Hard rocking lesbian Otep could be a hero to the new LGBT generation
I’M HOMO OTEP
Otep, The Loft, 135 S. Lamar St. Aug. 6. Doors pen at 7 p.m. $17.50. Theloftdallas.com
Rock music is out of control. We can’t just listen to "rock" anymore. It’s "grindcore," "electropop," "psychedelic" or "ska," among a slew of others. So when rock outfit Otep was lumped into the heavy metal genre, lead singer Otep Shamaya took issue with it.
"We’re a fusion act. We have elements of punk, hip hop and hard rock and so we’re more fusion," she says via phone from California.
No one puts Otep in a corner, whether it’s the music or the core of who Shamaya is, which is a fusion itself of philosopher, poet, musician and activist. And she has much to say.
"I find myself most comfortable as a provocateur. I enjoy challenging autocratic authority that dictates morality in this country and around the world," she says.
The lesbian rocker uses big words in bigger sentences. She needs to because it’s clear she has a lot going on in her head, waiting to get out. In a raspy voice one would expect from a hard rock goddess, she has the ability to paint pictures with what she’s saying even when rambling into elaborate philosophical musings. And that is just while talking about the band’s latest single, "Smash the Control Machine."
"I imagine the control machine to be this monstrosity; a bulbous tick with lots of tentacles. Control machines would be bigotry, corporate sponsored greed, Wall Street, military industrial complex and even smaller machines we self-impose. Love is a control machine. Drugs, too. They tether us and keep us anchored from evolving," Shamaya waxes.
Otep’s music is muscular and forceful. Their fourth major release of the same name drops in mid-August but they’ve already taken to the road.
Otep’s LGBT audience has grown, but in the beginning that wasn’t the case. She mentions their first label didn’t understand how to get to the LGBT world, but now the audiences have broadened.
"The audience just wants to believe in the music and the message," she says.
Part of that message is in Shamaya’s activist nature that takes on today’s politics with fervor. Her voice is important to this new LGBT generation of protests and rallies.
"I am a proud citizen of the U.S.A. and I’m also a disappointed and outraged citizen of the U.S.A. Obama could put a pause on ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ but to have him ignore it is a slap in the face to every soldier still compelled to fight for their country," she says. "Right-wingers say gay is a preference when it comes to marriage, but when will they start legislating other preferences like religion? It’s up to us to not be silent." It’s a point she makes plain in the song "Rise Rebel Resist."
But mostly she sees her place in the crusade against control machines as a duty stemming from childhood.
"We were a meager family with violence in the household. I wished there was this hero that swoop in. If ever had that opportunity to be a voice or knight, then I would. If I can take those feelings away, I’m absolutely going to do it."
SLUMBER PARTY IN THE SKY
Just as Andy Warhol predicted, Samantha Ronson got her 15 minutes of fame — almost exactly that much. She was the lesser-known half the celebrity couple with Lindsay Lohan, until the two broke up last April. But Ronson is still riding her quasi-fame — the L.A.-based DJ will spin at Samantha Ronson’s Sleepover at Ghostbar Friday. We’ll be sure to bring pajamas.
Ghostbar, July 31, 9 p.m.â€“2 a.m. Women admitted free; men $20.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2009.