In the first episode of their series Under the Influence, Noisey goes from the streets of the Lower East Side all the way to South Korea to examine one of the most distinctive genres to sprout from the concrete of New York City: hardcore. Along the way, we’ll meet with everyone from tattoo shop owners to chefs to government workers—all of whom have been inspired by the teachings at musical meccas like CBGB and A7 and found ways to apply the lessons learned from the scene to their own lives. Join us—as well as members of Agnostic Front, Title Fight, Youth of Today, Incendiary, and more—as they explore a world living under the influence of New York Hardcore.
CLASSIC RAY OF TODAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY AT THE RAT, 1986 | PHOTO: BRUCE RHODES
When Break down the Walls came out, we became a national band pretty quick. We did a tour around America and instead of getting a heroes’ welcome when we came home to New York, we found out there was envy. As much as I was upset about it, you come to realize that exists everywhere. In the corporate world, there’s always some new guy who is better at what the old guy there has been doing for years and it causes a rift.
We sold maybe six thousand record and toured America in a crappy van while constantly being broke. No one ever left New York pretty much, so maybe there was an issue with that. Whatever it was, that was the first time I felt a backlash. Straight Edge got so many people excited, that there was a natural backlash where people said ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to be Straight Edge’.
I didn’t grow up in the Straight Edge scene. If anything, we created that scene. But at a point, I could see where some people were coming from. The Straight Edge scene seemed kind of dumbed down. It bummed me out. Straight Edge created a bubble that was a scene within a scene that wasn’t really interested in anything that wasn’t Straight Edge. That made me sad because I loved the Buzzcocks, P.I.L and other things. It was sort of sad that newer kids who were just getting into Youth of Today or Uniform Choice didn’t care about anything else. They would buy any record that was Straight Edge by these bands like Wide Awake and Aware, but if some other punk band would put out a record, they would be like ‘They’re not Straight Edge, who cares?’ It narrowed their whole view of the Hardcore scope.
YOUTH OF TODAY ON THE BREAK DOWN THE WALLS TOUR, 1987, RICHIE, WALTER, RAY, RJ (ROADIE), CIV (ROADIE) AND PORCELL | PHOTO: MIKE JUDGE
I always had this pull towards spirituality and a truth quest. I got a calling to be a vegetarian. I always want to improve what I can do in this world. I want to be very careful about what I put in my mouth and be concerned if it harms other beings. I made the public statement that I was a vegetarian and decided Youth of Today were going to preach that as a part of being Straight Edge. I remember telling Porcell that and he was like ‘Oh man! We’ve already stirred up so much stuff with Straight Edge, now we’re really going to piss people off!’ And it did!
After that, I read books about yogis and Buddhists and Christian mystics. I would get inspiration from them and write lyrics. Look at the lyrics of Youth of Today. They are influenced by words of literature. I got inspired by this literature. All the things about the material world that all these great yogis and mystics would write about, I felt like ‘I’m over that shit. I’m not greedy. I’m not envious. I’m not competitive. I know the material world is temporary’. But I was immersed in the success of this micro-world where it was all there. Greed, envy, lust, ignorance: it was all there. I thought I was above it, but I was immersed in it. My success had made me suffer even more. I was really burnt out on it and then I had my father die unexpectedly. That’s when I understood the temporality of the material world. In the Straight Edge scene, everybody was looking up to me and truthfully, I didn’t know what I was talking about. There were tenets of the Straight Edge thing like you should strive to be a better person and be forgiving and not kill animals. But, you know, my mom could tell you that! It’s not like I was some Dali Lama for saying something as simple as that. The Straight Edge scene became too much of this thing where kids just thought they were perfect. They didn’t realize it was a stepping stone to do greater things with your life. I felt that the Straight Edge scene was limiting itself. There was an arrogance in it that you find in religion or anything where you do something for your self-betterment. But instead of doing it for yourself, you do it to lord over other people. In the name of doing something better for yourself, you end up hating other people. It defeats the whole idea of self-betterment. This was what I was watching happen and it was super bumming me out.
RAY AND PORCELL WITH SHELTER AT CITY GARDENS, 1990 | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
I thought it was crazy. It got me to thinking ‘What do I want? Do I want to get ten times bigger in Hardcore? Will that make me happier?’ I wanted to know what would make me a happier person. I thought nothing would make me happy except for some sort of God quest. So, I quit music.
When I came up with the idea of Shelter I thought ‘How can I refine what I’m doing?’ I wanted to tweak the basic message I’ve had all along, but make it more spiritual.
