Akiko Sampson of Oakland-based post-punk/darkwave band Ötzi speaks up for the disenfranchised and marginalized.

Oakland, CA-based post-punk/darkwave band Ötzi are set to release their highly anticipated second album, Storm, on May 22nd via Artoffact Records.

Akiko Sampson (bass, vocals), Gina Marie (drums, vocals), K. Dylan Edrich (guitar), and Winter Zora (saxophone) first got together as Ötzi in 2014. The gained acclaim for their potent debut album Ghosts in 2017.

Follow-up Storm is another powerful full-length from the group in both sound and theme. Songs are intense, foreboding, and lyrically relevant.

Sampson states, “We ascribe punk and feminist ethics to our music and our lives, and that’s something that will never change. The 'darkness' found in our music isn’t existential dread or moroseness, it’s a reflection of our perspectives as femmes in an often hostile world.”

Sampson kindly took part in our continuing Protest Interview series, giving a candid and insightful look at the situation in Oakland during the viral pandemic and how it’s just one area of what is going on all around the world. 

Hello! Please introduce yourself/yourselves and give a description of your sound/musical vision.

I’m Akiko Sampson, and I sing and play bass in Ötzi. We’re a dark post-punk band, culling from influences [that include] Crass to the Cure. Our new album, Storm, releases May 22 on Artoffact Records. 

What is/are the main personal, national, and/or international issue(s) concerning you the most these days?

Of course everyone’s mind is on COVID-19 and the threat it poses to all of us as a species. But we’re also seeing how the longer standing, deeper wounds in our societies are now resulting in disproportionate deaths amongst black populations and increased vulnerability for communities that have always been under assault - the poor, the unhoused, LGBT, refugees, immigrants, and the imprisoned. 

Where I live in Oakland, California, our homeless population has exploded, and even the United Nations said the conditions for them here are cruel and inhumane. So now we have shelter-in-place orders, and the city governments have to face that there is no shelter for thousands of people.

Black and brown and poor people are already often denied medical treatment as it is, even if we are insured. In both federal and ICE detention prisons, where there’s already overcrowding and torture and inadequate health care, people are at even greater risk.

And this is just in the US - There are people who have it worse, in countries with no government assistance, no public health care, [and] little sanitary infrastructure, who may be starving and are also living under brutal martial law. 

It’s heartbreaking to see that behind the virus, its most violent blows to humanity are also an exacerbation of the problems we already had. Capitalism, white supremacy, fascism…

What song, video, or lyrics quote of yours best represents your current viewpoint on this/these important topic(s)?

From our title track, “Storm”, on our upcoming album:

I take my time, it’s what I have

You take my time, I wait for so long


You take your time, it’s what you have

When these gates open

Your safety is gone


On the outside, we’re used to the cold

While you on the inside, can you wait out the storm?

This song isn’t out yet, but it releases with the full album on May 22. [You can pre-order Storm at Bandcamp: https://otzi.bandcamp.com/album/storm]

What’s your favorite song, video, or lyrics quote by another act or artist that best exemplifies, or at least partly relates to, your current viewpoint?

I always think of Los Crudos’ song “Sin Caras”. While I can’t completely relate to a Latinx point of view, the themes of invisibility, exploitation, and anger apply and have always resonated with me. Here are the lyrics, translated into English:

We are faceless

We have no papers or rights

They can't hear our voices

But we never stop screaming

And we stop to defend our people

And express our way of thinking

We are not slaves to anyone

We are not your wetbacks anymore


We have voices and hands

We have the power and the energy

We just need communication

And the desire to make a change

What other forms of protest, besides through your music, are you involved with to get your message across?

I used to organize benefit shows for ICE detainee legal support, and I released a compilation on my record label, Psychic Eye, that benefited TGI Justice Project, an organization made of trans prisoners. 

Now that we can’t have events and no one has any money, I have to think of other, smaller, ways to make positive changes. I direct sales from profits from my label to individuals with financial need. I buy food with my food stamps for organizations that deliver meals to tent camps for houseless people.

I’m trying to get my friends and community to become a bit less dependent on capitalist structures, organizing supply trades and showing people how to grow food for free in containers and patio gardens.

I’ve been asking people what activism will look like in this era, and talking to so many people lately that I finally started my own webzine called Cryptic Species. So I get to interview people about things I think are important, from music to activism to art. Hopefully I get some more ideas from that.

It’s easy to judge and criticize others, especially in these unsettling times of overt intolerance, ignorance, and insults, but the fact remains that we need to work together to ensure that positive change occurs. Name an action to take, or a campaign/charity that would be worthwhile to contribute to, for your cause.

If your cause is intersectional, there are many ways to help. Our effort counts even when we have little money or energy. Keep an eye out for who is feeling sick, remember to trade medicines with them when they need it. Ask your friends what foods they have excess of and trade or find collective ways to distribute it.

Pay attention to what your city is doing in regards to the health of the unhoused population - policies can change immediately when people care and voice their opinion to City Hall. Just be kind. Think about what you can do for others outside of yourself. Whatever privilege you have, try to use it to make things better for others.

If you have money to spare, there are local organizations everywhere that need help, and I suggest thinking of vulnerable populations first. But here are some of my faves:

Rogers and Rosewater Soup Company - https://www.facebook.com/RogersRosewatersoupco

An Oakland organization that delivers homemade meals to the unhoused population every Wednesday. A lot of service organizations have stopped delivering food after shelter-in-place, making the ones that still go out there even more essential.

Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Projects


An Arizona border legal group that gets people out of ICE detention. Donations go straight to bailing people out. Amazing, effective organization.

TGI Justice Project


A trans women-led organization that serves trans women in prison or recently released. They used to be run by Miss Major, which is incredible. They need help now more than ever.

ABO Comix


They publish beautiful graphic and comic strip anthologies written entirely by prisoners, and all the money from the book sales go straight to the prisoners’ commissaries. 

What gives you hope for the future?

What gives me hope right now is the idea that we can rebuild society in a new way, now that people have been forcibly weaned off of consumerism, and a lot of working class people have been able to enjoy our actual lives, spending more time paying attention to loved ones, and thinking about our health.

The lack of pollution for just a little while has been amazing. And finding that we need far less than we thought is very refreshing. The slowing down of our lives has shown a different perspective, and I hope we can remember the positive things and restructure our society in a way that includes what we’ve learned.

I hope that all the gratitude people feel for having a roof over their heads or food to eat reminds them that it’s something everyone should have. I hope we spark the creation of a universal health care system all over the world, as we realize that our fates are all intertwined.


Where can we purchase/stream your music and find out more about you?

We can be heard on Bandcamp and most other platforms, and we’re pretty active on Facebook and Instagram. Come check us out!



Interview date: May 15, 2020

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