Photo by Tim Tronckoe
Once Mina Caputo gets going, she admits, it’s hard for her to stop.
“There are no simple answers,” Caputo tells us over the phone, her thick Brooklyn accent softening to a whisper for a moment.
Caputo is apologizing for digressing from a question, but her apology could also function as a maxim for the 44-year-old musician’s personal journey.
Caputo is best known for fronting Life of Agony, a heavy metal band she started with bassist Alan Robert and guitarist Joey Z in the summer of 1989. The group distinguished itself from its contemporaries by combining aggro, distorted guitar rock with Caputo’s vulnerable lyricism, which clashed with the hyper-masculine frontmen of the era.
And while the band developed a cult following and garnered modest chart success, Caputo struggled with substance abuse and feelings of gender dysphoria. She quit Life of Agony in 1997, pursuing a solo career and making a demo with the short-lived pop group Absolute Bloom. Following the release of a Life of Agony comeback album in 2005, Caputo's difficulties worsened, ultimately prompting her to seek medical care and begin gender-affirming treatment. Caputo came out as transgender to friends and certain family members in 2009 before coming out publicly in 2011. In 2014, she played her first official gig with Life of Agony as Mina.
As she finishes her seventh solo studio album, and prepares to record another record with Life of Agony, Caputo chatted with AdHoc about her tough upbringing, her songwriting process (or lack thereof), and why she doesn’t want to waste time convincing you to like her.
AdHoc: How do you think your upbringing influenced your art?
Mina Caputo: My childhood was a mess. I never really had a chance to be a child. I had a very destructive family. I think it prepared me for life’s punches and curveballs and tragedies, and inspired me to believe in things like the art of letting go and surrendering. You know, I’m not planning to go to my grave looking like Beyoncé, all fresh and new and gorgeous and beautiful.
This earthly time and life is about wearing and tearing, and getting into it and getting into the muck and getting dirty. Everyone’s fixing their life, fixing up a pretty picture to get in their grave, you know what I mean? The cars, the picket fences, the dogs, the kids, every gadget, every phone—every fuckin’ this and that. Everyone’s putting that much more energy into the fakeness of life. And I think my childhood, or childless childhood, prepared me to really come at life swinging and protect myself.
The tragedies—this whole life, which feels like a completely different life altogether—have definitely prepared me to be strong. To focus on the good, to believe in joy, believe in humanity, believe in myself, believe in my negativity, believe in contrast, believe in all the dualities of life. I literally just adhere to my own energy, vibration, and frequencies. I have to. The conversation with what’s going on in the world today—you get quickly derailed from your own human nature. I try my best to stay away from that whole kind of life.