Seether - We Are Who We Are

Interview By: David Priest

Amazingly enough, the trend of modern rock or 'new metal' as it may be called these days, has mostly been isolated to bands here in the states; that is until recently. It now seems as though what began here is actually starting to catch on in other parts of the world, but not where you might expect. No it's not Europe, it's South Africa and the band is called Seether. Coming out of virtually nowhere the Seether guys recently released a commercially viable album on Wind–Up Records and managed to land a 2nd stage slot on this year's annual Ozzfest. With a sound that could easily cater to and attract fans of such mainstream icons as Nickelback, Nirvana, or fellow Wind-Up label-mates Creed, the boys from South Africa are off to a great start in their climb to the top. During their stop at the Ozzfest show in Devore Ca., I had the opportunity to sit down with Shaun and Dale from the band, and get educated as to how things are done 'South African style' when it comes to this crazy world of rock and roll. With the band coming from a very different cultural background I was eagerly interested in discovering both the similarities and diversities we, as a people share, and Seether in fact provided a very enjoyable and learning occasion during our discussion. Check it out!

OT: The first thing that comes to mind when I'm thinking of Seether is the style of music you're playing. To most people it would fall somewhere into the category of new metal or the new modern hard rock. That seems to be, with the exception of maybe a few bands, really localized here in America, but knowing that you are from South Africa my first question is: how did you come to start playing this kind of music, and what's the scene like there, if there is one?

Shaun: Y'know, in South Africa we totally grew up on American culture, whether it's movies or video games or music, whatever it may be, it's all American, so we grew up listening to bands like Guns 'n Roses, and Nirvana and Metallica pretty much the same as everyone here, so that's pretty much where most of our influences come from. We just call it rock music. I don't know which one to label it as, I guess if you listen to the music, we've probably drawn quite a lot - without even thinking about it - drawn quite a lot from a bunch of different styles and put them together into what we do. I'm not sure how one would classify it or label it.

OT: It's real easy for people to pigeonhole bands and identify them with other bands. Do you guys have problems with people saying, "You sound like this band, or that band?" For myself, I hear a hybrid of influences, but I can't necessarily pinpoint it down to one particular sound or band. But there's always gonna be some that will say you're just another band like such and such.

Shaun: I've been called everything from Kurt Cobain to Eddie Vedder to f*ckin' James Hetfield. These are all bands we grew up listening to and I just want us to be first Seether and first me. As much as I've listened to their music and all that, I'm not trying to be any of them 'cuz that would just not be right; those people are all entities unto themselves. So being pigeonholed, in that sense, its cool to be pigeonholed with those bands that I think are some of the greatest bands of the past two decades, so that's not a problem with me. I hope we can make a difference in that sense and say we're the first Seether. People will start saying, "Hey you sound like that dude from Seether." We're the first South African band to hopefully affect America in at least some small way.

OT: That's cool. I like to talk about names of bands, some names mean absolutely nothing, and others have really long, deep thought-out meanings. What is Seether, what does the name mean?

Shaun: When I was growing up in the early 90's, the whole grunge movement and all the girl bands, girl grunge bands? I'm totally into all that, female musicians and female bands and all that sort of thing, L7 and Verucca Salt…

Dale: I'm into females, period. (Laughter)

Shaun: …um yeah, Verucca Salt, we had to come up with a new name because the old name had to change. We came up with a whole bunch of names that someone's already taken and I thought Seether would have been taken 'cuz it's like, the Verucca Salt song by the same name did very well, but the whole thing for me was, it was kind of cool. The line in the chorus is "You can't fight the Seether.", and I thought that was cool. People know what it means though and they're like, "Yeah, its cool." Hopefully it will become infectious in that way.

OT: I know we just briefly touched on this a moment ago and you mentioned being the first South African band to hit in the U.S., can you elaborate more on the scene in your country?

Shaun: Yeah the rock scene in South Africa is pretty small. Most everyone is listening to 'N Sync and whatever's doing well in the charts or doing well on MTV so there's a lot of pop and that kind of stuff. Although the rock scene is growing, hopefully, it's still pretty small, so if you really want to make it your career to be in a rock band, ultimately you've got to try and maybe go to Europe or Australia or America and try to branch out because that's where the rock scene's big enough for you to do this as a job. There's been a lot of rock bands in South Africa, some really good bands, but because the scene is so small they've never been able to break out into something bigger. After a couple of years the band breaks up and the guys have got to go and find real jobs; the rock scene is too small to really be a full time musician there.

