Metal Edge Magazine

Seether

By Paul Gargano
Summer 2005

If you thought you knew Seether, think again.

While the breakthrough success of "Broken"--Seether frontman Shaun Morgan's duet with girlfriend and Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee--turned a whole new audience on to his band, the last thing he wants is to be considered a pop act. To that end, consider the new release Karma And Effect Seether's mission statement. Blazed by a band mentality and that's been more than two years in the making, the album boasts songs that run the full spectrum of Morgan's influence, from his formative years as a Nirvana fan, to his recently developed appreciation for metal, particularly Black Sabbath. But it's not enough to be a rock band--Seether want the whole package, from slamming souds, to haunting imagery, to the lifestyle that comes with the territory. Consider the video for lead single "Remedy," which boasts a Dean Karr-produced carnival of and creepy characters and disturbing effects, all fueled by one of the strongest songs in the Seether arsenal. Morgan and bassist Dale Stewart sat down with Metal Edge to discuss Seether's transformation from unsettled South African-transplants on their debut Disclaimer, to one of America's leading hard rock bands on Karma And Effect...

METAL EDGE: There's a real broad mix on Karma And Effect, from more pensive, to real heavy...
SHAUN MORGAN: We wanted to make it all heavy, so that they wouldn't have any ballads to put on the radio. As they inevitably do, though, they came out in the writing process. We definitely started experimenting more on this album, because the last album I wrote was when I fifteen or sixteen--the bulk of it, anyway--and, as a result, it has that kind of sound to it. This one was written in the last two years, and definitely has a different sound to it.

ME: Wind-Up really took care of you on Disclaimer. They re-launched the album, pushing it to platinum status, right?
SM: Actually, the RIAA counted it as a second album because it has a certain number of new songs on it. Anything over four or five new sons becomes a new album, and we had like eight. So we had two gold albums, as opposed to one platinum. Initially, the plan was just to add the new release of "Broken," and just release that, but we were afriad our fans were gonna get pissed because they already had the album. So we put on all the extra DVD features, the soundtrack stuff we'd done, and all the extra tracks to make it worth buying again. If you didn't have the first one, it would be an awesome deal. If you did, you might be able to justify spending the money again, because there's so much extra stuff.

ME: Did you notice a big change in the band between the two releases?
SM: Well, they were two years apart, and Pat [Callahan, guitar] and John [Humphrey, drums] were full-time at that point. The band did shift, and as time went on, it's become more evident. Pat plays solos that I just can't.

ME: When we talked the first time, you had just gotten here from South Africa...
SM: Yeah, you were one of the first interviews I ever did here... Everything was so different then, and so intimidating. Now we're used to everything, and have established ourselves as a band. We feel more comfortable now, being here, playing and recording.

ME: So there was definitely a comfort factor that you established once you'd been here for a while?
SM: Yeah. And also having a band--Four guys that we knew were gonna stay for a while.

ME: That has to have a pretty significant impact on the band, not knowing how long a member would be sticking around.
SM: It has a real impact when you don't like the mother-fuckers in the band! [Laughing] When we toured OZZfest, I toured three months with a guitar player, and didn't say a single word to him--And we were in an RV! That sucked, we just avoided each other all the time.

ME: You didn't have a say who would round-out the band when you came over here?
SM: We had a say, but we didn't have a say in how many members we'd have. We came over as a three piece--Partly because we'd tried out guitarists, and couldn't find any that played the way we wanted. So we were kind of coerced into getting this guy--which, in retrospect, makes a lot of sense--and we had to pick really quickly. We had two weeks to pick a guy, get him ready, and literally be on the road in two weeks. Once we got out on the road, his personality sucked! He was only twenty, and we are a drinking fucking band. We buy a forty each, and a bottle of vodka, and we slam... He walks in and says, "Hey, I'm not 21, can you buy me two Mikes Hard Lemonades?" He looks hardcore, with all his tattoo, but he'd be stumbling all around after two hard lemonades, and it just wasn't right. Also, he's a shredder--Some bands need shredders, and others don't. We don't. It's so hard to meet someone once and be like, "Okay, come live in a bus or RV with us..."

In retrospect, we played a little shithole in Philadelphia, finished, got drunk, and watched Pat's band play. We thought he was an awesome guitarist, hung out until like four in the morning, and asked him to come for an audition the next morning, and he never even showed up. We had a week to go until we went to Europe to open for Jerry Cantrell, and had a week to fly back to L.A. and find someone to tour with us. We took a chance with Pat, he came out and we rehearsed "Fine Again" one time, at double the speed, and then went to London. It was sink or swim, and he swam. Everyone in this band has done the sink or swim thing--If you can't handle it, then you're obviously not the right man for the job. John too, only had a week to get his shit together and get on the road. We auditioned three guys, he blew the shit out of all of them, and we asked him to join the band. He came back in two weeks and went right on the road. We've changed drummers twice on the road, without missing a show. Honestly, I started thinking we'd never find the right drummer. I think people just thought this would be a get-rich-quick-scheme--Make a bunch of money, then go home in a year. But that doesn't happen.

