I must admit, my knowledge of Otep was very limited up until last week. Sure, I had heard the name but didn’t really know much more than that. I had no opinion. Then I started reading stories on other sites about how Otep was a nightmare to work with from a band that was recently kicked off her tour. Then news involving Otep hit a little closer to home when the band’s Cincinnati date was canceled on the day of the show. Knowing the “promoter” of that show, I knew there had to be more to the story. Otep released a video on her Facebook page and commented on both subjects. During her video, she remarked how no one had reached out to her about what had happened. Rather, they just ran with the one side and took it as fact. I like to take pride that this site is not a place for trolls to come and rip apart artists and music behind a username and avatar. So I decided that I would reach out to Otep and offer her a chance to offer her side of each story and provide as much or as little detail as she wanted. And that is exactly what she did. Was I intimidated to talk to her after everything I had read about her? Yes, for about two or three minutes. For the rest of the nearly fifty-minute conversation, I was at ease with someone whom I could tell was passionate about what they do and unapologetic about how they do it. I learned a lot in my conversation with Otep. I will leave it at that and let you draw your own conclusions. Without further delay here is Otep in her own words.
The Music Room: I just want to say thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to me. I want to be really up front with you on why I wanted to talk to you. First and foremost, while I had nothing to do with the other night, but as a music fan from Cincinnati I am ashamed of what went down and I just wanted to apologize for the experience you had in our city.
Otep: I appreciate that very much. I love Cincinnati. I don’t have any animosity towards the Cincinnati scene, the locals or to anybody but this one promoter who seems to have been the main problem. Or even the venue. The venue owner was actually begging us or actually begging him to stop acting the way he was acting but he was not having it.
TMR: Like I said, I want to be upfront. There are two reasons I want to talk to you. First, that promoter causes us countless issues that prevent the fans from attending some good shows. The next was when I watched your Facebook video and you were very transparent about a lot of things, and I appreciate that, but the thing that struck me was when you said that nobody really stopped to ask your side of things they just wanted click bait. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about your music and your past. All I know are the things that I have read here lately and they have not been very kind or good things. That’s not what we’re about. When I heard that I thought that you should have a chance to give your story on these things and that’s just what I want to do here.
Otep: I appreciate that.
TMR: Yeah. I don’t want to rehash what’s been said. I’m not looking for drama. I just want to give you a chance.
Otep: You and one other site have been the only people that have actually reached out to me to discuss whether or not any of this is true or to get my side. Everyone else has just picked up anything negative that anyone has written, whether it’s true or not. In fact, we had another issue after the whole thing went down with The Convalescent…we had to kick them off the tour because of vagrant tour code violations. And this is their second time touring with us in the same year. So they know how we roll. We’re not a party band. We don’t do drugs. Me and my guitar player, we work out every single day. That’s our focus, being in good shape so we can tour the way we tour. Some of these other bands that we’re trying to give visibility to and give an opportunity to, they may play one show a month…maybe two shows a week if they are lucky. When I leave Los Angeles, which is where I live, it’s for a reason. I also do other work in voice overs in movies and t.v. I don’t really have a reason to leave Los Angeles unless it’s to tour and to do my part for the music industry.
You know it’s happened to me, where you struggle. Even though I’ve been in this business for fifteen years, seven albums in. My last record (Generation Doom) broke Billboard’s Top Five. We had two terrestrial radio top forty hits on this album, which is something that totally surprised me. I didn’t think that terrestrial radio would come near us because we’ve been this political art-rock band for fifteen years, yet we’ve had all these great things happen to us. But we haven’t received one festival offer. Not even for a hundred bucks. They didn’t even think about adding us, even though we sell tickets, even though we sell records, even though we sell merch. They just didn’t even offer it to us. So I know what it’s like to be looked over. When Phil (Labonte), the singer from All That Remains went online and called me a…excuse my language because I liken this word next to the “n-word,” when he called me a faggot three times on Twitter only one site picked it up and reported it. Nobody else touched it. And in fact, he got rewarded basically for that behavior because they did festivals this year. Did he get frowned upon in this industry for being homophobic? No. When Soulfly writes a song called “Sodomites” and they basically just ripped out lyrics from The Bible from Leviticus where it says that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for being homosexuals…did they get lambasted for being homophobic? No, that song actually made it top the top ten on Sirius XM radio. What would have happened if I would have spoken about Max Cavalera’s racial ancestry? What would have happened?
