Danny Katz
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Danny Katz

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Folk Pop


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"Danny Katz: New Album, New Home, More Music"

Not just anyone can go around saying that he’s a proud gay Jewish Japanese musician, but singer and songwriter Danny Katz is not just anyone. Recently, I was able to interview the performer who presently lives in Japan. With his informative answers came such an abundance of quips about many things (mostly his sexuality), that by the end of the interview you not only got to know Danny but had a good laugh as well.

On Katz’ Past:

When I asked him to give me a summary of himself, he easily joked that it sounds like an online profile. He even opened the summary with the his astrological sign (Aries) and the fact that he likes walks on the beach. He’s played piano since he was four, guitar since he was 13, and has been playing the jiuta-shamisen for the past 7 years. Danny quickly added, “I used to play the violin and viola too, but kinda sucked at em!”

Katz, 33, explained how he doesn’t recall ever declaring he wanted to be a singer, “and if I did, I probably forgot that decision about 5 second after I made it.” According to Danny’s oracle, though, it just sort of happened a long time ago. In fact, Danny could not remember a time when he saw himself as anything but a musician, at least in one form or another. Danny had enjoyed performing from a young age (from recitals to school plays) but it wasn’t until high school that he started stepping out of his “super-shy shell” to perform his own songs in public, telling people he was doing it to get the girls. “Ha! More like their brothers,” Danny quipped. Speaking of family, Danny’s parents have been there for him from the start. In the beginning, they went to all of his shows in coffee shops and bookstores. Since Danny doesn’t perform at either of their places in the suburbs anymore, his parents can’t make all of the shows. None the less, Danny thinks his parents have been supportive enough by not pestering him with fairly reasonable questions about his job choice. They have also helped partially fund all his previous albums. “You can’t ask for better encouragement than that!!” He also stated that they didn’t evict him when he chose to move back home in his late 20s so he could focus 100% on his music.

When I asked him about professional training he recalled his 4 weeks with one of the more well-liked voice teachers while in college. “I found him to be a bit of a pompous a** and I just wasn’t interested in studying further with him.” That’s not to say that Katz refuses proper singing lessons when his schedule gives him the time. “I’m usually good with the high notes but once I hit the low notes I sound like I could use a good T-Pain autotune session.”

Songwriting for Danny came naturally during his time in junior high school. His influences at the time were the B-52’s, Erasure and Genesis, followed shortly by R.E.M. and Billy Joel. But just because the idea of being a musician came easily to him, Danny asserted that pursuing music as a solidified career option was in many ways a post September 11 decision. “I mean—I had been performing for years at that point and had several albums under my belt already, but I was also seriously considering putting music on the back-burner to go do something respectably painful and responsible like law school.” The tragic events of 9/11 changed things by showing the musician how short one’s life can possibly be and, “and that doing something creative and true to myself was essential for my sense of fulfillment and happiness.” Katz added, probably with a smirk while typing, “If I can’t match my socks in the morning how good a lawyer could I possibly be? Flirting with the judge will not a good trial make.”

Given that he’s satisfied with his life, Danny would not change anything if ever given the chance to go back in time. That’s not to say that he would not mind telling his younger version to hurry and join Hairclub for Men. He typed, “I was in denial that I was losing my hair forevah!” Musically speaking, he’d tell his 23-year-old self to have more confidence in himself and his music. He also wants to tell himself to relax and enjoy the process of music making and performing, but to not get so caught up with the business side of things. Another thing he’d ask himself to do is to avoid the clunkier forays into political songwriting or the attempts at channeling his undergrad major of Queer Theory. “Listening back now, some of those songs make me wanna roll my eyes, although the intentions when writing them were, well… I mean well.” He finished off by reassuring me that the desire to be a Japanese/Jewish gay male Ani Difranco only suited him for the first half of his 20s.

On his new album and moving to Japan:

Currently, Danny just wrapped up his 7th studio album, “Japanese Satellites.” (Available on and Amazon.) Though his musical tolerance ranges from classical to hip-hop, Danny chooses to stick to 80s flavored folk-pop songs when it comes to writing his own music. He describes “Japanese Satellites” as a “mix-90s U2, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, and The Shins.” He then says that the album will “make your ears sparkle and your hair shine with delight. You cannot resist.”

80s flavored folk pop bliss. That was Danny’s reply when I told him to describe his new album in 5 words. The album was mean as a personal thought on the potentially fleeting nature of New York City relationships: “How the pace and culture of the city can create and destroy the most amazing and intense bonds between lovers, friends, one night stands and everyone figuratively (or literally?!) in between.” Just as his 2006 album “Strangely Beautiful” was about his experiences in his 20s, this new album is about his life in his 30s. Danny traveled quite a bit while these songs were written and any time he was in a new city he would wonder if relationships were easier then than in New York, “and also what makes people come to New York, what makes them leave, etc.” Going into the studio to work meant he would be leaving NYC. Tokyo was a possible location to call home, or at least a place where he could go to figure out what he really wanted from New York when he returns. “Hence the distanced observation of a ‘Japanese Satellite.’” He also divulged that it made for some very cute CD artwork by Joe Wu.