ME: It's not that quick, huh? [Laughing]
DALE STEWART: No, we're still not rich!

ME: Come on, Shaun's driving a Lincoln Navigator, things can't be that bad! [Laughing]
SM: That's all I own, though! I took all the money I had and said, "Man, I might someday have to live in this car..." You know, if my girlfriend kicks me out! It's a pretty fucked-up motivation to have! [Laughing]
DS: It is practical, though!
SM: Yeah, it's practical! [Laughing] Another ten albums and we might catch up to her first one! Czechoslavakia only has like 100,000 people, and it seems like they all went out and bought her record ten times! [Laughing] We're getting there!

ME: Did living with Amy affect how you approached writing this record? Did you still write alone? This album definitely has more of a "band" feel to it than the first one.
SM: I wrote a lot of it, but this is actually more of a band collaboration, which is why it's got a different feel to it. The thing with Jay [Baumgardner, Disclaimer Producer] was, his approach to making records is being in the studio very little, and playing parts over and over again until you get them perfect. That's why the first album took two-and-a-half months. This one was more about the aggression of the playing, the emotion of it, and that's why it only took three weeks. It was just the process of getting it done. We'd had the demos for so long, we knew the songs--It'd been done in January 2004.

ME: How was the songwriting approached?
SM: I wrote seven or eight by myself, then brought them to the band and added their parts to it, but largely there were a bunch of us jamming in the band room, bouncing ideas off each other. It was interesting because a year ago, seven of the songs that are on the album now, weren't even written, so it was a good thing that we had more time.

ME: Dale, does that change how you view the music? Are you closer to it, having more of an involvement?
DS: Yeah, I like the fact that all the songs are new, and it's a new band--Everyone in the band was involved in the songs. On the last album, I was involved, but the other guys just came in and played other people's parts. So making this album has definitelyu made the band closer. Especially live--When you're playing the parts you wrote, you approach it differently.

ME: It seems like bands are a lot less constant today, then they were a decade ago. That instability had to affect your performances.
SM: Definitely. When we had shitheads in the band, I didn't enjoy playing. When Josh Freese played on the first album, that was the most fun I'd ever had playing with a drummer. When John came in, I had even more fun. I think John is as good a drummer as Josh Freese, and I think his playing on this album is as good as Josh's was on the first album. We're solid now. Josh was a hired guy with no vested interest or emotional attachment. John has a huge emotional attachment to this band, and his playing demonstrates that. This is officially a four-way collaboration now. Everything is a lot more excited about this album, because they've had their involvement, and their stamp on the album.

ME: Did your realm of influences change for this album?
SM: The first album was ridiculously influenced by Nirvana, especially, becaues I was fifteen or sixteen. I was barely beginning to write songs, and the band I spent every working hour listening to was Nirvana. By default, you're going to have that influence. I think there's a shift away from that on this record. You're going to hear it on two or three songs, but I've been listening to so much more now. We've been exposed to so much more in the States than we'd have ever heard in South Africa. I wasn't exposed to Black Sabbath until I was 22. They weren't very big in South Africa, and my parents didn't listen to them... I didn't know shit about anything, and I was 21 when I came here.

ME: What were some of your inspirations for this record?
SM: We were getting really pissed off by the way we were being treated, and things we were being told. This album is basically a rebellion against the last album, and everything that "Broken" stands for. That song started off as a pure thing, and ended up being completely exploited. My motivation was to make an album that honestly couldn't go back to pop radio. We don't belong amongst Hilary Duff. That's not somewhere we want to be, so the rebellion has started with this album. We had Dean Karr do the video for "Remedy," and he's a twisted fuck!

ME: Whose idea was that single? It pretty much sold you another 500,000 records...
SM: It was my idea--The first thing I wanted to do was a folksy version, a really cool guitar, a cello, and two vocals. But then [The Punisher's] producer got involved and said, " No, it's going to be in a love scene..." Then the songs's producer got involved and said, "It should be really epic, it's a soundtrack..." So we do it with strings, and make this really epic, God-damned rock song...
DS: And Rebecca Stamos washes dishes to it! [Laughing]
SM: Yes! So we watch the fucking movie, and she's washing the dishes while "Broken" is playing on a little, shitty transistor radio, in the other room! Where's our love scene? So it comes out, and I was fucking embarrassed. It plays after two other songs, while the credits are running. Who the fuck is still in the theater? But it was cool, we went to Europe with Evanescence, then did a big state-side thing, and then went back to Europe ourselves. We went gold in Australia, and platinum in New Zealand and Venezuela,, and all these other countries because of it. We have a lot to be thankful for, but it became a huge deal, because I always wanted to keep it on the soundtrack, and the label said we wouldn't make money that way. I'm not sorry that we did it, but in a lot of ways I am. Now I'll probably never work with anyone else again, unless it's someone that nobody's ever heard of! [Laughing] There was definitely a backlash for me. I was pretty good at handling it for the first couple of months, but then I got really sick and tired of people coming and going, "Hey, Amy, I love your song..." Fucking-A, dude! We did get a lot of Evanescence fans out of it, which is great. Hopefully, with this album, we'll be able to sort out the fair-weather from the real fans. I'm sure there are songs on this album that, if you liked "Broken," you'll like as well, but as a whole, it kicks in with a scream. We're gonna fight pretty hard not get the ballads on the radio.