But when I do go on tour I like to get a band that has a female in the band, a female fronted band, or a band that’s starting to get visibility for whatever reason. And sometimes I do favors for my agent or manager who is doing favors for other agents and managers…because sometimes that what you have to do. You know, you’re supposed to be supportive in this industry. Even with everything I have been through in the past fifteen years, I still try to give visibility to up and coming bands to play with us and to be exposed to our fans. My fans, that’s my commodity and my fans know that. I’m not using that as a bad term. They know how special they are, how important they are, and that’s why bands want to tour with us. Once they tour in front of our audience, they become a bigger band as well.
I’ve actually kicked myself because it has backfired on me a couple of times. I’ve given bands opportunities to be seen then they go out spreading rumors and lies about me. But I still try to keep a positive outlook and say that’s one band, look how many others bands are appreciative and grateful. That’s how we try to roll. But there’s just been this rise of complete and utter falsehoods spoken about us on the internet, which doesn’t surprise me. I mean, that’s how Donald Trump got elected. But again, none of these other places came to me and said hey, what do you think about that? What actually happened since you’re the headliner and have been doing this for fifteen years? But no, we’re going to listen to this band that is unsigned and local and has a 3,000 Facebook following. That’s frustrating.
TMR: Look, I want you to have your own parameters here, but I have pulled out the main points of The Convalescence post and I would like for you to give me your take on what happened.
Otep: Look, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. First, let’s start off with this. Kevorkian has already called my tour manager, who’s also my guitar player, and apologized. He called him the day after it happened. He said, “I’m so sorry.” He sounded drunk, but he said, “I’m so sorry. Tell Otep I love her. I didn’t mean for this to get out of hand. I didn’t cancel the show.” Ari said, “Yes you did, you canceled the show.” He said, “Okay, still I’m sorry and I love you guys and I’ll probably never work in this business again.” I was like too little too late. He’s already tried to call to apologize and make amends. I just wanted to get that out of the way before I forgot. I’m sorry to interrupt.
Firing the Opening Band
TMR: No, that’s what we wanted to know. We’ll go back to the situation with the opener slamming you. They claim that they were accused of using the runner to buy drugs, but that it was actually your bus driver who bought the drugs and he was covering his own butt. Can you clarify?
Otep: That’s a lie. Our bus driver does not do drugs. They roll around in a converted school bus that breaks down at almost every show. My security guard Mountain, who’s 6’5 and 300 lbs., when he’s home that’s what he does. He rebuilds engines…he’s a gear head. So he helped them out. He actually drove for them on one of their tours in between. Our bus is a 45-foot bus that we pay for and we have a professional driver whom we pay for. He’s drug tested and a professional driver, so there are no drugs. In fact, he’s the one that told us that it happened. So if he was trying to cover his butt, why would he tell us? He was actually like, “I have to quit.” That’s basically what his conversation was to us. He said, “Your runner was supposed to take me to my hotel.” That’s what runners are for. So what happened at that venue was our runner picked up our driver and said, “Hey, do you mind if I make a stop on the way?” My driver who is a very cool dude was like, “No problem if it’s on the way.” They were like, “Oh yeah, it’s on the way not even out of the way. “The guy goes in…the runner goes into his own house with a baby in the car, goes inside and gets a bag of drugs and comes back out, puts it in the back seat and drives off. My driver asked, “What’s that?” And the guy said, “The band asked for it.” My driver thinks the band he drives for…us. So he calls my tour manager immediately when he gets to his hotel room and says, “This isn’t cool and I’m going to call this into the bus company.” We’re like whoa, whoa…I call my entire crew and band and am like who did this? They’re like we didn’t do this. So I said go ask Convalescence if they did it. Sure enough, the singer of that band comes over and says he