October of last year word broke that Kat Katz decided to part ways with grindcore band Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Kat had been a vocalist with them for the past seven years sharing both vocal and writing duties. The aftermath of her departure saw a he-said she-said war of words between herself and the other band members played out in the form of Facebook statements. According to both sides, the band had a successful performance at Quebec Death Fest. At some point after, they could not find Kat and upon her return they had vented their frustration. Whatever exactly had occurred had prompted Kat to leave the band, a decision she announced to fans on her Facebook. Prior to any of this, Kat and I had discussed her being a part of an article about women in underground metal and the misogyny that still exists. After giving herself some time, I reached out to see if we could hear her side of the situation and to see what we can expect from her in the future.
Now that a few months passed, what do you want to say about leaving the band? Were there instances prior to this one that made this the “final nail in the coffin”?
The band dynamics seemed to deteriorate when I began expressing opinions more openly. My former bandmate is not used to people disagreeing with him, and I don’t think it helped any that I’m a woman. I believe that the major reason it fell apart so quickly is that weeks before I left, he had come on to me physically in a way that made me highly uncomfortable. I wasn’t expecting it. We had stayed in the same hotel room numerous times and nothing had ever happened. It felt disrespectful not only to me, but to his significant other, and put me in a terrible position. I don’t know how he expected that situation to culminate in any way that wasn’t destructive to the band and his relationship.
In one of your statements you had said, “As someone who has performed within the extreme music scene for many years and remained (to my own detriment) quiet about experiences prior to my work with ANb of harassment and sexualized bullying, I decided that for my own well-being, the cycle of misogyny, overt and unwanted sexual behavior directed towards me had to stop.” Can you explain why you, and so many other female artists, feel the need to keep quiet about these situations.
A culture that ritually sexualizes women can only be sustained by a culture of denial. If you call someone on his behavior, you’ll be “gaslighted” – told it’s all in your imagination. Anyone who witnesses harassment has to choose sides. It’s always easier to join in the denial. And of course, bullies justify their behavior by saying that anyone who lets themselves be bullied deserves it.
Women are socially conditioned to coddle and protect men. It takes a lot of work to let go of that role but I’m trying. I know it’s not my job to protect anyone’s ego. I’m not responsible for anyone’s actions but my own.
It felt from reading the headlines that the media focused on the statement you made about feeling bullied by the male band members. From a reader’s perspective, it felt like they were trying to victimize you and in return, the band was trying to portray you as an overemotional female. Obviously, you are neither of those. What went through your mind reading all this and do you feel that certain outlets were clearly playing it safe to protect the male members of the band?
I felt that some outlets were attempting to invalidate my experience. Every woman fights the stereotype of “hysterical female,” and I was extremely disappointed in my bandmates for exploiting that trope. The amount of narcissism, drama, and insecurity I witness from men in metal is astounding and yields no consequences; the tantrums are accepted without the bat of an eye. As a woman, you show anger, you speak out, and you’re automatically labeled as “crazy.”
I would imagine after being in a band for 7 years that leaving wasn’t an easy decision and that you may have felt some betrayal and a lot of hurt. Was this the case? What helped you get through everything?
I feel good about making a decision that was in my own best interest. I don’t feel good about the reactions of some people who thought I should have done what was best for the band instead. Someone who was a friend for 15 years said that he’d “never forgive me” for speaking out. We haven’t spoken since, which is considerably more painful than leaving the band. I care about these people, but I have to be mindful that not all of them have shown that they care about me in return. I can’t invest in people who care more about keeping up appearances than about having my back. It helps that I know I did the right thing but that doesn’t make it easy. Fortunately, I had the support of my friends and my significant other. He showed up, stood by my side from the beginning, and stayed with me when I was at my lowest. I will always be grateful for that.
I want to touch on your band before ANb, Salome. Many of us loved that band, a project you had created and left for personal reasons. Did you have a similar experience with the members of that band? What did you like or dislike about that experience compared to your work with ANb?
I thought I had a good friendship with the drummer in Salome. When he decided he wanted a sexual relationship and I said no, he resorted to the typical pattern of bullying and gaslighting. For years, I kept trying to make our relationship work as bandmates until I realized I was the only one of us trying. I promised myself then that I wouldn’t pay the price for someone else’s selfishness again. When my ANb bandmates showed the same disrespect for me, I left before they did more damage.
I get very inspired when I see women like yourself in the metal scene channeling rage and emotions into the form of music and art. What do you get out of performing and what do you want other women to get out of seeing you perform?
I don’t think I’d be alive today without using music and art to process experiences and emotions. My childhood included sexual assault and being the primary caregiver to a parent with untreated schizophrenia and lack of insight. She used to lock us in the house with chairs pressed up against the doors. As a child, I felt powerless, and that feeling stayed with me long after I left home. When I’m on stage, I feel powerful. I’m beyond the traumas of the past. I’m beyond rigid gender stereotypes. And I am heard. I want other women to see that there are no limits to self-expression. You don’t have to live the life you were born to.
Have your experiences made you jaded?
Some days I feel positive and hopeful. Some days I don’t. What never changes is my hypervigilance when working closely with men. Strong boundaries are needed.
What is in store for you this year? I know you have been applying to PHD programs. Any future musical projects in the works?
I’ve decided to take a few more classes and gain some research experience before applying to clinical psychology PhD programs. In the meantime, I’m a counselor for people who were chronically homeless and live with severe mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use problems. In regard to new music, I’m very excited about a song I have coming out May 3rd on Adult Swim’s Metal Swim 2 Compilation. I collaborated with Andy Gibbs of Thou, and it was such a fun and meaningful experience. It was my first time having a major role in writing the music. The compilation includes artists Sunn O))), Baroness, Dark Castle, The Body, and many other awesome bands.
Would you say that misogyny will always be a problem in heavy metal? Is so, what can we all do to make the situation more tolerable for our female artists and fans?
I think misogyny and racism will always be a problem. But I hold out hope that the culture can become more inclusive. People need to speak out whenever they encounter bigotry and not be bystanders to abuse. I don’t know that we will ever get through to the people who lack empathy, but we can try, and we can at least deter the abusive behavior.
What is your advice to women in music working in male dominated genres?
You got to be tough. Don’t internalize the disrespect. They will cut you down to tits and ass, and they will say anything they can to reduce your standing and invalidate your talent. You know that you’re worthy of respect. Don’t take it, and call them out on their shitty behaviors. T