Otep on Hydra, Piracy, and Leaving Heavy Metal Forever

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Sure, you may think Otep is just an angry feminist -- a drama queen of the metal world. But her reasons for leaving after 10 successful years and 600,000 albums sold may surprise you. It may be difficult to argue with her aggressive, seductive demeanor or her sound (incomparable to anyone else on the scene) or the controversy she causes with lyrics about politics, sex, bigotry, and animal rights. But her newest controversy is her outspokenness about an industry -- and a fandom -- that she believes cheats its musicians.

Can you elaborate a little more on the concept behind Hydra?

I thought it would be an interesting experiment to surrender myself to this character, this creature Hydra, that I had created. Although she's obviously peppered with very strong parts of my personality, pollinated with my beliefs and philosophies, there is a bit of her that still thrives on the typical human experience, where morality teaches us to suppress such urges as animalistic responses to anger, to frustration, to irrationality, to fear. Hydra possesses none of those moral anchors.

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For her, the proper response to being afraid is to destroy that which makes her fear. For her, the only true type of intimacy comes through combat, and that's the only way she can really relate to the rest of the human race -- what she calls the "lesser race." See, her subconscious makes her more than human. She has no sense of who she is, and uses different identities to get close to humans, and then once she collects them, she then destroys what it is that she finds weak in those victims. So she's vicariously destroying a weakness within herself by destroying it in other people, and then absorbing the strength and absorbing what she finds good or seductive.

And then as the album progresses, she sort of starts to doubt whether any of it is even real. She starts to realize that she is being used and exploited by this dark thing inside of her. Then her reality comes when she realizes that when she dies, this reality will just move on to someone else.

So while you were writing this graphic novel that turned into an album, did you always have it in mind that this was going to be your last record?

It's about making the best record I can make at that time. People can debate the validity of my music, but they can never doubt how much I care about it and how much I work on it. That's all I do. When I'm building an album, I pour everything I have into it. What people think never enters my mind. I just focus on the song and question if it is saying everything that I need to say. What's the best composition I can arrange? Lyrically, what am I saying? You know, everyone knows I'm the girl who goes "grrrrr." Everybody knows I'm the chick who screams. But it's just an emotional component to deliver the message of the music.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise