Sometimes people we think we know very well are only showing a fraction of who they really are. It could take awhile, but eventually the things we hide away may become unbearable and need to surface. For years hard rock and alternative fans loved the rich voice of Keith Caputo of Life of Agony, not knowing that the amazing lyricist and musician who wrote the songs and poetry they responded to was locked in an intense internal battle about wanting to come forward as transgender.
In 2011 the dam broke and the world was introduced to Mina Caputo. Ever since childhood Caputo had felt repressed and different, but being raised in a strict Sicilian household and then becoming famous in a hugely popluar but macho hard rock band left Mina feeling afraid to embrace her inner feminine side. A string of terrific solo albums found Caputo pretty much publicly transitioning via empowered (albeit shocking) music videos like 2008’s “Crawling” or “Got Monsters”. Now thankfully LOA are continuing forward with Mina and defying stereotypes of what they have to be. It’s a glorious thing.
Now having released her first solo album as a transgender woman (after many great solo records as Keith), the acclaimed vocalist spoke to me about her journey and the making of the breathtaking As Much Truth As One Can Bear. Songs like the stunning “Over The Moon” or the wistful “Cracks in the Mirror” detail alienation, strength of character and a willingness to further explore music of all kinds.
Click HERE to read the interview.
I Very much respect your integrity as a person. Real fans very much respect your human process through everything. The lyric that stood out to me is “If you don’t risk anything you risk even more”. Your voice has always been too powerful to be restricted to one genre. You as a person have always been a seeker. It means a lot to many people.
Mina: Thank you. I believe you’re quoting “Bastard Angel”.I appreciate love and support and your acknowledgement for me. I’m not a simple human being but I’m not complicated. It’s true I do have a lot of integrity. I have to be honest. With my music and myself throughout the years I’ve been a victim of my own deceptions. There comes a certain point in your life where you think ,”Ughh, I can’t take it anymore.” (moans) and it got to that point, y’know? My spirit is too big to be existing within what it means to be a man in this world. I’ve always acknowledged and had a great, profound respect for the sacred feminine. It’s in my spirit and blood.
Noise is the perfect word. Listening to some of this I come away with feeling that…some songs have sad parts but overall it’s a joyful noise. There’s a feeling of freedom in the material.
There’s a duality in my nature. I don’t really plan stuff like that. First of all, I have a musical vault that I can pretty much draw from. I’m already working on my next album. I’m pretty much ahead of the game in my own way. I recorded about twenty sides for As Much Truth As One Can Bear. I really didn’t plan it. The guy I was working with Andy Kravitz who co-produced it with me, I kinda worked off his reactions and a couple of close friends of mine who I’m pretty much with every day. I asked opinions of friends. Did they think it sounded like an album? It planned itself in a way. I don’t sit there and think ,”Oh, I’m gonna write a song like this today.”
Do you feel like you said what you wanted to say for this album?
I mean, um…(chuckling) for the time, yeah. I wrote the album through 2011 and 12. In a way my soul’s kind of past that. I’m emerging more. It’s never enough. I’ve got a lot to say. Thank God, I’m a very creative individual. I’ve been that way my whole life. I walk out of my bedroom here and I’m surrounded by guitars. All of my equipment. My home is my lab. I don’t have a personal life. It’s pretty sad. It’s my life. I’m married to my art. All the tools that surround me to be creative. This record is my cross of redemption. I think it’s heavy lyrically. It’s very realistic. It discusses emotions and human beings and what we’re going through as a species and the state of human affairs. We’re at a vital point in our species and I think lyrically I definitely feel like I’ve grown. I’ve gotten political on the side of emotion. People will either like what I have to say or not like it or try to box me in, which I know I can’t be boxed in. It may be a bad thing, especially in the music industry. They’re always trying to box you in. Maybe that’s why I’ve been under the radar for so long. People don’t know how to identify with me because I am my own entity, as far as how I’m seen by mainstream places like Rolling Stone. Only in Europe, they covered me in Rolling Stone, but America is very different. I’m an animal force!
In the USA there is a big national debate about LGBTQ equality. Even the album title…people frown upon or look down at things they aren’t ready to understand themselves. We should try and relate more to different people’s experiences.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think the title alone is going to make people stick their tongues out. “I gotta think? I gotta look in the mirror? I gotta care about people in the world and be compassionate?” I think with As Much Truth As One Can Bear it’s no bullshit. There’s no schtick. There’s no facade. It’s real. It’s me putting a scalpel to my chest and literally shanking myself and dragging the scalpel completely down. Laying all my guts and blood and everything bare. Coming out. It’s what I try to do with all of my albums but I think because of all the things I’m going through I can breathe now in my life. It took me forever and I don’t have to lead a double life and pretend that being a man is enough for me. I identify as a man, a woman, both and neither.
