(by Mike Riddick)
(photography by ReturnToThePit.com)
As a metal maniac, it’s likely you’ve seen Warlord tees on your favorite musicians or perhaps in your own personal metal wardrobe! One of those shirts you picked up at a local show may have also come straight out of the Warlord camp as well. Ex-PHOBIA member, Bruce Reeves, talks to us about his t-shirt line, how it came to be and what they’re doing to help bring the sickest tees to metal fans worldwide…
Hi Bruce. Please tell us about the origin of Warlord Clothing. What inspired its creation?
I’ve always been into art and when I was a freshman in high school I was taking all the graphic arts classes. We had a screen T-shirt press there and were able to make T-shirts. So I really fell in love with that medium then. Then, when we started up my old band, Phobia, in 1990, I drew up a design and made the first Phobia shirts for our band there. From there we started getting those cheesy DIY speedball kits from the art supply store and burning our own screens at home figuring out how it all worked. So as the band grew we were figuring out how to make better shirts for ourselves. I eventually went to college and got my degree in Graphic Design. I always had the idea of doing my own t-shirt / clothing line, especially since everyone and their mother had these lame t-shirt lines popping up and going away just as fast. None of those appealed to me. I figured I could do it better, more brutal, with something that fit into what I liked and fit into my scene. So with that I decided to do it, and with being in Phobia, I had made a lot of connections with bands all over the world. We were already doing all of our own Phobia stuff, so adding a band merch element to it just made sense. So in 2004 I designed the site, got some designs together and went from there. It has been growing and changing ever since.
Has your business evolved according to your original vision for Warlord or has it transformed into something greater than you originally anticipated?
It’s evolving as I planned really, just a bit slower. I have always been employed doing graphic design and motion graphics since college so Warlord, in the beginning, was always a side job for me. It was really hard to put all my effort into the business and give it all my attention to make it bigger. Last year I got laid off, so I figured I would try and do Warlord full time. It’s still really hard but I’m making it work. It’s always been a small DIY operation. Right now I basically have one full-time employee (Justin the Destroyer) that does the printing and I do everything else. In the first couple years it seemed like we moved screens and equipment in and out of friends’ garages and spaces more times than I can remember. For the past few years though it’s been smooth sailing since Warlord has been here under the roof of my house. We are outgrowing it by the minute. We should be in our own warehouse space by the end of this year and will be adding to the line along with being able to offer a lot more from the warlord empire, like screen printed posters and stickers.
You recently opened an online European outlet for Warlord. Please tell us more about it. Do you have any other future plans or ideas being implemented at the moment?
Yeah, I’ve teamed up with the record label Power-it-up in Germany to be my official distributor in Europe. I met them at the Obscene Extreme festival in CZ in 2008. They do a lot of releases for the bands I also do shirts for. Our business runs in the same circles so the partnership was easy to agree on. I produce everything here in the US and send them large shipments as needed. That way I can ensure top quality of our products. We’re building up their inventory every month with more shirts. Most of the band designs on the Warlord site are now available through Power It Up. It’s a bit easier for our European customers so they can save a few bucks on shipping when they purchase from them. In return, Warlord Clothing will be the official distributor of Power It Up records in the US and Canada. We are planning to have everything in order for a launch sometime before Christmas. We will be building up our distro catalog as we go and should have a lot of great music releases to add to the already massive Warlord shirt catalog soon.
Its clear Warlord has its own signature brand for apparel. Who are some of the artists you’ve worked with to secure your brand and create the image that surrounds your product line?
I’ve been pretty lucky to know and be able to work with a lot of great underground artists. When Warlord started, the first guys I hit up to help were Farron Loathing who also sings in Lightning Swords of Death, and Mike Fisher who I have been aquatinted with for many years. Mike had done some stuff for Phobia years ago and I was able to get back in touch with him and get him to help me. He also sings in our new band Destroyed in Seconds. Farron has done the bulk of my more brutal designs. His stuff is amazing! When I was working full-time, I had also met Pete Han who worked in our art department as a concept artist. He was also big in bringing some killer stuff to the table and defining Warlord’s initial look. He’s a great talent and also helps in doing some of the band designs as do Farron and Mike. I am always looking for new artists to collaborate with. I have a few that I’m talking to about doing some Warlord designs right now like Mark Riddick, Vince Locke, Jeff Zornow, Daniel Shaw and a few more. So expect some cool new shit out soon!
Warlord also has associations and relationships with several bands. Do you act as an exclusive merchandiser and manufacturer for these bands? What services do you provide to bands and labels?
We do work with a lot of bands. We’re usually not exclusive although there are some designs that we created for bands that are only available through us. What we offer to the bands is a basic merch deal with selling their stuff through Warlord and providing them with their prints at a good cost for their tours and whatnot. We do a lot of business with touring bands from out of the country. So it makes it really easy for them to come here to the US for a tour and get their merch through us using their credit from the stuff sold on our site. Other services we offer are custom designs for bands. Like I mentioned, I work with a few great artists and between us we can come up with designs and a merch system / ideas for your band if needed. We also do contract printing for labels or anyone that needs good quality shirts done!
Who was the first band you sponsored and how did it come about?
The first ones I can’t really remember officially. Mostly just local friends that were in bands or bands that I had known from playing with over the years. I think a few of the first were like 16, Crom, Municipal Waste, Darkest Hour, Fear Factory, Asesino, Goatwhore, Brutal Truth, Skarp, Dystopia, Bad Acid Trip, Watch Me Burn etc. I basically just gave the Warlord shirts to whoever I though would like ‘em and would wear ‘em.
What band(s) do you personally feel helped significantly spread the word about your clothing line through their sponsorships?
I deal with, sponsor and put my support into a lot of different type bands. Some bigger, some smaller it’s all the same to me. Any kind of support is significant. From the crust scene to the bigger touring bands…whatever. As long as they are into what we’re doing and like the stuff we’re making and want to wear it I’m happy. I do get a lot of requests from bands about sponsorship. I can’t sponsor everyone and don’t want to. I only sponsor the bands I like and fit with what Warlord is doing. As far as on a larger scale I would say Goatwhore has been really upfront with helping me out from the get go. Ben was the first one to show up in any magazine wearing a Warlord tee. That was a really big help. Since then you’ll see Warlord tees popping up on the likes of Rotten Sound, Intronaut, Ghoul, Skit System, Misery Index, Disfear, Devine Heresy, Skeletonwitch and even comedian Brian Posehn! So it’s a pretty big cross section.
You play some crazy thrash punk in the band Destroyed in Seconds. Tell us more about the band and where you’re headed with it.
Yeah, this is my new band I put together after quitting Phobia a few years back. We’ve been together for the better part of a year now. The line up consists of me (Bruce Reeves) on Guitar and backing vox, Leon Delmuerte (Ex-Phobia / Impaled / Exhumed….) on Guitar, Kent Hellmore (Ex-Semtex Vest / Mange) on Bass, Sean Vahle (Eat The Living) on drums and Mike Fisher (ex-No Warning) on Vocals. So the line-up is pretty diverse. It’s not grindcore, more like thrashy D-beat type stuff. Everyone has been doing the band thing for a while through other bands. Things are coming together and we will be recording about 10 songs next month. We’ll be looking for a label to put it out once it’s done. After that we just plan on hitting it hard and do some touring and see what we can do with it. We’ve played only a few shows thus far but have gotten a really good response so we’re anxious to get something out to promote and get on the road.
Any label prospects in the works?
Not really thinking too hard about that right now. We just want to get recorded what we have. We plan on getting it out to some people we know at labels that may want to put it out and go from there.
Please tell us how we can find and order our Warlord tees!