The Brutal Truth

Seether - How this angst-fueled hard-rock trio survived tragedy, breakups, and addiction without losing their sense of humor

"I'll meet people who tell me, 'Man I really thought you were gonna be a prick,'" Shaun Morgan says. "And I go, 'Why would you think that?' And they're like, 'Well, you sound so sad and angry all the time. And, you know, everyone else like this is always a douchebag.'"

With everything that's happened in the last few years, the frontman for hard rockers Seeter certainly couldn't be faulted if he decided to be depressed and resentful. Since the release of their last studio record, Karma and Effect, in 2005, the band and its lead singer have withstood a series of personal challenges and personnel changes. First came Morgan's well-publicized breakup with Evanescence leader Amy Lee. Then lead guitarist Pat Callahan exited the band just as they were preparing for the next album. Adding to the Behind the Music drama, Morgan entered rehab in August 2006. (Lee later admitted that her band's subsequent kiss-off hit, "Call Me When You're Sober," was inspired by his drinking and drug abuse.) Weathering these traumas, and waiting for drummer John Humphrey to recover from serious back surgery, Morgan, aided by bassist Dale Stewart, began work on what would become Seether's latest, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces (Wind-Up), at the end of last year. But before Seether could put the finishing touches on the record, one more tragedy reared its awful head: Eugene, Shaun's brother, committed suicide in August by jumping out a hotel window in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the band had just performed.

But though Morgan does display flashes of sadness and anger while speaking with Revolver from his label's Manhattan offices, he certainly doesn''t come across as a prick. "The fact that I can string a sentence together surprises a lot of people," he says with a laugh. "They think all rock-band guys are idiots. It seems like, for a long time, it was almost a bad thing to be an intelligent band guy."

Finding Beauty--the album that emerged from that tumultuous, uncertain time in the band's career--is a reliably radio-sleek mixture of hard-rock antagonism and melodic hooks, with songs whose polished surfaces mask an overwhelming darkness underneath. Similarly, Morgan is both optimistic and mournful, whether he's talking about the tough road to recovery or his own suicidal tendenices.

Revolver: After all that's gone on, is it a relief to finally have the record out?
Shaun Morgan: Yeah, it's been a long time coming. It feels like we've overcome something. We kind of rediscovered the excitement we have for music and being in a band.

As a hard-rock band with a mainstream audience, is there a struggle to make music that won't alienate either crowd?
On the last album, I think we were really conscious of that. With Finding Beauty, I think we really didn't care. [Laughs] Because we'd been through so much, this album is just for us. We made it for ourselves. You, know, it's been a rough year. This is what we needed to do to get ourselves through it. It had to be selfish, and, honestly, in some ways all music is selfish, because you write it for yourself. If you don't write it for yourself, then chances are Britney Spears is singing your song.

Did rehab work for you?
You walk in there and you're very, very pissed off at everyone. I was forced against my will. And that's never going to make it successful. So I didn't participate for the first couple of days. Then I was like, You know what? I'm here, I might as well make use of it. I don't know if I'm gonna enjoy it, but let me at least embrace this. So I started speaking up in group meetings.

When you got out, was it hard not to fall back into the old patterns?
I came out and lasted about a month and then went back to drinking and doing blow. Part of me is not ready to really quit because I still like having drinks. At this moment in my life, I'm still dealing with a lot of stuff with my brother. But I can't drink now because, dude, if I drink, I can't have one beer. I have to have 25 beers... and 13 shots... and a bag of blow. I've been playing stone sober for the past three weeks. We're playing much better; we sound amazing. But, you know, I wouldn't know what we sounded like before. [Laughs] Back then I always figured, "Damn, dude, rock and roll! Woo-hoo!" It's such a tough thing to give up something that you love so much. But I need to for a period of time until I get my head straightened out.

Was the album basically finished when your brother committed suicide?
Yes, and I'm thankful the album was done. I'm not ready to deal with that yet. Maybe the next album will be pretty thick with that stuff. Or possibly I'll do an EP, you know, a solo thing. But it's a tough thing to process. I've never experienced tragedy, man, not like this and not in any way close to me. Friends from high schoo, yeah, that I haven't seen in 10 years. But that doesn't wrench out your soul and kick you in the fucking teeth.

Is it painful to have lyrics on Finding Beauty that mention suicide in light of his death?
It's weird, because that was all me talking about myself. I was always the suicidal kid. I was always the one slashing my arms up and I was the one doing the cutting. And I was the one with the gun to my head as a kid. I was the one who took pills in 2005 and tried to take myself out. I was the one trying to buy shotguns online when my girlfriend left me. That's me; it wasn't him.

Would you and your brother talk about your suicidal thoughts?
Yeah, he and I would talk about me. Never about him, man. He was the one that would, you know, make me feel better every time, you know. [Long pause, collecting himself] So it's kind of weird, the irony, the "happy kid."

This has to be hard to talk about.
Well, I went to a therapist, and she said the only way to deal with it is to talk about it.

Does it feel better to be on the road as opposed to taking time off?
Yeah, totally. If I sit by myself, I'm gonna freak out. If I'm not doing something with my life, I'm gonna fewak out. No matter what, he wouldn't want me to sit around and not do anything. My brother was very, very proud of what I did. And a big supporter of it.

You've said that "Breakdown" is the only song on the album that's about your relationship with Amy Lee, but did you write any others that didn't make the cut?
I really consciously made the effort not to. I didn't want to keep beating that dead horse. It would have been fine except that she wrote that song "Call Me When You're Sober" and then told everyone it was about me. Even though I did have some of those problems that she mentioned, it wasn't cool to tell the whole world about it. But really this isn't an East Coast/West Coast rap battle, dude. I don't have my posse try to take out her posse. I wish her nothing but success, man. I hope she finds real happiness and really finds within herself the peace that I couldn't help her find.

Are there misconceptions about the band that you'd like to correct?
I think the main thing is this idea that we're a super-depressed, take-our-selves-way-too-seriously kind of band. We walk in to radio stations wearing stupid hats--we don't take ourselves seriously at all. We take the music part really seriously--it's more than just music, it's therapy. But ourselves as people, we're not in any way little whiny, pissy dudes.

Maybe you should do smiley faces for your next album cover.
Oh no, we're gonna go one further. We're gonna do bunnies and butterlies. We're gonna make a video where we have bunnies hopping around and it's all really cute and smiley and happy. And then, right at the end, we'll just freak out and take a baseball bat and just start belting these bunnies around.
Tim Grierson