I’ve accomplished what I wanted to for this album. I could have included more songs. Andy Kravitz kept saying .”Send me more. Send me more! This is amazing.” I didn’t set out with expectations. I kind of let it roll. If it happens, it happens. I have this great working relationship with my friend Andy Kravitz. Life of Agony did Soul Searching Sun with him and then we got reacquainted for As Much Truth. He has the greatest gear. He’s got Paul McCartney microphone collections. So everything I do on my Logic Pro…cuz I work with Logic. I’m not ProTools handy, but it doesn’t matter cuz I’m making these really embellished demos. And everything I do is switched to analogue and two inch tape. I’m old school. If you’re really into sound you’ll notice As Much Truth… is very, very unique sounding. We went for a very Daniel Lanois style production. He did Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris. I love the old romantic sound in the gear I use. I’m not happy to release blips and bleeps and going the digital route. I do use digital but the very end of the process definitely needs to be mixed through a ’73 or ’74 or anything earlier than that. All the old analogue stuff. I’m babbling now.
Not at all! The record sounds robust and organic. You aren’t a robotic alien and are putting blood, sweat and tears into it.
Ok, good. (laughing)
I know you battled depression before finally going public about being transgender. When you were facing depression and suicidal thoughts, did your love of Yoga help to calm you? Thanks for your bravery in stepping out. Real fans respect whatever you do whether old or new material.
(Pain in voice very noticeable) People don’t get how terrible it feels to have a female brain and a female heart, an undeniable urge to bear young but I’m born in a male body. It’s weird. I can’t explain it scientifically. All I can say is it’s beautiful and should be revered, not frowned upon. Our society and culture and federal reserve and leaders…it’s a political thing. Our whole industrialized revolution continues and we destroy sacred cultures
that still have all the answers to our ancient ancestry. What it means to be human and alive and who we are and where we’re going. All these important questions no one wants to focus on. By the way, this is what the song “The Unshaken” is about. These questions are relevant and I can’t ignore them. I ignored it for way to long and I got to a point where I had to accept myself.
Yoga helped. All exercise and all mind body discipline puts your being in a more joyful place, but I was still very sad. I had the most beautiful girlfriends. I’ve had sex with the most beautiful girls. I’ve been desired a million times, but I wasn’t happy with myself in my role. It has nothing to do with gender and sexuality. Gender is in the mind and soul and sexuality is between the legs. People mix that up a lot and take for granted goner.
There’s a lot more people happy in their gender but there’s a lot of people that are gender fluid. I identify as both and neither. Somewhere in between and out of the box. Yeah, I presented myself as a lady today because that’s how I really really feel. It’s been miraculous. I’m excited for my path and
I’m dreaming. The hormones have helped a lot, especially psychologically. The curves of my body have changed and fat has been shifted in all the desirable areas. My boobies have grown (giggles). I’m really really happy and my body is growing and morphing.
I’m kind of out of the caterpillar stage. The human being is a replica of the caterpillar. We eat one hundred times our weight. We’re destroyers.
Caterpillars destroy plants and trees until it gets so fuckin’ fat it can’t move anymore. That’s when this iron cast drops around it and it can’t move anymore. That’s when they turn into the butterfly. It basically eats itself. That’s what we’re doing as a species if we don’t watch out. I think we can really turn it around and be butterflies. I’m also obsessed with James Baldwin, the black homosexual writer from the 60’s. He definitely inspired As Much Truth As One Can Bear a lot, especially the title track. How we’re all a pawn in the game. We’re a poor species working our lives away. We could be focusing our energy in such positive ways and live free instead of being slaves to this industrialized bullshit. People just have to open up their eyes and their third eye. But only if you want that journey because it’s heavy. It’s no fast food, McDonald’s version of living a life. That’s how I live my life, kind of heavy and intense, but I want it no other fucking way. I want truth. I want wisdom. I want to learn. I want to be good and spread my love. I want to help children. I want to help all different kinds of people through my voice. Whether through interviews like this or vocals or whatever. I am incredibly grateful.
Life is contrasting hues and people forget. You can’t be as effective if you are also smothering yourself. You have to cross that threshold even if it is scary.
Yeah. You have to pretty much move into your fears. You have to do things that scare you or you’re not learning and growing. You’re not benefiting anyone, least of all yourself. I was living my life like every day was repeat business. I was kind of like literally dying on the inside. I wasn’t busy living. Now at this point I feel like I’m back on track and I have so much more to offer now. My fearlessness is by choice. I had to be really sad to write what I thought was a great song. Now I’m writing amazing fucking songs and feeling love! Not the McDonalds version of love but that cosmic love. I’m writing the best stuff I think I’ve ever written. I’m learning more about my songwriting technique. I’m very excited and I look very, very, very forward to the future.