In 1991, at the height of its popularity, the New York hardcore band Judge broke up, leaving a long and storied career of incredible music and hyper-violent gigs for the history books. In the decades that followed, Judge’s meager output became hardcore punk 101 for much of the growing scene who built upon their metal-tinged riffs and attitude. While the legend grew, lead singer Mike Ferraro virtually disappeared, only to reemerge in 2013 at Webster Hall to headline one of the most respected hardcore punk festivals in the country, Black N’ Blue Bowl. Noisey caught up with the revered frontman during, before and after his triumphant return to the stage.
Judge firing on all cylinders, crushing heaviness to a completely packed room, it doesn’t get much better. Although stage diving was still banned at City Gardens, at that point, the energy flowed though that crowd like a high tension wire. Such a great show, one of my personal favorites from the years I went to shows there. – Tim DCXX
Ashley Gasper just hit my inbox with a grip of photos of JUDGE from the third night of the Musink Festival in Orange County, CA this past Sunday to share with you all. Enjoy these great pics and big thanks to Ashley for sending these over.
MATT AND MIKE WITH JUDGE AT CITY GARDENS | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
You get tired of being in the van on the road. Being broke, not having food. Seven guys in the van, with equipment, you’re never alone with some of your own space. I remember one time driving in the desert and just bugging out. I said you guys have to pull over. They pulled over and I got out and just started walking away from the van into the desert. My mind was so scrambled. I wanted it all to be over. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t even stretch out my arm without hitting somebody next to me, and I’d been in there for a month.
I remember this show we played and this kid was like, “hey you guys can come back and stay at my house and sleep, my parents aren’t home.” So I told the dudes in the band, “look we’ll stay at this kid’s house. I’m taking a bed.” We get there and the kid had a really nice house and I get to this room and it’s dark but I see the bed and I seriously just walk in and lay down, close the door and get into this bed. It was awesome because I hadn’t been in a bed at all to sleep for weeks. But as I’m in there sleeping, kids start to come to the house from the show and they start to come into the room to sleep on the floor. There’s like five kids in the room and they are all talking about the show and about Judge’s set. They are talking about what songs we played and when they were stage diving and shit. I’m thinking “how do I tell these dudes to stop talking so I can sleep, but not be a dick to them?” So finally I say, “hey guys, if you wanna talk about the show, I’ll talk about the show all day tomorrow, but for now I gotta sleep, is that cool?” The one kid was like “oh yeah, I’m sorry.” But somebody had to get up and turn a light on and when the light goes on I realize that the entire room is filled with tanks of snakes, EVERYWHERE. Everywhere, covering the room, there were snakes in all these tanks. I got the fuck out of there and slept in the van.
The craziest tour story was with Luke in Lititz, Pennsylvania when YOT and GB played out there. At the show, this kid says we can stay at his house. He was a little nerdy and telling us he had no friends and his parents were so stoked to have us over to the house to hang out with him. We were cool with it. By the time we get there it’s like 2am. The lights are on and the parents are up. They are all excited, the mom is cooking pasta for all of us, the dad is super friendly and the house is really nice. Off of the kitchen was this big living room that had this real high ceiling with rafters, and the second floor was a walk around with a balcony that looked over out onto the living room, and the bed rooms were off of it on that floor.
JUDGE IN FLORIDA | PHOTO COURTESY OF REV
So finally after we eat and everything we all lay down on the living room floor to go to sleep. I’m next to Luke and I’m like, “man isn’t it weird how nice these people are?” Luke is like, “yeah, they are almost too nice man, it’s weird.” It was a little over the top. We’re laying there, other guys have fallen asleep, some are talking, and Luke and I are staring at the rafters. There’s a ceiling fan up in the rafters. Luke says, “I get a weird feeling from that ceiling fan.” I said, “man I’ve been looking at it and I have the same feeling. It’s weird.” Luke says, “there’s something just not right about this place.” Then I feel something like fly across my face, super fast. It brushes my face, and it’s bright red. I said to myself, “what the fuck was that!?” I figure I must have dozed off and been dreaming. But then it happens again. Luke goes, “dude what the fuck was that!?” I said, “Luke did you feel something?” He says, “yeah some red thing just touched my face!” We’re both like, “what the fuck was that?” Luke was like a little dude, and he got scared. He was freaked out.
