Otep: death wish

Otep says farewell – or goodbye, at the very least. This is the end of the journey for the American band and their charismatic singer Otep Shamaya, whose last album, Hydra, crystallizes everything she stands for as a woman and as an artist. For the past thirteen years, the band has been using nu-metal to talk about mankind’s intrinsic destructive desires. This last album, released in January, was no exception and strived to depict a very human trait: the desire to have revenge and destroy all that is considered wrong.

For Otep Shamaya, art is not only a form of schizophrenia and a method of introspection; it is also a saving hand in a world where people tend to think more about tomorrow than about the present. As for music, it’s an art that looks like a game, a play, a character you create from scratch and who eventually finds a life of their own through their imaginary personality. But above all, music is music, and the band did defend their last-born on stage, where it could find its own life, while they were on the path to extinction. Some time after the release, we took stock of the situation with Otep Shamaya herself, an extravagant, committed and multi-faceted artist who reflects the very essence of her creative spirit.

« I’m an artist, so just as as a painter, you have your painting purchased and not stolen, I believe that my music should be purchased and not stolen. »

Radio Metal: The album came out a few weeks ago. What reactions did it get from the fans and from the press?

Otep: It’s been overwhelmingly positive, everyone seems to really love it. It’s been very satisfying to get such praise and to have people saying that it’s my best record and that it’s a masterpiece. I’m really proud of that because I worked so hard on it.

Your declared about the fact that Otep will stop to write records: “I’ve spent my whole life wanting to be a working artist. I didn’t want it to be a hobby.” Does that mean that things have become too hard financially speaking, even for a band like Otep that has its success and big fanbase, to survive?

The question that they asked me was about music pirating and if I supported it or not. I said that I don’t. I’m an artist, so just as as a painter, you have your painting purchased and not stolen, I believe that my music should be purchased and not stolen. When music plays a very vital role in your life, when you’re having a bad day, a great day, when you fall in love or when you are just angry at the world, you go and you turn on your favorite record, your favorite song, and that worth… It’s a piece of art and it’s worth 99 cents in America. It’s like a dollar. Pennies.

Do you think that the fact this is your last album will bring some attention to the band and that new listeners will discover your music now?

I hope so. Everyone keeps talking about the final record, but for me it is just the beginning of a new record since I only wrote it four months ago. It’s only been released three weeks ago. I still have a lot of work to do with it, a lot of touring, a lot of promoting. I’ll get the chance to bring these songs to life on stage. So it just happened, it just came out, so this is just the beginning of this record cycle for me. And with every album, we’re always hoping to make something that our long time fans will love, but also to reach new fans and expand the message.

Did you know when writing it that this would be your last album?

I didn’t think about any of that. I was just trying to write the best record I could. I wrote it the same way I write every record. I go in, spread out all my books, my lyrics books, and I go through them and spend twelve, fourteen hours a day in the studio, just trying to do the best I can do, and really getting lost in the moment of creativity. So I try not to think about it. Everything I did was writing the best songs I can write, being the best story-teller I can be, being the best singer I can be, that’s it.

« That was a little strange, a little scary, a little thrilling at the same time. It was like thinking like someone else, being someone else, let that person inhabit me and write the songs through me. »

You declared on your Facebook page about the new album: “I allowed the personality of the creature I have created to take hold”

Yeah, it was a really strange experience for me because this is the first time I write about a character that I created. Her name is Hydra. It was almost like how actors do when they do method acting, when they stay in character the entire time. Obviously, when I’m writing this, I’m trying to find all the common emotions, feelings and thoughts I share with Hydra, but also to allow all of those forbidden thoughts, forbidden emotions, that come upon me. That was a little strange, a little scary, a little thrilling at the same time. It was like thinking like someone else, being someone else, let that person inhabit me and write the songs through me.

In your opinion, what do you have in common with Hydra?

I think I understand her need for vengeance against evil people, her impulse to wipe it out, to destroy evil. She just doesn’t understand that she’s also doing evil. She’s also a violent character that hunts down violence. I think we all kinda have these urges to go after them when people insult us or to get into a fight after we’ve been hurt. We have these moral triggers that suppress those emotions, those fearful emotions, those primal emotions, those animal instincts that want us to destroy what is threatening us. Hydra, the character, do not possess those traits, so for her this is all she wants.

Can we say that this creature took control of you because somehow there is a little bit of you in this creature?

Yeah, I think there is a little bit [laughs].

Weren’t you afraid to lose yourself in that character?

Sometimes. In fact parts of her still linger in me, which means they were always parts of me but they were deeper in my subconscious. If you go back to House Of Secrets, my second album, you will find that there’s even references to her. She’s always sort of been a part of me, maybe that’s the darkest side of me that comes out in my fears, sort of preparing an attack on given political things that I stand up for, the different cultural things that I want to destroy. She’s there and, after allowing her to come to the surface, she kinda stayed there.

Will these short stories you wrote for this album be released on an another media, like a book or something?

Yeah, we’ve released a book of essays and short stories before, but I’m working right now and we won’t have time until much later in the year, after all of this. But I wanna focus a lot more time on writing, finishing Hydra the book, Hydra the graphic novel and Hydra the short stories.

Can we expect some special visual effect on stage that will be linked to the concept of the album?

Well, we are incorporating several things this time. I think everybody will be extremely happy with what happens.

« Music is always gonna be a part of me, it’s a part of me, it’s what I do in my life, it’s a part of my artistic instincts. »

Basically, what happens to Otep now? You said that album will be your last but that you will continue touring. For how long?

As long as I can! We’re going over to Australia, we’re doing a United States tour in a few weeks, then we go to Australia, to Mexico City, then they try to get me down to South America, and then hopefully over Europe. I’ve been to Europe on vacations, on Holidays, but I’ve never played there, and now it would be my dream to do so. Anyway, the goal is to try and get to as many places on the planet as possible to play our music.

And how do you know you won’t be tempted to write new music?

We don’t know and I don’t know! Nobody knows the future unless you’re an oracle. You know, it seems it’s what’s going to happen now, it doesn’t mean it’s always gonna be this way. And really, it’s been made much more a bigger deal than I thought it would be. I didn’t think it was going to get this much attention [laughs]. I would rather people focus on the record because if it would have came out 6 or 7 months ago I would have been like “Yeah, OK, that’s what people wanna talk about”, but the album just came out, so why don’t we talk about that? Music is always gonna be a part of me, it’s a part of me, it’s what I do in my life, it’s a part of my artistic instincts. The music is always singing to me, so I will have to translate it somehow. Right now, Hydra just came out and I wanna give her all the attention that this album deserves.

Do you know what you’ll be doing after the tour? Do you intend to write music for other projects?

I don’t know. I think I’m gonna write whatever comes out of me, whatever inspiration tells me to write, that’s what I’m gonna do. Right now, we have to prepare, there are three or four new songs from the new album that we have to work on for the next tour, and then we’ll be going out on stage, playing for the fans, and having that spiritual intercourse between the audience and the band. That ritual of creativity is so special and so powerful, that’s so exciting, I can’t wait to get out on the road.

Interview conducted by phone February 21st, 2013
Transcription: Chloé

Otep on Facebook

Album Hydra out since January 22nd, 2013 via Victory Records.

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