Intertwining New York Hardcore and Tattoo Art with Steven Huie

Intertwining New York Hardcore and Tattoo Art with Steven Huie

Steven Huie on growing up in the hardcore scene, designing T-shirts, and what tattoos mean to the punk rock community.

Welcome to Tattoodo's Punk Rock Week! We're celebrating everything punk this week — from some scary dudes in New Jersey to heartbroken nerds from SoCal, and everything in between. We bitched about how being a NOFX fan used to be fun and weird, but now it's just problematic. And what would Punk Rock Week be without a little something about The Ramones. Here we chat with the man who likely designed that ratty old shirt of your favorite New York Hardcore band that you refuse to throw away.

If you’ve ever barrelled through a mosh pit at a Madball, Murphy’s Law or Cro-Mags show, we guarantee you’ve literally ran into one of Steven Huie’s designs thrashing about on a T-shirt. Spanning the last two and a half decades, Huie’s career as a visual artist exemplifies just how tight-knit the NYC tattoo and hardcore scenes were in the early-to-mid 1990s. Over the years, he’s created tons of graphics for band T-shirts and album covers and still does it to this day, doing his part to help support the subculture that put him on the map as an illustrator in the music industry.

“The first T-shirt design I ever did was for DMIZE. I grew up in in Astoria, Queens, the area where Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy's Law and guys from bands like Leeway lived, so we all ended up being friends,” says Huie. “I was really young, like only 18, so I was just stoked that it got used.” Though he was already training at the School for the Visual Arts, the shirt Huie made for DMIZE in ‘92 kick-started his career. Once people started wearing it, other bands began asking him to create designs, which landed him smack dab in the middle of the movement, drinking Crazy Horse at underground shows, tattooing all the band members, and partying around a stolen Christmas tree with Vinnie Stigma.

At one point during his twenties, Huie even accompanied Murphy’s Law on tour in 1995. “They were all hanging out together and were always like, ‘We’re having shows and you should come out to where we’re playing,’ so I ended up being a roadie and also working the merch booth, so I got to sell what I drew,” Huie explains. “I remember driving out to LA to pick up the band, and we stopped at Pink’s hotdog stand where Chuck Valle, their original bassist, passed away. It’s weird, we’ve all seen the same truck stops and gas stations. We’ve all been there, to those places where moments like that happened.”

As other bands caught wind of Huie’s work, he started designing more T-shirt graphics. Later in ‘92, he was commissioned by several hardcore bands, including Sick of It All. In these illustrations, you can see how his affinity for tattoo iconography was starting to develop. Huie and many of his fellow punk rockers were getting tattooed by Filip Leu and Chris Garver at Fun City’s speakeasy-style studio, and hints of their aesthetics appear in his designs. In the Sick of It All piece, for example, he took the band’s logo and turned it into a Japanese dragon being slayed by a samurai with Leu-esque skulls in the foreground.

After being Garver’s friend and client for a few years, Huie asked if he would show him the ropes. “I was sharing sketchbooks with him and told him I wanted to get into tattooing,” Huie recalls. “We went back and forth a bit, and he said, ‘You should. I’ll help you out.’ That was my first jump into the world of tattooing.” Aside from graduating from school and learning to tattoo, 1994 was a huge year for Huie. Several other major names in the hardcore scene requested designs, including Murphy’s Law and the Cro-Mags. One of the most influential pieces he created that year was for Madball, riffing off their disgruntled baseball logo by giving it a dislocated eye. Not only did this drawing make it onto the back cover of their Set It Off LP, but it has even been replicated as tattoos on fans.

Though Huie was just doing his friends a solid by creating art to promote their bands, while tattooing to pay the bills, his efforts paid off in ways that he never expected. “I actually met my wife at Sick of It All show. I was helping them set up their sound equipment, and my friend Frank told me he wanted me to meet this girl. She comes up and is wearing one of my shirts,” Huie says. “I couldn’t stop smiling, and my friend said, ‘Nice shirt, right?’ When he told her that I drew it, she just walked away and then came back with it on inside-out and said, ‘I don’t want you to think I sweat you or anything.’"

Huie believes hardcore iconography, whether it's a T-shirt or a tattoo, is about belonging to something bigger than yourself. “It was underground. It was fucking punk rock. Hoya Roc got this huge dragon from Garver.” Huie remembers. “A whole bunch of good friends were getting tattoos. We all wanted to be included. It was something we all did together. It was important."

Huie’s current work in hardcore music can be seen in the new Pitchfork NY Hardwear series of split CD’s as he is the cover artist for the series. Releases so far: Sheer Terror/The Old Firm Casuals, Agnostic Front/Powerhouse and the upcoming Sworn Enemy/Countime.

To see more of Huie’s body art and punk rock designs, make sure to follow him on Instagram. He operates out of Flyrite Tattoo in Brooklyn, NY and can be reached at stevenhuie@gmail.com for appointments.

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