We’re still laying there and we hear this crazy super loud shriek from a girl. Luke and I both heard it and start talking about it. Everybody else down there is like, “what are you guys talking about?” They didn’t hear anything. Luke is super freaked out now and wanted to go to the van. I said, “no man stay here, let’s stick together.” So now everyone is like totally quiet, just a little whispering. Then out of nowhere the father yells from his room upstairs, “YOU FUCKING KIDS SHUT THE FUCK UP DOWN THERE OR I WILL COME DOWN THERE AND YOU WILL ALL FUCKING PAY!!!” Luke is like, “dude we need to get the fuck out of here, seriously.” I tell him, “no just wait dude, stay here, don’t go out there.” Everyone is like, “what the fuck? Oh my God.” We didn’t know what to do. So we keep laying there and a little time goes by and Luke and I are still staring at this ceiling fan, and this thing comes down from the fan right at us. It turns at the last second and skims my face and then skims Luke’s face. Dude…we were petrified. We just laid there frozen. We didn’t say a word until morning. I don’t know if we slept or not.
That morning Cappo was gone. The mom came downstairs and starts cooking breakfast, and the dad comes down and they are both super nice and friendly. I’m like “uhh, this is weird…because that dad wanted to kill us a few hours ago and that shit was weird.” Cappo comes in. He had gone with the son somewhere in the van. Cappo comes in and is like, “ok guys, time to go, gotta get on the road.” We’re like, “nah dude we’re gonna have breakfast.” He says, “nope, gotta go, gotta get to the next stop, right now. Seriously, right now, everybody out.” It was super weird. We all grab our shit as Cappo hurries us out, we get in the van and the family comes out to say goodbye. Cappo floors it out of there, and we go ripping down the street. As soon as we get out of the community, he pulls into this parking lot and turns around. Everyone is wondering what he is doing. Cappo says, “that fucking place is haunted. You don’t know how lucky we are to have gotten the hell out of there. That dad is psychotic, he’s beating the kid. The kid told me. The kid’s older brother hung himself from those rafters. The parents are crazy. The kid is all fucked up. We are fucking lucky.” I was like sick to my stomach. I think Luke may have been crying. We got the hell out of there. Seriously man… craziest shit ever. Craziest and scariest shit I’ve ever seen. Luke knows what I am talking about. That was a fucking ghost.
MIKE AND THE CITY GARDENS CROWD | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
MIKE AND PORCELL WITH JUDGE AT CITY GARDENS, TRENTON, NJ | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
I learned how to play guitar by the time we were writing the music for Bringin’ It Down. Chung King was a disaster. We ended up at Normandy Sound. We weren’t trying to be metal, but we made a conscious effort to play a little slower and really find a groove. We didn’t like how that Chung King recording turned out. I don’t hear the metal in the Bringin’ It Down record like people talk about. I guess the intro of “Like You” has a little bit of that. I don’t think I wrote a complete song on that record, I just wrote parts. Porcell would finish everything off. It had a feel I suppose, but I just never thought it was metal.
There were a few differences in things from the Chung King recording to the recording of Bringin’ It Down. Like, Porcell told me not to sing the “stay off the tracks” line at the end of the song “Bringin’ It Down.” He thought it was corny. But I sing that line when we do the song now. I like it.
When Jimmy left, we were in a pinch. Matt came into the band through Sammy and had little time to get up to speed. We were about to go to Normandy Sound. We needed a bass player and he was good, he could play really well. He was young, like Sammy’s age, and I didn’t know him. But nothing ever really bothered me about Matt. Once we got on tour he started smoking cigarettes, which annoyed the fuckin’ shit out of me. One time on tour we stopped somewhere so the other dudes could go in a river. We were always stopping for that sort of thing. So we stop and Matt and I stayed at the van while the other dudes went swimming and I was laying in the loft. Matt couldn’t go in the river because he had a fucked up toe. He got out of the van to smoke a cigarette with the van door’s open. He was smoking it right next to the open door…it was like he was going out of his way for me to know he was smoking. I never said anything mean to Matt, because I loved him. But that time, I had to say, “Matt you are fucking poking at a tiger right now, and I will tear you apart if you blow smoke in this van one more time.” As far as someone even smoking in Judge…see, I wrote all those lyrics. I couldn’t expect those guys to come close to even knowing what I was talking about. Those weren’t their lyrics and that was fine. Like, Sammy and Matt are so far from how I grew up it’s not even funny. Sammy had a freaking elevator in his house in the city. I had a wood burning stove on a farm. But that’s fine. I got along with those dudes, I love them. They were my vehicle in Judge and that wasn’t lost on me.
That first Judge tour (summer ’89) was tough because of how many rumors had gone around. Every town had a guy who wanted to prove that I wasn’t all that tough. We would show up and all these exaggerated, blown-out-of-proportion-stories had already beat us to that town based on stuff that happened in the last town we had played. When we got to California, these dudes wanted us to come out and fight these racists at a Klan rally. We were staying at Mike Madrid’s house and I answered the phone. This dude starts telling me, not knowing it’s me, that they need Judge to come out and fight these dudes for them. Like, he really thought we were gonna come in there and just fight people left and right for whatever cause. I’m thinking, “what are we, fucking Navy Seals?” The rumors were insane. We would show up somewhere and we’d ask the local kids what they had heard, and then I’d be listening in on these “Mike Judge stories.” There was all sorts of stupid shit. A good one was that I lived in Germany because I had killed a cop, and I rode around on a motorcycle in Germany with his head on my handlebars. Just far fetched ridiculous shit. But people said this stuff and believed it, or at least wondered about it.
