Interview: Chilling Mad Hard with BUFU's Ben Katzman


Chilling Mad Hard with BUFU's Ben Katzman

Photo by  Joe Difazio

Photo by Joe Difazio



If you know about BUFU Records, you know about Ben Katzman. The guitar shredding 23-year-old is somewhat of a cornerstone to Boston music; both in his work and the ceaseless energy he brings to it.

Ben Katzman is a character of sorts. From the get-go he’s delivered BUFU Records as the personification of himself, releasing his work alongside the likes of The Lemons, Tall Juan and former Boston punks, Free Pizza. Ben is a character, sure, mixing his preference for lowbrow slang with an expertise on a range of delightfully niche topics. Ask him about Scientology and he’ll tell you all about L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics as his eyes light up and he shoots words at you without taking a breath. Not that he wants to hit you over the head with knowledge. No, these things just come out in casual conversation, like the compatibility of an Aries and a Pisces is entirely determined by their ability to grow independently and understand each other. That together, an Aries and Pisces can make a beautiful or devastating relationship. Ben Katzman is a character, and a hopelessly romantic one at that.

You may have seen Ben around town, playing shows with his solo project, DeGreaser, or maybe just kicking back in JP. Or maybe you’ve seen him on the Internet. Follow BUFU on Instagram and you’ll know it’s nearly impossible to spot Ben without his sunglasses and skinny jeans, flashing peace signs to an iPhone while posed in a record store, his tour van, or with pals of our local—and sometimes much larger—scene.

AP: So you’ve been extremely busy the past few months. You’ve been touring?

BK: Yeah. I’ve toured once, every other month for the last six or seven months. I’ve been on tour six times in the last year.

AP: And that’s been pretty wide scoping, yeah?

BK: Yeah! They’ve all been ten days or two weeks, or I’ll be traveling and stay somewhere for a while… but the next tour is for a whole month. And the tour after that will probably be a month, too. A month is pretty brutal. Especially in a place I’ve never been to. We fly out to Seattle and tour all the way down to Mexico, and then go up to the western part of the midwest.

AP: Do you have anything you’re really excited to see?

BK: Everything! California’s always been really mythical to me. We’ll get to see where Van Halen’s from, we get to see the Church of Scientology, and the rest of the country should be ill too! We get to chill at the Grand Canyon, we get to go camping… It’s going to be nuts.

AP: Since DeGreaser’s a solo-project, what will the lineup be like?

BK: We’re touring with Howardian, which is Ian from Japanther’s new band. The Degreaser lineup will pretty much be Ian on drums and then Mario—who used to be in my high school metal band, Acidosis—on guitar. He’s toured the world with bands like Anthrax, Overkill… He was in this band called Diamond Plate. They’ve opened for Megadeth and other cool bands.

AP: Are you touring with another band or playing with others along the way?

BK: It’s mainly DeGreaser and Howardian, but we’re gonna be meeting up with a bunch along the way. We’re playing a few festivals, like Volume Fest. I’m pretty excited.

This was my chance, you know? Leaving Boston, for the most part. I have to come back and graduate next spring.

AP: So you’re not coming back!

BK: No. The plan is to go to Miami this summer and work on the new DeGreaser record, Venus In Pisces, which is about going from sad boy to bad boy. It’s like the ultimate breakup record

AP: Is it from personal experience?

BK: Yeah. It’s like the typical crap where you’re twenty-something. You have friends that you bond with real hard and you leave high school, and you make all these connections with people that aren’t going to be as strong as your hometown connections. And it’s hard to see those breaks, too. The record is about losing your innocence and not feeling like a kid anymore. It’s not as sad as it sounds; there is still a lot of shredding. Venus and Pisces is like when Degrassi stops being the next generation (laughs).

AP: What you said makes it seem like you’re staying sad. That doesn’t really seem fit with the “sad boy to bad boy” mentality.

BK: I’m a hopeless romantic. And I’m really into astrology. And my Venus, which is the house that dominates your love life, is in Pisces. Pisces are the most emotional and the oldest of the zodiac. The name of the record is Venus in Pisces, but it’s all about being trapped in your feelings and using them for good. I was really depressed this summer, so when I started writing it was the best outlet for it.

AP: It’s unfortunate that sometimes your lowest points put out your most creative work.

BK: Yeah. You know when you see everybody having a fun time on social media and stuff, and you feel like you’re comparing your low moments to other people’s highlight reels? The record’s kind of about that, but the songs are still positive and fun.

Ben then played me a track from the new album, a rocky tune packed with the catchy heartsick feeling he spoke of minutes before. I sat with headphones on as he sipped his boba tea with a relaxed attitude that said, “you can take this music or leave it, but it’s here whether you want it or not.”

(I really liked it.)

