Last month, I started a year-long series where I take a look at some of the most influential figures throughout the history of NYHC. The first installment featured former Cro-Mags bassist/vocalist Harley Flanagan. The series is a collaboration between No Echo and artist Dylan Chadwick, and he'll be coming up with original art for each of the entries.
For the second entry in the series, I've chosen to highlight Ray Cappo.
Even before he broke down the walls with Youth of Today, Ray Cappo was laying down a vicious backbeat as the drummer of Violent Children, a Connecticut-based hardcore band. After releasing a demo and 7", Ray decided to start a new band with Violent Children guitarist John Porcelly that would focus on straight edge and everything else the two young musicians believed in. The year was 1985 and most of the first-wave straight edge hardcore bands either broke up or changed up styles.
Along with bassist Graham Philips and drummer Darren Pesce, Youth of Today recorded and released their debut EP, Can't Close My Eyes, for Positive Force, a now defunct label that was owned and operated by Kevin Seconds of 7 Seconds. The EP was a game-changer. Seemingly overnight, a new legion of straight edge hardcore bands begun to sprout up throughout the country, especially in New York and California.
Lineup changes within Youth of Today were a constant, but that didn't stand in the way of Ray's focus. The group's debut album, Break Down the Walls, was released in 1986 by Wishingwell Records, the label co-owned by Pat Dubar and Pat Longrie of the California straight edge bands Uniform Choice and Unity, further strengthening the scene's impact. With two records out, the band hit the road any chance they could. "We wanted to take this seriously," Ray told writer Tony Rettman in a recent interview. "We thought straight edge was an important message. It was a lofty idea. We wanted to put out a record and travel around America. That was our dream. And we ended up doing so much more than that. By the time Break Down the Walls came out, we couldn’t believe it."
1987 found Ray joining forces with friend Jordan Cooper to start Revelation Records, arguably the most important label to ever come out of the hardcore community. Now based in Southern California, Revelation Records has issued releases by the likes of Quicksand, Gorilla Biscuits, and Texas Is the Reason, among many other influential artists. Ray would leave Revelation and in 1990 started Equal Vision Records, a label that is still going strong today, though he sold his stake in the company many years ago.
Youth of Today would end up breaking up after releasing one more studio album (We're Not In This Alone) and a farewell 7" of sorts, Disengage, for Revelation Records. By that time, Ray found himself drawn to Krishna Consciousness, and that passion would fuel his next musical adventure: Shelter. With an initial lineup that included Tom Capone (Beyond, Bold) on guitar, Shelter released the No Compromise 7" and Perfection of Desire full-length, and like Youth of Today a few years earlier, the influence of the new band could be seen and heard immediately. While they weren't the first hardcore band to write about the Hare Krishna faith, Shelter made it the focal point of their message.
In the mid to late '90s, Ray joined forces with guitarist Ken Olden (Battery, Damnation A.D.) in Better Than a Thousand, a return to the classic straight edge hardcore sound of Youth of Today. Their two studio albums—1997's Just One and 1999's Values Driven—are packed with hard-charging, anthemic songs that helped introduce a younger generation to Ray's ideals.
In the last couple of decades, Ray, or Raghunath, has devoted his life to yoga and the ideologies laid out in the Bhagavad Gita, a 700 verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He also keeps busy with occasional Youth of Today and Shelter lives dates, when schedules allowed. The 2016 footage below of Youth of Today features Ray, Walter Schreifels (bass), Sammy Siegler (drums), and John Porcelly (guitar) and you would be hard-pressed to see a better live performance from a hardcore band, new or old.
Though not a native New Yorker, Ray's deep involvement with the NYHC scene is undisputable and his deep love and drive to spread the sound and ideals of the movement can still be felt today. Entire rosters of hardcore-centered labels like Triple-B and React! owe a huge debt to Ray and the work he's put into this thing.
Read Part 1 of the series: The Most Influential Figures of NYHC: Harley Flanagan