"I think there's a balance in the universe and you want to be on the scale that makes things better." - Dustin Alexander, Logistics manager at Death Wish Coffee
A SPECIAL CLIP FROM THE SHOW:
ABOUT DUSTIN ALEXANDER:
D-MAN IS BACK! On a very special employee feature and the 164th episode of the podcast, Dustin Alexander gets back on the mic. Dustin was the co-conspirator behind Fueled By Death Cast and co-hosted the show for the first two seasons before becoming the head of logistics here at Death Wish Coffee. We talk about what his new role entails and how he has evolved from a part-time K-Cup packer to managing the logistics team. Plus, Dustin and I reminisce about some of our favorite experiences together on the show including interviewing Zakk Wylde in his recording studio, The Black Vatican, on the monumental 100th episode. Don't miss a minute of fun with the return of The Amazing D-Man.
Jeff: Guess who's back, back again? D Man's back. Tell a friend.
Dustin: Please don't tell anybody. Don't let them know I'm here.
Jeff: Oh my God. I immediately feel amazing just sitting here next to you on the microphone again.
Dustin: It's weird, right?
Jeff: Yeah, it's really great.
Dustin: It feels, it feels natural though.
Jeff: Of course, it is natural, dude like and we should do this more often. Actually, you know for anybody who's just tuning in who might not know, obviously this is another one of our amazing employee episodes where I get to learn more about the employees here at Death Wish Coffee and so do you as well, the listener and viewer. But D Man, you were a part of the show for the first two years of the show. Co-host, the co-creator, co-conspirator.
Dustin: Co-conspirator. I like that.
Dustin: That's probably the best definition of that.
Jeff: And that kind of brings me ... Let's just kick this off by being in the now because what's really awesome is, I mean the sad part is that you're not on the show anymore. The awesome thing is, is the reason why you're not on the show anymore is because you literally went from just a grunt basically. And we'll get to your beginnings here as a grunt at Death Wish Coffee to now you're heading up the logistics team.
Jeff: Can we talk a little bit about what it means to be a logistics manager? So some people just hear the word logistics or see the word logistics on a semi truck going down the highway and like it just doesn't, it just kind of bulls over them. Can we talk about what your day to day is kind of like?
Dustin: Sure. I mean, just to give you an idea of this transition that I made and logistics, most people think of trucks, I like to think of more of what I do as supply chain. So what does it take to get the product in its rawest form to completion and then get it to the customer and everything in between, meaning purchasing, inventory, the shipping, the receiving, all the moving parts, all the distribution, what that looks like. And so I was kind of moving into that while we were on the podcast doing this and kind of handling like four jobs at once. So kind of the way that went is that I was then assigned a team. So then I kind of was able to hand off my duties as like, okay, I'm having, Mr. Thibodeau handle a lot of the inventory stuff. Mr. Gabarow handing a lot of the purchasing stuff and I have Nate running the warehouse floor dealing with that kind of thing.
Dustin: And then we hired Danielle, who's a specialist at what she does with the shipping and receiving. So we actually took her from another company that we work with that did some of our shipping and then released her on the Death Wish masses and she's been killer. So I have a team of assassins on the supply chain side and I just kind of handle everything in between day to day making the bigger decisions of, okay where's this going to come from, how are we going to make this more efficient? So in the meantime, setting up west coast distribution, finding local warehousing because we don't have the room in our own warehouse to handle our own growth. Like what does that mean when we take on 14,000 retail stores and it's all coming out of our one little 16,000 square foot warehouse. What does that look like? How do you handle that?
Jeff: I don't know. Still, I mean you, you touched on it a little bit though and I do want to shout it out again, the logistics team here at Death Wish Coffee is probably the best in the business. And hands down, because we're not just a coffee company and we say this ad nauseam, we're a lifestyle brand.
Jeff: You guys have to deal with not just getting the green coffee so we can roast it and grind it and send it to all of you amazing people out there that love our product, but all of our merchandise, all of our crazy ideas, all of now all of our wholesale, which means not only shipping all of our product to wholesale, but signage and shippers and all of that kind of stuff. You know, when you really start to stack it up, you guys are doing the work of nine different companies for a single company.
Dustin: Yeah. I mean it's really, I'm in the business of, I don't like to call them problems. I like to call them puzzles. So I'm in the business of puzzle solving. When marketing or a research and development comes up with an idea, what's it actually take to make that happen? And like, yeah, an idea is cool, but what do you do with it? And that's where me and my team come into play. And it can be, it's obviously not an easy job, but I mean anything that's worthwhile shouldn't be easy.
Jeff: That's a great, great mentality. And I kind of want to talk about two of the biggest wins, at least from an outsider's perspective that I've seen you specifically spearhead and that being, you kind of touched upon them, that being our west coast distribution and also our west coast fulfillment, like we have expanded now, so Death Wish is now nationwide, which is crazy to think about because we haven't even been around for a decade. A decade ago we were basement-wide, like not even a decade ago. And now we're nationwide.
Jeff: Can we start a little bit with what it was like, from your perspective, you're dealing with not only fulfillment at our own warehouse, but we've had our fulfillment that we've been working with on the east coast and then now you're tasked with having to find fulfillment on the west coast. Was that completely hard? Was that something that, because again, like you said, you're still figuring it out.
Jeff: Was that hard for you to do that or did it kind of fall into place?
Dustin: I mean everything looks hard, if you look at the big picture.
Jeff: That's true. And that's what I'm looking at.
Jeff: It looks terrifyingly hard to me.
