On June 1, Milwaukee’s hometown streetwear and T-shirt brand Too Much Metal is of legal drinking age. And it’s about time considering owner Fred Gillich has been making 414 lager beer with Vernacular Brewing for a few years already.
Gillich, who was born in Timisoara, Romania, and grew up in Sherman Park and went to Milwaukee Tech before heading off to study art in Vienna and then returning to get a degree in German lit from UWM, launched the business with the two-fisted Too Much Metal logo, which he designed at home and printed onto stickers in 2000.
"I started this whole thing from a sticker 21 years ago from my 'warehouse apartment' on Prospect Avenue in Milwaukee," says Gillich, who has gone on to design logos and images for T-shirts, hoodies, flags and more.
Five years earlier, Gillich had started SMAC design and worked closely with a number of Milwaukee bands.
"Music was cultural therapy for me as an immigrant kid from communist Romania," Gillich says. "So I poured all of my experiences from the music that was around me from Black Sabbath to Prince, and The Clash to U2, into a a wide-eyed optimistic graphic that best communicated what I was living."
In 2011 he opened the Too Much Metal showroom in the Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo St., in the Third Ward.
His 414 logo, based on Milwaukee’s iconic ceramic house number numeral tiles, has been at least as popular as the images that, literally, made his name.
"Both come from real places of emotion for me. The 414 is more of the same like an evolution of the TMM but for my city that I fell in love with," says Gillich. "I want to the 414 to feel like a world city. I wanted to demostrate that pride like a Berlin, New York, Tokyo or Paris.
"I believe some of the best people in the world live right here. I just want us all to connect, and I hope my designs can do that."
In 2019, the Gillich and Mayor Tom Barrett were on hand when the city unfurled a 414 flag and hung it on City Hall on April 14.
"It’s pretty damn humbling that’s for sure," says Gillich. "I’m a lucky dude."
The flag returned to City Hall for Milwaukee Day, April 14, in 2021.
"Too Much Metal has taken on a life of its own,” says Gillich. “It's been all over the world, in the movies and rockstars from Led Zeppelin to Metallica have all thrown the horns or worn the T-shirt at one point or another."
Everyone from popera singer Josh Groban to porn stars have flashed the Too Much Metal hand gesture for photos.
To celebrate its official “coming of age,” Too Much Metal will launch some new designs, “inspired by the enduring iconography of rock and roll.”
Gillich will also host a party on June 26, at the showroom. Watch the web site for details.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.