Toronto-based musician Mike Nagoda released his debut album in 2014. Titled Parliament, the concept album explores a post-apocalyptic Canadian landscape with a melange in which blues, jazz, folk and metal elements combine with the unique sound of Mike’s double-slide guitar. In June 2015, Mike posted an open letter in which he publicly came out as gay and polyamorous. Bucketlist had the good fortune and pleasure to interview Mike about his work, his coming out and what is to come for this very talented artist.
I read your bio and coming out story. I wanted to say “Congratulations!” first of all because being able to fully express yourself and take a stand as to who you are is very important. Before, when you were closeted, were you involved at all in the LGBT community?
I was to some- I had a couple of gay friends. I had gay friends before, but the most I would get involved was I would go, and I would busk at pride in Toronto every year. It was really strange because, before the wedding happened, before I got married to my partner, I would go to pride, and I would busk and it would be nice and I would play music and everyone was happy and there were always hot boys to look at! But at the same time, I didn’t feel good about myself. I felt really conflicted, and the result was this kind of nagging and this kind of need, where I need to deal with this and come out. But I wasn’t ready. I didn’t self-identify as gay until maybe about six months after the wedding is when the light bulb kind of went on for me. I remember thinking “Oh I’m gay, this is wonderful’ and then “Oh shit, I’m gay, what do I tell my wife?”
So what did you tell your wife?
I told her the truth. When I met my partner, she knew that I liked guys, and that wasn’t a secret to her. so we did the usual monogamous relationship for a while. Right about up to six months to a year before the wedding happened- that’s when my feelings for guys really started to assert themselves.
At first, it was a don’t ask/don’t tell policy, and that doesn’t work for a lot of people. One day, she turned to me and said ‘You’re polyamorous aren’t you?’ And I broke down crying, and I said ‘yes’ and she looked at me and she said ‘Don’t worry, we’ll find you a boyfriend together.’ From that moment on, I knew she had my back. Very slowly, she helped me to start coming out, and I met my first boyfriend, and she met him and we were like family.
Now that you are more into the LGBT community, do you find that you can talk about [different sorts of discrimination and politics] more through your music?
I’m writing a couple of tunes for my second album. I thought of writing something about poly and polyamory. Maybe I’ll do that for a future album. I’d like to be political, but I don’t want to hit people over the head with a hammer. With Parliament, with my first record, I left it sort of purposefully vague and open to interpretation. I just kind of had general themes, like Freedom vs. Security and then people would interpret it in different ways. The majority of people who viewed that album had viewed that protagonist as a hero. like what he’s doing is a good thing. At the end of the album, the one who wins is death.
You were influenced by Fallout 3, for Parliament?
That’s right! My partner (this was long before the wedding happened), she got me a bit into Fallout 3. and I would play insistently and constantly and I thought, “You know, no one’s ever done a record on Canada. I should do an album on this!” It’s a blues album, but it’s not really. It’s this sort of mishmash of everything, but that’s because I have this whole thing with musical ADD where I can’t say what genre it belongs in. I can’t classify it as blues rock, but I tend to take all of my influences and do a big melting pot. I just get bored.
On the subject of blues: Historically, blues has been a very spiritual, very sorrow-filled and very expressive way that people have talked about their pain and their suffering. Has [the history of blues] struck many chords with you, and your feelings, in regards to being a gay, polyamorous person?
I think so. I think blues does two things. I think it speaks to the struggle and the hardships of the human race so that anyone can experience it [and also], it’s uplifting to people. and people forget that. You know, blues wasn’t viewed as sad music back in the days. It was music to make you happy. You danced to it, you joined together with other people, and you were united in your solidarity through that music. It was definitely a spiritual thing, so for me when I came out, it was like the most natural thing in the world to me to start writing blues music. What better genre to adequately express the struggles that being bisexual, transgender, even poly people, the shit that we go through? I want to talk about my sexuality, in that raw, passionate way that Muddy Waters or BB King or Buddy Guy would talk about women. Just for one album, I want to get that out there and talk about not only the struggle and my hardships are and my journey as a gay man, but just how much I really love men.
It’s almost like depoliticizing someone’s love for another, whatever group of people because it’s an emotion that everybody feels. It’s part of person’s sexuality.
I think it’s more than an emotion. I think we just repress it, repress our sexuality so much- if we could just embrace our sexuality and stop beating ourselves up over it, and stop demonizing it. Why do we feel shame about this? I think human sexuality is such a vital part to the human condition and the human experience that if one day we could just express that, it wouldn’t be such an issue. If I could meet that goal, man, I would be really happy with my music.
Mike will be playing at the Pride London Festival on July 25th.
Written and Compiled By D. Niko Holmes
Header photo by Carol Cain http://carol.druid.net