Popa Chubby: the blues as universal force

Popa Chubby is quite an incredible man, a music enthusiast and a performer whose shows are based on generosity and sharing. His huge discography is thus only the consequence of it, like his spontaneous gigs.

In a certain manner, we can say that Popa Chubby is the connection between two universes. If blues is the man’s favourite way to express himself musically, his roots are also to be found in hard rock and heavy metal. Just listen to his covers of Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or Mötörhead’s “Ace Of Spades” and you’ll see what we mean. He admits it himself: “I love hard rock and metal, man. I love old-school metal. I grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Mötörhead. Metal was my Holy Bible. And if you ever read my biography, it is stated that “Popa Chubby” is a mix between Muddy Waters and Mötörhead.”

We had a really cool talk with Popa Chubby while on a promotional tour for his new album Universal Breakdown Blues. We talked for sure about blues and metal, but also about Luke Skywalker and erections…

Radio Metal: First question, the album is called Universal Breakdown Blues. Is the album dedicated to our society that is actually breaking down, and so you see this album as the soundtrack of it?

Popa Chubby: Well, that’s interesting, let’s take it step by step. First, « Universal ». It means « for everybody ». Everybody on some level is faced with a breakdown. Society is faced with a breakdown. Look around you. But through that breakdown, it leads people to a choice, a choice to transcend and to move forward or to go backwards and find the blues, man. The blues is universal, everybody’s got the blues. It’s a people’s blues and I get to sing it. So that’s what it’s about.

So I guess it was important for you to write universal songs so people could feel close to it?

Absolutely, yeah.

« I’m the Jedi of the blues, man. You’ve got to feel the Force, Luke! »

You said in an interview that hope is also the main theme in the album. Do you think that the world has lost its hope and getting it back is what it needs?

The possibility for people to lose hope exists because there’s a lot of hopeless situations, you know. There are a lot of people who are unemployed and sick and whatnot… I think everybody can use that message, that there’s hope, don’t give up.

Apparently, when you are writing songs, usually, lyrics come first. Can you tell us more about that writing process? How do you transform some lyrics into a song?

Sometimes it just one-one, somebody will say something. Sometimes it all happens at the same time. It’s a kind of a mystical process: there’s a process of inspiration. I like to think that these things kind of flow through the atmosphere and look for an open channel and drop in. When they do, you have to recognize it and you have to amen to that, and write it down.

You’ve once declared, in order to play blues, that you have to feel it, just as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars…

[Laughs] Exactly!

Do you see yourself as the Luke Skywalker of the blues?

I’m the Jedi of the blues, man. You’ve got to feel the Force, Luke!

So who would be the Darth Vader of the blues, then?

Oh! Really? You really want to know?

Yeah, tell me!

I am not going there… The man who ever tries to keep you down is the Darth Vader. What I do is making an honest living. Whoever tries to take you away from that is the Darth Vador.

You are known for your impressive touring schedule. How do you manage to keep up physically?

Well, I am not quite sure I do [yawn]! Every once in a while I just fall apart! [Laughs] But between that, I’m just trying to keep going, I do Tai Chi, which helps a lot. The music keeps you going, man, and the people keep you going.

Do you need this intense rhythm to feel alive and inspired?

Yeah but I think my rhythm is organically changing a little bit too, so I just try and follow what’s happening, man. I’m just going with the flow.

You’ve recently declared on your Facebook page « Everyone wants me on the fucking road, nobody wants to pay me. Frustrating. »

[laughs] I was having a bad day!

How come people don’t want to pay you for your shows?

It is the music business, man! If somebody can rip you off, he fucking will. I’m still waiting to get paid for a tour I’ve made a month and a half ago. Listen, you’ve got a job, you’ve got a paycheck every month, I don’t. You deal with a lot of chicanery, a lot of bullshit.

« I wanted my music to always be exciting. […] I want people to get shook up. And what makes people more shook up than an erected penis? »

You’re playing a very traditional blues music, and blues is known for being the origin of rock n’roll, and metal. Since we are a metal media, would you like to tell us your opinions on hard rock and metal?

I love hard rock and metal, man. I love old school metal. I grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Motörhead. That was my Bible. And if you ever read my bio, it says « Popa Chubby is like a cross between Muddy Waters and Motörhead. » You got to realize that a lot of those players are playing the blues. Metallica, all that old school stuffs and then, even some of the newish stuff. I am not that much into new metal, but I like it hard!

One of your biggest influences is Jimi Hendrix; did you listen to the compilation of unreleased stuff (People, Hell and Angels) released this year?

Yeah, well you know, that’s just Janie trying to get more money. A lot of that shit should never have been released. Some of it is good for the fans but, you know, Janie’s going to put out every snippet of anything they could find by Jimi, because he’s gone, and making money out of it. It’s a machine. What about the new Black Sabbath record?

Well actually, I didn’t listen to it yet. Did you?

I did, I’m pretty disappointed, man. First of all, why no Bill Ward? I don’t know man…

You use Facebook a lot to share your thoughts and opinions, since your lyrics are very important in your music. I guess it is important for you to give your fans the possibility to learn more about you?

Absolutely, yeah. My life is an open book. I share everything.

Your real name is Ted Horowitz and your stage name means getting an erection (“Pop a chubby”). Can you tell us how you got this idea?

Ted Horowitz also means to get an erection; I wanted my music to always be exciting. I don’t want to be one of those bands with people who come telling “oh that’s nice”. No, I want people to get shook up. And what makes people more shook up than an erected penis?

One last thing to say?

Happy to talk to you guys. Thank you to your fans. And Popa Chubby is coming to rock Fance, yeah!

Interview conducted by phone on Tuesday, June 4th 2013 by Metal’O Phil.
Introduction: Spaceman
Transcription: Grégoire Perret

Popa Chubby official website: popachubby.wix.com/popachubby

Album Breakdown Blues out since April, 22nd 2013 via Mascot Records

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