Here is a repost of a 1995 interview we did with Ray Cappo from the band Shelter who had just made a big splash by joining forces with Roadrunner Records and putting out an album titled "Mantra" which was pretty much a melodic rock record with some solid tunes but a far cry from traditional hardcore. To give a little 1990’s hardcore scene background here signing on with bigger labels who were not of the DIY variety was a slippery slope as you had some people applauding you for trying to bring the hardcore message and style to more people while others right away pointed their finger calling you a sellout. I do recall walking in and meeting Ray for the first time and him saying to me something along the lines of “Is this going to be a pro-Ray interview or an anti-Ray interview?” After re-reading this a few times and then typing it all out I feel like I may have been a little on the anti-Ray side to a small degree which I now regret a little all these years later but the past is the past. This repost was brought about by our recent interview with Raganuth Cappo aka Ray Cappo just a few days back as Shelter has recently reformed for a short run of dates here in the US with 3 more to follow in Europe this August. Just thought it would be cool to look back at his recent answers and compare them to ones given almost 23 years ago. As with all In Effect Zine reposts everything is left in, word for word with spelling errors fixed here and there. Photos used are not from the original fanzine but represent Shelter in the mid-1990's when this interview took place. Lead photo by: Dayton Paiva. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
Start of interview with Ray Cappo, lead singer of Shelter, 1995.
It seems like a lot of Shelter interviews you come across go so deep into the Hare Krishna aspect of the band that most other things become secondary. My intentions here were to interview Ray Cappo of the musical band Shelter, not some religious figure or straight edge hero. I was one of the many "tuned out” by the whole Krishna tag slapped on to this band until I picked up their new CD “Mantra” and realized that the Krishna message is not being shoved in your face but rather an intense well rounded balance of hardcore based music was and for that they have my respect. Singer Ray “Of Today” Cappo was interviewed on September 12th down at Roadrunner/Supersoul Records.
IE: You guys just hooked up with Roadrunner and you even got your own side label (Supersoul) with the deal. How did the Supersoul idea come about and what are your immediate plans with your new label?
Ray: Starting my own label was something that I was bringing to the table wherever I went. What I liked about Roadrunner was that a lot of the people here knew about us and they have a background in the scene. It’s not like when you’re going to a major and a lot of the people are completely out of touch with the scene and what bands are good. Roadrunner was into it and they were familiar with other labels that I did. The first thing were really working on is this new Shelter record. I don’t want Supersoul to end up going out and just signing every band. I want to be selective with what Supersoul puts out. After we are done with the Shelter record were probably going to re-issue the Youth Of Today stuff all on one CD.
IE: Why your own label? Why not just sign to Raodrunner and advise them on good new bands?
Ray: Roadrunner has put out so much stuff that I really don’t like. I wanted to keep a separate identity and that’s where Supersoul comes in.
IE: Your new record has a lot of different styles to it, none of them being traditional straight up hardcore. Is Shelter a hardcore band in your eyes?
Ray: I really don’t listen to modern hardcore at all. Actually I’m not familiar with it but I grew up on it. It is an emotion inside me and sometimes it comes out with some of the harder songs. The new CD wasn’t designed for anyone and I think a lot of different people can listen to it and like it. I’m not comfortable jumping into a particular category but one thing I’ll say is that “Mantra” is not a hardcore album. I’ve been going to shows since 1982 at CBGB’s and in that sense hardcore has an influence on me but if I wanted to show someone what hardcore was I wouldn’t play them a Shelter record.
SHELTER IN NYC"S WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK. JUNE 1994. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
IE: You get accused of pushing he Krishna thing a little too much at your live shows. What is your response to that?
Ray: I think people are either intimidated by us or just like to talk crap because we push the Krishna thing. Why? Because were Krishna and we push it? Read our lyrics. I’ll sum them up by saying that our lyrics are about truthfulness. Truthfulness is for all people of all religions and also for people who aren’t religious. Truth is truth. It’s like math. There is no such thing as Christian math or Jewish math. If I feel like saying something in between songs I’m going to do it. I don’t want to be one of those bands who is just “rocking out” with this cool package and no substance. Music should have methods. At the same time I don’t get up there and sound like some bible freak either. People can be so stupid. They’re just looking to find faults all the time.
