We take a look at the 1993 film that, for the first time, brought rockers (J. Mascis, Sonic Youth, Living Colour, Teenage Fanclub) together with rap artists (Run D.M.C., Ice-T, Cypress Hill), to create a full studio album. The big-budget action film sucked, but the album was righteously good and, twenty-five years later, it still sounds good.
It may be one of the most star-studded movies you have never seen. But you most certainly have “heard” it, via the soundtrack. “It” was Judgment Night, a 1993 action-thriller starring Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jeremy Piven, Denis Leary and Stephen Dorff. While the movie was not a box-office or critical hit, its platinum-selling soundtrack continues to be talked about 25 years later. Aside from a few hit collaborations (e.g. Run-DMC and Aerosmith, Public Enemy and Anthrax), it was arguably the first time that rock and hip-hop artists collaborated for a full-length album.
Without the Judgment Night soundtrack, the musical landscape of the last two decades would undoubtedly be very different. For better and worse, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and a lot of the rap-rock-melding groups of the late-1990s and early-2000s would never have happened.
Over the course of the Summer of 2018, I interviewed a mix of the artists and executives involved with the soundtrack. Ultimately, I wound up speaking with at least one person from each of the album’s 11 tracks, in addition to the three people primarily responsible for the soundtrack itself. In turn, below are highlights from those many interviews, altogether providing 25 things which I learned about the Judgment Night soundtrack.
The team responsible for the music of Judgment Night has worked steadily for decades.
The Judgment Night soundtrack was released through Immortal Records, a label founded by Amanda Scheer Demme and Happy Walters. Among Immortal’s major signings were Korn, Incubus, Far, and Thirty Seconds To Mars. The pair also managed the careers of House Of Pain and Cypress Hill, among others.
Amanda Scheer Demme has served as the music supervisor for more than 40 films and television shows, including Mean Girls, Garden State, and Blow. She is also a renowned photographer and creative director, notably conceptualizing and shooting the award-winning #theemptychair image for New York Magazine’s 2015 cover story “Bill Cosby: The Women.”
Happy Walters has also worked on dozens of films and soundtracks, including There’s Something About Mary, Scream 2, American Pie, and The Big Lebowski. While also still involved with a variety of entertainment-related projects, Walters has found success as a tech investor and a sports agent, representing such athletes as Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and Corey Brewer.
The music supervisor of the film, Karyn Rachtman, was also responsible for the classic soundtracks of Pulp Fiction, Office Space, Reality Bites, Clueless, and Bulworth. She is also the creator and producer of Hip Kid Hop, a series of featuring original music written and performed by LL Cool J, Shaggy and Doug E Fresh, as released through Scholastic Publishing.
“The music was phenomenal and the movie wasn’t.”
The Soundtrack is linked via Six Degrees of Pearl Jam
Happy Walters, who managed Cypress Hill and House Of Pain with Amanda Scheer Demme, explained. “I met the guys from Pearl Jam and their favorite group was Cypress [Hill]… They asked Cypress to appear with them at this free show they did in Seattle, I think it was called Drop In The Park. There were 20,000 people there.”
He continued: “Cypress opened for them, and I saw this response from the crowd for Cypress. In those days, hip-hop artists didn’t really play huge live shows like that. During Cypress’ set, a couple of guys came out and jammed with them. When Pearl Jam was doing their thing and Eddie [Vedder] was climbing the scaffolding, the guys were messing around, it kind of occurred like, “Hey man, I’ve got to get these kind of groups to start working together.”
Walters added: “We came up with this idea to pair super-edgy, at the time especially, hip-hop groups with rock groups, get them into the studio together. Which nowadays doesn’t really happen because everything’s digital… I started using my relationships at the time to call other managers and sell them on the idea and try to get hip-hop artists that didn’t really know the rock scene that well to consider it. Ice Cube, all these guys at the time were like ‘What!?'”
But it was not easy to get Pearl Jam on board, said Walters. “Pearl Jam’s manager [Kelly Curtis] wasn’t really into it at the time and Stone [Gossard] pushed it within the band. Most of the collaborations had a couple of guys that were really into it and pushed it.”
Of the overall project scope, Demme added: “It was an homage to Run-DMC and Aerosmith’s collaboration that Rick Rubin did.” But it was a “big bang” that led to the project itself happening. “It was Karyn through Stacey Sher, I was engaged to Ted Demme — who had worked on No Cure For Cancer and Denis Leary was then hot — and Ted was best friends with Everlast. Everlast had a huge record and was cast in the movie. The glue kept everything intact.”
Slayer had a great time being part of the soundtrack.
