Heavy metal fans are no stranger to Otep and their face melting, soul penetrating music. Since 2000, the band, led by vocalist and songwriter Otep Shamaya, has been a staple in the nu-metal genre. The name Otep is derived from the anagram ‘poet’ and poet is the perfect word to describe the songs Shamaya pens. Using global injustices, and personal experiences, Otep’s songs reach out and touch fans in a special way.
Shamaya has always been outspoken about LGBT issues and is an active supporter. Being gay herself, she feels it is important to use her voice. There are many causes that she supports including animal rights and the anti-Trump movement, ‘The Resistance.’
We spoke to Shamaya about being a woman in metal, her activism, and what Otep fans have to look forward to.
How did you know music was what you were going to do in life?
I didn’t choose music, it chose me. I was signed to Capitol Records after only 4-5 shows, without a demo and purely on the power of our live performances. Before that I was a hungry creative. I wrote, I spoke, I was desperate to create and navigate my emotions and desperately trying to understand reality.
Your genre of music is typically a boys club, and I’m sure you want to be seen as an equal, not just “a woman” in it. But, what has your experience been in the music business as a woman?
I think my experience as a woman in music is the same as any woman in any field. We are immediately thought of as either inferior or an ornament. I’ve never allowed gender to stop me or bind me or affect my ambitions or my creative life. There have been many obstacles, silly obstacles, unnecessary obstacles but I never let it stop me. In fact, it inspired me to use critical thinking and trouble shooting to sort out how to get over, under, or juggernaut through whatever was standing in my way.
You express your activism through your music as well as being out in the trenches, is that a conscience decision? Is it important to use your platform to speak out?
I think it’s the duty of the artist to have a voice and use that voice to inspire people to think and challenge themselves and their beliefs. My art and activism are inseparable.
What causes are most important to you?
In general, equality is most important. More specific, I despise bullies and the eagerly stupid. And though I know it’s impossible to defeat invincible ignorance, it’s important to expose it. Currently, I’m on the Board of Advisors for ‘I Stand With My Pack,’ non-profit organization that aides in promoting global animal welfare initiatives and creating long-term solutions for a more humane world. I also advocate for ‘Mercy on Animals,’ ‘PETA,’ the ‘Human Rights Campaign,’ and ‘The Resistance’- a growing movement of Anti-Trump forces.
How is your new album, ‘Generation Doom’ different than previous albums?
I think Generation Doom is closer to my earlier work. It reminds me a lot of our first album Sevas Tra and our fourth album The Ascension.
What message do you want it to send to fans?
My message to my fans is and always has been you are important, you are loved, and you matter.
You also wrote a book of short stories and released it last year, what made you take on that project?
I’m a rather prolific writer and these stories just sort of poured out of me. MOVIES IN MY HEAD is my first book of short stories and I’m very proud of it. Since it’s release, I produced and created the first story ‘Pinebox Jake’ into an audio book, doing all the sound design and voices myself.
Who has been an inspiration for you?
I’ve many inspirations from legacy artists like Hunter S. Thompson, Mark Twain, Sappho, Ray Bradbury, The Doors, Nirvana, Kendrick Lamar, Coco Rosie, but personally my biggest inspiration has been my mother. She’s the smartest, toughest person I’ve ever known.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given and what advice would you give to the creative girls out there?
Learn as much as you can, trust yourself, love yourself and let no one diminish who you are or the dreams you have. Anytime I’ve been told my dreams are too big, I just dream bigger. Then, I hunker down and activate. Art must be cultivated, it demands our attention, it needs our focus and devotion otherwise you will lose the gift you are so lucky to have.
What do fans have to look forward to from Otep?
I’m only going to get louder, gayer, prouder, and stronger. I’m only going to work harder, be grateful and never waste a moment of this life.