OTEP Return With Generation Doom - "It Feels Like A Return To Our First Album"
April 18, 2016, 2 years ago
Hard-to-pin-down metallists Otep (who have been described as everything from gothic metal to rap metal over the years) will be returning on April 15th with their seventh studio set overall, Generation Doom. The album marks the group's first release for the Napalm label, and according to the group's singer and leader, Otep Shamaya, it reminds her of a certain early release by the band.
"Generation Doom - for me - feels like a return to our first album [2002's Sevas Tra], just in the way what preceded it, and how it was created. After album #6, Hydra, I was pretty dead set on not creating music for a living anymore. I was over the whole corporate part of music. I was going to just make music when we felt it, and it might be scattered as far as when we were going to put it out. I just could not - and would not - deal anymore with some idiot executive sitting in his big office, trying to tell me, who was living out on the road, what kind of songs to write or what the fans deserve. For me, I don't care about genres. It's never been an issue for me. It's about message. Message, message, message. So we took off from music - I do voiceover work for films and video games. I did the last Hobbit movie, I did PlayStation games, wrote a book of short stories, and toured. As an unsigned band, we just booked shows and went out and toured. Reconnecting with the fans on that level - without having any other expectations other than, 'Load our gear, do soundcheck, detonate a live show beautifully, and then pack up, and go to the next city.' And during that detonation, have that spiritual intercourse with the band, the fans, with everybody. And for me, that was really the key - to reconnect again with my musicians in a way that was pure and about music."
And it turns out a specific performance can be pinpointed to Otep's rebirth. "We played Knotfest - we're friends with some of the guys in Slipknot, they invited us. Instead of putting us on the second stage, they put us on the 'local stage.' It doesn't come with the same sort of notoriety as the second stage, and it's not as big as the second stage. So I was like, 'I'm disappointed, but let's play. I've done Ozzfest before. Close your eyes, 50 people, 5,000 people, 15,000 people…doesn't matter. It's the same feeling. Just play.' So we started doing our warm-up, and there's probably about 50 people in front of us. Then we hit our big intro, we come out, halfway through the first song - which is 'Battle Ready' - air raid sirens launch up into the air, and we're pretty high up on the local stage, and you can see over it and see the second stage. And what we see is hundreds of people pouring from the second stage, running, racing, to get to our stage as fast as they can. By the time the song had ended, we'd gone from 50 people to thousands and thousands of people - raging in front of us. It was just a religious experience."
After said performance, it didn't take long for the record labels to come a-calling. "And then after that's over and the day was done and the videos are posted on social media, we start getting calls and messages. I start hearing from people, 'I represent so-and-so, would you be interested in taking a meeting?' Suddenly, these labels and lawyers are coming out of nowhere, trying to talk to us. And I listened. I took all the calls and all the meetings. Some of them I felt were still living in 2006 - with their reference to music and distribution, and their lack of knowledge of social media. And also, their idea that I should be confined to a genre. I had no interest in that."
In the meantime, the band began working on new material, which would eventually comprise Generation Doom. "The guitar player, Aristotle, and I had been writing some music, and some of it were reflections of what I saw going on in the world with the unwarranted police violence, and killing unarmed children in the streets. This country and the militarization of our police forces, it seems like we're living in a police state. I've got family in law enforcement - I know there are good cops, I'm not saying all cops are bad. Even speaking to some of them, they were saying, 'Look, this has been happening for years, it's just now people have cell phones.' That's the game changer. So there's always bad cops, there's always good cops - but now we see it, now we can prove it, that that guy didn't have a gun or wasn't charging the police. It was a mistake or it was malicious. So these ideas started to turn into lyrics for me, and then still, as I am an American who grew up under George W. Bush and his two horribly failed terms as president, knowing what he did to the working class and working poor, the housing markets and on and on, and how Wall Street and the bankers were able to get off scot-free, and we're still in two wars 16 years later and fighting for what, we don't know. So I started writing about the military industrial complex and what we have to face on the streets just to live as normal citizens and minorities and gay people and women. And right around that same time, I'd gone through a really difficult break-up - I'd lost my confidant, my best friend, my lover. That person was there that could make my day - she'd smile at me, and everything would just disappear. And that special person was gone. So I ended up writing a poem about that, and that poem became 'In Cold Blood'."
It was during the songwriting process that Otep connected with Napalm Records. "So we just started writing, and I ended up getting a call from a guy named Demetri [Benoist], who works for Napalm Records out of Austria. And he started talking to me about this and that, and at first, it was kind of the same thing - they're not as aware of social media as I am. Promotionally, I do all my promotion and do all my social media - even now. My social media outreaches anywhere between 12-19 million people - depending on a week. So I said, 'What can you do for me that I can't do for myself?' And that was always my question. We ended up talking for about seven or eight months - just building a relationship, building an understanding."
As stated earlier, the singer sees quite a few similarities between Generation Doom and Sevas Tra, which she was willing to list. "For me, the message is the most important part of the song - not the genre. The fans mean more to me than anything else - that's the only reason why I do it. So coming out from all of that, because we were assigned originally to Capitol Records as an unsigned band, without a demo. We were just this local band in LA, playing the Sunset Strip like every other band. We played four shows and we got signed to Capitol Records. And now, we're back again - we're this unsigned band, we're out on the road, doing our thing, and now, we're writing a next album. And that same energy that existed back then, that was…Sevas Tra, the first album, was very personal to me, because that's all I knew how to write - was personal albums filtered through me. The world filtered through me. So that's what I wrote - my inflections, my anxieties, my hopes, my dreams, everything, came into that record. And with this album, it was the same. It had gone back to me being able to being just Otep again - and that's my name - just me, my own person, and just allow the world to filter through me and be able to reflect those intensities. And when they're too overwhelming, I can put them on a piece of paper, and now, they live somewhere else, and I can manage life like that. So now, those live in songs. It felt like the energy for Generation Doom felt exactly like Sevas Tra…except I know what I'm doing this time. I didn't know what I was doing when I wrote the first record. We had only been a band about six months and it happened so fast. So now, the way to approach Generation Doom with all these years of understanding music and me being able to master my craft a little better, and yet go back to what was important to me back then, which was allowing music and allowing words to help me navigate and survive life."
And lastly, what are Otep's touring plans in support of Generation Doom? "A lot. We are about to leave on April 7th or 8th. We start in Vegas, and then we do I think 52 shows in two months. We're road dogs. We're road warriors - we're Mad Max!"