Back to the Future: 8-Bit Zombie

People reading this blog should know that I do love my bootleg toys. With mainstream toy companies pumping out merchandise left, right and centre I feel the bootleg / mashup scene still keeps it’s appeal with their limited edition runs, hand finished products and fun references to vintage geekery.

I don’t recall how I came across 8bit Zombie, but I am sure it must have been because I spotted the mighty Thrashor on one of the toy blogs I was frequenting. A skateboarding undead Masters of the Universe toy? Hell yes!

Plus his designs referenced all my favorite toys from the past, mixing skateboard graphics with vintage toy branding. Your Graphic Design career might have been influenced by adoring Dieter Rams, mine was by drooling over the typo and illustrations of GI Joe, MASK and Masters of the Universe toy packaging!

So from then on I stayed a loyal fan and especially loved the great patches and trucker hats with the printed brims. Plus all the goodies 8bz puts into each package he sends out like sweets, stickers and vintage trading cards shows how much this dude loves what he is doing!

I find such self initiated enterprises super inspiring, so it was time to have a little cross-atlantic chit chat with Mr 8bz himself…

Hey! Thanks for doing this interview!

8bz is still shrouded for me in mystery: Can you give some background to how the 8bz empire was created?

A little mystery is always a good thing! Long story short, I started my own screen printing biz about 8 or 9 years ago. The plan was to learn the ropes until I got good enough at printing tees to start selling my own designs on the side. And that’s pretty much how things went.

I knew right off the bat that 80’s pop-culture would be the theme I ran with for my brand. I’ve been obsessed with the 80’s my entire life, so it was a no brainer for me. Luckily, the brand started doing well enough that I was able to focus solely on that. Screen printing was a great experience but I’ve left that behind for the most part so I can give 8BZ my full attention. I feel super lucky to be where I am today and to have the most amazing fans that support what I do.

Can you talk a little about your approach and the first pieces you created?

My approach to most things is pretty simple. I’ve never had a problem with coming up with ideas for things, my brain is ALWAYS going. Although I wasn’t blessed with talent to bring my ideas to life, I’ve always been a very creative person. Many of the concepts I come up with are true “light bulb” moments. But I also spend a good deal of time hammering away at ideas in my head. As previously mentioned, nostalgia is my passion. So there’s no shortage of inspiration there. So for the most part my creative process is exploring subjects and themes I love, while also trying to put my own spin on them.

The very first pieces I created under the “8-bit ZOMBIE” name were hats. Printing under the brim got me a lot of attention in the beginning and was a great way to get my name out there and my foot in the door. I actually did do the art for the first hats myself. It was fun and very satisfying to truly create products, from start to finish, entirely by myself. But I learned fairly quickly that hiring people far more talented than myself, was going to be the way to go.

Making your ideas into product is not easy. What were the challenges you faced starting out?

I’d say one of the hardest things to figure out in the beginning was how to stick to a budget. Especially when you don’t have a way to move merch very quickly. The cost of producing products adds up FAST. It’s really easy for me to get excited about something and just dump a ton of money into a project without thinking about how long it’s going to take me to make that money back. (This is STILL a problem for me, haha) But some of that is almost a necessity.

If you aren’t giving it your all and making the best possible stuff you can make, people aren’t going to take notice of what you’re doing. So, starting out, you kinda have to pay your dues and have to be willing to take hits on stuff until you really get your name out there. It’s not easy to put everything you have into a release, only to see lack-luster sales. It can be a really hard pill to swallow. But sticking with it and riding out the hard times is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

You have quite a wide range of pieces, from pins to shirts to toys: How do you come up with product ideas?

As mentioned, I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. The cogs in my brain are always turning. It’s one of those “blessing and a curse” type of deals. But in this line of work, it’s most definitely a big advantage. I’ve got more ideas than I can ever possibly use. And I often find the hardest thing for me is deciding which ideas to run with and which ones to leave on the shelf. (Not saying that all of my ideas are good ones, haha.)

