Massimo Minale of Buster

April 29, 2018

James talks to Massimo Buster Minale founder of Buster + Punch about industrial design, home fashion and lighting fixtures.

James : So hello and welcome to the property or innovation podcast. On today’s episode, I am super excited to have Massimo Buster Minale of Buster + Punch as our guest and Massimo is a London architect and industrial designer who founded Buster + Punch back in 2012. Now I’ll be quite surprised if you do not know this company. They’ve been making quite a big impact in the home fashion industry with their beautiful industrial style products. I’m a big fan and I cannot wait to get started on this interview. So Massimo, welcome to the show.

Massimo: Hi James thanks for that lovely introduction. I hope I can live up it and it’s great to be here.

James : So, can you describe in a sentence Buster + Punch and what it offers?

Massimo: Yeah, so Buster and punch, we call ourselves. one of the world’s first fashion labels and we essentially work with solid metals and we make everything from customized cycles to door handles, to light switches where essentially we’re makers. Um, but we come at it from a fun different angle.

James : Sounds pretty enjoyable to be in that kind of industry tinkering away.

Massimo: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s basically just a massive golden workshop that we make money from, which is great.

James :The name Buster + Punch is definitely quite catchy and unique. So how did you come up with the name? Tell us about that.

Massimo: So Buster + Punch is well essentially my middle name is Buster and my brother’s middle name is Punch. So no magic to it, probably slightly drunk parents, but they our real names, although my brother is not part of the company, so, uh, yeah, it just became Buster + Punch because I couldn’t get Buster.com basically. So thats why we’ve got the weird name but it’s kind of a nice to have English flavor to it. Um, so yeah,

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James : I think it’s pretty cool, so can you tell us about your first shop? Um, do you remember what you felt like having your first shop? Like where, where was it anyway?

Massimo: So basically, I mean the, well the company started a while back in 2012. I was an architect at the time, working for a large architecture firm, sort of getting pretty frustrated in how slow the industry is. It takes a long time to design and build buildings. So by day I was an architect and then by night I was making custom motorbikes. So essentially our sort of first, first shop was actually, a small garage just outside of Hackney and we started making custom motorbikes. We started selling them to sort of London’s Rockstar Glitterati, and fashion designers and interesting people in London and that’s kind of how the company started. Then we opened another shop in Stockholm in 2014, uh, and we’ve just opened a new new shop in shoreditch in east London just off old street roundabout. So that’s our sort of first proper retail store in London if you’re like,

James : Yep, that’s the one I went to. I was down there three weeks ago and I met your team, I love the products there great, and yeah Hackney actually.

Massimo: And you’re still alive so thats great James ha ha, Much more gentrified now but back then it was, we were just off murder mile and it was exotic, I think is the word to use.

James :We understand that you do a lot of collaborations with like fashion brands and musicians. Um, it seems to be quite a departure from the world of interiors. So why did you guys do, why do you do that?

Massimo: I mean essentially, I mean we, I mean I supposed to tell you a little bit about what we make is probably best now and then we’ll sort of go back. I mean essentially we sort of take as a company, we say boring functional home fittings, so things like light bulbs, door handles, Light switches, cabinet poles, and we try and sort of reinvent the way that they work, the way that they look and most importantly, the way that you sort of feel about them historically, we, you know, people have seen these little details of your home as things that they have to buy, just to finish their home. They didn’t see them as sort of must haves that can essentially make your home. So I suppose that, that sort of tells the story of what we make. Now I’m going back to this idea of sort of collaborations and why we work with a bunch of sort of weird and wonderful people outside of the world of interiors is essentially we come from a sub culture. So we started life making custom motor bikes, which was quite an underground scene and because we did that today, we are very much the black sheep of the interiors industry. You know, we were not the guys that do neutral. We’re not the guys that do trend led, products, we are the guys that do what we love to do, which is basically where it’s heavy solid metals. So I suppose I’ve always come from the impression that the interiors industry is slightly behind the times if you like and it’s sort of constantly feeds punters or customers or followers where what they want to see. So nice pictures of kitchens, a the perfect bathroom, how to make a cozy nook in your home. You know, those sorts of things are what you read about an interior magazines full of capturing images of products, etc etc, and because we come from this sub culture, so I will always sort of have operated more like a fashion brand in the sense that we kind of like to challenge our customers and followers, give them sort of content and weird products that kind of surprise and also, draw them from other parts of society, whether it’s music, fashion or tattooing or street artists into interiors rather than sort of just relying on the people that like interiors.

