Interview with Otep Shamaya

AE: What the hell was that like?
OS: Yeah! You know what, Sharon’s great, man. She’s a really strong woman. And a lot of people give her a bad name, but that’s just typical for any woman that’s in power/charge. We said “Hey Sharon, we don’t have a record deal.” She said “I don’t care, make it happen.” I don’t know, the stars were in line or something for us that week. Not only did Sharon come out and offer us Ozzfest before we had a record deal, we had three showcases that same week. Capitol called us back for one more showcase, they said we’re gonna bring down somebody and we want you to do it one more time. And I said okay.

AE: How did that go?
OS: So there’s this little club called the Viper Room that Johnny Depp used to own. Really nice, really cool place. It’s real intimate, and a great vibe there. It’s haunted—

AE: By who, do you know?
OS: Not sure. But things have always happened strange for us when we are there. I’m a big Doors fan, and so when we got there the sound guy goes “Now look, while you guys are setting up, if the music just starts playing in here, like from our CD player, it’s not us. We have an electronic problem. Actually we have a ghost.” And I said “Oh uh whatever.”

AE: It’s the old electronic problem slash ghost. (laughs)
OS: Yeah, ‘slash ghost’. (laughs) And I guess if you don’t believe in ghosts, then you latch onto the electronic problem. If you believe in ghosts…so I just dismissed it as ok whatever this guy is just trying to set a mood. So we’re standing there and sure enough, you know, I’m talking to somebody about something and right over the speakers “Roadhouse Blues” just erupted.

AE: Wow!
OS: And lights would come on and off periodically. It’s just a really bizarre place.

AE: Holy shit! That’s cool. Little visitation from Jim Morrison.
OS: It was a nice little visit from Mr. Morrison to come down and say “Hi” on the day we decided we were going to sign with Capitol. I took that as a big omen. So we did the show and after the show I’m always trapped in this whirlwind of emotion. So I walked outside, came out the back door, and there’s all the Capitol guys on their phones saying “Now! We gotta make this deal happen now!” It’s been a really quick ride.

This is a message driven band and we stand for something. For me it’s so important to live it and not just pretend it. To get over having some sense of celebrity or fame or notoriety or money or girls or whatever, that’s not what I started this for. So I’ve gone through players trying to find people who are like minded. Our fans are very passionate people and I think they’re for the same kind of things we’re searching for.

And you can’t take advantage of that. It’s easy, it’s tempting to do. You get people that want to get close to you and get to know you, but what they are looking for is what’s in your music. There is some honor in living by that. And not “Oh well, this girl is damaged and needs someone to stand by her, well okay I can take advantage of that with a quick night and then be back on my bus be on my way”. I don’t think that’s what this project is for. There’s a thousand other bands out there that do that. So anybody that doesn’t want to shed their skin and be a part of this movement, then they can be in one of those other thousand and one bands.

AE: What is the message you are talking about as far as the band goes?
OS: There’s many messages I think, but the overall message is that art saves. I come from a very aggressive background, poverty, violence, religious persecution. So the only thing that allowed me to either not become a victim or a victimizer, which is all too often the case as well, or seeking out other people to victimize me, was art. I ended up not hurting myself, as much, or hurting anyone else, as much.

The music itself is a celebration of survival. I think it celebrates the fact that, as the existentialist movement embraces, life is shit, there is nothingness and life is pain. By embracing that, you become a whole person, you become joyful and exciting. Not by not looking at it and not facing it. This embraces it and takes it head on.

Then celebrates that we’ve overcome any obstacle put in front of us. I think that is a message lacking in aggressive music and I think that’s another thing that sets us apart from the herd.

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