The Big Über Rock Interview: Seether Print E-mail
Written by Jonni D   
Sunday, 23 April 2017 04:30

For last 15 years, Seether have been a staple of the alternative rock scene in America, consistent in both popularity and their creative output. Their upcoming release ‘Poison The Parish’ sees the trio taking some bold steps in terms of adopting a more unpolished sound, as they take advantage of a newfound, greater creative control over their music. I had the opportunity to chat with primary songwriter Shaun Morgan about this fertile stage in the band’s career.

 

Clearly a man unafraid to voice his opinions, I found Shaun to be one of those increasingly rare entities in rock music today; namely, somebody who actually has something to say. Answering each question with a generous consideration, Shaun offers some insights as to his take on Seether’s place in the music industry, as well as some of his reflections on the current state of society.

 

Seether

 

I want to talk a little bit about the promotional material for ‘Poison The Parish’, if that’s ok with you. It’s been full of really evocative and twisted imagery, so I’m really interested in what inspired the horror vibe that we see in the [lead single] ‘Let You Down’ video and ‘The Poisoning’ webisodes you’ve been releasing.

 

I’ve always been drawn to darker videos from bands, I feel. I think my favourite videos, even if I don’t really like the music, are always the ones with imagery that draws me in. And when we were signed to Wind Up records they were always terrified of us doing anything that was remotely edgy or dark, so when I was given the opportunity to do it this time I just dove in head first. I don’t know…I guess I’ve always been fascinated by horror movies and imagery that’s a little creepy – a little unnerving and unsettling. That’s really the purpose behind it. There’s not some kind of deep spiritual or existential meaning, really. It’s more a case of, ‘This idea would be fun’, and we had a really good time with the material. Plus, you know, anytime you can dress little people in teddy bear outfits, that’s a good time. [Laughs]

 

Yeah, there’s certainly a real David Lynch/Stephen King vibe going on there!

 

Absolutely! That’s the kind of stuff I really get into.

 

So, overall do you feel this album is darker than [previous album] ‘Isolate and Medicate’? Having the lead single this time being ‘Let You Down’ seems a little bit less whimsical than ‘Same Damn Life’ was, the way it had the kind of falsetto vocal going on there. Do you think it is a darker album?

 

Yeah, I think so. I also think it’s a little more aggressive and angry…In general, I guess it’s about re-establishing us as a rock band, and about sort of reclaiming the fact that we’re a band that likes to play heavy music and not be one of these bands that…You know, I think some of the singles were a little borderline tongue in cheek and erring on the side of comedic, which is fine. And they were successful in their own right, but I would much rather be taken seriously as far as the music we write. And now that we have free reign as well with the new label, we can write stuff that is darker and heavier and they don’t shy away from that, you know? They’re not going to try and push you towards a more alternative direction. Because, the whole goal for [previous labels] was to try and get you on alternative radio and then cross over to pop, and after them trying for years I just said, ‘I’ve had enough.’ It wasn’t going to happen, and I didn’t want it to happen…I just wanted us to be a rock band, and that’s what we decided on.

 

I guess you’ve pre-empted something I was going to say…I mean, the album really does have that rawer, organic feel to it. With this being your first time actually producing the record, was that a real intention to go with that kind of sound?

 

 

Yeah, and I wanted to leave in feedback and make it ugly in places. I mean, for me, having feedback and squeals are as much a part of the song as any other part. And usually producers shy away from that, because they want it to be all pretty and glossy, and to have a nice polish on it. But I don’t think that’s necessarily right for our band. And I was quite inspired by -although there’s not many new bands that come out that inspire me- but more recently was Highly Suspect, and I know they’re becoming a big deal right now. They came out and it was really unpolished, with a real ‘fuck you’ kind of attitude, and that’s where I feel we’ve always been but have never been represented that way. So, this was sort of an opportunity to do that, but now it seems like we’re trying to ride on someone else’s coattails, which is bullshit. At least I will admit that we were inspired by them. But it’s cool to see that there are still bands that care…that there’s a roughness, and a kind of attitude to the songs, that aren’t just happy sing-song kind of ditties. But we really did want to bring forward a sense of rage and have something that’s a little more direct and to the point. A little more rock n’ roll, at the end of the day.

 

I was actually asked by someone what my impression of the album was, and the only way I could best describe it was that there’s a greater balance between the aggressive and the atmospheric. I likened it to kind of a mixture of ‘Undertow’ by Tool, and ‘Daisy’ by Brand New…

 

Well, those are both great albums, man! That’s a real compliment, so thank you.

 

Especially when you’re mentioning the dissonance and the feedback, I mean, that really does come through on the album. You were mentioning about this being on your own imprint [Canine Riot], so do you feel this is the most creative freedom you’ve ever had as an established band?

