INTERVIEW: CATCHING UP WITH BEN KATZMAN

Ben Katzman Photo by Andrew Gibson

Ben Katzman
Photo by Andrew Gibson

Ben Katzman believes in the power of rock and roll (or rok n rol as he calls it). His love for it is infectious and it’s difficult to either see him perform live or talk to him and NOT be converted to the way he sees it. Now he’s put pen to paper and brought the world his own comic about “the sickest rock band of the 1970s”, the one and only KISS. Ben recently took some time in between bouncing all over the country to have a chat with us at TuffGnarl.com. We wax poetic on everything from 90s Nickelodeon cartoons, Jack Kirby, a little Donald Trump and why KISS are actually kind of superheroes.

TuffGnarl.com: For those of our readers that aren’t privy, give us a brief history of your bands and record label?
Ben Katzman:For those who don’t know! I run BUFU records. A label that started out of my dorm room in Boston, MA! With the help of my friends, I have been able to put out releases for such bands as Free Pizza, Tall Juan, Ian Sweet, Japanther, and more.

Whats your homebase nowdays?
These days I’m kind of traveling a bunch, staying a few months here, there, and everywhere. So far in 2016 I’ve lived in New York, Miami, Boston, and now Los Angeles! I like being a rok n rol nomad! [laughs]

World War KISS

World War KISS

What’s the music scene like there?
The scene in Los Angeles rips pretty hard. I moved out there to join my friend’s band ,White Fang. A lot of my friends out here shred in ssik bands. You know, in any big city there’s always so much going on its like impossible to get bored or complacent with music. There’s always a show to go to, or a party to go rage at.

Alright! So Ben, what made you want to make a comic?
As a kid, I was always in my own world, so naturally, I was obsessed with 90s kid’s programming. Between Power Rangers, and Rocko’s Modern Life I was always into larger than life characters and doodles. So when I got into “rok n rol”, the bands I became obsessed with were larger than life as well. For those who don’t know, my favorite band is obviously KISS. Four dudes from New York who not only had all the industry execs, magazines, and press fighting against them but managed to fight the powers of evil and come out on top as the ssikest rock band of the 1970s.

White Fang Tour Poster by Ben Katzman

White Fang Tour Poster by Ben Katzman

Did you have this idea for a while?
I’ve been toying with it pretty much ever since Trump announced his bid for the U.S. presidency. I think it’s absurd that the idea of celebrity and fame can pretty much grant you power in any social sphere in this world.

I know you’ve drawn art for your band and label before, but is this your first sequential art with a story right?
This is definitely my first sequential art with a story that I’m releasing. But I’ve always doodled little comic strips. I use to draw comic strips making fun of my teachers in high school and college to help me deal with how lame all their classes were.

Do you have any artistic or comic book influences?
Oh, I definitely do. Before I wanted to do music my original dream was to doodle for Nickelodeon. I was blown away by the animation and doodle styles of shows like Rocko’s Modern Life, Angry Beavers, Doug, and the whole 90s run of shows but also their freedom to tell a story. Those shows are so over the top, the way they are able to make mountains out of a molehill in any situation and somehow have that make sense fucking rules. My biggest doodle influences would be Sam Gas Can, Joe Murray (Rocko’s Modern Life), John Kricfalusi (Ren and Stimpy), Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo (Rugrats), and of course KISS. When it comes to comics and stuff, I don’t really know too much other than artistic pimps like Jack Kirby, he shreds too.

Why do you think KISS is always so well paired with comics?
Between the Kabuki clad war paint, and the awesome outfits from outer-space, KISS are a larger than life group of bad boiz. I think also there’s an aura about the group that they kinda don’t really rock, which isn’t true. I remember being picked on and mercifully bullied for liking KISS, yet KISS is all about being true to yourself and sticking up for what you believe in. I know my answer isn’t great but somehow that aura that KISS doesn’t need the validation from the higher sources, and that neither do you, perfectly pair up for the aura of a superhero. As long as you love what you love and believe in yourself, nothing else matters.

Where can folks buy this?
You can purchase a copy on the BUFU web store!

Ben & Krank

Ben & Krang

And you’re doing something specific with all the proceeds correct?
100% of the proceeds will be going to Planned Parenthood!

Any more comics in your future?
Yes! There are a few! I can’t reveal too much but my next one is a DeGreaser comic, where in the not so distant future there exists a musical machine beast known, as The Juggernaut.  [The Juggernaut] curates the taste of the youth by sending out evil show promoters to control the population of rock, and DeGreaser is on a speed metal mission to bring it down.

Also, I’m working on one about Ferris Bueller 20 years later, where Ferris has lost his lust for life and has been confined to working in a boring cubicle job. I’ll reveal more details later but stay posted for Ferris Bueller 2 : Midlife Crisis!

Follow Ben Katzman on Twitter and Instagram.

All images courtesy of the artist. 

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Manny Gomez

Creative at Wizard Army
Manny Gomez is a freelance writer based out of Florida's west coast. He obsessively reads interviews, binge watches TV shows, loves comics, movies, punk rock, hip-hop, stand-up comedy, detective novels and the mythology of baseball. His best friend is a dog.

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