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Otep interview

| February 28, 2007 | 21 Comments

Freedom From Pain

Los Angeles artist Otep Shamaya bristles at the subject of women in heavy metal. As the female vocalist for a band that has toured with Ozzfest three times, she’s somewhat of an expert on the subject, but today it’s a bit of a sore one.

“I hate these kinds of interviews,” she says, fielding questions from a Southern California recording studio. “I’m a woman. I sing in a band. And it’s unique and rare and all that, but it isn’t to me. It’s just who I am. It’s my existence. Sorry if I seem a little curt, but it’s just frustrating.”

Her namesake band of six years, Otep, worked the pay-to-play stages of Ozzfest in the early new millennium, blasting feminist rap metal to Korn-fed crowds. It was by design an uphill battle. Otep had only played six shows before agreeing to a third-stage slot on the 2001 tour. With no record and little fanbase, Shamaya and her band set out to dare the masses: Accept Otep’s minority metal or move along to the beer tent. Most dispersed, but Ozzfest earned Otep name recognition, which Shamaya doesn’t regret.


Shamaya can sing in a style synonymous with male death metal. Fans of Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Deicide refer to these low growls as death grunts, harsh vocals, or even Cookie Monster vocals, but in 2001, few Americans had ever heard them sung by a woman, let alone a woman who also rapped.

Her vocal fusion would eventually garner attention from poetry and art circles — she appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry” in 2005, and her band was profiled by New York’s Museum Of Modern Art in 2006. But metal fans didn’t take kindly to Otep on popular Web sites like Blabbermouth, criticizing how closely the band name resembles Opeth (a longtime Swedish metal act), and calling Shamaya’s death grunts fake.

She chalks it up to sexism.

“Here it is in a nutshell: It terrifies the boys’ club that they’re going to lose an inch of power to someone like me. It terrifies them to the core, because all they have is this illusion of being superior. And once that illusion breaks down, they’re left with the reality. And the reality is that they’re not.”

This all has worn heavily on Shamaya’s love of metal. So heavily, in fact, that most of Otep’s new CD, The_Ascension (Capitol), waves goodbye to metal music. The album is like a chemically altered vortex where Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain are just meeting for the first time, and In Utero and Live Through This are but glints in their lovesick eyes. Say hello to alternative rock, Shamaya says. Alternative rock with death grunts.

“Alternative is what we do. We’re the alternative. If there’s anyone trying not to stay within genre limits or be defined by a specific idea, it is definitely our intention to do exactly that and not be considered a metal band,” she says. “There’s this bubble that metal lives in that is very restrictive and exclusive, even though it’s now supposed to be the outlaw music. It’s just a big frat club. I don’t need any of that.”

Mike Meyer

To find out how she got out, grab the March issue of Illinois Entertainer, available throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

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Comments (21)

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  1. John says:

    OTEP = Talentless hack

  2. Pride says:

    Otep’s lyrics are sometimes a bit too feminazi for my taste. (excuse me for using a term coined by Rush Limbaugh and his partner in idiocy) But, the fact is that she’s a strong, intelligent, independent, talented woman. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously trying to compensate for something…hmm…scared of the fact that a woman has more b**ls than you do?

  3. rage says:

    Women can use the whole “if you don’t think she’s talented, you’re scared she has more b*lls,” but its a cop-out. No one is scared of Otep doing anything like that. She’s not talented, her growls are decent – when pored through Pro Tools, but she sounds like garbage live. There are alot of women in metal that deserve recognition. Rachel who sang with Sinister was insane. Angela Glassow is phenomenal, Christina Scabia, the singer for Madder Mortem… need I go on? Otep are a bunch of talentless hacks who are attempting to find some place to cash in. It’s not that she doesn’t need metal, It’s that metal doesn’t want or need her.

  4. GodDestroyPrelude says:

    I would love to strongly disagree with the above statements. Otep has more talent in her pinkie than most people do in their entire body. Her words alone are poetry…never mind the mind-blowing instrumentals! They are amazing live! amazing! I had a wonderful experience during the last tour and I took something wonderful away with me.
    The band is not looking to “cash out” on anything.
    Please…give me a break.

    Most people are so mentally limited. Art is messy. People are messy. Life is messy. Many try and force it to be neat and clean and organized. Things happen, art changes, people change…some of them evolve.

  5. rage says:

    I’ve had to sit through Otep sets and she is horrid as a vocalist. Mind blowing instruments???? Do you even listen to metal? How is third rate nu metal mind blowing? The band is looking to cash in because they obviously won’t ever get taken seriously by true metal fans and the fans they’ve tried to grab, have graduated high school. Let’s leave the term mind blowing for bands that deserve it: ie Dream Theater, Evergrey, Death……

    Otep was and are a gimmick, a half rate chick singer fronting a generic nu metal band who are now going more alternative to make money, assuming they don’t get dropped from their label.

  6. metalhead says:

    OTEP is an amazing band! They are a message band and truly do care for their fans. If the tables were turned and Jamey Jasta was continuously asked how it was to be in a woman dominated genre, he would get a little irritated too.
    Stop asking the gender question and just talk about the music.