talked to his guys and they wanted some bud. That’s what he says. Okay, well in that state it’s illegal so if you’re getting medical marijuana get out your card. I’m not an anti-marijuana person. I live in California and I believe in medical marijuana. No problem there for me. But don’t use my runner to take my driver for an illegal action that can get both of them put in jail. So he promised me it would never happen again. He’s like, “I’m so sorry, please don’t kick us off the tour.” I said you are on notice. Basically, the only reason I took them out was because at the time we were managed by the same manager and my manager asked me to do them a favor by giving them exposure. He promised me, my manager, no problems from these guys. They’re self-sufficient. They are going to do their job and stay out of your way, don’t worry. And we had that with them on the first tour. There were some problems, but just little misunderstandings that we sorted out. So we toured with them for the first time earlier this year for a two month tour. We came back and said we’re going to do the second leg of The Resistance Tour and my manager asked if we were going to keep the same bands. I said I’d love to keep World Over because they were great. He said they were already doing something else but what about The Convalescence? I said as long as they do what they did last time, cool. Well, they didn’t do that.
What normally happens is sometimes when bands tour with bigger bands they start feeling entitled and they are the reason why this tour is happening when that’s not true. After that was over I made it clear to the tour manager, my security manager, and our stage manager that those guys were not to have access to our runner…ever. And that if they saw them asking for drugs inside venues or asking venue owners, or anybody I was going to kick them off the tour. I called my manager and he asked me to wait until we could find a replacement. I was going to drop them that day but my manager asked me to wait, so I did. That was the end of that. Our driver wasn’t requesting drugs, they were. They said it was bud. I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t coming from my camp. We’re just not that band. I’m not trying to stigmatizing anyone here. If people want to smoke weed, smoke weed. If you want to do drugs, do drugs. If you want to drink, drink. But that’s not what we do and if you’re going to be a band on our tour then don’t do anything to jeopardize my reputation. Because, as you see, there are already obstacles that I’ve got to overcome. If my driver was asking our rider to get drugs he would be arrested. I’m not going to put my band’s lives in jeopardy because our driver was high. That’s ridiculous.
TMR: I know your time is valuable, and I want to make sure we get into what happened here in Cincinnati. But before we move on, is there anything else about this situation that you want to get off your chest and make public?
Otep: The Convalescence lead singer reached out to our security guard, Mountain, and apologized and wanted him to tell me. I said look, they went public so instead of texting you privately…make it public. Otherwise, it doesn’t mean anything. They started all of this and all the dumb, lame, TMZ, want to be metal sites picked it up without trying to validate or verify any of it. If he’s really sorry, and if you want I can get you screenshots of the text messages because they’ll probably lie about it. Anyway, if he wants to do that it’s fine, but we will never take them back out again. We’ll think twice about doing favors again. As a band, we work so hard. Like I said, when I leave home I want to work. I’m not out here to sit in a room in the middle of nowhere and party. I want to play music. That’s the only reason for me to leave L.A. period. I’m not out here to party or get girls. I mean, there’s so much dirt on these dudes…and I mean literal dirt by the way. They take pride in the fact that they smell bad. They take pride in the fact that they don’t bathe. They take pride in the fact that they wear the same clothes over and over again. It’s horrible. Listen, here’s the thing that everybody needs to understand. I have very little interaction with the band we tour with. Because I’m doing stuff like this with press, or publicity, social media work…I have my dogs with me, so I take my dogs for a walk. I go to the gym before a show, then I come back and rest. I do my show then I come back to my bus and eat my first solid meal of the day and then I go to bed.
