Jimmy Yu continues, this time we get into Judge. More still to come.
With Judge, the way I remember it is a little different. Maybe I’m wrong, I will have to ask Porcell about this. But I remember writing Judge songs with Mike before Judge. Mike had the ideas, and he would play them on drums. As I remember it, Youth Of Today was together. So Mike and I needed a drummer, and we needed a bassist, because I didn’t want to play bass, I refused to play bass. The idea was for me to play guitar, but we couldn’t find a bassist. We could, however, find Porcell, and he plays guitar! So I was like, “fuck, I’m down to playing bass again!” That’s why those early songs had bass leads, because I played guitar! But those were edited out. Either Porcell or Jordan told me that. But I didn’t even own a bass, I didn’t even have a bass amp. I think Mike had a bass, or when we played out I borrowed one from another band. And that sucked because if I did that I couldn’t really thrash out, because it’s somebody else’s bass and I have to give it back to them.
But the transition to Judge was a pretty natural thing from DBD, because we practiced at the same club, which was on the edge of the east village and Chinatown, this basement place. Porcell would remember the name. So it was practicing at the same place, just with a new band. And it wasn’t like, “Oh my God we have this new band!” It was just like, “Ok, Judge, cool.”
I think I was living in New York when the Judge seven inch was recorded. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t play on that. Mike and I wrote some of those songs. My memory is that Youth Of Today was happening and that was their main thing. I can’t remember if this is while Mike was still in Youth Of Today or not. But the focus at the time was on Youth Of Today, not Judge. Judge was just a side project in its inception stages. So we had to circulate our players, especially with drummers you know? One time it was Luke, and then another time it was Drew. There were only a handful of people that played instruments.
Mike also wrote a lot, if not all of the music - at least that I remember. I don’t know exactly what music Porcell listened to at that time. Mike and I though, we listened to the same music. So we had the same intuition as to what to write and what should happen within a song. So when playing live and practicing, we really both connected with that.
Judge Photo: Jeff Ladd
Mike even early on was listening to a lot of Neil Young, and absorbing those lyrics. I think that influence came out later. Mike’s lyrics in Judge, I think they are deeper than a lot of lyrics. I mean, I don’t want to compare bands and in any way make it seem like I am putting other bands down. But to me personally, I know why he wrote a lot of those lyrics, and what incidents happened that lead to those lyrics. So, it was very meaningful to us.
When the seven inch came out, and everyone got to see the lyrics, Mike’s lyrics, that was the Mike that I knew. We were always angry. We grew up getting picked on, getting in fights. We saw a lot of shit. Our introduction to the New York hardcore scene was seeing Harley carrying around an eight ball in a sock, those were the surroundings, you know? We saw him use that. That can really do some serious damage…like, hospital damage. So we had that bottled up. Porcell…he was a peaceful guy. Straight edge, vegetarian. He was a different kind of straight edge in how he grew up. So naturally, I think Mike wrote the lyrics like he did. It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t an act.
So those lyrics, to me, it wasn’t a shocker. He was writing songs about our lives. About the fights we got in, the friends that betrayed us, friends that died. There was a redhead skinhead kid, a great mosher, he was our friend, part of the New York Crew, even though he was from Connecticut. But he ran away from home, and came to New York. But someone pushed him off the train, and he died. Just so sad, some other gang did it. Our hearts went out to him.
You know, as skinheads, we weren’t accepted by anyone. Anyone. Not by metalheads, regular gangs, other punks, Harley-Davidson gangs, nobody. And as far as other areas, other cities, we had friction. In New York, we had an edge to us. And we kept that up when it was kids from DC or kids from Boston that were around.
The lyrics to “New York Crew,” people don’t totally understand. We were from New Jersey but not that far outside of NYC, and we were in NYC every weekend and maybe one other day during the week. But people like Harley and everyone else, they were the ones that really lived there and hung out together all the time, nonstop. I mean, we were definitely there, but not like them. I mean, some of those guys, they were living in tiny apartments, like 6 skinheads in one apartment. We would come in and be there for an entire weekend straight, but it wasn’t living the same way they were. But we still felt a part of it.
