Katz, the sole “choirboy” of Athens, Georgia’s Athens Boys Choir is truly a spoken-word artist unlike any other.  Born "Elizabeth," it didn’t take long before Katz was aware “she” was different than other girls. 

Namely, “she” was meant to be a "he" but through some roll of the dice he was born a female.  Katz’s unique take on life as a transgender man living in the deep south helped inform his voracious writing that eventually found its voice on a stage under the ABC name alongside one other trans-male and then later on a debut release from Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s Daemon Records.

Katz has since become a solo act releasing two more independently released albums—the most recent being Jockstraps and Unicorns—and has begun incorporating intense multi-media and hip-hop back beats into his shows while still delivering powerful, and often poignantly hilarious smokin’ spoken word that is unafraid to push buttons in order to make a point.

Katz turns a phrase on a dime delivering mad rhymes in an unstoppable flow exploding from his mouth like a geyser covering diverse topics from rough ridin’ cowboy love to dropping bombs on foreign countries, from frustrating transgender invisibility issues to late night visits to porn stores and everything else in-between that captures the attention of the verbal virtuoso.  No topic is taboo and delicate sensibilities and preconceived notions should be checked at the door when Katz takes the stage because they will quickly be deflated under the razor sharp edge of his cunning linguistics.
 
On August 29, Athens Boys Choir will join the all-girl Seattle hip-hop dance duo Team Gina at the Outloud Café next to Outloud Books and Gifts on Church Street as part of Team Gina’s Heatwave Tour.  The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and everyone is invited to join in the Queerioke After-Party at Blue Gene's next door afterward. 

Fresh off a recent tour opening for Ani DiFranco, Katz took time to speak to O&AN in an exclusive phone interview from the road.   For more information on Athens Boys Choir  visit  www.myspace.com/athensboyschoir.  

O&AN:  When you first started out as Athens Boys Choir you had a partner in rhyme named Rocket but you perform solo now. Why did Rocket leave the Choir?

Katz:  It’s much less dramatic than people tend to think.  Rocket graduated college and the truth of the matter is you are sort of meant to be on the road or you’re not.  You really have to be able to handle the fact that you might not be able to see the people that you love for weeks at a time.  You won’t be in cozy beds.  So I really think it wasn’t something that was really fulfilling for him, so he decided when he graduated that he wanted a whole new start and he’s doing really well for himself.  We are still good buddies. 

O&AN:  How did Rocket’s absence affect your approach to your performances?

Katz:  I’m really the kind of person that if I feel frustrated or limited I will go out and try to kick it up a notch or two and try to put out something amazing.  I really feel like Rocket leaving was a kind of a kick in the behind that told me it was time to do or die.  I needed to do something so I recorded Rose Cuts the Cake but I feel like that album happened way too fast.  I didn’t take my time at all with it because I was almost kind of panicked to get it out.  With Jockstraps & Unicorns I think I really put some extra special effort into it and everyone tells me it’s the best I’ve done so far.

O&AN:   Do you ever feel like you are trying to prove yourself because people have pre-conceived notions about you and your work?

Katz:  Without a doubt I am constantly trying to prove myself to people because I’m not only an independent performer but I am also a spoken word artist who is a trans man and people always have pre-conceived notions about what all of that means. I feel like I always have to prove something to these people.  A lot of times I find myself warning people that this may not be the type of spoken word performance they’re expecting because once I get into it things happen and people don’t see that coming.

O&AN:   You recently got to up your game even more while opening for Ani DiFranco. What was that like?

Katz:  It was really great!  I had lots of people come up to me telling me they had never heard spoken word performed on such a large level and that was an amazing feeling because I am constantly explaining what I do to people.  When I say I’m an independent spoken word artist they get a sort of blank on their face.  I just try to go out on stage and do the best that I can but there is always this voice in the back of my head that wants to show off and prove that I can do whatever I want.  This is the kind of performance that can be performed in a small crowd or to an audience the size of Ani DiFranco’s usual size crowd.

O&AN:  How did that experience change your approach to your work?

Katz: I was already moving in the direction of making the changes that I did on the current album but touring with Ani and being in front of that many people at once was a definite encouragement to bring my game up to another level.  Her audiences were such incredibly good listeners.  You could have heard a pin drop and the energy that they give off is just mind blowing.  Performing in that kind of space really changed how I approached my work in that now it doesn’t matter if I’m in front of two people or two thousand I perform as if I’m in that crowd and it’s made a huge difference.  I have energy now I didn’t even realize I had.

O&AN:   What was the direction you wanted to go with Jockstraps and Unicorns that would set it apart from your two previous offerings?

Katz:  It was important in this album to really show the evolution of my writing. It has become a lot more relaxed now.  Writing material has become so effortless to me now that I think as it has become easier for me, it also becomes easier on the listener.  I write about things a lot of times because I feel like they need to be addressed and I feel like this album is a true reflection of my personality and who I am right now.  It’s a sort of “If life gives you lemons make lemonade” approach in a way.

O&AN:   You seem to enjoy walking on an edge with your work.  Have there ever been instances where you toed that line and someone took it the wrong way entirely?

Katz:  Some of my work isn’t easily digested by people.  There has never been anything really extreme as far as reactions from people at shows but I have found myself sort of shocked at some people’s responses before.  I was in Canada once and I got an e-mail from a person who was at the show who was offended about a piece that I do about cowboy love. 

In Canada the image of a cowboy is something that is looked up to in a much different way than it is here and I had kind of fetishized this image in such a way that it had become a sort of cultural insensitivity that I was totally unaware of.  Regardless of the concern I always try to write folks back and discuss things because I don’t speak for my entire community.  I speak for me alone. 

O&AN:   For every negative reaction I’m sure there are plenty of positive reactions as well.

Katz:  It’s really awesome for me to have people come up and thank me for doing what I do because they don’t realize a lot of times that doing a show for them that night means that I have to give up my bed for the night or sometimes even being comfortable for the night or getting a good meal. 

It really means a lot to me when I get e-mail from people thanking me because that makes it worth the inconveniences that traveling independent artists have to endure.  It’s a humbling experience really.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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