Whether you know him as Ray Cappo, “Ray Of Today” or just Raghunath there is no denying this mans imprint of the world of hardcore punk music. With Youth Of Today he helped bring the straight edge movement to new heights and was a big reason for the rise of vegetarianism within the scene. With Shelter he delivered the message of Krishna consciousness and brought awareness to topics that were not always considered cool in the tough world of hardcore music. Last week Shelter got back together for a short run of East Coast shows and we were lucky to get a few minutes with Raghunath after their set. The circumstances surrounding this interview were a little out of the ordinary. The band just finished playing their set at the Amityville Music Hall on June 3rd and Raghunath agreed to do the interview out in the back of the club after they said their goodbyes to Don’t Sleep and Mindforce who they just played 4 nights in a row with. With me was Louie Rivera… the singer who sang on Antidote’s “Thou Shalt Not Kill” classic 7”. In some ways I feel that Louie knowing Raghunath from way back was the glue that kept this interview from falling apart as once we started the interview a driving rain started falling on us. The scene was Raghunath packed into his pickup truck with big boxes of Shelter merch surrounding him. How he drove home 3 plus hours with virtually no vision except for in front of him is beyond me. His voice was shot and he was obviously tired. Myself and Louie crowded into the cab of the truck as far as we could to try and avoid getting soaked but the rain was getting us good…. to the point where my list of questions got absolutely soaked through to the point I couldn’t even read the last group of questions. People passed through to say goodbye as they got in their cars to drive home and at one point we had to help back the Don’t Sleep van out of a tight corner so they wouldn’t clip any parked cars. Through all of this Raghunath sat their patiently and answered everything I threw at him. A huge thank you to him as well as to Louie Rivera for making this interview happen.
1: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. What was your day like before tonight’s show? What time did you get up? What was for breakfast today?
Raghunath: I have been doing this 2 day yoga retreat on Long Island. I played a show in Brooklyn last night and I didn’t get to bed till around 2am. I had to wake up at 8am and drove straight to Long Island and when I got there I had to teach immediately. I didn’t have time to eat so my first meal was at 2pm. I skipped breakfast and sort of had a later lunch. I taught until noon and had a second class at 1230pm. What I had was called kitchari which is simple, like a combination of lentils and rice cooked together in one pot.
2: Over the last couple of years things have been quiet with Shelter. What brought about this latest run of shows? Is this the start of a rebirth of sorts or just a short run of shows?
Raghunath: I think people were just asking and Sammy (Shelter’s drummer) organized it. With my schedule I don’t have time to organize anything but I will say that Shelter meant a lot for me. It is something that I cannot do full time or even really part time but we are doing 4 shows on the East Coast, 3 on the West and 3 in Europe.
3: You are currently writing a book. Can you tell us more about the subject matter and when it will be out?
Raghunath: Truthfully it is about deeper realms of meditation and stuff I studied in India but practical things. Even if you are not into spiritual life there are ways to make your life better. That being said, because I am what I am it is going to come out like Ray Cappo and I will tell stories about my life, my experiences. I can’t divorce my life from my spiritual path. My hardcore path is also part of my spiritual path. I am not sure when it will be out. I am excited about it and it is started already.
4: Many in the hardcore scene know you as Ray Cappo or “Ray Of Today” from fronting the legendary band Youth Of Today. Others know you as Raghunath. When you got deeper into your spiritual path with Krishna how does the name Raghunath come to be?
Raghunath: Raghunath… like the tomato sauce. You get a teacher who sees you are sincere and it is sort of like your next birth. It is your initiation and they give you a name.
5: Most famous person you have ever met? Were they cool?
Raghunath: I think it was the guy who played Wolverine… Hugh Jackman. I hung out with him in a park because he was chasing his kid around and I was chasing my kids around and I didn’t even recognize him until he left and someone said “You know that guy? How do you know him?” Cause I hung out with him for like an hour. We were both sort of frustrated dads and our kids were exhausting us and the nanny comes up to us and says “You know Hugh Jackman?” and I go “Who is Hugh Jackman?” They said he is that famous guy, he is in Wolverine and I said “That’s not Wolverine” (laughing). I don’t watch movies too much. And then my wife and me lived in the neighborhood, when we were in New York City and I said to her “Do you know a guy named Hugh… something?” And she says to me “Don’t tell me you were just hanging out with Hugh Jackman”. He was a really cool guy.
6: What were some of the first hardcore records you remember buying that had an impact on you and do you remember if your parents were supportive of your new found music that would change your life?
Raghunath: Kraut! Kraut! I think my parents were like what the heck… especially when they would walk into my room and Kevin Seconds would say “Get Off My Fucking Back, This Is My Life!” The Antidote record…classic. The Abused.. classic. Urban Waste, Reagan Youth, CFA.
7: Who were some of the singers you found early on that inspired you to want to sing in a band?
