OTEP SHAMAYA: I Think 'Resident Chump' Is A Racist
Lou Brutus of HardDrive Radio conducted an interview with OTEP frontwoman Otep Shamaya at the 2018 installment of Rock Fest, which was held last month in Cadott, Wisconsin. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On getting feedback on the strong messages often found within OTEP‘s music:
Otep: ”A lot of people thank me because they feel like they don’t have a voice to speak out against certain things that are happening in our culture, what’s going on with our government right now, or just because they live in red states, they don’t have the courage to really speak for themselves. They always thank me for that. That keeps empowering me to want to keep speaking out on things that I think are important, that protect the working class and the working poor and you know, I believe in democracy and I believe that it’s worth fighting for. The fans, their response and their support, it continues to empower me to keep going.”
On the ”Kult 45” album title:
Otep: ”It just came to me because this is the first time since desegregation, I think, we’ve seen such a rise in hate groups and being so visible. I think the [Ku-Klux] Klan took out a full-page ad for recruitment in Virginia somewhere. For me, I thought it just seemed appropriate because that’s what he [President Donald Trump] stands for. I think ‘Resident Chump‘ is a racist and I think that he panders to those people and he empowers them and he makes them feel like they belong in this country, which they don’t. Because we already kicked the shit out of the fascists, we kicked the shit out of the Nazis and we kicked the shit out of the Confederates, too. I don’t know why all these people want to be on the side of the surrenders, but, apparently, they do. They like that. We have a song on the new record where the chorus is ‘If you’re a Nazi believer, why don’t you follow your leader? Find a bunker and follow your leader.’ I’m waiting on that to happen. [Laughs]”
On first single ”To The Gallows”:
Otep: ”I think it was a good introduction to what the record was going to be about. We had a little bit of fun poking fun at ‘Resident Chump.’ But I think that it was important to show at one time, if you committed treason in this country, they drug you to the gallows. I know we’ve evolved a little bit since then, but I really wanted to set up the record so that people understood the message and also, even if you don’t agree with what I’m saying, the musicality of it is so wonderful that I think you’re still going to enjoy the record.”
On trying to write ”good songs” while not being preachy:
Otep: ”That is a difficult thing. It really is, because you don’t want to do that. The trick is you want them to see the other side without them feeling like fingers are being pointed at them like they’re wrong. In fact, I was speaking to someone recently who when he first heard ‘Warhead’, which was against George W. Bush, he’s, like ‘I hated you. I couldn’t stand you. I couldn’t believe that you were speaking out against the president, but something kept bringing me back to that song. Once I started to really hear the lyrics, I understood the other side.’ That’s what I think the power of music does because not a lot of people are going to sit around and watch a documentary or even read a book or pay attention to the news and the newspapers, but they’ll listen to music. I think it’s important as a writer that you condense it into something that is universal so that people can understand it, but at the same time, they’re being shown something that might challenge their beliefs without it being too preachy.”
On her backing band:
Otep: ”These are the best musicians I’ve ever played with and I’ve had a lot of musicians over my career. That was one of the things when we went into write and record the record, we co-produced it, me and my guitar player Aristotle [Mihalopoulos]. We wanted it to be ours and we wanted it to be pure. There were two rules: One, there’s no rules. The second one is let the music take you wherever. Don’t think about genres, don’t think about anything else, just let the music take you where it wants to take you. I wanted every instrument to speak because these guys are so talented. I think sometimes they get a little overshadowed because I’m the girl that goes ‘grr’ is what they call me, as well as a lot of other things, but I just wanted to make sure that these guys, their voices were heard through their music as well. I think we were very successful at that with this record.”
”Kult 45” was released July 27 via Napalm Records. The album was recorded at The Lair in Los Angeles, completely utilizing the same equipment used for OTEP‘s first album, ”Sevas Tra” (down to Shamaya‘s vocal microphone, a SHURE Beta 58), in order to create a sound reminiscent of their roots. ”Kult 45” was produced by the band, with assistant engineering from Larry Goetz, Nicolas Schilke and Lizzy Ostro.
Photo from ”Shelter In Place” shoot by PR Brown