Guitar World Magazine
April 2003

Out Of Africa

With A Head Full Of Angst And A Heart Full Of Hard Rock, South Africa's Seether Take The Country By Storm With Their U.S. Debut, Disclaimer.

It isn't always easy being a metal-edged rock band from Sotuh Africa. Seether frontman Shaun Morgan sees it as a challenge:
"A lot of people don't even realize there are white people in South Africa," says the singer/guitarist/songwriter, sighing. "They don't even know where South Africa is...although the name does kind of give it away."

Tall, broad shouldered and dark haired, Morgan is an imposing figure with penetrating eyes that peer out from under heavy brows. But, he's actually kind of shy. His soft spoken utterances radiate a quiet intelligence, but his screaming performances fully live up to his band's name-seething with anger. Seether have made an impact in the states with the brooding detox ballad "Fine Again" - the first of what promises to be a strong run of singles from Seether's U.S. debut album, Disclaimer (Wind-up).

"Sometimes we feel alot of pressure," says Morgan, "because we're the first band from South Africa to get signed. That in itself is a big achievement. I mean, Dave Matthew's is from South Africa, but nobody really knows that. So we see ourselves almost as ambassadors."

While they come from a distant continent, Seether blend the familiar, angst ridden loud-soft dynamics of Seattle grunge with the primal scream of nu-metalist like Korn and Tool. But Morgan comes by his rage honestly. The product of a broken home, he grew up in the hostile cross fire between his English father and his Afrikaner mother. [Afrikaners are descendents of the Dutch people who settled in South Africa during the 17th century-GW ed.]

"It made for some fun family get-togethers," the guitarist deadpans with a sense of irony too ingrained and instinctual to be described as bitter. Back in 1999, Morgan bonded with affible bassist Dale Stewart to name the band they would eventually name Seether, in homage to the 1994 hit single by grunge goddesses Veruca Salt. The band climbed to the top of South Africa's tiny rock scene and recorded an album called Fragile (apparently not named in homage to the classic Yes album). The disc attracted the attention of America's Wind-up Records, who promptly whisked Morgan and Stewart off to L.A. (Seether's original drummer opted to stay behind in South Africa.) There, they recorded Disclaimer with noted sessioner Josh Freese on drums and producer Jay Baumgardener at the controls.

"We recorded some of the songs from Fragile," days Morgan, "because they mean a lot to me. But we also didn't want to put out the same album again, so we wrote some new material. This new album is also a lot heavier than our first record."

With Disclaimer completed, Morgan and Stewart set out assembling a band in time to join the 2002 Ozzfest tour. Drummer Nick Oshiro will never forget the day he auditioned for Seether. He woke up that day in his hometown of Las Vegas, worked a shift at his day job, drove more than 4 hours to L.A., played the audition, and still had what it took to beat out 17 other drummers. Second guitarist Pat Callahan fell into place when his band shared a bill with Seether at a gig in Callahan's hometown of Philadelphia. His guitar work so impressed Morgan and Stewart that he was instantly recruited. Which currently makes Seeher a half South African-half-American band. The arrangement seems to suit Morgan just fine. "I had to come halfway around the world to find the band that always wanted to play in."

One doesn't have to dig very deeply to detect a strong Nirvana and seattle grunge influence in your music. Was that your primary influence growing up?
When Nirvana entered my life it was at a point where I was being dragged to court every weekend in a custody battle. My parents had been divorced since I was three. I'd moved out with my dad when I was seven. And when I was twelve they started another custody battle, because my mom got married to some guy who had money and she wanted us kids back. So it took two years of me going to psychologist and crap like that. By that point, I'd heard bands like Metallica, AC/DC, but there was nothing there I could identify with on an emotional level. But when I heard Nevermind, I felt like that guy [Kurt Cobain] had something to say, rather then just making up stories about bullshit.

So Kurt's personal history resonated with you-his being from a broken home too.
Yeah. I think that that's mentioned alot in his lyrics, too. So I said, "Wow, there's someone that's been there."That was definitely a factor, but also the fact that Nirvana's music wasn't perfect. It was raw, angry, and loud.

A few of the songs on your album seem to be about addiction--trying to get sober. Are these autobiographical lyrics?
Songs to me are like a musical diary of where I was at a certain point in my life. And yeah, when I was 17 years old I was a total alcoholic, to the point where I was drinking to pass out from mornings till evening. In town, my mother would find me laying on the sidewalk in the evening 'cause I had such a problem. I've done a bunch of drugs, too. And it all stems from having to deal with all the shit that I had at home. I had the van taken away from me because my dad said I couldn't play in a band. So that sort of led to addictions. Like even cigarrettes. It was something that my dad couldn't stop me doing, even if he tried. I'm probably an addictive personality. But I think with age you often learn to control yourself better. I don't have to go out now and get drunk. I can have a few beers and leave it at that. Whereas a couple of years ago I couldn't do that.