Dustin: But it's really day to day of working out the details and not getting overwhelmed by the task at hand. Right? You just kind of look at it, go, what do I need to do next? And you handle that and go, okay, what's next? So you get a list and you go, these are the things we need in place in order to accomplish that and you handle it one by one by one by one. I mean you can only, you can only do so much in a day. So you need to kind of delegate and kind of just look at what needs, what's the most important puzzle piece that I need to solve today? And that was kind of like, I mean it goes with anything like that. And you know, we're talking west coast distribution. Now we want to move into three more distribution warehouses by the end of this, I mean before the end of this year, during 2020. So right now we're distributing out of Pennsylvania and we're distributing out of Nevada.
Dustin: I want to distribute out of the Midwest, I want to distribute out of the South, probably two locations in the South. And the whole reason for doing this is to make it more convenient for the customer. Like how can we get these package to our customer without sending it halfway across the country. And so that's kind of the puzzle put in front of us and it's like, okay, it means more distribution. Any big company that moves this far needs more places to send from. And of course that means juggling more inventories and more places. I mean it comes with its own complications, but the end goal is to supply a better service to our customers because that's a most important thing to us is our relentless devotion to our people.
Jeff: Of course, of course. And it is that. It's that Amazon model. When you look at it, like Amazon, it's so funny when people bring up Amazon today because Amazon is this conglomerate.
Jeff: And if you think back, I'm going to say 10, 20 years ago, you came back like that. There were a bookstore.
Dustin: Yeah, I know, that's crazy. Right?
Jeff: That's all they were was a bookstore.
Dustin: It's insane.
Jeff: But because they scaled up so big and so fast and so much and did so much. They have distribution centers all over now.
Dustin: I mean they have hundreds.
Jeff: Because I mean, I'm Amazon prime. I know you're Amazon prime. I hit that buy now button and I get stuff in two days.
Dustin: And I mean look how much they've grown just from that. And now that now they're into to some of the best entertainment that we have on our streaming options right now. And you know, they provide music. I mean they're just kind of a one stop shop. But going back to that, essentially that's what we're competing with.
Dustin: That's what customers expect is everybody has a prime membership. And what they do is they hit that and they get it two days later and that's great. And if they're not getting that from your .com website, they're going just going to get it from Amazon. So we have to kind of compete with ourselves in a way of just, okay, how do we provide this service for our customers? You know, now we're offering free shipping on our .com, which is amazing, which comes with its own challenges. So how do we make that viable for us? So yeah, it's pretty interesting what Amazon has done. They've kind of changed the field and we all have to kind of compete with that. But you know, I think that is just the nature of human evolution, is that somebody raises the stakes and then we all match it and then somebody else raises the stakes. And we are standing on the shoulders of giants. And right now the giant is Amazon.
Jeff: It's true. It is true. But I mean, they put out a great model. So you know, we just got to reach for that star.
Dustin: They put out an almost unobtainable model, but once you see somebody do it, you're like, we can do that.
Jeff: We can do it and we're trying. 2020 is our year, I know it.
Dustin: I mean, you see that happen with athletics all the time and it's like nobody can do a triple back flip and somebody does a fucking triple back flip and ... Wait, I can say fuck on here, right?
Jeff: Fuck yeah, you can.
Dustin: I've just heard so many people ask that question. I had to ask it myself. I did have like a pause for one fucking second. Anyways, but it is that standing on the shoulders of giants and I see that with athletics all the time. If somebody's doing this insane thing and now it becomes, a couple of years later, a commonality. I see that happen with mixed martial arts all the time.
Dustin: Somebody does a move. You see Anderson Silva do a front kick and knock somebody out with that. You've never seen that before. All of a sudden you see everybody do that. You know, you see one person add in the calf kick, nobody thinks about kicking to the calf to like stop your opponent from moving so well. And also when you see it across the board and that's kind of what's happening with e-commerce. You know, people are doing things that seemed impossible or maybe not even a good idea. Somebody kind of clears the path for that and you go, "Okay, yeah, we'll do that too."
Jeff: Yeah, no I love that you brought up this sports analogy because it brings me back to, I remember back in the late nineties watching the X Games and Tony Hawk did the 900 and that was a video game move. Like that was like impossible thing, even impossible for him. He tried it so many times and so many times and so many times and finally did it and everybody went nuts and everybody was like, no one will ever top this. And I was just watching a video actually recently with Tony Hawk, kind of reflecting on his career and stuff like that and talking about how young kids today are working on a 1260, which is another three 60 on top of 900. That's crazy.
Dustin: Yeah, it's insane. Watching the velocity of human evolution in all of its factors, whether it be commerce or sports or just, it's kind of an amazing time that we live in. I mean, look at, and the internet has just made that grow so much faster where anybody can see this on any corner of the world and be inspired to do it and then better.
Jeff: It's so true. It's so true. And speaking of evolution, you've evolved here at Death Wish Coffee. I remember when you started, you started part-time.
Jeff: And we're packing K cups on the floor basically, right? You've rose the ranks up to now literally running the logistics department, which is incredible. And it shows, not only the ingenuity and hard work that you've put into this job, but it also shows that evolution of not only you, yourself, but this company as a whole. Can you take yourself back to starting out on that floor and what this company was like at that point?
Dustin: Yeah, man. I mean, it's pretty wild. I came in at a perfect time. It was three weeks before that we learned that we had won the Superbowl commercial. What was that, Super Bowl 50?
Jeff: That was Super Bowl 50. So that would have been before that time frame. So that was 2015, so that would have been 2014 is when you started.
Dustin: Yeah. And it was pretty wild. But I mean, I can take myself back there standing over a counter, counting out 10 K cups and putting them in a package for eight hours a day and thinking this is not a good use of my mental capacity. I know I can do more. And with a company like this, with a startup like this, there's just so much. I mean, we talk about it all the time, there's so much opportunity, but there was even more then because there were so much that needed to be done that we weren't doing.
