Hard rock/metal fusion poet OTEP recently completed the ATAVIST TOUR with fellow hard-chargers Destrophy, Blackguard, One-Eyed Doll and Sister Sin, a package that was one of the finest and loudest overall tours of the summer. The variety of great bands and energy of the shows was killer and were an inspired, great way to celebrate the release of one of Otep Shamaya’s best releases, the very realized in vision and expansive ATAVIST (Victory Records).
Even in an age when more and more people can’t be bothered to feel there are STILL bands that fight to keep heavy music alive and well, sharing a primal sensibility.
Click HERE to read an interview with the always outspoken Otep about ATAVIST as well as quotes from members of Blackguard and Sister Sin on what made the tour so special.
This interview also includes many exclusive live tour pics of ALL THE BANDS!
“They don’t know WHAT THEY STARTED!” screamed a raspy Otep Shamaya, cruising through her political screed “Confrontation” as an excited Poughkeepsie, NY crowd lapped it up on that night of the Atavist Tour. With the die hard boys of fellow Victory Metal standouts Destrophy acting as her back up band for the tour (since her regular crew was unavailable to hit the road this time out), Shamaya was capping off a night that had scene great band after great band own the stage at the popular Chance Theater. While her voice was a bit strained she still got up there and delivered the goods with the aggressive and passionate live set she has earned a reputation for.
“It was an honor and pleasure to share the stage with the bands on the ATAVIST Tour, particularly Destrophy,” says Shamaya via phone a few days later. “I’ve toured with them more than any other band I have toured with in the past and have always tried to take them out with me. Number one, I enjoy their music and Number 2, they are exceedingly nice guys who are in it for the right reasons! They believe in music. Believe in art. They believe in working for it. To me, those are the aspects of a real artist.”
“My actual touring band couldn’t accompany me on this tour because the state the music industry is in now a lot of musician’s have day jobs and they couldn’t make it work,” Otep continued. “The Destrophy guys jumped right in and lucky for me, because what they brought to the table has heightened the show beyond anything I’d ever imagined! To see them dive into it and put as much passion into it as I did when I wrote it is really gratifying. We’re having a lot of fun. I’ve never had more fun on a tour EVER than this tour. The New York show was out of control. One thing about the audiences all the bands have noticed is how open-minded and accepting my audience, The OTEP tribe, is. That’s what makes my audience so special. When they see people up there playing and giving all, you become one of us. I like diversity and it is great when the audience isn’t bombarded by only one style. In this day and age, we are rarely exposed to things we don’t like! When you listen to Pandora you choose the types of bands you listen to. Before you’d have to listen to the radio and maybe hear a crappy band that you hate, but on the flip side you might discover something that blows your mind.”
I was pretty blown away by the manic sounds of duo One-Eyed Doll. The band reminded me of some sort of bastard laboratory love child of Dresden Dolls meets White Stripes and Marilyn Manson, even stopping their set for a story time that saw a room full of metal fans sitting on the floor at the band’s request! Their live energy was unbelievable and for an up and coming band they practically stole the show. Raw, ragged, gothic and full of punk spunk, this band was great fun. Certainly one to keep your good one eye on.
At the Poughkeepsie show, it was cool to see younger fans with Otep or Veil Of Maya shirts getting into the very classic metal sounds of the brilliant Sister Sin. The Gothenburg hard rockers cite Twisted Sister as huge influences and vocalist Liv Jagrell and her band can own a stage with the same fun yet angry intensity that made Snider, Ojeda and company such classic stage prowlers. I had been dying to see Sister Sin live and was so psyched they were playing near me. “Outrage” blew the roof off and had people pumping their fists.
“Very nice bands to be on tour with. Real nice,” said Liv pre-show. “We hope we will be able to come back in the U.S. in the Fall. We love to tour here as much as possible. It feels good to look forward to every day and meet not just people but also the other bands. This has been the best tour we’ve ever been on.”
Paul “Ablaze” Zinay, lead vocalist of Canada’s 100% kick ass Blackguard, also raved.
“Touring with OTEP has exceeded all expectations. We’ve been really, really lucky the last couple tours,” exclaimed Zinay. “We toured with Deicide a couple months ago and I had a lot of the same expectations as I did with this OTEP tour where I thought people would boo us off stage every night or stand there with their arms crossed. It’s been the complete opposite of that! You look at the line-up and it’s very diverse. All the bands are fantastic but you can’t predict what is gonna go over. We don’t sound like OTEP and the vast majority of people showing up are her fans. I was expecting the worst and from day one it’s been great. There’s not been one bad show. Syracuse was bonkers! It was very violent.”
Blackguard’s Poughkeepsie set was madhouse as well, with the energetic melodic death metal warriors crushing through much of their FIREFIGHT release. These dudes (and lady) are also great to party with and live for the metal. Support these fuckin’ Canucks!