LARS, DYLAN, PORCELL, MATT, SAMMY AND MIKE, BACK STAGE AT CITY GARDENS, POST “WHERE IT WENT” VIDEO SHOOT SHOW | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
We had met the Integrity guys when I was in YOT. We hit it off, especially with Chubby Fresh. Then we went out to Cleveland in Judge and those dudes love us. Dwid really loved us. After that, Dwid sent me a demo tape of his band Integrity. They had crossed baseball bats and “hard edge” written with their name, and I’m like “ohhh man, this is all my fault.” Then Bringin’ It Down comes out and not long after that Dwid is convinced that I’m a pussy and I sold out and all this shit. Every interview he did in a fanzine was the same thing with him talking all this shit. We left on tour and got out to Cleveland and when we pull into town Chubby Fresh runs up and he’s like “hey what’s up man!” He goes off with the other guys in the band. I tell Todd, “go find Dwid and bring him to the van.” Todd comes back with Dwid and Dwid is like, “hey Mike what’s up man, how’s it going?! I love the new record bro!” I’m like, “come on into the van, man.” So I handed him all the fanzines where he said shit about me. Me and Todd made him read all of the interviews to me out loud. All the parts where he said I was a sell out and a faggot and a pussy…I made him read it right to me. He was like, “awww man you know how it is! They always misquote me!” Todd and I were just laughing. I wasn’t gonna kick his ass or anything. It was more fun to watch him read those parts and try to explain it.
The dynamic on the road changed with Todd there. I could relax and enjoy it because I wasn’t watching my back anymore. On that first tour, I wouldn’t even see the guy coming. I’d get suckered by somebody. It happened a few times, but it was stressful because every show had a guy trying to intimidate me, and you never knew when something was gonna go down. People wanted to knock off the “hard” New York guy. It was never the big cities. It was the little towns. We were on the road, we’re not making any money, ten people are showing up at the gig and five of them are there to show off to their girlfriends and intimidate me. Like, come on. After that, I told those dudes in the band, “I am picking someone to come on the road with us next time.” For the other guys in the band, they had a great old time. It was no worry to them.
(We asked Mike if he had any issue with Lars coming into the band given the fact that Lars played in Uppercut, who notoriously wrote the song “Am I Clear?” and obviously took a different stance regarding SE as a band than Judge ever did. Mike said he had never even heard Uppercut, didn’t know anything about the song, and that Lars worked out fine.)
Ryan Hoffman from Chain Of Strength had been out on the east coast, I guess before Lars, and he played a show or two with us on second guitar. I don’t remember the circumstances but in YOT we had stayed at his house for weeks out in California. His family put us up, was really good to us, and we hung a lot. I don’t know what the deal was with him playing in Judge but I think he moved back west. He’s a really good guy.
“WHERE IT WENT” VIDEO SHOOT, PRE SHOW FOOTAGE | PHOTO: UNKNOWN
With the “Where It Went” video shoot, I remember wondering, “are you sure we should be doing a video? Will anybody show up? City Gardens is a big place and we’ll look really foolish if nobody shows.” I remember being stoked because it was totally packed. We kept having to do the song over and over for the video and I was nervous because the crowd might not be digging that. The worst part was that we had to lip synch and act like we were doing the song. It was our buddy Eric doing the video. He was in film school and we had the idea to do the video, but he could do it cheap. There was no talk about what it would be like. We just hoped the crowd would go off for us and we could have good live footage in the video. Man, the City Gardens crowd went off for us that night. That was a great time and a great club.
Once Todd was in as our roadie, it was fun. On one tour we were headed home and stopped in the Rocky Mountains because it looked so cool. There was this Indian chick selling trinkets and shit on the side of the road. We hit it off with her and she gives us this thing to “bless our van for good travels.” It was this bag of green shit that she tells us we are supposed to put on the muffler and it would smoke and bless the van. I’m like “uhhhh…thank you?” So I just put it in my bag. Then we get to Texas and are pulled over. I’m in the front passenger seat and there were two or three cops. They had chewing tobacco, bad southern hick accents, total typical Dukes of Hazzard shit. They are saying, “why loookee here, they’re from New York! They’re from New York!” They ask us all to get out of the van. They say “we’re gonna look in the van.” They started going through my bag and I’m not even thinking about it, but they find this baggie of green shit. He thought he hit the jackpot. The one cop is like “oh my god! Look at this! Whataya we got here yankee boys?!” Porcell whispers to me, “what’s that?!” I’m like, “Oh shit…that Indian chick.” So the hick cop wants to know what it is and where I got it, and I say, “Look…you’re not going to believe this. Soooo, we met this Indian chick…by the side of the road…near the Rocky Mountains…and she said if I put this on our tailpipe, it would smoke and bless our van.” The dude was not fucking laughing at all. He steps towards me and says, “boy…did you say, Indian, on the ride of the road, near the rocky mountains? Boy, listen here. Just tell me where the goddamn drugs are.”
