Badflower’s Josh Katz on why rock needs to embrace change—interview
OK, I’M SICK became Badflower’s debut hit, landing them a win at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, RIAA gold certification (“Ghost”) and finally solidifying them into the world of rock music after many tireless years of being outcast by gatekeepers. 2021 posed Badflower with a task most musicians dread — evading the sophomore slump. Vocalist Josh Katz wasn’t going to fold under the pressure, working tirelessly in an unhealthy state to deliver Badflower’s second LP, THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS, in September. After emotionally and mentally rinsing himself out, Katz reflects on creative growth, lessons learned from this year and looking forward to what rock is becoming in the future.
2021 has been a whirlwind. Any personal highlights?
My highlight was finishing the album — not making the album, finishing the album. It’s one thing to sit in the creative hole and work constantly — not to shut out everything else but actually completing something and feeling comfortable enough with it to be like, “All right, here you go world.” I’m very proud of that.
You’ve previously said that you had no social life in 2021 because you’re an obsessively creative person. By spending all that time with yourself throughout 2021, what did you learn?
I learned a lot of things. It reinforced things that I already knew but I was just comfortable with. The way I live my life, I don’t imagine ever being able to make records, write music or even touring with the way that I do things. I’m so in control of so many things most artists aren’t. I do add a lot of pressure to my life. I don’t fall asleep until I have to or [my] body forces me to.
On OK, I’M SICK, I was a bit more collaborative — not only on the band side but with people in the industry. That’s when I was the most anxious and depressed. I found this Band-Aid where I take on every single role, and I’ll always be happy. I know it’s a Band-Aid. I can’t sustain myself this way because I’m just shaving years off my life. But I also learned and came to terms with [the fact] that I don’t have to beat myself [up] about being this way. It’s who I am.
As an artist in 2021, music is so saturated. Apps like TikTok make musicians famous overnight, and local artists can blow up out of nowhere. Do you find that you’re even harder on yourself now because there’s so much noise to get through?
I certainly wish that artists were able to make more money. It can be a struggle. It’s the same as the economy. You’re either really struggling to survive, or you’re Lady Gaga or something and you’re fine.
It’s interesting that we’re going down this rabbit hole. Is it an issue with streaming services not paying bands enough or that the model of the industry, that we rely so heavily on touring, hasn’t branched off and evolved?
I can speak more on rock because we’ve had more success in that specific lane. We do rely heavily on touring because it pays off to the types of people going to shows. When that got shut down, of any other genre, rock artists would have suffered the most because they do rely on that completely. I think rock is certainly behind when it comes to genre. Rock has not yet embraced the musical culture of today, like the way people consume music and other genres. It’s this stubbornness. It’s really dumb.
Almost how rock still struggles to embrace emo rap or trap metal, perhaps? God forbid Willow Smith do a pop-punk song. Why do you think there’s so much hate toward these new kids coming through in new avenues?
It’s just the old gatekeeping stubbornness. That’s exactly what it is, and it’s really stupid. Look, I understand it. I think I’ve been that person before where you like things a certain way, and you don’t like change. When the world changes, it feels uncomfortable. People talk about, “Oh, rock is dying!” Then someone like Machine Gun Kelly comes out on the scene and is doing something controversial, [and] it’s getting a lot of people talking. But older rock fans are like, “This is stupid.” You can’t be afraid. I just embrace it.
Rock music in 2021 isn’t what it was in the ’70s and ’80s, harking back to the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll mentality. Rock in 2021 is an amalgamation of different things, genres, views, people, faces. Everyone’s invited. In 2021, what do you think rock music is?
I think it’s entirely about attitude. I’ve thought that before 2021, but it has nothing to do with genres of music. There are rock songs that use trap beats and electronic aspects. Honestly, I don’t like genres at all. Good songs are good songs. But if I had to categorize things, I’m categorizing them more to do with the attitude of the performance more so than just the instrumentation. There is a rock ’n’ roll attitude and spirit. That is undeniable. Billie Eilish, she’s a rock star, straight up. There is nothing but rock because that’s what that attitude is. That’s what that spirit is to me, and I love that.
I’m also happy for the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll era to be done. I never connected with that at all. That’s not what attracted me to the genre like it did with a lot of people. And we’re seeing that, as people are getting canceled left and right. A lot of these artists got into this music because they wanted to feel this sense of power and control. Granted, it wasn’t as taboo then. I think people have certainly learned.
This interview first appeared in issue #401 (the AP Yearbook), available here.