Dustin: And I started with that and I realized first off that nobody was tracking anything. Nobody was going, "Hey, we're low on this. We should order it."
Dustin: We were going, "Hey, we ran out."
Jeff: We got to get some.
Dustin: Yeah, which is a terrible business model.
Jeff: But I mean, hindsight is 20/20. We're looking at that now and being like, how stupid were we? But when you're in the thick of it, as a startup, like you said, like nobody thought of it.
Jeff: It was just like get it done.
Dustin: But it kind of snowballed from there where it was like, okay, I'll start tracking things and be like, "Hey, we need to order this. We're going to be out in four weeks." You know, start kind of adding in that process. But I still remember though, the day that Mike came to me and he was like, "Look, I want to integrate this technology with our company. It's called Skubana, which is an inventory management system. So it takes everything from Amazon to our .com to our own warehouse and putting that under one roof, driving analytics from all of that. And he was like, "I want you to take this on." And I had no idea what I was doing.
Jeff: I know you were taking tutorials. You were like reading up all the literature you could on it. I remember that.
Dustin: I mean, listen, when you have the opportunity that you have in a company like this, you don't look that gift horse in the mouth, you say yeah. And if it takes you 12 hours a day, which is what I was doing, I was working from seven o'clock in the morning to seven o'clock in the night, day after day after day. No problem. I loved it. I loved it.
Jeff: Because you're learning.
Dustin: Oh dude. It was amazing. I didn't even know what a SKU was.
Jeff: Right. An S-K-U. For real, it's the number that you assign to a product.
Dustin: Yeah. And it was really, once again, if I looked at the big picture situation, I would get overwhelmed and you kind of have to look at it and go, what needs to be done next? Do that. It's the thousand mile journey starts with a single step.
Jeff: Yes. And that is actually the credo of the Foot Clan from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Dustin: I'm sorry, they stole that from Miyamoto Musashi, The greatest swordsman and warrior that has ever lived.
Jeff: It is true. Musashi was real, the Foot Clan is not, but that's okay.
Dustin: We don't know that the Foot Clan doesn't ... There's probably a fucking Foot Clan somewhere.
Jeff: That's true. That's true. So you learned how to do this and you implemented it and I mean that is one of our most integral systems now today, which is incredible. You know that forwards and backwards.
Dustin: Yeah. It's pretty insane. And it runs every aspect of our company, which is why I found myself in the position that I'm in. It's just like, okay, he's handling all these things, let's give him the titles, let's give him the people that he needs to work with. Now I have a great team running every backbone of this process that we call Death Wish Coffee. It's insane.
Jeff: And speaking on that a little bit, like was it hard for you as someone who, again, started off in, as a grunt on the production floor. And I know your jobs before that. You were in kitchens and stuff like that and now you're running a team, which is another thing that you had never really done before, you'd really never been a part of before.
Dustin: That's not necessarily true. And I think I got a lot of my knowledge because I used to run a snowboard school.
Jeff: I forgot all about that. That is so long ago.
Jeff: Holy crap.
Dustin: I mean that is where I cut my teeth on running a team and what that really meant. I mean, it was me, my homie, Zane, and my homie, Nick Citro, and we were running the snowboard school for a small mountain, a little bit up north called West Mountain. And it was one of those things where it was like, well, we don't have anybody else to do it, let's have this kid do it.
Dustin: And you know, we're coming-
Jeff: How young were you?
Dustin: I was about 17.
Jeff: That was right before I met you.
Dustin: Yeah, I might've been 16. No, that was way before you met me. When you met me, I was about 23.
Jeff: Oh. It all blends together. We've known each other forever, whatever.
Dustin: But you know, I was doing that for four years and I wasn't really thinking about it. Just kind of moving along and you know, it worked well. But yeah, this is a totally different aspect of just like, there's so much more responsibility than just handing out lessons and make sure kids don't fly off into the trees and break their faces.
Jeff: It's true.
Dustin: I mean, that's pretty important.
Jeff: Don't have your logistics team fly off into the trees and break their faces. Please.
Dustin: I mean essentially, yes. But yeah, man, it comes with its own challenges for sure. And thankfully this company provides that kind of training. Through all of 2019 we went through this leadership training called, the Pathway to Excellence and it was run by General William Martin, who is one of the speech writers for General Schwarzkopf.
Jeff: Which is incredible.
Dustin: So this guy was working hand in hand with all of us to teach us to be better leaders and better teammates. And it was really an amazing experience, really looking inward in the most brutal way. It was, at times it was straight up painful, but the amount of growth that I've gotten from that is just, it's priceless really.
Jeff: It really is. And I have to say again, from an outsider perspective, I've seen the entire management staff at Death Wish Coffee change from going through this process. And especially you. We're very close. And you're not my boss. I don't see you in that respect. But I see how you deal with your team and you have become a pillar of this company because of what you do and what you've learned and you chose.
Dustin: Thanks, man.
Dustin: Thank you.
Jeff: And I think that really is incredible. Your journey through this entire company now with this management position that you have and really being at the forefront of the future of Death Wish Coffee. That's something that's interesting to think about too. When you were on the floor packing K-cups, it probably never even crossed your mind, Oh someday we'll be in 10,000 retail stores and we'll be going to space and all this other crazy crap right?
Dustin: I think you're wrong, man.
Dustin: Yeah. No, I always have big aspirations floating around in my head and not to say it was expectations cause I think expectations can always let you down and then you can't expect the world from the world and you're just going to be disappointed.
Jeff: It's true.