So I suppose, you know we’ve worked with, we’ve worked with people like the Q Awards was, you know, we make all the awards for the Q Awards, the Brits. we make all the awards for the Brits. We worked with Justin Deakin, who’s like an amazing boot maker. We launched the limited edition boot, which quite odd for a company that also makes light switches, we’ve worked with Michelin starred chefs, Tom Sellers to do a sort of like, um, candle holder, that can hold duck fats. We work with big brands Like Rolls-royce, so we kind of like to work with young talented people, not within our industry. So within the sort of circles that actually our friends are in if that kind of makes sense.

Massimo: We’re not your traditional interiors company. We’re much more of like a, something weirder that’s just annoying everyone.

James : Would you say that you’re disrupting the industry in that kind of sense?

Massimo: Yeah, I mean the word disruption, is just touted around everywhere, everyone just wants to be a disruptor in the industry. I suppose, you know, we’re doing something very new and we come from a very sort of a strange place that magazines can’t quite put their finger on, you know, it’s never been done before. Taking people from making motorbikes or dealing with musicians or working with film stars to come in and do interior products so were quite hard to sort of contain what we do and we love to make, you know, ordinary. I’m going to say boring type products, LED light bulbs, light switches, handles.

We like to reinvent and make them really exciting, but we inject this sort of lifestyle which has to do with London and to do with making motorbikes and this like whole other energy. So in that sort of sense of space and the lifestyle stuff, we are bringing something a bit fresher to the industry, it’s done before it’s been done in fashion, its been done in music its just the interiors is a little bit behind. So yeah, a more probably loud shouty annoying black sheep rather than disrupters.

James : I mean certainly working though because people are absolutely loving the products. You’ve expanded like amazingly over the past few years, you know, and I really think that it’s got a long future.

Massimo: Yeah I apprecaite that

Massimo: God when we started, we made lights and we made some funiture and actually, you know, this sort of moment, the aha moment for us was when we launched our first light switch range, and that was, you know, four or five years agoand I remember coming into our stockholm store and we had a queue around the block of young cool people trying to buy light switches and that sort of summed up kind of what we wanted to do, because before that, no one looked at light switch and went, “I’ve got to change my light switches”. Everyone just saw that as something that turns on a light, right? So we’re kind of trying to change a little bit how people see these ordinary things that they probably never thought they needed to change, but now they kind of need to change.

James : Yeah, I think if anyone’s doing their home, it’s an important consideration to make, you know, people go through complete lighting designs and um, think about the materials that they have in their home more and more.

Massimo: Of course and they are the things that people touch, you know, 50-100 times a day. So probably more important than, than kind of people give them credit.

James : Can we talk about the, the buster led light bulb? Was this, this was the first creation?

Massimo: No, we actually made it a lighting range called hooked before, which was our first large team range, which bases sort of introduced the world to the idea of hooking your lights over your furniture rather than just relying on where your ceiling rose is. Which was a really successful range for us, still is, but we could kind of see that this filament, old-style filament bulb epidemic, I’m going to call it, was kind of coming to an end it because they’re being phased out by every single country or government of the world. Um, and secondly, because, you know, every mid to crappy best pub from London’s in New York had these filaments style bulbs in them, and I think everyone was just getting overloaded with it and wanted the antidote to it, for example.

