INTERVIEW: Mina Caputo – Life of Agony

American hard rock icons, LIFE OF AGONY, are close to releasing their first studio album in over 10 years, A Place Where There’s No More Pain. Having released two tracks off the album, the hype is building as release day draws ever closer. We managed to have a chat with the incredible Mina Caputo from LIFE OF AGONY about the album, her influences, British artists, and her amazing attitude towards life.

So, you’re signed onto Napalm Records now. How does it feel to be back in the game?

Mina: Well, I never left the game. People left my game, but I never left the game. I make solo records once a year, once every two years, I work with amazing people, I do incredible work in laboratories and recording studios, so if you mean by the game where everybody is excited about LIFE OF AGONY, it feels good. But this is my lifestyle, this is my game. Feels great, you know? I think we did an incredible record and I am excited for its release upon the world. So far, only mock CDs have gone out to journalists and it’s been quite the extraordinary response. It’s exciting.

Excellent! How do you think the fans will react?

Mina: I don’t know and I don’t give a fuck.

Fair enough. At the end of the day, you want to be happy with your music, right?

Mina: Yeah. I do my work for me, really. You know, my music is a reflection of my journey, not whether or not someone likes it or thinks I’m doing the right thing to please them, I don’t do things to please people. Obviously, you know, I’m outlawing my way through my life, pleasing people is the last thing on my list now. Especially when it comes to music. But that’s the fan’s responsibility, their reaction, of course I want people to connect, but if they don’t then that’s their loss.

Those who get it, will get it. You’re just making what you want?

Mina: Basically. It’s like when mom makes you a fucking home-cooked meal, she’s gonna prepare it the way she prepares it. The way you like it, in a way, but they’re her ingredients, ultimately. [laughs] You know what I mean? Like, just because mom gets the pasta slightly hard, doesn’t mean, you know [laughs] I don’t know, I don’t really think about the outside world to be honest, Jordan. I do what I do. I focus on my own happiness, my own responsibilities, my own alignment, and I focus on staying connected, keeping my spirit light, you know? The more I peak my nose and head out into the world, I just, people are too busy being other people, in a sense. People are too busy living with the ideas and imaginations of everyone else, rather than imaginatively living in their own being and their own world. Everyone’s too concerned about who’s posting what, who says what, who feels about what and who, and nobody’s looking within. It almost feels like half the world is completely ignoring themselves. Can’t really think about other people, really. All you have is your life and you’re living it, and it’s living you. You can’t live for other people.

It can be quite hard to come to that realisation, I imagine, but once you do it’s just, you’ve got to focus on yourself.

Mina: Well, basically to, hun. You have to rewire what you’ve been taught. We’ve been taught how to think, feel, breathe, eat, shit, piss a certain way, but it’s almost like you have to unlearn everything that you’ve learned because it was pretty much wrong, and create your own reality in a sense.

So, what would you say the main message you’re trying to put across is in the album?

Mina: There isn’t really, like, a main message, per se, there isn’t a derivative destination, lyrically or musically speaking. We deal with issues, everyday issues of everyday people. Whether they’re our own, or friends or family, or extensions of the band or whatever. There isn’t one, really. We have more of a universal scope. There isn’t “this record is about this!”, you know? We’re not that linear. We don’t have linear minds in a sense, we’re not that straight forward. You can’t be in music. You know, necessarily, one listener may get a completely different message from the next listener. One listener might be getting the message from lyrics, but one listener might be getting some beautiful message or sad message from the tonality in the vocal, or the melody or the harmony or a guitar riff, you know, people relate to different things on a record, on a track. I don’t put myself in the hearts and minds of other people, especially the listener, because I listen differently than your average listener. I think all musicians do. Listening is a big part of playing and recording, and becoming a musician. A lot of it is listening to what you don’t do, rather than you are doing. You know, listening is like half the battle, I believe, with being an incredible musician. Listening’s a lot [laughs] of everything, really. If you’re not listening to your mates play what the fuck they’re playing, you don’t got no synchronised unit, you don’t got anything really. You know what I mean?

Yeah. You have to take in what other people are doing, otherwise you can’t build upon it and create a unified sound.

Mina: Exactly.

What would you say your main influences were while you were creating the album, as a band and you personally?