So they start walking around. They see an anti-klan sticker on the van and they start saying, “ohhh why look at this! These yankee boys are a bunch of nigger lovers!” Now they’re looking at me. They say, “so what’s it like in New York? Ever have a nigger chick?” I’m like, uhhhh…I don’t know what to say. I’m just disgusted. He spits out chewing tobacco on my Vans. It was like a bad movie. They start this thing with each other then. “Hey Roy, ever have a nigger?” “Naw I never had no nigger. What about you Bob, you ever have a nigger?” “Naw, I never had no nigger.”
(Todd: They find this thing of patchouli oil in one of Porcell’s bags. They say, “oh boy!!! Jackpot!” I jump in and I say, “officer, it’s nothing. It’s patchouli. It’s like cologne.” Porcell is giggling. I’m like, “Porcell, dude…stop giggling. We’re about to get ass fucked RIGHT NOW.” The cop looks at us and says, “if I smell that, and I get fucked up, ya’ll are gonna die.” So he smells it and he says, “GODDAMNIT BOY! You smell like a mothball!!!” Then the other cop says “does this shit get you laid in New York?”)
There are a thousand of these stories…
JUDGE “WHERE IT WENT” VIDEO SHOOT SHOW CROWD | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
Leading up to the recording of the seven inch, we rehearsed at Giant and the rehearsals consisted of Porcell playing guitar and me play drums. Then Porcell plays guitar and I sing over that. When we got to Fury’s that’s how we did it. We rehearsed maybe three or four times. Since we lived together we’d go over stuff at the apartment, too. Originally I wrote everything on a bass. Porcell polished it all up. I had all the words. When we got to Fury’s it was me and him taking turns doing each thing putting it all together. Jimmy had helped me write Fed Up, musically. All those words were written way before the music came into play. He helped me write Fed Up because I knew exactly what I wanted and it was simple. I fuckin’ loved the BOLD song “Wise Up.” I couldn’t play guitar so I couldn’t even learn Wise Up to rip it off. So I went to Jimmy and I said “Jimmy I want to rip this song off, totally. But I want it to say Fed Up instead of Wise Up.” It was that basic. So Jimmy wrote it, and I had to bring it to Porcell. And I had no idea how to show it to Porcell, so we wrote it down on paper, like notes.
Everything else I wrote, but it was written in parts and then Porcell and I put it all together as songs. The words had come over the years at different times, so many were from when I was young. I had written songs like “Drugs Can’t Help” as a little kid…but I mean, I would never say something like that in that nice of a way. That’s just stupid. So the real old lyrics never made it to Judge. I have this old trunk with all these old lyrics and photos and shit. I dug photos out from when we recorded at Fury’s and put those up online. Fury was totally psyched on those. He said that was like a landmark session at that studio.
The experience of recording that record was awesome. We did it around Christmas and I remember walking to the studio and down near Mulberry Street they were selling Christmas trees and it was just an awesome time in New York. I had no idea I was recording this record that would change my whole life and carry so much weight. The whole experience was perfect. Walking to the studio with Christmas trees on the sidewalk, and that smell of the trees and Christmas. It was just a really special thing.
So once we started recording, we had the music like 95% done and then we had to do vocals. I remember Porcell going, “dude, have you ever really sang? What’s it sound like.” I was like, “I don’t know, it’s been a long time. I’ve been screaming in my fucking car just to see…but I don’t know.” I had been singing in practices at Giant, but you’d have to see the old Giant studios…that studio was pure shit, you couldn’t hear anything. So he had no sense of what I sounded like and neither did I. But at Fury’s, I let it all out on that first song, and it was crystal clear. Before I started, I made them turn off the lights in the vocal room, and in their control room. They couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t see them. It was black. The song started and I went. When it ended, the lights came on. Porcell goes “oh my God man!!! It’s fucking awesome dude! You sound like you’re fucking possessed! Holy shit it sounds great!”