So we kind of, a long time ago, actually, the first product we started design was this bulb. So we set upon the challenge, we being a couple of guys in a motorbike garage to try and design the world’s first designer led bulb, it’d been done with CFL before that hadn’t been done with LED. All the big bulb companies were doing it, trying to do it, so phillips tried to do it, Osram we’re trying to do it all these massive, massive, massive companies that have million of pounds R and D budgets were trying to make the world’s first designer LED bulb,  by some twist of weird fate or magic trick or something. We managed to beat these guys to it and we launched the world’s first led bulb, which we called the buster bulb, during Milan design week in 2015, too massive applaud, which was great, but it was sort of the product that kind of almost killed us but now it’s kind of also made us so it’s a bitter  sweet product, it’s super fresh, you know, there’s a lot of, led filament bulbs on the market. They all try and imitate what the old style LED filament was like. Immitation is never a good thing, whereas our bulb is a completely new sort of patented innovation system, which looks to sort of hide in the led and using filters to make it look beautiful rather than trying to imitate what an old style led bulb used to look like. So yeah. Um, yeah, good and a bad one. It’s the one that you get tattooed because it almost killed you.

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James : I’ve heard you refer to it actually as “sexy” . I think that’s a good description for that kind of bulb actually.

Massimo: Yeah. It’s uh, I mean, when we launched it was, it was pretty revolutionary and, yeah, it was sexy man, It was sexy.

James : Ha ha good, Ok so you’ve just released your latest collection recently can you just tell us a little bit about that? What’s it called?

Massimo: So we just released a collection called “Caged” it’s a collection of lighting products. Essentially it’s taking the box light, which people are kind of familiar with. There’s been box lights since Victorian era probably, and we’ve sort of reinvented it. Tried to make it feel a lot more modern and fresh. They basically have different back panels in them. So there’s a white marble back panel, black marble back panel, and a brush steel back panel whereas traditionally they’ve just been in historically, they’ve just been black boxes. There’s a full range of different sizes, it’s a modular system. So you meant to sort of a, you can make different pattern arrangements. There is a range of wall lights, and ceiling lights. The bigger ceiling lights haven’t quite been launched, but there’ll be launched soon. but, check out the website. we keep selling out of them, so yeah, we hope it’s going to be a good range and they show off a light bulb. So the whole idea of them was that we were going to frame our bulb that you’ve just talked about.

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 James : So now I know that you’ve been working very hard, um, on an exciting show video project, so could you just tell our listeners about that, what’s the idea behind it?

Massimo: So basically, we try and represent London subculture as best we can, we wanted to do something well out there, that other interiors brands or companies wouldn’t do, so we sort of set on this quest to pull together, you know, all of our favorite young, talented people from fashion film music and basically make a short movie and an original London grime track which will be on spotify and basically its a fun short movie that’s based around a two characters buster and punch their like two female motorbike riding cyborgs that are sent to demolish your crappy plastic products and replace with our solid metal gear. You know, there’s flame throwers in it, there’s motorbikes and all that fun stuff, it’s definitely out there but it kind of, we want it to represent where we’ve come from and kind of, you know, where we’re going, which is this kind of like, you know, more fashion-y, futuristic side of stuff.

The movie features some great people. We’ve got supermodel, Kaiser Westburg who’s Busta, we’ve got an amazing robotics dance artist called Bianca who’s punch, we’ve also got a cameo from probably the hottest UK rapper at the moment called Ms. Banks who also features the vocals on our soundtrack which is called switch up and that will be on spotify to listen to the film launches on our website May the 8th. It’s bonkers, it’s fun so click on look for it,  also you can go and listen to the song, which is an original song by a chap called orphino featuring Ms. Banks all about London, go and listen to that now spotify, I think it’s going to be on iTunes as well, yeah and it’s just like, you know a weird sort of blend of all these great cultures that we love infused with a bit of interior is um, you know, it just makes people think challenges people. It’s not a picture of a kitchen, but it’s um, yeah. Exciting.

James : How long was your planning in that for?

