OTEP SHAMAYA On Nu Metal: 'There Was No Taboo In That Time Period, Which Was Really Great'

October 2, 2023

In a new interview with Ghost Cult's Keefy, OTEP frontwoman Otep Shamaya spoke about being part of the so-called "nu-metal" genre which swept the airwaves and peaked for a brief period in the late nineties and early noughties. She said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The great thing about nu metal, it wasn't just a fusion of rap and metal, like RUN-DMC and AEROSMITH; it wasn't just that. 'Cause 'Walk This Way' was kind of one of the first, and then ANTHRAX and I think PUBLIC ENEMY did it back in the '80s. And then KORN was probably the biggest influence in that world at first, because they brought in funk and they brought in punk and metal and rap and whatever else Jonathan [Davis] was doing on the microphone, which is amazing, singing. You have the DEFTONES, which early on were considered emo, mainly because of Chino's [Moreno] screams and stuff. But the DEFTONES have a DJ, and not a lot of people know that, but that's because they brought that in."

She continued: "There was no taboo in that time period, which was really great, during the formation of nu metal. It was about, 'What are your influences?' and 'Bring them in.' And whenever we were writing the first record, my drummer Mark Bistany, he could play anything — the guy could play jazz and still can; he's having a little health problems right now, but he still can play. But he would sit down, he would just start a beat, start playing hip-hop or he would play a metal beat or he'd play whatever, and then if I was in the room and it inspired me, I'd start either singing, rapping, screaming over it, whatever, and then the bass player would jump in, guitar player would come in, and there was never any… The only rules were there are no rules; just bring in whatever inspires you. And so our bass player was at the time was inspired by MESHUGGAH and HATEBREED and all these bands like that, and he was bringing those influences in, the guitar player was inspired by pretty much everything; he could play blues, rock, metal, whatever. And he had played on some hip-hop records in the past, as did the drummer [Mark]; he'd played on some beats for hip-hop producers. So we were just doing whatever, and there wasn't anything taboo, and that's what made it so liberating. The genre itself started to cannibalize itself and it became suffocating in a lot of ways. And some good music came out of it; I'm not denying it. But then they started denying what we did as something that was authentic or genuine. And I never walked away from it — I never walked away from the moniker, and I still don't. It gave me a 20-year-plus career in this business and nine albums."

Nu metal thrived during the remarkable decade from 1994 to 2004 when mainstream charts, magazines, radio and TV were all taken over by a host of diverse artists performing their own brands of hard rock, hip-hop and heavy metal.

Essentially a fusion of rap and alternative rock (arguably born out of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE),nu metal inexplicably swept the airwaves and peaked for a brief period, with Gregory Heaney of AllMusic describing the genre as "one of metal's more unfortunate pushes into the mainstream." Along the way, several bands associated with nu metal, including KORN, DEFTONES and SLIPKNOT, took a somewhat defensive stance against being labeled as such. Even those less apologetic nu metal groups eventually changed their sound, effectively disowning the genre that they helped pioneer.

OTEP released a new studio album, "The God Slayer", on September 15 via Cleopatra. The follow-up to 2018's "Kult 45" offers up a mix of inspired original tracks as well as transformative takes on chart-topping hits from a variety of influences, including pop, rap and grunge, by such artists as Eminem, Billie Eilish, SLIPKNOT, Lil Peep and Olivia Rodrigo.

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