Q&A with prolific blues-rocker Popa Chubby - has built a constantly increasing base of fans across the world

"When rock 'n' roll first happened it was a threat to the mainstream. When Chuck Berry happened it was a threats white America. When the bad brains happened it was a threat to rock 'n' roll."

Popa Chubby: Wake Up Calling

His career has always been about moving forward and carving a place for himself in the imposing terrain of the music business, overcoming odds to continue growing and maturing as a creative force. Popa Chubby has built a constantly increasing base of fans across the world, where in many territories he is a star. A native New Yorker, Ted Horowitz's first gigs were in the NYC punk scene as a guitarist for what he reflects was a "crazy Japanese special effects performance artist in a kimono called Screaming Mad George who had a horror-movie inspired show." Right from the start he was immersed in rock ‘n’ roll as theater, and learned from George and others playing CBGB’s at the time that included the Ramones, the Cramps, Richard Hell, whose band, the Voidoids he joined that rock ‘n’ roll should be dangerous. He reflects, "Musicians like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols weren’t just bands. They were a threat to society."

The Blues however was the foundation of his playing style. He recalls, "Since I’d grown up on Hendrix, Cream and Zeppelin, when I started playing blues in New York clubs I understood that the blues should be dangerous, too. It wasn’t just from playing in punk bands. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were dangerous men. They’d cut or shoot you if they thought it was necessary, and Little Walter packed a gun and wouldn’t hesitate to use it. That danger is a real part of the Blues and I keep it alive in my music.” On "The Catfish" (2016), Popa offers up 12 tunes that embody the badass attitude that defines the self-proclaimed “King Of The New York City Blues”. The Catfish is aptly titled as it delivers punch after punch of musical inspiration drawing on 25 plus years of street smarts and road worthy musicianship. Prolific blues-rocker Popa Chubby is about to issue a new album titled "Two Dogs" will be available November 27. Popa started work on “Two Dogs” with a lot of amazing sounds in his head and powerful feelings in his heart. Recorded at his home studio in New York’s Hudson Valley, Popa engineered and produced the record. He also plays drums, bass and percussion on some tracks. Renowned keyboard player and Popa’s long-time collaborator, Dave Keyes, appears throughout the album. Popa’s daughter, Tipitina Horowitz, plays the trumpet and contributes horn compositions. And ace drummer, Sam “Freightrain” Bryant keeps the beat real and rocking.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Roll culture and what does the blues mean to you?

The main thing I learned is that to me rock 'n' roll stands for integrity individuality in the big middle finger to the system just like it always has the blues is about truth she can say this is a journey of altruism In a way.

How do you describe Popa Chubby sound and songbook? What characterize “The Catfish” philosophy?

The catfish is the king of the river everything that happens in the river goes to him Popa Chubby sound it's a melting pot of influences just like New York City.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues and Rock researches? How do you describe Two Dogs songbook and sound?

Blues is the most honest music there is you can't hide in the blues. I grew up in the 70's when Hendrix, Zepplin, Johnny Winter, Foghat etc... ruled the day! Not to mention the Stones, Taj, Léon Russell etc...

Two Dogs is a wakeup call. The title track is about choosing the right way! I'm really proud of the writing on the record. I made social commentary regarding Preexisting Conditions to hard Boogie! Songs like "it's Alright" and Shakedown are pure Memphis Rock n' R&B. I drew on my roots and influences from Motown to STAX.  "Meaner Than Sam Lay's Pistol'" tells the story of the legendary Chess records drummer who played with Howling Wolf and so many others.  The title track "Two Dogs " and "Me Won't Back Down" draw from the P.  Funk, James Brown school of funk!  I wrote "Clayophus D upree" as a tribute to both Albert King and Booker T! The bonus tracks are The Rolling Stones’ Classic “Sympathy for the Devil” and a duet with pianist Dave Keyes on the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah”. The record tells stories I am proud of that.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Speaking of Tom Dowd he was a mentor he gave me the advice to go to Europe. He let me know what I was doing was right. Coming from him that was everything! With me he was just kind and encouraging. I heard with some other artists he could be cross but not with me. The result was Booty and The Beast a record that stands up 21 years later. People like Johnny Winter, Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim etc... all were good to me.

