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Brave New World: Meet the man shaking up puzzles with heavy metal

Professional music man and metalhead, Steve Beatty is the CEO of Plastic Head, a firm known on the music scene for its distribution of hardcore, death metal, black metal, goth, punk and ska music. He is also a man on a mission to shake up the ‘twee world of puzzling,’ by injecting it with a shot of adrenaline from the scene he so favours.

Last week, Beatty shot onto the licensed puzzle scene when news of a new collection of puzzles featuring the artwork of some of the most iconic bands on the metal scene first emerged. But the collection of Slayer, Motorhead and Iron Maiden themed puzzles are just the start of what Beatty, founder of Zee Productions and its Rocksaw brand, now has in store for the new wave licensed puzzles space.

Licensing.biz catches up with the man himself…

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how Zee Productions came to be?

I’m the CEO of Plastic Head and have spent the last 29 years with Plastic Head building the company. I was at a friend’s house the Christmas before last, and she and her family were doing this jigsaw together. I thought, I haven’t done this in a while and it was fun, but I said to myself why would I buy a jigsaw of four women drinking coffee in Paris in 1927.

I had a feeling that puzzles today needed to cater to more than just one or two markets. As a lover of vinyl and a man who runs a record label called Let Them Eat Vinyl, it was an obvious thing to do.

What are you setting out to achieve with Zee Productions? Where did this idea for shaking up the puzzles space come from?

I want to make jigsaws that are for the music fan. Vinyl came back and the great thing about it is you get a great big cool thing with generally great artwork. The other great and main thing I love about vinyl, I sit with it, look at it, listen to it and discuss – distraction free. I loved the idea of making great record sleeve art into jigsaws, maybe stick the record on and do together.

I’ve started my Motorhead “Bomber” Jigsaw and it’s a tough one, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I intend to vastly expand our Zee range into other topics but right now, I’m having fun with the Rocksaw range. Rest assured when I do expand, it won’t be pictures of lakes….

You guys are hitting on not only the revival or vinyl but also the resurgence of puzzling and gaming as a hobby – will you be looking to the wider pop culture space for inspirations and further projects?

Im only going to do things I personally like, so I’m hoping to do lots of horror, sci-fi , military puzzles, movies. I want to only work on things I’m interested in and have a passion for. For me, it’s got to be fun.

What is your approach for retail – are you looking for UK distribution, how are you getting these puzzles into the hands of the fans?

I part own Plastic Head so they will be doing the music side of things and I’ll handle the jigsaw world myself. By October I will have a catalogue of 50 titles and every day it seems to be growing, so I have enough for retail to be interested in.

I suspect the big boys will look on it with horror as it’s not pictures of lakes and cats. However, this range already proves jigsaws don’t have to be boring and you don’t have to be over 50 to enjoy doing a jigsaw puzzle.

I’d rather deal with cool independents rather than be in the neglected end of a high street newsagent store.

What is Zee Productions bringing to both the toy and licensing space? Where do you see the company heading over the coming months/years?

It’s something new, hopefully, and something worth having to sit alongside your vinyl collection. I want to expand the range to do as many great record covers as possible.

There is obviously a wealth of source material out there, its going to be down to us to how much we can handle. I love coming up with suggestions, making contact and overseeing the project. It’s cool, and as with the experience from my vinyl label, I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from this. Everyone has a soft spot of a jigsaw puzzle.

What’s next for you guys, what band artwork/projects have you got in store for fans next?

I have the first 12 in the Rocksaw range out in May and then September we have Metal giants Metallica,  The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Rush and The Doors.

2019 will see a massive list we are working on, I hope to get some of my favourites albums covered in the range.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent some six years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobHutchins3 if ranting is your thing...

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