While Danny is very attached to all of his songs (“They’re my BABIES!”), his favorite would have to be “Taipei.” The lyrics about ‘a crushed out high school girl’ apparently summarizes Danny Katz in a nutshell. Danny admitted to always having a hard time when recording songs: “I always ‘freeze up’ in the studio—it’s like when I see the red record button come on suddenly I start making all sorts of whacky mistakes…” Emotionally, though, “Modesto” was the hardest to record as the break-up that the song talks about came back to mind each time Danny performed it and the lyrics are so specific. “I couldn’t distance myself from the subject matter. At all. And in the studio you’ve gotta do take after take after take.” But Danny also found the recording session a little liberating. He was able to acknowledge how his ex and him both grew immeasurably during their time together and how sometimes a song can allow you to come to closure, “to incorporate the experience into your life fabric and move on.”

He came to Japan with numerous goals ranging from taking a break from NYC/America and learning to understand both environments more to leaving behind both comfort and heartache. He always intends to improve his Japanese for music and other career options, better his understanding of Japan from a worker’s perspective (instead of his past experiences as an exchange student and a vacationee), gain a more global understanding of the world, and to take a stab at the Japanese music industry. Since he’s only lived in Japan for 7 months, he still sees achieving those goals as a continual work in progress.

One moment he considers memorable is when he met his new and “very cute” co-worker. “He goes to bow; I go to shake his hand. Much confusion ensues and I almost accidentally smack him in the crotch.” He jokes, “I am THAT coordinated. And that culturally insensitive, apparently.” Japan has also taught Katz that he can be as out as he wants about his sexuality and they’ll still ask him if he’s found a girlfriend, which confuses Danny to no end.

When Danny was asked to compare the two musical epicenters of his life, New York and Tokyo, he found it hard to answer. “…Both cities are quite different from each other and because I find musical talent relative.” Though his songwriting hasn’t changed since moving, Danny does hope to incorporate some Japanese instruments into his recordings again. (He feature a jiuta-shamisen on a previous album, but decided to not use it on “Japanese Satellites.”)

On Music:

Insofar, musicians of different genres have inspired Danny. For earnestness, being out and proud, and having excellent melodic sense – Erasure. For songwriting and musical chops – Billy Joel and Paul Simon. For political savvy and confrontational wit – Ani Difranco. Other inspirations consist of Spitz, Lady Gaga, Missy Elliott, and of course The Beatles. But day-to-day inspiration comes from Danny’s indie singer/songwriter buddies. While practicing solo usually leads Danny to not focus on practicing, “band practices are always fun and since most of my musician buddies have shorter attention spans than I do, it forces me to focus on everyone…”

With lyrics such as ‘Lost in translation, I am nothing without you…’ I asked Danny if he was ever without music, would he consider himself “lost in translation.” He replied with a definite “absolutely.” He explains how a common language wasn’t always spoken, especially collaborating with foreign musicians. “It amazed me how we were all able to communicate through music. Though come to think of it, alcohol helped quite a bit…”

In the present day music world, originality is key. Danny feels he’s at a slight advantage with his life experiences—being gay, half Japanese, half Jewish, in his 30s and living in Tokyo—and it feeds into his understanding of how this business (and life) works. But other than that Danny is struggling to get recognized as much as anyone else. He constantly attempts to balance the “desire to create something unique with the desire to be heard and successful.” He believes he is a bit more balanced, humanistic, ethical, and giving than some other musicians, but concedes that may all be relative.

He tries to stick to some advice he was given which revolves around staying true to oneself without ignoring the fact that it’s a business as well. While he tries not to sell out, Katz knows that he has to listen for what the general public wants to hear. He also knows that he should appreciate his fans because he understands that without them this wouldn’t be possible. The best advice that Danny has gotten, though, would have to be, “if you’re not enjoying it, why do it?” Trite as it may be, Danny believes there’s a lot of truth to that one statement.

His message to fans was short and to the point: “Do it – there’s nothing better than creating and sharing with folks.” He also suggested you have thick skin if you want to enter the business. He informed me that the business can be brutal and “sometimes what you’ve created with blood, sweat and tears will fall on deaf ears.” But whether or not your music gets picked up by the higher ups, Danny said that nothing is more amazing than being able to connect with a fan and to know your music is making a difference in someone’s life.

