If The Judex seemed to live a bit of a rock’n’ roll cliche, it was a good one. Form a band, write a bunch of great songs, implode and leave people wanting more. A year ago it felt that the band had written a short but exciting chapter in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll and the pen having writ, moved on. But they are back and so it seemed only natural that I sat down with Will Byron to get the inside scoop.
Q: So quite unexpectedly we find ourselves sat here talking about The Judex getting back in the game. Can you tell us how that came about?
Unexpected is quite correct. It really stems from two somewhat monumental things happening, nothing that any of us could have expected, especially after about ten months of lying dormant. The first thing was that a very impressive Garage Rock label from Istanbul got in touch with me, Kafadan Kontak Records. At this stage, any label of any standing reaching out to an underground rock band- especially when we’re in the States- might be something to look closer at. Rather than just a casual introduction, Tolga Özbey sent me an actual proposal with a fucking plan. He had done his homework, he knew The Judex‘s entire released body of work, he had narrowed down which songs he thought would work best on a label – he had even created a mock-up for album art for a potential Judex compilation. This attention to detail and the fact that he had researched our body of work…well, I had to tell him we were sort of inactive but as you’d imagine, this stirred some emotion in me.
If you look at Kafadan Kontak‘s page – and I strongly suggest all connoisseurs of great music do so – I was struck, with no bias, at how many incredible fucking bands from around the world were affiliated with them and what a perfect fit we would be. Of course you know Yael Brener from the shoegaze/synthpop band Screens 4 Eyes is a very close friend of mine for many years and I showed her the label and she remarked that it seemed like they’d be made for The Judex; that’s how greatly the aesthetic and tone fit with ours. So Tolga’s faith as well as his vision kind of reactivated us.
So, this is getting to be a very long answer, but the other event that occurred was that I hadn’t bothered to look at The Judex’s social media, e-mail, anything in many months. I was a miserable bastard over it, I didn’t want to know about it. When I did… well. It was staggering to the point of me being wary and suspicious of it. We had dozens and dozens of e-mails from kids from Istanbul, Belgium, Hungary, and so forth- asking for Judex t-shirts, asking for vinyl, this, that, the other. We’d had Bandcamp money sitting in our account for months – none of us knew. Now consider we’d done no touring, no new releases, nothing- we were, essentially, broken up. All of the sudden, where maybe we’d have 1-3 Bandcamp downloads per month, we had over 400 purchases and downloads in the span of two months. Now is that particularly earth shattering success? Maybe not, but to obtain that from two of our songs gaining a strong radio presence on international radio – and, if people in America aren’t aware, the radio is more important in Europe and other countries than it is in the States – well, it was more evident than ever that our body of work stood up. Scott Walker once said that, everytime he would make a record, he would accumulate a few more people. And, even if it was a slow process, enough people would justify the expense. Does over 400 people justify the expense? Probably not. But it’s a good start and shows that we can cultivate a larger audience that responds to The Judex and speaks our language.
Q: In many people’s opinion the band came and went before even getting close to reaching its promised potential, so does this feel like unfinished business or just the next chapter?
I’d have to say you are correct Dave and, honestly, this is what we felt as well. We had a very good launch out of the gate, from your coverage, working with Mark Plati, offers at prestigious venues, and so forth- the plain truth is that The Judex failed to capitalize on our potential, which seemed limitless. This was a big factor personally in why I sort of shut down for most of this year in regards to thinking about it. But you know, Jason and I were talking the other day and as corny as it sounds, I told him we didn’t decide to restart The Judex. These kids writing us did. I was so taken aback by these enthusiastic e-mails and comments and requests- and purchases- that I started looking these people up to see if this was real! They are, and it looks like I’ll be airmailing Judex albums this weekend…
As far as unfinished business, I’ll put it this way. As Winston Churchill said; “It’s the end of the Beginning.” We were able to plant a seed and get some degree of traction and put an anchor down in 2017 and 2018. It’s built organically and now the stage is ripe for us to capitalize on it and really work to build our catalogue and have more content and more material for those people who respond to it.
Q : You have two singles scheduled over the next couple of months, is this classic Judex or are things different musically this time around?
These will be our first two singles- ‘Cult of Judex/Witchface’ and ‘Kill White Lights’- this time on a 45′ for all of those Judex fans with a turntable. Cult will be on clear vinyl, Kill White Lights on black vinyl- October and November, respectively. Of course we’re sending copies to Dancing With Architecture. We’re mixing unreleased stuff with Plati in November of this year, so… all new songs in 2020.
Q: With the interest in a number of countries outside The US does this affect what you see as the potential of the band or did you always think globally?
I always thought globally and, in truth, always knew we’d do much better in International markets than in the United States and I was always telling this to the guys as well. I was blessed to be in a band in my early twenties that was based out of The Netherlands so I was around Europe a lot and really exposed to how differently things are treated as opposed to America. More music publications are still in print, more festivals, more radio cultivation. We will always be a cult band and we have no illusions otherwise but places like Europe, Japan and Istanbul, although it’s considered both European and Asian, have an audience that cares deeply about bands and performances and connecting in that matter in a way that audiences here just do not. It’s the truth.
So, it would amaze me that our so-called contemporaries would never think to try to promote their material in another country because, as they told me, “I can’t tour there yet, so what sense does it make?” These people are limited in scope and give these other places no credit. You can absolutely build a fan-base in international markets. It might not be The Beatles coming to America or Queen arriving in Japan and causing mass hysteria, but the potential to reach new listeners has never been as limitless as it is now. So yes, The Judex is a global cult.
Q: The Judex has always been a band eager to comment on politics, society and the world around them, I’m assuming that there is still plenty talk about when you look out of the window or turn on the TV?
Well, I believe we talked about this a little when ‘Kill White Lights’ was released but I don’t like to talk about politics in songs too much, at least not in a direct sense- I think it dates the song and makes it somewhat unrelatable. Kill White Lights was about willful ignorance- the enablers who don’t want to know, who care more about pop culture characters dying in television and cinema than black men being killed by police- but too many bands with political overtones limit themselves in my opinion, and limit the reach of their audience. Certainly we speak up and are for the unification of a scene, but we are essentially a Rock N’ Roll band. When a musician writes a song about, let’s say, a mass shooting I find it a bit pretentious and out of touch no matter how good their intentions were. Especially if their performance or music video serves to glorify them performing it. I think I can speak for the guys in that area also.
The world is certainly in a dire state and it’s very scary times as you well know. How this has affected me personally is that, in my personal life, I remain an activist and outspoken about the causes I feel strongly about. Within the band? I think it’s possible we don’t have decades left. So I’d like to get as much music recorded with my mates and have some kind of body of work to be proud of- even if the planet expires and no one gets to listen to it! We’ve got one life on Earth, we intend to keep getting shit done.
Q: So, where now for The Judex?
An excellent question. I’ll give Dancing About Architecture an exclusive- we haven’t even been in the same room together yet. Here’s what I can tell you.. we are mixing in New York City this Fall, and we have agreed to play an exciting festival in Brooklyn in 2020. My intent is to go forward and keep The Judex alive, so long as there is an audience responding to it. As we now know, there is– and there are people like Tolga Özbey and Greg Lonesome and Mark Plati and Yael Brener and Dave Franklin and Phil King who believed in The Judex- therefore, we’ve got to do fucking something. As soon as we know, you’ll be the first one we tell.