I also rely a lot on the insights and opinions of my artist buds. I’ve been lucky to surround myself with some unbelievably talented people, who share the same passions that I do. Brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of them is one of my favorite things.

The artwork and packaging is always so crisp and on point: Are you working with designers or is it all you?

Thank you! For the most part, I reply on my designers to create stuff for me. But I will sometimes work on packaging elements myself. And it’s often a collaboration as well. I can’t illustrate but I’ve been using photoshop for years and years. I do most of the graphic design work for the brand myself. And leave the illustrative work to the pros. I have an almost obsessive eye for detail, so package parodies and stuff like that are always fun projects for me. Recreating vintage packages or ads is always a blast and gives me a little creative outlet.



I am sure you are quite a collector yourself: What rocks your boat?

I collect all things 80’s. Everything and anything. I’m drawn to stuff with big, bold graphics & illustrations. Lunchboxes, TV trays, promotional material, etc. I can’t get enough of that stuff. But I’d say my biggest loves are Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, Real Ghostbusters, Mr. T, etc. My toy collection consists mainly of those things. I also collect NES games. Nintendo games were one of my first passions and were the first things I began to really collect. (Hence the “8-bit” in “8-bit Zombie”)

What do you think about the current indie toy / mashup scene. Are you guys connected or is everyone just doing their own thing?

I think, for the most part, it’s great. There’s some really amazing indie toys out there. I don’t really keep a close eye on most of it, or travel in any of those circles. But there are people out there making better toys than the big toy companies. It’s pretty amazing. What was once the domain of only the biggest companies in the world, is now being opened up to anyone with the creativity and determination give it a go. I won’t say I’m a big fan of a lot of the “Frankensteining” of figures that goes on in the “bootleg” toy scene.

Cutting the head off of one toy and gluing it onto another isn’t the most creative thing in the world. But there are some really amazing and creative mash-ups being made too. As with most things, it’s easy to tell the difference between the people who put thought, love and care into projects and those who don’t.

What do you think is generally the appeal of 80-90ties franchises compared to the toys we have today?

To me, it’s easy to see that toys of the past are vastly superior to toys today. The artwork, packaging and design of toy lines from the 80’s & 90’s were a thing of beauty. Over-the-top characters. Big, bold, bright packaging. And toy designs that were creative and FUN. All of it catered directly to kids and just oozed imagination and excitement. Compare that with toys on shelves today that are dull and generic looking. Package art that is muddy, uninspired and just plain boring. A good place to really see that contrast is the original TMNT line compared to the current cartoon & movie lines. The original toys were out of control on every level.

Just amazing. The new lines range from mediocre to painfully bad. Sculpts are hit & miss but often just “blah.” The worst part for me is the paint apps. (Or lack thereof) Often so bland and boring. It’s easy to see all the corners that were cut during production. But I think it all probably has to due with the fact that not as many kids play with action figures today.

Toys were IT back in the day. Every kid HAD to have them and it was BIG business. Today, kids attention is split between so many forms of entertainment. I’m sure toys don’t make anywhere near as much money as they used to. But, all that being said, I am seeing a resurgence of better toys lately. I don’t think we’ll ever see those glory days come back but I think companies are realizing that making better toys means making more money.

Any thoughts on the recent movie remakes?

For the most part, I‘m not into remakes, reboots, etc. Most of them are utter garbage and obvious cash-grabs. If the tone, spirit and love isn’t there, it’s just an insult to the original source material and the fans. Not saying there haven’t been any good remakes but it seems like the good ones are few and far between. I’d much rather see movie studios create original content, movies that will be this generations classics, rather than thoughtlessly rehash past classics just to earn a quick buck.

I am amazed they are still new MOTU pieces coming out, with Mattel remaking the whole toy line for the mature collector. What are your thoughts on that. Digging the new pieces or vintage all the way?

