Without Astrology, Ben Katzman Would Have Never Started Shredding

The Degreaser frontman’s energy has always been “off the charts,” but the stars showed him how to use it.

It’s hard to joke about astrology’s impact on my life, for without astrology, I would have never entered the realm of shredding. 

I’ve been told I have an intense personality since I flew out of the womb — unfortunately for this universe, my energy was off the charts. I had a love for life at a very young age, but with the combo of my unfocused energy and a debilitating speech problem, I tended to feel shut off from the outside world. As a little kid, your parents curate your reality for you: They take you to school, sign you up for whatever sport, plan playdates with your friends, etc. I didn’t last in karate, I was too intense for tennis, and while all this passion and intensity would become important parts of who I am today, I definitely spent more time in the principal’s office in kindergarten and first grade than most kids do in their entire grade school career. I look back on these young years and remember feeling both stoked to fight the world like a Power Ranger, yet isolated and confused that I couldn’t connect with the universe I was thrust into.

After getting in constant trouble for acting out and doing David Lee Roth high kicks off my desk, my mom took me to see the person who would become our family’s astrologer, and who would change my life forever. Now, before I dive into that, you should know that getting your chart done is a deeply introspective experience. We all have baggage that we might use to make excuses for our behavior, but with a great chart read, you can use astrology as a tool to look inward and power through the narratives that keep us locked in our habits and narratives that no longer serve us. 

What our astrologer, Ofra Ben-David, pointed out to my mother is that as an Aries, I’m already bursting with firepower that can’t be tamed — but just being a certain sign isn’t a specific enough calculation. A chart is filled with planets and placements that represent every part of your psyche. How you act in public, how you relate to yourself, how you choose to love, what drives you in this world, and so much more. 

To break it down, the sign you are born into is your “sun sign.” It’s based on the date of the year you are born into. Your sun sign is your exterior shell operating system — i.e., “are you a Mac or a PC?” I happen to be an Aries, a brash, adventurous, loud, and intense fire sign. Your rising sign is how you come across in public, kind of like your texting app (are you an Instagram DM, or a Whatsapp kind of person?). Your moon sign represents your inner self, kind of like a navigational app for your emotions — it’s what directs you throughout your life.. is kind of like an emotional navigational app representing your inner emotional self aka the voice you talk that helps you navigate through the next stages of your life (kind of like your web browser). Your Mars is your desires, energy, assertion, and sex drive in this world (no explanation needed on which site choices would make up this column), and your Venus is the planet that rules how you love romantically and platonically (Think, are you a Bumble person, a Tinder person, or a Hinge person?). And it goes on and on and on!

Ofra found in my chart that, despite being an Aries, I have a lot of peculiar, non-traditional water and earth placements that signify I am at my happiest when I am understood through artistic self-expression. At the time, I was playing with action figures, trying to get into sports, and dabbling in karate, but none of those things were true outlets for my mind and heart to project into the outside world. It was at this time I was introduced to the piano, and started tearing it up like there was no tomorrow. All of a sudden, I found myself riffing on keys, finding pieces of music that matched my highs and my lows, writing out little songs whenever I felt these cosmic bursts of intuition and using lyrics to communicate how I felt. I’d finally found something that made the chaos of childhood stand still. I know what you are thinking, though: Did my astrologer really crack the code? 

I’ve always tried to use astrology to dive into the aspects about my personality I’m not the most comfortable with. Being a frontman in the social media age unintentionally morphs you into a caricature that helps you navigate, positively and negatively, through a lot of situations in life — whether it be meeting people at a party, getting interviewed, or just making an impression on people in the world around you. But that forces you to recognize that there are parts of yourself you might not be comfortable with. Life is filled with good times and artistic expression, but it’s also filled with business and love and bits that aren’t so simple to navigate through.

Do I love being on stage, crushing crop tops and making it look like cool points pay the rent? OF COURSE, but like some people I know, I tend to struggle with using social media, sarcasm, and humor to avoid intimacy outside my public avatar. My chart points out that I have a moon in Capricorn — an earth sign that takes care of business and crushes its goals from a somewhat detached point of view. My ego feels at its best when I’m crossing off every obstacle on my checklist. And fortunately-slash-unfortunately my Venus — the planet that rules love — is placed in Pisces, a deeply ethereal romantic and loving water sign. I live for real connection and beneath-the-surface shredding, but I get caught in the disconnect of trying to make all aspects of my life work. All of these traits have to play together or life becomes a balancing act — you can get toppled by one dimension of your personality, preventing you from being the most complete version of yourself.

My new album Astrology 101 is a deep dive into navigating the cosmos, with different genres matching the spirit of each sign. For the fun loving Libras you get a disco banger; for the hard rocking Aries, you get a party rock anthem; for the deep-feeling Cancers you get the world’s best power ballad. It never hurts to get your chart read by an astrologer and it’s never a bad idea to look inward with the power of the stars. Whether you believe it or not is secondary to the guidance and introspection astrology can bring you as it did to me. May you find your place in the world, whether it be with riffs or the cosmos!

(Photo Credit: Matheus Nogueira)

Channeling 50 years of hard rock heritage, Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser deliver heavy shredding and posi vibes. Currently based out of Miami, they’re dedicated to spreading the shred worldwide.

Formed in 2014 amidst the dirt and frenzy of Boston’s electric DIY community, DeGreaser is the unruly lovechild of one Ben Katzman (previously of Guerilla Toss and White Fang), a self-trained shredder with deep roots in Miami’s metal scene yielding an undying love for KISS, Van Halen and the Ramones. Playful yet earnest, DeGreaser celebrates the rock and roll ethos, but with a dedication to the core belief that you can only be cool by being yourself. Mix in an obsession with astrology, cults, soaring guitar solos, and all things John Travolta, and you have yourself a potent cocktail of rippin’ good times.

The band has toured and played shows across the U.S. with La Luz, Mannequin PussyColleen Green, Tall Juan and countless other fellow shredders. Their new album, Astrology 101, is out now on Starburns Industries Press.

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Wagner)