Mina: Well, as far as musically, I guess it depends on the song, it depends on where the song wants me to take it, you know? So, I guess, vocally maybe, just my usual inspirations, you know? Robert Plant, Billie Holiday, Bowie, Lennon, you know, the attitude of THE STONES, everything that I am, the embodiment of what I am musically and melodically, and all the years of accumulating melody and music. I take it wherever I go, you know?  A song may dictate a little Roger Waters kind of cry, or a very Robert Plant LED ZEPPELIN ad-lib at the end, like in the song Walking Catastrophe. I felt like Robert Plant’s ghost was in the recording room with me at that point just for that particular song, to  give you a particular example of what I mean by that. I don’t know how familiar you are with the album at the moment, but the song Walking Catastrophe, at the end when I’m ad-libbing, very Robert Plant moments for me. Depending on the song, I have a very wide range I can be influenced by. H.R in BAD BRAINS, there’s that and I can go to Billie Holiday, or Annie Lennox, or Roger Waters or Freddie Mercury, or even the sounds of John Coltrane’s saxophone. The way he voices his in his notes can be an influence or an aspiration on my mood and attitude before I walk into the recording studio, and therefore be influenced by one of the great jazz instrumentalists. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a singer. I can’t sing like Billie Holiday, I mean I can if I mimic her, but it’s like the blues that she sang and the jazz that she sang. Everything that Billie Holiday was about, the Strange Fruit era, the fact that it’s still here with us today. Everything that artists have gone through, as a people, influences me as well. I can pick up a book, I can pick up a poetry book, John Fante or Kerouac, or read the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Something somewhere is going to influence my mood, my character, my energy, which will dictate the storm of the song, or the gentle boat ride on the still pond. I don’t know how to metaphorically give it to you, but I’m trying my best [laughs].

No, it’s okay. I think it’s incredible how you can focus on one little thing like that, something that’s seemingly minute, and it can have a massive influence on you. Not many people describe it that way.

Mina: The simplest ideas wind up being the most ferocious in a sense, you know? I think the less you put your energy into something, the bigger it winds up being, and that’s kind of my philosophy on life, in a way. The less effort I give something, the more rewarding. It’s going to be bigger, it’s going to be the more fun you’re going to have doing it, you know? And the more pleased you’ll be with the results, in a sense. And if you’re not, at least you’ve tried your best in a sense, without constricting your imagination.

So, I imagine that’s something you’d aspire to do, be part of that influence for somebody else?

Mina: Well, I think without sounding presumptuous, I think I’ve been inspiring people for the last 25 years. But I am extremely excited for another 25 years of inspiring the hearts and minds of the people who know who I am, know what I’ve gone through, what I’m going through, the music that I make. And I hope when people think back on me, and think about me, their heart fills up with warmth and power, and empowerment. That’s success, that’s affluence, that’s being a millionaire to me, when you can shift the paradigm of somebody’s soul. And I think that’s the real meaning of being a true billionaire on this planet, really. Some of the wealthiest people financially have the emptiest fucking souls. But yeah, I think I have been influencing and you know what? People influence me too. Fans write me all the time, they influence me, they aspire me. Their love letters to me, some of them I could cry. There’s definitely a very beautiful, open, honest, sincere relationship with my fans and I. Even more now, since I’ve come out in 2008, but the public found out in 2011, because I was still hiding it from the non-intimate world, the public world, you know what I mean? Intimately, I’ve already come out three years. But yeah, I think life is so beautiful and I think more and more people are realising that every day and be it through our music, man, it’s a blessing. I feel very grateful, even to speak with you, a complete stranger, who lives real close to Liam Gallagher [laughs], way closer than I do! I love him, he’s sexy to me.