Dustin: But I mean, yeah, I really saw where this company could go and it really lit a fire under my ass in wanting to be a big part of it. And it's been wild. It's been challenging. It's been frustrating. It's been amazing. It's been all the things, but it's like this is what life is fucking about.
Jeff: It's true.
Dustin: I mean, at times, I don't know how I get sleep, but I know 10 years, 20 years, 30 years down the road, I'll be looking back at this being like, man, that was the most amazing, monumental time of my life. And hopefully I can just keep that going.
Jeff: Right. No, and that's awesome. And I agree with you. I'm kind of in that same mentality.
Dustin: Just to rewind a little bit, did I think we were going to be the first coffee company sent into space? No.
Dustin: That was definitely not on my radar.
Jeff: Well, you had a hand in that because I mean, that stemmed right from this podcast when you and I got to talk with retired astronaut Nicole Stott, who's our good friend and we had on the show a couple times.
Dustin: Shout out to Nicole.
Jeff: I love Nicole and she helped get our coffee in to space that first time. We been back to space now as a second time. And you've had a lot of different experiences as a part of this podcast, which was absolutely incredible.
Dustin: The most amazing moments ever.
Jeff: Off the top of your head. Top three. What would you say? Top off three off the top of your head? And there's no wrong answer because we had way too many experiences to even list.
Dustin: I have to like roll them up into big chunks. Right.
Jeff: All right.
Dustin: So I would have to say the most amazing experience was our trip to LA doing 16 interviews in six days, driving over a thousand miles.
Jeff: That was crazy.
Dustin: Not missing a mark. I get chills just thinking about how to accomplish that.
Jeff: What an adventure.
Dustin: I mean, that was one of those things. It's not necessarily, I mean, there's a fun part of it while you're doing it, especially when you're going to Hollywood Studios, seeing your favorite show, Bosch, being taped right in front of you. Or going to the Black Vatican and visiting Zakk Wylde at his house. I mean, those are amazingly fun moments, but I mean those were also extremely stressful moments.
Dustin: Those were extremely challenging moments. I thought we kept our cool very well, by the way.
Jeff: We definitely did.
Dustin: But I mean that number one, was the most amazing experience of my life.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: And the amount of thought put into that was insane.
Dustin: That'll be hard to top, right.
Dustin: Ever. So, that's number one.
Jeff: All right.
Dustin: I think right behind that will have to be the punk rock cruise.
Jeff: Oh my God. The Flogging Molly cruise. That was, that was ridiculous.
Dustin: How insane was that?
Jeff: That Was ridiculous. I'll never forget you and I, three memories come out from the Flogging Molly cruise. We went not what, three years ago at this point, right? Two, three years ago.
Dustin: It all blends, right.
Jeff: I will remember sitting in a hot tub drinking Mojitos is in a thunderstorm in the middle of the ocean.
Dustin: Lightening storm.
Jeff: Lightening storm in the middle of the ocean.
Dustin: On the front of the boat. I remember the water wasn't even staying in the hot tub. It was only getting filled by the downpour of rain.
Jeff: I always remember that. I always remember, this is a random memory. I always remember being in our little tiny cabin room. If anybody's ever been on a cruise, the rooms are closets and it was you and I in this closet, but the new Perfect Circle album had just dropped and we had wifi on the cruise and we downloaded it and listened to it. I don't know why, but that memory always sticks in my brain. And anytime I hear a track off that record, Eat the Elephant, I always think of you and I in that tiny little room listening to Perfect Circle for the first time.
Dustin: I have the third memory that you're going to list right now. Steve Diggle, getting jalapeno mojitos, sitting in the casino in the middle of the boat while he chain smokes and tells us stories about why he was responsible for Kurt Cobain killing himself.
Jeff: That was crazy. Yeah. And that was a joke. But I mean like yeah, I'd like sit in there with Steve Diggle from the Buzzcocks because we had just interviewed him and he took a shine to us and we went up to the bar and got jalapeno mojitos with him and probably drank another three or four of them just sitting at a random slot machine in the casino. And he was telling us not only stories about Nirvana, but remember he told us stories about like the first time he came over from England and he was running from the cops with the Ramones.
Dustin: I don't remember that.
Jeff: Oh my God.
Dustin: I probably had too many mojitos by that point.
Jeff: Yeah, the first time the Buzzcocks ever came over from England to America and everything was bright and shiny and they came to New York City and they broke a bunch of stuff at the studio and got in trouble and they had to run from the cops and the Ramones were running with them and like, yeah. Incredible time. So that, so there's number two.
Dustin: Number three is hard to choose because I can't think of another giant adventure that we took with multiple interviews. On that boat alone, I think we got like six or seven interviews. I think I would have to lump in overall just our talks with scientists and astronauts. I mean the whole space thing has always blown my mind and I mean honestly, quite scared the shit out of me.
Jeff: I miss scaring the shit out of you with space.
Dustin: And being able to talk to Nicole and-
Jeff: Don Pettit.
Dustin: Don Pettit, the man who invented the zero G coffee cup and talking to Michio Kaku.
Jeff: Michio Kaku. That was still gives me chills when I listen back to that episode.
Dustin: So I mean that falls in line with number three. Also our trip to our random last minute trip to New York City to speak with Dawg, the Bounty Hunter.
Dustin: I mean that was wild. Just like I remember we were in a morning meeting and you got a phone call and you hit silent, you put it back in your pocket and you're like, "Oh that was just Beth, the Bounty Hunter." And we're like, "What are you doing? Answer that."
Dustin: And then you answered it and you were like, "Dustin, what are you doing today?" "I don't know. I don't think I have too much." "Okay. We're going to the city to interview Dawg, the Bounty Hunter", and we instantly just drove through the middle of Manhattan, the insanity of Manhattan to meet up with Dawg, the Bounty Hunter.