The first Shelter record was supposed to me my final record ever. It was a project I did with Tom Capone from Beyond and Quicksand and some older guys I knew from Connecticut. They helped me record this music that I wrote and that was supposed to be my ‘Goodbye’ to Hardcore so I could go away and become a monk. Later, the more I studied Indian philosophy, I learned a big part of that philosophy is you don’t quit what you were born to do. You take what you do and do it in a spiritual way instead of the material way and that’s how Shelter was born as full-fledged band. It took me to give it up to get me to refine it.
RAY ENGULFED IN SOME SHELTER MAYHEM AT CITY GARDENS | PHOTO: KEN SALERNO
Jordan Cooper and I admired Raybeez as an ambassador of the old school of NYHC. I don’t think those early Warzone gigs were necessarily that great; it was just that Raybeez was such a great character. He was from the old scene where they did tons of drugs, but then when he went Straight Edge and it created this nice bridge. He was always a very positive, upbeat, welcoming person. Although he was hard, you never felt unwelcomed by the guy.
So when we heard Warzone was going to break up, Jordan and I thought ‘This band is breaking up and they’ve done so many demos, why don’t we put out some of their demos on a record?’ We thought that they were never going to reform so we thought ‘This band is going to go undocumented. We have to document this’. We almost laughed to ourselves and thought ‘Yeah that would be friggin’ cool!’ Then I said ‘You know what would be really cool? If we put posters inside the singles’. Think about it, Warzone was a band filled with characters. Todd Youth was a crazy character. Tito was another colorful character. We thought we should put a different poster for each band member in the record. We might have done that for a few limited copies of the record.
At first, we just wanted to document Warzone. Then it was becoming something like ‘Wait a minute, we need to document this band and this band and this band’. There was a whole new wave of bands that no one had ever heard of. We never thought the bands we were putting out were going to be popular outside of New York. Maybe some friends of ours in L.A would get it, but that was as far as we thought it would go. Then it became this sick phenomenon that spread internationally.
YOUTH OF TODAY AND CREW, HANGING OUT IN FRONT OF CBGB’S, 1987 | PHOTO: PERPETRATOR FANZINE
We always felt almost like historians that were documenting the scene. We wanted to document something that would be over in the wink of an eye. That’s what records are to me. As an adult, to look back on those records and remember what I was thinking when I made it and where I was living and who I was hanging out with; it’s like a yearbook.
Revelation just fueled the fire for me and Porcell since we were the original psycho record collectors. We would post our want lists and offer the limited versions of the records on Revelation. We would trade an orange vinyl limited to 200 pressing of the Warzone record for an SSD The Kids Will Have Their Say. We would trade records that we just pressed for SSD records. We were making our own money here!
Nowadays, you have whole marketing and branding teams that are supposed to come up with the ideas. But when you think about it, we were figuring the concept of branding before we knew what it even was. I remember being in a club in East Germany and seeing all these kids with all the Revelation shirts on and they looked like they could have been from New York City circa 1986, but it was 1995. That’s when I realized, ‘Oh my god! We created a whole fashion and culture’. We never thought it was going to become that. We did it because it was a cool time with cool music and people. It wasn’t that sophisticated. It was very grassroots and homegrown.
RAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY ON THE “WE’RE NOT IN THIS ALONE” TOUR, 1988 | PHOTO: UNKNOWN
Duane at Some Records was another guy who understood that all this stuff was temporary and you had to preserve the legacy. Some Records was the most unassuming, underground store with this one nerdy guy behind the counter. There was maybe two boxes of singles on the counter with a very thin selection because Duane was an epicurean of Hardcore. I would come into the store and ask him if he had the Side by Side seven inch we put out and he would say ‘Yeah, I got them from Jordan’. Then I would say ‘You know, we did a different color pressing for it as well’ and he say ‘Oh yeah, I got them all!’ and then pull out twenty of each color. I would think he was crazy but he would say ‘Ray, don’t you understand these things are going to be gone soon and no one else will have them?’
But that attitude was eventually Duane’s downfall. Duane was such a fan of the music that he couldn’t have a business brain in his head. I mean, he had a record store with no sign in front! His girlfriend Gina was more of the business person. She would say to me ‘Ray, you have to talk to him. He’s going to go out of business! Every time a band comes down here to sell a demo tape, he buys ten of them!’ He was too much of a puritan for the store to last, but I appreciated his gesture.
YOUTH OF TODAY AT THE ANTHRAX, NORWALK CT, WALTER’S FIRST SHOW ON BASS | PHOTO: BOILING POINT
November 6th, 1994. The bill was set to be Sick Of It All, Shelter and Snapcase at City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey. This was a pretty stacked bill for the time. All three bands were regularly headlining their own shows all over the country and any of them could have headlined this particular show at City Gardens.