Other facts:

If ever you catch Danny as a karaoke, he would probably be singing some American and British 80’s pop and mid 90’s Japanese pop. “And I have to admit, I can’t pass up a good sing-along to ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ ‘Take On Me,’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine,’ and ‘Living on a Prayer.’” He also prides himself in doing Young MC’s “Bust a Move” better than any other folksinger in the history of “folksingerness.”

While he thought about taking on a more conventional job way back when, Danny is sticking to music for as long as possible. He may take a break from time to time, but never permanently giving it up. In five years, he sees himself definitely making music. The idea of geographically where, however, is still up in the air. He wrote, “Maybe living with some amazing sugar-daddy on a California vista? Maybe being a geisha. Maybe becoming kosher. Stranger things have happened.” - Channel APA: Broadcasting Asian America

"BCB Profilin’: Danny Katz"

This edition of Profilin! features talented multi-instrumentalist and tawdry slut Danny Katz. Me and Danny once had a short-lived music project called “Schlong Songs”, but he up and left me for the bright lights of Tokyo and being a big fancy superstar in Japan. I still pray every night for a SS revival (O the Glory!), and the day when Danny will return to regale me with his enchanted yarns of fake va-jay-jays and forays on Manhunt.com. I get all weepy just thinking about his mint rendition of Missy Elliott’s “Work It”, which he has promised to play at my wedding. Or wake. Whichever comes first.

Greetings, I am…
Nanook Of the North. Err… Danny Katz, NYC’s “best …and only? gay/Japanese/Jewish singer-songwriter.” As I say at shows, if you know any other gay/Japanese/Jewish singer-songwriters, send them my way and we’ll make Kosher Geisha babies. It’ll be a-mazing AND culturally sensitive. Bagels and sushi best recognize? Chyeah . I OWN that.

I’ve been known to bitch about…
Everything? It’s in my genes to complain. That’s how I show affection. Purrrrrrr. Oh, and people on the NYC subway who treat it like their bathroom (interpret as you wish).

My influences are…
All the musicians I’ve met through Five Points/Tea Bag and Sulu Series as well as Erasure, Billy Joel, R.E.M., U2, Spitz, Simon & Garfunkel and Missy Elliott. Re Spitz? The lead singer, Masamune? He and I are married and I’m preggers with his child. He just hasn’t realized it yet. Oh, and whatever 15 minutes of fame pop culture icon it’s cool to name drop at this point. Shall we go with… Gaga? I do like her though and she puts on quite the show. I think she’ll last longer than 15 minutes.

On a Saturday night you can find me….
Face down, a** up, that’s the way I like to… well, actually scratch that. Chances are dinner with friends. Maybe drinks. Have been a bit of a domestic princess the past few Saturdays. Not very rock star to stay in and read a book but I’m channeling my inner story-telling, folksinger so…

On a Tuesday night you can find me…
Wondering what day of the week it is and where I put my socks. Maybe hitting up an open mic or at rehearsals.

My usual drink/poison is….
Scotch, whiskey… I’m a total lightweight but I like the taste and bite of the harder stuff. Or beer. Either way, for a gay man I sure don’t show much love to fruity cocktails. My other poison is coffee. Tried to kick the caffeine habit but. Can’t. Function. Need. Coff… ::thump:: Zzzzzzz.

The last song/album I listened to is….
“Everything’s Easy” by Girlyman. They should have named it “Danny Katz is Easy” but that goes without saying.

If I was a superhero my name would be…
Kosher Geisha – The Treif Defender of the Samurai Way! I have no idea what that would entail on a day to day basis (making pretty performance art sculptures consisting of bagels and lox and sashimi?), but I’m sure the uniform would be uber-kitsch. And would require glitter. Copious amounts of glitter. Cuz I’m butch like that. ::sparklezzz::

I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with…
Boys, boys all types of boys. Black, White, Puerto Rican, Chinese boys… oh, and train maps. I can sit for hours just staring at them. Really. No really.

Favorite thing to do in Tokyo….
Favorite thing in Tokyo (where I’m currently living) is just walking around and discovering things. This sprawling clusterf*ck that is the grand TYO has never-ending surprises. I do have a thing for those tiny standing room only ramen stalls. And I enjoy making fun of what’s considered the “in” look for guys here (super skinny, crazy hair, etc.) Oh and last but not least, at the gym, I enjoy watching grandmothers in skin tight leopard print pants mounting strange stretching machines while Oye Mi Canto is blasting. Priceless. Don’t judge.

Free Association time! First word I think of after “Asian America”:
Hyphen. Hotness. Hapa. Growth. Visibility. College tour ^^ GiantRobot. <3

My weapon of choice is….
My guitar. Makes me sound like an Ani Difranco wannabe but hey what do you expect from a Queer Theory major?

