The Art of Punk
Bryan Ray Turcotte has been flailing around at punk shows since before you were shot into life’s first mosh pit, that great sperm race to the egg. He got into punk during the early 80s while growing up in California’s Central Valley, and in the 90s moved down to Los Angeles, tempted by the larger scene. He’s been there ever since, and managed to build his own punk empire (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron for you).
What started as a personal collection of punk flyers eventually turned into a book, Fucked Up + Photocopied,chronicling hundreds of show posters from the era. That interest in art and music led him into music supervision for commercials and films, as well as graphic consulting for major brands like Levis and Converse. Now, Turcotte and his partner, Bo Bushnell, are spearheading an exhibition of the artwork associated with the music from Turcotte’s youth through Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Yesterday, an episode of MoCA TV on the Dead Kennedys premiered on MOCA’s YouTube channel as a supplement to the exhibition.
I sat down with Turcotte to talk about growing up punk and the power of a flyer.
Darby Crash’s shirt and buttons.
VICE: What was your first punk show like?
Bryan: Oh, man. That was such a great show. It was a little show. It was Dischord, Grim Reality, and I wanna say Crucifix—although I could be wrong about that—at De Anza College in Los Gatos. It was one of those things, like, I got into the music and the scene, but I was much younger than the kids in my school who were into it. So that show was like my christening. I had shaved my head and wore a little punk bracelet, but they were like, “You’re going to this show.” So that was my christening, my first time being thrown into the pit and all that. I have the flyer around somewhere.
What do you remember about seeing the flyer for that specific show?
It was one of those life-changing things, like how listening to the Clash turned me around, musically. After I saw that flyer (and when I went to that show and saw liberty spikes and painted jackets and the whole visual of it), there was no going back. It definitely changed my life for the better.
How did the immersion into the world of punk work back then? It was probably a lot different than if punk had come out during the internet age.
I was schooled, you know? These guys were older. We were lucky because one guy we hung out with was from the UK, so he knew about the early generation stuff. “This is how you peg your pants. This is how you liberty spike your hair with the Knox gel.” I learned how to cut hair from that guy, and then I became the punk haircut guy. Your T-shirts were hand done. You’d go to thrift shops and find old clothes and alter them. It was a lot of work, but it was also the first time in my life I felt like I had a mentor. I still look up to those guys.