IE: You’ve been involved with the hardcore community for a long time and it’s no secret that you have a lot of critics. Do you usually confront them head on or do you try to shut them out?
Ray: I’ll confront people sometimes but you have to be a little detached most of the time. If I got upset about everything people say about us I would be living life on a roller coaster. I feel you just got to do what you conceive to be right and then do it. If people complain, tuff. The only person I have to impress is me. When I first started doing straight edge with Youth Of Today you would think that there was this big straight edge scene. I knew only one other straight edge person and that was Porcell, that was it. The rest of the NY scene back in 1982 to 1985 was smoking crack, smoking dust. Do you think when we first started out that it was all a bunch of clean cut kids with hooded sweatshirts? It was punk rock, drugs and heroin. That was the punk rock scene. I didn’t care because I thought being straight was smart. People today still like to put down the straight edge scene because they say it is corny or stupid or cliché. It’s just smart. Cypress Hill goes around glorifying pot which actually destroys the brain. Call these straight edge kids what you want but they are smart. My point is that I did it and I didn’t care if people thought it was corny or not and when I became a Krishna it was the same thing al l over again. I studied yoga, I studied religion, I went to India. My Catholic family didn’t like it, my best friends didn’t like it, my band hated it but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. The whole scene didn’t like it but you can’t live your life according to what everyone else wants you to be.
IE: Shelter tours, you have a couple of albums out, you have your own label. Does the influx of money go against any of your religious beliefs?
Ray: No. It’s how you utilize your money and don’t worry because we are not making all that much. If we ever do make a lot of money it’s all how you utilize it. I like to think of myself as a pretty charitable person. If someone is doing something that I think is good I’ll donate some money to them. At the same time people are out there saying “Oh, I know Ray. He’s in Shelter. He’s got a couple of CD’s out, he’s been around and his band is making a lot of money”. You would be surprised how little bands actually make.
IE: Ex Cro-Mag Mackie is currently playing drums for Shelter. Being that everyone else in the band is a Hare Krishna where does he fit in? Is being a Krishna a pre-requisite?
Ray: We always sort of knew Mackie and he’s known about the Krishna thing for a long time. When he was with the Cro-Mags he used to go to the temples all the time. Mackie’s mother was also into yoga and his stepfather had a background in it. Qualifications for the band are pretty much if you’re a cool person you’re in. It’s hard to find quality people and Mackie is a good guy.
IE: So is he a permanent member of Shelter or is he just filling in for now?
Ray: What’s permanent in this world? I’m not really sure how long he’ll stay with us. Mackie just broke his hand and he’s not coming over to Europe when we go for two weeks. He got into a fight in Boston with Kevin who was also in the Cro-Mags. I was inside the club when it happened so I didn’t see what happened. They had a long standing argument over some things and they just got into it. He’s kind of bummed about the whole thing because it ruined a couple of shows for us. We got this guy Al to fill in for Mackie when we go to Europe. Al was in Shelter before and he also played in a band called Baby Gopal.
IE: Where do you guys live and what is a normal day like?
Ray: Outside of Mackie everyone in the band lives in a temple in downtown Brooklyn. We all live in the same room. Today I woke up at 4am. I have a morning program where I sing and dance and chant which is a type of meditation. I pray silently to myself for about two hours a day. I am also an initiated priest right now and I can perform marriages and also funeral rites. There are two initiations before you become a priest and Porcell has only been initiated once. His Krishna name is Paramananda. Adam and Franklin aren’t initiated yet.
IE: What do the other people who live in the temple think of Shelter?
Ray: They think it’s cool. They know were into something and they back us. I talk to other Krishnas who distribute books on the streets and they come back to me and say that they meet a lot of Shelter fans in the streets. Some are into the music, it depends. People are people just like in this office. Some people might not be into it, some people are. Most people you run into in the temple are pretty mellow.
