Mad Juana
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Mad Juana


Band Alternative Rock


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"Music Connection Viper Room Review"

MUSIC CONNECTION REVIEW Sept. 20, 2005 - Issue ..20
Mad Juana Viper Room West Hollywood, CA

Material: There is nothing normal about Mad Juana and their spicy jambalaya of gypsy-bohemian rock. Their material is a bizarre wonderland inhabited by groups such as Gogol Bordello. MJ kick it up a notch by combining European sensibilities with classic American rock. The result is a style of music they call acoustic voodoo. It's a strangely liberating and totally compelling concoction that takes the listener on a wild ride, as it annihilates convention and alters everyone's consciousness.

Musicianship: With exotic instrumentation and maddening skills, these players are outstanding. Each musician seems to have a unique approach that gives the music a deep, dark patina. Karmen Guy's vocals blend Cajun inflections with a bluesy bayou sound that makes her voice come across like a humid summer - swampy, sweaty and devastatingly sexy. For a couple of tunes, she even stretched her range into Edith Piaf territory and nailed that French songbird quality.

Performance: Normally, with musicality so high any action onstage is like icing on a cake. But Mad Juana obviously refused to settle for anything as simple as that. Instead, their show was a cabaret of warped dimensions and hypnotic visions. Indeed, magical hardly begins to describe it. Intense and spellbinding, their performance was more than memorable.

Summary: Hailing from New York's East Village, Mad Juana is like a band of gypsies intent on entertaining the villagers. Breathtaking in execution, their music stirs the soul and inflames passion. And, though some may see them as quirky and strange, this act has created their own genre, and could easily become a niche-market phenomenon. -Bernard Baur

- Music Connection

"HARP MAGAZINE, August 2007"

CD REVIEW: Mad Juana/Acoustic Voodoo. Led by ex-Hanoi Rocks/current New York Dolls bassist Sami Yaffa, plus sultry chanteuse Karmen Guy, Mad Juana oozes an unclassifiable concoction of gypsy-folk, jazz, flamenco, swamp blues and punk tempos. Image Django Reinhardt and Patti Smith fronting the Velvet Underground in a Bourbon Street dive and the exotic soulfulness and inflamed passion rises like a possessed voodoo spirit. On a darkly mesmerizing cover of the Velvets' "Venus in Furs," Yaffa strums flamenco-style acoustic licks as Guy's seductive voice exudes enigmatic bayou-priestess wile. Attempting to reinvent traditional roots music is never unproblematic, but by interjecting striking viola, subtle horns and captivating percussion into the savory gumbo, Mad Juana displays nuanced complexity, down-home authenticity and hot blooded gusto. From the Spanish-Celtic stomp of "Living in Babylon" to the exuberant trash-blues of "Steel Will" (with guest harpist Michael Monroe), Mad Juana has created a uniquely fascinating and celebratory global beat.—Ron Bally

- CD Review

"Gaz-Eta CD review"

If Concrete Blonde were more blues oriented or did mariachi music and had a sex goddess as their lead vocalist, they may sound something like Mad Juana. Former glam rock [Hanoi Rocks] bassist Sami Yaffa [he actually plays acoustic guitar in this formation] joins powers with accordion player Marni Rice, tenor saxophonist Danny Ray, trumpeter Jimmy Vespa and percussionist Paul Garisto. Let's not forget the star at the centre of attention, vocalist Karmen Guy, who also takes turns playing melodica and percussion. First off, the sound the sextet makes is spectacular. Without a doubt, their low-key acoustic approach is both raunchy as well as quite risque. Provocative phrasings and sultry lyrics escape from Guy's mouth. More often than not, her phrases are stretched out in that sex-me-over devilish sort of manner. Save for a few pieces where he wails, saxophonist Danny Ray is underused and when he's used, his work tends to get rather conformist. Yaffa's guitar work is all over the place. This is blues stuff, mean and rotten to the core. The trumpet and accordion add for some nice colouring, but it's the percussion that is absolutely thrilling. The congas played by Paul Garisto are multi-layered as is the percussive shtick. The band's version of "Venus in Furs" is unlike anything you may remember from Velvet Underground. Its acoustic bareness and wailing tenor sax just scream with intensity. Guy being the centre of attention gets star billing. Those stretched-out phrases are intoned just right. Emotion is inserted in all the right places. The place just rocks solid. "Acoustic Voodoo" is one of the more pleasant surprises so far this year. - Tom Sekowski - "Acoustic Voodoo" review

"the Aquarian"

