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Otep Shamaya December 2006

Going through old emails, I found an interview with Otep that Chris Miles did back in December of 2006.

HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH PRODUCER DAVE FORTMAN (KNOWN FOR DOING EVANESCENCE AND MUDVAYNE MATERIAL) ON YOUR NEW ALBUM?

Dave is great. He’s a brilliant, brilliant musician, a genius producer. He’s probably one of the funniest people I know – which is a good element to have when you are workin’ and grindin’ out music all day long, and to have someone who can just make the work environment so much fun. He was great, absolutely.

WHAT HELPED YOU TO MAKE THE DECISION TO COVER NIRVANA’S BREED?? (IN THE PAST I BELIEVE YOU EXPRESSED FEELINGS ABOUT NOT DOING COVERS)

I’m a big Nirvana fan, obviously. Before every show I like to listen to music, and on our last headline tour (Mouth of Madness) that is the one song that just kept grabbing me. I don’t know, I just feel like a lot has been taken from them (Nirvana), as far as, you know – just people have really been inspired by that band and I don’t see a whole lot of people giving back to them, and I just thought this would be a good way for us to do it. Give back to a band that has inspired so many people and you know, the death of Kurt Cobain was tragic. Some people who lived thru the death of John Lennon and Cobain kind of equate the two, even though it’s a little bit different circumstances – where Lennon was murdered and Cobain allegedly, you know, for all intents and purposes killed himself. I mean that’s what they said. It’s hard. I just thought it would be a nice way to say thanks to that band for all the music they gave us and for the dedication to being authentic, I mean, that’s a rare commodity in music these days.

He was a major influence on a lot of people

Yup.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH SONGWRITER HOLLY KNIGHT?? (SHE IS KNOWN FOR HITS LIKE ‘BETTER BE GOOD TO ME ‘, ‘LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD’, ‘NEVER’, AND ‘RAGDOLL’)

Holly’s one of the most creative and really brilliant people that I have ever met. We connected almost immediately. It was great to work with her. She really liked my writing, my poetry, and was a big fan of my voice. It really was a good alliance, I think.

How do you go about the writing process?

It just depends, man. Some songs start out as poems and some poems start out as songs. It really depends. Sometimes I’ll come to the musicians or to the other writers with and idea in mind and sometimes they’ll come to me, and I’ll look thru my books and “Yeah, I’ve got some of that”.

WHO AND HOW DID THE IDEA FOR …..’THE FIRST EVER FAN GENERATED TOUR? (GETTING INVOLVED WITH EVENTFUL.COM, SNAPVINE.COM, AND UMONDO.COM)

You know, it’s always been very important to me to include our fans in almost everything we do, and to reward those fans that support us the most, and we’ve done that since our inception, since I’ve had the means to do it. Allying ourselves with companies that believe in the same thing – it’s really a gift. We’ve done it – the first fan generated tour ever, which I’m very proud of. I mean, this show has been sold out for 2 weeks.

Chris: It’s very cool to have the fans so involved.

I think it’s a community, and it should be. Art is supposed to inspire and provoke. I mean, we are nothing without our fans. I can’t stand – and I have no respect for – any artist or any musician that uses art for their own personal, sort of selfish gains and really its all about image and bullshit, you know. It’s like corporate rock or whatever.

Chris: To me you seem a lot more real than the more commercial bands.

Well, I hope so. I hope what we do is deemed authentic. I mean, that’s what I learned listening to bands like Nirvana and that whole movement. It wasn’t until the labels got wise and started to sign everyone that wore flannel. That killed, you know, that movement – which I thought was just really focused on inclusion or anything honest or real and what you felt, being passionate about it. I know we’re one of the last bands that really feels that way – you know, not about the groupies or the money or the liquor, or partying and all that. I just want to make art as long as I can.

Chris: I think that’s very cool and your contest with the Ghost Flowers song, that’s awesome too.

Yeah, and again its like its allowing fans – when I didn’t have a band and I was just, you know, someone who wrote all the time, I’d always wanted to have an album, you know, and I think by remembering that, I remember what that was like, and I’m trying to give those people who feel the same way to have an album and to be heard, to be felt, you know.

5. You performed at Ozzfest in 01, 02, and 04…..in 01 you were there before you had a record deal… how did you get recognized by the Osbournes? and what it was like being a part of the Ozzfest experience?

