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.
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.
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.
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…