OT: Now did you guys grow up there, have you lived there your whole lives?

Shaun: Yeah, yeah.

OT: I know there's a lot of major issues taking place over there right now and I don't know if or how your music is being affected or whether or not you guys are influenced by the different things that are happening in the country, but obviously there's the racial issue that still exists to some extent, and most recently there's the famine that's going on.

Shaun: I think musically, we're not influenced by that. We might be influenced in the sense that we don't want to sound like we come from one particular place. We play whatever makes us feel good and if it's not cool to play the song, we don't play it again. Lyrically I don't like politics, honestly I don't give a sh*t about what happened before, 'cuz I wasn't alive. I feel bad about it, but when I grew up that was the first time that black kids were allowed into the white schools, and that kind of thing. So it doesn't affect us as much as it affects our parents. Lyrically, everything I write comes from some kind of personal experience or misery. In that sense I don't want us to be a clique band, we are who we are. Everything I write I try to be as universal about it as possible. Music shouldn't be put into little holes. Music, especially as an art form…, no one says the Mona Lisa comes from where it comes from, the Mona Lisa is what it is; it's a piece of art. I don't know why they don't categorize that stuff.

OT: With the famine that's taking place over there do you guys have worries about the state of your country?

Shaun: I'm worried about the people that I love in that country. More than the famine, man, the crime is what I'm worried about. It's not as bad as it's made out to be, but it is bad. It's not a terrible country to live in, but you have to be very aware of your surroundings all the time.

Dale: Yeah, it's a third world country, man. People are doing things to make money that they would normally not do. The government says to you, man you stop hijacking, I'll give you a 500 random months' salary, that's 50 dollars a month. These guys are making easily, 12, 15 thousand dollars a month stealing cars and selling them. He can't get a job, that's for the nerds. So I'm happy to be out of there for awhile, but I just want to get the people I care about out of there because it's survival of the fittest. In some ways it is as bad as they say it is.

OT: Do you ever find that while you're out on tour, I know that you think about home, but is it kind of a surreal feeling being away from home?

Dale: It's surreal being on Ozzfest, man. (Laughter) A year ago we were just two little guys sitting at home, we were in a band that was doing pretty well, we were very successful at home but that was it. Up until what we've done now that was how you survived. You live for seven years as a band, you get to a point where, cool, you've played every festival and you've done everything else, you don't make enough money to live so you have to get a job. I still get up every day and go 'I don't believe the two of us from some sh*tty little town are playing Ozzfest every night.' We'll always be those two guys from that sh*tty little town going, "We're in the big city now." It's like, dude, we're watching bands every night that I grew up listening to. And that never happens, and there are people at home that would kill to be where we are, so we have to remember and respect that.

OT: That's right on. So how did you guys get hooked up with Wind-Up, how'd that all play out?

Shaun: Um, we sent an album out, our debut release in South Africa, Disclaimer. We sent it out to Germany to a record company there. They liked it but they weren't signing any acts outside of Germany but they passed it onto Wind-Up Records in the States. And they liked it and they phoned us like a month later and they said, "Can you guys fly out tomorrow, we wanta meet you guys." And so we organized visas and stuff and we flew out like a week later and we played a showcase and they said, "Welcome to Wind-Up." That was the most insane moment, dude. I cried, I couldn't speak to them I couldn't say anything. That was the moment I'd been waiting for since I was five years old, someone gets up and says to you, 'dude, we wanta give you a career at this.' I couldn't say anything. I'll always have the utmost gratitude and respect for those people for giving us a chance, taking a chance on two little white boys from Africa. I think that's cool.

OT: That's great man. So after Ozzfest what are your plans?

Shaun: We haven't confirmed anything yet but we're looking at touring with another band. Possibly going up to Canada and then going around the States.

Dale: We want to do the whole circuit again. And maybe look again to Canada. We're going to Europe for a couple days to do some press stuff there.

OT: Well cool, I wish you guys all the best, thanks for your time.

Shaun: Thank you.

Dale: Thank you, man.