Alt Metal Powerhouse OTEP Discusses New Album, The Loss Of Family, Tattoos, And More 8/31/2023



Otep Shamaya stands as a pillar of strength in the alt metal community. She is an artist that makes no bones about her message being a priority, with her music serving as its vehicle. Her music and its message is often credited with empowering the powerless, and for being the voice for the voiceless. Packed with the punch of raw emotion, her hard-driving rhythms and passion-filled poetry have caused many a fan to raise a fist.

When I was given the opportunity to communicate with Otep, I expected a strong, intelligent, articulate woman to respond to my questions with a resonant voice of confidence and strength. My view of Otep was similar to that of a superhero character; an impenetrable force, and a rebel with no weaknesses. What I found was someone even more intelligent and articulate than imaginable, but not a superhero. Instead I was shown a true to life human being with some of the same emotions and vulnerabilities that we all encounter in our lives. She is someone that gets angry and loud, but also someone that feels great joy and sadness as well.

The message in her words below serves me as a blueprint of how to navigate life. Otep discusses the sudden, tremendous loss of her brother and how she has found an outlet to honor him. She talks about the hope of finding a cottage on a coast someday. She talks about getting her first tattoo in a friend’s kitchen. These are all human moments that make us what we are, and this interview made Otep Shamaya a superhero of a whole different kind in my eyes.

My most heartfelt thanks to Otep for sharing so much of her beautiful self with me ….and now YOU.






Scott:  “Ostracized” is the new single, and it has a killer guitar solo on it from Vigil Of War guitarist Kiki Wong. Tell me how you know Kiki, and how her appearance on the song came about. Did she write the song with you, or was this song handpicked for her to play on?
OTEP: I was introduced to Kiki by the producer and co-writer of the song, Esjay Jones. Esjay and I both wanted something special for this song and she suggested bringing in Kiki to share her powerful artistic magic with us. This is my 9th album and this song, Ostracized, is the only one that has ever had a guitar solo. And it was added purely because of Kiki’s incredible talent. The way Kiki plays on this song is almost like a vocal melody and her skill as an elite player/shredder added so much power to it. This was truly a remarkable moment in the making of this album. The three of us, Esjay, Kiki and myself, in a studio exchanging ideas and energy and created a supernova single.  
Scott:  The title of the last record, Kult 45, refers to 45th U.S. President Donald Trump and the cult-like following that he has. Much of that record speaks out against Trump and his regime. This record is called The God Slayer. Is there a specific ideology or message that you wanted to draw attention to on this record?  
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OTEP:  I had considered many names for this album but while writing and recording my eldest brother died unexpectedly, and besides the shock and grief and utter heartbreak of losing him, I felt he was cheated from living a longer life. Cheated by who? The universe, the gods, whatever. I didn’t care. I was angry at existence itself. He was one of the most compassionate, loving, supportive and optimistic humans I’ve ever known. Many fans and friends sent me well wishes for my family and I and some would express that ‘he’s in a better place’ or ‘he’s still with you’ and I know they meant well but I didn’t want him anywhere but HERE, back with my family and I, so the writing and performance on the album shifted to a much darker and desperate space. The title track is my soul raging to whatever gods were listening. The lead producer of the album, Mike Plotnikoff, was very helpful during this time and directed my pain into the writing and performance of the songs but also mentioned something to the effect that ‘you are slaying gods, all right, gods of music’, referring to the covers. That was the first time I smiled in many months after losing my dear brother. 
Scott:  Do you feel like your message, your lyrical themes, have made it difficult for you in regards to marketing the band and pleasing the executives at the record labels?
OTEP:  I don’t think so. Many artists write about heartbreak, obstacles in life, social issues, politics, triumph and victories, so I’m not sure if it’s any of those things. But I don’t write songs to please marketers or record executives. They’re business people. Not creatives. I write whatever the muses recite and I do it the best I can. However, I think some humans, who see other humans as simply “consumers”, prefer neatly packaged and repurposed ideas and sounds. I don’t do that. I think my very existence as an artist defies the dominant paradigm and though that might make some fearful or uncomfortable, my lyrics, the music and the message  have allowed me to amass a very passionate and loyal fanbase that grows globally every single day and, to me, that’s what matters most. 
Scott:  Kult 45 was self-produced, and before that you had Howard Benson as a producer for the Generation Doom record. Who was chosen to produce The God Slayer?
OTEP:  For THE GOD SLAYER, I returned to the same studio I recorded GENERATION DOOM with Howard Benson and worked with one of the same team of producers, Mike Plotnikoff, who helped bring that album to life. When the label reached out to me they wanted an album of mostly covers, I immediately thought of Mike because I loved working with him before, not only as a wonderful human but I trust his remarkable instincts and his incredible ear. He has one of the best creative minds I’ve ever known and his instinct for vocal cadences, songwriting and for instrument tones is unparalleled. Mike and I also brought in an extremely talented producer/musician Brian Spencer who has an innate connection to many musical genres including metal and hip hop which was perfect for this album. 
Scott:  Your message is always very serious and important, and those things can make the music very heavy, both sonically and emotionally. Therefore, arguably, OTEP music is often thought of as “dark” and “serious.” “Light” or “fun” aren’t words that are often associated with OTEP music. You do a cover of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls” on this record. Although it’s a darker version of the original, the music of The Beach Boys defines light, fun, melodic pop. How did you decide to cover this song? Have you ever wanted to write anything lighter, like a pop record, or something more melodic that might showcase your singing voice? 
OTEP:  Whenever I cover a song, I begin with the lyrics. And though CALIFORNIA GIRLS by The Beach Boys might sound very surfer-pop and light-hearted, when I read the lyrics I got this sense that I was reading a page out of Ted Bundy’s diary or something else nefarious. Lyrically, the song objectifies women and categorizes them by region, what they wear, how they act, how they kiss, culminating in a dissection of all these girls into a fantasy where they all could be in one place, one hunting ground, California. I wanted my version of the song to reflect what I felt when I read the lyrics, so yes, it’s dark but also written from the perspective of someone who only understands women this way, as a vessel for pleasure, and so I wanted to sing it with a sense of obsession and sexual desire with a touch of evil. And I think that was accomplished. 
Scott:  “The God Slayer,” the title track, is powerful poetic brilliance. There is a voice of encouragement at the end of the track that sounds like it is from an answering machine or a voicemail message. Who is this that we hear, and does this hold specific importance to you on a personal level?
OTEP:  That’s my brother the night before he died. It’s the last voicemail he left anyone. He died the next morning. I wanted it on the album to immortalize him but also to show what a beautiful soul he was, always so supportive, and not just to me, but to my other siblings and my parents and his circle of friends. His loss has left a vast void in our lives that will never be filled but adding his voice to my album does make me feel close to him again. 
Scott:  I heard you tell one of the most powerful and sad and wonderful stories that I’ve ever heard. The mother of a girl that was a fan, came through the meet and greet line to hand you her daughter’s ashes after she committed suicide. Her daughter wanted you to have them. I’ve also heard you talk about fans that are in the military, and how much love and care you show them. (Thank you for that!) These experiences have to change you not only as an artist, but as a human being. It’s quite obvious that you wield great power and influence with your words and music. Does having that kind of strength ever become overwhelming or scary for you?
OTEP:  It never overwhelms or scares me. I feel empowered to do more, to be more, to be better, to be the best writer, singer, performer, activist I can be and that’s what scares me. That I will let them down. 
Scott:  You have a lot of ink on your body, and I’m sure every single drop holds great meaning for you.
What was your first tattoo? Is there one that means the most to you?