Ben gets a call from his friend, Pete. He tells him that he can’t jam till around 9 or so. I hold back laughter as Ben asks Pete if there’ll be a “shred stick” and a “rock box” for him to use. He tells Pete he’ll hit him up when he’s done with our interview, and then—they’ll rock.  

AP: You should put out a book of slang.

BK: I have an idea for this comic book called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off II,” where Ferris Bueller has, like, a mid-life crisis. Ferris works in a cubicle, and he can’t manipulate his boss like he did his teachers and everyone at school. He’s one of those dudes that lives in yesteryear. He thinks about Cameron and gets really excited—but then he realizes he can’t take work off. And Cameron by now is a big shot. He’s a corporate exec who flies all over the world, and he comes to bust Ferris out of work. It’s like a role reversal.

AP: Cameron would probably pretty nice though. So what’s on for later in the summer?

BK: The plan is to go to Miami and work on the new record. And we’re going on tour with The Lemons. And later in the summer we’re going to tour with Tall Juan, too.

AP: The Lemons rock.

BK: Yeah, The Lemons rock real hard.

AP: What about The Jellyfish Brothers?

BK: The Jellyfish Brothers are a Miami band, and I grew up in Miami. After I left they were one of the bands where I was like, “holy shit! This is a sick band.” So I offered to help them out with their next album, too. Guerilla Toss will be in Miami for their release show. Free Pizza’s playing too!

Now we’re working on getting our stuff in record stores all over the country. You can be in Chicago, you can be in Texas, and there are places to pick up stuff. The plans just to expand—meanwhile, Chris Collins (of BUFU) will be here. He’s going to be holding down New England.

I came here without BUFU and DeGreaser, so I kind of feel like Boston’s more of my home than Miami, you know? But we’ll be here, and I still want to put out Boston bands. I think Boston is one of the best scenes. It’s a college town. Every four years there’s gonna be somebody new to knock you off the block. It’s time for some new kids to start something sick, to start a label or for some new band to take over. When I first got here Krill was playing basements. So was Guerilla Toss—and now you can’t book them at a house show!

Even now, it’s like the whole reason I’m getting out of here was to go on to the next thing. And that’s the kind of person I am, too. I always want to be going somewhere new and meeting new people. I’m not one to get comfortable in my home life. I like having experiences, that’s why I love touring so much.

AP: That’s the thing! You’re synonymous with BUFU but when people see you it’s like, “Ben, he’s ready to party! He’s ready to rock!” But you also seem somewhat of a workaholic.

BK: Yeah, you have to chill hard to work hard. I might be a workaholic, but I don’t go out to network or meet people for the sake of networking. There’s no point in doing that if you can’t have a bond with somebody or chill hard you know?

I think some of my friends think I’m a party animal, which I am (laughs), but I’m definitely a workaholic, too. I’m not one to bask in my own accomplishments. The second I start thinking about the things I’ve done, I’m not like, “that was it.” I do it because it’s what I like doing and it fulfills me.

AP: How’s Free Pizza doing?

BK: They’re rockin’. They’re still trying to move to Berlin, saving up money, playing lots of shows. I think they’re going on a tour of Florida soon with the Gun Hoes, like a mini tour. They’re recording a split with Nice Guys that’ll come out on BUFU this summer. They’re hustling. It’s kind of a bummer, I think they’re a band that should just tour all the time so everyone sees how great they are. But they’re in a place like Miami, which is only now just starting to connect to the rest of the country. For a long time it was very disconnected.

AP: What else does BUFU have planned?

BK: A Tall Juan 7”. Juan Wauters plays drums on the 7” and Mac DeMarco recorded it. And then we’re doing a Lemons 7”, and the new DeGreaser record… and the rest I can’t talk about. But Gracie Jackson, who used to be in Fat Creeps, we’re gonna do her solo album, and Nick Morris—a friend of mine—he’s in a band called Flower Girl from Brooklyn, we’re putting them out, too. I think the plan with BUFU is just to expand and put out our favorite bands from other cities. But defend the Northeast, you know what I’m saying?

The Northeast has a vibe you can’t get anywhere else in the country. Everybody’s a hard worker, everybody’s constantly, like, “next thing, next thing!” BUFU’s like a factory line, we’re always pumping stuff out.

AP: Yeah, but you have such a fun personality too, you know?

BK: Yeah, cause we love chillin’ mad hard. I like traveling and meeting new people and having new experiences, and BUFU records started as a way for me to put out my friends records, and be a collective and bring people together. All the bands on BUFU are friends with each other. It’s not just like “we chill made hard” is a phrase; it’s a thing we do. We’re always hanging out and we’re always in touch.

I think we are who we are. I’m always hitting up people to hang out. I have a tight crew but I’m always looking to hang out with new people, to talk to them about them about their heartbreak and learn about their life.

It would be sick to be old and have met every person ever, and have at least one conversation. Whether it’s about KISS or it’s about love…

AP: Or love and KISS.

BK: Or love and KISS, which is my life story.