So all the stuff coming that I’m saying local bands can’t sell merch…it’s all nonsense. It doesn’t come from me, it comes from the venue. I don’t set any of those rules. The only rule that we have with regards to merch is this, I won’t go into the venue and steal your audience by sitting at the merch table because I’ve made that mistake before. I was going to the ladies room and the fans saw me and left the floor coming after me. I felt so bad for that band playing that I said I can’t do this again. I don’t want to do that to somebody and take away their shine. So I decided at that moment the best thing to do is, I won’t come inside. You guys have the entire time from doors, which are usually five to six o’clock, to the time we play which is around ten thirty to eleven o’clock. So you have five to six hours of selling time. Sell your merch, play your show, go to the table and meet with your fans. But when I play, give us the respect of having one person at your merch table. And this is for all of the bands, local and our tour package. You can have your merch person at the table but you can’t sell when we play. It’s out of respect for us. We won’t come in and steal your audience, and when I’m on stage don’t sell merch…that’s it. It’s an hour. We play on stage for an hour. And after we’re done you can go right back and sell it. The one rule and the only rule. And this other local band in Illinois that went online and wrote this entire lie, which has now been rebutted by the promoter, was a complete and absolute lie. There’s nothing true about anything he said. No one told him to set up on the sidewalk. My guitar player, who is literally built like the hulk…I don’t know if you have ever seen my guitar player but he is built like a body builder. He’s a beast. This guy said he walked by and said, “Piss-ant local band.” That’s absolutely not true. Besides being built like the Hulk, Aristotle is from Iowa and one of the nicest human beings in the world. He would never…that’s not even a word he uses. Piss-ant…that’s not even a word. Everything he said was a lie. But, all of the websites pick it up and say that it’s true. All of the other local bands pick it up and… Last night we had friends of the local band that played with us come and call me a dyke and throw sex toys on stage and hot dogs. It’s kind of funny because they spent all that money and they lost it so that’s ridiculous on them. Then on their Facebook page, which we all screen shot by the way because they are dumb enough to put it on their Facebook page…it’s a hate crime. It’s assault and battery and we will be pursuing charges against those idiots as one should. People should feel safe in a venue, especially now after what happened in Paris and with Dimebag and with other artists in other genres. Fans should feel secure. Bands should feel secure. Venues should make sure that bands and artists are secure. If a local band thinks that they are going to earn any extra points or publicity by committing a hate crime, by bad mouthing a headliner of fifteen years with connections throughout the industry….I have a manager who manages other bands momos. I have an agent that agents other bands you momos. What do you think? That they are not going to take that personally that you are attacking one of their bands and that they are not going to let you play any of their other shows? That’s a bold move if you really want to get out of the unsigned scene. It was really nice that the promoter wrote a rebuttal to those people.
TMR: Moving on to what happened a couple of days ago here in Cincinnati. This promoter, David Kevorkian, puts bands in a pay to play situations. He has blacklisted fans from calling him out on his stuff. He has burned so many people. He’s not in it for the music. And unfortunately, now he is booking great bands in local venues but people don’t want to come out because he is involved. All I want to do is spread awareness so this kind of thing doesn’t keep happening.
Otep: Here’s what happened. This show was booked in April…April! He had since April to get the money together. We knew that he wasn’t returning phone calls to our tour manager or e-mails for a long time. So I had to get our agent and manager involved. It’s like look, do we drive there? Are we doing the show? What’s happening?
We agreed to a certain amount of money and everything else. So, two days before the show we still had not heard from him…I’m sorry, that’s not true. Let me back up. Four days before the show we heard from him, after all of this time, he said, “I don’t have the money.” That’s what he told my tour manager. “I’m strapped for cash bro, I’ll make it up to you. Just show up and we’ll use bar sales and whatever I can get from the locals and I’ll have your money to you by the end of the night. It may be a check, but I’ll have your money by the end of the night.” We said no, you have to send…and this is normal, you have to send a deposit which ensures the band is going to be paid. Because we drove six and a half hours to be at that show. So normally they will send a deposit to our agent, which is usually half the guarantee and at the end of the night pay us the rest of the guarantee. He had sent in zero dollars. Two days before the show we called him again with our manager on a conference call and asked do you have the money? He said, “Almost, I’m a couple hundred short but I’ll have it by the end of the night.” He said, “I’ll get it from the bar and the locals.” So then we said, what do we do. There are a lot of people that want to see us in Cincinnati. We love playing there. What do we do? So we said you know what, let’s just go there and set up and give the guy the opportunity to pay us…but only take cash.
