Mike Judge on violence and the unbelievably valuable LP he wishes he'd never made
By Mark Masters
When Judge split up in 1991, it was in response to the growing skinhead violence of the time and the antipathy of their own fan base. "It was a fucking bloodbath," recalls vocalist Mike Judge. "We were having to fight at what felt like every show. Sometimes it was the one tough guy in town who wanted to take on the 'tough' New York dudes, and sometimes it seemed like a whole scene up against you.
"I had always enjoyed touring, it felt like me and six of my brothers living like pirates, but this was different. As time went on and the rumors about us grew, I could tell that my words weren't getting through to people and it just wasn't fun anymore."
Judge was never one to shy away from a fight, but the writing was on the wall for Mike and founding guitarist John Porcelly: either hang up your boots, or continue to suffer brutality at the hands of ignorant meat heads.
Judge had been a reactionary band from the get-go. When it was formed, Mike was drumming for the hardcore band Youth of Today, which had a positive, straight-edge agenda. "[Bay area fanzine] Maximum Rocknroll had made Youth of Today out to be borderline Nazis and militant, which is ridiculous because you couldn't be more of a pacifist than [the band's singer] Ray," Mike says. So in 1987, he decided to give them something to really complain about. "I wanted to say to MRR, 'You think this 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.
"Calling the band 'Judge' was about the band being an authority figure. I wanted to force it on people," he says. The band's shows quickly developed into rowdy affairs, with hardline straight-edge skinheads storming the stage with little regard for anyone's safety, including their own. All the band had to do was to knock down the dominoes that Maximum RocknRoll had set up for the New York straightedge scene, and the fanzine editors' worst fears were soon realized.
Naturally, Judge's short history doesn't entirely comprise excessive straight-edge proselytizing and outrageous violence. The band also cranked out some amazing records. 1989's Chung King Can Suck It LP (named after Chung King Studios, where the aborted sessions occurred) was released in an edition of only 110 copies. It has attained legendary status among hardcore record collectors, routinely fetching over $6,000 on eBay despite (or, perhaps, because of) being re-recorded and released as the classic Bringin' It Down in the same year.
Says Mike of the Chung King LP, "I'm bewildered. I don't know why that record is worth anything to anybody when it's not worth anything to the people who created it."
More about the Chung King LP and Judge's reunion is on the next page