"It was Cool until I was thrown into Jail"
On a Wednesday morning in 2005, Killermaru woke up to check his phone: 94 missed calls. He went to his computer: 237 new emails. His latest YouTube lock picking video had gone viral, and people wanted to talk. This included the Police.
Located in Milan, Italy, Killermaru became interested in lock picking after a local locksmith had to free him from his family’s Panic Room. "As a child I was shocked—how the hell did he do that without a key?” Years later, he formed a friendship with the same locksmith who was interested enough in Killermaru’s enthusiasm to teach him how it was done.
"It was 2001 and there were no commercial tools, and no one was talking about lock picking and the tools you used. This locksmith had to make his own picks and learn how to use them through trial and error. Later I learned that he might have been a thief when he was younger. He died in 2004 and its not really something that we ever talked about. I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn from him." - Killermaru
In 2005, Italy was facing an economic crisis with massive unemployment and debt. Being unemployed like many young Italians, Killermaru was fed up and made a YouTube video wearing a ski mask. The video roughly translates as “What remains for young Italians to do.” The Video is almost political theater as he wears a ski mask and gloves opening a red safe in a dark room.
The next morning this Video had 5,000 views. "It’s 2005; for me to get 5,000 views is huge—at this time 200 views were a lot. So, I start to make more videos showing people what I had learned, how to make your own tools how to pick locks. For everyone this was new, the idea of picking a lock open for fun or to learn how it works. It was secret information available to everyone. In three months, I had 10,000 subscribers it was all really cool until I was thrown in jail.” - Killermaru
After 3 months of posting his lock picking tutorials, Killermaru wakes up to see that he has missed a LOT of calls: his inbox is full. "I check the first phone message thinking someone is hurt; one of my friends says, “I told you so.” Then it is media asking for interviews. Suddenly everyone is talking about my videos, it's in the National paper and on TV!"
Overnight I had become designated as the thief of Italy. I also found out that what I had done was indeed Illegal. Some 1960's law made it illegal to teach lock picking the way I did online. Now I can laugh—look how many lock picking videos are out there, people picking them open with chicken bones— but when I did this it was all very new, and some were scared to see the information become publicly available. I am not a thief. I never have been and I do not want others to be. I am just curious and interested in puzzles." - Killermaru
Three days after the national frenzy into Killermaru's videos started the police came to his house and arrested him. He was interrogated, spent the night in jail and was issued a date to appear in court. Upon returning home he had a new phone message "I lost my job because they read about me in the paper, YouTube also deleted all my videos and channel. I had no Job, a court date and a country that thought my hobby made me a criminal, it was a real low point.” - Killermaru
When his day in court finally arrived, it was again national news. Killermaru spent the day explaining that lock picking was indeed a hobby and that if he owns a lock, he should have the right to test its quality. "I do not teach anything illegal if I share knowledge; if I leave my tools at home and work on my locks what is the crime?" - Killermaru
After a long deliberation the Judge sided with Killermaru and that nothing illegal had been done. Not only was he cleared of all charges, the final ruling had an impact on updating the laws regarding lock picking in Italy. " In Italy, any sentence that is decided upon by a Judge becomes a law, so when I was cleared of all charges it also changed the outdated laws that I was charged with." - Killermaru
From that day forward, all Italians were now legally allowed to participate in what is now commonly known as lock sport. "Now lockpicking in Italy is legal at home, lock picks can be sold and purchased by those over the age of 18, but your tools have to stay at home." - Killermaru
"I have now been making lock picks for over 17 years, still practicing, still picking, I have a YouTube channel that I post on with my friends sometimes but most like my Instagram shop." - Killermaru
WE NEED ANSWERS
SPARROWS: A Panic Room in your house. Did you live in a rough neighborhood? Are they common in Italy?
Killermaru: Well, we lived in the slums when I was a kid; it did not have the nicest of people. Fortunately, except for the time that I locked myself in, we never had big troubles. Panic rooms are not common, but nice to have.
Safes are also not common; most of the homes just have bars on the windows & balconies. In Italy everyone is big fan of double bit map locks for home doors (same as safe locks). Most home doors are also often armored so people make the whole house a panic room. It's like fort Knox."
SPARROWS: I have to say 2001 is early for YouTube lock picking videos. Do any other names come to mind around that time?
Killermaru: In 2001, youtubers, ticktockers or influencers did not exist. I do remember someone making a video with the first bump key and grinding rudimental tools out of saw blades. Nothing stood out to be honest, I can't remember any "vip" in that era.
