Swissted’s Mike Joyce on Inspiration, Influences, and Punk Rock History

Posted by Mike Joyce

We asked Mike Joyce, the creative force behind Swissted, the awesome new book of rock and roll posters remixed in Swiss Modernist style, to share some of the people, places, and things that shaped him into the punk fan he is today.

The Ramones with the Runaways and Suicide in 1978. I always thought I was born about ten to fifteen years too late and this is one example of why. I was only five at the time of this epic show but sixteen years later I would move to NYC and live directly behind The Palladium. And a few years later in 1997 I’d watch Fugazi play the last Palladium show ever. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it would be a trend of historic NYC venues shutting down over the next several years.

This was my first issue of Thrasher magazine from 1985. That’s the great Christian Hosoi launching off a quarter pipe and over a muscle car that’s seen better days. I remember this issue well because it wasn’t all about monster ramps and skate parks—things we didn’t have in Upstate New York. It showed that you could make the most of your surroundings as long as you had a board. Thrasher would not only bring me the news of all the great skaters around the world, it would serve as a road map to hundreds of great bands I never heard of before.

As influential as Thrasher was for me, Flipside fanzine was even more so—this was my bible in high school. The writing was humorous, dark, opinionated, and self-deprecating. Every issue featured dozens of my favorite bands while introducing me to new stuff each month. Growing up in the homogenized suburbs of Upstate New York, I never saw anything like it.

Posh Boy Records was one of the most important punk labels of the late seventies and early eighties. They seemed to sign or record all of my favorite bands like TSOL, Shattered Faith, Channel 3, Agent Orange, The Crowd, and Social Distortion. The founder of PBR, Robbie Fields (Illustrated above in a purple suit on one of their compilations) was kind enough to write a short blurb for Swissted. Thanks Robbie!

Another set of compilations that meant everything to me were these two Rodney On The Roq discs. The artwork was god awful (that pale woman with all of the creepy dolls is straight out of a nightmare) but the music was ground-breaking. Both records were curated by the legendary LA DJ Rodney Bingenheimer and included what would become some of the most important punk bands ever. Rodney was in a unique situation of inspiring the local talent with his late night radio show and then breaking that very talent on the same show. Even though the albums showcased bands like the Adolescents, Nuns, and Circle Jerks, the first compilation is kicked off by an unforgettable introduction—a young Brooke Shields exclaiming “This is Brooke Shields and I got my radio tuned in to Rodney on the Roq!”

One of the greatest punk documentaries of all time. Plot: An early Social Distortion along with an early Youth Brigade turn a school bus into a tour bus and drive across the country meeting up with Minor Threat, street punks, the homeless, and a brain-washing evangelist. Luckily for my friends and me, this thing was miraculously aired on USA Network’s Night Flight program for us to videotape and watch incessantly.

Somehow Emilio Estevez made a good movie. Yeah, I have no idea how that happened either. All I know is that it had radioactive cars, aliens, and one hell of a soundtrack. Iggy Pop wrote the title song in the studio minutes before it was recorded with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols on guitar and Clem Burke of Blondie on drums. The rest of the soundtrack is a who’s-who of LA punk.

I love transformative art and appropriation—it’s obviously a huge part of what makes Swissted so eye-catching. The Ramones logo, designed by Arturo Vega has become so synonymous with the band that I sometimes forget it’s a take on the U.S. Presidential Seal.

One of the most important punk albums of all time also has one of the most memorable covers. When Johnny Rotten was asked about the album art he sneered back “What art?” The concept of Jamie Reid’s classic design was to purge all art and image normally usedon record covers. I love that Reid defied tradition to create something completely new. Ironically, the ransom note style used here became one of the defining images of punk rock.

But not all of the bands went for the ransom note look. The six albums above are just a few examples of some of my favorite punk album art that bucked the trend of skulls and safety-pins. I think a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the genre would be surprised to see how “unpunk” many punk records looked.

I grew up just outside of Albany, New York, which had a pretty good music scene for the small size of the city. And how could it not, with a huge statue of Nipper the RCA dog presiding over Broadway? I spent countless hours at great local record stores like Erl Records, World, Records, and Music Shack. Like most great things, they’re all gone now. We even had a local music TV show called Real George’s Back room which featured great underground acts. Above is a screenshot of host Mike Eck interviewing the extremely drunk Replacements. Check it out on YouTube if ya want a laugh.

I attended tons of hardcore shows in the mid-to-late ‘80s including the Life’s Blood and Warzone show featured above. That American Legion Hall was a pretty decent size for bands like that and hosted a ton of great bands. Abany’s QE2 was probably the most well known and upscale club for alternative music though—it’s now a cheesy ‘80s themed club named Fuze Box.

One of my best friends in high school, Chris Randolph, put on these shows at the Eagles Lodge in Schenectady, NY. It was a true old-man’s bar where a bunch of 80-year-old regulars would drink whisky up front while a bunch of 16-20 year olds would slam to the sounds of Fugazi, Bad Religion, and D.I. in the back. To this day I’m amazed my young friend was able to book such great acts. I was fortunate enough to catch a brand new band named Jawbreaker at one of these shows and bought their debut album Unfun on vinyl from singer/ guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach. They would go on to release three more excellent LP’s and are still one of my favorite bands to this day.

When I moved to New York City in 1994 I would spend a lot of my free time going to shows. My three favorite venues were Coney Island High, CBGB, and Tramps. It seemed like every night there was something great going on at one of those places. Sadly, all three are gone now.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot great bands, artists, and record labels. My 16 year old self would have been proud to know that I’d get to design albums for Iggy Pop, The Lemonheads, and Morphine.