BUFU Records' Shred Cleanse Brings Local and National Talent Together at Gramps

Ben Katzman is a Miami native currently living in Boston and his name will sound very familiar to anyone who's been paying the tiniest amount of attention to Miami's music scene over the years. These days, Katzman runs his own record label called BUFU Records and is currently on tour with his band DeGreaser alongside fellow musician Colleen Green.

The tour will end at Gramps tomorrow with a BUFU-sponsored mini festival called Shred Cleanse, featuring Colleen Green, Tall Juan, Jimmy Whispers, and the Jellyfish Brothers.

While on the road, Katzman hopped on the phone with us to discuss the origins of BUFU, the bands he's signed to his label, his latest album, and how Nickelodeon influenced the way he sees his art.

New Times: What’s the story behind BUFU records? How did it start?
Ben Katzman: When we were kids, I was always playing in bands and it was really hard to get booked on shows. Miami back in the day didn’t have much of a music scene. Touring bands didn’t come down here a lot, so many of the local bands at the time booked their own shows. So when I was young I was booking my own shows and hustling. A lot of the bands that we grew up listening to — like Black Flag — they did the same thing. They booked their own tours, they didn’t need a manager, and they all started their own record labels. I figured that we were all so weird that I didn’t think that any of us would ever have the potential to get signed to any big label so I thought that it would be great to just put out our own records. When you are in the music scene, you want to get your music out there, you want to be heard, you want to be a part of something — it’s not just about getting your music out there. You want to be part of a community, so I thought that starting the record label was a way of contributing to the community. ?

I see some Miami locals in BUFU’s roster, such as the Jellyfish Brothers. How do you choose artists to sign? ?
Honestly, I never know. Sometimes they are my friends and I think their music is awesome, and sometimes I go to a show and I’m just blown away. I saw the Jellyfish Brothers for the first time like four or five years ago. They were playing at this event called Cinema Sound, where they orchestrated the soundtrack to a movie — but they were playing at a movie theater, so when the movie was playing they were playing. And in between the weird, avant-garde style shredding they were doing, they had the whole package...So I was like, Man, this is the Miami version of a heavy metal Devo. There is not a formula to it, but I’ll say that more often than not, it comes from bands that I’ve seen and that are really awesome... It’s not all about getting signed or getting big. It's about working and hustling with your friends and contributing to the community that is already vibrant. 
And do you look for a specific sound?
I don’t think there is a sound that I look for. I think it's more a vibe... A lot of the bands support each other and have their own vibe to it, which is something that I always try to promote with my art. It is something like Nickelodeon was back in the '90s. A lot of the shows on Nickelodeon were about the kids that were weird or weren’t very popular but all those kids were super creative and were always in adventures and having fun. They didn’t need the validation of a higher source of authority and that’s kind of the vibe that I always wanted to have with the label. 

Besides having the record label, you also have your own garage band, Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser. Can you tell me a little bit about it? You released two albums last year and you are currently on tour with Colleen Green.
I play with a bunch of bigger bands like Guerrilla Toss — but DeGreaser is like a musical cartoon version of me. All the songs are written the way I talk. It’s just a way for me to express myself in the most extreme of ways. I have always been inspired by Nickelodeon, the Ramones, and Kiss. DeGreaser is my way of dealing with whatever problems I’m in. My second album, called Rok N Rol Community College, is about how much I hated going to music school. And then my last album, Venus in Pisces, is my sad boy to bad boy break up record... So I guess the purpose of my band is to help myself make sense of everything I’m dealing with.

On May 13, BUFU is organizing the Miami Shred Cleanse at Gramps with Colleen Green, Tall Juan, Jimmy Whispers, and the Jellyfish Brothers. What can people expect from the show?
All the bands are different but all are great. Tall Juan is on BUFU Records — he is known for playing with Juan Wauters and doing stuff with Mac DeMarco. He's like this latin Elvis meets Ramones. Jimmy Whispers does this weird bedroom pop that is truly incredible; it’s like the modern version of '60s R&B soul. Every band that is playing is so radically different, but I feel that the vibe will be the same. I’m just trying to put up a good show where people will be able to check out bands that might have not been seen before. Miami has a lot of great bands and a lot of great people, so the purpose of the Shred Cleanse is to cleanse your palette of rock and see what else is out there. 

The Shred Cleanse with Colleen Green, Tall Juan, Jimmy Whispers, and the Jellyfish Brothers. 9 p.m. Friday, May 13, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; Admission is $8. 
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Flor Frances is an Argentine journalist and marketer based in Miami. She has her own publication, Too Much Love; and a marketing agency, Raygun Agency.