Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser
I have been speaking with Ben of Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser…
and the upcoming album, Quarter Life Crisis. He talks about some of the album’s themes and which song he would choose as a highlight; whether he gets time to chill away from music; which albums are important to him – I ask whether there are tour dates coming up with the band.
The American songwriter talks about his musical growth and his favourite memory from his time so far what he would tell artists emerging - Katzman ends the interview by selecting an interesting cut.
Hi, Ben. How are you? How has your week been?
My week has been excellent. We’ve been touring through the South in the U.S. We just chilled at Elvis Presley’s house. It was so crazy but they only had one Shredstick (guitar) on display! Did you know he used to eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches cooked in bacon grease? Dude was a party animal.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hey, Hey. I’m Ben Katzman. I’m an Aries raised in Miami Beach, Florida! I really like KISS, ABBA and Mötley Crue. Other things that interest me are the movies Face/Off, Heavyweights and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. I like to talk about cartoons, too, so if you like Aaahhh! Real Monsters we can probably talk for a long time.
Can you talk about Ben Katzman's DeGreaser and how it came together? Is it mainly you in the studio creating the sounds - or do you have a group of people you record and tour with?
DeGreaser is really just the personification of my life through shredding. When I was in high-school, I was forced to play in the school’s production of Grease or the Principal wasn’t going to let me graduate. I kinda realized that I have the same sad-boi/bad-boi complex as Danny Zuko, so DeGreaser is all about me de-Grease-ing from my high-school personality. Haha.
I write and do as much as of the recording and playing as possible. However, I have a rotating cast of best friends who make up my backing band. I always keep it in the crew and try to surround myself with friends I’ve had since I was a little kid. Why not travel the world with your best buds?
Quarter Life Crisis is forthcoming. The album seems to deal with the struggles of your twenties. Was it quite painful putting those songs together?!
It wasn’t painful putting the songs together: it was more painful to live through the stuff that inspired them. My life is pretty good though but going through life and realizing how things begin to work in the long run is a little depressing.
With this record, I really just tried to make a positive out of all the continuous bummers I kept going through. As you go through life, you realize you aren’t guaranteed work for your college degree and that some friendships dissipate over time; you lose the comfortability you had as a spunky teenager. You have to redefine what your solid rock is in life. So, this album is really about me trying to shred and re-shred through life!
Do you have a cut from the album that stands as a highlight?
My favourite song to play is a track titled Too Old for Retail. I believe a lot of people in this generation have trouble finding work even when they went to college and got degrees and diplomas. There is no job security in 2018 for most people. So, Too Old for Retail is about realizing you are more than what your job is and you have the power to make that change in your life. Also, retail sucks! You get paid too little to turn your brain off and fold clothes for eight hours.
How do you think your music has evolved and changed since the start of your career?
I think it’s gotten a little funnier. To me, lyrics and guitar solos are pretty important. I just try to turn my diary entries into singalong anthems. I just hope to keep boiling down my experiences into head-banging anthems.
It seems like, with the musicians around you, there is a definite harking back to theatrical Rock and some serious kick! Do you think that is missing from today’s scene?!
I don’t know what is missing from today’s scenes - maybe humility. People don’t rock-out and have a good time just enough. I just know that I started playing music to express myself and have fun. To me, playing music is also sharing an experience with the audience. If flipping my guitar over my head makes people laugh and rock a little harder then, hell yeah. We are all in this show together!
Which artists have been most influential to you? Who do you count as idols?
My biggest overall influences are KISS, ABBA; Mötley Crue, Ramones; Madonna, Happy Jawbone Family Band and John Travolta. I idolize all of them. Sure; some of them have become more business than art but that work ethic and hustle is something to be admired just as much as the art. I’m a big fan of lyrics and guitar solos you can hum on the way home from the show and music that is uplifting and relatable.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
To melt twice as many faces as I did in 2017 with shredding.
PHOTO CREDIT: Drew Gibson
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Living in Boston in 2013/2014. There were so many awesome bands and labels: Guerilla Toss, Fat Creeps; Happy Jawbone Family Band and Krill to name a few. Having these nationally-known bands just shredding basements to a bunch of kids packed in like sardines in a Krusty Krab. It was so cool to just have a million awesome bands shredding as part of a local community that was fully supportive of the art. Shout-out to Feeding Tube Records. That label rules.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Boiling it down to three is such a hard question!
Three albums I love though are KISS’ Love Gun Because it features Ace Frehley’s first vocal track and his sickest guitar solo on the song Shock Me! I also love ABBA’s Voulez-Vous is a hard-rocking Disco album with killer riffs, synth lines and harmonies. Some key tracks are As Good as New and the Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (which was later sampled by Madonna on my favourite Madonna record). Third in the list is this totally sick Krautrock album called Traumreisen by this German shredder Michael Rother! You should put on the deep sea episode of Planet Earth, turn off the audio from the documentary and crank this sick shred album.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I’d like to go on one of those retro '80s tours with Men Without Hats, Flock of Seagulls or Tiffany. It would be so sick to support these old shredders who are still rocking hard. P.s. both those bands’ first records rule.
My rider would probably include a Vegan Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell; a ton of fruits; a T.V. with the movie Face/Off playing and maybe some good hummus.
Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?
We are touring the West Coast of the United States in October. We plan on hitting the U.K. before the year is through and we will be shredding the South again in December!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
My only advice is to make your art the most you that you can be. Write lyrics the way you speak; make riffs that reflect your attitude and do it for yourself. If you aren’t having fun or making yourself happy then what is it all about!?
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Well. My band members are usually my best friends so I don’t think of it as playing music; I think of it as ‘rocking with my friends’. So, if I try to unwind, I just ‘chill with my friends’ instead of rocking with my friends. I like swimming, '90s blockbuster movies and eating fruits.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I Like by Men Without Hats is my all-time pump-up jam. If you don’t like that one, I say give Smash Mouth’s Walking on the Sun a second chance. It’s a really good song
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