Ben KatzmanEXPAND
Ben Katzman
Photo by Kiko Casanova

Ben Katzman's Advice to New Bands: "Don't Get Too Caught Up in Making It Big"

From shredding the gospel of rock 'n' roll to co-owning and operating the music label BUFU (By Us for Us) Records, Ben Katzman is ready to rock at any given moment. Listeners can always count on Katzman's DeGreaser to bring the party in true Miami fashion. And if there's one thing we could all use in 2018, it's the refreshing message of the band's latest "basement glam" jam produced by Colleen Green, "Kindness Is Hot," Katzman sings, "Be cool, be nice, be chill, that's tight!" Turn this one up.

"When you’re young, you don’t know how to really relate to people," Katzman explains. "I feel like everyone is a little bit guilty of putting on a front and trying to be something they're not. And sometimes that makes people macho or have people put on an act. And in my case, [I] tried too hard to be cool."

The rocker elaborates: "As you get older, you realize none of that stuff really matters. And I think everybody should be themselves and be kind, 'cause being cool to people goes a long way, and I feel like in the hard-rock genre that message is kind of missing... having a quarter-life crisis in my mid-20s led to me realizing that."

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Listening to Kiss taught Katzman "how to deal with bullies and to always be yourself." He says, "There’s always going to be haters, so you might as well rock." So when he and a friend won a contest this year to meet Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley, it was "surreal," he says, adding: "We spent a whole day watching Gene Simmons talk about Kiss, and then we got like 20 minutes alone with them and also got to go shopping for guitars with Ace Frehley... I went from 25-year-old to preteen in a matter of seconds. I’ve never cried so much during any encounter, probably more than breaking up with a girlfriend. It was the sickest day of my life."

Next up for DeGreaser are two U.S. tours, a series of dates in Europe, and a new album, also produced by Green, which tackles themes similar to those in the band's April 3 release, "Kindness Is Hot." There are tracks such as "Cool Points Don't Pay the Rent" and "Too Old for Retail."

As for what fans can expect from the record and how it's different from previous releases, Katzman says, "I think the only thing I’m exploring that’s different is that I feel like I’ve always written with a cliché or tried to turn myself into a cartoon character... this record is just about struggling in your mid-20s and realizing you can't compare yourself to other people... everybody is so proud of what they do that sometimes it feels like bragging, and then it turns into like this bragging behavior."

As a successful label co-owner with a roster of bands such as Tall Juan, Veiny Hands, and Free Pizza, Katzman gives advice to bands that are just starting out. "I’ve gotten to play in some of my favorite bands, and I've gotten to do things that I never thought I’d do and play venues that I never thought I would play," he says. "You just gotta remember it could be over any minute. Somebody can quit your band; you can break your hand and not be able to shred. Don't get too caught up in making it big. I think if you focus on the art and you genuinely love what you do and try to be yourself, there’s this aura people will see."

DeGreaser. With Bubble Boys, Palomino Blond, and the Ruffans. 8 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Space Mountain, 738 NW 62nd St., Miami; spacemountainmia.org. Tickets cost $5. All ages.

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