Death Metal patches for an overpowering battle vest
I have to start with a confession: I have never had a battle vest. Never in my life. I started to get interested in this thing only half a year ago during the latest Rattle-meeting, when after a few beers, Majka and me decided to organize a battle-vest-making battle between the two of us. We still have not laid down the rules of the battle, but I already started to dig deeper into the world of patches, vests and sewing techniques. That is when I noticed a company in which I grew immediately interested, since I liked their philosophy and business model so much, if we can talk about business in this case. The name of the org is Pull The Plug Patches, which is a small, Australian company which deals only with Death Metal patches, but let’s hear the story from the founder-owner, Simon Springer.
Could you tell us about the company? Who is behind PTP Patches? Why did you decide to get into this business? Where re you based at the moment?
There are two of us at Pull The Plug Patches: me and my designer and partner, Károly Róbert Székely. We both have other full time jobs to keep us busy most of the time. Károly works as a graphic designer in Romania, and I’m a professor of geography based at a university in Australia. This is not actually a business for us, instead, it’s really just a hobby. The goal was never to make money at this, but really just to make patches for bands that we love. While we’re able to break even month to month so we can keep making more patches, that’s really all we care about. Most of the potential profits go to the bands themselves, and that’s cool with us. Pull The Plug Patches is really just a love letter to Old School Death Metal and is our small way of contributing to the scene and helping to keep it alive. The whole thing started when I wanted particular patches for my own battle vest but couldn’t find them anywhere on the market because they just didn’t exist. I have a friend who makes patches and she put me in touch with Károly. We got along great on the first run of patches that we did together and decided to just keep going.
Why do you only deal with Death Metal bands? Are there any plans to broaden your horizon with Thrash bands for example?
The main reason we focus on Death Metal is because we’re just huge fans of the genre. I honestly love pretty much all forms of metal, but Death Metal holds a special place in my heart. Everyone has their own jam, and Death Metal happens to be ours. I think we’ll do some Black Metal and Thrash Metal, and we already have done a few bands in those genres, but Death Metal will always be the main focus of what we do. The difficulty with those other genres is that the bands are a lot bigger than most Death Metal bands and it’s harder to get access to the members as a result. We like to deal directly with the band members themselves rather than dealing with managers and agents. That always gets tricky and is time consuming. If we can work out a direct deal with a member of the band, then that’s always going to be the preferred route for us. So don’t expect any Metallica patches any time soon!
I read that you make only 50 patches from each design. Why is that the limit? What was the lowest sales for a patch?
50 copies is the minimum number that the manufacturer will make, so that’s what we go with. The reason is, again, this is just a hobby. We’re not in this to get rich and honestly, my full time job is very demanding, and I just don’t have time to be sending out hundreds and hundreds of patches each month. It already consumes a lot of my time just to coordinate the 50 copies that we do, so anything beyond that is just too much for me to handle. The point of doing this was always to just get a cool patch from a band we love. Once I have a copy for my own vest I’m happy, and then it’s just a matter of selling off the extras to try to recoup some of the cost of making them. Since 50 is the minimum, that’s all I ever want to make. It also makes them cool collectors items. When we started it took a long time to sell enough copies to break even, but now we are having some patches sell out in under 30 seconds, which is a bit mind blowing! Some things don’t sell very well at all though, since we make some pretty obscure bands that were largely forgotten 25 years ago. I won’t name names, but there are two or three bands that we have made patches for where I have only sold 1 or 2 copies. I’m still super happy to have a patch, but I think you can see the difficulty in all of this. Even though some patches sell really well, others don’t, and it makes it a balancing act to break even from month to month.
How do you work? Do the bands contact you or is it the other way around?
Usually I contact the bands. Sometimes it’s super hard to track these dudes down! Lots of times the members have moved on in life and are doing other things so it takes a fair bit of research to find them. As a professor I put my research skills to good use! It’s been interesting to see that there are a number of bands that have had members go on to be professors as well, like Carbonized, Utumno, and Assorted Heap for example. Getting an email out of the blue about a band you were in 25 years ago is a bit of a trip for some people I think. Most people are really cool about it though and it’s easy to make everyone happy and work out a deal. There have only been a few instances where people got really rude or had unrealistic expectations. In those instances we just say “have a nice day” and move on. Other times bands do contact us. When that happens if I know your band and listen to your music I’m typically happy to make a patch. A lot of times though it’s bands I don’t know, and they are assuming we are a manufacturer where they are asking for quotes on getting a certain number of copies made. That’s just not how we operate though.
What makes a good patch?
Well some people would say we’re not the right people to ask! We took a lot of shit in the beginning from people who hated the colours of our borders and the weird shapes. But we were always just trying to do something unique and different from what everyone else was doing. To me that actually embodies the spirit of early Death Metal bands. There was a willingness to be innovative and experiment. It was all about creating something new. A lot of people share our thoughts on this now and we have a good following and lots of loyal supporters who really appreciate what we do. For me what makes a good patch is the excellent artwork that so many metal bands have. How we work from a design perspective is I try to find shapes that actually fit and flow with the artwork. So the artwork itself largely dictates the design.
Do you have any patches which can be bought only from you?
All our patches are exclusive. We never copy any existing designs because we want our patches to be unique. You can buy our patches from us and directly from the bands themselves. We have a couple of buyers who buy regularly from us in large volumes so we work out wholesale deals with them, but in those instances they are friends and they price their patches to match what we sell them for. We’re not into supporting scalpers and people who want to price gouge.
Who makes the patches and what is the process of making a patch?
I have a friend in China who makes them for us. If you look on our Facebook page there is actually a video of the weaving process. It is machine based obviously because you couldn’t do the volume or the details that we provide otherwise. Basically the process is I create a rough mock up of what I’d like for the patch and send that to Károly. He then makes the design into something really nice and coherent. I suck at Photoshop so what I send him is just a very rough sketch. He then works with that initial idea and improves upon it, making suggestions, adjusting the colours, and defining the details so that they will work on the patch machine. Ely, my friend in China, then takes that final image and produces a “proof”, which is the image that the machine will read. She inputs that into her weaving machine software and then creates a sample. She’ll send me images of the samples to check over before making the whole batch. Most often she nails it right away, because she’s the best in the business, but occasionally there are minor revisions or modifications to be made. She’s always really good about making the necessary changes because she wants to make the best products possible, too. So quality control is key. After the samples are produced the patches are cut and the borders are sewn on, or if it is a laser cut patch then the laser cutting process takes place to make nice clean edges.
Do you own a battle vest? If yes, can you show it to the readers?
Yes, I have 2 battle vests. The first one I made is just a variety of patches I was able to find on the market already. I then made one entirely of vintage patches from the 1990’s. I also made one for my wife. I sew them all by hand and actually love the process. It’s therapeutic for me in a way. The repetitive process is a bit like meditation, so I enjoy sewing! I also have a Bolt Thrower tribute jacket, but I’m making a lot of changes to that so I don’t have a picture to share at this time. I’m also currently working on another vest, which uses all patches that Pull The Plug Patches has produced. I’m about half way through sewing that one, so please follow the page for the big reveal coming soon!
What are your plans for the future?
Well, there are still lots of bands we’d love to make patches for, so we’ll just keep going. As long as people want to continue to support us and it remains fun to do, we’ll keep going. We’ve done a lot of the old school bands at this point, so currently we’re trying to bring in some newer bands who are deserving of the attention. Again, it’s just our small way of contributing to the scene and promoting music that we love. Thanks for the support!