I really don’t think there’s ANYONE out there who doesn’t know about Revelation Records. I even go as far saying anyone reading this has a record released by Revelation in her/his collection. Or do you really want to say that you haven’t heard of or danced along to bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Quicksand, Side by Side, Texas is the Reason, Farside, Judge, Sick of it All, Gameface, Chain of Strength, Burn, etc. etc.? I honestly don’t think so. These classic bands are just a little example which acts Revelation put out. So I guess this label special would be anything but complete without featuring Revelation Records. I am proud that Jordan Cooper himself, the man behind Revelation, was kind enough to answer my questions. Special thanks to Ghazal Sheei at Revelation who made this interview possible.
First off, how did it all get started with Revelation? I guess you started the label back in 1987 with Ray Cappo (Youth of Today, Shelter, Better than a Thousand), right? Who of you came up with the idea of starting a label and what was the intention behind it?
Yup, we started it in 87. I'd wanted to do something like a label for a long time and when the idea of doing a Warzone single came up that seemed to make it solidify. The only goal was to put out the Warzone EP at the time, I didn't really think of anything beyond that.
So why did Ray leave Revelation?
I guess what happened was that I really started to make the label my life and he was pretty involved in his bands and religion. He ended up starting his own label so he'd be able to put out more stuff that was closer to what he was into at that time (spirituality).
When did that happen?
It was in 88 some time this was going on I'd say.
How do you see the development Revelation has made since the beginning? Did you ever think that you would celebrate Revelation's 100th release someday? (This happened a few weeks ago with the release of “Revelation 100: A Fifteen Year Retrospective of Rare Recordings”. Actually there are even more than 100 releases available, the latest one is Fall Silent’s “Drunken Violence Rev:109)).
It's been slow I'd say compared to other labels but obviously the bands we've put out have made the label seem a lot more than it is in a physical or financial sense. 100 records seemed pretty unfathomable, but if you do something long enough, before you realize it, a lot's been done and a lot of time has passed.
In the beginning you and Ray did everything on your own, but how many people are currently working at Revelation and what is your particular job nowadays, Jordan?
There are usually between 15 and 20 people here, but I'm not sure of the exact number right now. My job is mostly dealing with people in bands past and present, planning, dealing with problems and the basic day to day business things like updating catalogues, dealing with the landlord and vendors and contracts etc. I spend too much time in front of a computer (Me too, even though I am far away from running a label – Stefan).
Is there a certain philosophy behind Revelation? In other words: What do want to achieve with the label?
That changes all the time based on how people here are looking at things and what bands we're putting out. Overall I'd like to think that we're putting out music and ideas that mean something to people and have something to communicate.
Do you still have the time to go to shows or does the work for the label take most of your time? Did you ever play in a band yourself or do you still?
I go to a lot of shows but not so much hardcore unless it's someone I know pretty well. Work used to be pretty long (15 hours a day or more) but since ‘95 or so I've been shortening my hours and now I'd say it's almost normal (10 hours or so). Violent Children (Ray's band before YOT) tried me out for guitar, but didn't like me (Never mind Jordan, I guess there are a lot more people out there who know Revelation than Violent Children, hehe – Stefan). I tried to play on the Shelter record when it was just going to be a recorded project and not a band, but I couldn't play well enough. Since then I've just played by myself practicing, but I doubt I'll ever be good enough to be in a band that I'd want to be in.
I think that there has been some kind of development concerning Revelation's sound or type of bands: First there were lots of Hardcore bands just like Warzone, Sick of it All, Judge, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, etc., while a couple of years later the sound of the label's bands became more melodic (Sensefield, Farside, Texas is the Reason,...). Nowadays there's a mixture of different types of styles. Would you agree? What was the reason for the "changing direction" in the mid 90s?
For the first few years of the label I think we worked with a mostly connected group of people and as their tastes and styles evolved so did the records we put out by them. Later on as that group of people moved to other labels or stopped playing, we started working with new less connected groups of people so the styles mixed up more and also the people here decided on what to put out grew so that mixed things up as well.
Which of your releases is your favourite?
There are too many to pick a favourite. In my opinion a lot of our bands put out amazing stuff whether or not it was popular. Some of the nice packaging on certain releases was nice as well (i.e. the embossed cover on the original Gorilla Biscuits LP's, the Farside “Rigged” layout and package, both Elliott albums).
What do you think is the most important release ever on Revelation? I mean is there some kind of "crucial record" for Revelation (maybe "Start Today" by Gorilla Biscuits)?
“Start Today” was really important for us identity- and finance-wise. There are, again, too many to really point to a few. The early hardcore records gave us a certain identity, then the later records in the early nineties meant something as well and then the mid-nineties releases were important as well and now there are equally important records coming out now.
