I’ve posted about 8-Bit Zombie before and if you didn’t know, I absolutely love their stuff. They also recently won Tee Madness 2012 (congratulations!) so I thought I’d take this chance to interview 8BZ.
Why did you want to get into the T-Shirt industry?
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to start a business and thought screen printing would be fun, so I dove in head first. I knew absolutely nothing about screen printing or the tee industry so it was quite a learning process. But it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I knew going into screen printing that I wanted to make rad shirts to sell on the side. So after learning the ropes and honing my printing skills, I ventured into printing my own stuff to sell. Funny enough, 8BZ actually started off with flip-brim hats. I didn’t get around to printing tees until I had carved a little niche for myself with the hats.
Why 8-bit ZOMBIE?
8-bit ZOMBIE was a name I came up with years and years ago. I’m a huge NES (The original Nintendo system) fan and collector. So 8-bit games have been my obsession for most of my life. I’ve also been a fan of zombie flicks for quite some time. So that’s where the name comes from. But it also works on another level – 8BZ is all about 80’s nostalgia. So you might say I’m bringing the best parts of the 80’s back from the grave.
How many guys or gals are there that work with you? Or is it a one man army?
It’s a one man army! Apart from the artists I hire, 8BZ is all me. From screen printing to packing & shipping, I run every facet of the brand myself. It’s an immense amount of work but it’s also very rewarding. I’m definitely a bit of a control freak when it comes to my brand. I have a very distinct vision of how I want everything.
What are your main influences? Do you have any specific artistic influences upon your designs?
My main influences are of course the 1980’s. I was a child of the 80’s and the toys, cartoons, movies and video games of that decade never really left me. I’ve been obsessed with all things 80’s since…..well, since the 80’s, haha. It was definitely a magical time to be a kid. I wouldn’t really say I have any specific artistic influences other than a general 80’s pop-culture vibe and 80’s skate art. I try to work with artists with varied styles but also artists who share my love of that decade.
As I notice you pay homage to a lot of different films and games, has this ever caused you any legal problems?
Not yet, knock on wood. It is something I worry about and something I’ll have to be more careful about as 8BZ grows. But so far, so good.
I see you mainly focus upon 80’s styles, do you plan to branch out and do different decades? Any big future plans at all?
I will always stick to 80’s and early 90’s with 8-bit ZOMBIE. But I feel like I’ve only barely scratched the surface with what’s possible. That era will keep me busy for years to come.
Who are some of your personal favourite brands?
Johnny Cupcakes is an inspiration. I went to a lecture he gave and chatted with him a bit afterwards. His words and advice definitely had a big effect on me. An amazing guy and an amazing brand. Death Shred is a brand I’ve followed for awhile. Similar themes to 8BZ, really awesome stuff. And Orcus Brand is another rad line run by one of my artist buds, Setup85.
Do you have your own studio or do you outsource the production of your shirts?
As mentioned earlier I print all of my merch myself. I am beginning to outsource some of my printing now though. As 8BZ grows, it’s a BIG help to be able to send some of the printing to someone else.
Has anyone famous bought your shirts or been seen wearing them? If not what’s the strangest place you’ve actually sent a shirt to.
I don’t think anyone super famous has been spotted sporting 8BZ. I would love for it to happen though! And I ship stuff all over the world on a regular basis, which was a big surprise to me starting out. In the beginning, most of my sales actually came from outside the U.S. It was really strange to me at first. But also very awesome to think that stuff I made is being worn but people all over the world. But sending stuff to the Ukraine or Malaysia or other remote places with crazy addresses is always weird, haha. I just have send it off and hope it gets there!
You’ve entered Tee Madness the past three years and finally this year you won! Why do you think this year you finally accomplished it?
Extremely happy to finally get 8-bit ZOMBIE a place in the winner’s circle. I think I finally made it this year due to a couple of factors. One was probably the fact that many of the bigger brands got knocked out earlier in the game this year. Luck of the draw was definitely part of it. But other than that, I simply have a ton more fans than in years past. I was super impressed with how loyal and supportive my fans were this year. It was really humbling and amazing to see their devotion. I also just wanted it badly this year. I knew going in that this was going to be my last attempt at the tournament. So I definitely gave it my all and tried my hardest to bring home the win on my 3rd and final run.
And why won’t you be competing in the next Tee Madness? Will we see you in any future events at all?
I just feel like I’ve had time and made my mark with the contest. I think it’s time to step aside and let some fresh blood battle it out next year. Not to mention the fact that Tee Madness is insanely stressful and all consuming. You pretty much have to be chained to your computer if you want to make it to the end. It’s so mental draining and exhausting, haha. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome contest and is well worth entering for the exposure alone. But I’ve battled for 3 years straight and finally made it to the end this year, so I’m ready for a break. Very much looking forward to experiencing the contest from the outside next year. But we’ll see what happens in a few years, haha. I very well may come down with the tee MADNESS again at some point!
What is your favourite NES game and 80s Film?
Those are both tough questions! I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one, as NES games and 80’s movies are two of my biggest passions. But some 8-bit favs are Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Wizards & Warriors, Little Nemo and of course the Mario & Mega Man games. As for movies, Goonies, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Ghostbusters, Labyrinth, Lost Boys and Neverending Story hold special places in my heart. Both lists could go on, and on (AND ON!) but I’ll stop there, haha.
Is there anything you’d like to tell our readers?
Keep an eye out for the 8-bit ZOMBIE summer release. This summer will be the biggest, baddest and raddest release to date for 8BZ. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that should bring a big smile to the face of any 80’s fan! You won’t want to miss out on this one!
I’d like to thank Ross from 8BZ for his time and effort in conducting this interview with me! It’s been a great way for me to ask questions that I’m particularly interested in so it has been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to reviewing his merchandise as soon as it arrives. Which hopefully should be soon! If you guys want to ask him any questions yourself head on over to 8BZ’s contact page.