Be sure to check out my…
New album – Japanese Satellites at www.dannykatz.com and… my fabulous Erasure covers, soon to be up on YouTube. You can check out me too, for just 100 Yen at the local Shinjuku ni-chome dodgy bar mumbling to myself in the corner. Bargain in the TYO!

I’ll also be having an NYC Japanese Satellites release show – with full band! Tuesday August 3rd, 7 pm at the DUPLEX — RSVP here. - Bicoastal Bitchin Blog

"Reviews of Japanese Satellites (2010)"

Each of us have that favorite type of music which soothe our nerves and calm the soul. And it was exactly how I felt when I listened…[H]is music… makes you just want to sit back, sink onto a bean bag and be carried away… Some of my personal favorites are “Bushwick,” “Revival” and “Yearning”... The lyrics are a little eccentric and wacky at some places, but that’s what make Danny’s work so different and refreshing… There is something very Carrie Underwood about Danny’s music. Instantly likable and very easy on the ears. How would I know? Considering I have been streaming his songs for eight hours now…you could say I am a convert.
- Razlan Manjaji , You Got Me Blogging (Aug 30, 2010)

[Danny’s] first track “Bushwick” has a delicate introduction, his vocals soft yet strong. I can imagine that Danny can sing just about anything, his vocals would definitely suit an acoustic set in a mellow atmosphere... and as the tracks continue to make my ears happy it feels like each song is a chapter… His music feels true, unique and soulful… “Sacramento”…suits his voice, and reminds me slightly of Robbie Williams… Katz has produced a very extraordinary album here… You can feel the passion in Katz' voice throughout… [“Taipei”]… almost brings a tear to my eye.
- Suzie Kidger, New Reviews (Sep 06, 0010)

"Japanese Satellites” plays homage to so much… yet… displays enough of its own originality… “Bushwick” shows off Danny’s range... In “Sacramento” …there is a really amazing break down… I recommend getting the whole album. It’s that good and it has alot to offer.
- Eric Barnes , Gaijinass Blog (Mar 30, 2010)

- Various

"Reviews of Strangely Beautiful (2006)"

If there's smoke rising, songbird Danny Katz is on fire in his new album "Strangely Beautiful". This time around Katz swings to new heights, experimenting with new recording techniques (backtracks) and seductive vocals to further rouse the senses of his listeners. The rack of songs infuses a multitude of instruments to create tones ranging from rhythmic beats to a soothing blend of fantastic melodies. In "Even I've Got Standards" Katz expresses the weird and unusual *meshugass* of online dating. The track — comedic and imaginary — is somewhat like a psychedelic dance remix, which touches on Katz's dating No-Nos. "Unrequited Love" is also a worthy toot of the horn. It's a beautiful serenade for a former love, which Katz presents his genius on the piano and talent in subtly immersing other instruments into his music. "Strangely Beautiful" is full of wit and passion and without doubt, Katz performs it at his best.
- Liman Cheng - Various

"Reviews of Live Shows"

[Danny] was able to engage an audience that is used to hip-hop and Indian music for the most part. They were clapping enthusiastically to his song as he got the party started. Danny is both professional and passionate with his work, which makes him an excellent performing artist.
- Jason Hu, Talent Program Coordinator, City College at City University of New York

When Danny performs, people watch! Though students were at crunch time with papers, they stopped to be captivated by Danny's lightning performance, original material, and unique, fun, and accessible folk interpretations of 80's pop songs. It was an amazing scene!
- Gabe Blau, Bard College Jewish Student Union Chair

Danny brings with him a well rounded professionalism that is rare and a merit I truly admire. He sees the scope of his part of the show but also appreciates the larger picture. Danny cares more about how he can work with and shape the overall impression that the audience leaves with. His material is strong and his stage presence is infectious and empowering.
- Kris Landherr, LandShark! Showcases

In spite of humid 90 degree weather, Danny played enthusiastically for three hours straight at our annual fundraiser. His musical contributions helped make the evening run smoothly. A delight.
- Phyllis Osterman, Patient Services Manager, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Fairfield County Chapter

Danny Katz always gives an unforgettable performance. He definitely has a style of his own that needs to be heard and seen to be believed. And you should see his Japanese pop music interpretations - The energy he projects is fantastic!
- Jerome Zorrilla, 2003 Co-Chair of GAPIMNY, NY

Danny and I used to play little acoustic shows in and around Sarah Lawrence College. He played some of the best solo acoustic 80's covers I have ever heard.
- Seth Asa, Singer-Songwriter

Danny is a funny guy, and he plays one mean-ass guitar!!
- Soce, the Elemental Wizard

