Local rapper Carlton Zeus is no stranger to controversy. Last October, when he — jokingly, he says — suggested the newly released video for Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” was “very similar” to the video of his own “Sharpie Solo” (the song was released in July, but the video had been going around for months), a minor uproar ensued. In October, when the country superstar was a guest at the syndicated Ben & Matt show on KNIX FM (a Phoenix country station), the hosts spent six and a half minutes portraying Zeus as an opportunist and calling him a variety of names ranging from “character” to “San Antonio scumbag.”
Now, Zeus is in the eye of the storm again. At KSYM’s Alt to Hunger fundraiser on November 18 at Beethoven Maennerchor (benefitting Boysville children’s home), the sound was unplugged before Zeus could hit the stage. Zeus claims that shortly before his turn came, Dieter Belletz, who is usually BM’s go-to sound guy, told him that he had just found out they were “rap guys” and warned them to play the music “low.” By all accounts, Zeus’ opening set (his band warming things up while he waits offstage) was a feedback fest and the sound person Donnie Meals was packing up instead of fixing it. “I was told by the sound engineer that people started messing with the sound equipment, so he decided to call it quits,” Belletz told the Current. “We don’t own the equipment. And yes, we told [Zeus] to keep it low, but we say that to everybody. Due to sound ordinance, we need to keep it down to 70 [decibels]. And the problem was the mix onstage. There was nothing the sound board could do.”
Zeus admits that someone in the crowd angled the speaker away from the stage in order to ease the feedback, but insists that wasn’t enough of a reason to stop the show. And Chubby Fitzwell, from Zeus’ band, claims that his cousin “Hot Mustard” (James Velten, the KSYM DJ who booked Zeus) told him that “higher people at KSYM” decided Zeus’ music will not be played at the station anymore.
But KSYM general manager John Onderdonk has a slightly different version of the events.
“Carlton Zeus refused any professional guidance in running their sound the evening of the performance,” he told the Current on Tuesday. “Their own sound guys set up the mix to be routed to the PA. Unfortunately, this resulted in bad audio and lots of feedback.”
He claims it was Beethoven Maennerchor, not KSYM, who decided to pull the plug. (Meals did not respond to a Current email request for comment.)
“When an unidentified Carlton Zeus fan pulled one of the main speakers towards the middle of the dance floor, this endangered himself and others, and could have damaged the equipment,” Ordendonk said. “As we were approaching the 11 p.m. deadline for the end of the show, the audio engineer for Beethoven Maennerchor finally nixed the bad sound because we were in a residential area. KSYM was there purely as the guests of Beethoven, and we agreed.” Ordendonk didn’t address whether Zeus is still on KSYM’s playlist.
Did KSYM overreact instead of working to keep people away from the sound equipment (if that was the problem)? Is this part of a Zeus’ marketing scheme?
“No, it’s not that I love controversy,” says Zeus. “I’m about building bridges, not burning them. We just owe it to our fans to not take shit from anybody.”