Otep Shamaya Talks About How She Continues To Grow As An Artist
Band Photo: Otep (?)
Guitar riffs, killer bass, brutal drumming, grueling screams, and poetry that sticks in your mind for days; this is a band known as OTEP. I had my first experience with them on 2004's Ozzfest and have been hooked ever since. Here is my first interview with OTEP's vocalist, Otep Shamaya, as she talks about the backgrounds of where she grew up, a little bit about the band, and their new album that just got released on October 30, 2007 The Ascension.
Becca Parry: So I'm with Otep Shamaya on the phone here, which is the lead singer of the band Otep. Just would like to thank you for taking the time out to talk to me here tonight.
Otep Shamaya: Not a problem at all.
Becca: So your name Otep was given to you by your mom who was a fan of Egyptian times. What exactly does Otep mean?
Otep: From my understanding, it's a word used in African nations now and it can mean a number of things. Its a greeting; it also means peace with you and creative offerings. I believe it was a suffix in ancient times and was commonly used at least from my research.
Becca: That's a cool name; always thought it was very unique. The starting point in this industry for you; what made you want to do music?
Otep: I've always been a creative person whether I'd be drawing, writing, or something like that. Building things. I've sort of lived through my imagination and eventually it got to a point where those outlets weren't as satisfying as they have been, so I decided to give music a shot and discovered a lot and I've been happy ever since.
Becca: In 2000 you guys had formed, and from what I understand, you and Evil J McGuire are original members. Since then you've gone through some guitarists and drummers and met up with Aaron Nordstrom and Brian Wollf. How did you meet them?
Otep: Actually we had a bassist before Jay so he's not an original member but he's the longest member in the band and one of my best friends. Aaron and Brian are actually old friends of ours and we were looking for a drummer who could play aggressive music and fast music but someone who has a capacity and sense of all kinds of music. He has an amazing ability to play hip hop, jazz, metal, to rock, and classical. He also was a fan of the band and he understood the direction of the band and where we were coming from which is really important to us. He has a great energy and spirit with this band. We've gone through a lot of guitar players after Rob Patterson and met up with Aaron Nordstrom. I was looking for someone who was creative and technical which is really rare because you can get someone who isn't very creative and very technical or someone who is creative but not very technical of a player. So we were looking for that and we found it in Aaron. They both round out the band really well.
Becca: Yes I think they do round the band out really well too.
Otep: You know I've always wanted a band that was just a bunch of musicians that were very dedicated and very loyal. Someone who brings in their own creativity and inspirations and inspires all the rest of us in the band and understand the message we are trying to send across. Someone that works hard which is very rare in this business and not try to develop a celebrity ego.
Becca: Right you can't have someone who has that rock star attitude and is not in it for the music.
Otep: Right, yeah that's right! The down side with having friends in a band is you lose a friend but you gain a player which sucks but it happens.
Becca: Yep, it happens with any band but you just keep going with what you love. Now when you guys started playing in LA, you played at The Viper which Johnny Depp had owned. I heard it was haunted and some things have happened to you while you were there? What exactly happened?
Otep: I don't know if he still owns it but I know he used to but yea, we were about to do a show for an album release or something and right before the show I was a little nervous about a few things and the label we were on at the time, the president was on his way to see us.
[Fans outside screaming "Otep!" over and over again]
I don't know if you can hear that but there are people standing outside our bus screaming for us to come out ha ha. What's up!
Becca: I don't hear it at all but that's cool as hell that they can't wait to see you.
Otep: It's always great to hear that from the fans for sure, but umm all of a sudden I started to get anxious thinking about everything and all of a sudden the cd player came on and it was The Doors which is one of my favorite bands. There was no one in the sound booth at the time and everyone said ohh it's the ghost and I said well what do you mean? So they tell me they didn't know who it was that it could have been anybody. It was pretty nice of the ghost to turn on roadhouse blues for me to calm and settle my nerves so it set the standards and the spirit of the night and it turned out to be a really good show.
Becca: Wow creepy but something really cool. I think I'd be running out the door if that happened (laughs).
Otep: (laughs). It was calming and soothing.
Becca: Didn't you guys land a deal with Capitol Records that night?
Otep: No, not that night. That's probably what we were celebrating.
Becca: Oh ok ok. Now your no longer with Capitol right?
Otep: No, thankfully. We are now with this magnificent indie label record company and they are called Koch Records. They are intelligent, artistic, creative, and they know how to sell records. They understand music, musicians, and they understand music business which is nice. It's a refreshing environment to be in I can tell you that.
Becca: It's always better to be in something that is refreshing and is understanding where your coming from and what you want to do.
Otep: Yes and they don't limit us to what we can do which is nice.
Becca: In 2001 Sharon Osbourne had asked you to be on Ozzfest. What was your reaction to it?
Otep: Umm, we were a little blown away and excited you know. Really unexpected and it came out of no where. I always believed that we would be on Ozzfest that year even when I didn't have a band. I had gone to Ozzfest in 2000 as a fan with some friends and I saw this really crappy band play. I can't remember who it was and they were being really disrespectful to the fans and to the girls in the audience. I just remember thinking if they can do this I can do this and I looked at my friend and I go "you know what, I'm going to be here next year". He just laughed at me and said you don't even have a band and I'm like it doesn't matter. You watch and of course, we were on ozzfest the next year.
