Last month, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles premiered a documentary series on their YouTube channel called The Art Of Punk. Each episode explores the roots and stories behind the iconic artwork of seminal punk bands. It makes sense that one of the figures that MOCA got in touch with was Bryan Ray Turcotte, one of the foremost experts on the punk movement. Turcotte is responsible for Fucked Up + Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement, published in 1999 and winner of the Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Music, and Punk is Dead: Punk is Everything!, published in 2007. These volumes chronicle the flyers, ephemera, and iconography that helped shape the punk movement of the '70s and '80s. So far, Turcotte has helmed episodes on Black Flag, Crass, and The Dead Kennedys, interviewing legends such as Ray Pettibon, Jello Biafra, and Henry Rollins. I called Turcotte to talk about the enduring power of flyering and the future of The Art Of Punk.
Ad Hoc: The Art Of Punk seems like a logical progression from what you did with Fucked Up + Photocopied. How did the idea for that book get off the ground?
Bryan Ray Turcotte: I grew up in the San Francisco punk scene when I was a kid. I was playing in bands when I was 13, 14, 15, opening up for bands like The Dead Kennedys and stuff in the mid-'80s. So that’s where it started, in terms of collecting flyers. I wallpapered my room with flyers when I was a kid, and we used to skateboard around town pulling flyers off of poles so that we knew what shows were happening. Eventually I graduated from high school and moved to LA to try and become a musician in a band, and I carried the flyers with me.
At some point I got a job at Slash Records and met Henry Rollins. The idea for a book had come up, but no one seemed to really think that it would do well or no one seemed to really care. So I just started doing it on my own. Jello [Biafra] was my first phone call and he gave me a bunch of numbers to different guys, like Joey [Keithley] from D.O.A. One call led to another and led to another and eventually-- after about, I don’t know, a year-- I probably had 20,000 or 30,000 flyers from upwards of 200 different contributors from all over the country. And just with stupid luck, I ended up meeting a guy who changed the whole thing around and introduced me to the guys at Gingko Press, and I showed them what I had and the book sort of started.
In another weird set of circumstances, it just became a best seller. It sort of came out of nowhere. I had never designed a book before, I had never published a book before, never fashioned myself a publisher or a writer or a designer. But it just sort of struck a chord with people, because I felt like I did have something to say and I could make a book feel the way the scene felt for me-- just chaotic and crazy. You have to twist the book around to read half the stuff, and every time you look at it you find new little things that you didn’t see before, and all kinds of secret stuff. I felt like I knew how to capture the right energy, and it just kind of struck a chord. It’s been out 13 years now, and we probably have 15, 16 editions or something like that.Read More