Music is the ultimate shared experience. If it’s sincere then you’ll relate to it in some way. If it’s direct enough, you’ll understand what the artist is saying or what they were thinking and feeling when they wrote the song. There are certain artists that write music that sensitive people connect with in very real ways, because they were vulnerable when they wrote the music. Again, music Is the ultimate shared experience.
Badflower’s “Ghost” is as good of an example of that as you’re likely to find. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, then chances are pretty good that you’ll relate to the song. If you’ve struggled with those thoughts in the past and you’re somewhat over them, then you’re concerned for the person who wrote it. That person is Badflower frontman Josh Katz, and yes, he struggles through a lot of the same mental health problems a lot of us are fighting with or have fought with in the past. We recently interviewed Katz and talked about the new Badflower record, OK, I’M SICK among other things, and we can say confidently that we’ve never talked with anyone quite like him.
“I like to stay awake as long as possible,” said Katz explaining his creative process to Alternative Addiction in the interview. “I’ll stay awake to the point to where I can’t function. I like to stay awake and see how mushy my brain can become, and then I’ll start writing. It’s usually a concept first, or it’s like a phrase of some kind that pops in and I can’t get it out of my head. Melodies often happen at the same time. We try to write in a way that the songs write themselves, so nothing is forced. If we feel like we’re forcing something, we’ll usually drop it and maybe pick it up back later. But if the magic didn’t happen quick, then it’s usually not worth pursuing because there’s something that’s waiting to be written.”
Katz doesn’t know why he started writing in the sleepless state that he does, but we did delve further into why he does it, even if he’s not completely sure himself.
“Honestly, I don’t know. It’s like being on drugs without the drugs. A lot of your ego goes away when you’re that tired. You’re not worried about pleasing anyone else. It’s a very primal state and something creative comes out of that for me. I don’t remember when I started doing it, but it became my process, that’s what I do.”
That leads us to “Ghost.” A big piece of a profile puzzle is set down when an artist talks about going without sleep as long as possible in order to write songs. We want to be careful not to glamorize Katz’s process, or criticize it for that matter, it’s just something that needs to be declared. Katz is a sensitive soul and someone who is fighting mental demons, just like a huge chunk of people out there. Talking about writing “Ghost”, Katz admitted to as much and talked about why it was important for him to write the song.
“I’m not always the most stable person mentally. That comes with the territory of being a touring musician. It’s impossible to be truly grounded when you have this kind of a life. I suffer from anxiety issues and fits of depression, and all kinds of stuff that it seems like so many people are having to deal with. I just played out this horrible fantasy because I wanted to. There was something therapeutic about doing it. I don’t really know how to explain it. It was something that I wanted to write, and it felt important for me to say it the way that I did, which was with as much detail as possible. I wanted to tell that story, and that’s what I did. That’s my style of writing. It’s all very direct and it’s all very conversational and there’s not a lot of vague metaphors to be interpreted in a million different ways.”
That open and honest way of writing is unique to Katz and Badflower. There are a lot of bands that put out songs and want the listener to interpret them on their own. That’s not Katz’s style. He’ll write something, you’ll know exactly what he’s saying, and there’s a good chance that several people are going to understand how he felt when he was writing it. That’s why Josh was understandably surprised that “Ghost” got the mainstream reaction it did, and not that surprised when the people close to him reacted to the song the way that they did.
“I always knew that it would get a reaction if people heard it. Before the song came out, we didn’t have much of an audience. I knew that it if it was heard it would get a reaction, I went into it thinking it would be terrible; that it could be the worst decision that we’ve ever made. That risk was exciting and terrifying, and I was proven wrong; people reacted in a positive way and they connected with it and it helped people in a lot of ways, and I thought that was cool.”
“They didn’t react with the same level of positivity,” said Katz on how his friends and family reacted to the song. “They were concerned. That was a good thing though, because I do have these thoughts and these issues, and I don’t often talk about them. It’s easier for me to write songs about them and put that out and have that spark up the necessary conversation that needs to be had. It’s important to talk about these things, especially if you or a loved one has those things going on, having those conversations are crucial.”
OK, I’M SICK is out now but when we talked with Katz it wasn’t out yet. We’ve written extensively about “Ghost” – because it’s a unique song that’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim. We also talked with Katz about the other songs on the record. He went through a couple additional tracks and continued to talk about some of the controversial subject matter.
“Probably “The Jester”, I’m hoping people connect with that one. There’s another one on there that I’m excited about for the same reasons I was excited about “Ghost.” It’s called “Daddy”, It’s a very touchy subject. The subject matter of the song isn’t written about in my style of writing. It’s another one of those where I don’t know if people are going to react with positivity or if they’re going to shun me for saying what I said in the way that I said it. That’s what I like about art and expression, it’s that you can do that, and people can take it how they want to take it and that’s fine. I’m just hoping that it never affects me as a songwriter. I hope that I’m never deterred from writing specific things because I might have offended people or because people didn’t connect with it the way I hoped they would.”
A lot’s been said about Katz’s lyrics and that side of the song writing, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the Noah Shain produced OK, I’M SICK and how good it sounds. Katz talked about that part of the record and how their fearless attitude spread to that side of creating the record too.
“It’s a four-piece rock album, but we weren’t afraid to dive into electronics because we’re not precious about that type of thing. Whatever makes for the most pleasing sound, that’s what we go for. It sounds like a rock album but it’s also all over the place because we embrace technology and we don’t care about staying in line that way. I think people are going to like how it sounds.”
While we talked extensively about “Ghost” and OK, I’M SICK, that wasn’t really the most interesting part of our conversation with Katz. Despite only recently getting a lot of buzz and their first real success with a single in “Ghost”, Badflower has been around for years. So, when you do an interview with someone who is in the spot that Katz is in, it makes sense to ask about the success and how it felt after struggling to find an audience for so long. Katz’s answer was surprising.
“Honestly, the career success is way less satisfying than I expected,” he explained. “It gets more challenging and it feels like the more success the band has, the more difficult it is to enjoy music in the way we all used to before there was success, before there was no expectation, when there was no money, when there was none of that stuff. It was easier to really love music. Now, it seems like as much as we all really love music, we have to remind ourselves how much we love it. There are times where it feels likes work. All those glamourous things that you expect to come out of this, they do come, but they don’t feel like you expect them to. That’s been one of the biggest challenges of this, trying to find happiness in it all and trying to still feel like a kid who has a dream. When you don’t have any success and you’re searching for it, you feel like you deserve it and you really want it. Then when you get it you realize how vapid and ego-driven the whole thing is. It feels kind of gross to say, ‘hey look at me’ when people are already looking at you.”
“There’s a weird thing happening. When you get popularity, it doesn’t feel like you deserve it anymore. I’m still struggling with it and struggling to understand it. I probably need another five years of touring and another five years of growth to have a better grasp of what this is and how to not let it affect me. It’s a real thing. It’s been validating, but there’s a negative side to it that I’m still working out the kinks of.” -aa