 

Yeah, and I certainly feel that we’ve got a great record company in our corner that believes in us. They weren’t really all that involved with many of the aspects of the record. I mean, they were involved, but they didn’t do the usual A&R thing where they step in with the ‘I have to put my stamp on this and pretend I’m earning my fucking paycheque’ thing, you know? They were more along the lines of letting us go and do our songs and then when we were done they went about the business side of seeing which songs would represent the album and the band. So that does give you a lot of freedom. The imprint was always in the works for years, because I want to sign bands and giving them the opportunity to have careers. A lot of bands are overlooked because a lot of record companies don’t know where they stand…I mean, for instance it seems that these days on rock radio there’s more of a metal slant to the rock, and I think that there needs to be more of a balance. So, it’s more about finding and identifying bands like that and giving them a shot. I want it to be about bands having great melodies and great guitar playing, but without it having to be 75 notes per second, you know?

 

Yeah, I mean speaking of that, you’ve kind of had steady success on American rock radio over the years, so do you still feel at home there? Or do you feel you’re on your own little island musically as a band?

 

No, I think it’s great. I mean, I think this single [‘Let You Down’] has been one of the fastest rising ones we’ve ever had. I suppose it just, for me, validates what I was feeling all along that there’s a space on rock radio for something that’s a little less metal, but that still has the harder edge to it. And so therefore, it was almost an experiment that I’d always believed in, and so to see that pay off now has been great. So I feel like we certainly belong; I don’t feel like we’ve sort of disappeared or we’ve been pushed to the side. Had that been the case I think there would’ve been a much more cool reception to the song, if you see where I’m coming from. I mean, do I want to be on an actual fucking island? Sure. I want to live somewhere that I don’t have to deal with people! [Laughs] Unfortunately though, for the most part that’s the exact opposite of my job, so I just have to deal with that. But no, I feel great about our place now. Dale [Stewart, bass] just became an American citizen last year, so I’m the only African left, so I’m the hold-out! I certainly feel we’ve been well embraced, especially on this album; there’s been a much higher enthusiasm from radio and in the press in general.

 

Even over here there seems to be a lot more buzz about you guys this time round, which is great. So, to talk song writing for a bit, there are two lyrics that really stood out to me on the album: “Time will sour milk just the same” [from ‘Stoke The Fire’] and “Everybody’s aging cause no one wins that war” [from ‘Count Me Out’]. Can you talk a bit about that? It seems that transience and mortality was on your mind for this album.

 

 

[Laughs] Well, a lot of things changed in the past year and a half…I basically made a whole bunch of lifestyle changes and tried to get to a point where I wasn’t just destroying my body on a daily basis. So, there’s a whole new perspective on that, because you realize…you know, I’m nearly 38 years old, I’m no longer 21, so I’m not as invincible as I once was. And I think subconsciously that sense of mortality has been starting to creep in [Laughs]. Shit, if you think about it, with the lifestyles we lead, I’ve already crossed over the half way mark and am on the downhill slope. If I make 70, I’ll be surprised, man! Having said that, it’s also just observations of the culture we live in, where the way you look is far more fucking important than the substance you bring to society. And for me, that’s horrific to see that kids are embracing the mentality of putting on pounds of makeup and trying to get as many Instagram followers as possible, rather than reading a book, or trying to paint something…or maybe even writing a book. Anything constructive, like maybe, “I’m going to try and figure out this whole cancer situation.” But I don’t know, it just seems like there’s a real vapid emptiness and for me that’s kind of sad to see. And maybe it’s always been there, but with social media it becomes so accentuated that it feels like I’m drowning in this see of vacuous bullshit.

 

Well, you’ve done pretty well at holding out on the whole Instagram thing so far…

 

Yeah, I don’t go for that shit, man. I don’t need to invite people to contact me directly…I feel like having some sort of distance between me and the people that listen to the music, or not even that, more so the people that just want to talk shit. Because I don’t really have a thick enough skin to deal with that. You know, I’ll probably lash out and just get myself in trouble. These days, I’m just far happier being way, way, way in the background.

 

Can we talk a little bit as well about the song ‘Saviours?’ That seems like a bit of a reprisal of the scathing indictment on religious hypocrisy, would I be right there?

 

[Laughs] Yeah, there’s a little bit of that. It was definitely more of an observation of society again…because there are a few songs this time round that aren’t so introspective. They retain some sort of element of that, but you can’t just sit idly by and watch your “neighbours” disintegrate into ultimate stupidity. Because [in society] there’s definitely a celebration of stupidity and mediocrity, with this attitude of ‘hey, everyone gets an attendance medal.’ And of course, I have a super, super angry take on millenials; it’s all about their feelings above anything else, in this culture of professional wounded animals, where anything you say and do can offend them in some way. And, I mean, I just can’t stand by the whole political correctness bullshit. As soon as you become politically correct, then everything becomes so…I don’t know, if you’re trying not to offend anyone in life, then what’s the fucking point? Because that’s the problem: if you offend somebody, then they immediately escalate it into this whole panic of ‘you said something I don’t agree with, so we can’t have this discussion.’ You know? It’s just ridiculous, man. To me, that just proves some people are just stupid.