Hearing it back was a little weird. I wanted to sound like Choke. I wanted to sound like Brannon. To get into the mood to write, I would listen to Last Rights. Chunks was so fucking heavy. I wanted that. It didn’t have to be super fast or crunchy. It can be a mood. I think the best thing Judge ever did was The Storm. That was perfect in what I wanted. It’s not like “crunch heavy” with like a low chugging thing. It’s just a big open structure with ringing guitars and this fucking mood. I feel so evil inside hearing that. When I hear that drum beat, it changes my mood instantly. It’s like a switch in my head. I wish I could go on the other side and just hear it performed instead of being in it as the singer. But it’s also the song I can’t wait to sing.
So after I did the vocals, we did the back-ups. That was fun as hell. It was me, Porcell, Sammy, Luke…it was a blast.
JUDGE – “NEW YORK CREW” FIRST PRESS, SCHISM RECORDS
My girlfriend at the time, Anne, was cheating on me with this skinhead. I didn’t even care because I was creating this perfect thing, this perfect record. I remember she was with him and her and I had to talk and he was there with her and it was right when the whole recording was finished. But I didn’t even care, it didn’t even bother me. She was like “things just aren’t working out with us.” I was like “ok yep that’s fine!” I just didn’t care. I actually said, “yeah…umm, nevermind that – listen to this!” So I put the tape in the boombox to play it because I’m so excited. She’s like “what the fuck is wrong with you?” I’m like, “never mind that! Listen to this part!!!” And the skinhead goes, “man what is this?” I sai,d “this is my fucking new band, Judge.” He goes, “man this is fucking awesome!” So here’s my old lady cheating on me with this skinhead and we’re sitting around a boombox listening to it going “it’s fucking great!” So she says to me, “look, umm…I’ll get rid of him, so do you want to hang out later?” I’m like “nah look I have to take this to Brooklyn and play it for other people.” I just didn’t even care about anything other than that recording and how it had come out.
When we were done recording, I figured that was it. We’d put it out as a record, I’d wait for MRR to slam it, I’d laugh about it, and that would be it. But people freaked out about it when it came out. People responded to it. But I never planned for it to be a band. I thought it was just a record.
The idea for the hammers was mine. It was the Cockney Rejects, I loved them. I always loved that. It was hard, man. Those hammers are just hard. At the time I didn’t know the hammers would end up as any continuous theme or reference point in Judge. I just knew I wanted that logo. I had no idea those hammers were gonna live with me the rest of my fuckin’ life. It just worked out that way. I ended up having the hammers tattooed on me after that, but later on I had motorcycle club tattoos tattooed near them and around them. When I got out of the club I either had to have the tattoos covered up…or I had to have them cut off if I was found. So, I covered them. But those hammers are still there underneath it all.
I didn’t have anything to do with the cover of the record. When Alex and Porcell handed me that cover all finished I said, “damn that’s pretty awesome.” That’s me on the B Side label wearing Richie’s New Balances. All of us used to trade sneakers and share each other’s stuff. I’m sitting by Some Records in the steps that go down to the basement apartment. Those guys were standing over me taking the photo. Those gloves were gardening gloves. They weren’t construction gloves. I had gotten into the city to hang out and do those photos and it was cold. We were gonna go tag “JUDGE” all over the city. I stopped in a bodega and all they had were these fucking ladies gardening gloves. I bought them and put X’s on them. They aren’t the construction gloves that people think they are.
The back cover photo of Porcell is him up front at a Crippled Youth show, you can see Matt in the photo. Porcell was dancing during their set.
NEW YORK CREW DON FURY’S RECORDING SESSION PHOTOS
So the record came out and that was it for a while. We hadn’t gotten members or made it anything other than something Porcell and I recorded and put out. Months later, it was like a Wednesday or Thursday and there was a show at the Anthrax that somebody was playing that Fridaynight. Porcell says, “dude, let’s have Judge play Friday night.” I was like, “hmmm, alright.” He said, “I’ll get Drew, you get Jimmy Yu. We’ll do it.” It was that fast. We got it all together and met up at Don Fury’s on the way to the show for a really quick rehearsal. It was just spur of the moment. We rehearsed the seven inch songs and “We Just Might.” That was the stipulation, we had to play that. I don’t know who else played. It was weird having people sing along to my words, especially when a lot of the kids were younger. I was pushing for the reaction of people getting mad at me at that first show. I wanted that. Instead, I got all this support. It was weird. But we thought we should keep it going.
We ended up getting Luke and he played with us for a while. He had really wanted to stay in the band, but Raybies didn’t want him in another band in addition to Warzone. Ray didn’t come up to me and directly say he didn’t want it happening, but he sort of asked me about the intentions of the band with Luke. He basically said that Warzone had the same plans as Judge, and that Luke was in Warzone before Judge, and that if Judge was going to take him they would have to get a new drummer. I basically said that if Luke needs to make a decision, then we’d find a new drummer. Luke was bummed, but it was only right. I didn’t even know Sammy. Sammy was friends with Porcell. I was good friends with Jules, but I didn’t know Sammy that well. Sammy worked out. I never really thought about his age. It was tough finding bass players and drummers. We were happy to have him, and he brought Matt into the band with him because at that point Jimmy couldn’t stay in.