Despite the obvious contradictions inherent in mixing Jewish with Japanese, heartfelt white-boy folk with funny/shocking homo-humor, corporate suburban pragmatism with countercultural rock-star dreaming, etc., Danny manages to pull it off. That's why he rocks.
- Jordan Haar, Percussionist

Danny Katz is, by far, my bisexual\mixed-race\economically challenged\woman of color of choice. If you want identity politics or a gay/asian/jewish songwriter WITH A TWIST, he's it. He's also a marvelous cook.
- Erin Anderson, Author

Danny Katz (Always two words, never one) makes love to toasters like a pro, abuses guinea pigs, and covers Madonna’s "Like A Prayer". What else is there?
- Chris Henderson, Director, Brilliant Productions

Danny's very funny, very funny indeed. And quite the brainiac. And he's a musician. Oh my! I think I'm going to swoon!
- Tom Cork, Playwright

I had the pleasure of seeing Danny perform at… Out of the Box… in New Brunswick, NJ ... [He] performed with what I assume is his usual high level of energy and humor, with a bit of irony and pathos thrown in.
- Les Eversen, Poet and Novelist - Various

"Teabag Interview with Danny Katz"

T: Welcome to TEABAG, Danny. That was a great set you just played. Are you working on something for a new album?

D: Potentially working on something... I've been recording a lot at home, and realizing that I have no skills as an audio engineer, so there's been a lot of erasing and re-recording. But, I've got some new songs up on the website, and I'm hopefully going to get some people's feedback and re-record the top three professionally and make a demo out of that.

T: You just played three songs for us - do see any of them being on the final album?

D: The first two songs will probably make it, but I don't think Missy Elliot would be too happy with my folk version of "Work It."

T: Hey, you never know... So, as you're working on this album, do you know what message you want to put out there for listeners?

D: That's a good question. In order to answer that I have to refer to my older album, Landscape. It was very political-I wrote most of the songs when I was in college when I was coming out, dealing with mixed identity, ethnicity issues. And while I'm glad I did that, I think at this point in my life my whole thing is to just observe little quirky stories about life in a big city. Maybe put a smile on people's faces if they realize that they're not the only ones to meet a psycho on the internet for a date or that they're not the only ones who get harassed by crazy people on the subway.

T: In your music, you've been known to incorporate some unconventional instruments. For example, you mentioned that you play the Japanese flute, the Shamisen. What bizarre instrument would you love to experiment with more?

D: I generally am fascinated with what's generically referred to as Asian Pacific musical instruments and notation. My little fantasy if I don't continue with the paralegal-by-day, songwriter-by-night routine is to go into musicology. I'm fascinated by Gamelan instruments, and for whatever reason, I'm obsessed with the accordion. I'd love to incorporate instrumentation that would be considered world music or real, traditional folk music, and eventually bring it into a hybridized pop context.

T: How would you describe your sound overall?

D: Right now, I would say, acoustic pop. Or, what I tell people is, think of my music as if Ani DiFranco and Billy Joel had a baby together, and Erasure was the babysitter. It's a little campy, a little quirky, and a little political-but not too much-with a hopefully catchy melody here and there.

T: Sounds like an interesting blend. Which other musicians do you look up to, and who would you like to perform with, if given the chance?

D: Well, actually-and I say this with all seriousness-three of my favorite musicians right now happen to be Jay Legaspi, Alfa Garcia and John-Flor Sisante, all of whom I know through TEABAG. I admire their songwriting and I admire their endurance with the whole performance schedule. There are a lot of mainstream stars that I love, but I think I tend to gravitate towards and be inspired by the independent, up-and-coming musicians. There's a folk and acoustic group called Girly Man that I love. I went to college with them and I've been stalking them ever since.

T: What do you do when you're not performing or writing?

D: I'm trying to learn to follow sports. I'm being completely serious. My boyfriend is a big basketball fan so I'm trying to learn to appreciate the game.

T: Are you following March Madness right now?

D: I watched Indiana versus San Diego, which was like three years ago... I have this fascination with women's basketball. I don't really know why, but the Duke-Yukon game was awesome. Other than sports, I'm trying to learn how to cook. I can be kind of a homebody, so I'm trying to get myself out there and check out museums and see all the culture that New York is constantly showing.

T: What are your favorite hangouts in the city?

D: Well, although I have been absent, I think TEABAG is phenomenal, with the variety of performances you all have here. And actually, I like the cafe space a lot too. I happen to like Chinatown for many reasons. At first it was because I wanted to support the Asian community, and I've grown to have deep appreciation of good food. There's something I like about every neighborhood of New York. Part of what's so great about this place is that you can constantly reinvent your taste and appreciation. Right now I'm gravitating towards things below 42nd street.