Totally love that Mattel is still making MOTU toys! I know there are people who are very critical of the line. But you can’t say that Mattel doesn’t know the worth of their property and isn’t trying hard to please fans. I think they’ve done a great job of paying tribute to the past, while updating and putting a fresh spin on everything. A fine example of how toys should be made and how a toy line should be kept alive.

I’m generally a vintage toy guy and can’t see myself seriously collecting new lines but I do have a He-Man and several of the Skeletors. There will always be a place on my shelves for new versions of those two.

I love the printed brims on the trucker hats. How did you come up with that?

Thanks again! Back when I first started screen printing I had seen some hats with printed brims. My first thoughts was “That’s awesome!” My second thought was “I can do that!” So I tried it out and became pretty obsessed with perfecting the technique. Took a few weeks (Or maybe it was months, hah) but I finally got it down to a science.

They are now the only 8BZ item that I still print myself. I used to do elaborate, multi-color prints but I keep things simple these days. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to printing that I used to. So now it’s just bold, one color prints. And I think that’s the better way to go anyway.

We need to talk Thrashor! Now from the idea, the sculpt all the way to the packaging, this bad boy is killer. Can you talk us through how he came into existence?

Much like a real 80’s character, Thrashor has a pretty interesting, and somewhat strange origin story. It all started with the idea to do a MOTU themed tee. As mentioned, He-Man, Skeletor and the whole MOTU universe is one of my huge loves. But for this project, I wanted to create an original character. And the initial idea was to do a tee design of just an action figure. I took that idea to one of my best artist buds, Matt Skiff. He was just as excited about it as I was. So we started tossing ideas around. A punk/skater vibe was something we were both really excited to play with and that seemed to work really well within the MOTU theme.

But as I researched existing MOTU toys & characters, I realized just how much I loved the packaging too. That’s when I got the idea to incorporate the packaging into the actual tee design. Matt was on board and things took off. The design was a hit and would start us on the path to a whole series of “toy package parody” tees. Matt and I often joked about making Thrashor into a real toy but little did either of us know that in the near future, that very thing would happen!

I was lucky enough to get in touch with the fine folks at Shinbone Creative and they guided Thrashor from a 2D tee design into a real life, 3D toy. It’s one of my favorite 8BZ projects ever and remains one of the things I am most proud of. Being an 80’s kid and an 80’s toy collector, creating my very own action figure was definitely a dream come true.

Will Trashor get buddies in the foreseeable future?

The initial plan was to do that very thing. Seeing as I had a catalog of existing 80’s toy parody characters already built, it seemed like a no-brainer. Little did I know just how time consuming and costly making toys would end up being. Looking back, Thrashor almost feels like a fluke. So many stars aligned at just the right time for that toy to happen. And while it was an absolutely amazing experience, I don’t think I’d say it was a smash success. I’m not sure I have the audience to be able to produce and sell toys regularly.

People loved Thrashor but I don’t think they loved the price tag all that much, haha. Which is understandable. It’s just such a costly thing to get into. But I’m hoping the brand continues to grow in ways that will allow me to return to toys in the future. I’ll never give up on making toys. It’s my favorite thing ever.


A lot of people dream doing their own thing but never get going. Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Find your niche and make sure it’s something you are passionate about. I think that’s the biggest key. People start “clothing lines” based on trends or vague ideas. And those are the brands that fold like a house of cards once said trend is no longer cool.  Have a solid idea of what your brand is all about and make sure it’s something unique, and that you love. If you build your brand on a foundation of themes that you are passionate about, everything else will be so much easier. Apart from that, just do it. That’s the hardest part. There will never be a perfect time to start something. You just have to jump in with both feet and go for it. No risk, no reward.

Did you actually finish any NES games using the power glove?

Nope! I didn’t even have one as a kid. And let’s face it, the Power Glove wasn’t the amazing controller it was advertised as. It looks totally rad and was the precursor to a lot of the technology we have today. But it was a lousy controller. I beat all my games with the standard NES game pad. Which, if you think about it, was actually probably the most influential controller ever made. Current video game systems still use that basic layout. (Albeit much more ergonomically designed, haha)

What can we expect from 8bz in the future?

