RAY CAPPO AND CRAIG AHEAD WITH YOUTH OF TODAY AT CBGB’S, NYC, 1986 | PHOTO: KATHLEEN TOBIN
First off, I would personally like to thank everyone who snagged a copy of ‘NYHC 1980 – 1990′. I am truly humbled by the response the book received. The demand for the book was so out of control in fact that the first printing dried up rather quickly and left some out in the cold in regards of getting a copy. But don’t fear! The second printing of ‘NYHC 1980 – 1990′ will be hitting the book store shelves in the next few weeks with added photos and much more.
To celebrate both the reaction to the first printing and the upcoming second printing, I decided to go back into the vaults and pull out another interview conducted for the book and throw it up here on DCXX. This time around, we have a lengthy interview with all around NYHC icon, Ray Cappo.
This interview will be split into several installments due to its length, but in this first part, Ray speaks about his introduction into the Hardcore scene and the formation and initial shows of his first band, Violent Children.
Enjoy — Tony
RAY CAPPO GOES FOR A DIVE AT THE ANTHRAX DURING BOLD, 1987 | PHOTO: UNKNOWN
Truthfully, I didn’t even know anything was going on in Connecticut even though Connecticut had a very striving scene. I lived in Danbury which was an hour and fifteen minutes from New York City on the Metro North train. My parents were sort of New Yorkers and my brothers and sisters were all older and they lived in the city. I used to go to New York City on weekends and my parents were cool with it because they figured I’d stay with my brothers or sisters and everything would be cool. Little did they know! I would just say ‘I’m going to see some music this weekend’. I’d keep it pretty vague. They had no idea I was hanging out on the Lower East Side all weekend. My first real introduction was I liked alternative music. I wasn’t quite sure of what Hardcore was at that point. Then I stumbled into CBGB’s when the UK Subs were playing one night. The Young and The Useless were playing, which was guys from the Beastie Boys. Once I saw the Young and The Useless, I thought ‘These are kids that are my age. I can do this’.
Usually, growing up in a suburban American high school environment, if you’re in a band, you’re in a cover band; at least back when I was growing up. Kids were playing the best of AC/DC, the best of Rush, the best of Journey. I always thought that was so lame. So when I saw these bands that weren’t technically good, but playing from their heart in some random nightclub, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
I was with a girlfriend at the time and she goes ‘Ray, you could do this! You should start a band!’ So when I got back to my typical American high school, I grabbed three of my friends who were the only three guys into alternative music and said ‘Let’s start a band’. That’s when we started the band Violent Children.
RAY WITH THE STAGE MOSH DURING AGNOSTIC FRONT AT CBGB’S, NYC | PHOTO COURTESY OF: ALEXA POLI-SCHEIGERT
From then on, CBGB’s became my escape from my world. It was a great place. You could see incredible bands for three dollars. It was almost like walking into a comic book with super heroes and villains and characters that were bigger than life. That’s what the New York scene was like. The characters on the scene were bigger and more colorful than the black and white people in your high school. There was no Raybeez or Vinnie Stigma or Harley Flanagan in your high school. These guys were bigger than life. When you would go back to your high school on a Monday morning and try to explain the bands you saw or how you saw one guy hit another guy over the head with a beer bottle, people would ask ‘Where do you go where you see people hitting each other over the head with beer bottles?’ At that point in life, the only place you should be seeing something like that is in a movie.
In 1982, there were barely any records. The only bands from New York that had records out were the False Prophets, Kraut and The Misguided. The only places you could hear this stuff were on these late night college radio shows. In my hometown, was the Danbury State College radio station and there was a radio show where it would be a mix between Duran Duran or INXS or Men Without Hats or Oingo Boingo with stuff like Dead Kennedys or Flipper or Youth Brigade or Minor Threat. So we thought ‘Let’s make a demo tape and get it played on this radio station!’ We made this really shitty demo tape and then we went to this radio station at midnight and threw pebbles against the window and the guy opened the window and we were like ‘Hey! We’re in a Hardcore band!’ The guy was so psyched that Danbury, Connecticut had a Hardcore band. We asked him to play our demo and he actually played our demo. He was saying ‘We have Danbury Connecticut’s only Hardcore band Violent Children in the studio!’ It was so cool.
That night, we got two phone calls. One was the guy who owned the club The Anthrax, which wasn’t quite a club yet. He said they were doing a benefit to open the Anthrax and he wanted us to play. He explained how The Anthrax would be an art gallery and a band hangout place. We got our first gig from that radio show. Check out the lineup: Violent Children, CIA, Agnostic Front, Cause for Alarm, Hose, Reflex from Pain and Lost Generation. It was a big massive line-up. We couldn’t believe we were going to be playing with all our favorite bands. When you’re in high school and your favorite band is Aerosmith, you’re never going to play with them. But here we were, listening to these bands and we’re playing our first gig with them.The second phone call was from Johnny Stiff calling in from New York. He booked shows at A7 and CBGB’s and offered us a show. So, from being on one radio show, we went from being a local band to getting out of state gigs.
At the Anthrax benefit, we were the second band on the bill and after the set, the police busted in and raided the place because we were all underage. All the underage people were hiding under the stage for the rest of the night. For a sixteen year old kid, it was probably the most exciting thing to happen. For your band to be playing with all your favorite bands at a big show and now it gets raided by the cops and you got to get home without your parents finding out. You had to get home without your father knowing you borrowed his car. It was a whole new, exciting thing.