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Ray Cappo, formerly of Shelter
By Sounni de Fontenay
(more articles from this author)
1999-01-14
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Shelter[SF] How long have you been playing music professionally?

[RC] Luckily and unluckily, I've been doing it for 12 years...I started for fun at sixteen. I was in a punk rock band in high school in Connecticut. I just couldn't get into the regular high school scene and hated the "rock concert" scene which was the Cheap Trick, Foreigner, crap at the time. So, I started going to clubs in the village, in downtown NYC, on weekends and i really appreciated live music. I remember the first band I ever saw was the Beastie Boys' first band called The Young and the Useless. They were about my age and my girlfriend said "Ray, you could do that". so I went home and started a band. I never stopped but when I was 19, I dropped out of university and decided that I really didn't want to be a math major but rather tour the world playing original music and sort of try my luck and do it rather independently. I went to college out of peer pressure. It was the next logical stage but my heart wasn't in it. I wasn't into the frat scene, I found the entire thing an extension of high school. I had dreams I wanted to follow so I did and i'm glad I did.

[SF] Who are your influences?

[RC] Always changing and growing. Since I grew up playing violin (not many know this) I was sort of isolated from rock in the beginning. I loved and love Bach, Mozart Vivaldi,... later I got into Bob Dylan and Neil young then I jumped into the Sex Pistols, Cockney Rejects, Xray Spex and the British punk and Oi and mod thing. I sort of crossed over into American hardcore and punk while I was in college like Circle jerks and Black Flag and then some for the more straight forward and positive type of music like Minor Threat and 7 Seconds. A lot of times the most influential bands never become the biggest bands. I always find that strange.

[SF] . What instruments do you play?

[RC]I play guitar, bass, violin, drums, a few Indian classical instruments like Mrdunga (a clay drum) as well as harmonium (like a pump keyboard). But in everyone of my bands, I 've only sang and written the songs.

Shelter[SF] You started out in a hardcore band. What was that like?

[RC] Youth of Today was the first band that developed a big following when I was 19. That was exciting, It was very independent. We had an international following and hardly any advertising or press. It was a strange culty word of mouth thing. It was fun but we roughed it. In 1989 we did a tour of Europe selling out almost every show. The shows were in crazy places, a few were in these giant squats like dilapidated buildings; getting cheated out of money by promoters ...etc. We learned the hard way (and am still learning) but they were all positive experiences. I mean I got to tour the world from Hungary to Puerto Rico to South America to Sweden to Tokyo so in that sense work always seemed like a vacation, minus the nice hotel rooms.

[SF] What lessons did you walk away with?

[RC] 1. Keep your merchandising rights. 2. Stay out of Poland 3. Do not see doctors in Hungary. 4. Eat in Italy 5. Do not tour Scandinavia during the winter 6. Make sure your driver doesn't fall asleep at the wheel 6. Read a lot of books. 7. The Japanese are kind. 8. Never get your pay mailed to you. 9. Sound checks don't work. 10. Unless you're huge...don't bring a sound man. 11. Only tour with people you like. 12. Somehow, somewhere, take a bath. 13. Bring a lot of socks, it's tough to do your laundry.

[SF] You went on to start a label, Revelation Records. How did that do?

[RC] Revelation still does a lot of my back catalog (Youth of Today and Shelter) but I don't own it any more. it's still going strong and has great bands. it's based out of Huntington Beach, California.

[SF] How many bands did you have on the label's roster?

[RC] I signed 11 bands before I left. Now they've put out over 70.

[SF] In 1991, you left the music scene and moved to India. What brought you back toNew York, to music?

[RC] I think music is like my "dharma" or calling. Everybody has something they feel natural at doing...so music did and will always magnetically drag me back even though some times I move away from it.

[SF] How is your music different from the time before you lived in India and after?

Shelter[RC] Musically, maybe not much, but emotionally, it's charged and lyrically maybe more inspirational with more direction. Just being in a holy village thousands of miles away from the Western world in a place where no one cares about Spin magazine, Boys to Men. It's like a different world with a different paradigm and it's refreshing and eye opening to see that our world is also just another tiny universe. You know?

[SF] Tell me about Shelter?

[RC] Shelter had it's hard edge cuz we grew out of the NYC punk/hardcore scene but it was blended with catchy hooks melodies and harmonies. Although the common listener and the record company were trying to fit us into that Offspring/Foo Fighters type of genre and it wasn't far off....our lyrics were a little different. Had a serious spiritual twist to our songs which our fans really get into.

[SF] What was the response that the band received?

[RC] The band always had a good fan base internationally but it got bigger as the band got bigger with the signing on Roadrunner for the last two CD's. Even though in America we had a real "hardcore" following, in countries like Brazil we came halfway to a gold record. Europe and Japan were always big too because of press and videos but it still maintained an underground status.

[SF] What was the band's stage presence like?

[RC] I do a lot of martial arts so I'm really an acrobat on stage with kicks and jumps and the like plus the crowd at the shows are usually completely nuts. They are either singing along with massive pile-ups on stage or manic diving. I don't mind much. I like the idea of communing with the audience. It 's much better than the old glued to your seat J. Giles concert.

[SF] Who were you signed to?

[RC] Our first two were on Revelation (Huntington Beach, ca.) and then 3rd to Equal Vision Records (NYC) and then the last two from Runner Records.

[SF] Why did the band split up?

[RC] I needed a quality of life change so I am moving to the West Coast. Anyone who's been living in New York City for along time can sympathize. So we're releasing the final CD in May on my label, Super Soul Recordings, and licensed world wide. I also think this is a different chapter in my life and I want to work with new people in a new place with a new sound. I 'm also doing a lot of spoken word both live and on CD and that's creative and fun. I also act and want to start doing that as a parallel life with music.


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