Lots more rad stuff! Plenty of new shirts, more of the off-the-wall accessories you’ve come to expect (And hopefully some you won’t expect!) and I’m crossing my fingers on new toy projects. I’m currently working on my Halloween release and it’s shaping up to be a doozy! Keep your peepers peeled for that. Really excited!

Any shout outs?

Massive thank you to the artists that make my brand so rad and to all the people who support what I do!

Thanks for the interview!

Bonus round:

8bz’s 5 essential weird 80/90 pieces everybody should check out:

1. The Wizard – 1989

Pretty much 8BZ in a nutshell. The absolute height of the Nintendo craze captured on film.

The MOTU Slime Pit – 1987

Masters of the Universe, skulls, slime, what else could you ask for?

  via Strangekidsclub
via Strangekidsclub

The Real Ghostbusters 1986 – 1991

Everyone knows this cartoon but not as many seem to remember how many genuinely creepy characters and moments the series has. A must watch.

My Pet Monster – 1986

A giant, plush, multi-colored monster with bright orange shackles. It’s even more over-the-top than it sounds. One of the craziest and raddest toys of the 80’s.

Goonies II – 1987

One of my favorite 80’s movies, on my favorite 80’s video game system. Win-win! It even features an 8-bit cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.” That alone is worth the price of admission. A total nostalgia overload.


Check out all the 8 Bit Zombie radness here:

For some Instagram awesomeness visit

Star Wars Celebration London 2016: Episode 2

Welcome back for some more chit chat about Star Wars Celebration! Check out Part 1 of my report here where I talk about the Rogue One exhibition and my initial impressions.

After soaking in the general atmosphere and convention facilities it was time to get a little bit more involved in the actual convention floors. Star Wars was the first movie franchise that had a successful merchandise machinery attached to it and it more than showed: 90% of the convention space was crammed full of sellers trying to get their wares to the Star Wars obsessives.

Now I really have conflicted feelings about this side of Star Wars: On the one hand do I love the product design of the Star Wars films, and collecting the toys during my childhood brings back fond memories. So I am all for being able to buy some awesome convention exclusives!

On the other hand do I feel that the tidal wave of Star Wars related stuff can be overwhelming and abuses the dedication of Star Wars fans to rinse their pockets with yet another variant, special colourway or even a weird product that has nothing to do with the films apart from having a picture of Chewbacca on the packaging.

Sometimes I feel like this: Whipped into submission by the Lucasfilm marketing machine…

Disclaimer: I am a collector myself and the fact that Star Wars rinses the franchise for what it’s worth is hardly a new thing. Yet seeing the sheer amount of Star Wars stuff in one place at the same time really had my head spinning. I had the same reaction when I visited Tokyo in 2007: Too much of a good thing all at the same time.

Still,  there was a lot of awesome toys out there and I would be lying if I say I didn’t check it all out! I am a big fan of the Tamashii Nations Movie Realization figures that give the toys a Japanese spin and I do have a weak spot for Star Wars Christmas decorations also…

This backpack scared me a little bit though:

One bit that felt a bit cash grabby to me was the badge swapping scheme that happened all around me: The badges were sold in packs of 4 and ( from how I understood it ) did you have to swap them with fellow fans to get your hands on all the different designs. Nothing wrong with that, that’s quite fun! Just the initial price tag of £22 per pack of 4 really felt steep to me as you needed to buy more and more badges to be able to swap!

So do I assume correctly that each 4 badges, bought or swapped, have a value of £22?! If yes then this man has a lot of money hanging around his neck…

So preparing a costume, buying a day convention ticket, food, drinks and merchandise purchases made a day out at Celebration quite expensive! Although I didn’t consume much and kept purchases down I spend around £250 all in. Ouch!