Jeff: I love that interview. You can see that whole thing in full video on YouTube. And that's one of those moments of this show that I really loved. Like a lot of times, I do my best to plan, like you talked about the LA trip, like we planned that for months and we lined up all those interviews meticulously every single day so we knew not only that we had time to do them, but we had time in LA traffic to drive from point a to point B to do it, and sometimes everything works out like that. Sometimes it's on the fly. Like I had been trying to get ahold of Beth, God rest her soul. She was such a beautiful spirit and so nice.
Dustin: She was awesome.
Jeff: She was so nice and so awesome and I'd been trying to get ahold of her because they had heard about Death Wish Coffee and I was trying to work that angle to try and see if we could get Dawg on the show and we just kept kind of missing each other and that phone call was just literally, she was like, "We are in the city, he's got an extra two hours in between interviews. If you can make it down here today, you can have him for an hour." And it was just like, we packed up the stuff, hopped in the car, drove three and a half hours in New York City, got out of the car literally set up immediately and sat down with him and had an incredible 45 minute conversation.
Dustin: Remember his assistant on the side just being like "Wrap it the fuck up. TMZ is waiting."
Dustin: We were like, "I don't see her. I don't see what you're doing." God, how many amazing moments did we have?
Jeff: Incredible. And you know, speaking of convention moments, so many conventions we've done, we did the Empire State Tattoo Convention, which was a whirlwind of craziness. The New York Comic-Con convention, the first time that we did that, I wasn't even full time at the company at that point.
Dustin: Same thing with Baltimore Comic-Con.
Dustin: I think that was your first entrance into the company was Baltimore.
Jeff: Yeah, 100%. and that was where we met Brock.
Dustin: Oh yeah.
Jeff: Baltimore Comic-Con.
Dustin: Shout out to Brock.
Jeff: The rest is history.
Dustin: I've got more shout outs. It's going to happen.
Jeff: The rest is history with Brock. But I mean like, yeah. You know like the convention circuit is crazy. The amount of stuff we were able to do, it would just, you know, no budget and just the two of us just doing what we could do for the company to create something entertaining and inspiring. That's always been the deal with field by death cast. It's something where, it's not like, let's talk about coffee on an audio.
Dustin: You'll run out of material real fucking quick.
Jeff: It was you and I developing a show where like let's talk to anybody from any walk of life and see what makes them tick and see how we're all connected because we're all connected because we know we're going to die and we all want to do something cool and leave our mark on this world before we get there.
Jeff: So I really think that we did our best to instill that wherever we went and whatever we were able to do. I think the biggest, I would say the biggest connection that we've had on a human level and also on a business level through this podcast, but also through the company as a whole has been with Zach Wylde. And I want to talk a little bit about that.
Dustin: Shout out to Father Zakk.
Jeff: Shout out to Father Zakk. Before I get to the meat of this, because you actually brought it up a little bit when you were talking about LA. I want to talk a little bit about your experience when you first started working for the company, because it is surprising to people who don't make the connection. You know, a lot of people discover Death Wish because of various reasons.
Jeff: There are a lot of people who discovered Death wish because of Zakk and because of the Valhalla Java, which is awesome. But when you started at this company, did you know Zakk Wylde? Did you know, were you a fan of his music? Do you like, you knew who he was?
Dustin: Yeah, obviously. To be candid, I love Ozzy Osbourne. I love Black Sabbath and I never listened to a ton of it. You know, I was aware of Black Label Society, but definitely as I was brought into this company, got into it a lot more, I feel like the things that I've been exposed to in general in this company, I've got into a lot of different things a lot more and now have become kind of the definition of who I am. But yeah, I was little bit of a fan.
Jeff: And then, okay, so you're a little bit of a fan. You're working for this company. But then, and this happened even before, again, before I started working at the company full time. It's not like we make a coffee and then we slap Zakk's name on it and then there you go. Zakk is very into what we produce, how we produce it. You know, he has ideas, he's got things he wants to do. He's very big on social media. If you guys don't follow him, please do.
Dustin: Please do.
Jeff: Yeah. And he's very personable.
Dustin: That surprised me so much.
Jeff: I remember, like I said, before I started working for the company, but you were working for the company. He came to the area because he was playing with one of the bands, either Zakk Sabbath or Black Label, I can't remember.
Dustin: I can't remember either.
Jeff: And he came to Death Wish and you got to meet him for the first time.
Dustin: Yeah, it was nuts. It's when we first moved into the production facility that we're at now, and we were just bare bones and he came to visit us anyway. I think it was him, Blasko and [inaudible 00:30:43]. Shout out [inaudible 00:30:43] and Blasko.
Jeff: Shout out.
Dustin: I mean it was surreal just seeing this man and he is larger than life.
Jeff: He is a large man.
Dustin: And he was just incredibly personable, having just these large open conversations with him that you would never expect to have with a man of this stature. And yeah, I mean it was pretty wild.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. It really was. And then cut to a couple of years later, we got them in and we wanted to do something fun with them. And you actually appeared with him in like a mock commercial for getting a job at Death Wish Coffee.
Dustin: By the way, that was all him just like, "All right, this is what we're going to do here. You'll do this. You'll be that guy. You'll be that guy. Okay." And he's getting his dude there, Phil ... Shout out to Phil. He's my homie. I love that guy. Ex-Brooklyn detective. Ex-Brooklyn cop. Really, really rad dude. Anyways, he's like, "You'll get the camera, you would do this." And he's just telling us everything that we're going to do. And we were like, okay. When you're with Zakk, you are in his frame. He is the controller of your universe when you're with Zakk and it's an amazing ride. And yeah, that was just one of those instances where he was just like, "We're doing this thing", and you're like, "Okay, we're doing it. Here we go."