Sammy had played drums on Shelter’s first tour four years earlier and was returning to play for them again. Tim Brooks from BOLD was playing bass in Shelter at this point, as well. This Shelter lineup alone made things pretty interesting but what was getting even more interesting were the rumors that started floating around. Word on the street was that Walter was going to join Shelter on stage that night and a Youth Of Today reunion was going to happen.
On the day of the show, I remember pulling up in front of City Gardens and both Ray and Porcell walking over to my car and sticking their heads inside my open windows. They were all smiles. Although I hadn’t talked to either of them since the rumor started circulating, they knew that I knew and they looked to be just as excited about it as I was.
Shelter played a stellar set to a raging crowd but as their set was winding down, I was preparing for what was about to be bestowed upon us. I took a spot on the left side of the stage. I knew that no matter what, when that first song started, I wanted a clear path off that stage and into that crowd. Out of nowhere, Walter takes the stage and Tim Brooks steps aside. Half the crowd that was in the know was waiting with bated breath, while the other half stood around looking confused.
Then it happened, “We’re back!” From there on out, it was a blur of chaos with bodies flying everywhere and voices shouting every lyric. I ran off the stage like I was attacked by a swarm of bees, smashed into people, dove into the crowd, then I recall more and more bodies falling on top of me. Eventually I pulled myself out of the melee, climbed back on stage and quickly dove off again. The songs flew by and I tried to soak it all in, but before I knew it, it was over. I remember coming out of that set feeling exhausted, beaten up, with little voice left but knowing I had just witnessed something very special.
It took 21 years, but thanks to Sammy Siegler, we here at DCXX present to you, not only the video from this monumental moment in time, but the memories surrounding it from all four members. Huge thanks to Sammy for digging out this gem and digitizing it for us and also to Ray, Walter, Porcell and Sammy again, for contributing and making this all happen. -Tim DCXX
RAY, WALTER AND PORCELL WITH YOUTH OF TODAY, 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
“Playing with Walter, Sammy and Porcell was simply a magical line up. I can’t describe it but it was definitely a case where our value together was worth so much more than ourselves separately. There was such a buzz that night and when we were going to get on stage you could energetically feel it. I remember all these kids were coming up to me all night before we played…but when we actually got on the stage I remember specifically thinking, “wow this is special. This is going to be incredible.” As far as bands go, the members are like ingredients of a recipe. There are some recipes where if you put the right things together something wonderful happens. That was exactly the case with that Youth Of Today line up.”
WALTER WITH YOUTH OF TODAY 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
“It’s interesting to me now how long the five years between Youth Of Today’s last show in 1989 and this show felt at the time. It felt like a lifetime. We had all gone on to do very different musical projects and had grown a lot as people in the interim, as had much of our audience. But as soon as Sam clicked off “Flame Still Burns” we all knew what to do. It was completely back on. We had lived and breathed these songs and the ideals they represented for years: straight edge, vegetarianism, racial equality, sexual equality and “to create a more conscious, caring society.” As uncontroversial as those messages may seem today, we were attacked for promoting them at every turn, even by many of those who agreed with us. In truth these people never bothered us because we had better mosh parts than they did and that’s what counted. We only played a handful of songs here but I remember it well. City Gardens had an amazing atmosphere and the scene there had been a second home for us. Very fond memories.”
SAMMY, WALTER, PORCELL AND RAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
“Youth Of Today was basically the most important band I’ve ever played in. Ray Cappo is one of the best frontmen of all time. Porcell was like my big brother. Walter is a super talent. I have a lot of great history with those guys. I’ve been lucky to play in some cool bands but Youth Of Today was always an important one. City Gardens was always a big deal, I was young and the place always felt huge. That brief Youth Of Today reunion set was magical. Kids went berserk – it could have been ’88 for all I knew. I had been pretty spent after playing a full Shelter set, once I heard “WE’RE BACK!” the adrenaline kicked in and I was all good…”
PORCELL AND RAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
“I remember when Craig left Youth of Today in 1987, those were some big shoes to fill. Craig went nuts on stage and even more than the physicality of it, he was genuinely moved by the music and the message. We needed somebody like that. I was in charge of getting the actual band together so the first person I thought of was Walter. He was the clean cut kid from Queens singing his heart out to every song when we played. Like his life depended on it. That was our guy. I risked having to fight Raybeez to grab Walter out of Warzone. It all worked out in the end because Walter was way more Youth Crew than Lower East Side anyway. And he was the piece of the puzzle we needed.