Another downer was that the big panels were extremely quickly sold out. I didn’t even try to get into any as I was aware that I would have had to queue from 6am in the morning to get a wristband to be able to see Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher live on stage. 

It wasn’t so much of a biggie to me but I was talking with some disappointed fans who travelled from far to get to the Celebration and who missed out on the big panels. For the high price tag on the Celebration tickets it would have been cool to make the experiences of the main hall panels more accessible. And I don’t mean just on YouTube!

Talking about seeing your heroes: Having Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels and many other original Star Wars actors attending to take pictures and sign autographs was pretty awesome. Still, another bit of money that needed to be budgeted for as these opportunities didn’t come cheap!

Ah LEIA! I was very tempted to get close to my favorite enslaved Space princess, yet I felt it would be weird to have an elderly lady signing pictures of her skimply clad beach bod in a gold bikini with me drooling all over it! Sometimes you should not meet your heroes, so I decided not to give into the dark side of the force and save myself £80…

The most expensive player in the autograph / signature game was of cause Luke Skywalker himself: Charging £145 for a picture and £135 for an Autograph, Luke’s gotta eat!

Still I must admit that Mark Hamill looks like he is giving it his all and really connects with the fans so that’s cool. Plus I am digging the 80ties school picture set up with that marbled background!

Shout out to @alex_rattray_ink, @sasha508 and @simba_1891 for the Instagram pictures!

Another thing to indulge in at Star Wars Celebration was the massive tattoo section. Seeing a row after row of fans getting their favorite character inked by a tattoo artists dressed in full imperial uniform was a sight to behold!

Whoever got that Jar Jar motiv inked gets my maximum respect. Loving the tattoo of Kylo Ren from the Undercover Boss SNL skit as well!

Here are the  two most impressive tattoos I spotted wondering around: First, this lady who got her son inked in full Han Solo uniform…

…and @jeanett_diaz with her Leia Organa dedicated back! Nuff respect to Norway…

As it was the last day of Celebration thing closed down pretty quick around 5PM, so rebels and stormtroopers alike had to shuffle towards the train station to return back to our solar system. What a day! 

Would I go again? Yes I would, but maybe a bit better prepared, as this time I stumbled into all of this quite spontaneously.

My take away from all this is that being really really into something can be a great thing and it can be a weird thing if you fall too deep into the rabbit hole. It’s an inner battle for sanity I have to fight everyday myself so no judgement from me here as where that line of sanity is drawn! One love to everybody I met!

See you at a Rogue One screening when that film finally comes out and… May the Force be with you… always!

Star Wars Celebration London 2016: Episode I

Conventions like this have a weird effect on me: On the one hand am I very attracted to go to such geek-fests, on the other hand do I still try to tell myself that I am a grown up man ( hahaha, I know! ) and I should rather do stuff like get a mortgage and play squash with my hedge-fund manager.

Whatever, having avoided Cons in the past I thought Star Wars Celebration is the right place to pop my convention cherry, especially as I had a friend and fellow Star Wars obsessive attending as well.

Listen to the Light Side of the Force, you must…

Researching the event I felt pretty giddy and excited: People from all over the world were heading to London to feel The Force! As my ordered trooper helmet didn’t arrive in time I had to brave the celebration of a galaxy far, far away bare as God created me: Wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt!

On the way to the event I ran into the first people who made a bigger effort than me outfit wise: There is just something special about seeing Queen Amidala waiting for the tube in Shadwell.

It’s just great to be able to geek out with fellow Star Wars fans without having to worry about getting anybody up to speed first! There is just nothing worse than trying to have a proper SW conversation with a mate who has no clue about the subject matter. Now this will NEVER happen at Celebration: No apologies, no regrets, just full on Star Wars geekdom at it’s peak. THUMBS UP!

After a quick touchdown with my Star Wars homie Jools aka The Real Boba Fett™ I did what every self respecting nerd does: Head towards the official merch store to get some special celebration items!