Jeff: It's crazy.
Dustin: And yeah, we had a little fun with that.
Jeff: I'll sync that into this episode too. But I mean, that was so much fun because like, again, he's open to stuff like that.
Dustin: He's not only open to that, you better be open for that because it's his fucking idea and you're going to do it.
Jeff: He, because it's not, again, it's not like the untouchable rockstar mentality or something like that. You know, it's like, please, please get away from me. Please don't talk to Zakk.
Dustin: Avert your eyes, Zakk Wylde is coming through. It's not that at all.
Jeff: I love it when he comes to the warehouse or the office too because like he's like a little kid in a candy store. He's like touching everything.
Dustin: That dude loves coffee. He really does. It's a deep, deep passion of his. It's like, I see why we do this for you. And it's really amazing to see that passion in him. It really is inspiring.
Jeff: It really is. And it's become this family atmosphere too. You know, again, it's not just a name on a bag. You know, our partnership with Zakk and Valhalla Java has turned into a partnership between us as employees and Zakk and his family. You know, I consider Zakk and Barbaranne good friends of ours now and they're so warm and welcoming and the partnership and the relationship we have is just amazing. And that culminated when we went out to LA,
Dustin: That was insane.
Jeff: We had had Zakk on the podcast way, way early on in season one, but that was a phone interview because we knew wanted to get him on and he was on tour I think at the time. But he was gracious enough to give us some of his time and that was really cool to talk to him about that. But then when we went out to LA, we were like, is there any way we can meet up and do an in person interview? And he was immediately like, "Sure, let's do it in the Black Vatican." That was a crazy experience.
Dustin: I mean, first off how generous it was of him to invite us to his house. I mean these two coffee chumps like right into his kitchen and his living room and meeting his family. And then, I mean, how wild is, I can't, I'm going to keep on saying wild, just like by mistake, but I'll just pretend like I'm saying it on purpose. All right. Anyways. But yeah, and just having him invite us to the Black Vatican, which is like, I mean it's a structure of its own. How many guitar stores have we been in as musicians and this place had more guitars in one place that I've ever seen in my entire life.
Jeff: It's incredible. And for those of you who don't know, Black Vatican is Zakk's personal recording studio. It's where all the Black Label Society albums have been recorded. I believe all the Zakk Sabbath albums have been recorded there and a lot of other stuff that he's recorded for other bands and all of their projects that he's been on. And it was amazing that he allowed us to, not only go in there, but really have free rein of it. We got to film the entire area, and I'll sync some of that in here too because you're right, I've been in the biggest guitar stores in the middle of Times Square in New York City and it pales in comparison to his collection. And we asked him straight on that episode like, do you know every single guitar in here or are they just all hanging from the wall and you've just got a bunch of guitars. And he had every single guitar he has, they're in there for a reason.
Jeff: It's either because he always wanted it or it was a gift or this guitar is like a guitar that a guitarist that he loved, used to use or something like that, you know? And as a collector kind of like, I know like as a comic collector it's like, Oh, you know, it's like I love this version of a Gibson or something like that. But they also make it in blue and red too. So I got to get those as well. You know, like, so he's got like all the variations and like, yeah, it's incredible.
Dustin: It's almost like seeing that, guess how many jelly beans are in this jar. How many guitars do you think he had on his wall?
Jeff: Yeah, he as he put it, a few.
Dustin: I mean if you were to put a number to it?
Jeff: I would say 300.
Dustin: I was thinking four or five.
Jeff: Yeah. There were rooms in the back that even had more guitar.
Dustin: I mean wherever there was an empty space to be had, there was a guitar stuffed in that empty space. It was just, it was insane.
Jeff: And I love too, I love that we got to sit down with him and you know, I'm going to pull the curtain back a little bit. I don't know if I've ever told this story actually on the podcast, but what I loved about it is if you listen to that episode, that's the hundredth episode of Fueled By Death Cast and it was you and I sit in the Black Vatican with Zakk and we had a ton of fun. You know, we asked him, we had a bunch of questions to ask, like follow up questions from the first time he was on. A bunch of questions about recent stuff happening was with Zakk Sabbath and with Ozzy and that kind of stuff.
Jeff: And Zakk is famous for being a wild card and being completely off the cuff. And he was very animated that day. Like when we were in his kitchen beforehand and kind of getting ready, he was very personable, very normal. We had a very normal conversation and then we went up there and turn the cameras on and the mics on and he really went into character and just became the Zakk you see on social media and really went for it. And there's a moment in that episode that we all just gut belly laugh so hard because he's trying to make the joke work and you called him out on it and I dug in a little bit after the fact and he couldn't keep it up because it was just a train that had derailed so far it was in the ocean, and we all just laughed at the absurdity of the situation, which was great.
Jeff: Again, go back and listen to that episode. It's one of my favorite episodes because you can tell we're all having a good time. When the cameras were off and we turned the mics off, the first thing he said to us was, "That was okay guys, right? I just get so sick and tired of the same interview and I like you guys so much. I wanted to have some fun. That's okay." And you wanted to make sure it was okay and that touched my heart because he could've just been having a good time and said, "Ah, fuck it. Whatever." You know.
Dustin: Which probably, not only him, but most people who deal with a lot of interviews think. They're dealing day after day of just like some days, probably 10 interviews and just like, Oh God, let's just get this over.
Jeff: Right. You know, and I'm not saying that we were coming in with those cookie cutter questions either. You know, like when did you start playing guitar? Yeah.
Dustin: We know better than that.
