Unabashed and unfiltered, the Life of Agony vocalist opens up about her latest solo album The Mones and much more in this candid conversation with AQ.
Like most people, Mina Caputo‘s world crashed to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world. Prior to that, the Life of Agony front person had been looking forward to an extensive European and East Coast tour with Doyle (Von Frankenstein, The Misfits). But with the tour indefinitely delayed, if not permanently cancelled, she now had substantial time on her hands. Instead of wallowing in self-pity or sinking into depression, the diminutive firebrand immediately went to work on a new solo record, The Mones. Created with her longtime producer/collaborator Andy Kravitz, the album is a diverse collection of sound and style, each complimented by Caputo’s dark, gritty, heart-wrenching, and introspective lyrics.
Although many artists have devised out-of-the box ways to earn a living during the lockdown, Mina understood what many in her fan base were experiencing. So, she side-stepped the support of a record label and self-released the album through a variety of “pay whatever you can afford” sites, including her own Bandcamp site.
Unabashed, unfiltered, and outspoken, Mina Caputo is a burgeoning icon. Gender fluid, she considers herself a healer who after years of physical, verbal, and mental abuse, now helps empower those questioning their sexuality and helps emancipate those who feel painfully trapped inside their own bodies. She leads by example, and always shares her triumphs through her music. Throughout Mina’s candid conversation with The Aquarian, she is often self-deprecating. At times she refers to herself as a freak. But aren’t we all freaks — isn’t it what makes each of us human? In truth, it’s what makes us all unique.
Where are you currently based?
I currently live in Brooklyn, but since [the formation of Life of Agony,] I’ve also lived in Los Angeles, Miami, Sweden, Amsterdam, and both Berlin and Cologne [Germany]. I’ve lived in a variety of cities around the world, but gravity or magnetic forces keep pulling me back to Brooklyn.
Like you, I grew up in Brooklyn. I was the victim of verbal and mental abuse at home and bullied throughout the neighborhood. I am now going through therapy for what has been determined to be PTSD. While growing up, all I wanted to do was escape my environment. My issues, however, pale in comparison with the hardship you experienced. You’ve lived in various places around the world, but I am surprised you didn’t feel the need to permanently leave the borough behind.
I don’t know if I’ve found solace yet because I think about the West a lot. I lived in Los Angeles on a few occasions. At this point, however, Los Angeles in one big homeless shelter. It’s not the city musicians once revered and fantasized about. It is not the same as when bands like Guns ‘N’ Roses were up and coming.
New York City is in a similar state.
When I think about the West, I think about New Mexico, Joshua Tree, or Nevada. I’m here [in Brooklyn,] but I am a little restless. I’m not really sure if I’ll leave my bones here when I die. Also, these days only one out of 10 people were born here. The rest are from Idaho, Minnesota, or Arkansas, and they are complaining about the rent. Meanwhile, their parents are paying for their entire lives, so they should shut the fuck up, because they know nothing about the grit, the ecstasy, and the challenges of New York City.
The Big Apple doesn’t provide the inspiration it once did.
New York is definitely not the same because of the controllers, lawmakers, and politicians who have taken the art, culture, and genuine expression out of the city. I meditate for inspiration. I don’t need an external source. Every once in a while, to clear my mind, I like to walk around Manhattan and visit all my favorite book shops, the art galleries, and the museums. I don’t know if it’s the sign of the times or it is my attitude, but everything is being eradicated. It’s getting harder to find [authenticity].
These are certainly weird times.
To comment on what you were said earlier, you shouldn’t compare issues. Your issues are your issues. It’s not true that my issues outweigh the rest. I appreciate that you see me as someone who has turned tragedy into bliss, but I am still navigating, still rewiring myself, and still reprogramming my life every day. It takes practice to be genuinely satisfied and thankful. I don’t say ‘Try being born in an anatomically male body and live marginalized or oppressed.’
I was bullied. You could have been murdered for simply trying to be yourself.
I still [think about that]. Just two years ago when Life of Agony was on the road, some woman got arrested threatening to shoot up the club we were scheduled to play in Las Vegas. She planned to shoot the band, the fans, and then herself. There was a girl who attacked me in San Diego. She got on stage and tried to bite a hole in my leg. Things are strange.