Which band sold the most copies of an album released on Revelation?
Gorilla Biscuit’s “Start Today”, Inside Out "No Spiritual Surrender" and the In Flight Program compilation are all pretty much even as far as I know. There are some contenders that are selling more now than those are currently and they might end up catching up.
Is there any band that you didn't sign but would like to sign now? Which one on a different label would you like to sign if you could choose?
There are a lot that we tried to sign but lost to other labels and there are others who we didn't notice the demo for that ended up being really popular (i.e. Good Riddance and New Found Glory). There are too many good bands out there to pick one that I'd like to put out.
Let’s get to all those bands that might appear on Revelation in the future: Who decides which band gets signed and how do you get to know a band? Do they send you demos and then you get in touch with them?
At this point it's pretty much a group decision made by a lot of people here. Sometimes it's the demo that we hear first and sometimes it's a band that someone sees and a lot of times it's connections through friends.
And what about the deals with the bands: Are these deals made for only one record or for multiple albums? What do you think is the best way?
Usually two or three records of which one or more might be an EP or single. I think it's better to do short contracts than long ones because bands tend to hate the long contracts.
What about Compilations, the latest one was Rev Rarities, celebrating the 100th release of Revelation. Will there be any more comps in the future? I mean the last one I know of was this Summer Sampler, but that came out way back in 1999, right? Are compilations important in your eyes or is it better to promote bands through the internet with mp3s etc?
Compilations will probably always come out so that people can get one song from a few different bands. The internet definitely makes getting promotional copies out there easier, in a lot of cases people can easily just get the whole record on the internet if they want to.
How do you finance recording sessions and tours? I could imagine that especially in the early days of the label it must have been pretty hard?
In the really early days we didn't get involved in the tours and we didn't realize that the label normally pays for the recording. I think when YOT signed to Caroline I learned a bit from that and saw what a contract looked like and how they did things and that made me decide to write up our own contract. Gorilla Biscuits was the first band that I got at all involved in the recording process (by paying for it) and touring to a lesser degree. Now we do a lot more but we still don't book tours for our bands or anything.
Which other labels do you like and why?
I don't know too many labels, but I like Equal Vision because Steve is really cool and is a great business person. I like Dischord because of the way they seem to get the job done without being harried plus they've put out some of the greatest bands. All the successful labels with good bands are impressive to me. Epitaph, Eulogy, Fatwreck, Indecision... If I sat here I'd think of 20 more.
In 1994, in the "All ages" book, you said that hopefully Revelation will continue for 20 more years. Did anything change until then? How long do you think to run Revelation? Could you imagine to leave the label and let other people run the label for you?
It's pretty hard to imagine not running Revelation, but I guess it's possible. I think there are other people here whose taste in music is more of what Revelation is than my taste is at this point.
I heard that Tooth and Nail Records and Takehold Records were bought from a major label in one way or another. Can you imagine ever selling Revelation to a major or another label?
I think I'd rather keep it. On the other hand, if someone, even a major (though I can't see what they would want a label like Revelation for) wanted to pay me more than it's worth to me to keep it I can't say I wouldn't take the money and run (to quote Steve Miller... not the guy from Unbroken/Kill Holiday).
I think Revelation was one of the reasons why Straight Edge became so big over the years with bands like Bold, Judge, Gorilla Biscuits and of course Youth of Today among its roster. How do you see Revelation's role concerning Straight Edge and what's your opinion on sXe?
Youth Of Today was the biggest influence in my opinion during the period that Revelation started and YOT existed 2 years before Revelation did so I think they did it all. Revelation benefited because we had a couple of bands in that circle so we became associated with it because of the bands and because of people identifying Ray and YOT with Revelation. I have mixed feelings about sXe. On the one hand drugs can be a huge problem for people, on the other so can unchecked fear of them.
What do you think when you look back on the early days of Revelation with people in Bold, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today,... that were basically just kids? What are your feelings?
They were kids, but they had some vision. A lot more than I had.
So are you still in touch with all those people I just mentioned?
Yup. I went to the movies last weekend with Ray, the next night I saw a new band that Gavin from Side By Side, Burn etc. is in and I always talk to people from the old days. Not everyone, but a lot of them. I think they're even more in touch with each other than I am with any of them since I'm not the most social person and never was.
Ok, we’re at the end. Did you like this interview and do you have anything to add?
Yeah, it was good. I like that the questions seemed like you knew something about the label. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. Thanks, Jordan.
Jordan pets a cow. How sweet.
For a complete discography of Revelation go here.
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