After another bit of queueing where I mingled with some fellow Star Wars fans from Germany I entered the official Celebration store area. After a quick scan of the goods on display I quickly picked my favorites. Top of the list: An official Celebration T Shirt. Classic! Nice touch: Each shirt was hand screen printed before your own very eyes!

Another bit of hot merch: The Force Awakens holographic vinyl double album. More on this topic over on Dj Foods blog. Let’s just say it has a Tie Fighter and Millenium Falcon hoovering above the vinyl when you play it, alright?

The other, more unexpected piece of merch was a 10″ picture disc of the Star Wars song “Jabba Flow”, remixed by none other than Rick Rubin and A-Track! As the cover art of LSD Kylo Ren ( with BB-8 on the flip ) just looks great so it ended up in my bag.

Then  it was time to hit the exhibition floor. I didn’t bother with trying to get into any of the panels as the tickets to see Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher speaking on the main stage where long gone. So I just jumped head first into two halls full of Star Wars-ness…

Oh… balls. Space Balls that is!

Some casual outfits on display…

Hey! Who are these two jokers?

I think Disney buying Lucasfilm  was the best thing that could have happened to Star Wars and I am more than psyched for the new movie(s). Donnie Yen kicking Stormtrooper butt? Hell yes! The newly released sizzle reel for Celebration 2016 really had me hyped. Can’t wait…

Another thing was the Rogue One costume exhibition. Man, that white Imperal outfit with the cape? #starswag! Who cares about Yeezys…

Talking about outfits… I do believe the white outfit of main Rogue One baddie Director Krennic has been inspired by one of the most beloved Expanded Universe characters who just made it back into the official canon: General Thrawn. Who? THRAWN! …the blue guy, ok? *sighs*

I just love the feisty look on that kids face! Some people thought Rey was too kickass in The Force Awakens, I personally think it was just the right amount. All the Rey cosplay around the convention seems to support my statement! Can’t wait to see her kick Kylo’s butt after some training by Master Luke himself…

If I am honest, the thing that entertained and amazed me most attending Celebration was the commitment of all the fans who came down in full costume from all over the globe to connect and have fun. When I visited the booth of the Norwich Star Wars Club and checked out the patches on the wall I saw how far the global commitment to Star Wars truly reaches! Plus: #patchgamestrong

There is much more to say about Star Wars Celebration 2016… so stick around for Episode 2 coming soon to a blog to you in a galaxy far, far away!

Now I need to take a quick break to go to Toshi station… to get some power converters… 

Solaris on tour: Amsterdam calling! Part 2

Another day, another Amsterdam adventure! 

After checking out the local art scene it was time to investigate the local record shop infrastructure. Thanks to some hot tips from the staff at Mary Go Wild I realized that weed wasn’t the only dope shit that can be purchased in the Dutch capital! There are many many record shops all over the place and during the short period of time available to me I was at least able to hit two: Concerto and Record Friend.

How can you not check out a store that claims to be your record buddy? And sure as hell this shop had some great treasures for me to unearth!

It’s no secret I am a big fan of bargain digging so the 5€ section was where I focussed my attention on. As the store had a massive second hand section I focussed on the Funk/Soul/Disco side of things to stay sane and keep it moving.

The artworks alone had me drooling: I just love a good cheesy cover. Especially the vintage disco 12″ sleeves were absolute killer and I had to make a couple of purchases…

One big find for me was the soundtrack of “The Last Dragon”… a Motown produced Kung Fu Fantasy movie from 1985 that tried to jump on the Bruce Lee bandwagon by telling the story of Bruce Leroy (!) who protects a damsel in distress against the evil shogun of Harlem: Sho’Nuff!

Being endowed with this powerful Kung Fu artefact I tried to challenge the local Shaolin monks to a duel but they all refused the challenge politely. I would have totally kicked their butts and they knew it! WHO IS THE MASTER?!

