The Judex are a Philadelphia based alternative band driven by a musical architecture built on powerhouse garage rock, proto-punk and soul. And now they’ve just added their own rock subgenre, called ‘motorcycle psychedelica’, which can be savored in all of its glory on the detonating rattle and bang of their single “Leather Forever”. The Judex are definitely one of those bands you are glad are not mainstream because it’s like holding a little secret of rock n’ roll wonder. The band has never sounded so focused, in what is arguably their best recording yet, which will officially release B/W “Midnight Bruiser” on Feb 1st 2020.
TL: Can you sum up what the latest release by The Judex is all about?
The Judex: If I’m summing it up I’d say that it’s maximum Rock N’ Roll with the usual soulful intensity and fist pumping elements those in our audience have come to expect from us. I’m really wary of sub-genres and labeling so I always just describe what we do as ‘Rock N’ Roll’.
TL: What do you consider the usual Judex elements then if I may ask?
The Judex: Nothing wishy washy. Nothing nasal. Something performed with commitment. Absolute soul and passion. Vibrato. Handclaps. Feedback. Stuff like that.
TL: Every Judex record is known for its striking artwork on the cover rather than a photograph of the band. I presume this is a conscious choice?
The Judex: It is exactly. I think it’s cooler and easier to attach and relate to a band if they’ve got some mystique to them, some sort of edge. Every band looks and acts the same and I still think someone with time on their hands should start a “generic band photos” Tumblr because it’s really that interchangeable. I have no idea why any band should pose for a group photograph on an album cover. Because they’re proud? Then get behind it, don’t get in front of it.
Music is increasingly used as a secondary device to promote the people creating it. I think you’ve got to serve your art and not vice versa.
I also want the songs themselves to be more important than us brutes making them. If you’re Black, if you’re trans, you might see four white guys and think “ah, that’s more of the same then.” But with our records you don’t see us; you hear us and that is a completely different experience. It removes a filter with understandably subconscious connotations and allows the listener to go right to the music. Mystique is very important in bands. Joy Division did it quite well actually.
TL: With such a distinct mission statement and outlook, I’m curious what the genesis of The Judex was and when you formed exactly?
The Judex: We knew each other and played together as teenagers and then stayed in touch sporadically, spread out in certain states. What triggered it actually was… well, I was living at the Beach and it was Winter time and very desolate and isolating. I’d sort of retired in this coastal resort town by the Atlantic Ocean, pretending to be normal and was just miserable. As it was, a very important figure was in the same town… his name is Steve Fallon. Are you familiar with Maxwell’s in NJ…?
TL: Maxwell’s was a very seminal and famous music venue in Hoboken, NJ that booked everyone from Nirvana to R.E.M. often times before they hit it big. Bruce Springsteen also filmed a music video there…
The Judex: Yes, Maxwell’s was very influential and hosted a lot of groups on the East Coast for the first time and cultivated other talents… that part is relevant here. Steve Fallon founded it in 1978 and was as influential and as important as a venue owner could be because he also invested in other artistic outlets, formed a record label, he was really… he had walked the walk and paid his dues back in the Punk era and he essentially commands respect especially if you’re some dipshit musician like I was. So Steve had sold Maxwell’s and sort of retired to this town and owned a few shops and I’d periodically come in and shoot the shit with him, or whine…
One night I went into one of his shops and was basically whining about this and that, and how I couldn’t relate to anyone in town on an artistic level and Steve Fallon looked at me and said basically, you need to get out. You need to go to New York and be in a band. Stop whining because it isn’t going to change here. Go and be yourself again. Stop waiting for things to change because they won’t.
TL: He gave you a pep talk basically?