We show up at noon. He doesn’t show up at all. We roll in around 2:30 pm. We’re set up inside. We help them set up their P.A. in this venue so that it sounds better since my guys are tech heads and great with this stuff. We set up our merch, lights…everything is ready to go. We have VIP’s that had bought early. We have a VIP program where you can buy tickets and you can come see our soundcheck, a meet and greet and then we do photos, and that usually happens at sound check. Well, we call our manager back and say it’s 2:30…it’s 3:00, this guy is not here what do we do? He said to wait, I’ll call him. The guy (Kevorkian) says, “I’ve got it. I’ve got a little bit of cash and I have a check.” So our tour manager says okay, go cash the check. He said, “I tried, but the bank ran out of money.” (Laughter) He literally said that. “The bank ran out of money.” My tour manager said you can’t tell me that B.S. bro. I can’t go back to my manager or my band and crew and tell them that you’re telling me that a bank ran out of money. Why didn’t you go to a different bank? And he said that it was the one closest to his house. Okay, well there is one right across the street from the venue. There is a PNC right across the street from the venue. That’s a PNC check. Walk on over and cash it. He says, “They are already closed.” Yeah, it’s five o’clock and we’ve been here since noon.
We’re waiting on a call back from our manager to figure out what to do when the owner of the club comes over and says that he has cash in his pocket and he will give us that, but just let him open doors and let people start buying drinks and he will give us what he makes at the bar and then collect what they get from the locals. We told him that we had to talk to our manager first so we went back to our bus. He (Kevorkian) comes over with the owner and starts banging on the bus aggressively. My tour manager comes out and he says…Kevorkian, “Let’s just cancel. We’ll cancel the f’n show.” My tour manager said no, let’s just wait for the call back from our manager. Kevorkian says, “No man, you just want to cancel…that’s why you’re doing this. You want to cancel.” Now understand, a few days before when we asked him if he had our money the first thing out of his mouth was, “I know you guys just want to cancel, you want to cancel, right? We should probably cancel.” We said no man, we don’t cancel shows. In fact, as proof we don’t cancel shows, I have broken my leg three times on tour. Same bone, three different tours. The last time I broke it, I broke it in the second song of the second show of the tour. I did not cancel the show. I didn’t cancel the tour. I finished the show with a broken leg standing up. I finished the tour and went all over the country. Then I went to Australia and Mexico with a broken leg. We don’t cancel shows. This guy just kept going on and on screaming outside the bus, you just want to cancel. The owner of the venue was getting in between him and my tour manager saying calm down, calm down….stop saying these things. He’s telling Kevorkian, “Let me help.” But he’s like, “No, they just want to cancel.” Then he says, “Let’s just do a local show, that’s it.” So I get off the bus and say you told us two days ago that you had the money. Do you have the money? He said, “I have it right here.” I said that’s a check, that’s not what we agreed to. We agreed to cash. He’s like, “The bank ran out of money.” I said that is B.S. dude, banks don’t run out of money. We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars here. We’re talking about a reasonable amount of money that a teller would have, or at least two tellers would probably have in their drawers let alone having to go to the vault. He said, “You know what? We’re doing a local show.” He slapped the owner on the back and started walking off. He said, “Get your stuff and get out of the venue.” I was like, alright…let’s go. The owner was like, “Please let me work this out. Please don’t tear down.” I said no, you are standing there next to this guy Kevorkian and he told me on the phone two days ago that he’s never going to do another show at your venue ever again. He told me that. Because a week before a security guard was robbed and murdered outside the Mad Frog…out back. Now, even knowing this happened we still showed up. All we asked for was extra security. We asked for an armed guard. The owner at least gave us that. I think that is probably necessary for any venue that just had one of their security guards shot in the back and killed and robbed a week before another band is supposed to play in your venue. That’s logical. We appreciated it.