 

Well, it’s interesting you say that. I mean, you guys have…I suppose you’ve always added an intellectual edge to balance out the more dumbed down elements of American rock radioBut, do you guys see yourselves in that way? Not in a pretentious way, I guess, but do you pride yourself in that aspect of Seether? For instance, I’m just think of the occasions where you’ve used the word ‘render’, and I can’t think of any other band using that word on the radio.

 

Seether - PTP art

 

Well, I think that’s maybe also a difference in where I come from. I mean, in South Africa a lot of the rock music was more, lyrically anyway, more intelligent. There wasn’t so much of the knuckle-dragging element. However, if you allow yourself to head in that direction, you’re far more widely accepted and far more quickly. A lot of people I guess just don’t want to think when they listen to music, which is kind of sad. You can have both. I’m not fucking quoting Sartre at any point, you know! I’m not trying to be pretentious in that sense, but it is important for me not to appear stupid, you know what I mean? I went to school and had a pretty good education, so I may as well use it, and my vocabulary!

 

Exactly, and that’s often evident in the songs. You’ve said before that there’s always one song that you latch on to that gets you through the recording process and the touring of an album cycle. I think you’ve referenced ‘The Gift’ in that context of being the important song from the ‘Karma and Effect’ album quite a few times, for example. Has that song become apparent to you at this time for ‘Poison The Parish’?

 

Honestly, I think it’s the heavier ones that I’m most fond of. They’re the ones I’m hanging onto the most. They are exactly what I wanted this band to sound like from the very beginning. So I hang on to those ones much more closely because I’m really proud of the fact that we can still be a band that I think is quite heavy, and that we can prove that we are still a band to be reckoned with. At this point it’s ‘Stoke The Fire’, and songs like ‘Saviours’ and ‘Let You Down’ that are the ones I’m most proud of at this moment. And they certainly are the ones that most inspired the theme of the album.

 

We’ve been speaking about the success in America, but how do you feel the progression has been in the UK and European markets for the last few albums?

 

Well, it’s been fine…It’s just one of those things where you just have to keep coming back and almost earn the fans in person. I mean, you’re the first guy I’ve ever spoken to from Ireland, and I’ve been talking about wanting to play in Ireland forever.

 

You guys were initially supposed to do a show in Belfast with Staind a few years ago, is that right?

 

We didn’t do that one, they did it by themselves; for some reason we didn’t go with, but I don’t understand why that happened. But, I specifically asked on this tour if we could do Ireland and I was sort of half-assedly assured that we would get some shows, and then of course it never materialized. I’m a little disappointed by that because I’ve wanted to go there for a long time. We often meet Irish fans in the UK that ask us to go to Ireland, so it would be nice to show our faces there sometime.

 

It’s strange because there is a real hub of fans over here for bands like you guys and Breaking Benjamin, so there is a real desire for you guys to tour over here.

 

That’s great to know. I’ll certainly pass that along and be a lot more firm next time! [Laughs]

 

You mentioned earlier about the importance of keeping yourself educated. You’re obviously a very well-read guy, so I’m curious as to what are some of your literary influences. Were there any in particular for this writing process?

 

I don’t know if it’s influencing me with my writing, but I’ve sort of gotten into a lot of Bill Bryson right now, and a lot of Christopher Hitchens. My favourite kinds of books to read are from British intellectuals, like the guys who are absolute drunks but who have this higher level of intelligence that I quite admire.

 

Well, Hitchens really fits that description.

 

[Laughs] Oh yeah, Hitchens was a genius, man. He really is one of my all time heroes.

 

This whole stage of the band’s life has obviously been a huge step up for you, what with all of the creative freedoms you’ve experienced with this album. What’s the next goal for you to reach for beyond this?

 

Well, I mean we’re going to be touring and trying to get to as many places as possible and extending the fanbase. I’m looking forward to the next one because I had so much fun with this album. What I liked about it was that people believed in me, and if I can prove that I can do this by myself then that’s kind of a goal that I’ve had for quite some time as well. The fact that we’re still around after eighteen years of being a band is still in itself great, and for some reason everything we write keeps people inspired and coming back to the band. So, as long as we can sort of keep that upward spiral going with a slow build, then that’s fine with me. I don’t need any kind of meteoric success or any kind of screaming adoration, or any of that kind of stuff. But it is nice to know that after seven albums, or eight if you count the ‘Saron Gas’ album, that we still have people that give a shit. It’s awesome.

 

Do you think there might be a quicker turnaround for the next album, given the enjoyment you had on this one?

 

That depends on how hard they tour us on this one, man. [Laughs]. If it’s a two year tour then fuck that, they’ll have to wait! When you finish after two years, you go home and you take a couple of months to just decompress. But yeah, I’m certainly having a lot of fun with music right now so I would love to see it be a much quicker turnaround next time.

 

‘Poison The Parish’ is released on 12 May. Seether return to the UK in October: see poster below for dates.

 

www.facebook.com/seether/

 

All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.

 

Seether 2017 tour flyer