Here’s our third installment of the Mike Judge interview and let me assure you, this one right here is a damn good one. If you haven’t caught up with the last two installments, dig into them and then get yourself back to this one pronto. -Tim DCXX
I learned how to take a bus from New Jersey out to New York City. I remember getting in trouble with police at Port Authority. If it was a nighttime show that I was going in to see it was tough because buses stopped running at 1am and if I didn’t make it back in time to catch it I’d have to sleep on a bench at Port Authority. So cops would see me and thought I was a runaway because I was like 13 or 14 years old. They’d be like, “where are you from?” I would tell them what I was doing and they’d be like, “so let’s get this straight…you’re 14, you’re from New Jersey, and you’re sleeping on a bench in Port Authority because you came in here to see some bands? That doesn’t make sense.” It happened a lot, but it was a small price to pay to see those bands and be a part of that. I just fell in love with it and really fell in love with the New York scene. The first friend I made was Vinnie Stigma. He was just cool, and he’d let me crash at his place. So on weekends I’d stay with him. If there wasn’t a show, everyone would hang out at the park on Avenue A at Tompkins Square. You’d go down there and hang out. It was everything I wanted. This whole world was $3 and a half hour ride away. I had companionship there. I loved it.
There were tons of drugs in the city and in Montville too. None of that surprised me. I was already drinking at like 13. I learned it from my Dad. I don’t remember my Dad ever not being drunk. Not necessarily during the day, but he’d work all day and then drink all night. He drank constantly, and then he bought a bar. So he’d never be home because he was too drunk to come home. My brother was the same way. He drank until he killed his liver and then he switched to cocaine. All my family back in West New York were junkies, dropping dead from heroin. My whole life was built around that and from seeing it, it was normal. When my mom died, my dad would send me to my grandmother’s house, his mom’s house in West New York for weekends. My grandmother would pawn me off to my cousin, whose name was Maryann. This was when I was like 8, 9, 10 years old.
My days with my cousin consisted of waking up in the morning, getting in the car with her and her boyfriend, going to the methadone clinic, and once they got their methadone we’d go into the Bronx for them to score heroin and find a movie theater so they could get high. So my first time seeing the movie The Warriors was in a movie theater in the Bronx. I’d sit there, they’d go a few rows back, shoot up, and I’d watch the movie. I was just a little kid. I saw The Warriors like that, I remember seeing King Kong like that. Crazy. I got kicked out once trying to see a double feature because when one movie ended I tried to go see another movie. I got thrown out and there I am standing on a corner in the Bronx waiting for my junkie cousin to come find me. I remember the blackout of ’77 being in her boyfriend’s car, going block to block. They were just robbing people, getting high, hooking up with people for shit. I remember reading Bloodclot’s book where he was talking about the blackout and what he was doing. I totally remember what I was doing. It was fucked up.
That’s what “In My Way” was about, it was about my cousin and that shit I saw. It was written about her. I kept those feelings bottled up for a long time from stuff I saw when I was a little kid. Those lyrics go back to stuff from then. The meaning of that song and the line “those drugs are gonna kill you, if I don’t get to you first” has been debated. When that song came out some people thought I had such a big heart and thought it was positive. Other people said, “no, he’s gonna kill the person if the drugs don’t.” And then someone else would say, “no he wants to help them.” Finally, I think I was reading Double Cross and I couldn’t take it, and I commented and said that it was written about my cousin and I really wanted to kill her. I either wanted to see her get so high that she dies or that I’d stomp on her head. Why? Well, first, cops had found her little daughter out on the sidewalk at 3 in the morning, her daughter was like 5 or 6 years old. They went to my cousin’s house and she’s inside and too fucked up to even know. The cops didn’t even arrest her or take her daughter away from her. And then a couple days later she got so high that she nodded off and the people she was getting high with raped her daughter. I wanted to kill her. I wasn’t around when that happened, I was here in Montville. After that my cousin burned her house down cooking up dope, she passed out and burned the place down. So that’s what “In My Way” was written about. It was pure fucking hate.