Becca: (laughs) I bet he was a little taken back by it.
Otep: Yeah he was. Once I get my teeth into something, it's hard for me to let it go and that was something I really wanted and was bent on doing.
Becca: You're very driven and you need to be driven in this business because it's a tough business.
Otep: Yes it is, yes it is.
Becca: You have released three albums and two Eps, which do you think is the favorite you've done so far?
Otep: My favorite, well it's hard to say, but I had the most fun with and more excited with the new album then anything else. We got signed so quickly and only had done about four shows and I didn't really get to know my band members as musicians. So we were all pretty much strangers getting to know each other. With this record, the band itself has discovered each other and sounds. Jay is very proud of his bass sound on this album and Brian is very comfortable with the new styles we put on him as a drummer. We only released 3 ½ records and others were eps which is something I did on tour on my lap top from some poetry and spoken words that we were just giving away.
Becca: Congratulations on the new album by the way which came out on October 30th. I picked it up and can't put it down.
Otep: Thank you so very much.
Becca: "House of Secrets" is one of my favorites and during that album you had, Joey Jordison and Greg Wells on it. What was it like working with them?
Otep: It was pretty phenomenal. Greg and I got to know each other and is one of my friends now; and we built a great friendship. Joey is one of my favorite drummers of all time so it was a dream come true to work with both of these people. I had a lot of fun with them and I learned a lot and hope to work with them in the future.
Becca: Growing up in LA, what was that like for you?
Otep: I was subjected to a lot of violence and poverty that I don't really care to focus on too much because I'm trying to get past that through art and music. Just becoming what it is that environment tends to create. It breeds violence and monsters and I would prefer not to fall into that trap and hopefully continue to grow as an artist and set a new standard for people who refuse to accept circumstances their forced into. None of us can control who our parents are, what our genetics are, what part of the country we are raised in or what our dna is. How tall we are, color, sex, gender, orientation; it's something we are born into but we can create our own lives and our own identities according to our own standards and that's what I hope to do promote through my own self evolution and proceeds of self.
Becca: It's sending a message out to the fans that there is some kind of hope out there and they don't have to subject to it.
Otep: Yeah, that's what I hope to promote, is that we can't have to give in just because that's what everyone else does.
Becca: Right, right. Now recently you've gotten tattooed on LA Ink and I haven't got the chance to see the show that you were on but you got an octopus on your right shoulder blade that takes up most of your back. What's the meaning behind it?
Otep: I got it for 2 reasons. First reason, to commemorate the passing of my brother. He was in the navy and the octopus represents the ocean to me and the eternal mystery of the sea and I was always very proud of Mikey for being in the Navy and I wanted something to memorialize his life that I can have with me all the time so tattoos helped with that. It was a couple years ago he died and we miss him everyday. We always try to send soldiers care packages but the government sometimes sends it back but we try to get it over there to them. I do oppose the war in Iraq and I think it was a mistake but I support the troops and they are doing an amazing job with what they are given. Second reason is I'm also attracted to what it symbolizes, which is the subconscious mind eternally seeking answers. The octopus lives in the depths of the ocean and seeks out it's prey. I was kind of a romantic and someone I had a crush on liked it so I kind of got it for them too, but I don't really talk to them anymore.
Becca: I agree with you. I think the war was the worst possible answer but I give the troops my support because they are over there fighting for our freedom. Bush does not get my support though (laughs together). I Just got two more questions for you.
Becca: How far do you want to push this band and see this go in the future?
Otep: I want to see us in a sold out concert in the ruins of churchilianiums; that's what I want (laughs). We are just going to keep doing what we do and try to be the best musicians we can be and the best songwriters. You know, part of music is to nourish the soul and keep our messages out there with personal philosophies but offer people to wrap their minds and ears around it. So we will just keep doing what were doing and they seem to be catching on and that's great.
Becca: Yes it is great and your fan base has definately progressed over the years from when I first remember seeing you guys in '04 at Ozzfest. People knew who you were but then you got the ones that were just finding out and were loving what you were doing.
Otep: We hope they keep loving what we do.
Becca: My last question for you is basically just a message to local bands and fans.
Otep: Local bands you need to play as much as possible and play for the right reasons. If your playing for girls, money, liquor; then go do something else because I think your being a detrimence to music. If you're playing because you believe in music and art, then you're adding to the true spirit of creativity. To the singers out there, I always get asked a lot about writing lyrics; just keep your head full of words and read everything you can get your hands on. It's important that you do that. To fans, thanks for believing in our music from the beginning and the new people coming on board; thanks for being a part of this movement and everyone's support is appreciated. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to be surrounded by such amazing people. I'm so blessed to have these people. We are going to do our best to entertain you guys.
Becca: You guys are doing an awesome job at it. I'd like to thank you so much again for taking the time out to do this interview and I hope to be photographing you guys here in the Cleveland, Ohio area and congrats on the album again as well.
Otep: No problem. Thank you and thanks for the interview. You take care.
Becca: You too
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