. And then one day you wake up, and your dad can’t travel to Cuba because he’s too old, so he’ll never see his family there. And my oldest kid just graduated high school, and I’m turning 50, and I can’t take my kids to visit where their family’s from? To me, that’s the ultimate decider. I have a cousin there that’s my age, who’s married, has kids, and I don’t know any of them – that’s just bizarre and unnatural, no matter what happened 40 years ago.
You’ve written about this before, in “From Hell to Paradise,” right?
Yeah. It was about my grandmother, who was protesting the Castro regime. She had a machine gun pulled on her, pointed at the back of her head, and she was taken to jail and beaten. So she was a pretty staunch anti-Communist growing up, and that was basically her story. Not only her story, but a lot of people’s stories. But it would be amazing to go to Cuba with the band – it’s a bit of a lifelong dream to go and play there. So I hope I can do that while I still can.
Lyrically, “Mono” seems to address two things – mortality, and the love you feel for your wife and family.
A lot of those thoughts were – are – on my mind, and I feel mortality every day. But I’ve kind of removed myself from politics. Not that I’m afraid of a fight, but after a while, if you’re trying to have a serious, intelligent, political discussion with someone, and part of their argument is that humans were around when dinosaurs were around? It’s like, we don’t have anything to say to each other. So at that point, you either figure out how to co-exist and get around the idiots, or you just try to make the world a better place.
IF YOU GO
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. March 26-27
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com