Exotic, seductive and enchanting, the latest album by Mad Jaunas, Acoustic Voodoo casts a spell on the listener. Entrancing and intoxicating, the unique blend of unconventional instruments with the staples of rock creates something altogether new and exciting. Not for the musically weak of heart, this ambitious, multi-colored effort takes the listener places that most albums only hope to. Aside from showcasing the band's broad talent and sheer musical balls, this is a creative effort which takes many risks, all of which pay off tremendously. The band also covers the glam rock staple "Venus In Furs" and paints a mythic and ethereal picture which challenges the greatness of the original Velvet Underground version. Featuring exotic instruments and arrangement, the album is delivered in a variety of languages aside from English.This multilingual approach completes the seduction, as the listener can imagine themselves sitting in a sidewalk café in Madrid listening to the distant strumming of a Spanish guitar. Radiant, elegant and intoxicating, each note is guaranteed to make every hair on the neck of the true music appreciator's neck stand on end, with their heart begging for more. In A Word: Electrifying Grade: A —by Christine DiPaolo, The Aquarian

- "Acoustic Voodoo" review

"It's a mad world!"

All that is night
We've got venue info, a review of a show you should spank yourself for missing and a whole lot more

City beat, April 1oth, 2008

Mad world

In keeping with a the-more-the-merrier philosophy, the eight-piece gypsy-rock outfit Mad Juana—fronted by ex-Hanoi Rocks/current New York Dolls guitarist Sami Yaffi and his wife Karmen Guy (vocals, melodica)—made their local splash at The Casbah on April 2.

The core duo are newly relocated Ocean Beach residents who do an eclectic mix of Euro-traditional jazz, Dixieland horns and Velvet Underground-meets-X onstage cool.

With the help of bass player Steve Rodriguez (ex-Dragons, ex-MEX), the crowded lineup deftly ran through about an hour’s worth of loud, cacophonous, post-modern gypsy-jazz and alt-rock jumbles to close out a diverse evening that also included MEX (the Mario Escovedo Experience) as an opening act. It might not be the first, but it was certainly one of the few times you’ll ever see accordions in consecutive acts on stage at The Casbah.

Despite a congested stage for Mad Juana—which also includes saxophonist Danny Ray, trumpeter Nico Camargo, percussionist Paul Garisto, violinist Fernando Apodaca and Marni Rice on accordion and vocals—the band made the complicated arrangements and high-density melodies sound engagingly easy.

Yaffi’s usual slash-and-burn guitar gave way to muted, Bo Diddley-esque chords and highly tuned ornamentation while Guy, a dark-haired beauty with strong pipes and commanding stage presence, never really had to strain to project over the danceable din. All of which bodes well for Mad Juana’s new full-length, Bruja on the Corner.

The album was originally slated to be released last week on the Azra imprint, but—after some disagreements between the band and the label—it will now be released on Acetate Records in early July.
—Will K. Shilling

- City Beat, San Diego, CA

"LA Weekly Pick of the Week!"


Mad Juana at the Cat Club
You might remember Sami Yaffa from his days in the early-’80s Finnish hard-rock band Hanoi Rocks (although he’s apparently not involved in their reunion). He recently passed through town as the bassist in the reincarnated New York Dolls, and he wrote the hypnotically descending riff to "We’re All in Love," the catchiest tune on the Dolls’ 2006 comeback CD. But Mad Juana, his ongoing project with his wife, Karmen Guy, is stranger and more exotic than anything else he’s ever done. "Domingo," from the New York band’s upcoming CD, Bruja on the Corner (Azra), starts with mariachi horns and segues into an Old Word vibe with accordion and violin melodies that evoke Manu Chao, Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box. However, Ms. Guy’s bewitching singing takes things to a feverishly madcap place where dub, reggae, flamenco and punk collide seamlessly. It all comes together on "Revolution Avenue," which sounds a little like Nina Hagen fronting Tijuana No! Wicked stuff. (Falling James)

- LA Weekly

"Best bands of NYC"

The Deli Magazine
Issue 14 Volume 2 Spring 2008
"Best Bands of New York City 2008"

We Prefer Her Merry

A few years ago I was introduced to lovely French accordionist
extraordinaire, Marni Rice, who tod me she was joining up with current New
York Dolls bass guitarist Sami Yaffa's band. Little did I realize the
explosion of sexy rock I would encounter. The focal point, as with most
charismatic bands, is the vocalist, Karmen Guy, who provides a nice feminine
counterpoint to the gypsy-rock shot Gogol Bordello fired worldwide. With
Yaffa's punk rock cred melding with horns, congas, violins and guitars, both
acoustic and electric, Mad Juana call on traditional strains to create
something new and relevant to the New York scene. After viewing the party
in their new video, "Valhalla", on their 2008 release, "Bruja on the
Corner", plus their sweaty live shows with smuggled Ouzo and mid-grade weed
smoked discreetly, I had no choice but to vote Mad Juana as my #1 up and
comer of the year. --David Gwiazdowski