IE: The newer crop of straight edge bands that have come out over the past couple of years have really strayed away from the posi-sounding Youth Of Today style that you helped make popular. What do you think of the new more “metalized” straight edge?
Ray: To me it’s weird. I don’t hate it and it’s definitely powerful music but at the same time it’s not hardcore. They have the hardcore fashion, the hardcore message but to me it’s not hardcore. They should just give it a different name. It’s metal with hardcore clothing. I was never a big fan of metal to start with and I’m just really not into it.
IE: Do you keep up on the goings-ons in the NYHC scene although you already said you don’t listen to it anymore?
Ray: I’m kind of forced to keep up on hardcore because of the types of shows we play. One band who I saw who I thought were pretty good was this band Fury Of 5. We played with them in New Jersey and they were real good. Sort of metalish but still good. I like H2O. I saw Bloodlet and liked them. Props to 108 even though they’re kind of metal. Who’s hardcore anymore!? I really like this band V.O.D. We played with them twice. They have a lot of metal too but they are more hardcore.
IE: Being a little older than the average kid at one of your shows do you feel like you can still communicate to them on an equal level?
Ray: Maybe I can one on one but sometimes I have a hard time. I think I can reach people through our lyrics a lot easier. I find it hard to relate to older people sometimes as well. There is a lot more than how long somebody has been on this planet. In one sense I can relate to everybody and other times I’m in my own world. I get a lot of feedback in the mail so I guess I’m a good communicator. I don’t feel weird being a little older either. It’s not like I’m trying to score on the girls. If I was doing that then I’d feel weird. Adam and Franklin are around 22 years old and I have good friends who are in their 40’s.
IE: Porcell does a zine called “War On Illusion”. What does it cover and since you share the same room do you have a hand in it?
Ray: That’s totally Porcell’s project although I do support it. It’s purely Krishna consciousness and spiritual but it’s also dealing with hardcore politics and ethics within the bands. He just put a new one out with Snapcase, Baby Gopal, and some of my diaries.
IE: What kinds of jobs have you held down over the years?
Ray: I’ve had lots of jobs but none in years. I used to work at this club the Tunnel where I was a bar back. It’s this big disco. Last job I had was a waiter in a vegetarian restaurant. I liked that a lot. I’ve been in the hardcore scene for so long and I’ve never worked 9 to 5 jobs. My younger brother is an engineer and a full time career man. I don’t even own a tie, never did. Me and Porcell used to paint houses. We did that when we were in Youth Of Today. We didn’t know what we were doing. We knew there was good money in it and we could make our own schedules. We had a lot of spare time in between tours and we had to make money some way. We made up signs that said: “house painters, college students, professionals”. We got all this business but we would go in and make such a mess. There was this one time where I was trying to paint a ceiling with a roller taped on to a stick. The roller broke off, landed on my head, and I stepped in a can of paint and fell over all at the same time. It was like the 3 Stooges. Another time Porcell got hired to refinish this ladies floor for $100.00. Porcell was like no problem, I do this all the time and ended up destroying this woman’s floor. We were like the Beavis and Butthead of hardcore.
IE: What was the first hardcore show you ever went to?
Ray: It was UK Subs and The Young And The Useless who were Adam Horovitz’ first band. It was at CBGB’s in 1982. I was living in Connecticut then and I came down to the city to check out the punk show and then I went to see Bow Wow Wow at the Ritz.
IE: And your first hardcore record was?
Ray: First hardcore punk record I bought was “Skins, Brains, and Guts” by 7 Seconds. Minor Threat “In My Eyes”. There were four of us into punk in high school. I used to come to the city every weekend, found out about CB’s and then I was hooked. There was this label and store called Rat Cage Records run by this really weird transvestite guy. He would come to CBGB’s, set up a table and sell his records. He put out an Agnostic Front single, the Beastie Boys single, The Young And The Useless single. After that I was there every single weekend and that’s how I got into the hardcore scene.