March 20, 2017 Interview – Otep Shamaya of Otep
Artistic expression is a brave and necessary act that best shines in the space of unsettled morals; questioning and creating controversy, evoking conversation while simultaneously reflecting and evolving the human condition. While some artists are forced to the edge, others eagerly seek it out. Obvious, forces work tirelessly to distract one’s view from the edge. Therefore, resistance through art becomes the essential tool of revolution and renaissance, and it is only through our collective artistic expression that we can direct ourselves and each other back from the complacent middle. In Otep Shamaya’s words, “Revolution is the opiate of the artist. In pain. We remain.” When the call for revolution is nigh, none other can empower and inspire quite like Otep. With direct assaults on our creative existence such as the proposed elimination of National Endowment for the Arts; there is no mistake that we are in eyeballs deep in battle against coercing beliefs and mass weapons of myriad delusion. The world need the music of Otep and artists of all kinds now more than ever before. Art for art’s sake is no longer an old saying but a direct call to action, and Otep is here to make it clear: “When they come for one of us, they come for all of us. We will fight for our right to exist.” Currently out on the Resistance World Tour, CrypticRock checked in to discuss the music and message behind the tour, the upcoming 15th anniversary of Sevas Tra, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Although the Resistance tour serves multiple revolutionary purposes such as taking action against corruption and oppression as well as standing up for human, women’s, and LGBT rights; one of the main acts for this first leg of the tour was the collection of cases of water and donations at each venue from fans to donate it all to the Flint Water Crisis. How did this go and did you notice any changes like an increase in collections as you got closer to Flint on March 8th?
Otep Shamaya – It’s been great, we had over 50 cases of water within the first week to donate, and every show we get more! We wanted to do this to help the people of Flint because it seems as though people have forgotten about it in the media, and although we all haven’t forgotten in the United States, once people stop hearing about something on the news, it’s a natural assumption that it’s been taken care of, but in reality it has not. We want to bring awareness to that.
While the administration wants to dig into the ground of the sacred Cheyenne territory, they don’t want to dig into the ground in Flint and replace those pipes to help children who are being poisoned by their water. So we are trying to bring more awareness and as much help to the crisis in Flint. Michigan has always been so good to us and we wanted to repay them and say we haven’t forgotten about you.
CrypticRock.com – The music and message for this tour is simple: “When they come for one of us, they come for all of us. We will fight for our right to exist.” – All of your fans know the message of Otep has always been one of fighting back at times feel simply overwhelmed with everything going on right now and we cling even harder to your music, especially your live shows, and your message has always been steadfast. What specific actions; even if they’re small, do you encourage listeners to do in order to take a stand against injustice.
Otep Shamaya – Specifically, I say be aware of what’s going on in the world. Being a citizen of the United States is no longer a spectator sport. It requires us to be involved, so we have to stay informed. I ask all of you to join town halls, especially Republican town halls, and ask questions and make sure you get clear, straightforward answers. Tell them to do their jobs because they are currently choosing party and party leaders over country. At the same time, I also encourage everyone all to go to rallies – non-violent, civil disobedience rallies and speak up about the truth. Start your own indivisible groups, this organization gives great information and resources to community organizing.
Another organization I support is grabyourwallet.org because the only language that this administration understands is money. This is a capitalist society and your dollar counts. The only way for us to really bring about change is by holding our elected officials accountable. Their oaths are to the constitution not to the president or to the party. We all need to stay informed and involved, it is the most important part of democracy.
CrypticRock.com – Will fans be blessed with a new book of poetry to help them get through these times of uncertainty?
Otep Shamaya – I am working on a new book of poetry. I had some down time over the holidays, I had to have some surgery during that time so I had to heal and get back to superhero status as they say, but yes, a new poetry book is coming!
CrypticRock.com – Otep has been a consistent force for over 15 years now. In that time, the band has grown and seen change. Through it all, what has been the inspiration to keep the band going strong?
Otep Shamaya – I am grateful for the opportunity to play music for a living. These are the most talented musicians I’ve ever played with in my current line up. They’ve been in the band for quite a while and just having them be my brothers in arms is very inspiring. An artist’s job is to reflect our reality and that’s what we do, we’ve never been about luke warm, we are hot and cold. I’ve devoted myself to this, and we all have.
We aren’t just going to stop because a fad changes. I’ve written seven albums and about to write number 8 soon, this is my life and I think overall artists are so for me that’s all I do, and when people respond, that’s what we live for. We want you to be fired up on either side, that’s what motivates us, and we are still going strong after all these years.
CrypticRock.com – Otep’s 2002 debut album, Sevas Tra, celebrates its 15th anniversary come June. Can we expect any special plans for this anniversary?
Otep Shamaya – It is really? (laughs) We get asked that all the time, and it’s difficult because I really love that album. It’s my baby – when we first got signed we didn’t have a demo, we just had our live show. So when we went in the studio we had about 11 songs, 5 we could really play (laughs), they definitely needed some tuning up. We had several ideas that we needed to work out so it just really brings me back to those special days starting out when I was a kid and didn’t know anything.
There are times when I really miss those days and miss playing those songs. I miss playing “Jonestown Tea” a lot, we stopped playing it because on the record it’s about 11 minutes, but live it turns into 15 to 20 minutes because it becomes a theatrical piece. Then the same with “Menocide.” Those were really special days back then, so I suppose we will have to think about what we will do for the anniversary, stay tuned!
CrypticRock.com – CrypticRock.com is a magazine and online community dedicated to our love of music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorite Horror or Sci-Fi movies?
Otep Shamaya – I’m not really into gore. Our drummer definitely is. He loves it! The more gore the better (laughs). I’m more into Psychological Thrillers. I like it when I don’t know where the writer is going and then suddenly it’s like WOAH! Or something that plays on my anxiety and fears, Hitchcock was great with that. In Psycho (1960), you never actually see the girl get stabbed, not once, but I think that made it even more powerful because the mind can create something way more terrifying than the screen can.
I have a bunch of older brothers, and they subjected me to many a Horror film growing, I’m a big Kubrick nerd, but for my favorite – the first that comes to mind is The Shining (1980). I love that movie. Also, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), that’s a great film too. My favorite series is The Walking Dead. For Sci-Fi, the original Alien (1979) movie I’d have to say is my favorite. I’m a Star Wars nerd, but I like Star Trek too so don’t attack me Trekkies! (smiles)
Back to more recent movies, I actually just saw Get Out (2017) and I really liked it. The scariest part of that movie for me was how real it could be, and a vast majority of the film is what a lot of people actually have endured in their life. They did a really great job with that and put all these cool little easter eggs as they call them throughout the movie that are really worth paying attention to when you watch. The movie was really well written and I’m glad it came from someone like Jordan Peele, he has such a unique voice and it really speaks to everyone who watches.
CrypticRock.com – In that same spirit, if you could choose how you die as the star of a Horror movie, how would you want to die?
Otep Shamaya – I’d wanna go out in some heroic way, like the way the guy went out in Independence Day (1996). He drove into the alien ship, something like that. Really though, I feel like in a Horror situation, I wouldn’t die. Everybody else would be dead or running to hide in a corner, I feel like I’d be the first person to get right up and say, “Alright, Let’s go find him!” I don’t have fight or flight; I only have fight, and we’re not going anywhere!