People took to the band and the message. They liked it so much that I started seeing that these words that I wrote were causing people to act on them. I thought maybe I fucked up, that I started bad shit. I thought maybe I was the beginning of the wrong thing. I put myself out there and had to back it up. Whereas in something like Project X, it wasn’t serious. I thought it was hoaky. I thought that they were doing a caricature of how I really felt at the time. I thought the fake names were a little goofy. Those guys weren’t hard, you know?
I wrote these songs and words and put my ass on the line and once it became a band I was by myself. Porcell is basically a pacifist. And the other guys in the band are fifteen year old kids. In every town we came into on the road, every tough guy wanted to fight me since I was the guy from New York who said what he said. Jimmy was a fighter, a hot head. But he never toured with us. He was already into the temple and on his way to becoming an interpreter for a monk. So he didn’t tour, he just played locally. After the first tour we did I realized that when it came time to back up these words, I would be by myself. That’s how Todd came in. Because when it was time to stand up and throw hands, he’d be there with me. I needed him there.
We started writing new material. Porcell was real gung ho about Judge. I never asked him if Cappo gave him any shit about it while YOT was still going. Cappo at the time told me he didn’t like the message. He thought I was un-doing what took him years to accomplish. I laughed. He knew how I felt about YOT at that point. It bothered me because he finally got the balls up to confront somebody…but of all people, that person was me. I don’t know. I love Ray. I don’t want to come off like I am talking bad about him. There’s an ego that drives his motives a lot of times and maybe back then. I don’t think he was upset that I was putting a negative message out…I think he was upset that I was putting out a message, period. I was supposed to be YOT’s boy, and now the baby has grown and he’s not cute anymore. But I want to be really clear that I do love Ray. That was a long time ago.
SAMMY, MIKE, PORCELL AND JIMMY | PHOTO: ALEX BROWN
Writing the LP songs, I was still listening to the same stuff to get pumped, musically. Lyrically, I listened to a lot of Neil Young. But I had always been doing that. I always thought he was the master of writing lyrics, the master of being brutally honest with a life that is put into lyrics as an open wound that you can just sit there and pick at. What I wrote for lyrics, that is my damage. It’s the best way for me to let it out and write it down, and what fits in a song fits in a song.
The song “Bringin’ It Down” had two of three other verses that we had to cut out because the song wasn’t long enough. It was going to be the Judge theme song. It was supposed to be the message statement: stomping out the drug abuse, stomping out the ignorance, stomping out the racism. There was a lot more to it about booze and drugs, but it got cut down.
“Take Me Away” had a bunch of different parts to it. Part of it is about how some people are into music just based on how the music sounds…it’s about people who don’t care about the message. I would meet all these people that were really getting into Hare Krishna, but they weren’t really into the message, they were just into the image. There was no spirituality, there was just a fashion. I was commenting on that. It was about how I didn’t want to learn any spiritual stuff just to get over on someone who hasn’t taken the time to learn that shit. Some of those Krishna bands were like that. I met so many people who were simply into wanting to find a mall that sold the yellow mustard and haircut and a robe. Even before Shelter started, I was meeting people who were getting into it. People were saying they were stoked on it, but they were really just stoked that it gave them a reason to hang out with Ray and get close with him. It was just a way into something. If I could read a book and learn things to say and get over on some fools because they haven’t taken the time to figure out if I’m full of shit or not…where does that get me?
There’s other parts in the song that are about some guys who were dangerous NYHC types even though they were into spirituality. They were pushing this message, but at the end of the day they are the guys that are the first ones to feed on the meek, use them, and throw them away.
I was also wondering that if there is some all-powerful something or another out there, then maybe I shouldn’t have to try so fucking hard to keep myself in check. I’ve always said that I’m one slip away from being some fucking drug addict in an alleyway. I always feel like I am going through life driving down the road with the devil riding shotgun telling me to turn here or turn there. If there is something so good out there to protect, then why am I fighting this hard to just keep myself alive? You know, like, if you’re really here, then you take the wheel for a second…fucking help me out.
There was a lot of shit going on when my dad was sick and dying over the course of two years around that time. I wasn’t good at just sitting down and writing a song about one thing. That song has bits from all over the place. But watching my dad, I thought, “why does this have to happen, and why does it have to be so slow. Why can’t you just take the life? Why do you have to take the dignity and self-respect first? And what is the reward? How can all that shit happen if there’s something so great out there?” It just doesn’t make sense to me.