Are you in therapy for this?
About 15 years ago I did gender therapy before acquiring hormones. Today my therapy is meditation, yoga, my marijuana, my dog, and my music. I study classical piano at least 40 hours a week. Bouncing ideas off of other people is cool, but eventually, you’ve got to confront your own shit, and I have always done that. Yes, I was brought up in a physically abusive home, but being bullied, being made fun of, being the laughingstock or [perceived as] “the eccentric gay junkie” is nothing new to me. At this point, I’m a warrior.
You are an inspiration for more than just transgender people.
I would never play the victim, but I don’t have that power every day. It’s something that I have to exercise. Even on my weak days, however, I have to fight to be my warrior-self or this world will devour me.
I have become a master of self-study. I’ve been doing yoga and meditating for more than 20 years. I am into Eastern philosophies and I have unlearned everything I’ve learned in the West; I’ve just about abandoned [the Western mindset] and culture. I have no sentimentality for pop culture or any of this manufactured garbage — whether it’s the music industry, the food industry, the religious paradigm, or the political paradigm. There’s nothing organic about this world anymore. There is nothing sustainable.
Do you find interviews a cathartic experience?
Yes. I love speaking with people and I love being able to speak my mind, because I can’t put my thoughts in a 144-character (sic) tweet. I’d rather express myself on a podcast or during an interview.
You immediately got to work on The Mones when tour plans were cancelled.
It took me about a week to get out of denial and realize it was my chance to finish the album. I started working on it in 2019, but because Life of Agony was so busy, I had to set it aside.
The Aquarian declared Life of Agony’s The Sound of Scars 2019’s Album of the Year.
We were so excited to learn that. We posted it everywhere we could think of. Thank you!
Many of the songs from The Mones are introspective and explore a wide variety of musical stylings.
[That’s] what I have done throughout my solo career, beginning with Died Laughing.
You left Life of Agony to pursue a solo career in the late nineties.
There were many reasons why I needed to make a catastrophic exit and it wasn’t just musical. It was also personal. I wanted to come out, but I couldn’t [at that time]…. I was definitely on a mission [to kill myself]. I was so addicted to opiates that I was just waiting to overdose. I wanted to escape this male figure and male expectation that everyone expected from me. I was serving the label, serving the band, serving the fans, serving family, serving friends, serving the conundrum of girlfriends I had, and serving all the heterosexuals. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.
You self-released the album through Bandcamp and other “Pay What You Can Afford” sites rather than distribute it through a traditional record label. Unless you get the world out, the album can become a tree in the woods that drops without making a sound. People have to know it exists.
There is a little bit of me in those woods. I am too genuine for the music industry. I’m the Vincent Van Gogh of the music industry. I’m dangerous and a lot of people don’t want to touch me. It feels like some people think, ‘We have one Trans hero. We don’t need another.’ It feels manufactured and political. But I don’t care. I do what I’m here to do. My purpose is to create and to give. I am a creative human being and if my music sees the light of day, great. Do I want [The Mones] to see the light of day? Of course. But I’d rather put it out on my own than have some label wanting to give me $5000 for the rights to the record for the next 10 years.
As the [music] industry is [going out of its way to praise] people like Cardi B, I’d rather be lost in the jungle. Look how dumb our manufactured culture is…. People don’t know what to listen to. People don’t know what to eat. People don’t know what to believe in. People don’t believe in themselves. People don’t know what religion to believe in. People don’t know how to take care of themselves. I am the complete opposite. I am giving thanks to the mystery of the universe, of this life. Thank you for giving me this gift of the music, of expression. Forget about who is selling the most records; Spotify took that over anyway. I know my music heals and soothes the listener [and] I just wanted to give the album away because I could afford to. My life is abundant.
Your music is an extension of your personal journey.
My songs are like my commandments. It’s challenging when you have to consider the art of [the businesses], though I don’t do that too often, or I wouldn’t make the [solo] records that I make.
Are you eventually going to compose an album of classical music? You do spend a lot of time perfecting your craft.
I may do a classical album full of the things I’ve been studying: Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. We will see. [I have] so many great ideas to choose from.