Interview – Otep “Freedom to Live and Love “

Otep Shamaya is one of the most important female front-woman in the rock n roll world within the last twenty years. She doesn’t just sing about what she wants changed inside the corruption of our society, she goes out of her way to actually participate with the people who want real change within our government. Generation Doom is the soundtrack for those who actually stand up for human rights around the world and aren’t afraid to step out into the streets and let their world leaders know that the people have had enough and everyone deserves to be treated equal, no matter their race, sexual preference, gender, or age.

*Disclaimer: Since someone might get offended these are the views of the artist being interviewed, not Vandala Magazine as our views are vast and diverse within the magazine. We belive in the freedom of speech for all.

By Chad Thomas Carsten 
From April 2017 Vandala Magazine 

When you stepped out on stage in front of Otep’s very first sold out show, how did keep your confidence level flowing with positivity?

Otep: Basically, we were just an unsigned band in Los Angeles, California playing the Sunset Strip, just like every other band. We did probably four shows before we started getting people taking notice of us because Los Angeles is an industry town, so everybody kind of comes there to get discovered. Whether you’re an actress, writer, director, musician, or a singer. People say it’s jaded, but I don’t think jaded is the right word, it’s just that we’ve seen a lot. You know, we get to see a lot of different type of bands. A lot of variety. What the difference was, no one had ever seen a strange creature running around the stage at the time with long blonde hair, screaming her guts out, reciting poetry between songs, going on my social justice rants and people were like, “Wow! What is happening?!” We were signed to Capitol Capitol Records without a demo, just strictly off our live performance.

That’s Impressive!

Otep: Thank you! So our seventh or eighth show with the band was Ozzfest and we played in Illinois in front of twenty-five thousand people. Now imagine we were an unsigned band before this. The most we ever played in front of was two-hundred people. We opened for Cold as an unsigned band. Which was really cool, they were really nice to us. That was a big show for us. We went from two-hundred people opening for Cold, to the second stage at Ozzfest and there were twenty-five thousand people out there. And that was when Mudvayne’s first album L.D. 50 was new and it was huge for them. We were in their home city during Ozzfest basically and we were going on right before Mudvayne. It was insane! My guitar player at the time threw up and everybody was shaking and I grabbed everyone and said, “Close your eyes. What’s the difference playing in front of forty people and twenty-five thousand people? A lot, but at the same time if you close your eyes it’s not much different.” So on stage for some of them, it was terrifying. For me, it wasn’t. I really wanted to make a name for myself. I also believed in the music that we are making and the message that we were spreading, so I really wanted to go up there and do a good job. I really wanted to do my best for the band, for our label, we didn’t have any fans at the time, so I can’t say fans, nobody really knew who we were, but I also did it for myself, so that I knew that I could do it. I just struck down the fear and anxiety and remembered that I had done this before six other times. I just went out and did it!

What latest political moment may have influenced the title for your latest record “Generation Doom”?

Otep: The candidacy of Donald J. Trump. I am not a Trump supporter. It’s not the fact he is a rich guy. I know rich guys. Not all rich people are evil. Look at Bill Gates for example. He’s gave back a lot of the money he’s made over the years, so not all rich people are evil. It was the fact that Donald insulted our military and I got a military family. The fact that he mocked a disabled reporter. That should have been the end of it. You’re supposed to be a strong leader that cares about the working class/care about working people. But then you try to display this set of power over someone else and already the system is gaining against him because of what he did towards the disabled person. Here’s the guy that’s supposed to be the President of the United States, not just for the people that vote for him, not just the for people that believe he’s the golden orange tanned second coming of Nixon. But for Generation Doom I didn’t know it was going to be prophetic as it was when I wrote it. We had two options for Generation Doom; we were going to be the generation that stops the doom or we going to be the generation that saw it. I think right now what’s happening is a converging of both. I think we’re seeing some serious constitutional crisis going on like kicking journalist out of the White House. There the only ones really keeping him to task right now, other than the courts, the lower courts have done a really good job. But even what he did against protection of transgender kids. Kids in school were already getting bullied and stuff. I can understand it if he turned a blind eye to something that was already there, but to take it back, like last year kids were protected. Nobody could bully you because of who you were, but now you can.