“We’re an aggressive band,” says Paul. “I tend to gauge whether people like us by if they are moshing, moving around, have their hands up. It’s all about reactions. That’s my thing. We’ve been getting amazing reactions. “Firefight” is a boot to the face and we’ve been opening with it. By the time we get to “Wastelands”, which is a slower, heavy song, everyone’s been into it. The only way it could get any better is if people had some money and were buying more merch. I was talking about the decline of attendance in shows. People are becoming more complacent and content with socializing over the Internet, seeing shows on the computer rather than seeing them live. Youtube is the standard way of watching shows rather than going to shows. It’s terrible to think and I hope that doesn’t progress. The economic situation is a huge factor. Bands can’t tour without merch sales. Bands can’t afford it without merch sales. So it is great we have been having such a great tour.”
When I had a chance to talk with Otep about ATAVIST I knew I had to ask her about my favorite track “We Dream Like Lions.” I have always liked bands like God Forbid who could be really political one song and personal in another or sometimes bridge the gap/blur the lines between the two. Otep is also certainly adept at this, with ATAVIST being confrontational but also one of her most intimate musical self-portraits.
“Going into recording ATAVIST I wanted to feel, not think. I wanted to allow my subconscious to take over and let it guide me,” said Otep. “I wanted to be a bit more primitive and emotional in sound and approach and I think I conquered that. I’m very proud of it. With regards to “We Dream Like Lions”, I was watching a documentary about all the recent suicides of Gay and Lesbian teenagers due to bullying. Matthew Shepard was one of the people that showed up in the documentary. The song started out inspired by those events, and I use “inspired loosely”…a reaction to those events. I didn’t wanna just write a sad, sad song. I wanted to write a song that inspires people who know what it feels like to be bullied, who know what it feels like to be pushed around or left aside or excluded. I wanted to honor those people who continue to dream like Lions and will never allow anyone to define them or their place in society. I wanted to write something beautiful, because that’s how it made me feel to read the stories of survivors. Itgetsbetter.org was a big help in inspiring this song as well. They are doing something remarkable and giving people hope, saying, “You’re not gonna be the same person you were in 5 years. Things get better. Things DO get better.”
I knew that Otep loved The Doors from another time I interviewed her and she talked about “The End” at length, so I was pumped when I heard her band covered “Not To Touch The Earth”. Actually, I was jealous because it has always been one of my favorite Doors songs from WAITING FOR THE SUN (my favorite Doors album) and I wanted to cover it with my band Antidote 8. That song really needed to be updated and covered by somebody and OTEP do a killer fucking job on it! Not only does it do the song justice, a hard enough feat for one of the most darkly psychedelic and sketchy songs in The Doors catalogue, but Shamaya made it very modern, heavy and groove-laden. Her screams are bonkers in the song.
“The Doors are still my favorite band,” says Shamaya. “They are my sort of go to band when I need inspiration or to lose myself in music. That song for me fits the record 100%. The producer and I, Ulrich Wild, he helped transform that song from a 60’s hippy transcendental song into an edgy, transcendental modern hard rock song. If the Doors were a current band, what would that song sound like now? That’s the approach we tried to take. Preserve the spirit of what they were creating but take it into a new place as well.”
Since she is so outspoken on all manner of causes, I wanted to ask Otep what authors helped fill her head with inspirational prose or journalistic vigor.
“I think Christopher Hitchens is a fantastic author, thought provoking and insightful,” said Shamaya. “Sometimes enraging and agitating but always thought provoking. “Kingdom Of Fear” by Hunter S. Thompson is a fantastic book. So is “Fear and Loathing on The Campaign Trail”. People mostly know Hunter for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” but aside from that he was a fantastic political writer. If you read “Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail”, and this was 1973, just replace some of the names in your head with Mitt Romney or whoever, and the same things happening then are happening now! The same kind of scare tactics. Even in ’73 we were talking about alternative sources of energy but the Oil Companies are still fighting that from happening. Mark Twain can’t get any better. These for me are people that paint with words. It’s a rollercoaster or amusement park for your mind. Hunter even said there was a music to language.”
I asked Otep about how it feels with a solid bunch of releases out and a strong career and fan base behind her.
“I’m living an artists dream,” she admitted. “My career hasn’t been as successful as Lady Gaga, that explosive, but I’ve not meant for it to. I’ve not meant for it to be eaten up by the mass markets. We’ve remained an underground band for ten years and have the freedom and artistic liberty that many other artists don’t have the power or strength or even the will to do. I appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to create 5 albums of music and over seventy songs to a hundred songs. Being able to introduce myself to fans or people who have gone through similar life experiences or who love strong, aggressive music with a message…that’s a blessing. As an artist I never want to become complacent or normal and want to always sprout new directions and answers for the questions of existence. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and there are no answers and you just have to dig a little deeper. It looks like the answer will never come but that’s usually when you’re on the edge of finding it.”
Live photos by Morgan Y. Evans and Catharina Christiana (C3 Photography).