See, when I was that young, I didn’t know that drugs and drinking in general weren’t normal. I realized that doing dope and shit like my cousin was doing wasn’t normal, but I thought fathers just worked and got drunk. I thought big brothers just hung out in bars and snorted cocaine. It wasn’t until I was like 10 or 11 that I realized maybe it wasn’t normal. I remember going to this school dance and I didn’t really wanna go, but I brought a bottle of booze just so I could drink. And I would get drunk fast because I was a little shit kid. I did a lot of drugs. I did everything except heroin. I did lots of acid. I loved anything that made my mind expand. Drinking booze I did because it was easy, especially here in this town back then. Who didn’t? I remember going to shooting ranges with my neighbor’s father with six packs…drinking them and shooting the cans. I did mescaline, acid, mushrooms…anything and everything that would make my already crazy mind even crazier, I loved it. Because then I didn’t need anyone else. I had this active imagination where I had made up these armies of friends anyways, and now on these fuckin’ drugs I can actually see these friends and chill with them and send them to do shit for me and with me. I had been getting drugs in Montville. At least from my experience, the football team had the best drugs. By this point, there was more money in the area and the town exploded. The commute to NYC is 25 minutes, so it’s a perfect spot to live. All the kids who played football were the types who got new Corvettes when they turned 16. I don’t know where they got it, but they were supplying the burnouts with all kinda shit…mescaline, LSD. The punk rockers, not including me, were actually more clean cut. They got the bad rap. I was just fucked up because of my family and I thought it was all normal.
When I started going to NYC to see shows I remember an early trip and it was winter and it was cold and I went to see UK Subs. It was in the middle of the week. Nobody would go with me, so I went by myself. I went across from CB’s before the show and got a bottle of brandy and got fuckin’ loaded before the doors even opened. And when I went in to the show I got beat up really fuckin’ bad. I couldn’t tell you if I started it or not. I was still a wallflower type. I knew by then I had found my scene but I still wasn’t like out socializing. I don’t know why I got beat up but I got handled really, really bad. I remember missing the bus home because I slept in Port Authority and got the first bus back in the morning and dropped off in Pine Brook, right next to Montville. I started walking home and I’m all lumped up, bleeding, fat lip, busted teeth. I really had the boot taken to me. I’m walking while people are going to school and driving past. In that walk I realized I’d never put myself in a position where someone could fuckin’ handle me like that. That was the last time I ever drank. I wasn’t going to be that weak. After that when I’d see punks all fucked up looking half dead because they’re drunk and stoned, I’d think, “man…you’re ready to be taken advantage of, and you’re too fucked up to stop it.” I never wanted to feel that weak again.
At that point I knew what straight edge was from Minor Threat and other bands, but didn’t know people were actually “being” straight edge. That experience of getting beat up that badly made me realize I didn’t want my head handed to me. I wanted to be able to defend myself. I wanted to be able to paint the walls with that guy by myself. Anything that would dull my edge so to speak…I wasn’t gonna do it. I stopped doing drugs, drinking, everything, I was done.
Everyone had told me heroin was the greatest thing ever. I really believe the only thing that kept me from doing that was that I was deathly afraid of needles, they just make my knees buckle. That’s the the only reason I didn’t try it. And by the time that stuff happened with my niece, I was hating on those people and junkies. I was getting away from it. That whole extended part of my family was just one let down after another. I remember coming home and on the TV news there was a story about a shootout in the Bronx where a girl was shot dead. Turned out to be my cousin Guy’s wife. She went to the Bronx to get dope and her tire blew out and cops thought she was shooting at her so they shot and killed her. So Guy sues the city and got very wealthy and blew all the money on dope and was dirt poor, went through depression, and killed himself. I had no sympathy. This guy didn’t go into depression until he went broke. He didn’t get depressed because his wife died. He just got depressed because now he’d have to work to get his dope. I hated all of them. That’s why I stopped using my last name.
When Paul Schraft told me about his band Sand In The Face I went there and they were a three piece and I watched them rehearse. I’m like, “Wow they are actually playing songs.” I was so stoked that I started my own band that week after seeing them. The first band was with Howard. He came up with the name. It was gonna be called Manic Depression. The plan was that he’d play guitar and I’d sing. But he wanted to write all the words. That band didn’t go anywhere, the idea didn’t even leave the bedroom.