    Otep is a great artist, a great vocalist and an amazing poet. Ever so often someone comes along and takes a genre in a different direction, for the BETTER, its called EVOLUTION!
    Otep is that artist!

  7. Kristie says:

    Saw OTEP live at Granada in K.C. Dec. 8th ’06 and this one of the most exhilarating and intoxicating experiences in my (long) life. Women are, by nature, passionate creatures, however; Ms. SHAMAYA captivated her audience like no other artist (male OR female!) with the “death growls” and pure, raw, f***ing hatred! All eyes were on her, we worshipped her like a god, and we momentarily ascended together in awe of her. She’s my latest soul sister, because I thought I was out of my mind with emotion. If she can take the pain then I can too. Feeling her presence was a relief to my psyche. No matter how powerfully “ballsy” her presence, she’s still pure, brutal femininity! WOW, I found someone I actually admire, respect and envy all at once. (She was checkin’ out my tattoos too, I think – sorry my friend scratched you.) If your experience was that she sucks live, watch this concert and reevaluate your position. This girl has infinite talent.

  8. Insanity_ina_can says:

    Life takes balls. You shouldn’t be intimidated by a dominate women. Embrace her as your sister in metal. When you go to an Otep concert you experience the raw anger and hatred left after years of abuse. I have had the same kind of childhood and that is what turned me onto metal in the first place. Don’t constrict music into metal and notmetal. Like the music for what it is and realize that the music changes as the artist does. I will keep listening to Otep if I decide I like their “alternative” sound

  9. Mojo Schmoe says:

    I think that Otep DOES have talent. She’s a solid writer, and a solid singer. But since she started developing her Christ complex and thinking she’s some sort of artistic god (thanks largely to those fanatical worshipers of her that constantly, constantly feed her martyr/messianiac bullshit), the work has started to sound pretentious and self-indulgent.

  10. Zaller4 says:

    I get so tired of hearing people saying “Otep is talentless” and other pointless bullshi*t. You are destroying the very message she is trying to create. Music is not a popularity contest to her. It does’nt matter if you think she is a “Feminazi” or if you think she needs to edit her vocals with pro tools. Her music is art…It is a form of self expression and the way she chooses to express that art is through raw emotion. You can either embrace this art or shun it but it makes little difference. It is what it is. Accept it or move on!

  11. i hate people who criticise period, but those who have the “ba*lls” to criticise true artists like Otep – need to take a jump off a cliff. She has healed more souls than you can count. if your objective is to criticise then all you will ever get in return is a bunch of criticism. We as fans of Otep say that you are wrong about her and that she doesn’t need nor want you in her life either if all you have is your ill gotten wills and your disrespectful ways towards her and the art that she creates. Sevas tra=art saves!!! we love you OTEP!!!

  12. Rick says:

    All I have to say is this: A workmate lent me his burnt copy of Sevas Tra three years ago. From her first roar, I got a goose-bump buzz that wouldn’t go away even after the album was over with.

    The torture in her voice was so convincing that when I returned the CD, I told my workmate “I’ve never heard anything so intense (referring to HER, not so much the music). Was that supposed to be an autobiography?”

    Talentless hacks? Let their following speak for itself. She’s certainly struck a nerve somewhere out there. I will admit that the music has gotten me more curious about HER and what makes her tick than her music and the band.

    At the very least, she’s an uncut diamond. Ms. Shamaya, here’s to you.

  13. NightWord says:

    OTEP is a healer. The only people that try to pull her down are those who are insecure in themselves and NEED her message.
    I’m sick of people trying to pull others down into their own emptiness… they can only drown themselves, no one else.

    As a gay male teen, I can truly say that I’ve seen both sides of a cruel world, and only a true leader like OTEP can express that pain as a deliverance to the other side of torture. Her art, soul, and voice lead a wisdom accompanied by five lifetimes of experience.

    Point: all you haters are merely the followers of a crowd that is tainted by feminists, racists, and prejudices.

  14. Tina Tina says:

    Stop this S**T!

  15. Tina Tina says:

    http://www.metalsucks.net/?p=170 These people are trying to give her controversy, check the truth at metalsucks .net

  16. Sensi the Ninja Squirrel says:

    Man OTEP rox!! I wish I had at least hlf the talent as her. If you have a problem with her views then why do you dwell on them, move on. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I respect her thoughts though. She is a true woman, someone to look up to. Man OTEP don’t worry about what these simple minded people think!

  17. bridget says:

    otep is f**king amazing she sings beautiful songs and i love every single one of them – she is a great inspiration to me and a great leader – singing the truths of life. if you don’t like what i have to say email me your reply to my words at faithb@tamarack.org

  18. irontoof says:

    Like -> listen

    Don’t like -> don’t listen, don’t discuss, forget

  19. spaghetti eater says:

    Otep is simply the worst thing to happen to rock music after Mark David Chapman.

  20. Brittd says:

    spaghetti eater says:
    September 12, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Otep is simply the worst thing to happen to rock music after Mark David Chapman.

    Like most of the replies say and my personal favorite quote “If you don’t like it LEAVE MOTHERF***ER LEAVE”
    If you have a problem with Otep then put it somewhere else cause nobody cares

  21. Amber says:

    She has more talent then you b**ch

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