Mascot Label Group has announced a May 28 release date for Popa Chubby's Universal Breakdown Blues. For the prolific Popa Chubby, who was born Ted Horowitz, the album marks a premeditative return to the world of Blues. Over the course of his career that dates back to 1994, his tempestuous, soulful playing has never been more powerful. An imposing figure with a shaven head, tattooed arms, a goatee and a performance style he describes as “the Stooges meets Buddy Guy, Motörhead meets Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Johnson," Popa Chubby is an endearing character who is one of the genre’s most popular figures.
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. He has built a constantly increasing base of fans across the world, where in many territories he is a star. A native New Yorker, 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 Led 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, as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were dangerous men. They’d cut or shoot you out of necessity if they had to, 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.”
Following two initial albums on his own Laughing Bear label, he was signed to Sony’s briefly revived O-Keh Records, the one-time imprint of Mamie Smith, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and other influential blues and jazz artists. His 1995 release Booty and The Beast was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd. Popa Chubby came into his own as a songwriter with 2002’s The Good, The Bad & The Chubby with the affectingly sincere post-9/11 testimonial “Somebody Let the Devil Out.” His next album, 2004’s inspired Peace, Love and Respect upped the ante as an election year protest album with hard-cutting tunes about First Amendment rights (“Un-American Blues”) and corporate war-mongering (“Young Men”). After tipping his hat to Hendrix with the three-disc Electric Chubbyland set and tour in 2006 and 2007, Popa Chubby’s subsequent three albums including 2010’s The Fight Is One have chronicled his desire to reconnect with his rock and blues roots while pushing both genres boldly into the future — a task expertly accomplished by an extraordinary blend of song craft, musicianship and personality. His most recent release prior to Universal Breakdown Blues, the live disc Back To New York City wraps this dichotomy neatly in to a package that that is Popa Chubby. He shares, "People look at me and expect a certain thing, and don’t realize there’s more behind the picture. They see a big, burly guy with tattoos, and they expect to get beat over the head. And you will get beat over the head, but you’ll also get rocked to sleep, and there’ll be poetry in there too.”
Universal Breakdown Blues features a dozen compelling songs where searing guitar lines and heartfelt lyrics are the stars. His offerings provide a parallel to the lament that inspired such blues icons as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson, digging deep and coming up with some of the most intense repertoire he has ever written. His catchy, sublime slices of his fractured life are offered in a manner where the sentiments sung are relatable, and amongst the most universal of themes, he explores the passage of love, loss and having to find the path back. Amongst the originals, Popa Chubby offers a mind-bending version of the classic "Over The Rainbow." He wrings out every emotional nuance out of the song in an inventive manner. He shares, "I started doing that song a couple of years ago, and crowds just go crazy for it. There is so much emotion there. I'm good at rearranging and I just went for it. I'm all about going for the big moments and there are not many songs that are as big as that one. So I thought, 'why not cover it? I do what I want to do.'" The complete track listing features the dozen songs, "I Don't Want Nobody," "I Ain't Giving Up," "Universal Breakdown Blues," "The Peoples Blues," "Rock Me Baby," "69 Dollars," "Over The Rainbow," "I Need A Lil' Mojo," "Danger Man," "Goin' Back To Amsterdam (Reefer Smokin' Man)," "The Finger Bangin' Boogie," and "Mind Bender."
Popa Chubby is his own man for better or worse. He reflects, "I’m living in a wild time, and that is where the inspiration is drawn from within Universal Breakdown Blues. There are my issues, but the picture is much bigger than me and my situation. Everything is breaking down in the world. The lines are being redefined. We all need something.”