Massimo: About a year, it took two days to film, but we’ve been planning it and trying to rope people to do it for no money at all for about a year now, but the cast is crazy good. So I watch it.

James : I cannot wait to watch that. I’m gonna actually for our listeners, when it goes live I’m going to put the link from our blog aswell so that’s good. So I’ve recently seen images of your home in soccer and a really good write-up as well from Nordic designs website and it’s definitely industrial, modern and cool, but what made you move to Stockholm and call that your home?

Massimo: The love of my life. What can I say? So I met my wife in London and we lived here for five, six years. Um, and as all good Swedish girls do, they miss home. So we went to spend a summer there, summer became a winter a cold winter a game of thrones winter and then summer again and we just enjoy it. We’ve now got a little boy so “love”. what can I say James? Love took me over there

James : Me too, it’s exactly what happened to me as well.

Massimo: It’s quite funny because every single English expat that you meet in a European city is all because of love but you never see English girls out there, so I’m not quite sure what that means for us, I don’t think we’re the better race that’s for sure.

James : So other than making motor bikes. Is there anywhere else that you get your inspiration from?

Massimo: We don’t take inspiration from the interiors world, because if we do or products would look like everyone else’s products, we try and draw on everything. London, we consider ourselves a very London brand or label, and you know, we w we just take inspiration from, from the sub cultures, the people, the talent that make up this city. keep reading, keep listening, keep hanging out, try and get off your phone, keep speaking to people, that’s where you get these sort of bolts of inspiration that become products and weird things

James : So what’s, what is your mission? Can you tell us anything exciting, other than the video that’s coming out, but other plans for the brand actually

Massimo: Thats a big, big question. James. I suppose. Um, I suppose my, my, my missions quite simple and not I want bostrom pumps become the world’s first true home fashioned label and by that I kind of mean that we want to see people queuing up outside of our stores trying to get their hands on the latest door handle and the same way that someone would, an Alexander Wang drop or something like that, you know, we want to see people shopping our interior products the same way that they would shock fashion products so that our products are something more than what they do. They have like a thing about and have a culture and a community around them. So that’s kind of like the long term plan

In the near, near future, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re just launched into North America, so we have now a Showroom in LA, which will hopefully soon be a store, so we’re launching, our brand into New York in May the 20th where we’re taking part in the ICFF, which is a trade show there, which is part New York design week. Takes Place, may 20-23, and we are launching our US electricity range, which we’re hoping will make a big old stir over their state side. So, um, yeah kind of big mission, little mission first.

James : So the stores that you’ve got, they are in 28 Cowper Street, Shoreditch
London, EC2A 4AS
United Kingdom

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and in Stockholm as well.

Massimo: Yep.

James : Any other stores at the moment?

Massimo: There are plans on pieces of paper for a New York and LA Store. We’ll wait and see. Retail’s hard, you know, it’s to be something that’s an experience rather than just the shop. You know, every one of our stores is very different or Stockholm store is set up like an apartment, whereas our, the store is set up more like a local hardware store where we’re trying to sort of take back a bit of power from the big-box diy store was bank here and get people just kind of shop more locally, get into making stuff a little bit more so each store is very different depending on where it sits.

James : That makes it very, very interesting. Anyway, doesn’t it? but you’ve got stockists sliding across Europe.

Massimo: We selling to 60 different countries, so hopefully people can get hold of our staff or we ship all over the world. So if you guys go to BusterandPunch.com  yeah so, click and buy.

James : You took the words right out of my mouth, so definitely go and check out a busterandpunch, you can go to their website, busterandpunch.com. Massimo thank you very much for coming onto the show, I’ve certainly enjoyed it a lot and listen, be super excited about that short film coming out on May 8th Yeah. Excellent, Thank you very much

Massimo: Goodman. Thank you James. Switch up May 8th. I don’t want to spend a year of my life making a film only my mum watches. So switch up May 8th and listen to the song. That’s the one.

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Abi Bacon