The Judex: It was more like a lecture but he was right. He told me in no uncertain terms, “this is not the place for you and you’re going to keep complaining until you go and get things done.” And this was Steve Fallon who again, I have tremendous respect and admiration for and is close friends with a wealth of artists one admires, and he had never told me to go rejoin music before. So about a week after he told me this, I left that town and started bouncing around the scene again, singing in a bunch of different things. And a lot of the guys in New York I would encounter were real competent players but- and this isn’t a criticism- they were just kind of hustling gigs you know. They played beautifully but weren’t into it, they were very much session men. And I thought, who do I know who has the intensity like I have and who is a bit working class and less cynical about playing Rock N’ Roll? And the guys I knew were the guys who formed The Judex with me.
Dan joined last but was really a crucial part of our sound- Dan Dalton is the drummer of The Judex and was widely regarded as a top notch character behind the kit- Dan had hustled for lots of touring bands and also had his own stuff going playing a banjo. Our guitarist J is the heart and soul of things and the glue that holds us together. It really is a chemistry you can feel when you listen to our stuff. These guys are unpretentious and get right down to it.
TL: And your songs are mixed by Mark Plati, notable for his work with artists such as David Bowie and The Cure.
The Judex: That certainly doesn’t hurt, for sure.
TL: Does Mark Plati ever offer creative input in regards to the songs?
The Judex: In regards to the production he does but the songs are often finished when we begin the mixing process. Yeah, Mark is a very very generous producer and offers a lot of helpful suggestions but, as his preference, Mark doesn’t like to make creative suggestions or arrangement suggestions and so forth if we’re just mixing. Mark only works with you if he thinks you’ve got quality stuff to put out which is validating in itself. Believe it or not I think Mark Plati is still an underrated figure by today’s standards, regardless of his award nominations and successful collaborations and so forth. The guy is just a really fantastic producer and all around musical mvp. Any independent artists who want mixing credibility would be wise to seek him out.
TL: For as much as you value mystique you recently started a YouTube show, “JudexTV”… it’s very lo-fi and similar to public access television… do you think this affects your image?
The Judex: Yeah, we could have filmed it better with an iPhone or whatever it is these vloggers use but we rather liked the DiY aspect of it and it’s just one more area of content to promote The Judex. I think you can be driven and intense and still have a sense of humor if that’s what you’re asking. We take our sessions and our live performance very seriously and aren’t there waiting for people to come to us. We hustle, we kill ’em and leave as James Brown would say. But through all of that we do have some zany moments in between and we filmed that and put it up. Mostly it’ll be a chronicle of our travels to gigs, session work- a lot of the mundane shit every working musician goes through. You should watch our show though because we’re such charming fuckin’ guys.
TL: Is there one specific thing you would want to change about the music business?
The Judex: Not really although that’s a valid question but I actually don’t think The Judex or our peers are really a part of the music business, speaking honestly. I say that with the full awareness that we’ve made a few grand by this point and have actual fans in various countries albeit on a small, cult fanbase level. But the music business as it exists, independent artists work beneath it, around it or outside of it but not so much as a part of it and we’re no different. We’re on the fringe and what we do belongs to another market altogether. Being DiY that’s very rewarding. The thing I’d change about our own set up is simply having the foundation to grow better awareness and get recording done faster, sure. Does that take a label’s investment in us? Yes but that’s never been more unlikely than the present and the dream of a label sweeping in to fund you has been diluted with the rise of the internet and such; we’re on a couple of labels actually and it does help but no, I would not change anything about the music business. I would concentrate on the music fans. Because you see, as much as people complain about downloads or this, or that, the fact of it is that nothing gets pushed through unless it is enabled or tolerated by the people in a position to validate it. Don’t blame clubs and gentrification purely for the decline of live music, for example. Blame the people who decided not to go to shows.
You know, I was reading the interview you’d done with Lucky Leher when I was on the train and he said something that I thought summed it up really well which I’ll paraphrase as I can’t remember it exactly. He said, “The changes have to be embraced because they can’t be fought.” And he’s absolutely right.
TL: Any closing words for readers of Tuned Loud?
The Judex: Tuned Loud is the most prestigious of Rock N’ Roll magazines and clearly the regular readers of Tuned Loud are in the upper echelon of awareness and good taste! Thanks for talking to us and we’ll be back.