In most of my themes a lot of us were paying attention when the media and the Obama administration was saying (before Hillary was even talking about it) that the Russians were trying to involve themselves in the election and everybody went, “Oh that’s not true!” and now a security advisor had to resign because he possibly committed treason and definitely lied to the FBI, which is a felony, after two weeks of Donald being in office. Now his attorney general, (the highest law enforcement officer in the country) Jeff Sessions, who’s a racist bigoted homophobic jackass, who voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Matthew was a 102-pound kid that was beaten to death just because he was gay and James Byrd JR was an African American murdered by white supremacists in Texas. Both tragedies occurred within the same year. Jeff Sessions just recused himself from any investigation into the probe of Trumps collusion with Russia because he actually met with the Russian Ambassador while working for the Trump campaign. He met them in Trump tower along with Jared Kushner, Trumps son-in-law. There are serious, serious things wrong in this country regardless about party anymore! This isn’t about party politics. This is about national security. This is about the very fabric of our country. That’s why I’m so impressed by the resistance is that it’s all-inclusive. Everybody is fighting for everybody’s rights. You got Black Lives Matter people fighting for LGTBQ people, you got Atheists fighting for Muslims. After 9/11 happened there’s been mass hysteria against Muslims. There was just a rally in New York where citizens of New York City surrounded a group of Muslims so that they could pray in New York City. That’s a big deal. They protected them. I think that’s what I love about this country so much and that’s what I fight for. Not a lot of people agree with me and that’s okay, you don’t have to agree with me. We can be adults. I’ve actually got into an argument with a group of people who were Trump supporters and then I found out they rescued a dog and I’m like, “Alright I’m going to stop.” We both agree that rescuing baby dogs is a good thing. Let’s stop fighting about Trump and I’m going to congratulate you for being a foster parent for a dog in need. I’m a big animal rights activist too!

Another thing that influenced Generation Doom was the rash of police brutality/police against African American children in the last few years. Especially when a twelve-year-old boy was playing with a toy gun and got shot. How many of us as kids played with toy guns When I was kid we grew up in a really poor neighborhood and we always played with snap guns, fake but real looking guns before they put the red tips on them and all kinds of other toy guns and we never had a cop roll up on us or shot at us. It’s extremely sad that it happened to a twelve-year-old boy. For me injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. They come for one of us, they come for all of us! And that’s what being an American is supposed to be about is standing up to the injustice. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t affect you directly because eventually, they will get to all of us. “Always punch a Nazi” is my motto right now.

Many fans have connected to your single “In Cold Blood” how do you react when fans tell you the song helped them through their own personal struggle dealing with suicidal thoughts and attempts?

Otep: In the beginning it was real difficult, because I never imagined my music would have that kind of effect on anybody and then when they do; some of the songs that I write are biographical and so when you realize it and there is a reason for why I did that and that’s because I felt alone in the dark. So I wanted to send out a beacon so that other people could find me there. So now it’s like little fireflies in the dark and you find them. I remember being a kid and feeling very lonely and wish I had some Knight in shining armor/some hero that would parachute into my room or something and like whisk me away and save us from all the violence that were encountering. It never happened. So I thought if I was ever in a position where I could be a voice of someone who was feeling that way, the same way that I felt, then I would do that. I feel striking sometimes when people come up and say, “That song affected me and saved me during a very difficult time in my life.” I’m just grateful that they’re still here and I try to tell them that we all have bad days no matter what you do for a living or how well you’re known, we all have bad days and it’s just a page. One page in a long book of your life. Just turn the page and just keep writing.

Knowing that 74 countries still currently punish people for simply loving someone who are the same sex, what ways can the average citizen fight back against homophobia to improve equal rights for the LGBTQ community worldwide?

Otep: I think countries like America, where right now we still have the right to be out, I think it’s important to be as vocal as possible and we support them as much as we can. But I think we also have to first fix what’s wrong in this country. I believe it’s still legal in twenty-eight states to be fired for simply being gay. Now you can be married, it’s legal to be married in all fifty states. You can go out get married to your partner and post it on Facebook and your boss sees it and he goes, “I don’t agree with that, you’re fired!” and he’ll have no legal consequences against him. Right now I think that our greatest threat to the LGBTQ community is the Trump administration, but I think just being out and being vocal and setting good examples the best that you can. Like I’ve said, it’s not a spectator sport anymore being a citizen. A lot of times when we talk about the LGBTQ community there is another letter that is left off and that’s A. That’s our heterosexual allies and that means more to us in some ways than it does to anything else. Ellen DeGeneres can go on TV and pretty much say anything she wants and they’re like, “We like Ellen, she’s funny!” She rarely gets political but is a little bit more political now because of Trump, but you kind of expect her to speak up because it effects were directly and it affects her wife and family. People expect me because I’m a “Cultural Arsonist” and I set fires everywhere, right?! But what they don’t expect to see is people who shouldn’t stand up for each other, stand up for each other. You have heterosexual couples saying, “That’s not right to treat them differently than we’re being treated!” and so again, it’s unity! It’s very, very important.