Then I started another band with Jimmy and Steven Yu. I hadn’t known them. I met Steven because he was one of the older punks with Paul Schraft. He was one of the more friendly guys. But then there was a war between Howard and Paul, the two older guys. I was more on Paul’s side. If you hung with one you couldn’t hang with the other. There were also two punks from here who were older and out of school. Sue Gluck and Carl Rosen. They barely came out. Sue went to art school in San Francisco and came back and told us there were punks in California. We thought it was just here in New York. When the first band didn’t work out with Howard, Paul had told me to keep trying, that along with Sand In The Face, we’ll make a scene. So Paul had talked to Steven Yu about playing guitar. Jimmy was already playing guitar but wasn’t into punk. Steven was older and a little bit of a dick and didn’t want to play bass. So he had to learn guitar and Jimmy switched to bass. I’d be the singer and I was writing lyrics. The name if the band was Future Confusion, which was pre-Death Before Dishonor. One of the first songs was called “Drugs Can’t Help.” It was a little childish, but in my mind I knew what I really wanted to say but I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag or let them know how mad I was and how bad things were with what I was seeing.
Around this time Steven got his license and didn’t want to take the bus into NYC anymore, he’d drive us instead. Even if Steven wasn’t going I would still take the bus. When the band first started Steve would drive and we would go every weekend. After about a year Steven started to drop off a little bit because he graduated and had a girlfriend. Slowly he wasn’t into it and later would quit the band. But when Future Confusion had started, we played one show at A7. Vinnie Stigma told us that was a stupid name. It was Jimmy on bass, Steven on guitar, me singing, and Pete Karlen on drums. Pete had been the bass player in Sand In The Face. After a while Paul Schraft didn’t want Pete in two bands. So we got this guy named Paul Moser from Chatham, New Jersey and he later joined Sand In The Face too, but he was a really good drummer. Even though Jimmy was a natural on bass, Paul’s talent level was so far above ours.
We had met Mark Ryan around this time when Future Confusion was going. Mark was from New Jersey and he asked Steven for a ride home from a show once so we started talking to Mark. He lived off Route 3 in Nutley which is the same town as Keith from Cause For Alarm. So we started hanging out with Mark. We also changed the name to Death Before Dishonor. Roger had hooked us up with Billy Psycho on drums. We played A7 again. I don’t know of any photos with this line up or any photos with me singing. The one time at A7 we almost didn’t even play because the Necros were playing in NY and I was pen pals with Barry. So we got to the city, checked in at A7, left to see Necros, and then made it back to play A7 at like 5am. But I don’t know of any photos. It wasn’t like back then people had cameras and shit. Sometimes they didn’t even have shoes.
Billy Psycho couldn’t keep doing it. So now we needed a new drummer. Mark Ryan had a band called Atoms 12 that was short lived. I really wanted to do a band, so I said I’d learn drums and we’d have Mark sing. So I bought a second hand set from Sand In The Face, learned a fast hardcore beat, Mark started singing, and that was the new DBD line up that would turn into Supertouch. Mark singing, Jimmy on bass, Steven on guitar, and me on drums.
Singing hadn’t been natural to me. I loved the fact that I could call myself a singer and that I could get these demons out of my head by writing stuff down and then screaming about them, but I was deathly afraid of standing up in front of people. I would honestly feel like dying in school if I was called on in class. To stand up and read anything in front of a class, I would be in a full blown panic. That’s why I got out kicked out of every class and placed into what they called a “transition class” where all the fuck up kids were. I got put there ¾ way through my freshman year and never got out, but I loved it there. This paralyzing fear though…there was no cure. I saw school psychologists and there was never any help from them. I could never answer their questions truthfully. At that point I knew things were wrong the way I was brought up and how I was living. I remember this family moved next door and the family would go camping and I went once because they had two kids. And I remember sitting on this camping trip and the mom is making food and the dad is setting up tents and everyone is joking around and having a good time. I’m sitting there thinking “wow maybe I’m wrong, maybe all dads aren’t getting loaded at night.” So when I got into school and these psychologists were asking what was wrong I couldn’t just tell them everything around me was wrong and fucked up. I was thinking like, “you teach math. You’re gonna fix the problems I have around me?” I wouldn’t look them in their eye. I wouldn’t tell them the truth. When they asked me why I wouldn’t open up to them, I’d just be a dick and say, “maybe I don’t like you.”
I spent most of my life deflecting or throwing a fist at something. One way or another…