You know what’s so funny, Jordan, is that most of the music and artists that I love are from Britain, the UK. I find that extremely peculiar, in all the British acts that I love, they all love the American blues stuff, like THE STONES and Keith Richards and QUEEN, and LED ZEPPELIN and Plant and Page, that infatuation with the blues. Annie Lennox, the fucking EURYTHMICS, Bowie and THE BEATLES and [PINK] FLOYD, I mean, the list goes on. I used to really be in love with COLDPLAY, their first and second record, but I kind of slowly, I don’t even have their new record, I don’t even care, I’m just not into the sounds and vibrations there. I don’t even know what the hell they’re doing at this point to be honest [laughs] I really fell off with those guys. I’m looking forward to Liam’s new solo record. You know, I love so much British music, it’s pretty funny. And they all love American fucking music, and I’m like, “Uh, really? No…” [laughs]. If you want to listen to real blues, man, you’ve got to Morocco, hundreds of years [ago], and fucking Africa, where blues originated from. Because that’s where the real blues stems from. That whole time when white man brought black man to the Americas as slaves to introduce them into the fields, that’s how the original blues got into America. Blues was already happening for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they didn’t really have a name for it until the motherfuckers in Mississippi and Louisiana, and they named their own shit. But yeah, it’s just amazing, I’m obsessed with British, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, my god, have you heard them? I love Kevin Shields, one of my favourites, Johnny Greenwood too, an incredible producer. His solo records, his soundtracks that he does, like, I branch off so much into these different kinds of realms. It’s just amazing. So, yeah, I’m infatuated with the Brits. Don’t hate me! [laughs]

[laughs] No, not at all. I’m glad we’ve given you something good! So, you yourself have an incredible story with everything you’ve been through over the past few years. Going off your experience, how do you think attitudes have changed within the music industry?

Mina: Towards me, you mean?

Not necessarily towards you, but more in general. Do you think people are more open-minded and accepting? That sort of thing.

Mina: I don’t know. I don’t know. That ideology confuses me every day, because some days I feel like the world has shifted into a more awakened, more open, and unconditionally loving planet. But then, there are times when I’m just like “[sigh] these fucking people are just people and they’re just sheep, and everyone doesn’t have their own opinions.” From sex, to religion, to gender, to politics, everyone is just this broken fucking record repeating the next man’s ignorance. So, I’m not sure, you know? I go up and back with the pendulum. It depends on my day, I guess. Some days I feel great about the world, and I think the world is definitely changing for the better. Some days I get very discouraged, and think that if man doesn’t straight out the story immediately, we will not last another hundred years on this planet.

And the attitudes towards me, I think, has been brilliant, has been beautiful. I mean, at least the people that come into my life. Maybe it’s because I see the world and the people, maybe depending on how I feel about all the people, those are the kinds of people that kind of gravitate into my life. All the open people, the risky people, the people that live dangerously, the people that aren’t afraid to take risks. The people that aren’t afraid to love openly. You know, the people who couldn’t give a fuck if I’m reptilian, transsexual, unicorn, or a mermaid. I get a lot of love, I get a lot of goodness, I get a lot of beautiful notes, I get a lot of letters of encouragement, and people proud of me and completely with me. I get such few negativity that I can I can actually remember some of the things that people tell me because I get it rarely. Like, I’m the reason AIDS exists [laughs] and shit like that. But that shit makes me laugh. You know, I got thick skin, I’m from Brooklyn (New York), you can say what the fuck you like, just don’t touch me. It’s true, you know, it’s cliché but sticks and stones may break my bones, but yeah, people forgot about that little jingle. They’re letting the names hurt, you can’t just stand up against bullying, you’ve got to knock bullies’ fucking teeth out, you know? You’ve got to stand up for yourself, even if that means knocking the next fucking person’s teeth in their face, you know? Yeah, I’m an angry person, I can be violent, I will go to the death to protect my own life in a situation like that. I don’t care who says I’m an advocate for violence and shit like that, I don’t stand up against bullying, I fucking play dentist. Just because I’m a little lady and living my life as a lady, or a ladyboy, whatever the fuck you want to call me, I couldn’t care less what title you put onto me. I’m a beautiful human being, I’m open, I’m a wonderful creature, and yeah, I’m happy. I got a beautiful life, and it’s only getting more and more beautiful, and I will not let that kind of bullshit stand in my way, or get in the way of my beautiful intentions for the world and for myself.

Quite rightly so. That’s put a massive smile on my face, it’s so nice to hear. So, what’s next for LIFE OF AGONY after you release your album?

Mina: Well, we have two videos. We have another video coming out, we have lots of touring, we have some New York dates, we’re coming out to Spain, you know, we’re going up and back to Europe a bunch of times. We’re doing a bunch of festivals, we’ll see how the album does. That’ll dictate a lot for us. And yeah, that’s that, really.

Thank you, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Mina: Jordan, thank you very much for your time, hun.

A Place Where There’s No More Pain is out April 28th via Napalm Records.

Like LIFE OF AGONY on Facebook.