SPARROWS: When you went to court did you represent yourself or did you have a lawyer?
Killermaru: Yes, I got a lawyer. Unfortunately, here you can't represent yourself; it is mandatory to have a lawyer.
I asked many times in court to talk but most of the time it isn't required to have the defendant in court room except at the first audience and the last one.
SPARROWS: Ski mask .... any regrets on not filming just the hands? Thats the go to shot for teaching lock picking videos. Film just the hands.
Killermaru: I like this question!
Why the ski mask?... I used it before was mainstream! xD
It was the first thing I found to cover my face during the vid; imagine in that era if someone recognized me in my neighborhood after made that video.
Probably I would get busted for sure, why not just the hands?
Today we are spoiled—you can record with a phone and upload it, back then the max at that was 16/32 megapixels. I was recording on a 1st gen camera that was huge. You could not reach around the camera and get it to focus on your hands like what you see today.
Within 6 feet of the camera, it would not focus on you. I could not hide behind the camera to keep my face a secret like Bosnian Bill or Lock picking Lawyer. I had to be in front of the camera. So, I wore a ski mask. It's no different than why most just film the hands now.
SPARROWS: Your hand made tools are just fantastic. Can you tell us a bit about your shop and the process for making some.
Killermaru: Thanks so much!
I started in 2005 making tools, and some brands started making commercial tools (or that already existed, I am not sure). One of the things that surprised me most was the tool tips. Most of the shapes of these tools were pretty similar to mine. I took this as a sign that all of my trial and error was right! xD
Those tools where very expensive I had to save up for 3 months to get my first commercial set. When I finally get it, I thought "yes, this is interesting, but is just a tool, nothing special..."
That was the beginning of the "Evolution" for new kinds of tools, customizations, shapes etc. and I should admit I am VERY BIG FAN of Sparrows tools, because it's the same as my idea of tools: something custom, something nice to see, decorated with a PERSONALITY. A tool that is nice to look at and use, not just a simple plastic handled tool. An example the Reflection set—that decoration is amazing!
These kinds of details give you a great morale boost and make the tools you are using something VERY personal; picking a lock with a nice lockpick makes that open a unique experience. Standard tools? Standard experience...
Now imagine picking with "a piece of Art", or showing your custom tools in class or at a lockpicking competition… “Go time F##KERs", Let's show the muscle!" xD
The fun part is that all my customers know where I make my tools, all tools are made in "Tha Crypt" it's my underground cellar of 3m x 2m 5 meters, yes, I work in my home cellar!
No sunlight at all, cool in summer and freezing in winter, total silence and absolutely no one comes down here to bother me xD
But hey! Many big companies have started in a garage... why not a cellar!
SPARROWS: Your YouTube videos are a mix of bizarre and chaotic. It's like a Salvador Dali short mixed with Mr. Beast and a dash of The Score (2001 De Niro)... but all in Italian without subtitles. Can you tell us what is going on in these videos both now and when you were younger?
Killermaru: That's an absolutely legit question! Over the years I have covered a LOT of topics, not just lockpicking.
I'm also a big fan of Physics, mechanics, chemistry, hacking and science in general, so most of the vids are pretty hemmm... "Borderline.”
How can I pass on science information?
I want to keep it interesting. How?
By showing how chaotic it is.
It is the same for lock-picking; basically it is mechanics & physics, but this can be boring if you teach just the principles. It's the application of opening the lock that makes it exciting. Without the lock opening its not of any interest. I encourage people to experiment and explore. I would much rather see someone learn how to open a safe than eat Tide pods.
My current YouTube channel is a platform where I post videos of my community allowing people the opportunity to talk and debate topics (argue).
When I was younger my videos were absolutely "rudimentary” and direct. I was angry and tired of the Government and the situation I felt trapped in. I wanted a change. It happened but took a long time. I talk a lot with people around the world and I keep learning, I keep trying new things. My new videos are similar to when I was young, just less swearing, blasphemy and explosions; I think that is the only difference, maybe not the swearing. xD
Lockpicking has given me many things in life. I am glad to have found it as a hobby and I want to share that in my videos. I feel like I am now the locksmith I met when I was younger.
SPARROWS: Can you break down the name for us?
KILLERMARU: New, Fresh, Different, Killermaru.
Killer: You are familiar with "He's killing it" in sports. Dominating, being the best the GOAT.
Maru: It's Japanese for circle, but more like repeating in a circle.
For me Killermaru is a way of saying unstoppable.
SPARROWS: Killermaru you're a great friend and one of the OG's of the lock picking community. Stay unstoppable.