Working with Tom Down which is actually your next question was one of the pivotal experiences of my life and mostly Tom just told me to be myself he taught me so much in such little time also people like Hubert Sumlin and Johnny Winter. The best advice I ever got was the play what I feel. It sounds simple but it's true.

How has the Blues and Punk counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

When I was a punk rocker saying was anarchy rules that was definitely a cut off from the mainstream I try to maintain that attitude of individualism and taking a prisoners and all I do.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from Muddy, Cream and Hendrix to Ramones and the Cramps?

Man it's all in there just ask Iggy Pop!!!

"The main thing I learned is that to me rock 'n' roll stands for integrity individuality in the big middle finger to the system just like it always has the blues is about truth she can say this is a journey of altruism In a way."

Are there any memories from gigs which you’d like to share? What touched (emotionally) you from Tom Dowd?

I remember playing the blues challenge at KLON radio in 1991 and people standing to their feet when I had a note that was something else. Remember when I got signed to Sony and when I heard my record played on the radio for the first time and also seeing my picture in the window at tower records on Broadway.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I always listen to music from other decades especially from the 30s 40s and even 50s and think man these guys were such amazing musicians they could read and play anything and they could play. What’s missing more than anything now is the ability for people to play music together. It's become such a solitary experience.

Are there any memories from Tom Dowd, Hubert Sumlin and Johnny Winter which you’d like to share with us?

The stories Dowd would tell we're amazing working with Cream he told me the cross roads guitar solo was overdubbed. He would tell stories about Clapton, Rod Stewart, everybody. it was like hanging out with your cool Grandpa.

Hubert Sumlin phoned me from Keith Richards house when he Won a Grammy! I loved Hubert dearly he was the sweetest guy ever. He deserved more respect. On Johnny Winter's 70th. Birthday I played Mojo with him at BB Kings in NYC it was a crown moment in my life. Johnny smiled at me! It's on YouTube.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

To play music for free and not for money. Money causes problems. I ask myself sometimes what is free music? That's what I want to play. Music for the sake of music. Like Sun Ra or Monk.

"Blues is the most honest music there is you can't hide in the blues. I grew up in the 70's when Hendrix, Zepplin, Johnny Winter, Foghat etc... ruled the day! Not to mention the Stones, Taj, Léon Russell etc..."

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from studio sessions with your daughter, Tipitina?

Tipi is a really talented girl and a total perfectionist like me. In those sessions she would not accept second best and she did a great job. I have been grooming both my daughters since they began. They are mostly classical musicians but they know the blues.

You spend a lot time around the Europe, do you find any difference between European and US scene?

It's really both different and the same ultimately, it's just folks wanting to have a good time. Every country in Europe is slightly different. France is my biggest market. The French really get Popa Chubby and it's a love affair. The Italians call me Grande. The German audiences rock the hardest. The U.K. Is an interesting market the have a million guitarists there and they all seem to be the best.

What do you miss most nowadays from the New York punk scene and the glory days of CBGB’s?

Really the Comradery. There was a community everyone were friends. The best thing about it was that anyone could be in a band. Everyone was friends on the scene no one was better than anyone else. I wish the blues scene was more like that. Also, if you were in a band that played at CB's you were allowed into any show. I saw everyone from The Ramones to Spinal Tap! That was a special time in history. I don't think it could happen again.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock Punk music to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Dude I'm just a guitar player seriously!!! When rock 'n' roll first happened it was a threat to the mainstream. When Chuck Berry happened it was a threats white America. When the bad brains happened it was a threat to rock 'n' roll. What is there to threaten the mainstream now?

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Woodstock man!!

Popa Chubby - Official website

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