By that point in Judge, Porcell was with me but I didn’t know Matt or Sammy well. They were younger and that was fine. I already came to the conclusion that I’m a little fucked up in my mindset, and that’s just the way that it is. I could be surrounded by all my good friends, but at some point in the night, I’m gonna feel alone anyways. It’s just how my mind works. But I had realized that I don’t have a problem with that…with feeling alone in a crowd, so to speak.
I knew we needed to shift gears moving forward with Judge. I talked to Porcell about it. Even after the seven inch came out and it got the reaction it did, I had started to write lyrics that explained why I wrote those original lyrics. With the new lyrics, I wanted people to see that I’m all fucked up, that they shouldn’t take my words as the truth. But the more I explained that, it was like people identified with it more. It was different from YOT where we were all supposed to be healthy, happy, free and love each other. In Judge the lyrics were ugly and showed that I didn’t have it all figured it. But man…people took to it…
MIKE, SAMMY, PORCELL AND JIMMY | PHOTO: ALEX BROWN
I was pissed on the people coming down on YOT and Ray for the positive message of the band. But I was also wanting to lash out at YOT for not knowing when that positivity isn’t going to work to get through to people. Those guys in Detroit…nothing was going to get through to them. In my mind only one thing would get through to them. Those guys in Detroit thought they got over on us. So what good is a positive message when people are just laughing in your face about it?
Eventually we were in Florida on a YOT tour and the van broke down and we stayed at these girls’ apartment for a week and the van was parked in a junk yard. We would each take turns sleeping in the van guarding the equipment and during the day we would work in the junkyard to pay for parts to fix the van. So on my night to sleep in the van I was there I came up with the idea and name of Judge. I came up with lyrics and this and that, and Porcell came down to keep me company. He asked what I was doing and I said “when I get back to NYC I’m quitting YOT and this is what I am doing.” He was like “why, guy? Guy you can’t do that!” I said “I can’t keep doing this and letting people walk all over us.” I explained more and then finally he said “man that sounds really cool. So…do you need a guitar player?”
We sat there all night talking about this band that didn’t even really exist yet. We developed the whole plan for Judge. Before I was Mike Judge I was Mike James. I had stopped using my last name for a long time. People also called me Mike DBD. Calling the band Judge was about the band being an authority figure. Everything that you’re not supposed to be in this music…I wanted to show that and force it on people. That authority voice, that cop attitude, that hard stance. I wanted that. Something like SSD…something you saw in big block letters that was right there in your face…something that would look good as a tattoo. That’s what I had in mind. Once I said the name of the band was Judge, Porcell called me Mike Judge.
We said that at the first show we’ll do “We Just Might” because Cappo refused to sing it anymore. Porcell was on board with all of this. I already had a couple songs in mind when I told Porcell. I had things in my head from that YOT tour. Passing time on that tour, I was thinking about just shutting people up. Personally, I wanted to let those types of people know that all of that preaching that bands like YOT were doing, well I will do it too, and I will also go out of my way to shove it down your throat. And I won’t back down if you call me out on it. MRR had made YOT out to be like borderline nazis and militant, which is so ridiculous because you couldn’t be more of a pacifist than Ray. I wanted to say to MRR “you think that is bad? Oh…just wait. Just wait until you see what I have in mind.” I wanted to be as confrontational and over the top as I could.
When we got back to NY and before I quit, Cappo booked a rehearsal at Fury’s and wanted to show everyone new songs for a new YOT record because he was going to write it. It wasn’t a collaboration. It was Cappo wanting to show us what he had written. It was his deal and it was his band. I know that YOT is Porcell’s legacy too, but being in the band at that time, it was Ray’s band. There weren’t decisions made that Ray didn’t agree with.
MIKE WITH JUDGE AT SPANKY’S IN RIVERSIDE, CA | PHOTO: CHAD TIMMRECK
I had made it up in my mind that night that I would tell Cappo I was done. I remember Cappo had a bass and I forget if Walter had quit or if Walter had just been filling in for Craig, but at that point there was no bass player. Cappo started showing us this song called “Blind Patriot,” and once it was time for us to hop on our instruments, nobody really moved. I said “look Ray, I’m done.” He said “wait…just like that? I said, “Yeah, just like that. Sorry.” That was it. I got up and left. I remember I got out onto the street and started walking towards the Bowery. They must have stopped the practice right there because a few minutes later Cappo walked right past me. Porcell and Richie caught up and started walking with me home and it didn’t even come up. We knew YOT was done.
