Artistic metal go getters Otep fronted by frontwomen Otep Shamaya, has been handling Otep for the past 15 years, having released two EPs, six albums, and one live album, the band will continue to play shows, tour, and release music for as long as possible! Otep Shamya discusses her time with the band, reflecting to the past, present, and future.
1. You have been a band for 15 solid years, have you given a thought as to how you will be celebrating or do you not care to celebrate?
Otep: I’m very proud of my career. Since my first album in 2002, I’ve seen the record industry change. From increased fan interaction online - which is great - to the way the industry itself fought technology and refused to be any part of it, that is, until the ground began to quake beneath them and they had no other choice. But even now they’re still playing catch-up.
As for me, I deem the fact that I survived the long arc of that upheaval as an underground artist, retaining the integrity of the message, to endure all the fads and different fly-by-night genre’s that come and go, almost on a monthly basis now, is a big achievement that I’m really proud of. Especially since I'm a lady who likes the ladies who also happens to love reading and writing poetry and screaming my guts out at all the injustices in the world. It’s a real blessing to have a loyal and dedicated fanbase who may not always support me on everything, who may not always agree with my fiery passionate point of view, but continues to stand with me and support the art that I make.
2. Why did you think that using your own namesake, Otep as the band's name was the right idea and does the name have a meaning behind it, or is it just a name with no meaning whatsoever?
Otep: My name is Otep. It’s on my birth certificate. My mother is an ancient history authority and named me after a rather important person in the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. I wasn’t very happy with my name growing up but it’s been pointed out to me that it’s also an anagram for POET so maybe my Ma knew more than she led on. What am I saying? Of course she did. My Ma’s amazing.
But growing up between Austin Texas and Los Angeles California, having Irish heritage with an Egyptian name, in poor neighborhoods wasn’t always an easy thing. Especially being a kid who could only do two things: fight and make art. So, when I wasn’t drawing or writing, I was fighting bullies in my neighborhood. It’s been like that for me. Growing up, I was very lonely. No one in my house or in my neighborhoods understood art or my sensitive nature to the world and how it affected me. Artists absorb their reality and the things they experience. I reflected it and redirected it the best way I knew how, in my art - drawings and stories. It’s just what I do.
3. Back in 2013 you went out to say that Otep would be ending and that "Hydra" would be the last album to be released. So can you brief discuss as to what happened back then?
Otep: In 2013, I was really unhappy with the record industry and my particular circumstances at that time. I needed a break from making music and the industry itself, and I wanted to get closer to the people who understand my music the most - the fans. So, we toured and reconnected with them and it really hammered home why I wanted to make music in the first place. It gets hard when you’re encumbered with frail agendas. And, indeed, playing live music and being close to the TRIBE, our fans, sparked the fires in the dark recesses of my soul. It was wonderful to be pollinated by their passions. When I was off tour, I focused on other areas of my creative life. I wrote my first book of short stories (MOVIES IN MY HEAD), worked on two screenplays, and ventured further into my Voice Over acting. I was featured in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and a PS3 video game THE LAST OF US.
4. If the band is not ending afterall, then why is the band still around, what made you decide to keep the band going?
Otep: I’ve believed since I decided to start a band that ART is my god and MUSIC is my religion. Sometimes we stray, sometimes we sin, but devotees always return to the temple.
5. Out of the six albums released, three of them were through Capitol Records and the other three were through Victory Records, then you went DIY for sometime being, what were those experiences like, being a part of a label and then not being a part? Any lessons learned from both aspects?
Otep: I’ve got a very powerful social media outreach that ranges anywhere, day to day, from 5-19 million people. So, if an entity can’t do more for me or the fans than I can, I don’t need that entity. I’ve always been dedicated to my fanbase and supporters and they deserve the BEST.
6. Why did you see Otep needing to be a part of a new label, and why did you want to call Napalm Records home? Are you pleased with what they have in-store for you guys?
Otep: When entering into any kind of financial venture, as an artist, you must always try to preserve the art to ensure it’s truth. I didn’t want any safeties placed on me, no firewalls, no levees. I wanted to be me, truly me, without anyone polluting or tainting the art. One cannot control everything. Hard as we may try. No, we can’t control the wind, all we can do is adjust our sails.
I create Art for art’s sake. And the dream is to make a comfortable life where you can focus on doing the only thing that makes you happy. ART. And anyone who doesn’t believe that needs to research whether Picasso or Warhol or Cobain or Hendrix or Morello or even Da Vinci or Michelangelo wanted to build a happy successful artistic life where they could create freely and dedicate everything to it. Of course they did. In my case, to be happy, to be fulfilled, is to create ART, to evolve as an artist, to be a better songwriter, painter, speaker, thinker, to create my truth, and be the voice for the voiceless.
So far, we’ve had an incredible experience with Napalm Records and our A&R, Demitri Benoist. They understand who I am and what I’m compelled to do and have committed to being a part of that.
7. You did release a live album, but will we be seeing a another live album or perhaps a live DVD, or a combination of a live CD/DVD?
Otep: I’ve always wanted to release a live DVD. We’ve been working on it. My drummer, Justin Kier, and my guitarist, Aristotle Mihalopoulos, have some really intense footage from our last few tours. With bassist Corey Wolff, they attached GoPro’s to their chests, to their gear, and placed them on stage and out in the crowds. We’ve hours and hours of footage to go through but it will be a labor of love.
8. Will we ever be hearing any of your material old or new in the acoustic format?
Otep: Yes, but only on cello. Maybe a violin. Or a harp! Yes, a harp. Hardly anyone uses a Schoenhut 15 String Harp in aggressive music these days. I’ve been thinking of doing a spoken word tour for a while. But now, I’m back with UTA (United Talent Agency) and they know how to get things done!
9. Where are you in the process of the new album?
Otep: I haven’t felt this way since our first album. Working with legendary producer Howard Benson on this album is a dream come true. To create with a producer who has this kind of insight and talent is upping the intensity to a degree I didn’t know existed.
10. What can we expect to see from you guys for the rest of this year, leading right into this next year?
Otep: With the Republican Party completely hijacked by religious extremists and mouthpieces for the Koch Brothers and Fox News, with so many young people becoming victims of unwarranted police violence, with the attack on women’s reproductive rights, the attacks on same sex rights, the ongoing struggle for animal rights, I think everyone should expect me to do what I’ve always done. To smite the forces of stupidity and injustice with an iron hammer of fairness and witness as the sparks from the collision sets those racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic mooks ablaze. I have no interest in making an impact on society, I want to make a crater.
11. Anything else you would like to say or want to add on?
Otep: To the readers: Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t love yourself or have big dreams. It’s your life. Not theirs. Remember things get better. They do. Things got better for me and I’m no better than you. So stick around and YOU CAN make things better. oxo