T: What are some of the weirdest things that have happened to you in the city, given that there are so many characters you can meet?

D: Well, I'm probably somebody else's weird experience, so I have to say everything with a grain of salt. I have been accosted by some rather, uh, "high" individuals... I'm in an interesting neighborhood because there are luxury buildings and meth clinics, all wedged in the same four block radius, so you get this infusion of different characters. Definitely on the subway, the people who are mumbling to themselves the loudest, either holding the Bible or holding garbage, tend to find me and befriend me. I don't know why. I have been peed on, but that should be scratched from the record... then there was the 65-year-old Latino woman who molested me on the subway... I'd have to go into therapy to fully answer that question.

T; Okay, we'll let you get off the hook this time. What is the biggest news headline to rock your world this week?

D: Was the Bush cabinet reshuffling this week? When the Chief of Staff [Andrew Card] resigned, I was a little surprised. I'm very interested by what happens in this administration and how they go about doing things without taking any sides about it. I have been really bad about following the news this week though. I can tell you the weather's been really nice though! I felt it. I didn't even have to watch TV!

T: If people want to know more about your music and learn all about you and stalk you, where can they go?

D: Well, I suppose my number is in various bathroom stalls-just kidding! I am a nice Jewish boy from the suburbs, I don't do anything like that... You can go to my website at www.dannykatzmusic.com. And, I finally joined the 21st century and I'm on Myspace: www.myspace.com/dannykatz. And, if you Google my name, you'll be able to find a very bushy eye browed comedian and, I think, an Israeli commentator. So if you want to find a multi-faceted Danny Katz, you can do that...

T: I'm sure you'll be the most interesting Danny Katz they find.

D: Woohoo!
- TeaBag NYC

"Kueer Kultur Review"

Having excitedly reviewed a sampling of OUTmusic late last spring, I was handed a pre-release CD recently at Pegasus (nooo, bitch, I was not cruising Asian boys, I was there raising money for Queens Pride House; but I digress already). Landscape, written and sung by Danny Katz, is a compendium of five folk-like progressive-pop songs of queer passion and angst with satirical-political overtones. I was immediately enraptured by the teasing mystical sensuality of the lyrics because they were intellectually arousing as opposed to obscene. The repeated refrains, "Tripping on erotic apathy," and "My trench coat is falling down with my pants,' in the song Seattle got my eyebrow arching. In Exit he sings of riding the subway standing so close he can "smell your body heat" but a moment later notes that "capitalism never atones." He titillatingly taunts that he's in the parking lot "pissing on your wheels," in Amusement Park, but in the next breath mocks 'Health Care' lies and then also accusingly asks "Why are you here?" And that somehow segues into 'death' and 'fear;' all very much 21st century serious sexual concerns. This is brilliant clever composition delivered in deliciously pleasant lyrics and melodies.

So why should a middle aged classical reviewer of arcane organ recitals, who does not even like 20th century composition, be reviewing folk-rock-pop fusion produced in 2002? At the risk of infuriating him, Danny Katz is everything an old New York queer could dream of; he's Asian, he's Jewish, he's clever, he's the exotic boy next door, he's cute beyond words; but most of all he's a musician who sings songs in a soothing voice that calms the soul. The sound he creates sent me back to my youth in the sixties reminding me of moments, after long sex sessions or all night parties, when one relaxes with a last joint to mellow out before heading home in the chill mists of early dawn. Make no mistake, the music is vibrant, the lyrics are mocking, the genre is 21st century, but it has a mellowness that is just very pleasant to listen to. Its not dance music, its calm and tasty like a chocolate covered marshmallow cookie with a raspberry filling eaten at 4 am after getting your brains fucked out. Oh dear! Did I say that? Don't ask me what it means; it's a just a gestalt. And so is this music.

Technically speaking, this CD is squeaky clean which is just another sign of the professionalism of his musicianship. Everything is dead on, crisp and clear, but with emotion and all the other rare elements that make music stand out as memorable.

Landscape is very much OUTmusic but of a unique emergent pop-queer quality that should have appeal to the wider generic young adult straight crowd because its cool, non-violent, sung by a young man trained as an attorney, and sexually ambivalent about politically suspicious lust. He does not speak of the unspeakable but sings of the 'love of being queer' and of 'people sticking their tongue in his ear,' (pause for heart pill), as well as of 21st century youth's emergent sexualitys' desire, disgust, and fear. Whoa; yet its all done with clever lyrics sung softly in the breathy voice of a guitar strumming folk singer of an earlier era. When I asked him who had influenced his fusion he told me: "Simon and Garfunkle, Billy Joel, Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, and Pete Seeger." I was, I admit, mystified until I heard that last name and then the light lit in my head as I finally realized what it was that I had heard that sounded so familiar hinted at in the background of his voicing and themes.