Based in: New York City
What it is: A carnival of sound directed by Luis Bunuel, scored by Ennio
Morricone and King Tubby.
For those who like: Free music incorporating swamp blues, dub, reggae and a
dash of mariachi/flamenco.
Latest news: The band will tour the West Coast in April 08.
- The Deli Magazine


Thursday, Oct.2, 2008

by Falling James

"You take the world for granted as you float up on your cake," Karmen Guy purrs with a deceptive sugariness on Mad Juana's new album, Bruja on the Corner (Acetate Records), before digging in the knife. "You think you're some kind of a dignitary, but you're nothing more than a fake," she declares while accordionist Marni Rice, saxist Danny Ray and trumpeter Nico Camargo serenade her with merrily bittersweet, soused and swanky rejoinders straight out of old-time New Orleans. So many musicians invoke witchcraft and voodoo without ever sounding magical, but the New York group are indeed bewitching, with a timelessly exotic blur of Gypsy-punk influences akin to Manu Chao and Gogol Bordello that's taken to another level of enchantment altogether by Guy's sultry chanteuse persona. Her songwriting partner in crime, guitarist-bassist Sami Yaffa, lays down some considerable groovy grooves that go far beyond his previous contributions to Hanoi Rocks and the reconstituted New York Dolls, such as the dreamy dub interlude in the otherwise madcap "Strangers in Paradise" and the stormy acoustic guitars and haunting melodica-flecked sadness of "Circus Downtown." It all culminates most impressively in the sinuously mesmerizing "Revolution Avenue," whose dueling horns, loping dub bass, psychedelic sound effects and Guy's border-dissolving imagery echo the febrile moods of Tijuana No's classic album Contra-Revolucion Avenue.

"Mad Juana is a tour de force"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mad Juana featured in Crusher Magazine
Category: Music

Mad Juana is a tour de force, a blindingly good band serving far above average sonic fare. Like a road trip into cathartic madness and good old fashioned mayhem, the band are poised to release their new album Bruja On The Corner on Acetate Records, a seductive and powerful blend of rock, voodoo, punk and world music influences. Featuring more instruments than your standard four-piece rock line up can shake a stick at, the band is perfect for a scorching Summer crime spree or as an intellectual yet fun alternative to the uninspired dregs leeking out of the radio these days.
Mad Juana features ex-Hanoi Rocks bass legend (and current New York Doll) Sami Yaffa, along with his very talented vocalist wife Karmen Guy plus a plethora of other truly musical aficionados who sound hell bent on creating something special. Blues, intoxicating gypsy dirges, swirling chords and danceable beats collage like a post-modern cultural wet dream (complete with a motherfucker of a Mezcal hangover). This band is definitely not to be slept on even though Mad Juana's sound will creep into your dreams with guns blazing (not to mention melodica, accordion, trumpets, congas and Danny Ray's killer tenor saxophone lines).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sami Yaffa and Karmen Guy about the new album, their creative and earnest influences from the forces in their lives (including domestic hijinks) and especially, on the importance of staying true to the process of growing musically.

MORGAN Y. EVANS: Okay, first things first! Mad Juana is a lot of fun to listen to. I think now that the weather is getting nicer for the summer in NYC that your band could be very dangerous for my life because you kind of instantly make me desire massive margaritas. The music is too good to not listen to though so I'll just have to face the consequences! You must have a great time playing live. I think you could easily tempt a crowd to freak out or lose all inhibitions!

SAMI YAFFA: We had a spontaneous fucking incident happen at one of our shows in
San Francisco last year and also a couple of baby reports from Spain. Margaritas might have also played a role.

MYE: How do you approach songwriting in the group and in particular, for the new record Bruja On The Corner? Is it harder with a large number of players in a band like Mad Juana versus Hanoi Rocks or The New York Dolls? Well, obviously there must be a different approach to each and also Sami and Karmen, you are married, so does that make it easier to collaborate?

KARMEN GUY: Songwriting comes with the waves, it's like surfing. Living in Ocean Beach has been very conducive for this matter as well as rich with inspiration. It is very easy; to write with Sami, almost to the point of being telepathic. I feel very fortunate in that respect, but on the flipside, we are brutally honest with each other and if we don't like something we say it. It keeps us in check.

SY: Having a large band is like having more colors to paint with, more languages to speak, more partners in bed. It's just more, more or less. Being married and writing? We can bring more shit to our arguments! More weaponry to throw at each other! More excitement, and you can create together while vacuuming or wearing an apron while cooking or fixing a leak or picking up's good!

MYE: Your music reminds me of the desert in some ways. It makes me want to have a pistol duel or conjures up the end of A Fistful Of Dollars when Clint Eastwood and the villain are proving which is better in a duel, a pistol or a Winchester rifle. Sergio Leone vibes! I love this band! The desert-esque qualities are there but also a sort of urban feeling as well, something I also love about bands like The Doors or X, West Coast groups. Any thoughts?

