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UPI, National
Jul 30th, 1999

LOS ANGELES, July 30 (UPI) - Blues Traveler front man John Popper is at home in Pennsylvania, "still just sort of figuring out how scared I really am," as he recovers from recent surgery to clear a blocked artery. In a telephone interview, Popper told United Press International, "I feel very lucky to be here and I'm feeling better."

"I didn't actually have a heart attack and I'm lucky, in that the heart isn't damaged at all - so it's all reversible. But to get up to a dangerous weight without even really being aware of it, and to come so close to dying because you're too fat... this is something that I totally did to myself, systematically over years and years."

Now Popper says he is "utterly focused" on changing his life. He says he has quit smoking and is eating a healthier diet - but he still has the urge to smoke and the desire to "eat some really greasy food... but I'm looking at it like I'm on drugs, you know, I feel like I'm a heroin addict.

"Food," says Popper, "Is the drug you can never really kick."

Popper says he wants to recover fully before he goes on tour this fall to promote his new solo album, Zygote. If he succeeds, fans who come to his shows in September and October will see a slimmer, healthier John Popper. He recorded the album while Blues Traveler took some time off from recording and performing. He says the project was "almost a safe way to experiment" with his music so he could find something new, then bring it back to Blues Traveler.

Popper says he had a hard time getting started on the project, but once he got going he had a lot of fun with it. He says that beginning a new, healthy lifestyle reminds him of getting started on the solo CD.

"I have this whole huge blank screen in front of me and I get to decide what's on it. Starting...is the scary part. Once it gets rolling, I can see it being fun.

Still, Popper says he doesn't regret anything he's been through. "In fact, if I can get to a healthy weight I'm going to feel like a genius, because I literally ate myself right to the edge and came back. "I've had a long premonition that I was going to die at 37...and who knows maybe I'll get hit by a bus when I'm 37. But...suddenly all bets are off. Now that I have a dedication I hadn't counted on, there's no telling. I don't feel quite as fatalistic as I used to.

He admits, thought, that he is afraid.

"Right now I tell myself I've got two choices - no Burger King, or death. And that's every day, all the time. So getting used to redefining what happiness is, is like being on the surface of Mars. You don't really know which way is up, and it's terrifying."