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Photo by James BunoanMeet Jordan Cooper: Mr. Hardcore. Well, maybe not Mr.Hardcore—after all, he's not a vegan, drinks on occasion and never called himself straightedge—but there has to be some kind of title for him. After all, his Revelation Records label just celebrated its 100th release last month with the less-than-imaginatively titled Revelation 100. And he has released almost all of the cornerstone albums in the modern hardcore lexicon, starting with a car full of seven-inches in Connecticut and growing into a warehouse full of CDs in Huntington Beach and in some ways putting together the definitive soundtrack for clean-cut iconoclastic suburban youth—judging by who's wearing those distinctive Revelation hooded sweatshirts, anyway.
Seminal "New York Crew" bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All and Judge all called the label home at some point. Revelation eventually moved its operation to the Left Coast ("I get homesick for here, so I guess it's home to me," Cooper says) and began testing avant-garde waters with bands like the creepy Into Another and the post-hardcore Quicksand. And Cooper has branched out, too: no longer a big show-goer, not a flashy dresser, not much of a political firebrand ("I write quite a few letters to our local senators," he says. "But I have yet to get a reply"). It's mainly the music itself—and the label that gets it out there—that has kept Cooper tied to hardcore for 15 years now.
"In 1987, I lived for hardcore," he says. "And I was always looking for something to do. I couldn't play well enough to be in a band, and a label just came up as an idea between Ray [Cappo, legendary front man for Youth of Today]—who is a close friend of mine from high school—and a few other people we were friends with."
He grew up in New York but moved to Connecticut his senior year of high school with his "commuter dad" and gym-teacher mom, where Cappo plugged him into hardcore. Back in New York, he had never quite been into the whole punk thing ("I just pretty much liked classic rock and metal," he says), but when he sat down with Cappo in English class, things started to look a lot different.
"He basically indoctrinated me," Cooper says. "And after going to a few shows and seeing that it was a whole world of music and the people who were involved in it, I really got into it."
The first Revelation record was an EP by Warzone, a seminal New York hardcore band, which established a pattern that would last for years: press 500 or 1,000 records, load them into Cooper's car, and drive them to stores and distributors in New York City.
"We still deal with a lot of the same people we did then," says Cooper, "but I don't drive the boxes around as much now. My car is still here, but my friend actually just bought it off me—I bet that thing has held more records than any other car its size!"
Now Revelation has grown into a high-profile national label and distributor—not to mention trendsetter. The labels-come-lately that started up after Revelation's trailblazing have mushroomed into monsters: Chicago's Victory Records, for instance, was once second fiddle to Revelation but just sold a 25 percent share to major label MCA-Victory, and albums by Victory bands Hatebreed and Thursday have sold more than 100,000 copies each.
Texas Is the Reason's "Do You Know Who You Are?" was a defining emocore moment, echoing today in bands like Jimmy Eat World and the Juliana Theory. And of course you've got Inside Out's "No Spiritual Surrender," featuring a young Zack de la Rocha on vocals. In between, there have been some stinkers—records from Whirlpool, Chinchilla and a band called Slipknot (which predated the masked Iowans) immediately come to mind—but Cooper insists he doesn't regret any of them.
"I could say Slipknot, since it was like bringing kids to get haircuts to get them into the studio, but I do like the record," he laughs. "And there are a couple of others that ended up being a pain, but nothing I can say I really wish we hadn't done—I always wish we could do more."