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A quarter century after its inception, the headquarters of Revelation Records feels as though you're in a Reagan-era, DIY time warp. A flotsam of vinyl crowds the Huntington Beach office space, alongside hand-packed merch and rickety silkscreen-shirt presses. The screams and breakneck drum beats of Minor Threat hemorrhage from a set of backroom speakers. Though small and tucked away, the label remains a staple of OC's hardcore culture.
Sitting back in a creaky office chair with a hefty mug of coffee, Revelation founder Jordan Cooper has fond memories of the scene that captured his youth. "Hardcore was something you had little more ownership over; you were there, experiencing the music 3 feet in front of you," says Cooper, 45. "It was the collective feeling that 'This is where I belong because this is where the misfits go.'"
Revelation's energized early years on the East Coast saw the procurement of seminal bands such as Gorilla Biscuits, Far Side and Inside Out (featuring a young Zach de la Rocha). This week, it celebrates 25 years in the game with a string of four sold-out shows at the Glass House.
At a time when '80s hardcore was undergoing a regression to its sullied, stripped-down roots, Cooper and longtime friend Ray Cappo, of hardcore giant Youth of Today, created a label that made them curators of a genre hinging on savage guitar tones, politically charged lyrics, and bands touting peaceful eastern philosophy and the straight-edge lifestyle ("Don't drink! Don't smoke! Don't fuck!").
"It became a scene within a scene," says Cappo. "Where the punks were all about boots, leather jackets and torn-up clothes, we were clean-cut and looked almost as though we were out of Leave It to Beaver."
But in 1989, Cooper was feeling as though he was a misfit in his own hometown. The label he'd hatched as a vehicle to document a dying breed of New York hardcore heroes such as Warzone was getting stagnant. In the span of two years, he'd witnessed the shuttering of his favorite East Coast venues; broken up with his girlfriend; and watched Cappo leave the hardcore scene in 1988 to become a monk in a Hare Krishna temple. Cooper needed a change of scenery.
After tagging along with Youth of Today guitarist John Porcelly during a road trip to visit some friends in Huntington Beach, he adapted to the weather and OC's bubbling hardcore scene. To this day, he humbly maintains Revelation didn't have a direct impact on the local music climate. But bands such as Huntington Beach's No for an Answer beg to differ.
The band's decision to go with the then-Connecticut-based label made them a curiosity item. "Signing to Revelation was kind of a sideways move; it kinda tripped people out, and I think it helped us a lot," said front man Dan O'Mahoney. "No other label was able to catch fire so suddenly."
Although No for an Answer only stayed with the label for one release, they're part of this weekend's 15-band celebration. They join such recently reunited headliners as Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today, as well as tireless road dogs Sick of It All. During a recent practice in Fountain Valley, O'Mahoney jokingly described his aging, overweight band as a "half-ton of hardcore."
Just as the bands have changed over the years, so has Revelation's direction as a label. Cooper, who rarely keeps track of the scene nowadays, says its primary focus is pressing classic records from still-in-demand bands such as Bold and Chain of Strength. "When we started, it was about documenting music that we really cared about," he says. "At this point, I think most bands can do that for themselves."
It's realistic to think that in a digital world, Revelation is something of an artifact. But bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and Cappo's Youth of Today who continue to play to a multigenerational swath of fans say Revelation will always symbolize something raw and unique in hardcore culture.
"Within the Revelation scene, they've really helped to create people's identity," Cappo says. "Whether it was in their childhood or teenage years, you can look in the crowd at a show even now and see that it still has a real, lasting effect on people."
This article appeared in print as "Open This Pit Up! Huntington Beach hardcore label Revelation Records celebrates 25 years of DIY rebellion."