Ideally, in a sense of longer terms, I think sanctions against countries that make it illegal or put people to death for being gay, I think is important. But also we have to make sure our Christian churches, which they’re in places in Countries of Africa, where they do make it a lethal offense, it is fatal, you get a death penalty. It was funded by giant Evangelical churches here. It’s like why are you concerned about it? Love is so hard to find in this world and it is for anybody. It’s hard to find someone that will put up with your shit and you can put up with their shit and hard to find someone who you can just love someone for who they are. Why do they care? It’s a mutual agreement between two adults, why do they care? Just let them love for as long as it lasts and move on with your life. Governments should be more worried about clean water, stable bridges, our military/veterans, there’s way more things we need to be concerned about like our healthcare instead of, “Should two people who are the same gender be able to marry or not?” People should be able to come out of the closet and be as strong as they can. I think organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are very important and very vital. They need support, they need volunteers, and they need the ACLU.

Can we discuss the current March on Mississippi dealing with Nissan and why it’s important to stop workplace harassment due to a persons sexual preference and race?

Otep: First of all I applaud all those people who were standing up for workers rights because it’s important to do so. When people talk about the liberal agenda, our agenda was the forty hour work week. Our agenda was overtime pay. Our agenda was to end child slavery laws, which back in the day they used kids to work in these horrible places and their hands could fit in smaller holes and grinders and things and it was just awful. One of the things Martin Luther King Jr. was doing was not only fighting for civil rights for all people, but he was also fighting for workers rights and that’s what Martin was doing when he was assassinated. He was actually attending a workers’ rights march. This particular march they recently had was I think wonderful and the fact it’s holding accountable to the people who actually do the job, not the people who are just taking in the money.

You have to pay your people a living wage and you have to make sure their rights are protected. Any kind of harassment needs to be fought and especially for those who are being targeted. There was a guy from a band that I won’t give any more publicity that used a homophobic slur against me on twitter recently and it’s not the first time. He called me the F word three times and so I’ve known the guy over the years and I was kind of poking at him because I didn’t know if he was just having a bad day or what was going on so I was trying to get him off the hook. But then he tried to say he didn’t mean it about gay people when he said faggot and tried to say that when he says gay he doesn’t mean it about homosexuality. Well, you’re a straight white male, you don’t get to determine what’s offensive to people who are being targeted. There are children in schools who are being called that word and being beaten/abused emotionally, if not physically every day by using that word and it’s the people that aren’t effected that stood up that I was most appreciated about when that happened. It was people that weren’t gay and weren’t affected by it all, but they knew it was wrong and stood up for it! So anytime you’re in a work place and you see someone else being harassed, maybe you’re not being harassed, but you see somebody else being harassed; that’s a form of bullying and someone should stand up to that person and say, “I see what you’re doing and I bear witness to what you’re doing and you need to stop it!” and then go to HR.

Artistic Vision Photography

What do you want to accomplish with Otep in the next Five to ten years?

Otep: Wow, uh. *Pauses for a moment* I hope that our music is a catalyst for change certainly and I hope that we continue to do the things that we’ve been trying to do for the past fifteen years and I think that just standing up for each other and being a voice for people that don’t have a voice and suddenly once they listen to us they realize, “I do have a voice and I can use it!” I also hope that (selfishly) our music and message empowers people to bring Trump down. But you know what, they expect me. They don’t expect you. They expect someone like me to be out there screaming/ranting and raving/drop the truth here and there. But they don’t expect you and that’s what is so important for you guys to be involved that go to rallies. They are not riots or any of that nonsense, but the ten to twelve people that show up like that are there just in case the cops start shooting at us and they jump out in front of us with their shields that they’ve made out of plastic bottles. These kids come legit! They do that because they know that there is a certain part of the police force that will abuse their power. I come from a family that has law enforcement in it and it’s gotten me out of trouble when I was a kid a lot, but they also taught me a lot of things. Like anything, there are bad doctors, bad whatever. Rallies are normally filled with a lot of good intentions and people who are there may not know each other but they are there for a common cause and it feels good and it’s a show of force to a bunch of politicians in D.C. and to the media that no matter how much they try to legitimize and normalize Trump, people are not having it. The resistance is real. The resistance is united against all of our different things that we prioritize. There’s still a list. Everything that we are fighting for in the resistance, it’s on everybody’s list. Someone might prioritize it a different way, but it’s on the same list. That’s what we like to do. We’re probably going to have another record coming out soon. They’ve asked me to do another one and that’ll be album number eight! So to all the people who’ve said Otep was just a fad, well we’re still here eight albums later. *Laughs*


 Otep Online:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.