It was great, we got a song, got a demo. After only 6 shows, Sharon Osbourne was at the sixth show and said “You guys are doing Ozzfest”. We’re like “Oh, we don’t really, I mean, we haven’t signed a record deal yet”.Sharon was like, “I don’t care, make it happen”. Luckily we had been doing some showcases, I mean immediately, as soon as we started doing scene, the word got out, it spread all throughout Los Angeles. So somebody, was doing something, shakin’ up the membrane a little bit. So, we did that. We knew we were in for the ride of our lives. Our 8th show as a band was Ozzfest 2001, in Chicago, IL. Ozzfest is great, I mean, you get to play in front of so many people and Sharon takes great care of her bands. It’s a really remarkable festival. I wish the sets were longer, you only get 20 minutes but, you know, Sharon stages some of the best musicians on the planet, you can’t complain.

Chris: Have you made any relationships with any of the bands you played with at Ozzfest?

Sure, yeah. We’re friends with bands like Slipknot and Mudvayne and God Forbid. I can’t remember all their names. Wait there’s another band I like..I can’t remember the name of. I’m terrible with that. We made some allies. But it’s hard to be friends with bands because everyone always has such crazy schedules, everyones on tour and your home or your on tour and their home. When you get to finally see each other down the road its really cool to reestablish those alliances.

Chris: Do you get to interact with them, like email or whatever?

Uh, occasionally. I think too, like, you know, people kind of…a lot of the musicians in the metal genre have an idea about what I’m supposed to be as a woman, as a singer. And so, there’s a lot of respect there, which is cool. But there’s also some, you know … it’s hard to go on, it’s hard to play after us. I can’t lie about it, I’m not going to tone down what we do just because someone else is afraid to go on after us.

Chris: Well, you know, you guys set the bar pretty high.

Thank you

Chris: I know you just released a book two days ago, Caught Screaming, so tell me about it.

It’s a poetry book, yeah. Self published, I’m very proud of it. It’s poetry that I’ve been writing for awhile. I would just kinda put it together and organize it, edit it, at my leisure, whenever I had a moment – 3 o’ clock in the morning, after rehearsal, sitting at my computer making .pdf files. You know, I really enjoy that form of expression, it calms me, I feel very fulfilled and satisfied writing words, you know, plus there are some illustrations of mine, things that I think were important that were included. People have been really supportive so far, and their response has been good and I am very proud of that.

Chris: So, what do you think the fans will get from that. You think they will see more of you or something they can relate too:

I think poetry is very vulnerable, you know, it’s very intimate in some ways and it expresses things in a way that songs can’t sometimes. I think that songs can express things and invoke things that poems can’t. Because a poem, when you read it sometimes you can put your own language to it or your own rhythm to it and in some ways it becomes more personal than a song, where your actually given the rhythm and how its supposed to be delivered, whether its heavy or soft. And this way you kind of narrate it yourself.

Chris: How did Capital Records find you guys?

They showed up at one of our shows and asked us if we wanted to do a showcase after that. They came down to our rehearsal space and we played it like we rehearsed, like we were playing a show. We did that and they sat there with their mouths open and couldn’t believe it. And one of the top rungs of the ladder even said how impressed he was. You know a lot of bands don’t take it so seriously at their rehearsal spaces and its less intense and there’s not so much passion. They were very impressed and did another private showcase just for the label and they brought down the president and I think even the president of EMI at the time came and we just did what we did. it was a lot of fun a lot of emotion a lot of emotion, and a lot of really great music. They were applauding and they said welcome to the Capitol family. They went outside and got on their blackberries calling their lawyer and were like we gotta get this band. We didn’t have a lot of time like other bands have to develop and go thru players and make sure that you know each other and that everyone is cool with the message or the movement, or what its going to take to be a musician, to be a traveling musician. So I wanted a band, and found some musicians, and started writing songs together, and then got signed, it was that quick you know?

So we’ve had to kind of grow and evolve, and all of our growing pains have kind of been in the public eye, you know. So its ok though, I don’t mind it, I wouldn’t change it. It’s kinda funny, the year before in June of 2000, I had gone to Ozzfest and I was with someone at the time, who was a friend of the manager who was managing one of the bands at Ozzfest, and we’re standing backstage watching them. I didn’t even have a band at the time, I just looked at him and I had this premonition or something, and I said “I’ll be here next year”. And he just laughed at me, just like you did, he just said “Oh yeah, ok” and of course, that next summer, we were on the Ozzfest. By between June or July that I’d gone to Ozzfest, I put a band together and by January we were doing shows. By April we were signed and by summer we were on Ozzfest.

