J.Rod’s Music World

Justin Rodstrom

Otep Interview

On Nov. 23, I had the opportunity to sit down with Otep Shamaya, vocalist for the L.A. metal band Otep. We met backstage at the North Star Bar in Philadelphia, a small club venue where Otep was warming up for a show.

Otep has been a fixture on Ozzfest since 2001 as a result ofpraise and attention from Ozzy’s wife Sharon. This is my interview with lead vocalist Otep Shamaya:

Where does your name come from?

Otep: I’ve been told it means “creative offerings.” When you’re told that your name means something special at a young age, it gives you a sense of destiny. I enjoy writing and creating; it’s always been my thing to keep art sacred. Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, that’s what we’re trying to do.

How has touring been in this area?

We’ve been writing lately, so we’re just getting back on the road, but this area has always been good. Ozzfest is nice; it’s always been brutal up in these parts. By fan reaction you can usually tell where you are – here it’s a bit relaxed. New York is more like, “Bring it.” It’s more intense. It’s primitive. It’s all about connecting to something greater than yourself. Let go; live. Almost Dionysian in a way, that’s the kind of revelry we’re trying to conjure. Live and let the part of you most moved by music become empowered.

Who have been some of your influences?

The Doors have always been a huge influence on myself; Chino from the Deftones, Kurt Cobain is a big influence, Slipknot have always been an inspiration. If I’m inspired by someone, I’m moved by them.

Also, outside our genre, a band like Radiohead who are very passionate. I love The Mars Volta; they’re making music they’re passionate about, music that they think is important. I think that’s a rare commodity these days; it’s more about power than the music. I wish people would create a new movement to get passionate about, united by. But you get the industry involved, and then no one wants to do it. I feel like we’re one of the few bands holding on to that.

You worked with Joey Jordinson of Slipknot – tell me about that experience.

He’s incredible, a real genuine sweetheart of a person – one of the best musicians I’ve worked with. He would really listen to the band; I learned a lot from him. For him it’s all about music: “Let’s get in there and make the best music we can.” With him there is no ego; it’s all about playing. It was just a really, really special moment in my lifetime.

Tell me what role Sharon Osbourne has played for Otep.

We were just an unsigned L.A. band. She was at a show; we were opening for this band Cold. I was backstage; she came backstage to see us. She told us the set was great; she was blown away. She said, “You’re playing Ozzfest this year.”

I told her we don’t have a demo or anything; she said she didn’t care, “Just make it happen.” All of a sudden, we started getting booked for showcases for labels, but the ones that were really into the music were blown away. I wanted the cats to get it, get what we were trying to do.

Luckily, we had Sharon at that show. Before that, the people at Capital Records were there. Pink Floyd, The Beatles are all on Capital, and although they’re not in our genre, Capital was like, “Go ahead, make your music.” It’s been great.

What would you say to your fanbase?

I would thank them – we’re nothing without the people that support us. I’m a little more partial to the people who really support us, our core followers. They make everything better for us; we give them everything.

Whether its 5,000 or 50 people, you gotta play; these people showed up, you give them all you’ve got. Some of those shows have been our most memorable. Some shows are really packed, some are really intimate, but we always aim to put on a great show. Being able to do this, performing is a blessing – I love it; I enjoy it everyday.

Children of Bodom

at the Trocadero

On Nov. 22, I was able to attend the Children of Bodom show at the Trocadero in the heart of Philadelphia. Opening for Children of Bodom were Sanctity and Gojira, two bands working to gain respect in the metal circuit on their own terms. By the time Children of Bodom took the stage, the Troc was packed with metalheads hungry for Finnish black metal as only Children of Bodom could serve up.

With heaps of spiraling guitar solos complemented by the subdued melodic keyboards of virtuoso Janne Wirman, Children of Bodom kept fans’ heads banging through the night.

Performing material from the entirty of its career, including songs never before performed in the United States, the band was anything but dull – a cover of Pantera’s “6-pounder” was included in the set, and it was a nice treat for fans of the metal legend. If you’re a fan of black metal, death metal or metal in general, make sure to check these guys out – they put on an aggressive, lively show.