The Abbeyrd Interview with Hugo Cancio,

president of Fuego Entertainment


(Hugo Cancio, president of Fuego Entertainment, is one of the defendants in the recently filed lawsuit by Apple Corps to halt a proposed release of tapes of the Beatles recorded at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. This interview took place over the course of several days beginning March 23. We thank him for granting this exclusive interview.).


(Note:  This interview is copyrighted by Abbeyrd’s Beatles Page and may not be used anywhere and in any way without our permission. )

SM: What are your feelings about the lawsuit?

HC:  I'm surprised. Surprised because we’ve had  good faith conversations with Apple for the past month ever since we put out our press release. We established conversation (with Apple). Actually, they contacted us. And we were having a very cordial conversation with Apple. I received a couple of calls from Jeff Jones, the president and CEO of Apple in London. We were talking to their attorneys in New York. And in good faith, we agreed to certain things that they requested, which was not to use their name -- the Beatles with a long "T". At the beginning, we questioned them (about this), because there are many websites that have the Beatles' name, maybe not with the long "T", but the Beatles' name itself. …  And many people host internet websites that are constantly posting new information about their stories, their new releases, their tours and so forth and so on. I was kind of questioning the fact of whether starting with Fuego they were going to police everybody else in terms of not allowing them to use their name. But anyway, we in good faith, took the name down. They also requested in good faith requested we not stream the full-length track we had online. We did that as well. And we continued talking. The conversations were halted when they requested that we send them the original recordings that Mr. Jeffrey Collins owns. This is very important. Fuego does not own these recordings. Mr. Collins owns it and Mr. Collins placed all his rights into a joint venture that is called by Mr. Collins Echo-Fuego.  Delete “Echo-Vista and Fuego Entertainment.”

HC:  So I was surprised by the lawsuit. But at the same time, we are not concerned. As far as Fuego Entertainment and myself is concerned, there is no basis, no legal basis for a lawsuit. We have not violated anyone's rights. We have not released the album. We have not used their name in any way or form for commercial use in any way. So I kind of get the feeling in the way this was done. It was sent to the media. I found out through the media around 2 o'clock on Friday. The media already had the complaint in their hands and the complaint had not even been filed. So my initial reaction in this is a spectacle. Totally baseless. You know, a waste of Beatles' money because there's no room here for damages or infringement of anyone's rights. This validates something that I've heard ... in one of your posts through one of my people who works with me sent me a link to one of your posts that you were not even sure that this was the Beatles. So it kind of validates the facts that these are the Beatles. Because they would not be coming after us if they didn't think this was the Beatles.

SM: Well, I heard the stuff you had streamed online and some of it is the Beatles, but some of it is not. And that's not only my feeling. It's the feeling of several authors that have heard the tapes..

HC:  Well, you know, it'll be interesting, you know. Because we did a lot of due diligence regarding these recordings. It is the Beatles in some cases with other people. At the Star Club in 1962, everybody got onstage and started jamming and so forth. Actually, we know someone ... we're in touch with someone that played with the Beatles and performed at the Star Club in Hamburg in 1962 and knows the whole story. He's very good friends with the owners and everybody else. He knows the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Paul McCartney very well, and Ringo Starr. And he remembers very well these jamming sessions at the Star Club in Hamburg. Those are my initial reactions to the lawsuit … So we will, of course, once officially served, we will answer it and we will defend it vigorously.

SM: OK. Let’s talk about  the whole issue of Mr. Collins' ownership of the tapes. I mean he was not there in '62.

HC:  I met Mr. Collins in December of 2007. Originally, Mr. Collins was looking for a partner and this deal came to me through an investment banker that sent me a business plan from Echo-Vista and Mr. Collins and so forth. My initial reaction when I noticed there were 12 never released tracks from the Beatles was the same as everybody else. “You gotta be kidding me. This is not even real. I'm not even going to go there.” Up to that point, we were engaged in Latin music. … I've always wanted to make that move into the English music market because it's a market that continues to sell records and it's a market that, you know, why not? So when we were approached by an investment banker about this deal. We liked this deal. We liked Mr. Collins' catalog. I liked the fact that Mr. Collins was 45 minutes away from where I am, not in New York or anywhere else. At the beginning, I said I'm not interested in a deal especially because I couldn't believe that someone would have 12 never released tracks from the Beatles. And also the potential litigation. It was common sense to me Apple or the Beatles (at) one point or another will try and stop the releases of these recordings for whatever reasons. Whether or not we could prove that we have the legal rights to release these recordings or not, it was always in the back of everyone's mind that the Beatles were not going to allow those recordings to go out for many reasons, you know. Maybe because Paul McCartney doesn't like the way he sounded in 1962. Maybe he didn't want anyone to know he used to sing country music back in 1962. Who knows? Maybe because in these recordings there's a lot of talking during sound rehearsals and you can hear them talking among each other. This is not only music recordings, but conversations. Things like that that took place and so forth. However, given the fact that Mr. Collins is British,  he's about 67 years old.  He was part of the music environment in 1960. He was a radio deejay, a  promoter. … Once we were told the story back in those days how things were. Once we interviewed and talked to people that were part of that environment in 1962, we decided to go ahead. But we never intended to release the recordings without the blessings of Apple and the Beatles. We thought this was a historical album. Beatles fans around the world deserve to hear this recording. We thought the quality of the recordings, even though it's not top notch quality, not up to the type of recording made today, maybe not up to the standards of the Beatles, that people, Beatles fans, will understand this is a live recording made in 1962 with limited equipment. As  a historical album, it'll be fine. I mean I don't think there's any issues. It's like you finding some recording from a personal camera from 1940 something or World War II. It's still material everyone wants to know about.

