Graf Orlock’s Total Recall of Merch Table Hits and Misses
It takes a brave individual to man the merch table before or after a show, peddling their creative life's work for taco money. In today's Merch Madness, we barter and moan with Justin Smith, proprietor of Vitriol Records and deranged mastermind behind cinema-grind crazies Graf Orlock.
What band shirt will you never throw away, no matter how gross it gets?
I have a nasty "Damage, Inc." shirt from when I was but a fetus. It has holes in it and from all accounts doesn't fit the adult me, but I would blow up a school bus before throwing that away.
Has a stranger ever stopped you on the street to ask about your band shirt?
Yes. This is related to the early '90s metal scene, when people would walk by you and embarrassingly throw up the horns in the mall or state fair and yell a band name that confuses a bunch of civilians.
What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked at the merch table?
"Why do your shirts have so many colors?" "Why are your shirts $15 less than everyone else?" "What is Graf Orlock?"
What’s the most money you’ve ever spent at a merch table?
Too much. I would say at least $50, which by most standards is low, but knowing how much things cost to print should account for like 25 shirts.
Do pastels belong on a band shirt?
If it is Kuato emerging from a stomach, yes. Otherwise, I would stick to the darker palette and earth tones.
Have you ever bought a record at a merch table and immediately broke it?
No, but in 2005 we had a lot of 7"s that I ridiculously threw at another bands as we crossed the bottom of the country. I checked this eBay pirate the other day and I had wasted thousands of dollars. C'est la vie.
What band shirt makes you jealous that you didn’t come up with the idea first?
Danzig I logo shirt.
Do you approve of ironic band shirts?
Mocks and irony have to be very carefully chosen. As a rule, no, because you will end up with a bunch of NOFX shirts that are embarrassing to everyone and too stupid to exist.
What’s the most obnoxious item you’ve ever bought (or sold) at a merch table?
A Graf Orlock Frisbee with the Ghostbusters middle finger logo on it around 10 years ago, still one of the best things to ever be created.
What's your best-selling or most popular shirt?
I would argue this was probably an Ewok holding an Orc’s severed head, or a portmanteau of the Big Lebowski and Rambo aptly called “Rambowski."
How many Graf shirts have been made overall?
We have had, I would chance to say, 50 designs in the last 10 years or so. Each run of those would be over 100, and sometimes were printed in perpetuity. The right answer would probably be way too fucking many. I saved some of them and still think they are funny.
Ever not do a shirt because it's too tasteless?
No, and here is a tale of a very tasteless one. The week Heath Ledger died, Adam [Hunt, drums and art] took this Batman comic with '60s images and scanned it in, turned a jumping Joker upside down and put HL’s face on it. Then Batman’s hand was dumping pills in the now prostrate Joker’s mouth. This was called “Heath Deadger,” and I sold a shitload of them to Australia that week regardless of the pleasant extra ring in Hell we fashioned for ourselves.
Describe your favorite band poster.
I would say a tour poster that charts all of the locations of a tour with little historical symbols that look like each location held an atrocity.