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Meet What It Takes HC Blog Founder Jack Cooper

For someone as woefully disorganized as myself, the fastidious feats of What It Takes HC Blog frankly astound me. I fortuitously stumbled upon the account in the back end of 2020 and it claimed top prize for the year’s endless (anti)social media scrolling.

Ostensibly an Instagram account, the Virginia collective of Jack Cooper, Dakota Hollandsworth, and Noah Trout, are responsible for cultivating an an online presence that I hereby dub an essential follow for hardcore fans.

Aside from collating an impossibly large and comprehensive list of yearly releases, there’s both a freshly minted AOTY Hardcore zine in the works and algorithm-shattering Spotify playlists.

Managing to keep tabs on what feels like literally every release of the year, Jack Cooper of What It Takes was kind enough to indulge me some questions, lest I continue to sit here in slack-jawed awe of their work ethic.

They are exceedingly warm, kind, and, perhaps most importantly; widening the door for new folks and expanding the collective palate for the rest of us already here.

As I’m writing this, we’ve cautiously tiptoed into 2021 and, no surprise here, What It Takes is already back at it. If you don’t read any further than this… go to IG right now and click the blue button. You’re welcome. 

For those new to what you do, what’re your intentions with and goals for the blog? 
 
What It Takes is a hardcore blog intent on providing an equitable platform to expose people in the scene who are devoted to the core to bands from all across the globe. We highlight the work of those who contribute to the scene through art, booking shows/tours, make zines, write for blogs, etc.

We also touch on issues and current affairs that permeate the scene or are relevant to us.

The amount of work that must go into something so exhaustive and completist in nature must be mind-boggling. Tell us a bit about the genesis for the project(s).
 
It’s definitely hard for most people to wrap their heads around [laughs]. My obsession with archiving hardcore bands actually started more than a decade ago when I first discovered hardcore. 

Once I became aware of the extensive history of hardcore in the US and how the sound has undergone many different transformations over the years, I knew I needed to discover as many bands as I possibly could.  

I started doing deep dives on YouTube, looking through Blogspots to find reviews of records and interviews of bands, and searching for Mediafire files on Google to further expand my iTunes library.

Did the “off” year that was 2020 lend itself to an endeavor of this magnitude (hardcore pun for ya)?  

Partially [laughs]. I had the idea in early January of last year to share my love for cataloging hardcore records with a wider audience. Before the shutdowns occurred in March, I had no intention of taking it as seriously as I do now. It’s honestly one of the few upsides of 2020 that I was able to dedicate more time to What It Takes.

Like lots of folks, I’d liken my methods of music discovery to a patchwork quilt, taking a bit from Bandcamp, Discogs, and various friends. Give us the lowdown on how you discover such an impossibly large amount of music. It’s unparalleled, in my opinion. 

I appreciate the kind words! My method is similar to yours; I search through the hardcore/hardcore punk tags on Bandcamp and periodically go through Discogs to see if I’ve passed over anything.  

Then I’ll go through the “Fans Also Like” section for the bands I’ve added to our playlists to see if I can find any newer bands who exclusively upload their music to that platform. Every now and then I’ll go back to my roots and search through some of the prominent YouTube playlists (shoutout No Punks in K-Town, xBrutalYouth666x, and XstekkahX).

I love that you seemingly have what I can only call a custodial responsibility to documenting the hardcore scene. goings on, though certainly not glamorous, is a hugely integral part of enriching and cultivating something you clearly love. Discuss! 
 
Over the past couple of years, through the seemingly endless hours of research and compilation, I’ve come to understand just how worldwide of a reach hardcore has. This sort of epiphany made me think back on all the years I choose to ignore bands that were popping off overseas.

So when I started What It Takes, I made it my mission to expose others in the scene to bands from every corner of the globe, regardless of where they were from, how popular they were or the language they were singing.  
 
I feel like too many people Stateside are put off by international bands who don’t have English lyrics/vox (which is fucking wack IMO).

So I obviously have to ask about your playlists! Using 2020 releases alone, you cobbled together a list that’s, uhhhhh, four days long! No spoilers, obviously, but didn’t you “max out” Spotify’s playlist length with your master list? 
 
Spotify did notify me about a month or two ago that I had reached my limit on how long the “Hardcore 4 Hardcore” playlist was. I was really hoping to hit over 10,000 songs, guess my aspirations were too high [laughs].

International hardcore doesn’t always get the shine it deserves but you do a splendid job covering it within the context of your Hardcore Encyclopedia! Tell us more about what that actually is. 
 
The Hardcore Encyclopedia is designed to be a living document that routinely updated to reflect a near totality of all the hardcore records released across the globe. I’m hoping it’ll serve as tangible proof that hardcore does in fact thrive outside the United States and English-speaking world.

I also really wanted to know which countries had the highest output of hardcore, which is thrilling as hell.

What does 2021 look like for you? Aside from your dream tour “groupings," will you continue the blog? Will we see it taken to any other social media platforms? 
 
What It Takes will continue to live on for as long as I’m able and willing. We plan on pushing the limits this year to increase our coverage and quality of work.
 
Right now we are in the midst of putting the finishing touches on our AOTY Hardcore zine, which is slated to come up toward the end of January. We’ll have more concrete details on how to get your hands on one in the coming weeks.
 
We’re planning on creating a Facebook page and having an actual website launched later in the year. I’m hoping to film more private live sets like the one I did for Domain in late October, maybe even start filming shows once the restrictions are lifted. Hell, I may even start booking shows again, who knows.

You have an incredibly wide palate, taste-wise. What were the bands that initially got you into hardcore? 
 
Sick of It All, Bane, Have Heart, Cruel Hand, and Comeback Kid were the initial bands that got me hooked into hardcore in high school.

I have the feeling that asking for your Top 10 of anything might be the world’s most impossible task, so I’ll instead ask for your Top 10 non-hardcore releases of recent memory! 
 
I’m indecisive as fuck when it comes to making lists so I appreciate you focusing on the non-hardcore side of things.

Off the top of my head:

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Spice – S/T
Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Orville Peck – Pony
Ahmad Jamal – Greatest Hits
Wet – Still Run 
Movements – No Good Left to Give
Us And Us Only – Full Flower
Object of Affection – S/T
Wicca Phase Springs Eternal – This Moment I Miss

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