Jeff: Yeah, we had good questions, but I mean I'm sure he was, we were talking, I know we had a whole point in there talking about how he started Wylde Audio, which is his guitar company and like all that stuff and I'm sure he's answered that before and he had fun with a question, but it just was amazing to me of how personable and amazing of a person he is that as soon as we were done he just wanted to make sure you know, like that we were okay with, like that he didn't offend us in any way and we were just like, no man. That was ... I remember being like on cloud nine like, that was amazing.
Jeff: The other memory I'll never forget as we pack up everything, we put it in the car and we're driving down the long dusty road down the mountain from where atop the Black Vatican sits and out of a sitcom from 1950s, he emerges at the front door of the Black Vatican and waves goodbye to us like Mr. Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver. I'll just never forget the biggest shit-eating grin on his face, just waving goodbye to us. Amazing.
Dustin: It was amazing, man. I mean he definitely, I mean there's one thing to be inspiring, but I mean we're the people who put the love behind his brand and when you meet a guy like that and he's so personable and upstanding and awesome and just cool to be around and just so generous that it just makes you happy that you're a part of what he does.
Dustin: That's just so cool. I mean, I can't even imagine if you're, let's say if we're, I don't know, making coffee for, I don't know.
Jeff: Somebody else.
Dustin: And they are a shithead.
Dustin: And what that would do to the brand. And I mean, I think you see it with this coffee and with the things that we want to do with Valhalla Java is a lot of that comes from the family love that we share with Father Zakk.
Jeff: It's true. And I can't wait for 2020 because we have so many new ideas. We've sat down with our senior art director Thomas and also Zakk and really put our heads together on a whole new, like breathing new life into the Valhalla Java brand and I'm really excited about it. Zakk's really excited about it and I think it's just going to be the next chapter, just like Death Wish has been growing and growing and growing. I think Valhalla Java has got its next chapter now and it's just going to be amazing.
Dustin: Well, Valhallentine's Day coming right up.
Jeff: Coming right up. This episode will be out, so it'll be amazing. That brings me back and it's funny because again, you were part of the show for so long, but I never got to this point with you. You know, you talked about like how amazing it is to have Zakk being a part of this and can't think of a way where that relationship never was. As an outsider, someone who started after you and has seen this company grow and seen where we are in this company now, I personally, and I know that I speak for a lot of people at this company and outside of it, I can't imagine Death Wish Coffee without you.
Jeff: I think that you are someone who is incredibly integral and has brought us to new heights with your innovation and your vision and your drive and your work ethic. And I think it's really incredible and you should be proud of that.
Dustin: Thank you.
Jeff: And that brings me to that question. What fuels you? What fuels you to do that, to work as hard as you do and to want to strive to be better than the best.
Dustin: What else are you going to do with your life? I mean, I always see it as putting a positive out into the universe and we've talked a lot about that with this podcast of just like, what do you want to put out there? What is the mark that we want to leave with this show? And the same thing goes with life. I mean, what is the Mark that you want to leave in life? And you know, I've been so lucky to have so much opportunity. And really the drive is just knowing that that opportunity is there and that I can push myself to the limit, that I have the capability to do these things. Everybody has the capability to do these things. You really just got to put the focus in on it. I mean, essentially what fuels me, there is no other choice. To me, there is no other choice but to succeed at everything that comes in front of me, to completely destroy any tasks that rears its ugly face at me. I'm ready for it.
Dustin: Like I said, what else are you going to do? Why are you here? Are you going to be a useless piece of shit or are you going to fucking do something with your life?
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: So I'm just, I mean, I'm really just doing everything I can to make this the best experience that I can, not only for me, but the people around me. You know, you, you don't want to do it selfishly. And I mean, how good does that feel when you succeed by stepping on somebody else? I mean, that's terrible. I mean, what more of an awful way to taint a success is by stamping out somebody else. So I mean, I think there's a balance in the universe and you want to be on the scale that makes things better.
Jeff: I love that. I love that and that's inspiring for sure. So at the end here, I want to just touch upon a little bit that's not work and not Zakk. One is speaking of, of crushing it and killing it. In the last few years, especially since, you've been on the show, you've gotten really into the picking heavy things up and putting them down game. Do you ever think you'd get so hard into lifting?
Dustin: No. I mean, martial arts has always been a big part of my life and it's kind of led me to this chapter in my life.
Dustin: Picking up heavy shit. I mean, essentially-
Jeff: It's better than fighting somebody else.
Dustin: It's not. And I love fighting. I mean, I feel like there's no better way to not only find out more of other people, but to find out more about yourself, to make yourself better. And I think that the biggest thing that I've always taken from martial arts is calm thinking in the moment of chaos. You cannot panic, you cannot react. You need to be proactive. You need to look at what's coming down the line, not what's happening to you now. You need to bait your opponent, to fool your opponent and to be on predictable at all times. So that's been like my whole life and I've always loved martial arts and I got really, really heavy into jujitsu and essentially started falling apart. I mean-
Jeff: It's rough on your body.
Dustin: Dude, it's insane. Neck, back.
Jeff: Your hands.
Dustin: Dude, do you remember the time I had both thumbs broken?
Dustin: Do you know what it's like not to have thumbs? It's a pretty terrible moment in life. You feel pretty useless.
Jeff: It was hilarious for me. Watching you try to pick up glasses of milk and crap.
Dustin: Oh my God. And I drive a standard vehicle. It's terrible. Anyways, it got to the point and I remember the day where I was like, I can no longer go down this path of jujitsu, at least not for now. And I wasn't willing to just accept that. So I decided, I mean at that point I was, I was 145 pounds, really, really skinny. And I figured, if I ever want to get back and form, and I was in a lot of pain, I mean, you remember I was pretty much limping every day. God, my back was terrible. I figured if I were to ever continue my life as a sustainable human being, I would need to put some armor on.