ME: I'm guessing you're gonna lose that fight!
SM: Yeah, probably, but at least we can maybe control which one it is, and when it's released.

ME: How about the songs on Karma And Effect? "I'm The One" sounds like it's about child abuse?
SM: It is... That's one of the few that's not from a first-person perspective. It's from a woman's perspective, someone I'm really close to. When you're 16, you don't give a fuck, but when you're 26, you start to realize that there's really shitty stuff going on.

ME: Did Amy soften you up at all?
SM: I don't know... It's hard for me to say. If she did, it wasn't conciously. Honestly, I only know the lyrics to like four of her songs. I've watched plenty of her shows, but I'm just...
DS: Drunk.
SM: ...Yeah, in a nutshell. [Laughing] Lyrics, to me, are mostly subconsious, and come out when I'm under pressure. Sometimes I'll have stuff written down before the song, I think there were three songs like that on the record--Music definitely comes first, then the melody idea, and I'll use certain phrases and words that I like with that melody. With all the music that's coming out these days, there's not much where you can go, "Man, that song's based on the riff." Now it's all based on how ugly he is, or how off-key his singing is. Go back to Zeppelin, "Smoke On The Water," or "Wild Thing" by the Troggs. I'm not gonna say I'm anywhere near that class, but we don't want to be one of those bands where the guitars are peripheral to a guy complaining that his eyeliner is running, or that he broke a nail.

ME: In some sense, does this feel like a debut album?
SM: Definitely, as a band. The other one, even Disclaimer II, was written in South Africa. I don't think we had the necessary understanding to do this album two years ago. Touring as much as we did was the most practice I ever got on my instrument--Not only are you playing every day, but when you're bored, there's nothing else to do! I'm still a crap guitarist, but I can still get close to what I'm trying to do. I'm just amazed by James Hetfield, and what he does with his hand timing being different than his vocal timing. That's what I strive towards. If you're playing and singing, you're definitely limiting what you can create musically, which is why the first album is filled with three-chord songs.

ME: Did you ever consider giving up the guitar onstage?
SM: I considered it at one point, but I'm not comfortable onstage without a guitar. I'm completely fucking useless! It would take some getting used to!

ME: What do you think has changed most about Seether?
SM: I'm definitely more politically aware than before. Not so much in the lyrics, though, because I'm not comfortable doing that--Some people are made for that, but I'm not. I've become more socially conscious, too, especially living in L.A., where people are so into cliques, and trying to impress everyone. This is a place where social prejudices are really highlighted and magnified. This city just takes a lot longer to get used to than most--You know, driving is the worst, and you're seeing tit jobs and botox advertised on cabs.

ME: How often do you get to see your daughter?
SM: Not often enough. I see her like once a year for like a week or two, and it fucking sucks. She'll be four in November. I was married to her mom, and she fdecided that staying back there was more important than coming out here with me. I couldn't keep giving and not getting anything in return--Unfortunately, at the expense of the promise I made myself, that my daughter wouldn't grow up in a divorced house, like I grew up in. But she's happy, and she knows who I am--Though I should probably fucking call more often. I'm planning on moving back home after this album. If I'm going to be sitting around for months on end and doing nothing but writing songs, I might as well be doing it up the street from my daughter. As much as I love the States, and honestly don't miss much about South Africa--I miss the people and my family--I'm moving back to one of the most dangerous places in the world to be close to my daughter. I have never felt unsafe in the States--Ever. At home, you don't stop your car at night, you just go. Almost everyone I know has been carjacked, had a gun pointed at them... There was a dead body found five houses down from my parents. It's just getting ridiculous there. The more superstitious of the community believe in witch doctors, and they tell them things like if they're diagnosed with AIDS, to fuck a baby. So just before i left, there was a case where a 16- and 24-year-old were accused of fucking a nine-month-old, and the got off because the kid couldn't testify. It's hidesouly scary. Children disappear all the time. For example, rock music will sell 20-25,000 if it does really well, and indigenous music will sell 7-800,000. We have 45 million people in South Africa, and only three million of the are white! People have no idea!


SEETHER
Karma And Effect
Wind-Up Records
With the follow-up to Disclaimer and "Broken" with Amy Lee of Evanescence, Seether have recorded an album appealing to modern rock discord, but without the expense of potentially alienating a broader audience. The beauty of Karma And Effect is how the arrangements create an audible spaciousness, making for clear, instrumental fullness. Most of the fourteen tracks are lyrically sullen, almost woeful in some cases, creating a balancing dynamic against the more rugged aspects of the songs. Slight musical twists and turns throughout, like the quick drum downstep in "Because Of Me," are enjoyably subtle hooks, more appreciable with successive listening. Lead single "Remedy" is already seizing rock, active rock and alternative radio airplay at press time, but "The Gift" sounds like the sure bet to be the overwhelming Karma And Effect hit. -Roger Lotring