I will also say this, in response to what Harley said in the American Hardcore book, Harley hung out a lot with Eric. I’m sure he hung out with AF, but I’m not sure how much. He was kinda outside the immediate New York Crew. I think if you were to talk to Vinnie or Roger, they might give a better perspective of how much we were around. Because they were always around. So on one hand, I see what Harley was saying, because we weren’t there 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. But at the same time, Harley himself was kind of a loner and even kind of outside of the New York skinheads. I mean, he hung out and was a real part of it, no question, but he had his own stuff going on too, so he wasn’t always right there.
In the beginning of us going to shows, we weren’t really tight with AF. But by the time DBD got going, they really took care of us. So we were much tighter with AF than any other band, they were the band we tagged along with. Harley was more just into moshing with Eric. Maybe my timeline is off, but I don’t remember the Cro-Mags happening a lot at that time, and with DBD we didn’t tag along with them like we did with AF.
As far as the terms “Wolfpack” and “United Blood,” those weren’t like actual crews and it wasn’t how we identified ourselves, at least I don’t think so. Those were just names that Mike gave us looking back when he wrote the Judge lyrics. I don’t remember it being verbalized at the time, like, “Hey, we are the Wolfpack!” But we felt it in our hearts, and those descriptions when applied later by Mike made sense. Because at the time, in those threshold moments, like when Boston came down, and it escalated into becoming physical, in New York it didn’t matter if you were a regular skin, a nazi skin, or what…you just kicked their fucking asses. That’s it. You were New York. And in those moments, it was very clear that you stuck together, everyone. We are New York, and you…you are not. You want to try to rule the floor and try to crack people’s heads? Dude, you’re in the wrong place, man. We just jumped them. In those moments, we were united.
Those are my memories. It is a lot like how things were with me and my brother Steve – we would fight all the time amongst ourselves. But if someone messed with him or messed with me, we were right there for each other, because above all else, we were brothers. Maybe we fought with each other, but when it was someone else, it was a different story. And when Mike wrote “New York Crew,” he’s not talking about a straight edge crew. There was not a definitive crew, it was just everyone that hung out and stuck together in the moments when we were threatened. I think that song and the image and story in that song is about the moments when everyone in the New York scene, everyone, was united. Not just like the five of us and our little crew. It’s about the moments when all of us felt that – when our backs were to the wall, when we had to fight, when we lost a brother.
I’ll tell you this, all the skinheads were scared as hell to go to Tompkins Square back then. When we got out of A7, we didn’t even walk through that shit. We took the long way. Forget about going through there for the shortcut. Today it is so preppy and safe, but back then, there was some real shit happening in there at night, and we were kids. Knives, guns, drugs, people shooting up…in the dark. We didn’t go in there. But it was a part of our reality, that danger. In “New York Crew” Mike mentions that, because that was a fragment of our past culture. I don’t think when he references that he means we were hanging out in it and fighting. I think he meant we were hanging out on the edge of it, outside A7, aware of the danger in the Park. I mean, we never went beyond Avenue B.
I think the song “New York Crew” ended up having a life of its own. I think it played on people’s ideas and images in a way we didn’t expect it to. So, people took it how they wanted to take it. And then you had kids from a totally different time and place singing it – young kids from Connecticut singing it, or kids all over the country. And that was weird, but it was fun. It showed that years later, kids were identifying with us and enjoyed our music. With DBD, we didn’t have that many people singing along to our lyrics, and Mark was wild. But Judge, Mike had a different presence, and Mike just hunched over the crowd, this immovable force, this presence. And around him you had all these kids singing along. We saw that people enjoyed it, and we enjoyed it. Never would Mike and I say, “Man, look at these kids, they weren’t there, why are they singing along?” No. We appreciated it, it meant something…it meant the world to us.