“When we were asked to do the soundtrack for Judgment Night, we were told that they were going to match up each band with a rap artist and that we would be matched up with Ice-T,” began Slayer bassist/vocalist Tom Araya. “When we found out, we were like ‘yeah we’ll do that!’ So we started thinking and working on an arrangement, we came up with doing punk medley of The Exploited. The L.A. riots, all the civil unrest going on at the time and title of the movie itself was why we went that route.”
He continued: “So we got together with Ice-T in the studio. We talked about the songs and he was cool with it, so we started working on rewriting the lyrics actually updating the lyrics to fit the times… That was an awesome experience collaborating with Mr. Ice-T.”
Did Araya know that Slayer’s contribution, and that the overall soundtrack, would be so influential in the long-term? “When we recorded the song, when we record anything, a cover or songs that we write, I don’t think about the lasting impact. It’s not something that I ever really gave thought about. The only thought is ‘are they going to like the song?'” He added: “I am surprised that it’s had a lasting impact and they’re obviously celebrating 25 years of it, which is amazing. Time flies! Definitely was a really cool experience for me.” So did Araya see and/or like the film itself? “Yes and yes.”
J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. played on more of “Missing Link” than you may realize.
When interviewing Del The Funky Homosapien about his latest album, I snuck in a few questions to him about the Judgment Night soundtrack, which he remembers fondly. According to Del, J. Mascis played all of the instruments on the song “Missing Link.” Del explained: “His band [Dinosaur Jr.] was there but they didn’t do nothing, but like they was playing pool in the other room the whole time. He did everything except for maybe this 808 s**t that I had running through the production. Everything else he did.”
Based on that 1993 collaboration, Del continues to admire J. Mascis to this day. “That sparked me getting interested in learning more about music and learning music theory… We were in the studio the whole time talking. He was a cool dude, I enjoyed working with him a lot.”
Teenage Fanclub was originally supposed to work with P.M. Dawn.
“We were in the process of recording our third album, Thirteen, in a studio just outside Manchester in early 1993 when we received an offer from Happy Walters via our record label DGC that a soundtrack was being assembled with collaborations between hip hop artists and alternative rock groups and would we care to participate,” said Teenage Fanclub bassist/vocalist Gerard Love. “The initially proposed pairing was between ourselves and P.M. Dawn which, off the bat, sounded interesting enough to us but, about a week or so later, word came through that the P.M. Dawn pairing was off and would we be at all interested in working with De La Soul.”
Love continued: “I’m not going to say it was like being asked if we would like to work with The Beatles, but De La Soul were such a special group and had made such an impact right across the spectrum that the offer was almost like a dream come true. Three Feet High And Rising was a masterpiece. In the circumstances, considering the possibilities, a collaboration with De La Soul was the best possible outcome for us. We felt as if we’d won the lottery, we were delighted.”
When asked if there was further collaboration with De La Soul intended, Love did not believe so: “We met up again in late ’93 to make a promo video in a high school in Chicago, but we never had any contact with them after the whole process came to an end.”
Unlike a lot of album’s tracks, the collaboration between Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul was done in-person and with all hands on deck.
“De La and their tour manager flew over to Revolution Studios, Cheshire, for 3 or 4 days. I don’t believe we had had any correspondence with them beforehand,” recalled Love. “From the start they were very cool and very friendly. I guess we were a little starstruck on first meeting them, but time was tight and we had to try to begin working together.”
The process started as a true collaboration, said Love: “From my memory, Mase put down a drum sequence and then I played a 4-note bass line that suggested a chord movement. Raymond [McGinley] and Norman [Blake] put down some guitar chords and a vibrato/tremolo riff on top. As the backing track started to take shape Dave and Pos began writing the lyric. Once the vocals were down we put down some backing vocals, maybe some handclaps.”
With regards to the Tom Petty sample found in the track, Love does not recall being present for it. “I left the session before mixing began, so I don’t remember the point at which the Tom Petty sample was added, but it was definitely added towards the end of the session. Personally, when I first heard the finished track, I didn’t think it needed the sample, but I guess in hip-hop records at that time there was a culture of sampling and it definitely fitted in with the feel of the track and the lyrical content of falling from grace.”
Tom Petty liked the sample on the Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul track.
When speaking with Happy Walters, I asked about the process of clearing “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty for the Teenage Fanclub/De La Soul track, and whether it was difficult to make happen. Apparently this one was not an issue, per Walters. “They were totally cool with it. Actually, Mike [Einzinger] from Incubus lived next door to Tom Petty, and he told me a story that Tom Petty loved it.”
It was an uphill battle to get director Stephen Hopkins to include some of the soundtrack’s music within the film.
