OTEP Frontwoman: 'To Me, There Really Isn't Much Difference Between A Written Poem And A Song'

August 30, 2009

FMQB recently conducted an interview with OTEP frontwoman Otep Shamaya. An excerpt from the chat follows below.

FMQB: It sounds like you are going in a little bit of a different direction on this album. Did you try some new things vocally?

Otep: It's a culmination of everything that I've ever done as a vocalist. On our first album, we had three songs that used — I don't know if I would call it rapping — but rhythmic vocalization. I was trying to bring that style back because I really enjoy that type of performance. I don't see it as doing anything different — I see it as trying to fertilize this album with bits and pieces of the last record and every record we've done. But that style stems from me doing written poetry into spoken poetry into performed poetry and then doing poetry to rhythm. Once I started trying to do poetry to live music, I wanted it to be a bit more aggressive and exciting.

FMQB: You are also doing some poetry readings while you're on the road. Tell me a little about that.

Otep: We're doing several in-stores where I do a signings and then I do a reading from my poetry book, "Caught Screaming". To me, there really isn't much difference between a written poem and a song. A lot of the songs that we write begin as poems and then crossover into the rhythm of the song and the melody. Once that comes, it's easy to slide in the words.

FMQB: You and [bassist] Evil J have played with a lot of different musicians over the years. Is the lineup pretty solidified now?

Otep: We wrote this record with the guys form the first album — Rob Patterson on guitar and Moke on drums. It felt really cool to write this record the way we did, which was two months in the studio writing and recording as we went, trying to bring about this live, exciting, organic sound. As far as our touring musicians, we've had the same touring guys for two years. I don't see any change coming, but it depends on the musicians – they are the ones who dictate whether they decide to stay. Touring life is hard and it's not for everybody. Some people decide they want to change their lives and maybe have a family or a more normal job. It just happens — we've been around since 2001, so some people find that the dream does not turn out to be as glorious as they thought it was. We're working class road dogs, and we believe in touring. It's difficult to live that way. Our performances are very exciting, passion-filled and energetic, so this isn't the lifestyle for the timid.

FMQB: You are known for always having a lot to say in your music about political and social issues. What topics were on your mind the most when writing this album?

Otep: There were a few things — the economy, unemployment and the same old things that have been around forever – the two wars we're fighting, mega-corporations that take control of our lives and take advantage, and the pharmaceutical culture in this country that continues to grow despite its glaring hypocrisy. You have all these celebrities overdosing and dying on legal prescription medication or something derivative thereof, and yet there are still certain drugs that are illegal. But it doesn't matter how dangerous the legal drugs are, all they have to do is put a disclaimer at the end.

Read the entire interview from FMQB.

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