Dustin: And so that's when I got into strength and conditioning and decided to start picking up heavy shit, but kind of instantly fell in love with it. And the fact that, I mean, it's always, even with martial arts, it's acting out in this controlled primal way helps me be a more, helps me conduct my life in a more orderly way. If I can get that primal, nasty emotion out of me by being an animal for a couple hours a day, then I get back to my desk and I feel calm and collected and I know what to do next.
Jeff: So it's like a release.
Dustin: Oh absolutely, a release. Nothing will be a release like jujitsu.
Jeff: Do you think you'll ever go back?
Dustin: Oh dude, I want to so bad and I'm just so hesitant because-
Jeff: You don't want to hurt yourself again.
Dustin: I mean, it's not only that, I mean I still have these injuries. I know as soon as somebody tugs on my head, my neck won't be able to turn the same way. And I mean I'm just not willing to make that compromise. I think yes, one day I will get back into martial arts. Will it be jujitsu? Man, I hope so. But nothing's more of a release. I mean, your body doesn't understand the difference between, "Oh, Hey, I'm practicing jujitsu and this guy's trying to murder me right now, or I'm trying to murder this guy right now." And dude, there's no bigger release than that. By the way. Shout out to Eddie Fyvie.
Jeff: First ever guest on this show.
Dustin: Who was my professor and I will always see him as a professor and not only in jujitsu, in life. I mean the things that I'm learning now as a leader were things that he was talking about to me seven years ago. So he's been one of my biggest inspirations in life. But yeah, that's pretty much a long story of how I got into picking up heavy things.
Jeff: That's cool. And I'll just throw this in here right now for anybody who wants to follow your journey, not only at Death Wish, but in life, if they follow Death Wish Dustin on Instagram, you're constantly picking heavy things up and putting them down.
Dustin: Yeah, I mean it's a mix of the stuff I do here, what I'm doing at the gym, but also my love of travel.
Jeff: Yeah, for sure.
Dustin: And you'll see a lot of that. I mean, there's a lot more to come, but the travel, I have to say, I've got the travel bug here with this show and this company. And I knew when I moved out of the show that I would need to keep traveling.
Jeff: You'd miss it. Exactly.
Dustin: Yeah. And that I stepped up to a whole nother notch and that's been unbelievable.
Dustin: That's pretty much what you'll see in my Instagram is-
Jeff: And that's what's fun about it. Delicious food, crazy places around the world and picking heavy things up and putting them down and the occasional Death Wish.
Dustin: Yeah. Yeah. Pretty much.
Jeff: Finally though, you know, we became friends and brothers over music.
Jeff: And you know, we were in multiple different projects together and I miss those days. I think about those days a lot. Do you think we'll ever play music together again?
Dustin: It's so weird. I wish I missed it more.
Jeff: You don't miss it.
Dustin: Do you miss it?
Jeff: I do. I do. I don't miss the late night practices. I don't miss the loading into shows. I don't miss the playing to nobody. I don't miss the crazy recording schedules. But I do miss being in the room with you.
Jeff: Yeah, I do miss that magic sauce. When you create a song and you've got a baseline and I kind of like put a violin line that worked with your baseline and then the drums kind of lock in and then the guitar kind of locks in and then you're like, we all like look at each other and let's do that again. You know, like I miss those moments.
Dustin: I mean, how cool is that to have those supernatural moments? How did we all lock into a thing that never existed before? That was incredible. Yes. The short answer is yes.
Jeff: I don't know if I'd ever be in a band that I'd want to like go tour and do all that kind of stuff again, but I'd love to get into a room with you and just fuck around.
Dustin: Yeah, man. I mean, like I said, I'm almost disappointed in myself that I don't miss it and it sucks because there was a point in my life I truly believe that I was put on this earth to be a fucking rock star. But I think that transcends to more than just playing music.
Jeff: I think so too. But I also think that music is always a part of you. And just because you're not necessarily missing it hard right now doesn't mean that that is now, that wall is there in your life and it will never be there. You know what I mean?
Dustin: Yeah, and I don't think it was ever the music that necessarily caught me. It was the performance.
Jeff: Yeah, I do like being on stage.
Dustin: And not necessarily just performing in front of people but performing an exercise in music.
Dustin: So you know, there were, there's a level of performance when you're writing music. There's a level of performance when you're practicing that music and how you present yourself and how you present your music. And like` the amount of passion that you put into that and you see it just like push out the other side and it's so satisfying and, and I think that's probably why I don't miss it as much as that I found other outlets for it, especially with work on. And I think that's what's really kind of filled that gap of like, yeah, I'm not performing in front of people necessarily, but you know, especially with all the puzzle solving, it's like here's a thing now perform right. It's like, hold my beer.
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. No, and I get that. I totally get that because there's things you know that have taken over that same thing for me as well, but you know, it is something I think about and I think that, again, I think that music is intrinsic. I think it's something that's a part of our souls. I really do. I believe that someday we're going to be in a room together fucking around again. Fuck yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Dustin, this was way too much fun having you back over here on the microphone and on the show. Let's figure out ways to do this more often.
Dustin: I'm into it, man. You let me know. I'll be here. Can we do the thing what thing?
Jeff: What thing?
Dustin: You know where you say who you are and then I say who I am. You cut this out if you want.
Jeff: Like at the beginning of the show?
Dustin: Oh yeah.
Jeff: All right. All right. So back to how we used to do it. Let's see. Welcome to Fueled by Death Cast. As always, I am the incredible Jeff.
Dustin: And I am the amazing D Man. That felt good. That felt good.
Jeff: That felt really, really good. Awesome, Dustin. Yeah, man. Thank you so much. I love you, brother.