ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 28, 1995
New York City blues-rocker Popa Chubby dedicates his latest release, Booty and the Beast, “to those who play loud and refuse to turn down”. In other words, he dedicates it to himself.
“Absolutely!” spouts the 300-pound singer-guitarist from his Brooklyn digs. “What I lack in talent I make up for in volume. I’ve been fired for playin’ too loud, just like all the greats. Actually, you’ve gotta take that as a good sign, because if you turn down you’re never gonna kick ass and people are never gonna hear what they’re supposed to hear.”
Popa Chubby—the artist previously known as Ted Horowitz—has been delivering intense music at his preferred volume level for nearly two decades, whether on the roadhouse/blues circuit, in Big Apple bars, or on the streets of the city itself. No one has dared ask the massive fellow to turn down yet, but the cops shut him down once, and according to the Chubster—don’t tell him I said that!—New York’s finest aren’t so fine.
“I was playin’ on the street one night,” he recalls, “right near Washington Square Park. We had a big crowd of people diggin’ it—we were just playing blues—when two cops got out of a van and came over to us and one of them said, ‘We’re takin’ your equipment. If you say a word you’re goin’ to jail. There’s two things I hate: drug dealers and musicians.’ ”
Fighting the urge to bop the cop for his twisted attitude, Chubby ended up “going downtown” the next day and paying 75 bucks to get his valued gear back. He’s yet to write a tune about that incident, but some of his other New York experiences have made it onto Booty and the Beast. The first single, “Sweet Goddess of Love and Beer”, was inspired by the sight of a beautiful, giant woman coming down the stairs of a Greenwich Village club carrying a beer keg on each shoulder. Then there’s “Sweat”, a jazzy, slinky ode to recklessness and wild sex.
“ ‘Sweat’ was written about a time in my life when I was doin’ just about anything,” explains Chubby with a cackle. “You know, it’s a story about insanity, and some of the situations you find yourself in.”
One of those “situations” saw Chubby getting caught in a compromising position with a woman, who was shot in the leg by her boyfriend when he walked in to witness the X-rated action. The Bronx-raised rocker admits he’s grown somewhat accustomed to such outbursts of violence.
“Unfortunately I have to say I have, and I always walk away feeling ashamed to be part of the human race when I see senseless violence. Just like when I witness war on the TV news, man, it makes me feel ashamed to be human, because I know I have that in me, too, though I realize I have a personal choice to fight or not to fight. And I’m happy to say, 90 percent of the time I choose not to fight—unless of course somebody heckles me onstage.
“But growin’ up in New York, to an extent you almost have to become a badass to survive. But then you also come to a point where you realize that bein’ a badass doesn’t serve anybody. At this point in time, people really gotta come together and focus on their similarities rather than their differences, and that’s what the music is all about to me. The music brings people together, and that’s why it’s important.”