Interviews

Otep on Hydra, Piracy, and Leaving Heavy Metal Forever

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Otherwise they wouldn't have rap music where they are talking about bitches and hoes and crack and guns . . . they wouldn't support that murder and death. If that mattered to the stores, they wouldn't carry that music. If they cared about quality, they probably wouldn't carry country music. [laughs]

It's not about that; it's about what sells. And unfortunately, in this era, pop, rap, country, and some pop-rock is what's selling. It's just the truth. I appreciate it when people say they go to the show and buy our T-shirts. That's great because you're financing the tour! We appreciate that and love you for that and need you for that: fuel, transportation, salaries. People do this for a living, so they have to make a living. But nobody's forcing us to do it; we do it because we love it. But it's difficult to watch the industry you love dissolve in front of you. It's interesting to watch something you love so much being destroyed.

If this happened to a painter, and someone just walked into a gallery and took a Picasso off the wall in a gallery, you call that theft. But music is even more valuable than a Picasso -- and there would be a lot of people who would disagree with me -- but when someone breaks your heart, or if you have a great day, you don't go to a museum and stare at a painting. You put on your favorite song. It stays with you for the rest of your life. You can turn on the radio and hear a song from your past or a moment in time that will never exist again, but when you hear it you get that feeling again and it's resurrected. That song is a Picasso then. It doesn't cost a million dollars. It costs 99 cents. You'll always have it for less than a dollar.

Do you have a viewpoint on how to bring the industry you love so much back to life?

As far as the industry is concerned, it's a company. A corporation. Their job is to make money. My job as an artist is to go over the edge; to find the edge, go over it, look over it, teeter over it. You can't fault a lot of the industry. They think, "Extreme music and underground bands, their fans just pirate their music -- but the fans over here, they actually buy music. I can lay off half my staff who love music and build their lives in this way, or I can find bands that actually sell, the company makes money, and I can pay my staff."

So it's a weird place to be in, defending the companies for their choices, when it's just as simple as the fans need to buy the music that they love instead of going to YouTube or, or whatever. Even going to spots like Pandora or Spotify, at least when you utilize those, pennies are generated.

You go to any A&R today and say, "I got this great act. Crazy lesbian frontwoman; she screams and does poetry." They would say, "Oh, great. Good luck with that." Capitol Records gave me a shot and took a chance on me. Now you gotta produce results immediately in order to survive.

You know, you have bands like Korn and NIN and Radiohead saying that it's okay to pirate. Okay, but you guys have already sold, like, millions of records and have stock. You're not a working-class band. That's what pirating hurts the most. It helps exposure for unknown bands, doesn't affect the big bands. But it affects the middle-class bands.

What are you going to do after touring is done for Hydra?

I don't want to become resentful of the thing [music and fans] that has given me so much. It's just time to give something else a try. Another artistic animal in me that needs nourishing, and I'll give that attention at that point.

If someone had never heard Otep and you had to give them one album to listen that represented your music, which would you give them?

Hydra or House of Secrets are both very reflective of what we do. Hydra has a bit of every album I've done, and then just go backwards. I'm really proud of all of our works.

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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