So I start walking inside because I wanted to talk to the locals because I wanted them to understand and I didn’t want this guy to flip it…which is what he did. They’re canceling he’s screaming down the sidewalk as I’m approaching the local bands. I tell him that’s a lie and to shut up. I walked right up to the locals, we played with before at Oddbody’s and said hey we’re really sorry but this guy is canceling. I said if you paid him any money, get your money back because he’s trying to do a local show tonight so he can keep your money. To me, the root of all this was that he didn’t have the money, he didn’t want to pay us, he had gotten a lot of money from the locals…at least a couple hundred dollars or more and he wanted to keep that money for himself. He didn’t want to pay out, he wanted to make money. That’s why he wanted to cancel the show. That’s why he wanted to do locals only. Because he’s already been paid. So I walk back inside and tell my guys to pack it up and he walks in behind me and he’s like, “Yeah Otep pack it up.” Now there are local bands inside, there’s staff inside and he’s like get the F out of this venue! He’s screaming like that in front of everybody. We’re a national act. My security guard who’s 6’5, 300 lbs comes over to me and asks if everything is alright because he watches over me and watches over the merch. I just said pack it up bro. Then the guy barrels…I don’t know if you’ve ever met Kevorkian or not, but he is not a person that should ever run towards a 6’5, 300 lb man. So he ran up, you know the objects in the rearview mirror? I think it was like one of those things. He saw Mountain from afar, but as he got closer and saw how much bigger Mountain was than him, he melted. He was just like, “Get your stuff out and go.” Then he grabbed a girl’s hand and ran away. We went and told people we were sorry and that we will make it up to them. In fact, I said anybody who wants to come to our show in Louisville tomorrow, which isn’t that far from Cincinnati, we’ll put you on the guestlist. We had fifty people come.
As we’re leaving the owner came back out and said I have this amount of money in my pocket in cash and I’ll give it to you. It was close to what we would need just for fuel cost or our driver. I was like I’m really sorry man if you can come up with more money we can do a show, but not with him. He needs to go. He said it was his show and I can’t kick him out. I said then we’re not doing the show. He already canceled it. He already spoke on it. So we start leaving and the guy (Kevorkian) goes and starts telling all the people and all of the locals that Otep is being unreasonable and that Otep canceled the show, and that she’s being over-demanding. None of it’s true. In fact, he ends up calling my tour manager yesterday and says, “I’m sorry bro, tell Otep I love her and that I’ll probably never work in this business again because of all of the stuff she’s saying.” Look, it wasn’t just me that he’s done this to. He’s done it to local bands. There are other agents that have pulled acts from him because of the same problem. In the end, he never had any intention of paying. He just wanted to keep that local money and that’s really what this is all about. And then I find out later that there are actually two Facebook pages dedicated to hating this guy. I was like whoa, and then I’m looking at the memes. The memes are like months and months old of the exact things that he said to me. There was one meme that said, “Sorry bro, the bank was out of money.” (Laughter)
We will return to Cincinnati, we will. We always have great shows all throughout Ohio. It’s one of our favorite states to play. We will come back to Cincinnati. We’ll play a show there again. We won’t hold this against the scene, the locals, or even the people that got angry initially who believe what Kevorkian was saying versus what actually happened. We’ve been doing this for fifteen years and have had great shows in Ohio. We will return to Cincinnati, we just won’t work with this jackass anymore. I told the locals, don’t do shows with him anymore.
I told the locals, don’t do shows with him anymore. We know what it was like to be a local band so we support them. At the end of all my sets, I say respect to the local bands and support your local scene. Every national band that was on this stage was once a local band, so support your local bands. A lot of these local bands are working class folks just trying to make it. I’ll give everyone a tip who may read your site. If an agent or manager ever asks you for money and you’re an unsigned band, don’t do it. Their job is to make you money, not take your money. So if they say yeah, I’ll work with you…give me five hundred dollars. Tell them to go get you a job that makes him that five hundred dollars.