The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

OTEP INTERVIEW - BY TODD JOLICOUER

 

 

Ozzfest - Clarkston, MI - August 7, 2002. I remember so many things about the event. It was the first time I had been anywhere and saw so many up-and-coming artists making themselves available to fans for pictures, autographs, just getting to say hello to one of their favorite bands. So many bands spent time huddling close to security or hiding in their hotel room. This was a breathe of fresh air. It would also set the precedent for other festivals. I also wasn't accustomed to more than one stage at a concert. After experiencing the smaller side stages all day, it was time to move to the main stage. I got there in time to see a band I had only heard of briefly tear the lid off of conventional heavy metal. The music was loud, tight, and provoked many a fan to throw horns in the air and shake their head in rhythm with the drums.


Even more compelling was the vocalist. There amongst the crowd of testosterone stood a female lead singer. She had it all… the soaring vocals that could turn instantly to an earth shaking metal core growl and back again. The band namesake, Otep Shamaya, was there to show that women could do this. Once you got past the brutal attack of her band and listened to the lyrics, she also did something that many other artists had yet to do… open up and fight for what she believed. This isn't your Mommy's Rock-N-Roll.

 


As soon as Otep's set ended, I rushed to the tent where she was making herself available to shake a few hands and push some merchandise. I happily plunked down my $15 for a copy of the bands just released debut, 'Sevas Tra' and waited my place in line for the opportunity to get my copy autographed and shake this woman's hand.


Fast forward almost eight years to the day. Thanks to Travis @ Victory Records, I am being connected via phone with the same woman that made me a fan that day in 2002, rocker Otep Shamaya.

 


Otep, first of thanks for taking the time out of your day to speak to The Rockpit. This is truly an honor, as I have been a fan since seeing one of your Ozzfest appearances in 2002.


Right on. Thank you. Sorry Brother, can you hold on? I gotta take this other call.


I wait a minute or so and she comes back on the line.


Sorry about that. Issues down at the venue we are playing tonight.


No worries. Let's jump right in with the newest news in the Otep camp. Your song "Head" is going to be included in an episode of True Blood. As a fan of both the show and you, this is awesome. How did this come about?


That is correct. I'm not sure how it happened. I got a message from Victory telling me to check this out. I mean Otep and True Blood. I almost fell out of my chair. I am a big fan of the show. It is such an honor to be a part of it.


Good stuff. Will make sure I tune in for that. Not often my favorite bands make it to other media outlets. Right now you are out on tour, the Spectacular Massacre. It looks as if you are wrapping up soon on August 17th. Any plans to jump the water and perform any Australian shows?


We do have a festival show in September, but then the tour will be over. As far as Australia, it is one of my lifelong goals to visit the country. I am fascinated by the history and culture. The bad part is I don't book the tours. The fans would get a better show and would be treated better if I booked the shows. It comes down to everybody rallying to the promoters asking for Otep. We get that a lot, you know. People wanting us to play other countries or areas off the beaten path. We simply cannot do it just to do it. It all needs to be routed and booked through a promoter. We have been out of the United States twice. In 2002 we did two weeks in Europe. Last year, in 2009, we did 4 days in South America. We hit Brazil and Chile. We spent more time on the plane and in the airport than anywhere else. We love when our fans ask us to play, but we really have no control. Tell your local promoters "We want Otep."

 


Let's talk about you last release, 'Smash The Control Machine.' There is an obvious progression as a musician and artist. What do you see is the major change between your debut and now?


Thanks. I think I know what I am doing now. The band was only a few months old when we were signed. I mean, we were signed after four shows. It was that quick. There was no time to prepare. We told the label we had twenty songs ready but we really had five. My goal has always been to become a better song writer, performer, and story teller. I want to make sure I make sure I am always clear and leave a mark. I want our shows to be memorable. You can't always base your performance on the reactions of others. You need to ask yourself if you are putting forward your best efforts. If you answer yes, no one can take that from you. The growth is a direct reflection of the last eight years in my life and that of the band. Not just musically, but also historically and politically.


Interesting. You were recently honored as a nominee for the Outstanding Music Artist Award for the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards. Being very outspoken and an activist in your own right, how did this strike you?


I was completely honored. Still am. We are one of the last truly underground bands. We stay true to what that means. There are no filters. The volume is turned up. To be recognized was surprising but very validating. It was a true honor. We had no delusions about winning. It was just a privilege to be recognized for our efforts. It was nice. It refueled us with more passion and gave us hope. We are glad there are still organizations out there that aren’t just looking at celebrity.


You are a definite touring band. You seem to be on the road constantly. What is your favorite part of touring?


Playing the shows. The moments we are on stage performing our art. I love when the crowd and I connect. It is not the travel.


Conversely, what is your least favorite part?


Everything else. It is nice to see parts of the world, different places, and the people, but on this run, we will have done 45 shows in 47 days. Our last run was 80 shows. Right now, we are on our 20th show in a row. You are working from the minute you get up until you go to bed. We are working class. That is why our music is for the working class. When you get home, you realize everything around you has been changing but you. You get off the road and feel like a stranger in your own city.

 


I never thought of it that way. Kinda gives the fans a new perspective. Well Otep, time for the last two questions. What is one song you wish you had a hand in writing or recording?


The Doors at the Hollywood Bowl. The track "The End" isn't on the CD but it was recorded. I wish I had seen it. There is a middle section where it breaks down to a spoken part. Jim totally went improv and the band follows. It is a spectacular moment where everybody is doing their own thing but it all comes together like a fabric. They are trading off and playing off of each other. Nobody is up there doing their own thing to show the crowd what they can do. They were exploring the song. There was someone in the crowd who set of fireworks or firecrackers and it almost seemed in time with the song. The drummer picked up on it and started answering back. The guitar player and bassist were playing their chords and the drummer was doing amazing work with the cymbals. It was an incredible moment in music… an act of spiritual intercourse. Jim was telling a tale of a car wreck. The band kinda followed along and made a great song of it. They were at the height of their power. It was a different time with the power struggles and civil rights. I would have loved to be a part of that. Helping weave the fabric. I would have wanted to be an observer only.


Sounds very cool. I will have to check that out. On to the last question. According to Otep Shamaya, what is the meaning of life?


The middle word is "if." Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now. Yes, the middle word of life is "if."

Very introspective. Thanks Otep. Before I let you go, where can your fans get up to the minute information on you and the band?


Oh yeah. I am a social network fiend. There are the obvious sources (website - http://www.otep.com/ , MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/otep , Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/otepofficial?ref=search) plus they can follow me on Twitter. I also have blog that you can read (http://www.imnotamonster.com/)

Otep, thanks again from The Rockpit for your time. It has been a real treat for me as not only a correspondent, but as a fan.


No problem brother. Thank you.

 

Now what? How do I go back to preparing a tax return after that?? "The middle word is if." What if everything in life is about reading between the lines??? Not only is she hell of a performer, artist, writer and storyteller, she is a philosopher. What a way to end a Monday!!!

Todd Jollicoeur

August 2010