Otep Shamaya Talks Creative Perseverance, Standing Up Against Abuse, New Music + More
Artist, writer, poet, musician and activist Otep Shamaya recently chatted with us about touring and the band’s latest release, Hydra. The frontwoman also spoke candidly about a situation that was reported earlier this year in which a member of Terror Universal inappropriately touched her. And she offered some good news for Otep fans, revealing that the band may hard at work on new material this year. Check out our full interview with Otep Shamaya below:
As a road warrior and all of these years of touring, what are your favorite and least favorite parts of being out on the road?
The hardest part of being out on the road is just being away from home, away from my family and friends. I’m a vegetarian and vegan when I can be and I can’t be a vegan on the road normally because it’s too hard to find. The best part of being on the road is playing, seeing our fans and having that spiritual intercourse between my band and the audience and it’s really something amazing. That feeling is indescribable and that’s why we’re so addicted to it. That’s why I’ve been fighting in an industry that’s been cannibalizing itself.
I do other things besides music, I’m a voice over actor, I’m an author, I own my own merchandising company. I do a lot of things but I love music and it’s hard to be in an industry that’s beating itself up all the time but I love it and it’s hard for me to step away. I took a year off last year just to recharge and reconnect with the spirit of why I’m doing this, I don’t want to fake it ever. The fans deserve authenticity and something genuine, it has just been wonderful to be back onstage and on tour seeing the fans. I’m starting to feel that energy of writing again and we’re thinking about doing a new record and I’m really excited about that.
I’ve had some really difficult experiences with labels in the past. The suits don’t really understand the art and they don’t really understand the fans, especially my fans. They expect me to be the girl that goes, “Grr” all the time. It’s the message that brings fans to us and that’s what I think is most important. I think a lot of labels lack that understanding and they’re like, “Well how heavy is the song?”
What are you most proud of when it comes to the latest release Hydra?
The nature of how it was written, we were only given four weeks to write it. Luckily I write all the time so I have books of stuff. When I started writing the songs I noticed that it reminded me of this book I started writing two years earlier called None Shall Sleep. It’s about this serial killer called Hydra and so she wants to speak and come forward from my sleeping shadow mind she wants to be resurrected. I allowed her to dictate that record.
I was in the studio 12 hours a day, six days a week and four hours on Sunday. I’m really proud of every single song on there. I’m really proud of “Apex Predator” and for me it’s a story and I love writing those kinds of songs it’s so fun to play live. The video was great, we filmed it in an abandoned hospital in California and it’s supposed to be haunted. We bought out the whole place and we heard little kids running around, there were lights flashing when nobody was there, we heard footsteps, a ball rolled down the hall towards me and I was like “Where is everybody?”
The video was actually banned on YouTube not because that there was a girl deep throating a gun, no it was the simulated girl-on-girl sex part that they didn’t like. I wanted to challenge this idea of sex versus violence. We’re much more comfortable in this country, with violence than violence. Why are we so afraid of sexuality? Why are we so afraid of love especially when it comes to same sex love? I wanted that in the video, it got banned now they’ve removed the ban but it made people talk and it made people think.
Playing music for 14 years, seven albums, you've written several books – what does writing in the form of poetry or short stories do for you that writing music does not?
It’s a completely internal event, writing a book or poems or short stories or even an article it’s like narrating a piece of myself in a different way instead of externalizing through song and working with different artists. Both are equally satisfying, I can go off and let my subconscious take over. What I love about writing is reading it and it doesn’t exist until the next word, it’s being built in the reader’s brain as each word is read.
The Terror Universal band member situation and the assault in Illinois -- you’re known for her advocacy against bullying and her stance regarding violence against women. What advice would you have for young women either onstage or offstage at shows?
I would say don’t be silent about it which is what I’ve always known but it was reinforced when I came forward on both of those situations and the victim usually gets further victimized, especially when it’s a woman. I look back and I think what if this was Jamey Jasta or Randy [Blythe] from Lamb of God or Corey Taylor from Slipknot, if he was the one that smacked somebody or had been violated by somebody -- the guy in Terror Universal didn’t only grab me, he did it to every member of my band, he grabbed their crotches. For some reason he thought it was OK to do that in front of my fans, during my meet and greet with my people.
I guess what I would tell fans is don’t be silent, don’t be afraid because you don’t deserve it so speak out about it. Be strong, there’s people that are weaker than you that need to feel stronger and superior than you so they’re going to try to bring you down but that shouldn’t stop you from standing up for your rights. Nobody should touch you or threaten you or make you feel threatened or make you feel like you’re in danger ever. You have that right to feel safe in your own skin and your own environment.
What does the rest of 2015 have in store for you and the rest of the band?
The rumor is that we’re supposed to be writing another record. I just finished an audio book from one of the short stories I did from the book called Movies in My Head. I did an audio book based on the first short story called “Pinebox Jake,” I may just put it up on SoundCloud and let people listen to it. The main focus right now music and if that rumor is true that we’re writing a new record then we’re going to be putting all of our energy into writing a new record.
Our thanks to Otep Shamaya for taking time to chat with us. Order Otep’s Hydra via iTunes here.
Watch Otep's "Apex Predator" Video