We are approaching the end of Gay Pride Month, and during this time, Billboard spoke to a handful of out artists, asking about their experiences within the metal and hard rock community. In separate interviews, Paul Masvidal, founding member of Cynic, Otep Shamaya, and Life of Agony’s Mina Caputo, spoke about their experience.
It was during 2014 when Masvidal outed himself while doing press for 2014’s Kindly Bent to Free Us. During that time, he said he received at least 85% positive reactions. However, he had to deal with a handful of fans cursing at him during his live shows and Vik Kuletski, owner of Vik’s guitars had a lot to say about this matter via social media.
Billboard asked the guitarist if death metal is considered homophobic:
“I think the death metal scene has evolved. It’s different now. There’s so many different subcultures and genres in the death metal scene, and I’m not really deep in that world. I just know that originally, it was pretty rough around the edges. I think it softened over the years, and I think the younger generation, Gen X, Gen Y, have appeared, potentially Zs, there’s another component, so they’re growing up with it more, so there’s less ignorance around it. But it’s still there.”
For the most part, he was spot on when he brought up the fact that people need to speak out on this subject, and to not be afraid:
“Dillinger Escape Plan was very outspoken against anti-LGBT-biased stuff, a really pro-gay rights voice in their scene … You need people who have respectable voices in the community. Henry Rollins is outspoken as an LGBT advocate. That’s pretty cool. That’s what makes a big difference, because so many of these people, especially the more ignorant, are looking to these people as voices for instruction, for guidance. These artists become kind of their role models, in a sense … You have to speak out everywhere when it’s happening. Otherwise, it just gets perpetuated.”
Otep said that many in the metal community have outed themselves to her:
“Probably, I don’t know. More than 10, less than 20, maybe … That’s usually the first thing people come and talk to me about, like, ‘Hey, you know, I’ve been with someone before, and thank you for fighting.’ And they’re very supportive, privately. It’s nice, but I always say, ‘Thank you for trusting me, I really appreciate that. But please consider to let people know.’ It’s not a big deal. Why should it be a big deal? It’s not, and they all say they’ll consider it, but they’re afraid of losing fans or they’re afraid of their family. They’re afraid of what it might do to them, perception of record companies and all this stuff, and they say they applaud me for my fierceness, [but] I don’t see what I do as anything special.”
Asked what can be done to improve attitudes in the music scene:
“I think people have to live their truth and be vocal and be loud and proud, and those who have friends and family, they need to be openly supportive and protective of their friends and family. That’s where it begins. And then legislatively, vote against anyone that is trying to make us invisible.”
Life of Agony frontwoman Mina Caputo, shared her thoughts after her transition from male to female. Billboard asked how accepting the metal scene is to her transition now versus ten years ago:
“My personal experience has been incredibly enlightening. People have been so accepting and so loving. Very compassionate, very understanding. …A lot of people have these preconceived notions about the hard rock, hardcore, metal scene. I find it to be, in my experience, very loving. Not this marginalized way of being or [narrow] perceptions. I have a lot of guys hitting on me, from rock bands, hardcore bands.”
Caputo brought up how more men should admit loving transsexual women:
“If nine out of 10 Hollywood male actors would already fucking admit that they love transsexual women, the world would see the ladies like us in a very different light.”
Asked about her negative experiences since her transition:
“I could go to YouTube and read thousands of negative comments about me — that I’m Iggy Pop’s ugly sister, I’m this, I’m that, but why the fuck would I want to focus on all the bullshit? My life is amazing. I work with amazing musicians from [David] Bowie’s band to [Lenny] Kravitz’s band. I got a great band that has stuck with me through thick and thin for 25 years. I’ve driven them up the fucking wall. These guys love me. They’ll die for me. The guitar player, my cousin, he’s willing to take bullets for me.
I have allies all over. I have gang members writing me letters expressing how punk rock I am and how more punk I am than any motherfucking punker out there or any fucking gang member. I even have Hells Angels going against code that love me, because my dad used to ride with the Hells Angels and used to build Harley-Davidsons for a living and paint murals. I have biker gangs that fucking love me because of the music, and no one gives a fuck. The only people that come across to me are the people that want to see me happy. And guess what? They’re the only people I want to see, and that’s why the universe is giving me of those kinds of people.”
Caputo revealed that she was on the path to her deathbed, prior transition:
“Everything was difficult. Basically, I was on a mission to die. I didn’t want to live, so everything I was doing was halfhearted, in a sense. The pain became more and more the more I played this societal role of what it means to be a guy … a lot of it was a blur, because I was addicted to OxyContin, addicted to cocaine, alcohol. I wanted to die. I made several halfhearted attempts with pills and drugs to fucking die. There was nothing fun about my adolescent years, my twenties, till about 35, until I really had the strength to come out and to be free and to allow life to happen to me, regardless of the consequences.”
What all three artists have in common is, to not be afraid to speak up and be who you are. It’s sad that being 2017, people have to continue hiding in a shell from their true identity.