OTEP:  My first tattoo was a yin/yang symbol on my chest. My friend did it after we watched Natural Born Killers and inked it in his kitchen. It’s hard to pick a favorite but the one that comes to mind right now is a quote from a book authored by a friend of mine, the legendary writer Harlan Ellison. I got it after he passed away and it reads, “Night had come to the lonely land, night, but not darkness”
Scott:  You’ve done a good amount of voiceover work in film, videogames, and more. You have around a dozen books published as well. Do you have anything you’ve done recently in the book or voiceover world that we can keep an eye or ear out for?!
OTEP:  I’m very proud of all the work I’ve done both as an author and a voice over actor. Most of the jobs I book for VoiceOver have NDA’s so I can’t discuss them until they’re released but I’m currently putting together a new book of poems and illustrations. 
Scott:  If you could sit and have a one-on-one conversation with any living person, who would it be?
OTEP:  Marshall Mathers. Eminem. I covered his song THE WAY I AM on the new album and it was by far the most difficult for me because he’s a master at cadence and flow and his writing is genius level. So I’d love to sit with him and learn whatever he could or would pollinate my head with. 
Scott:  Do you have something that tops a bucket list? Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had the chance yet?
OTEP:  I’d love to spend a summer in a little cottage off the coast of Ireland, perhaps The Aran Islands, and write and paint and create. No social media, no news, just long walks, old books and art. 
Scott:  Will we see a tour for this album? What areas of the world do you plan to reach?
OTEP:  Nothing is scheduled yet. There’s some talk of going to South America early next year then back to North America and maybe Europe but it’s all just talk for now. If it gets scheduled, it will be everywhere as fast as I can post it. 
Scott:  Thank you so much for your time and for sharing so much of yourself with me.
OTEP:  Thank you for the opportunity. 
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