Ben Katzman Degreaser Releases New Album, “Astrology 101”
It’s been a tough year for indie rock in Miami. Churchill’s Pub remains closed and unlicensed; Las Rosas has not booked any new shows; and, let’s face it, missing your friend’s group smoking set outside doesn’t hit as hard when they’re playing a livestream.
But a few Saturdays ago in Gramps, Miami native Ben Katzman with his band Degreaser showed us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks a lot like a mixer in the red.
Katzman took the stage wearing a shimmering black morph costume with a large Aries symbol embroidered on her chest. Her hair was long and curly down the back. He proudly wore his goatee, sunglasses and Charvel white coca guitar, an 80s hair-metal bastion. After telling audiences that he had just come out of “manic mastery”, he tore his hair apart. repertoire of high octane rock songs, most of which deal with astrological signs.
“It was as if the cosmos were lining up for a perfect party,” Katzman says. New times. â€œI was a little shocked that we reached our capacity so early. I know these are COVID numbers, but it was still crazy. There was a queue at nine o’clock. I feel like we played hard for whoever was there.
He did. Never before has astrology been so violent, in fact. This Saturday at the Gramps served as the release show for Katzman’s new album, Astrology 101. Each of the album’s 12 tracks is dedicated to a different astrological sign, and each sign is given a different style of music that Katzman identifies with.
â€œLibras are totally fun, totally flirty, and adventure-oriented, so they got the disco song,â€ Katzman says. â€œGemini have twin personalities; you never know what they’re thinking about. It’s such an ethereal vibe, so they got the hip-hop song that has the contrast between the verse and the chorus. Leos are still running the party, making people wait for them, trying to be the drama, so they had the new-wave, dance-floor banger ‘Living on Leo Time’.
For most of us, astrology is a hobby, an ironic half-truth that is used to create memes and categorize our friends instead of a consistent practice. For Katzman, it’s a way of life, something he has used since childhood to overcome communication challenges and make sense of the world. He is even studying to become a professional astrologer. His music has always flirted with astrology, with titles like “Venus in Pisces” and “Virgo Babe in a Maiden Shirt”, but, true to its name, Astrology 101 constitutes a much more comprehensive foray into the subject.
â€œI had toured a lot between 2017-2018 for my last album, Quarter-life crisis, and things were going great, â€Katzman says. â€œWe were playing in Puerto Rico, in 48 states, and somewhere in the middle of that I got an email from Starburns Industries explaining how they wanted to make an astrology album. Everyone they asked pointed to me. The truth is, I have never been silent on astrology, so I wasn’t completely surprised. I said that I’ll do it.
Starburns Industries is the production company behind legendary content like Rick and morty, Moral Orel, and Anomalisa. Its imprint, Starburns Industries Press, publishes physical publications, such as comics, art books and cassettes. Now, Astrology 101 joined its ranks.
â€œThey flew me to Los Angeles, gave me a week at Starburns headquarters, and I thought it was so crazy,â€ Katzman says. â€œMy friends and I came in and released all the songs. My buddy, Simon Ore, who produced it, didn’t really get involved in telling me what to do and what not to do. He got involved in the way of being like number one supporter, telling me if I thought it could be crazier, go all-in.
No matter what genres Degreaser plays on the album, every song retains the erratic energy around which Katzman built his music. Rarely is a Degreaser song without a face-melting guitar part or lyrics that don’t showcase Katzman’s unique brand of candid, culturally aware humor. “Aquarian Powers” finds Katzman listing the most beloved Aquarians in history, including Eddie Van Halen, Oprah, Mozart, and Jennifer Aniston. “Aries Season” opens with a riff reminiscent of NOFX and the lines “I have interpersonal skills / And some people have problems too.”
â€œThis energy is a blessing and a curse,â€ Katzman says. â€œIt allows me to navigate my life realizing instantly who’s a clown and who isn’t. I just want to put it to good use because if I’m not creative and don’t do what I love, negative thoughts come up. I become hypercritical with self-doubt.
The liberation of Astrology 101 marks a new chapter in Katzman’s career. While most artists would probably say this about a new release, Katzman’s case is different. Maybe it’s the frankness he gives off when he talks, naming bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which most indie rockers would like to poke fun at, or maybe that’s the way he’s trying to pull it off. the breeze with each fan approaching their merch table. Either way, Katzman is focusing more on Degreaser than ever – to the point that he’s even put his BUFU label, which has released music from indie favorites like Japanther, Mannequin Pussy, and Tall Juan, on hold.
â€œI just realized that now I want to do my own thing,â€ Katzman says. â€œI don’t want to play God with my friends’ careers. The pressure to spin a label has become overwhelming. It was havoc, almost a depression having so many options and not knowing which one I wanted to take. I didn’t really feel like I was creative anymore.
Now he’s excited about what’s to come. He talks about his life afterAstrology 101 with starry eyes.
â€œBy the end of the release show, this whole manic episode was over,â€ Katzman says. â€œShout out to my friends who were there for me throughout this story. The energy is real. I don’t take drugs. I only drink socially. I don’t even have caffeine. Within five minutes of waking up, I roll out of bed, ready to rock. “
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