Raghunath: Louie from Antidote was one of those singers but I will say that I never thought I could do it like him. I still don’t think I could do it like him. I did it my way but I always felt like a little match compared to a flame. I loved Kevin Crowley (The Abused). If you listen to Youth Of Today, everything is a rip off of Antidote, The Abused and Urban Waste. 3 of my favorite bands.
8: The worst job you ever had and what were some of your responsibilities there?
Raghunath: When I was 16 I worked in some burger joint and after just 2 days I was like I can’t do this. I had to clean all the fat from the beef, it was disgusting.
8A: Were you already a vegetarian?
Raghunath: I didn’t become a vegetarian until I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 17 or 18.
SHELTER @ VOLTAGE LOUNGE, PHILADELPHIA, PA JUNE 1, 2018. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
9: Yoga and Bhakti are some things that you teach and are deeply involved with in your life. Who taught you about them and what was your introduction to them like?
Raghunath: What taught me about yoga was when I was a vegetarian in NY. I didn’t really understand about eating healthy so I started studying Indian medicine… Ayurveda is what it is called. From there I started studying some yoga in NYC with a guy named Dharma Mittra who was one of the old-school New York City yogis. Now he is like 85 years old. Cool guy. Truthfully it was Harley from the Cro-Mags that taught me about Krishna and Bhakti. It is not like the Hare Krishnas have a monopoly on bhakti. Bhakti just means loving God. The yoga system is very broad. There are things in yoga… systems of mystical things…. things that Christ was doing… healing people, levitation, magical things, that was part of yoga but also with health and healing. They almost used yoga poses in a way to heal bodies of different illnesses. Yoga means to connect. With bhakti yoga you connect through your heart. I was just telling this story because no one believes me… all my yoga students ask how did I get into this…. And I say you know how I got into it? I then tell them a 15 year old gang leader took me for a walk one day and preached to me and their reaction is usually like ‘WHAT!” and I tell them that I am dead serious and that is how I got into it. All of Hinduism truthfully… all of it… you grow your food with love, you cook your food with love, and you offer your food with love and then you give it away. If you go to any holy city in India they are always giving me this spiritual food called prashad. Wherever you go they are handing it to you. It is not for the poor, it is not for the rich, it is for anyone who walks by because they think that the real deficit in this world is love. So they give that love out to everybody. So these early Krishna devotees used to go out to Tompkins Square Park and give out this food and we were all punks and we all ate that food and then we started asking what is this stuff and what are you guys doing and why are you vegetarians and they slowly chipped away at our egos and taught us some valuable lessons that we still hold.
10: How many children do you have and what is your favorite aspect about being a father?
Raghunath: I have 5 kids. I had a good father but he never really played with me. I actually like playing with my kids. I like hanging out with my kids, they are fun kids. The smallest is 4 years old and the oldest is 21.
11: What kind of questions (If any) do they ask you about your involvement is hardcore?
Raghunath: I took my 11 and 13 year olds to the show yesterday in Brooklyn. They did their first stage dive. They didn’t really know what I did and then they were like “that was soooooooo cool!” (Laughing) I am so absorbed in my other life… they just know that I was in some bands.
12: Your favorite piece of hardcore memorabilia either that you own now or owned in the past?
Raghunath: In the past I had some great stuff. I was a psycho record collector back in the day but then I realized that as much as I loved these records… I have them all on cassette anyway…. and I don’t even play them. The only pleasure I get is when people would come over and say these records are so cool. The more I studied some of the yoga books I realized… man… this isn’t even real pleasure. This is a pleasure for my ego and I want real pleasure. I remember playing at the Wetlands one day and I came on the stage and gave all of my records away. I just handed them out. It was beautiful. People think I am crazy but it was like the most beautiful thing I ever did. It was so liberating. In one sense they were great and I valued them… the early Dischord stuff I had, all the early NY bands I had, stacks of Agnostic Front “United Bloods”, a bunch of Antidote singles. I had a Cro-Mags demo which I really loved and then I lost it and Harley gave me a new one back in like 1985 or something. All the old NY stuff was valuable to me.
13: When you get free time what are some hobbies or other things you like and enjoy?
Raghunath: I just like being outside.
14: Place or places in the world that you have not been to yet that you would like to get to one day?
Raghunath: I have sort of been everywhere I want to go. Does that sound boring? I have been to Iceland but I have never hung out there. There are places that I want to go to but I don’t necessarily want to play there. Iceland is on that list and I want to go to Sicily.
15: You have been in the hardcore scene for years, have seen many places and have met many people and have put out records that changed people’s lives. What is one thing that makes you proud when you think back to your accomplishments within this music scene?
Raghunath: Good question. I like all the music we wrote. I really liked playing these songs tonight. I enjoy singing them, I enjoy the words. They make a lot of sense to me. It seems like some of the lyrics in the songs are more relevant now than when they were written.
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