Judge was one of the first New York City bands to add a thick, metallic guitar crunch to the by then standard manic, angst-ridden, and ragged neo-punk sound of the mid- to late-'80s underground hardcore scene. Mike "Judge" Ferraro's personalized, abrasive yet introspective sensitive tough-guy approach to fronting the band created a legacy that endures in the hearts of hardcore kids around the world (many of whom sport Judge tattoos) despite the fact that the group disbanded in the early '90s.
When N.Y.C. native Mike Ferraro quit seminal straight-edge band Youth of Today, he was angry. Angry with the world, with the mindless drug and alcohol fascination of the punk rock scene, with an ex-girlfriend, with himself — you name it. Armed with his drum kit, his husky voice, and his lyrical barbs, he set out to create the ultimate hard-edged hardcore band. Ferraro wrote and recorded four songs (and one cover) for the debut Judge 7" single, New York Crew, playing drums and singing with Project X/ Youth of Today's John "Porcell" Porcelly performing both bass and guitar duties. Originally released by Porcell's Schism label (and later re-issued on Revelation), the single was a smash success in the underground, with its no-holds-barred metallic hardcore approach and militant lyrics influencing an entire generation of hardcore bands.
Judge became a real band with the addition of Ferraro's replacement in Youth of Today — Sammy Siegler on drums. The original sessions for Judge's debut album, with Porcell again playing both bass and guitar, were aborted, though they later resurfaced as the ultra-rare Chun King Can Suck It album, named for the studio where it was created. Veteran hardcore producer Don Fury handled production duties for the "proper" version, Bringing It Down, with Matt Pinkus joining up on bass. Bringing It Down saw the band expanding its scope musically and lyrically, with Ferraro maturing in many ways, often pensively frowning upon the street-tough attitude of his past through song and advising both peers and younger kids alike to steer clear of violence when possible, as well as mind-altering drugs. The title track was a battle cry against the neo-Nazi skinheads who were attempting to infiltrate the otherwise tolerant hardcore scene. Lars (formerly of the band Uppercut, who ironically had an anti-straight-edge anthem in their catalog) joined on second guitar for subsequent touring.
Eventually, Ferraro grew weary of the touring regimen, the crowd fighting that often plagued their gigs, and the straight-edge lifestyle itself. The band dissolved, with The Storm — an EP featuring two original tracks and a telling cover of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levy Breaks," — serving as their final release. Porcell went on to briefly join Gorilla Biscuits after finishing his tenure with Youth of Today. After that, he ended up milking cows on a Hare Krishna farm before being recruited by ex-Youth of Today vocalist Ray Cappo to play with Shelter. He stayed in Shelter for many years, splitting from the group in 2000, moving to Boston with his wife, and forming a new band called Last of the Famous. In the mid-'90s, Ferraro released a poorly received solo album full of Neil Young-inspired acoustic rock tunes under the moniker Mike Judge and Old Smoke through Revelation. Siegler went on to play drums with Civ and Glassjaw before joining up with former Youth of Today bass player/Quicksand frontman Walter Schrifels in Rival Schools, who released their major-label debut album in 2001. ~ Ryan J. Downey