Chris: Wow, that’s pretty quick for everything to get rolling.

I get a little passionate about things I believe in, so, once I kinda get my teeth into something I don’t like to let it go. I just want this victory or nothing.

Chris: How did you come about with your current lineup in the band?

Well, the other 2 players were just kinda replacement players from the last two tours and they weren’t really writers or anything. They did well for what we needed them to do and a friend of ours who is a really good guitar player in another band said Hey, I know this drummer, he’s fantastic, he’s in LA in a local band you should try him out. He came down (Bryan Wolf) and you know, he sat and he played, he knew some of the songs, he liked the band, and Jay and I looked at each other after he finished playing and we were like Wow, Yeah, come on, we want you, so, we sat down with him and talked to him and, you know, he’s got a great mind on him, and he’s got a great heart, and he puts heart where it’s supposed to be, and so we started working with him immediately.

We had toured with Karma, the guitar player, on another tour and I had always loved his style of playing, you know, his stage presence, everything. We got a call one day and he wanted to know if we were still looking for a guitar player and we said “yeah, come on out”.

Chris: And things just kinda clicked?

It just kinda happned like the universe provided it, it was awesome. So we got together and wrote some songs and I feel like we are the strongest we’ve ever been, I really do. Everybody, the whole band.

You know what, we’re friends too, and that’s the first time this has happened in this band, like we’re not just musicians in a band, you know, with one thing in common. We have a lot of things in common, uh we all respect each others abilities and we’re all loyal to the cause. And we play well together, it’s amazing. That is a really rare thing to have, is that kind of you know, spiritual intercourse between musicians. It’s really cool.

Chris: What was it like headlining the Alliance of Defiance tour?

Oh, it was and amazing tour, it was great, probably one of the best tours. Its one of my tops, at the time it had been one of the best tours we’d done, headlining. All the support bands were great, but the fans were just out of control! And when the fans are crazy, it heightens us to want to do more for them and play harder and give more of ourselves. You know, it was amazing, it really reinforced a lot for us. Validated a lot of what we’re doing. Because we’re always kind of against the grain, the trend of popular trend of music – whether its two part guitar-monies, you know someone stealing off someone else and you can’t do it very well, but because someone else is doing it you two guitar players have to play, or if it’s about insulting women all the time or partying your ass off, you know, looking the part and not feeling the soul of it. We’ve always kind of been against that grain and that’s the way we’ll stay. We’ll follow our integrity. But to have fans out there, you know, that are completely behind us, it feels like we’re building a really strong counter culture, its really amazing. It was really amazing.

And this tour seems the same. It’s a little different, because we haven’t toured in so long, we didn’t really know what to expect, especially with the new album out.

But we’ve come back out and the passion is still there.

Chris: It seems like you have a big, great response, you know, with the tour coming up.

Yeah, and you know this is just the first tour, with this album, its probably the best thing we’ve ever done and I am most proud of it. So we’re going to be touring more then we have been, a lot more visibility.

Chris: Do you have any responsibilities, like a role model for women.

It’s hard to be a role model, because I don’t think I’m …worthy to do that. I think mother’s should be role models, you know, fathers and parents. I mean, I think that if I can inspire somebody, then I am doing my job as an artist and I hope I am doing that. I would like to inspire people. I would like to provoke them to think for themselves and to accept their own uniqueness. But, you know, I don’t think I’m perfect enough to be a role model. I make a lot of mistakes, I think, but that’s a part of my own learning process. I don’t mind making mistakes – as long as I don’t make the same mistake twice. So, I don’t want to be a role model…I think there are better qualified people out there. I would like to inspire someone to be a role model, and that would be a life lesson for me.

Chris: Your lyrics seem to touch a lot of people. They aren’t just something to listen to, but they seem to hit people personally, like things they have gone thru.