It is clear that Danny intends to evolve and progress, and that the retro-folk lyrical sound I loved in Landscape, is likely to not be heard again from him. But like good wine, cheese, and our aging bodies, evocative music matures with age and we can only look forward to what comes next from this brilliant young man. - Ruby Lips

"Space Junkies Magazine"

The lyrics are sometimes humorous… the music hits the spot making for… thoroughly catchy [songs]. Beautiful, is the only word I can think of… Danny has his own way of attracting attention to his music, and it's something that everyone should take the time to listen to, no matter what they're into. His sound is almost comparable to "Oldies" sounding music, no matter what he does it just sounds good. - Wednesday, Space Junkies Magazine
- Wednesday

"Friends in Concert: Danny Katz Reunites with SHS Friends for NYC Concert"

Danny Katz was all set to go to law school. Ever since graduating from Sarah Lawrence in 1999, he had been working as a paralegal in intellectual property law in New York City and thought the corporate life would provide him with the fulfillment he needed. But last year's tragedies forced the Scarsdale High School alum to reconsider another side of himself - the singer-songwriter side - and to reunite musically with his old Scarsdale pals.

Now Katz will be giving a reunion concert Aug. 16 at 9 p.m. at the Orange Bear on Murray Street in Manhattan, along with Stephen Baer (SHS '94), Rachel Yaverbaum (SHS '96) and possibly Scott Aronow (SHS '96). The last time Katz was serious about his musical pursuits was in high school, when he and Baer recorded two CDs together as "Stephen & Danny" - "My Apple Tree" and "Friday Nights" - and performed their original folk-rock songs for enthusiastic SHS audiences. Next Friday the trio will perform familiar songs from those good old days, but the past year has seen further musical developments from Katz.

"This whole thing - performing - is like a post-Sept. 11 reassessment of what's important to me," said Katz, whose law school applications were already in when he decided last year that making it as a musician in New York, as a career, as a lifestyle, was his real calling. He set up a Web site (www.dannykatzmusic.com) and cut a five-song CD, "Landscape," for the purpose of securing club gigs. Meanwhile, he would see Baer every so often - they'd attend shows at live music clubs in the city together - and the reunion-concert idea took shape. Katz and Yaverbaum, who attended the Scarsdale Alternative School together, got back in touch earlier this year at a memorial service for a mutual friend of theirs from Scarsdale who died, and Yaverbaum was invited to add her singing talents to the effort. She also has revised some Stephen & Danny song lyrics, to give them a more mature, less high-school feel.

In Katz's first year of pursuing musician-ship as a career, he's already secured several gigs around the city: He's done occasional cabaret piano at an Upper East Side bar called Pegasus, and he has shows coming up at Hannah's Lava Lounge and Kenny's Castaways. Also, he and Yaverbaum performed together with a band at the Orange Bear July 19 as a fundraiser for the film production company of one of Katz's college friends. That gig was a wild ride: they got stuck in traffic in a thunderstorm and didn't take the stage until 1:30 a.m. Still, Yaverbaum said, "Everyone I invited to see it was psyched. My mom stayed until 4:30a.m."

"We met in the drama club at SHS," Katz recalled about his first collaborations with Baer. They tried to form an a cappella group, which lasted only about a week, but the two of them were still interested in singing and playing together. Katz was self-taught on the guitar - "It was just me and my Pete Seeger songbook," he said - and had studied classical piano at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School for over a decade. Baer wrote lyrics and melodies and Katz put them to music.

"For the most part, drama club fostered an environment where there was no barrier by age," said Baer, who was in the grade above Katz in school. "People are very creative and outgoing and want to work on projects not limited to theater. It fosters a strong community." Scarsdale High School also provided a large talent pool of young musicians who were willing to accompany them for free - a phenomenon that's hard to come by in New York in your twenties.

Baer's and Yaverbaum's interest in reexploring their musical roots also stemmed from personal, soul-searching needs. Like Katz, they too pursued liberal arts educations that did not obviously feed into any one career, but taught them to value the development of the whole person, and they have made that pursuit the overarching goal of their young-adult urban lives.

After studying art, art history and set design at Oberlin, Baer worked in nonprofit for a year and then began a high-powered career in mergers and acquisitions at the PR firm GCI Group, a division of Grey Advertising. He enjoys his 80-hour work weeks there and is about to make his schedule even more demanding: he will begin an MBA program at Columbia on Fridays (his first day of classes is actually the same day as the reunion concert) while still working full-time, reducing his hours to a mere 60 per week. Somehow, he will still find time for artistic pursuits, which he says he needs in order to balance out the other side of his life. "I need to have a creative break," he said. Katz said Baer had always been like that: "What's impressive about Stephen is that he has such a strong work ethic, but always makes time for artistic activities."

