She is one of extreme music’s most intelligent and outspoken voices. She is also the artistic heart that pounds within the band that takes her name. Otep Shamaya is as creative and primal as any artist you may ever meet, and she puts her all into everything she’s passionate about, whether is be music, painting, poetry or her activism. On February 21 she touched base with The Examiner to discuss the past, present and future of Otep, including her stunning new album “Hydra“.
Otep was born of the new millenium and before even scoring a recording contract the Los Angels based band performed at Ozzfest. It was the band’s live performances that caught the eye of Capitol Records who inked the band without even hearing a demo. Otep would release studio three albums for Capitol before moving over to Victory Records for the next three. The last of which, “Hydra” was released on January 22, 2013, and advertised as Otep’s final full length studio album.
While there is no denying the power of Otep’s records it is her (and the band’s) live performances that are the showcase of that power, intensity, raw energy and primordial rage that infects and impassions the soul. Last year, Otep released its only live offering, “Sounds Like Armageddon“. I asked Shamaya if it was important for her to capture the band’s live performance on an album and have that piece of Otep’s history recorded.
“It really, really was. And I credit the label for approaching me about it. I’ve been wanting to do a live album for years and it was really difficult to find anybody to agree with me that this was a good idea. So it was great when the label approached and said let’s go ahead and do that live album. There’s some people who for whatever reason, can’t ever make it to a show; maybe they have disabilities, or we don’t play anywhere near them and they can’t afford the bus ride or whatever. In those regards, in territories where we haven’t played, in places where people can’t get to us, they can have the live album now and really get as close to experiencing what we do on stage with ‘Sounds Like Armageddon’. I would have liked to have done a live DVD, and perhaps that’s something we can put together later, and that way we’d have a visual aspect of it as well. That would be a bit more of an endeavor because I’d really want to capture it artistically. But on ‘Sounds like Armageddon’ we worked really hard, and we didn’t want a whole lot of people knowing we were doing it because we didn’t want them to be shy. That happens sometimes when people see a microphone in front of them. We wanted them to be as wild and raw and crazy as they are.”
While “Hydra” has been hailed as Otep’s final record, Shamaya is quick to point out that she’s not done with music. She’s merely taking a hiatus, but she reminded us that even that is still a long way off.
“It’s frustrating that so many people are focused on this being last album. Or it’s been said it’s the last album. Because the album just came out. I only wrote it four months ago. It’s only been out for about a month. So it’s really hard. Literally the ink left my pen four months ago. It didn’t exist anywhere else four months ago. I just created it in a fountain of fire out of the dark depths of my imagination–four months ago. And now it’s only been released four weeks ago, and everybody’s talking about ‘it’s over. What are you going to do next?’ I just released a record. Why can’t we focus on that? I do have other creative animals that I believe deserve to be nourished. I’m a writer, and I enjoy that very much. I’m a painter and I also illustrate and so forth. So there’s some other things that need attention, and I give 100% to everything I do. But before I get to that I’ve still got a lot of promotion to do for ‘Hydra‘. I’ve got a lot of touring to do left for ‘Hydra‘. There’s a whole lot more art coming from this album that was just released four weeks ago.”
One of the factor’s behind putting Otep to bed for a while after this album and tour cycle, has been her disenchantment with the issue of music piracy and theft of artist works. This is a topic she’s been vocal about and as she says, “villainized” for speaking out on because so many think her frustration and anger stem from greed. That’s not close to being true.
“I’m a real, real bad guy when it comes to this,” offered Shamaya. “People don’t like it when I speak on this. They say ‘Oh you just care about the money. You don’t care about the music.’ No, I do care about the music, that’s why I’m speaking out. because I’ve seen it happen. We were signed by Capitol Records. A major label. Based purely on our live performance. That wouldn’t happen these days because labels refuse to take chances on bands that are interesting or weird or that could be somewhat dangerous because they can’t take risks anymore. Pirating has destroyed the music industry. People wonder why rappers and country and western artists and pop acts are dominating everything from retail chains to record sales to everything that you see on television and that’s because those fans buy music. That is the bottom line. It doesn’t hurt the big bands because they still get the coverage and the festivals, but it hurts the middle class bands. The bands like mine that stayed underground for 11 years. We could have sold out. We could have wrote pop hits. We could have gone out there and done what other bands have become very successful doing, and who have alienated all their underground fans–We stayed true to our fans. And there are a lot of bands like mine who have done exactly that: Stayed true to the fans. And how do they get repaid? By having these people steal their music. It’s just so frustrating. I’m not asking to live in a mansion or anything. Hey listen, I’ve created this. I’ve worked hard on it. And the thing is it’s destroyed other aspects of the music industry as well: Studios. Technical people who love music, so they devoted their genius to music are now having to go into software and apps and video games and things like that because they can’t make a living in music. You know, engineers, people like that. They can’t do it anymore because no one’s buying our extreme music. So they have to focus in other areas.”
Shamaya goes on to talk about how important music is to her and how it touches every aspect of her life. She talks about supporting other female fronted bands and what she hopes fans take away from her music. Listen to the full 30 minute interview below, get your hands on a purchased copy of “Hydra” and prepare for the release of the “Apex Predator” video, Monday, February 25.
Music is the universal language, speak it loudly!
Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Metalholic Radio.