Then the band broke up briefly, and Mike Judge didn’t come back on drums. I mean, seriously, who can replace The Judge? He wasn’t the greatest drummer but he made up for it in presence. I was considering getting Sammy but I just assumed that since he was so young he wouldn’t cut it musically. One Sunday afternoon I went early to CBGB’s for a Side By Side show and at soundcheck, even though Sammy didn’t know – that was his tryout for Youth Of Today. And seriously, Sammy just killed it. Somehow or another in just a few short months that little kid turned into a powerhouse. Youth Of Today with a 14 year old drummer – it was almost too perfect.
It’s always being debated, but personally I think the Walter/Sammy lineup was Youth Of Today’s strongest. And when we stood on that City Gardens stage again, with those four pieces of the puzzle in place, it just happened. That’s the beauty of music: when key personalities get together and things blend and synergy happens. There was definitely some magic in the air that night.”
SAMMY, WALTER AND PORCELL WITH YOUTH OF TODAY 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
WALTER, PORCELL AND RAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
WALTER WITH YOUTH OF TODAY 11/6/94 | PHOTO: TRACI MCMAHON
RAY AND WALTER WITH YOUTH OF TODAY IN WIGAN, UK, 1989 | PHOTO: NICOLAS ROYLES
When Porcell and I started Youth of Today, we wanted to take it seriously. We thought Straight Edge was an important message. We wanted to take it seriously and travel around the world. I guess it was a lofty idea. Our dream was to put out a record and travel around America and we ended up doing so much more than that.
It became quite a phenomenon very quickly. We played at CBGB’s in New York with Agnostic Front and Damage. It was right before ‘Can’t Close My Eyes’ came out. I’m a big mouth, and I was really into Straight Edge. Back then, no one was Straight Edge in New York so I really went off and had a little bit of an attitude.
So, we played this show at CBGB’s and left and went to California to tour with 7 Seconds. They put out our single on their label, Positive Force. We got back and everybody was Straight Edge. It was unbelievable.
I remember coming back from that tour and seeing Todd Youth on the street and he grabbed me and said ‘Check this out, I’m Straight Edge now!’ I was like ‘You’re kidding!’ and he was like ‘No, even Raybeez is Straight Edge’ and I was like ‘Now I know you’re kidding’. I knew Raybeez from hanging out from way back and he was far from Straight Edge. Sure enough, we go to hang out with Raybeez and he’s got an X on his hand and says to me ‘We’re all Straight Edge now!’
It was also after when we came back from that tour of California with 7 Seconds, we decided to move to New York City and it took over New York quick.
RAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY AT CBGB, NYC
The timing was so right because there was this whole influx of new people. There was this generation of kids like us who loved the old New York scene. We loved Agnostic Front, Cause for Alarm, The Abused and Urban Waste, but wanted to put our own stamp on it.
I think that era of NYHC in 1985 was when it really came into something. For people to think Hardcore stopped in 1985; maybe that’s just because they weren’t into Hardcore anymore. It might have been a personal thing. Truthfully, that’s when New York took off. Look at the bands that came out of that era: Sick of It All, Youth of Today, Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags. A big part of the New York scene happened post-’85. That’s when Agnostic Front became a global band.
Again, that’s not to take anything from the earlier era. ’82 NYHC was really cool, but it never really left New York. The Abused and Urban Waste were cult bands. Once again, that doesn’t take anything away from them. If there were no Urban Waste or The Abused, there definitely would be no Youth of Today because we literally copied them.
RAY WITH YOUTH OF TODAY AT CBGB, 1987 | PHOTO: BRIAN J QUINN
But Youth of Today brought a suburban element to the NYHC scene. I guess there was always a suburban element to the scene, but I think Youth of Today made it easier not to be a bad ass to hang out. You don’t have to be a criminal to hang out. You don’t have to be a drug addict to hang out.
Truthfully, a lot of the people that fell in on the Lower East Side and squatted down there, most of them were not from New York City. Not many people grew up in New York City. New York City was a hub. There was an influx of kids from the suburbs that would come up. There were kids that thought ‘I can relate to Hardcore, but I can’t relate to the negative elements’. To me, that was real deterrent because I wasn’t into drugs or the ‘live fast die young’ thing. The Straight Edge thing let you become a part of that scene but still have ethics, morals and self-integrity. That being said, the music was the common thread that brought all these different personalities all together.
When Jordan and I started Revelation and put out the ‘Together’ compilation, we really thought we were representing what NYHC was at the time. We were together and coming from all different places and coming together in the collective of alternative music. Truthfully, we were the alternative to what was going on back then. It was a great time to be in New York and making music.
RAY AND PROCELL WITH YOUTH OF TODAY AT THE STAMFORD, CT ANTHRAX
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.