Next up was Concerto which I ran into by chance. Totally expecting that it was for classic music only I was surprised by the massive vinyl shop that spanned across three big rooms and a nice cafe next to it. If this is how Amsterdam rolls vinyl wise it’s a diggers paradise!

A sweet selection of record players and vinyl related accessories… LIKE!

As a proud 45/7 Vinyl Club artist of cause I had to rush straight to the 7″ section. More great covers but as time was ticking I had no chance to really get digging which was a shame! But there is always next time… 

Great items all over the place! I definitely have to return to this record oasis.

After this vinyl excursion I had to refuel my batteries with some traditional Dutch treats: Cheese, Beer and raw pork mince aka Mett! I am very font of this manly dish but normally would consume it for breakfast on a bread roll when back in Germany, not as an afternoon snack straight from a cheeseboard! Ah well, tasty nevertheless… 

After refuelling I had to hit three more stores I spotted on the way to the pub: Henk Comics, CIA Comics Import Amsterdam and Outland Designer Toys

I love comic books and comic book movies ( Bats in my favorite naturally ) but I rarely pick up new issues these days. There is just so much out there and space in my small flat is of an issue! I still love going to comic stores though to suck in all the geekiness and fanboyism of the comic world!

Henk Comics welcomed me with a Star Wars themed floormat and kinda set the theme for my visit. Loved the sexy Stormtrooper cosplay… and the SpiderGwen cover art wasn’t too shabby either!

More comics and more collectibles at CIA! When it comes to digging it seems the comic world has much in common with the vinyl world: It’s all about going on the hunt and getting surprised…

There was so much great artwork on display it was hard to concentrate. Really need to draw more! Oh and much props to the person who dares to purchase that JarJar backpack. #walkofshame 

Now sufficiently warmed up I was ready to hit the main event: Amsterdams No.1 Designer Toy store Outland! The 4ft KAWS companion in the shopping window already hinted at the fact that this might be my kinda shopping experience…

Stuffed to the brim with Dunnies, Munnies, Coarse, Funko, Bearbrick, Lego and other great toys I really had to keep my wallet in check! Having had a couple of pints of beer before wasn’t really helping the situation either. 

After a nice chat with the owner Jerome I had to get something so I went surprisingly for a toy that was based off a character from Disney’s Big Hero 6: I always loved the oldskool Kaiju design of Fred’s super suit! The big bulky eyes, octopus mouth and weird spikes really reminded me of the Masters of the Universe figure Mantenna as well which I have fond and scared memories of!

As my flight left later the same day I had to rush home and pack my purchases into my already full trolley. God bless, it all managed to get on it’s flight safely back home to London!

What can I say, I really enjoyed Amsterdam! Shoutout to Petros and Andres for inviting me over 🙂 ! The city has loads to offer to the geeky traveller and vinyl record obsessive and it’s relaxed vibe, beautiful canals and architecture are worth a visit too. I definitely will be back, next time with a bigger, emptier record bag!

Solaris on tour: Amsterdam calling! Part 1

Its always fun to go on a city break, especially when the weather has been this horrible in London like this year! So when I got asked to DJ at a wedding in Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity to escape the grey and rainy same old same old. So I grabbed a suit, an USB stick full of beats and off I went!

I associate Amsterdam mostly with two things: Very strong weed and the horror flick “Amsterdamned”. While the first might kill your ambition to do anything apart from eating waffles with Nutella, the second one literally might kill you if you stand too close at a canal during the 80ties!

As the days of herbal self medication are well behind me I had plenty of time to find new ways to entertain me in the Dutch capital. So I grabbed my camera and hit the road. 

There are three things I look out for when I am in a new city: Geeky stores, record shops and the local streetwear retailer of choice! The last one on that list was the most obvious: Patta rules Amsterdam when it comes to sneakers and clothes so my first point of call was to check out what’s happening at the Dutch version of Supreme or Palace.

