ZT on the cover of the October issue of BLADE Magazine
Look Ma! We made the cover of the Rolling Stone….of blades. The October issue of blade magazine (hitting newsstands this week) has a feature on “zombie blades”, and we somehow managed to snag the cover shot with a hammer-finished Vakra.
We did an interview with the writer of the article, but he only used a few quotes, so we thought we’d publish the whole thing here.
FULL INTERVIEW FOR BLADE MAGAZINE
How did you guys get together?
Zombie Tools started by the sword and it will likely end by the sword. In 2000 Joey and Maxon found themselves drinking PBR next to each other at a local pub and struck up a conversation. They discovered a common interest in swords and fighting, and the rosy fingered light of dawn found the two of them beating the piss out of each other with rapiers in Joey’s front yard. They have been drinking and fighting together once a week ever since as the Drunken Jedi Pirate Circus.
In 2007, Chris, a writer/photographer showed up at the Circus to do a story for a local magazine. He has never been able to escape.
In 2009, our fourth partner Rob was wandering the neighborhood of the Zombie Tools shop trying to find a friend’s party. He saw a bunch of maniacs sword fighting and firespinning around a recklessly large bonfire. He thought it might be his party. He was wrong. It was a ZT party and he has never regretted the error.
How/why did your group decide to get into the Zombie blade/tool market?
Zombie Tools was born at the confluence of two streams in the ZT group mind.
One stream was swords. After years of fighting with rapiers, breaking them, and having to buy replacements, Maxon and Joey decided they should try to make rapiers for themselves. They sold all their musical equipment and bought, begged and stole their own metalworking tools. Over several years of trial and error work, learning from Internet forums and generous Montana knifemakers, they produced several very nice historical blades under the name Thanatic Forge.
The other stream was horror and graphic novels. We’re fans of horror movies and horror art and graphic novels that explore the dark side, including Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead zombie series. And Maxon is an artist who has produced a lot of dark art and several horror performance pieces. In 2007 we were contracted by a local bar to create a unique Halloween horror experience. So we transformed an abandoned Mexican restaurant into an Old West Zombie Brothel, with hot girls in lingerie puking up blood on everyone. It was a great success and a hell of a lot of fun for us. Somewhere in the middle of the creation of that horror show the two streams converged. “Why not create swords for killing zombies?” was the question that arose. To which the answer was, “Why the hell not?”
Two months later we had a prototype. Two months after that, a website. And two years later, a real business.
Define exactly what constitutes a “zombie blade or tool.” Must it have a certain color, look, materials, dimensions, or what exactly?
That’s a good question with a cool answer, and the main reason why we chose the zombie theme in the first place. A Zombie Tool is whatever the hell we want it to be.
When we started making blades there were two dominant camps in the blade world: the historical and the tactical. We didn’t want to make historical blades because that was too stodgy and confining. We didn’t want to go tactical because that’s too uptight and blandly macho. With Zombie Tools, we can actually do a little of both and then slather on our own unique weirdness.
Aesthetics aside, the main functional criterion of a Zombie Tool is that it be capable of punching through a skull and/or cutting through a spinal cord at the neck.
How do Zombies fit into your marketing and what is the customer response?
Zombies have been great for us as a company and we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about the zombie apocalypse. We happened to fortuitously catch a pop culture wave that gave us a ton of exposure and pushed us to become better bladesmiths really fast. But frankly, after talking to people about zombies for 5 years, we’re a little sick of it. So we’ve started to downplay the zombie thing. And, fortunately, our customers haven’t blinked. Through our Facebook and YouTube presence we have somehow communicated the notion that blades are our primary passion, not zombies. In fact, we’ll probably do some rebranding in the next year or so to steer our image away from zombies. We’ve discussed cannibals and unicorns as replacements. But we’ll probably just go with unfettered bladed badassery.
How would you define the Zombie Knife client? Age group, professions, etc?
25-45. Mostly male. Likes guns, cars, and technology in general. We’ve sold to a lot of IT professionals, business owners, law enforcement. And soldiers returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have been giving themselves our blades as “welcome home” gifts.
What is the Zombie enthusiast mindset?
For us, it’s all about self-reliance.
Zombies represent the ultimate shit-hits-the-fan scenario. And while zombies are pretty scary, even scarier is the broader notion of system collapse. Our contemporary material culture is a massively complex network of systems that no one controls and no one really understands. And we have become almost completely reliant on these systems for our basic survival. If those systems fail, for whatever reason—zombies, asteroid, war, demonic unicorns from hell—we’re screwed.
So the prepper mindset is a return to a consideration of human fundamentals. Where is the water? How do we grow food? How to we protect ourselves? What skills do we need to survive when we can no longer rely on professional specialists?
You have a particular pattern for the finish of your blades. Why?
To be way too honest here, the original concept of the acid-etch finish was both to add a gritty post-apocalyptic look and to cover up flaws in our early grind lines. But after 4 years of work, our grind lines are now so good that we no longer want to obscure them, so we’ve been experimenting with new finishes that give the dirty post-apocalyptic feel while showing off the sexiness of our lines.
What are your most popular zombie blades?
Last year, the Vakra (our take on the Nepali kukri) and the Apokatana (inspired by the Japanese katana) were our top sellers. So far this year, it’s the Deuce, thanks largely to our YouTube video where we use that blade to chop a truck hood in half.
How do people do you anticipate buyers using your knives? Costume/cosplay, or users, or?
Not cosplay. Typically those folks don’t go anywhere near live steel. Our customers seem to break into two camps: those that like our blades for the aesthetics and hang them on the wall, and those that take them out and use them. Brush clearing and campfire wood splitting seem to be the most common uses. We like cutting water jugs and beer cans, as well as testing the blades on animal carcasses given to us by our hunting friends.
Do you have events or shows that you participate in?
Early on, we did a lot of science fiction/fantasy conventions in the Pacific Northwest. We had great success at the two ZombieCon’s in Seattle. And this summer we’re returning to CombatCon in Las Vegas. It’s a new, small con, but it’s all about swords and combat, so it’s a perfect fit for us in many ways, not the least of which being its location….
What future Zombie blades do you have in the works? Please describe them if possible, including designs, materials, prices, tentative availability dates, etc.
Our next releases are the Japanese blade trifecta—the katana, wakisashi and tanto—available on our website in early summer. All will be made in our standard style, with 5160 spring steel, full tang, Kydex sheaths and aluminum slab handles, wrapped in leather and slathered with a flat black acid etch.
What is your ultimate Zombie pitch to customers?
We used to say that if you’re prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything. But over the years we’ve developed a corollary: if you’re *only* prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for nothing. Zombies are fiction. But our swords are not.
Any other thoughts?
A few other things we wanted to emphasize:
Our blades are made with 100% American made materials, and they are made by 5 guys in a shop in Montana.
We are not a custom shop. We get asked to do custom work all the time, but we can only make a business right now doing the blades that we do.
Our ultimate company goal is to go to space. Seriously.
May the tightness abound!Posted by Zombie Tools on Jul 12 2012