četvrtak, 22. studenoga 2012.

Judge - What It Meant: The Complete Discography

"Saviors of the true straight edge?" "Hardline extremists with a taste for violence?" "Bikers on the run from the law?" Over the years,i've heard Judge described as this and more.We were arguably one of the most misunderstood,hated/loved,and rumor-milled bands in hardcore,mostly because people had no clue of the circumstances leading up to how the band came about,in the context of what was happening in the scene at the time.So to set the record straight (no pun intended),here's the whole screwed up,interesting story...

Straight edge in the mid 80's was at an all-time high.Gone were the days of passive,unassumingly sober individuals scattered sparsely throughout the scene.The new breed of drug-free youth were loud,proud and in numbers too big to ignore.For better or worse,straight edge become not only an ideology,but a youth movement that spread across America like wildfire.There were legions of diehard fans all over the country,complete with pos tops,baggy shorts and hooded sweatshirts,all x'd up and ready to sing and stage dive along to the latest Revelations band.But sudden rise of straight edge was also its downfall.Popularity often breeds trendiness.Trends come in waves;they peak and crash,and by the late 80's,straight edge crashed hard.What was once the biggest thing to hit the scene suddenly became looked down on as something juvenile,outdated and just plain uncool.Most of the original youth crew kids were growing older,going to college,and becoming "well-balanced,well-adjusted casual drinkers." Straight edge was out,Soundgarden was in.

Most made the transition into the "next thing" just fine - Mike and I weren't among them.We had adopted straight edge as a lifestyle and were pretty disheartened by the turn of events.Mike was always the confrontational type,so his reaction to the whole thing was to fight fire with fire.If they hated sXe,he was going to give the something to really hate in return - the most blatant,in-your-face straight edge band ever to hit the scene.He even had the perfect reverse-peer-pressure name - Judge.He discussed the idea with me,and being disillusioned myself that so many of my friends were now hanging out at bars,i agreed to the proposal.Mike wrote lyrics practically overnight and then after a hadnfull practices (just me on guitar and Mike on drums) we headed down to Don Fury's studio and Judge was born.

Mike never sang at practice,so i had no idea what to expect when he stepped up to the microphone to lay down vocals for "Fed Up." I'll never forget how blown away i was as i watched him through the glass wall of the studio,his face knotted in rage as he roared his way through that song first take.The frustrations and bitterness that has been bottling up inside him for months just exploded onto tape.The guy was friggin' pissed,and he was about to let the whole hardcore scene know about it.It was a sign of the times.

After the "New York Crew" EP was released on Schism Records,Judge became a real band,with Jimmy Yu on bass,a crazy dance floor pittboss from the early 80's Lower East Side scene.Jimmy actually lived in a Buddhist monastery and could kung fu kick to the ceiling.After Drew Bold filled in on drums for one show,Lukey Luke from Gorilla Biscuits joined up briefly but just couldn't juggle both bands at the same time,so he left as quickly as he came.Previous to this,Youth Of Today had broken up (before we reformed to record "We're Not In This Alone" - hence the opening statement "We're back!"),and Sammy became our permanent drummer.

Judge was set apart from the other youth crew bands of the time,bassically because we were,well,"darker" i guess is a good word.The dark side of the force.The music wasn't "paint by the numbers" thrash,it was heavy and brutal.The lyrics also weren't the typical messages of idealized hope popular at the time;they were brooding and angry,fueled by a sense of frustration and anguish.That pretty much sums up where Mike Judge's head was at,and he wrote what he felt,with no apologies.He had been going through a lot in his person all life and music was like his therapy.Singing and writing about his problems helped to vent them out of his system.He must've struck a nerve somewhere in the hearts of the more dysfunctional members of the scene,because right from the start,kids were going crazy at the shows.Really crazy.Almost too crazy.Fighters were definitely not uncommon,maybe because along with straight edge kids,we seemed to attract a more unstable crowd too - skinheads,tough guys,metalheads,biker-looking dudes with tattoos on their necks...it was intense.You get a dozen or so of those types out on the dance floor amongst the usual hardcore contingent,and add a dong like "Fed Up" to the mix,and you have a recipe for trouble.It was pretty out of hand.

After a scrapped attempt at a full-length album at Chung King studios (known for posterity as the "Chung King Can Suck It" LP),we recorded "Bringin' It Down" at Normandy Sound,a studio famous for all the New Kids on the Block and "Marky" Mark Wahlberg records.After Sammy and i finished up with Youth Of Today,we were ready to give Judge our full attention.Jimmy left the band to travel as an assistant to a Buddhist monk,so we recruited one of Sammy's friends,Matt Pincus on bass.Matt is a son of a Park Avenue millionaire but became a mohawk-sporting punk rocker at the age of 12,until one day his concerned parents asked him to go shopping but had the chauffeur drive him straight to military school instead,where he spent most of his teenage years.We also added Lars from Uppercut and Alone in a Crowd on second guitar.mostly because he had a killer Marshall full stack and knew a lot of Slayer songs.We played a bunch of shows on the East and West Coasts and were all set to go on tour with Gorilla Biscuits in Europe,but at the last minute Mike got into trouble for beating someone up and part of his plea bargain was he had to see a psychiatrist on a regular bassis (the song "Forget This Time" is about this experience),so he couldn't leave the country and unfortunately we didn't get to go.

Finnaly in the summer of 1989,we did a complete US tour with Bold.It was a weird tour.The shows were not what we were expecting at all.I mean,they were good,people liked the band,but the fights and the general "tough guy" attitudes were way out of control.The last show of the tour was in Florida,where skinheads pulled out guns and beat up a black kid in the pit.And these were our fans! It had to end.

After a few more scattered shows,Judge had run its course.Mike had begun to feel personally responsible for all the violence and misinterpretations of his lyrics and just couldn't take it anymore.He was trying to use music to rise above his own bad qualities,but it seemed like it was just bringing out the bad in everyone else.It was time to call it quits.We had one new song, "Forget This Time," so we once again entered Don Fury's studio and recorded it,along with an extended version of "The Storm" and Led Zeppelin cover.This was the last time the band would play together.

Judge ended,but metal-influenced hardline straight edge continued and became a scene in itself throughout the 90's and even today.But the real mark that Judge left was to show that the edge wasn't just for privileged do-gooders,but even troubled kids with demons of their own to fight could embrace the music and the message as a light guide their way of their own darkness.As mike once told me, "if i wasn't for this band,i'd be at the bottom of a bottle or a grave." For him,it was a matter of life or death.It was all he had.And it was that sense of urgency,that sheer desperation,that made Judge the band it was.

A special place left in my heart.
Those days are gone,man...but they're not forgot.


***Thanks to all our friends from the 80's New York Hardcore scene.Time and distance seperates us now but we'll never forget all the stagedives,schism and incredible times we had together.It was an honor and a privilege growing up with all of you.***

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