What You/ Your Band Can Learn From Judge’s Chung King Can Suck It

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For those of you not familiar with Judge they were one of the seminal hardcore bands out of the NYHC movement. As a huge fan of this stuff growing up I never cared much for Judge but my friends would always argue that their record Bringin’ It Down was one of the greatest records of all time. However before they could make what many kids wearing hoodies in mosh pits consider to be one of the best records ever made the band recorded Chung King Can Suck It. A record named after the studio they recorded it in after they were unahppy. This record was a scrapped version of the Bringin’ It Down that after the band listened back they decided was not up to par. According to an amazing story in Decibel magazine this month, their label Revelation Records had already placed ads and done pre-orders for the record as well as mastered and pressed the record. This resulted in them pressing a limited edition run which became Chung King before they re-recorded the record. It is now one of the most sought after pieces of vinyl in the hard core record collecting circle, but most who have heard it regard it as a poorly executed version of what it would later be recorded as. After the jump we will discuss a few great lessons you can learn from this story.

Let The Recording Reach It’s Full Potential
We recently discussed the idea that how good your latest recording is – is how far your recording can go these days. When the members of Judge decided that Chung King Can Suck It (BTW for those of you who don’t know Chung King was the studio they recorded this record at, showing just how much they really did not like the recording) was not up to par they made a very important decision for their band. They had taken three days to record the record and made the decision that it was worth three more days to get the songs they worked tirelessly on to be taken to their full potential after they ended up with a less than stellar recording. What they got in the end from this crucial decision was a record many consider to be classic.

If you finish mixing or mastering your latest recording and are feeling it is not brought to the potential you feel your songs have, it may be time to reconsider going back a few steps. As a producer, bands often come to me when they have made this decision that their record isn’t up to par. Every time this happens we proceed in a different way as per what their recording needs. Sometimes I tell them that it was built on faulty foundation and the drum track is so sloppy and badly recorded we have to start at square one. Sometimes all of the instruments are great but the vocals are poorly produced, so we re-record vocals and do a new mix. Other times the songs need a few small overdubs like backing vocals and then we do a new mix. No matter what it is often times worth it to leave a week or two to breathe after you finish your record to make sure you like it and did all the right things. Coming up with the money for one extra day of time to polish something up can be the difference between a good and a great song. I have seen it with my own eyes work to get bands way father than they would have had they not polished up their songs a bit more.

Breathing Room
We previously discussed two important concepts that apply to the music industry in 2009.

  • Caring More About First Week Sales Than 9 Months Later – Promoting your record to have a big explosion the first day or week or whatever is stupid. Music listeners are used to being able to get anything the second they want it these days. Unless they are really really interested and hooked on your band they aren’t going to be waiting for the day you bless them with the opportunity to buy your music.
  • New Artists Heavily Promoting Their Record Before Anyone Can Buy It – Same idea. Taking pre-order for Bringin’ It Down before the record was fully pressed pushed Judge into having to release a version of an inferior record. It is very important to have time to evaluate your recording and make sure you like it. You no longer need to launch a huge promotion battle before the record is even out, keep your fans up to date with what you are doing but make the songs available and start a promotional war.

How To Fix It
While we think your band needs velocity these days every band is in a absolutely insane rush to get their songs up on Myspace so their Internet girlfriend can hear their new song and they can hopefully get laid for once in their lives. Calm down! A week or two is not going to spell the end for your velocity for your band and you can do many things during the week or two while you gain some perspective on your recording (get mailing labels ready, write your bio, book shows, the list goes on). Here are a few ideas of how to plan your next recording so it comes out great and you don’t succumb to scheduling pressures and release an inferior recording.

  • Schedule tweaking time for your mixes – Stepping away from your songs for a day or two and not listening to them after hearing them 10 million times while recording can be very eye opening. You regain your objective perspective to an extent and it can help you see some flaws you may have not seen before. Ask your Producer to schedule a day for emergency tweaks.
  • Schedule two weeks between your mixing and mastering dates – After your mixes are done, take a week or two away from them and make sure you really captured the song. If you didn’t, find a new producer or go back to the studio you recorded at and tweak them. Call your mastering engineer and ask if they can swap your time for someone who wants to get in sooner. Any mastering engineer worth their salt will jump at this chance, since they are constantly booked to death.
  • Be honest – You may spend the next year or two of your life promoting this recording and if it has flaws they will come back to haunt you. You are competing with a more level playing field and a whole world of musicians trying to get listeners attention. As well for your own personal satisfaction – as someone who has made hundreds of records – everything you hear that annoys you on your record now will come back to haunt you later on. Trust your gut and correct what you hear even if it is going to be painful on your calendar or wallet. You will be glad you did when you are on the road a year later promoting this record. 
  • The benefits – Padding in some time to evaluate can help your career, psychological well-being and wallet if you have already started promoting a flawed recording. The world wants to hear a great version of your song not whatever happened after three days in the studio and if it came out bad so be it. There is no excuses when someone is listening so make it good.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.