Its good sometimes to know that there are people out there that can identify. There’s something very gracious and glorious about that and there is also something very uncomfortable about that. However, as a writer, I feel hopeful in that its not only about acknowledging pain, or acknowledging disdain or anger or defiance, its also about overcoming. It’s about using the music to overcome, to destroy and rise above it and heal from it, not just wallow in the misery of it. You want to be able to say, that’s wrong, and leave it. That’s the way you heal, you can’t just stay there picking the same sore. You have to go this hurts, ow, you hurt me, now fuck off. I’m going to put the ointment on, take my medicine, it may not taste very good, but I’m going to take it and then never be bothered by this sickness again. That’s what the music is… the whole purpose of me calling the record “Art Saves”, is for that reason. Art will save. It’s not just some fanciful metaphor or something, its supposed to save. And that means not obliterate evil or pain or anything like that, but that you will heal yourself thru art, thru creativity, through recognition that your identity is your own and that they can only hurt you if you hurt them. It’s almost a little like the existentialist in a way, you see the void, you embrace the void, you name the void, then you fill it. You fill the void, because that’s ideally what I want in my life. I don’t want this big emptiness always hurting and it always amazes me when people say that they don’t get to see me smile and stuff. I guess its not really one of the popular images of me, but I don’t want people to think that I’m always miserable, I’m not. I think that its important that people confront injustice and wrongs in their lives and right them. I also think that the only way we win is by healing and moving on and leaving those people in their own misery, leave those events behind.

Chris: Your song Jonestown Tea, I saw that back in January this girl in Florida, she used your song to help let her mother know that her father was abusing her.

Yeah, I didn’t see that. I don’t know how any father could. I am very sorry for that girl, but I am happy that I have written the song and I am happy that she was courageous enough to use that song. The music is just the catalyst, the power was in her. She just needed some sort of communication, the form of expression. I am proud that it was my song, though I’m sorry it had to be in those circumstances. I am happy with the outcome that the man is in jail and he will get what he deserves.

In some ways, again, that’s what art is for, to allow people to be stronger and connect to something greater than themselves and to know that they aren’t alone. She is very brave and I admire her quite a bit for doing that. I hope any of my fans in prison find him and give him a proper Otep welcome to the joint.

Chris: What are your expectations for your new CD coming out?

World domination, yeah! I am very proud of this record. I think it’s an ascension – we are rising up. I hope that’s what people get from it. With our first two albums we waged war and now its time to claim some victory. Not that the fight is over but to let them know that this is the right path and we stuck to our guns. There were so many voices in our ears telling us what we should do, which fad we should grab onto and all that. I just shut it all out, told them to fuck off and we are going to sit down and write the music that is important to us, the songs that are in our hearts. It doesn’t matter if its metal, if people want to call it metal, I don’t care, if people want to say its not poetry, I don’t care. I want to write music that s

important to us, because I don’t want to look back on life and have regrets. I want to look back and go I am so proud of what I have accomplished. I’m so proud of the music that I made and I am so proud that I wrote this song. I’m so proud that I wrote this record. I think in doing that, you reclaim the first album mentality, where everything is important, every song is important, every word is important, every note is important, and every message is important. A lot of bands start to plateau and get stagnant and go “You know we just gotta go da.da.da.da and give ‘em some double bass there, and scream a little and sing a little something for the chorus, ok, now we’re done, lets record it”. I didn’t want to do that, I’m lucky enough to have an opportunity to have a third album, and I wanted it to be just as important as our first album. And playing with Jay, we wrote some amazing songs together. Just he and I together we wrote Marching Martyrs and Milk of Regret. And then the band, we wrote Ghost Flowers together and some other really great songs. It feels good to be in this band right now. I feel a sense of ownership over the band and the album and I’m proud of it and I believe that if our last two records touched people, then this one is going to touch even more. I think its going to support and secure our core fans and we give them everything that they deserve. And at the same time we open ourselves up I think to expand our mission. Its like, within a child, you can see the parents in a child so, anyone that hears this new album is going to hear SEVASTRA and they are going to hear House of Secrets. And they are going to hear a whole new band which I think is important, as with any child, it has its own identity and its own behaviors and its own experiences and its own personality. That’s what this record has, its seductive, its sexy, it powerful, its angry, and from my standpoint as the vocalist, the chief protector of the faith, I believe its some of the best material I’ve ever written as a vocalist. And I’m singing too.

Chris: you guys seem heavy, whether the music is heavy or its light.

