Our apologies for the delay, but we can assure you this installment was well worth the wait. Matt Pincus part IV… dig in.
What type of fan were you of JUDGE before actually playing with the band? How many times would you have seen them, and how did they compare to the contemporaries at that time in your eyes (i.e. pre-Bringin’ It Down)? What type of a relationship did you have with Mike and Porcell before being in the band? Had you known Jimmy Yu?
Obviously, I had the 7″ which was an epic record and was getting everyone excited. I remember that in the early days no one was sure whether or not the band was a side project, but everyone was rooting for it. There was an edge to the record that made it pop right out; hard but clearly with some thoughtfulness behind it. Mike Judge had a real honesty to his voice and his lyrics that was something special. He just had integrity of presence in a unique way. Musically, Judge broke a bit of ground in the HC scene because the band brought together 3 strands that were happening at the time: the straightforward SE hardcore/Youth Crew energy, the harder and angrier themes coupled with heavier breakdowns along the lines of Cro-Mags type bands, and some of the heaviness and complexity of metal. It stood apart from the crowd right away. Mike had a lot to say.
I saw Judge only once before I joined, at the Anthrax in 1988. It may have been Jimmy’s last show with the band. I did not really know him. I’m not sure that many people did. He was Mike’s friend and I think that’s how he got into the scene.
I knew Porcell sort of well before I joined the band because Sammy was in YOT and I had seen them a bunch of times and done a few road trips with them. That said, I was a few years younger than him, so we didn’t hang out together all that much before I joined the band. Mike I didn’t know very well at all and I remember being super intimidated when I met him for the first time on a sort of “interview” as a potential new member of the band. It was at a practice space in the village. I think it was Giant Studios. Mike was a man of few words and I had no idea what he thought of me. That was true, in fact, for a long time after I joined the band.
Was there an actual audition process or did Sammy just bring you right into the fold? What was that first audition or rehearsal like? I’d imagine that as a young kid (at least compared with Mike and Porcell) and being a fan, it had to have been pretty fucking awesome. Can you recall details (was it Giant Studio?) and what you remember feeling to all of a sudden be playing in Judge?
Honestly, my memory of all of this is a bit hazy because it happened so fast and was 20+ years ago but I seem to recall that sometime between the beginning of 1988 and spring break Sammy told me that he had put me up for it because Jimmy was leaving and they had time booked at Normandy. I was told to learn the songs which, of course, I did fanatically. I then came into the city over a weekend and met the other guys at Giant Studios where we ran through a set. I felt like I had to sell Porcell and Mike on me hard because I’m sure they had options and they were super accomplished guys. I was probably more nervous for that practice than I was for me first show. I guess things went well because next thing you know I was doing intensive practices with Porcell and Sammy.
Looking back on it, I think there were probably two things that got me in the band. First, they needed someone because recording at Normandy with Tom Soares was expensive and it was booked. Remember that they had already done the Chung King sessions so Rev was deep in recording costs. Second, I think they were probably looking for someone on the younger side. At this stage in my life it sounds funny to me to say this but Mike and Porcell were pretty established guys at the time. Them on the frontline backed by a backline of kids was a good act. I was 16 at the time, and unknown, so I think that probably worked.
I think that the original assignment was simply that I was going to play on the record and that there was a good chance that they were going to find a permanent member to tour with the band. So, in order to get in the room, they didn’t have to commit to me permanently. I was still at boarding school burning off my sentence from the trouble I had gotten in as a kid and it wasn’t clear that I would be able to tour with them but I stuck around for a bunch of dates shortly after the recording and that turned into an offer to do an LA to NY run that summer. My senior year in school I moved back to NYC and just kept going with them.
*Similarly, can you recall whether you went directly to recording “Bringin’ It Down” at Normandy or was there a show first? Can you please describe whichever came first at length?
Again, my memory of chronology is not so great, but I definitely did not play a show with them before we made the record. I think the way it worked was that we did the record at Normandy and then did an LA run shortly after that and before the record came out. We flew out, borrowed a back-line, did a few dates and flew back. To be honest, the recording process was a bit of a blur as I did the whole thing in a 3 or 4 days I had off from school, so I was cramming pretty hard. All I remember really was playing my ass off in the dark studio and eating at this diner in the neighborhood like 15 times.
I remember that we stayed in an apartment above the studio. I did all of my basic tracks with Sammy in about 2 days, then overdubs, etc. The big debate was whether to go direct or to use my Ampeg SVT Preamp. We opted for the latter, which is what gives the bass that slightly distorted sound.
Tom Soares was quite a character, but had a lot of experience, especially with getting big sounds from metal bands. He brought a lot to the table in terms of making the record sound huge.
What I do remember is that my first show was at Fenders Ballroom in Long Beach. We were opening for YOT. There had been a fire about a week before and the corkboard ceiling was still kind of burned out. I had the flu something terrible and was in bed the entire day before the show with a fever of like 103. Leading up to the show, of course I was super nervous, but had a whole other layer of anxiety because I was particularly scared that I was going to pass out on stage which would have been terribly embarrassing. That was quite a day.
I still do remember Sammy’s 4 stick clicks before the set started though. Turned out to be an epic show.