Baer said he is considered "the artsy-fartsy guy" at his job, always infusing a unique creativity into his business pitches and trying to make them different and fun, but he still needs a fully creative outlet, which he has now found.

Yaverbaum, meanwhile, graduated in 2000 from Emerson College of the Performing Arts with a B.F.A. in theater, worked as a teacher's assistant and drama director at an elementary school in the Boston area, and then moved to New York last year. She landed a job at MTV Networks, in the rights and clearances department, last October. "I work in a very odd atmosphere: it's one of Viacom's companies, which is on the one hand one of the most corporate places, but on the other hand, everyone in my department has a side thing," she said. "It's nice. There are always e-mails going around: come see this person at this club." The reunion was Yaverbaum's chance to participate more fully in that side of her work culture.

Katz sees his involvement and experience in corporate life as essential to his success as a musician. "I learned stuff in the corporate environment that can be applied anywhere," he said. "You need those skills - handling deadlines, networking. Musicians with no business sense annoy me. Working corporate gave me the tools to pursue music realistically, practically and constructively."

"Most successful artists have to have a combination of business and artistic skills," Baer agreed, and Yaverbaum gave Madonna as an example. "She's a savvy businesswoman," she said.

Katz's liberal-arts background has also helped. Entering the music business is a struggle filled with pitfalls and dilemmas that occupy Katz's mind and find their way into his songs. "One song I wrote a few years ago, 'Trendsetter,' is a critique of society's tendency to throw someone up the pop charts and give them a position of power they don't deserve," he said. His other songs are tongue-in-cheek odes to failed relationships and political critiques of topics such as gender roles and racism, befitting his women' s-studies and literary interests in college.

All three agreed that their Scarsdale upbringing armed them with the confidence they have now. "Scarsdale is very pro-arts compared to other towns," Katz said. He and Baer had to fight for the arts in high school, but felt empowered to realize the changes they desired. "Stephen and I led a protest on budget cuts in the arts," he said.

"We got hundreds of people to sign petitions - students and parents. It was kind of remarkable," Baer added. "I think Scarsdale fosters drive, on any issue or interest. The parents are incredibly driven and have done well for themselves." The only downside of their idyllic suburban childhood, the trio agreed, was the fact that it sheltered them from the real world. "It's so privileged, it's easy not to know things about the real world. College and beyond is eye-opening," Baer said. "Looking back, we can appreciate the safety of Scarsdale," Katz said.

And if you're trying to make it as a singer-songwriter, cutthroat New York is a far cry from nurturing Scarsdale. "My advice to Scarsdale High School kids who want to be musicians?" Katz said. "It ain't easy. There is a lot of talent and a lot of drive here." - Jennifer Epel


Japanese Satellites - LP
More Than Meets the Ear - LP
Strangely Beautiful - LP
Landscape - EP
G*y Shock - EP
The College Application Song - Single
My Apple Tree - LP
Friday Nights - LP



Danny Katz: 80s flavored folk-pop. The prodigal son of The Postal Service and Ben Folds, Danny just released "Japanese Satellites," his seventh studio album. Proficient in guitar, piano and jiuta-shamisen, Danny entertains audiences throughout the U.S. with unique covers, such as a folk version of Missy Elliot's "Work It," and his originals, which cover topics from the quirky to the hopelessly romantic. While he recorded a comedy album, "More Than Meets the Ear: Sections from Transformers the Musical," in 2007, "Japanese Satellites" is his first major project since 2006's "Strangely Beautiful."

"Japanese Satellites" is a powerful pop meditation on the trials and tribulations of finding love in one’s early 30s. Katz guides us through the different stages of the journey by switching deftly from humor (“Passover,” “Magnificently Lonely”), heartache (“Modesto,” “Sacramento,” “Fall in Michigan,” and “Breakfast”), even taking a detour in alienation (“Limitations”) and unrequited love (“Bushwick,” “Taipei,” “Yearning,” “Boston”) before ultimately finding affirmation (“Revival,” “I’ll Pretend”).

Drawing cues from artists such as Coldplay, U2, Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy and Paul Simon, Katz worked with guitarist/producer Aaron Nevezie of The Bunker Studio in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Dangermouse, Moby, Ambulance LTD) to create an album that bounces between chamber-pop, 60s era folk and 80/90s guitar pop.

With the contributions of many Brooklyn-area musicians, songs feature a wide range of instruments- guitar, piano, glockenspiel, melodica, violin, and cello- infusing this rising pop star’s music with the earnestness of a folksinger. His latest album reflects a deeper sophistication of songwriting well beyond his years- a tour de force which only Danny Katz can deliver.