One of the most mysterious guys to ever come through the doors of the NYHC scene may in fact be Jimmy Yu. When Tim and I were getting content together for Double Cross, Porcell told us, “Man, you gotta interview Jimmy Yu! He was there from the beginning and he just disappeared! He went from being a lower east side punk to a full on Buddhist!”
Though he was actually from New Jersey, Jimmy lived the NYHC scene every weekend from 1982 on, right alongside a guy known today as Mike Judge. He started Death Before Dishonor with his brother Steve and of course Mike, recruiting another friend to pick up the mic - Mark Ryan (maybe you have heard of him?). DBD would later disband, and Jimmy would be the first bassist in Judge until he vanished in early 1989, never resurfacing.
I was surprised to say the least when it turned out that Jimmy is currently living in the same town as where I grew up (East Stroudsburg, PA), about 10 miles from where my parents still live. Having just received his doctorate in East Asian Buddhist History from Princeton, he’s hiding out there with his family until he moves to Florida next month. I got in touch with him, and he was totally down to be interviewed.
I can’t say enough cool things about Jimmy – just a class act, super friendly, and you could tell that his time in hardcore meant the world to him and is a major part of who he is. When we brought some old photos his eyes lit up. The guy may have walked away from this life 20 years ago, but you can tell that he took as much of it with him as he could.
This is part one.
One of the reasons Mike and I got into hardcore was because growing up in Montville (New Jersey), in this upper middle class area, nobody accepted us. He was a little bit chubby, and he worked on a farm, whereas all the other kids had parents that were lawyers and doctors or whatever. And for me, I was Chinese, and we were the only Chinese family in town at that time. We moved there from Taiwan in 1980 when I was in 5th grade. One of the reasons I moved was because my brother Steve got in trouble, he was a screw-up. And my father was a high-ranking government official. So a lot of times my Dad would have to bail him out, and it didn’t look good for him. So my Dad said, look, we’ll send the two of you to America, you’ll get a better education, etc. And so my Mom and Steve and me moved and my Dad stayed. And when we got there, kids had never seen a Chinese person. So the kids would come up to me and say “DO YOU KNOW KUNG FU!? DO YOU KNOW KUNG FU?!” And they would make fun of me. I was kind of an outcast as it was, so this didn’t help at all.
Also, my family wasn’t doing good, because my Dad stayed behind, and my Mom had been in business but now that wasn’t going so well. So it was tough on us. And right when we got there, I would get in fights every day. After school I had to walk past this firehouse, and behind this firehouse there would be these fights every single day. All day these kids would pick on me, and then they would arrange fights for after school, they made me fight, I had no choice. In the beginning I would lose, because I had to learn how to fight these wrestlers, these jocks. I wasn’t used to wrestling, we didn’t do that in Taiwan. And I got my ass kicked so many times.
But after a while, I wouldn’t lose anymore. But I didn’t want to fight, I was so sick of it. I would just win and get it over with, as soon as the kid would lunge at me, BOOM! I would just crack them in the nuts. That way I could just go home, so I could watch my TV shows, play guitar, and get on with my life.
They would send kids after me though. This one time they sent the new kid after me, this kid Joe, and he was my friend! We walked home together each day. He was like six feet tall, this big black kid, in 6th grade! But he was like a total teddy bear, a really nice guy. They were like, “Joe, today is your turn! Jimmy said something about your mother!” They made it like “Muhammad Ali versus Bruce Lee,” that was how the fight was billed. I was like, “Joe, we walk home together every day! How can you fight me? You know I didn’t say that!”
But Joe had to prove himself with this peer pressure crap. And I’m like, “Come on Joe, we don’t have to do this, we are friends, we can walk home.” But they talked him into it, cheered him on. So he comes after me, swings at me, and I just counter with an uppercut to his nose, and I broke his nose. Blood everywhere. The next day, he came to school with these big bandages over his nose, but we still walked home together. Just so stupid. Stuff like that every day for years, I hated it.
And Mike dealt with that too. And he dealt with it before I even met him, he dealt with it just like I did. Because I met Mike when I was in 7th grade, and he was in 9th grade, because he is a year and half older than me. He is turning 41 this year, and I am turning 40 this year. But we had that connection as outcasts that had to deal with this. And my brother Steve was his best friend, so we all became best friends. We got close, and man, that was just the beginning…