With surgical focus

Rare OTEP performance at McGuffy’s

By Tim Anderl

Otep Shamaya, the singer-songwriter behind heavy metal tour-de-force OTEP, possesses a sharp and polarizing personality that makes her one of the most compelling artists in heavy music and one of the bravest pioneers the genre has ever seen.  Her ferocity and laser focus aren’t limited to the stage; she’s received a nomination for a GLAAD award for her activism in equal rights and preservation of the arts, and is a published and renowned poet whose work in those arenas is as poignant as her musical art is.

Dayton City Paper spoke with Shamaya as she prepared for the band’s appearance at McGuffy’s on Friday, August 17.  Here is what she told us about her career, the first album without a longtime collaborator, President Obama and operating outside of the box…

Is your stop in Dayton part of continued support for Atavist?

Partly, it is also a way for us to do what we always do, pollinate the world with art.  -Otep Shamaya

The record was the first without Evil J’s participation.  Was it weird to be doing that album without him?

His energy and spirit were missed, but I was fortunate enough to work and write with producer Ulrich Wild again and also some of the finest musicians in the world on Atavist. They brought an intensity and passion to the album that rivaled my own. -OS

Are you working on a new record?

Always. –OS


How has working with Victory after leaving Capitol affected the band?

It hasn’t. I am given a reasonable amount of creative control over everything I do.  -OS

OTEP have been fairly brave about operating outside of the metal genre limits?  What are the main catalysts that drive you as an artist and are you ever afraid of disappointing your fans, stakeholders, or people on the business end of your music by going too far outside of the box?

Never. That’s why they listen to the music. For the rebellion, for the chances. I walk the edge, I leap over, I build my wings on the way down. -OS

You were in Brazil earlier this year, a country that has really embraced heavy music.  What was that experience like, and what is it about that culture that makes them identify so strongly with heavy music?

Brazil is a beautiful country, a beautiful culture. As with most of the world, it’s in a state of evolution, culturally, moving forward. It’s one of the best places in the world to play music. The people there respect art and they respect music. –OS


In 2010 you were a GLAAD award nominee, nominated in part for your passion for justice and preservation of the arts.  What causes are you currently most passionate about?

Equal rights for everyone, animal rights, alternative energy and increased support for literature and arts in schools. –OS


In 2005 you participated in HBO’s Def Poetry.  Is there a division between being a poet and a lyricist for you?

It all bubbles up from the same spring. –OS


You’ve released books of poetry, “Little Sins.” Was that equally satisfying to you as releasing a record?

Sometimes more satisfying. It’s a different experience. It’s more intimate, more personal, more vulnerable.      –OS


I read an interview with Illinois Entertainer from 2007 where you became frustrated when the writer asked you about being a woman who sings in a band.  At the risk of drawing fire, I have to ask about it because Decibel just released their “Women In Metal” issue again this summer.  Do you participate in those sorts of features?

I think it’s important to highlight pioneers in any endeavor, to celebrate their struggles and triumphs. –OS


Why does being a woman in a metal band continue to be perceived to be polarizing or topical?

For me, I don’t think my biology should limit my standing in areas where I am talented. If I can do it, let me do it.  –OS


In the early ‘00s a fanzine I was doing talked to you about House of Secrets and you described yourself as “schizo” and said that the record was allowing you to unlock and experience hate.  I may have taken some of this out of context all these years later, but do you still carry that same baggage all these years later, or has your art allowed you to unload some of that?

I don’t think I was referring to being schizophrenic unless it was an analogy on the many ways I embrace the creative process. Chaos, that’s what it is for me. Chaos caged. –OS


In 2008 you spoke at the Democratic National Convention, right?  How do you think the Democratic Party, and particularly the president, have been performing?

Yes, I did. And I think the Democrats have finally found a spine and are fighting for the working people of this nation. I think President Obama is doing a magnificent job despite the worst efforts of the Republican Party to stall and constipate the progress of this country just so they can beat him. The Republicans are petty and greedy and care only about winning for their side. –OS


Do you keep in touch with Sharon Osbourne, who advocated a lot for the band in the early parts of your career?

She is an amazing woman and I admire her greatly. Sadly, we’ve lost touch over the years. I still see Jack and Kelly often and we remain friends. -OS

OTEP performs at McGuffy’s on Friday, August 17.  The show is 18+.  Also performing are Butcher Babies, One Eyed Doll, and I Died Trying.  For more information, visit http://www.mcguffys.net.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com

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