“Judgment Night was hard because the director, Steve Hopkins — who’s a super-cool dude — didn’t really get the music stuff,” began Happy Walters. “He was like, ‘Do whatever you want, I’ll see if I can use the music.’ It was a little bit of an uphill battle. I feel that once he started hearing music, he started putting it into the film… He started to say, “This is pretty cool.” Of course I wanted music featured more in the movie… We ended up coming up with a compromise.”
With a laugh, Walters added: “I haven’t seen him in a long time, but we used to joke about how successful the soundtrack got and how he’s known as the director that put all the music in the movie.”
Although some artists interviewed believed they were the first onboard for the project, it is not clear who was confirmed first.
When I spoke with Helmet’s Page Hamilton, he mentioned being the first band asked. I attempted to confirm this with Happy Walters, he said, “I think I was talking to everyone at the same time.”
As per whether there were any artists who Walters recalled talking with but wound up not coming onboard for the project, Walters mentioned Notorious B.I.G., Perry Farrell and Ice Cube. In the case of Ice Cube, after he bowed out on the soundtrack, Del The Funky Homosapien took his place.
Everlast was cast in the movie as an actor before House Of Pain signed onto the soundtrack.
Music supervisor Karyn Rachtman explained that Everlast “was in the movie. I started talking to him about the soundtrack before we started doing it. Would he want to do a song? That sort of thing. His managers were Happy and Amanda, so that’s how I got in touch and we started talking to them.”
Faith No More’s first choice for collaborators was the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.
Said Faith No More bassist Bill Gould, who contributed guitar to the recording: “I had just recently been back from a trip to Samoa and was captivated by a tradition of acapella singing, it’s really beautiful, and originally, we were thinking of something like that. But when we ran it by the guys, it didn’t seem to interest them much. It was something that they grew up with and they just wanted to rock. Instead, they said, ‘Come down, we have a studio booked, and just make some noise.’ As it turns out all of them are great musicians in their own right.”
Gould continued: “It was an unreal experience: we all walk in, not having met each other in person, pick up our instruments, and just click. We went straight into an outrageous jam that was beyond great and lasted 30 or so minutes. At the end of it, we were feeling pretty damned good, and then the producer said OK, we’ve got the levels now, let me know when you’re ready to record!’ So we looked at each other in shock, and proceeded to do another intense jam, not quite as electric as the first, but close, and we were happy with that. Then we learned that the producer had forgot to hit the record button. So we did it again. What you hear on the soundtrack was edits off the third attempt, which had some great material, but tragically nothing on the level of the first two!” I do have to say, though, that by the end of the third pass, I felt very close to these guys. It was a great experience for me.”
Both of Cypress Hill’s tracks were improvised in the studio.
As Sen Dog of Cypress Hill noted, there was “not much of a creative process back then, just show up and rhyme. Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth had already written the music beds.”
Things were not easy at the beginning for Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs and Sonic Youth.
“I just like sat down, and it was my first time with a band in the studio,” began DJ Muggs. “I was like, ‘yo this s**t ain’t gonna work man, I can’t do this s**t,’ so I called my manager and he was like, ‘please, please, can you please just try?’ The band was looking at me… They didn’t know what the f**k I was doing, I don’t think they’d been in a studio with a hip-hop [artist]… My style was unorthodox, so they would play, and I would just let them play 1 or 2 takes and I would stop and I would be like, ‘Thanks, that is all I need.’ Then I would just go sample the sounds up and just put it all together on a drum machine.”
DJ Muggs continued: “They were just like, ‘He is just taking little bits of it, there is no musical changes, it is just like a loop, it is simple.’ When Kim [Gordon] sang on it though, it just, I was like ‘yooo, I want to do a whole record with Kim, that s**t was ridiculous.”
Fortunately, things were easy for DJ Muggs when working with Pearl Jam. “When I was up there [in Seattle] I had more of a laid-back approach, you know just like giving them ideas and direction… You just give them their space, you know?”
DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill’s first choice in collaborators was not Pearl Jam or Sonic Youth.
“Actually I wanted to work with Al Jourgensen of Ministry, but he was a little busy at the time,” said DJ Muggs.
Mudhoney originally had a different hip-hop collaborator planned than Sir Mix-A-Lot.
According to Mudhoney vocalist Mark Arm: “Happy Walters had this other band he was managing called Funkdoobiest we were supposed to be paired with… They were out of commission and so we suggested, “Why don’t we do something with Sir Mix-A-Lot? He’s in our town.”
Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot had apparently met prior to collaborating, according to Arm. “We’d met Mix once before in Detroit while on tour, we stayed at the hotel. I’m sure he doesn’t remember that because he was surrounded by a bunch of lovely ladies,” he noted with a laugh.
Therapy? wrote “Come & Die” based on a drum loop.
“I don’t think we had any of the music written at the time, or at least I hadn’t heard Andy [Cairns, singer/guitarist] play any of the riffs previously at soundcheck,” began Therapy? bassist Michael McKeegan. “[Producer] T-Ray had a basic drum loop which he played through the headphones and the three of us just jammed around various parts until we had an intro, a verse part, chorus part and so on. It was good fun, quite hypnotic, just grooving off the loop.”
The lyrics for “Come & Die” came along as the music was being written, according to McKeegan. “Fatal was there getting a feel for it and then he’d go into the rec room and write some lyrics and then try them out until we got something we all felt comfortable with. Then we just fine tuned it a bit and added some samples and overdubs.” He added: “Interestingly, the “DIE” sample on the song is a down tuned version of the one we had on our sampler for our song ‘Meat Abstract.'”
There were plans to perform “Come & Die” live, said McKeegan. “We were playing New York a week or so later with Helmet, so we’d loosely planned to get him down and maybe do the track live, but for whatever reason it never happened.”
Living Colour did not know that Run-DMC would be sampling “Sucker M.C.’s (Krush Groove 1)” for “Me, Myself & My Microphone.”
According to Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, the two bands worked on their parts independently. “We had maybe one meet-up with them, which was very cool. We did our thing separately, we did our groove… and sent it out. They made it work, and when we heard it, we were blown away… I think a lot of it was Jam Master Jay.”
Reid is very proud of the song to this day. “Somehow with between the two production teams, we managed to combine the two vibes and it turned out great. It’s actually one of my favorite tracks on the Judgment Night soundtrack.”
There is a rumor that Reid was supposed to play guitar years earlier on Run-DMC’s “Kings Of Rock,” but the band was unable to get his phone number. While I had Reid on the phone, I asked about that rumor. “That is classic… I wouldn’t doubt it,” he laughed before continuing. “Things like that happened. That was in the days of landline telephones, right? You weren’t there for the call, or your sister picked up the call, or whatever. You could very easily have missed the date.”
Cypress Hill being part of two songs on the album was no accident.
I asked Happy Walters why Cypress Hill was on two songs within the album. “They were super into it. They were prolific. They were my group and they were on my label, so I gave them the opportunity to really kind of showcase themselves. They loved the idea. If you look at their following albums and what they’ve done with touring even to this day, they really became a live hip-hop group. That was kind of the impetus of what got them going.”
Cypress Hill was not the only artist to be part of two songs on the album.
Cypress Hill collaborated with two different artists as part of the soundtrack, Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth. But the hip-hop group was not the only hip-hop artist to work on two different songs on the album. That honor also belongs to Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay.
According to Biohazard’s Billy Graziadei, Jam Master Jay was in the studio for Biohazard’s collaboration with Onyx. Graziadei explained: “We were in the studio working on the track and I remember our first session with Jay and the [Onyx] guys. Jam Master Jay, he was hands-on. We would jam some ideas, and he had some beats going on.”
However, Jam Master Jay opted to use Biohazard drummer Danny Schuler’s drumming as part of the title track. Graziadei explained, “Jay lifted the beat from Danny, looped it and that was like the back of the song… That was the beginning of the track. I think we left that session with the backbone of the song.”
Biohazard was kicked out of Black Sabbath’s studio.
Biohazard did some of the work on their track while touring in Europe, flying out Steve Ett to work on the track. Biohazard’s Billy Graziadei explained: “We flew him out to England, we were on tour and he brought the tapes. We were in Birmingham, England, we had a couple of days off and we rented Black Sabbath’s studio. They let us go into their personal studio, I don’t know if it was a favor or if there was money involved, but we were just super-stoked being in Black Sabbath’s recording studio.” Graziadei continued: “We finished the track, we just wrote the chorus, came up with some other ideas and made everything down and then sent it back to Jay and they finished the track.”
Graziadei had more to say about Biohazard’s British experience, however. “I remember Tony Iommi calling up the studio and we had to finish what we were doing because he had an idea… He basically kicked us out of his studio which is, at the time, we thought was pretty cool. We were like, ‘Tony Iommi’s kicking us out of Black Sabbath’s studio so he could do some work, hopefully he’s got another fucking “Iron Man” riff.'”
Notably, Onyx and Biohazard had collaborated together before this soundtrack, working on a charting remix of the Onyx hit “Slam.” Graziadei is currently in the band Powerflo alongside another Judgment Night alumnus, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill.
