Anyone who remembers The Resisters ("Slut Rock," "I Like Her Ass") or Dog's Life ("Dog's Life," "Queenie Gots a Pinworm") will remember the odd-ball, sea-foamed Strato-twang of one Lee Chabowski, a nice Polish boy from Dansville. Both aforementioned groups proved to be tragically ahead of their time and comfortably out of place in a past era of Rochester's nebulous music scene.
These days, Chabowski is continuing in the off-kilter spirit of those two outfits with the Queens-based trio New Delhi Monkey Man.
"I like to call it psychotic bubblegum music," Chabowski says on the phone between mouthfuls of cereal. "I've always been torn between the twisted and bubblegum."
This approach is illustrated by Chabowski's haphazard, deadpan references to things like serial killer Ed Gein's human-skin lampshades, clown killers, monsters, and shrunken heads. It also sheds light on the origin of the band's name.
"A little over a year ago, my web browser would open up to this news page," he explains. "For about a week, there were headlines like, 'Fears of New Delhi monkey man grow in India.' There actually was hysteria over a supposed monkey man going around biting and scratching people in New Delhi."
Chabowski was moved by the monkey man scare. "In a creepy, capitalist rampage, I dot-commed it on the spot and it became our name." (See www.newdelhimonkeyman.com.)
Chabowski's move from Rochester to Boston in 1994 ended up being a hiatus. "That was a two-year hell-void," he says. "I was very plugged into the music scene in Rochester, the sense of community. In Boston, I'd go up to bands and say, 'Hey, I like your band,' and they'd literally grunt and walk away. I hated Boston."
A 1996 move to New York City proved a little more promising, despite that town's over-saturated scene. After searching unsuccessfully for a singer, Chabowski took the vocal reins himself and released a solo record, Drinky-Poo (Half Wit Records). With the subsequent addition of bassist Gary Manifold (né Langol) and drummer Chris Moore, New Delhi Monkey Man became the next rung on Chabowski's ladder.
"This is basically an extension of the solo stuff, which was basically an extension of Dog's Life," he says. "It's just a mix of what I like --- surf beats with punk rock, ska, and rockabilly all thrown in together."
"And," he adds, "melodies."
Chabowski looks forward to rekindling his friend- and fan-base here. "I wish the NYC music scene was as fun as Rochester's," he laments. "It's actually against the law to dance in most clubs here."
Incidentally, they never did catch the monkey man, but you can when New Delhi Monkey Man plays with The Grinders and The Quitters on Saturday, October 5, at The Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Avenue, at 10 p.m. Call for cover. 454-2966.