I believe almost everyone who has been involved in the metal scene at least for a couple of years knows who Otep Shamaya and her band Otep is. The news and controversy sometimes spoke for themselves! But is she really what the press makes out of her? With the newest release ‘Hydra’, it was stated that this will be the last record the band will make. Needless to say, as curious as I am and because I did not want to miss the opportunity to know her better, here is an interview with the great artist and brain behind the band Otep:
Alexandra: Hi Otep, and thank you for accepting this interview request! ‘Hydra’ is your latest brainchild and what you mentioned to be your last album. Why do you wish to retire? Do you think you have expressed everything you ever had to say with this last record?
Otep Shamaya: Well, for me this is just a beginning. ‘HYDRA’ was just written four months ago. It didn’t exist five months ago. It was only released one month ago. We just filmed the video a few weeks ago and was just released a few days ago. Now we get to take these amazing songs and messages and give them life on stage. It’s just a beginning for me.
The cover of ‘Hydra’ is quite awesome! What was the concept behind it and who came up with the idea?
‘HYDRA’ has a habit of marking her rituals with the handprint of her victims. In the bloody mark she carves her name, HYDRA. I worked with the amazing artist Joey James to create this incredible symbol.
Your newest video is for the song ‘Apex Predator’. While browsing through the lyrics one can notice that the main character is a she. Is this song talking about your inner demons or maybe a sort of alter ego?
It’s true most of my work is somewhat autobiographical. I suppose HYDRA is the worst part of me and maybe the best part of me as well. The best in the same way your loyal dog would bite your friend or family member because it was protecting you, the worst in the way she sees the vast emptiness of the world and is always looking to fill her god-hole.
You created quite some controversy throughout the years. What was the most unfair thing stated about you or the worst assumption people made without actually talking to you?
I laugh because where do I begin? Well, I suppose there are several things people assume. One is that I’m fairly unhappy which is untrue. Art has saved me and made me a stronger more confident person. It has taught me to love life, to seek life, to explore and grow. The other is that I hate men which always seems laughable to me. My band is male, my manager is male, my lawyer is male, my father and brothers are male, my best pal is male. Just because I am a woman with a strong opinion, with strong talents and a loudmouth, yes, just because I am a woman who defies stereotypes and believes in gender equality doesn’t mean I hate the other side, it just means I’m proud of who I am and what I am.
How is the everyday Otep Shamaya compared to the one on stage or the one in the studio recording new tracks?
Depends on where I am or what I am doing. It’s rather quiet in my home. I’m usually studying or creating. Perhaps the MSNBC will be on in one room and Ravi Shankar in another. I’m kind of an introvert. I want to learn, I want to nourish my mind and spirit. If I am at the gym, I’m all business. Do the job, do your best, go home. If I’m out on the town, again depending on the event, I’m either a maniac or a noble savage. When it comes to the ladies, I’m Sappho and Casanova. Before I found art as means of emotional communication, I was a wreck. But through this kind of art therapy, rage therapy some have called it, I have been able to focus and compress the fire into a much more devastating and effective weapon.
Do you have any ritual you go through before writing lyrics?
I read a lot. Then I usually transcribe lyrics from book to book so I can remember the melody of the language.
You have evolved quite a lot since your first record ‘Sevas Tra’. Looking back, is there something you would change?
My diet. I have struggled with my weight forever and touring is very hard on the body and mind. A healthy diet is healthy fuel for the machine.
Who or what inspires you?
My family. They are working class folks who are always seeking to do better. They work hard, they love hard. But also my fans, they are the most intelligent, passionate, and accepting people I’ve ever known.
Since 2002, when you released ‘Sevas Tra’ the music environment changed a lot, even when it comes to metal. Do you think there has been an evolution or involution?
It depends on what you mean. Musically? It seems like everyone wants to remake Pantera and Testament albums without giving Pantera and Testament the inspirational credit. It’s nice to be inspired, we all have our inspirations, but give the originators their due respect! I think extreme music is in a transitional period and once the right band comes together with the right sound and the right hype it will explode again. Illegal pirating has taken a huge deadly bite out of working class bands like mine but that seems to be changing for the better. I hope so. Music is a timeless work of art that should be revered with the same respect as a Picasso or Van Gogh. Except, when life happens to you, people don’t normally run to a painting, they run to their music and whatever is happening, a bad day or a good day or tough day, music gets you through it. It gives u wings, it’s a warm hug, it’s a lover in the night, its a warrior in the fight! Respect the art, support the artists. Music matters.
Thank you so much for your time! Any last words you would like to address to our readers?
Respect those who you disagree with. You might just learn something. Thank you.