The store was close to Centraal Station and featured a very minimal white interior and rows and rows of kicks! As the T-Shirts didn’t flatter my shapely body and 5 panel caps are a young man’s game I ended up purchasing only with a Patta coffee mug like the Streetwear tourist that I am!

Put the kettle on… now all I need is Supreme teabags!

While there are a lot of chic stores in Amsterdam I didn’t really run past anything that caught my attention fashion retail wise. Honorable example: The Comme Des Garçons Black store next to Patta… creepy big babies anyone?

Another thing I expected to see more was surprisingly Street Art! I guess it must have something to do with the narrow streets and squeezed buildings which don’t really provide a lot of paintable surface! Then again, I haven’t really done any research and just ran up and down through the city centre so maybe the outskirts of Amsterdam are full or crazy murals, who knows…

Stickers, on the other hand, were EVERYWHERE. Just good that I packed a big duffle bag of Solaris ones so I could go All City!

Whilst on the topic of Street Art: Somehow it was Banksy season in the Dutch capital: Pink posters advertising the Banksy show at the Moco Museum were everywhere so it would have been rude not to go!

As much as I liked Dismaland, I really prefer my Banksy on the streets and not in a museum. It’s still mind boggling to me what crazy prices Banksy pieces command and how much he became the blueprint of what Joe Public perceives as Street Art: Some funny riff on a celeb stencilled with some paint drips around it and an ‘edgy’ slogan below. I don’t blame Banksy for this development, but the level of celebrity he achieved makes visiting exhibitions like this slightly surreal… and may I say… naff.

Curated by Steve Lazarides, the show had a lot of pieces on display that Banksy is known for. It just feels weird seeing a piece of Graffiti displayed in a gallery environment that you still remember seeing on a grubby wall in East London. There was an attempt to juxtapose the Banksy artwork with Warhol pieces which fell a bit flat as the Warhol artwork was put into the basement gallery, next to the toilets and the gift shop… poor Andy!

Seeing the Warhol show being put into the lower floor gallery shows how much Banksy draws the crowds these days. As much as I am happy for his success I do wonder how he feels about having tourists buying bootleg merchandise at shows that display work that could have gotten him arrested just a few years back. I guess he might actually really appreciate the irony of it all! 

Oh and did I take a picture at that Banksy tourist wall? OF CAUSE I DID, because I am just a sheep like everybody else! XD

Well, after I exited the Moco Museum I head back into the town centre, running into quite a couple of galleries and stores which were, literally, up my street.  Turns out I ended up in the part of Amsterdam known for it’s antique stores, art galleries and boutiques: Nieuwe spiegelstraat.

First up was the cool stuff store ‘Famous‘: Toys, Books, Screenprints oh yes please! On the shelves the usual suspects: Warhol, Murakami, Medicom… basically how my flat would look like if I had serious money… or would be Jayawesum!

Onwards I ran into more great galleries. The big discovery for me was the show of Ayako Rokkaku at Gallery Delaive at Spiegelgracht 23: Her psychedelic comic art is just great, especially as she painted everything WITH HER FINGERS! Whut?! Cray cray!

I was especially in awe of her layered 3D perspex paintings that were so polished that you couldn’t really make out the seams of the glued together slabs of plastic. Amazing…

Further up the road, even more Banksy at the Lionel Gallery! This show had mostly prints and some pieces by other contemporary artists like KAWS, Hirst and of cause, Warhol. Here my big discovery was Spanish painter Yago Hortal: Loved his bold colours and abstract shapes… check him out!

I had a lot of fun just walking around and looking at what’s happening around me. And although there wasn’t a lot of Street Art out there, I at least spotted an Invader and a really psychedelic bike… I wonder how long it’s owner sampled the local mushroom offerings to come up with such a bold design! 

Let me sign off for now with this famous monkey: Who would have thought one day it would be in charge of the art world! Still, there is lots of other great things to see and do in Amsterdam, so keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of my Dutch travelogue where I hit the local toy and record shops!