Some of your lyrics, like on "Pig," have a suicidal undercut to them.
That was about a friend I had. She wanted to be a satanist and was constantly hacking herself up and ending up in hospitals. And at the same time, there was this guy I was in a band with and his girlfriend died in a car pile-up. Fifty-four cars were involved in the accident, but she was the only one to die. So that song is kind of a combination of me feeling his pain. On the whole, I've never had real friends. I'd have friends in one school and then I'd be moved to another school and I'd lose them.

When did you start playing guitar?
I think I was 12. The first song I ever learned was [Nirvana's] "Polly." Somebody showed me how to play it. I'd never picked up a guitar before, but I could play it in five minutes. And everything that I've learned after that, I've taught myself. And by the time I was 15 or so, I'd sit and write a song every day. My dad jokes that I blew out his stereo system. I'd come home from school, plug my guitar into one input and headphones into the other end. I had, like, 60 songs on a tape that I gave to this girl I liked. I should have thought about it first, 'cause she was a bitch.

So, when you started forming bands, you had plenty of material.
But that's the thing. I played in so many bands that wouldn't let me write songs or even be the guitarist. I was just the singer, 'cause there was no one else at school who could sing. Seether is the first band that I was allowed to play guitar in and actually have a role as the songwriter. That's been cool for me.

In addition to the grunge influences, there's also a Metallica and Tool element in your music-that scream-metal thing. Does that come from you too? Or is that more from Dale or someone else in the band?
I'm really into Tool, too. I love the way Maynard sings. Just the range he gets is amazing--and the way he expresses himself. I also have a big Deftones influence. There's almost a lack of perfection in what they do. They don't use a click track on record. And I also really like the girl grunge bands that couldn't really play their instruments--like Hole, L7, Elastica, Veruca Salt and shit like that. I always identified more with females more than I do males. You listen to those records: it's chicks playing guitar. They're not trying to be perfect. They're just trying to get an emotional release of some sort.

There's often a freedom to girl bands. They're unburdened by that competitive male thing--generation after generation of guys in there garage honing their craft.
Yeah, I got into The White Stripes for the same reason. The imperfections make it real. It's almost like you were there when they recorded it. That's also why I loved Korn when they first came out. 'Cause Jonathon Davis wasn't a perfect singer. There was so much rawness about his voice. I almost got disappointed when he learned how to sing. He lost what I loved about him.

Speaking of Korn, the heavier side of your guitar sound seems to take a cue from them.
Well, they're the reason I use Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifiers. You can't get them in South Africa. But when I saw Korn I said, "That's the amp to get." 'Cause they have so much bottom end. So, as soon as I came to the states, the first thing I did was buy some Triple Rectifiers. After a show, I always get people asking, "What do you use?" I just plug a Schecter into a Triple Rectifier. It's such a hardcore combination. Put it in the distortion channel and turn the gain full up. I don't even use effects. On the album I did, but not live.

Are there alot of different amps on the album?
We used a Marshall JCM 800 for one side--the bright side--and the Mesa Rect-O-Verb for the more bottom end distortion. And for the clean sounds we used a Vox AC30.

A lot of the clean sounds are chorus-y but not watery. They have a nasty bite to them.
Yeah. I wanted to make a lot of that stuff really harsh sounding. We used this pedal called an H2O, and we just turned everything up as far as it would go. The solo in "Needles" is like that. It isn't that clear. I love that effect.

Do you tune down for the metal stuff?
We do have four tunings on the album. On the first album we just have standard and dropped D. But now we have added E flat and dropped C sharp(or drop d down a half step). Basically, we tune down half a step on the darker songs. It definitely makes a difference.

Was it a major culture shock for you and Dale to come to L.A. from South Africa?
It was for me. I didn't realize there was a city like L.A. Everybody's a wannabe something. And they're never going to be something. Dale loves the city. I hate it--to the point where, when we lived in L.A., I wouldn't leave the house. I couldn't walk the street. Freaks me out.

Do you guys have girlfriends back home?
I have a wife and a little daughter. She just turned one in November. Her name is Jayde. I don't see my wife and daughter enough, but they're ultimately the reason why I'm doing this. It's hard being away from home so much. But if I don't do this, what am I going to do--go home and get a nine-to-five and not be the same person that my wife first met? I wouldn't be who I am if I wasn't playing in a band.

That's the weird thing about rock. It enables you to maintain a certain freedom, even though you have to give up alot.
Yeah, it's one of life's funny ironies. Everyone thinks it's sex, drugs and rock and roll. But it's alot of hard work and sacrifice. It's not just about getting laid or having drugs. It's about alot of nights where you get yourself so fucking drunk you don't have to worry about shit, you don't have to miss anyone.

How do you see Seether slotting into the current music scene?
I'm writing songs for that kid who gets beat up at school. The fucking kid without a mom or dad. 'Cause I've been in all those places. I'm not writing for Britney Spears fans.