For Helmet’s song with House Of Pain, it all started with a guitar riff.
According to Helmet’s Page Hamilton, Helmet and House Of Pain first got together in “this little one room studio in a basement.” He explained: “We got our gear set up and got sound and stuff, and everybody just looks at me and they are like, ‘Alright, what are we going to do?’ I just go, ‘We are writing a song together, right?’ And they are like, ‘Yeah, so what do you want to do?’ Nobody had any bright ideas, so I said, ‘Well, I have this really good riff.”
The lyrics were more of a collaborative effort, though, according to Hamilton. “Erik [Schrody, a.k.a. Everlast] and I later discussed the subject matter… I had been kind of bouncing around this idea of people feeling victimized and not assuming responsibility for themselves. He goes, ‘oh that works beautifully with what I have been writing.” So he had been writing and I had the idea of victims, and so then they, he came up with ‘just another victim.’ So it was kind of the true collaboration in that sense, although we wrote our lyrics separately and did the music separately. I sang my vocals with them in California when we were on tour.
Page Hamilton still enjoys and performs “Just Another Victim” live.
“I think it was credited as a co-write for all 6 dudes or 5 dudes or whatever it was, but I mean it was essentially the Helmet part of the song was derived from was me and [drummer John] Stanier,” said Hamilton. “Then House of Pain slowed it down and sampled it, slowed it down and he did his rap and they came up with all the noises and the bell hits.”
Hamilton’s decision to be part of the soundtrack, he insists, had nothing to do with money. “It was a creative challenge. Obviously there was the paycheck involved, but I never think in those terms. I am a musical problem-solver. Like ‘okay, so this is a very interesting concept.’ We could have said no, but I was very interested in doing it.” But did Hamilton foresee the soundtrack as having long-term potential? “There is a Rolling Stone article and I am the first person quoted in this article. I am like, ‘Rap-rock, yeah, this is never going to go anywhere. This is a one-time thing.’ That is why I am not an A&R guy, because obviously bands like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit became huge multi-platinum bands by combining rap and rock.”
Page Hamilton, like many of the other artists I interviewed, never saw the film Judgment Night.
“I think John might have seen it, but I can’t say for sure,” Hamilton said of former Helmet drummer John Stanier. “Honestly, probably 80 percent of the movies I work on I don’t see. I like the creative challenge of doing movie music and soundtrack music. I’ve done a lot, Helmet has done a lot, and I have done a lot since then. I did two movies before this last Helmet tour started… I don’t know that I will rent The Kissing Booth, you know?”
With a laugh, Hamilton added: “As a 58-year-old man, I don’t think that teen-romantic high school comedies would be something that I would go out of my way to see… I’ve seen bits and pieces of The Jerky Boys. We’ve seen our scene because we were in it, but I just don’t get to that many movies, and I am not a huge movie buff, I spend most of my time nerding out on jazz-guitar.”
There is a rumor that Rage Against The Machine and Tool recorded a song for the soundtrack, and that appears to be false.
When scouring YouTube, you ought to be able to find a song called “Can’t Kill The Revolution” that is credited to Rage Against The Machine and Tool as a Judgment Night outtake. I asked Happy Walters if this rumor about an unfinished Tool and Rage collaboration, due to both bands being unsatisfied with the track, for the soundtrack being true.
He said, “No, that’s not true… Rage just didn’t do it and Tool didn’t do it. If they would’ve done it, we would have worked on it until they were happy on it, it would have been on the album. We were label mates with Rage through Epic [Records].” Walters added: “Rage didn’t do it, they would have been great. I talked to the guys, Zack [De La Rocha] was not into it.” But he did get to work with Rage’s Tom Morello on the Spawn soundtrack.
Happy Walters views the Spawn soundtrack as being part of a trilogy, along with Judgment Night and Blade 2.
“Yeah, I did three. Spawn was the second,” Walters began. “It was a lot of fun to do, because of what we had done with Judgment Night, it was a lot easier to get people involved… I look at it in my own mind as a trilogy… They all had varying degrees of success and some people loved them and some people didn’t.”
Even though “some people didn’t” like the soundtracks, Walters looks back at Judgment Night as a launching pad for him. “It helped me form my road into the music space and enabled me to be able to sign bands and have success and have more bands and more soundtracks, and eventually I ended up signing Incubus, Thirty Seconds To Mars, and other bands I got lucky with.”
Karyn Rachtman may not have loved the movie, but she still looks back on the soundtrack itself – which sold more copies in Boston than any other city – fondly: “The music was phenomenal and the movie wasn’t.”