Richie was a lot like I was in the context of YOT. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t split. I think he wanted out. He had this whole rap thing he was going to do. He wasn’t singing for Underdog but I don’t know what he was up to doing. He and Porcell were tight. In NY they always went to the gym together and were super close. In California they always wanted to go lay out in the sun together. But Richie and I had some old NY ties in common and we had gotten close with time. We shared gripes. I really liked Richie.
I liked them all and still do. I just couldn’t be in a band with Ray. We didn’t agree on everything. As a front man, he’s second to none. He’s awesome. The guy is great. He’s got charisma, he’s a wild man, and he has an awesome voice. It was great to have the best seat in the house playing drums watching him. I remember one time I was playing and using this drum rack set up and playing a college bar type deal with nobody there except college kids who were all drunk and didn’t know who we were. Cappo was trying to really get his message across and make an impact and they weren’t having it. Out of nowhere, Cappo does this crazy full on jump/dive onto the drum set and broke the rack. Going back to even the first time I saw YOT play, he was awesome. A natural.
I didn’t feel old amongst my peers in YOT or Judge. I wish I was older. I wish I could have seen the Dead Boys at CB’s. I see video of that and it almost brings tears to my eyes. I was just one year too young. I just missed it. That’s how Cappo and Porcell were about A7, they just missed it and they wanted the stories. So being a little older, it sort of got me a little respect, people wanted to hear about it. I think those guys got me to play in YOT to make them a more legitimate NY band, and I think they wanted Richie for the same reasons. They wanted that old NY thing, they wanted us in that, they wanted to share in that. Those dudes loved to talk about old NY and the early eighties scene, and when they got Richie and me – guys that actually played the A7 – it was something they wanted and I think that’s fine.
By the time I was in YOT, Ray really was a pacifist and the band had sort of calmed a bit. After I was out of the band, I didn’t really know what was going on with them. People always ask me about this and that with YOT after I left the band, like why I’m not in the No More video, for example. I didn’t even know about it. People say to me, “everyone is in that video.” Well I didn’t know anything about it. I have never heard We’re Not In The Alone, other than one song…(Keep It Up). I have been told it was written about me, I don’t know. I take it all with a grain of salt. I’m not sour about anything. I owe Cappo a lot and owe YOT a lot. It is still special to me.
MIKE JUDGE AND MATT BOLD | PHOTO: ALEX BROWN
When I was in YOT, the bands in the city had been getting tighter as friends. YOT and GB and Warzone…it was a fun time to be a part of what was happening in New York and we definitely had a clique. When I joined YOT, those guys convinced me to live in Brooklyn at the Schism house. It was Cappo, Porcell, Alex Brown, and me. Probably the coolest thing about that was that two of the sickest record collections were at my disposal: Ray and Porcell’s. They had it all, tons of rare shit, Dangerhouse records, stuff I had never seen, all at my disposal.
Cappo wasn’t really around a lot while I was living there because he had a girlfriend in Manhattan. Alex was around but he went to school a lot. It was mostly me and Porcell. Me and Porcell have always gotten along. But I couldn’t handle the city. Street lights that never go off, the constant noise, it was too much and I was used to visiting there but not living there. Where I was from, when it got dark outside, it got dark and it got quiet. I need to be able to go into the woods…whether it’s in my Jeep or just walking. I need to go into deep woods and just chill out. I need to do that every day. I still do it. It’s the country boy in me. I love the city, but I missed that too much.
Once Porcell and I got Judge together and had the idea to record the first songs, I was oblivious to anything happening in New York or on Revelation or anything around me. I was just consumed and on fire with Judge. I went through notebook after notebook of lyrics and logos. I didn’t notice anything else going on around me, in the scene, anywhere. I saw this thing come together in my head and then in reality and once it was off and running I was just possessed.
Later on in Judge, Porcell and I would do the night drives on tour and on the road, and we’d talk all fuckin’ night. We’d talk about life, and about a lot of music and the stuff each of us was into. We liked different shit. Like, I need to listen to Neil Young every so often or I’ll actually go crazy. We’d listen to Neil Young and talk about the song writing and structures. And Porcell has this thing for Morrissey and I don’t get that. We have our differences…but it’s hard to explain. I love the guy. If you put all our characteristics and personality traits out on the table, you’d say “there’s no way these two should hang together.” But we do, and it’s always been that way. I’m like the bad side of Porcell, I think I bring that out in him. Just like when I told him we had to play We Just Might. He was all stoked and he was like “guy you think?!?!” Like he was into it, but it was a little risky to him. You could tell he wouldn’t go to Cappo about it himself in YOT. But I could bring that to him and he’d get psyched, it was like it was justified. Porcell has a dark side and I’m the working part of that dark side. Judge has that aura of things being bad. I bring that to Porcell. I let him live dangerously…
MATT AND MIKE WITH JUDGE AT THE ANTHRAX | PHOTO: CHUCK MILLER