Monday, January 4, 2010

Ray Cappo

Ray Cappo (a.k.a. Ray Today; also Raghunath) is the former vocalist for the hardcore bands Youth of Today, Reflex From Pain, Shelter, Better Than A Thousand, and the project recording "Ray and Porcell." This icon of New York hardcore was originally from Connecticut, and played drums for the Connecticut band Violent Children. Cappo was occasionally a guest DJ for college radio station WXCI, in Danbury, Connecticut, on a radio show called "The Adventure Jukebox" hosted by Darryl Ohrt of the band No Milk on Tuesday. Cappo played a wide array of hardcore music on the program, largely culled from his massive collection of records, rare unsigned EPs, and demo tapes. During this time, Cappo enthusiastically supported local hardcore shows including gigs by many early hardcore bands such as No Milk on Tuesday, 76% Uncertain, Seizure, End Product, and Abusive Action, and was often mentioned in the liner notes of their records. Before moving to New York City in the mid-1980s, Cappo and his band Youth of Today had already made a dent on the scene

Youth of Today

Along with guitarist John Porcelly (aka Porcell), Cappo started the seminal hardcore band Youth of Today, which would go on to release two 7" EP's (one later remixed and released as a 12") and two LPs, widely considered to be some of the most influential American hardcore records of their time. An important figure in the early days of Youth of Today was Kevin Seconds, singer of the Reno, NV band 7 Seconds. Kevin not only influenced the band, but also released their first ep, "Can't Close My Eyes" on his Positive Force Records. Youth of Today acted as a catalyst for the thriving straight edge scene in NYC, a task declared impossible by many NYC punk aficionados. From these beginnings arose a cadre of late 80's NYC straight edge bands, sometimes referred to as youth crew bands. These bands honed their sounds at CBGB's Sunday matinees, or at the Stamford, Connecticut (and later Norwalk) venue, The Anthrax.

The 1990s and "Krishna-core"

As Youth of Today began to wind down, Cappo found himself drawn to Krishna Consciousness, due in large part to his study of religions that embraced his vegetarian and straight edge ideals. He became a devotee and an outspoken proponent of the ideologies laid out in the Bhagavad Gita. Cappo resolved to start a band that would fulfill his spiritual needs and provide a mouthpiece for his newfound devotion. This band became known as Shelter. Cappo again found himself starting a record label to release bands with a Krishna-conscious message, the still operating Equal Vision Records. The rise of Shelter would unexpectedly create a musical sub-genre called "Krishna-core", with bands such as Cro-Mags and Fed Up! as its spiritual forefathers and 108 and Refuse to Fall among its main proponents.
A few years later, after distancing himself to a certain extent from certain strict elements of the Krishna and straight edge communities, Cappo found himself alienated from both camps after a minor incident became known to thousands via fanzines and the Internet. On a European tour with his "youth crew revival" band Better Than A Thousand, Cappo reportedly broke with the straight edge ideals he had long preached and drank a glass of wine while in Italy. In the tight knit straight edge community, where Cappo was looked upon as an elder statesman and role model, this event was a major source of controversy and allegations. Soon afterward, Cappo wrote an essay that was widely circulated on the Internet, responding to his detractors and asking for more compassion and tolerance toward those who might stumble on spiritual paths and have to renew their ethical commitments. While many dismiss Cappo as a "sellout" after this incident, others point to his subsequent promotion of yoga and a raw food diet and his renewed devotion to Krishna Consciousness as evidence of his continued commitment to bodily health and purification.

 Cappo currently lives with his family in Greenwich Village in New York City and is active as a yoga teacher. He continues his association with the Hare Krishna community in the area and is an avid mixed martial arts fan and practitioner. Aside from the European Youth of Today reunion tour in 2003 and occasional American and European reunion shows, Cappo has been only intermittently involved in the hardcore music scene.
In 2006 Ray Cappo released another Shelter record entitled Eternal on Good Life Recordings, and embarked on a European tour. He maintains a website for his yoga and raw food diet classes, featuring pictures of himself, his wife, and children performing yoga, and an e-mail list promoting raw foods and featuring recipes and inspirational quotations. Cappo also sponsors tours of India featuring important sites for practitioners of yoga.

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