SY: I'm a huge Ennio Morricone fan, especially the soundtrack to Navajo Joe. I always liked the use of space in Spaghetti Western Soundtracks and the use of, yes we are influenced by all that. One of the only autographs I have is from Eli Wallach. It says "from an old cowboy, with love Eli" It's the apple of my pride and joy!

KG: I like the sense of space. Space leads to adventure and journeys to the unknown, which I feel constantly compelled to explore. Playing it too safe puts me into a catatonic state of boredom.

MYE: Karmen, you have a beautiful voice, it feels very real, not feigned. "Domingo" is one track that really stands out. I was wondering about your singing and the demeanors in the band, I guess, what first gave you or also you, Sami, the confidence to embrace a life of music? Where do you draw from, be it external inspirations or from somewhere inside yourself to create and keep it a fresh creative and emotional process?

SY: It's a gift to be able to create and make a living out of it, so I don't question it and I respect it. I started as a 16 year old ki - Crusher Magazine

"Still mad after all these years"

Mad Juana
still mad after all these years
by Andrew Frisicano

The members of Mad Juana change hats so often – from old-world tarantella to international reggae to downtown art punk to the Eastern European cock-rock of Gogol Bordello– one finds it difficult to envision a place and time where they don’t fit. The band, led by NY Dolls bassist Sami Yaffa on acoustic guitar, counts instruments varied as tenor saxophone, accordion, violin, trumpet and congas in its 8 member lineup. Front-woman Karmen Guy’s always-on-edge voice evokes the gruff caterwaul of The Slit’s Ari Up with such sharp teeth it’s questionable whether she made a deal with the devil for it. Spiritually, the originator of the band’s name, which as you can see below comes from Patti Smith’s 1978 book “Babel,” ties its disparate threads together with an overarching theory of swagger, theatrics and rebelliousness. Mad Juana is a band created for a block party if I ever heard one.
First of all, what’s up with the name?
It’s from a Patti Smith poem.

New York has always been a melting pot of cultures. Which foreign cultures do you find most interesting personally?

How about musically?
Eastern Europe and Brazil.

You use such a large range of instruments live. Do you have any interesting stories about dragging all your gear, or even your members themselves, to gigs?
Not that you can print. It's &quotfrom" the gigs where it gets interesting. The last show we played we somehow managed to get locked in from the inside, so we continued playing until the daylight until the porter showed up.

Which NYC neighborhood feels most like home for your music?
East Village as far as evolution is concerned, but our music is homeless…we are globalistas and our spirit is universal. Playing-wise, uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, and outwards, it's all the same. NYC has become so homogenized in the last several years that it's lost some of its character. The dirty, sleazy glamour element has unfortunately disappeared, but that's what happens when gentrification moves in. - Deli Magazine


"Acoustic Voodoo" - U.S. release on Azra Records in March 2007. Radio and press rollout underway through Massive Music America.
"Bruja on the Corner"-to be released by Acetate Records 8/8/8



The members of Mad Juana change hats so often – from old-world tarantella to international reggae to downtown NYC art rock to the Eastern European gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello– one finds it difficult to envision a place and time where they don’t fit. The band, led by NY Dolls bassist Sami Yaffa on acoustic guitar, counts instruments varied as tenor saxophone, accordion, violin, trumpet and congas in its 8 member lineup. Front-woman Karmen Guy’s always-on-edge voice evokes the gruff caterwaul of The Slit’s Ari Up with such sharp teeth it’s questionable whether she made a deal with the devil for it. Spiritually, the originator of the band’s name, comes from Patti Smith’s 1978 book “Babel,” ties its disparate threads together with an overarching theory of swagger, theatrics and rebelliousness. Mad Juana is a band created for a block party if there ever was one… by Andrew Frisicano/NYC Deli Magazine
The band has toured Europe and U.S. extensively attracting ever growing enthusiastic crowds, playing multi-diverse venues ranging from LES punk dive bars, to Las Vegas street festivals, London art-house parties to theaters in Pais Vasco Spain.
Being compared creatively to the likes of Gogol Bordello, (with whom they toured in Oct. 2008) and Manu Chao makes a point but Mad Juana is definitely it's own distinct blend of musical styles mixing Mariachi/New Orleans horns, Balkan/Punk tempos, R'n'R and surreal textures of wall of sound and echoes of dub-reggae to a savory gumbo of pure explosive musical energy.
Director Fernando Apodaca (of Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell fame) directed the band’s most recent video “Valhalla” filmed on location in Zagreb, Croatia and Tijuana River Valley.