SM: I'm sure you must have known about the lawsuit in the '90s, the one that they all testified in and that the Beatles won. Did you know about that?

HC:  No, I didn't. I did not. I was made aware of that by Apple's attorneys. I was not aware of the other litigations regarding the Hamburg recordings. However, these recordings, these particular 12 recordings were not part of that litigation. These particular recordings have some music tracks that nobody else has, according to Mr. Collins. And again, according to Mr. Collins, there was some indication from Apple in 1995 that they were willing to take a look at the possibility of releasing these recordings as a historical album. They later changed their minds. Mr. Collins went ahead based on what he interpreted to be good intentions, the potential or the possibility of releasing these recordings in conjunction with Apple and Echo-Vista. Mr. Collins went ahead and digitally enhanced this recording to get a better quality sound and so forth. Then the Beatles, then Apple decided it was not the right time. … What we intended to do was to some way, somehow convince the Beatles this was a historical recording and get their blessing. I want to make clear that I don’t mean their permission, but their  blessings.  When I say not their permission, Mr. Collins feels that he owns these recordings. We requested from Apple proof of ownership and they did not provide us with that information. And if you look at their comments through the media in all of the many articles and there's a lot of articles, they don't claim ownership of these tracks. Their claim is these tracks were not authorized by the Beatles. Mr. Collins' position is they were, because, at that time, everyone that performed at the Hamburg club knew that the club recorded everyone, everybody for promotional purposes or any other reasons. In fact, I spoke to someone that performed there many times and he confirmed that. It was normal procedure for the club to record everyone that performed at the club. The Beatles at the time were not a famous band. They were another band from the UK trying to become famous. So who would go.. it was not  like Brittany Spears or Roy Orbison, for example. Somebody that I spoke with said Roy Orbison always said you do not record my performances. Roy Orbison was already a famous act at the time.  But any other act that performed there, the club would record them. And they were aware. Also take notice that today I could walk into a concert hall with my iPhone or my Blackberry and I could just record a concert with the artist, whether it's Brittany Spears or God knows who. They don't know whether I'm taking a picture of them or talking on the phone. At the time, the recording devices were reel-to-reel machines, probably the size of a coffee table and they had to be placed near the stage. And (near) the artist. there had to be a microphone as big as Paul McCartney's head somewhere. And that had to be placed there prior to the artist getting to the stage and within the visibility of the artist. So, it kind of puts into question whether one would say they were not aware they were being recorded. At the time, even if they were being recorded, according to people that I talked to, they didn't even care because they were not even famous. I've been in the music business for quite awhile. Most artists when they're not famous they allow people to record them, to do whatever it takes, because  they feel it's going to enhance their possibilities of making it. So I don't know the other case with Sony. I don't know of any other cases with the Hamburg recordings. In this particular case, Mr. Collins feels very comfortable with the fact that these recordings that the Beatles had knowledge they were being recorded and the fact that he owns that these owns these recordings and the fact that  nobody else has these recordings. He feels he has the rights to release these tracks, maybe not now, but in the future. So, to make a long story short, Apple was aware and was advised that we were not going to release these recordings. All we did was announce to the world that these recordings existed, that we have these recordings that Echo-Fuego Music Groups LLC was digitally enhancing these recordings for its future release. What's illegal and inappropriate about that? That is the question.