I think there’s a heaviness to it, and I appreciate you saying that, I think there is. But I think that’s because in some sense our music is activism…we’re trying to motivate people to something – an idea, an opinion, to think, to feel, you know. And so I think that there’s always something. I don’t want people to always think that there is always a storm cloud over us. I want people to think that this music is powerful and and its motivating, not that its just always a black tar pit that sucking the life out of everything. Hopefully they get that the message is about vindication.

Chris: Do you guys get a lot of flack about Warhead?

Eh, in the beginning we did, back when the president was at a 60% approval rating and I still was like, fuck that, I don’t care what you guys are blindfolded about. This shits wrong, this wars wrong, everything, and he’s a failure and a liar and a poor administrator. Even though metal bands are giving him shit, then all of a sudden the tide turns and people are starting to see the reality of the war and all of a sudden, I started to see more of these little fucking bands talk shit, you know, making political songs, all of a sudden, putting Statue of Liberty and flags on their record covers, and all this. I’m like what, you know, I thought you guys are telling us its not the right time, all the politics and music weren’t supposed to mix. We always supported the troops, I mean, I come from military in my family and I would never denounce that, but, you know, they are doing their job, they have to go where they are told to go. Doesn’t mean that the war is right, their mission is wrong. I had soldiers all the time email me, coming up to me, after shows, thanking me for speaking out because they can’t – giving me their dog tags, asking me to sign their military ID’s because they’re shipping off to Iraq. I’ll tell everyone of those stupid fuckin’ conservative mouthpieces that are sitting behind their computers just mouthing off about the war, go enlist. Take your ass over there, and go enlist, and stand by those people that you say deserve to die in this war . Go over there and do that, man, I mean that’s the reality. There’s democrats talking about bringing back the draft, and in some respects, I’m like you know what, that might be a good idea, especially if they start with the top 1% of our populations income bracket. Attack the wealthy, see if the wealthy kids want to go fight, then all of a sudden see if their parents still support the war.

Chris: They are the ones that want to send everybody.

Yeah, I mean that’s the truth. Right now, when we play Warhead, people are supportive, got the war signs in the air, applauding it. I mean, I know you’ve seen, democrats won back the Congress, feels like a beautiful new America now. I think people finally got wise to it, even Republicans were like, brother, you left us, you fucked up. It’s always been about money, it became when they decided too not give a damn about, you know, when they felt like now we’ve got a monarchy. We own all three branches of the government we can do whatever the fuck we want. But they forget, this isn’t a kingship, this is democracy, representative democracy and the people still control. And by sending out a message of fire, even the people, that absent voted, even if they didn’t agree with the democratic platform, they still sent a message, “you will lose your job, same as the working class, if you don’t do your job right”. And that’s what they did. They fired them.

Chris: It seemed like after his approval rating went down, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

That’s typical though. That’s just populace thinking. I wish that people were just a little more open minded about different ideas, and not immediately pushing away anything a little different that might threaten their own mindset. Whatever, we’ve made ground, and I’m not going to point my finger and say “I told you so, I told you so”. I’m going to say, “Fuck yeah, ok, now that we’re on the same team, lets move, lets do it”. Take advantage of it while we’ve got it.

Chris: I wanted to ask, have you broken any windows in the studio while making your new CD?

No, didn’t do that. But it was a door not a window. Yeah, I put my hand thru a door on the first record. No, they kept everything away from me…I broke a couple of microphones though.

Chris: What inspires you to write some of the music that you do?

It’s hard to say. Anything that I feel motivated by, I try to write something about it and if it becomes a song… There’s a song on the new record, that attacks sort of the pharmaceutical culture in this country, that just peels everything away. You know, drugging up our kids because they are hyper, or obese, no don’t go work out, take a pill. They kind of know their products are dangerous, with side effects and so forth, but, they need consumers. There’s also a song called Eat The Children, and its about children of abuse and like, all these mothers that are murdering their babies because they say god told them to, or whatever, and that for me is important. And there’s songs like Perfectly Flawed which I wanted it to write a song, that when I sing it, and our fans sing it, they feel beautiful. They feel ok about themselves and its not about pointing fingers at other people and saying don’t judge me, don’t judge me, its about saying fuck them, its about us. Be beautiful in your skin and be comfortable with who you are and cultivate that.

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