SM: OK. I suppose we could get into this all night. There's so many things …

HC: Like I said, we made an announcement to the world that we had acquired from Mr. Jeffrey Collins 12 tracks never released by the Beatles that we were going to digitally enhance these recordings to improve their quality in preparation for future release. What did we do that deserves a lawsuit of this magnitude? Nothing, in my opinion, in my personal opinion, nothing. That is important for me to put out there. There is not infringement of anyone's rights. We did not violate anyone's intellectual property. And we in good faith did everything they requested in order to continue good faith conversations which led us to believe (there was the possibility) for potential future release with their blessings. But in my opinion, there's no violation of anyone's rights and I'm talking on behalf of Echo-Fuego. Fuego Entertainment hasn't done anything. We were mentioned in the lawsuit and me personally as defendants, but we don't own these recordings. Our joint venture (Echo-Vista) that we are part of owns these recordings with Mr. Collins. It's important that it gets out there because it's the truth.

HC:  I have the complaint. My local paper sent it to me. What's interesting was they all had it before it was even filed. Which leads me to believe that Apple wanted this to be played out in the media. This is why I called it a spectacle. We have to, of course, once we're served, legally reply to their complaint, which we will do, but Fuego and myself, we have to reply via press release. However, we don't want to do that until we are served. Even though I have the complaint and even though I must confess to you that even though I have it, I have not read it.

HC: But I wanted to address one of your questions... and it was the question looking back or looking forward whether I regret the decision. The answer is complicated and the reason being that when Fuego decided to form the joint venture with Mr. Collins, it was an issue whether Mr. Collins did have the rights to those tracks. Looking back, I never expected Apple --- and from reading the previous correspondence between Apple and Mr. Collins that dates back to 1995,  it was very cordial and it indicated interest in doing a dual release of these recordings. So Echo-Fuego and myself we did not envision any type of litigation with the Beatles coming from us to them or them to us. We envision the fact that the Beatles are now again in the limelight and we have some recordings that do not have that they do not own and they know they do not own it. It was already proven in a court case in London that they do not own these recordings. They have never claimed ownership of these recordings. As a businessman, as a person that considers myself a logical person I believed -- and you can called me naive  -- that sitting down with Apple, we would come to some kind of terms. Whether they will give us their blessings, even if it mean they will release these recordings themselves, we would get some kind of royalties. So I never envisioned getting involved in litigation with Apple. And I envisioned hard negotiations or potentially a dispute, probably, in private, until we found a resolution. As a matter of fact, when we started talking to Apple, after we started putting out our original press release, Apple requested that we take down their name off our website and I asked them, can we put a press release? Now you're asking me to take all the streamings down, all the songs, in good faith, to continue our conversations. Some of my people are going to ask me why I did that. Can I put a press release out saying Apple and Fuego are in conversation, that’s all? They said, "Absolutely not. This is private." And they wanted to keep it private. However, last Friday, they went out there and broke that promise and made it a spectacle. They may have their own reasons. I don't know. Even though I run a public company and even though I'm a public figure in my community, I'm a very low profile individual. I'd rather not be in the media, in the press. But here I am today. And one thing that may sound strange to you.

HC: My mother brought me from Cuba to this country when I was 16 years old because I made a joke about Fidel Castro. And they arrested me for three days to find out why. And my mom had to leave a very lucrative career. My father is the equivalent of the Beatles in Cuba. He was a member of Los Zafiros. My father's group dates back to the 1960s. In fact, they played with the Beatles at a cabaret in Paris. They played with the Beatles and my father's a Beatles fan.  At the Olympia in Paris. (Note: In researching this and in subsequent communication with Mr. Cancio, it was discovered Los Zafiros played at the Olympia the same week as  the Beatles.) So if you go and put Los Zafiros and see where I come from, it’s one of the most important music families in Cuban music. I don't need this aggravation. However, Apple just pushed me to the limit because they filed an unjust lawsuit claiming that we are distributing -- and listing me as an individual -- bootleg recordings, when we haven't done that. Claiming that we have infringed on their rights when we haven't done that. It's just a big corporation trying to squash someone just claiming to own certain recordings of the Beatles and the intention of putting it out in the future. We were very specific not to set a date because, of course, we wanted to do it with their blessings. And in a worst case scenario, Mr. Collins said we could do it in 2011 because there were some laws that will allow us to do so. So basically, there was no need for all these things. Looking back, I wish I was not here where I am today with this lawsuit. You know, I don't like to be involved in any type of litigation (with) the amount of money, time and energy that needs to be spent. But we are now moving forward. We're gonna defend it. And we're going to prevail.

SM: Are you and Mr. Collins going to mount separate defenses?

HC: I'm sure he will determine what's the next course of action for him personally and his company. So I don't know how it's going to proceed. Obviously, you know, he is concerned. But at the same time, you know, he feels comfortable. But we are .. Fuego is ... defending itself ... our joint venture. And that's why we retained the services of the law firm we retained.