Tear Away Magazine Interview with Shaun

South African rock four-piece Seether, basking in pop chart goodness right now for the soaring Broken with Evanescence's Amy Lee, have just released Disclaimer II. Named so because, curiously, they've revised and re-released their last album. Fresh from a show in Indianapolis (which was minus a bass player with appendicitis) Seether's Shaun Morgan (vox, guitar, songs) takes the time to talk about album 'revisions', staying true to your fans and music in South Africa.

Where are you and what are you doing?
We just finished playing a show, we're in Indianapolis. It was awesome. Our bassist just got appendicitis two days ago, and had his appendix out yesterday. So yesterday we played as a three piece for the first time in a long time - which was kind of scary - and then tonight we had both bassists from Breaking Benjamin and Evanescence come and help out with the set.

So you're touring with Evanescence? How's that going?
Really well. They're a cool, cool band to hang out with, and I guess we're really easy going, so it's like touring with a bunch of friends rather than a bunch of rock stars.

For those that haven't heard your music, describe in ten words or less.
Hmm...honest...rock...ten words or less, that's tough. We play whatever makes us feel good.

Tell me about what influences your songwriting.
If you listen to just our music, it usually gives you some kind of emotional reaction. Then from that I write lyrics that suit the mood of the music. We have as lot of diverse influences. The two of us that are writing the songs right now, Pat [Callahan] and I, we have different styles of writing. When we come together I can take something that may sound one way and put something over it that makes it sound completely different emotionally. It becomes this miserable conglomeration of sound. So it depends. Musically it's really a question of, if we enjoy playing it as a band and if we love the way we feel when we play that's the ones we keep. And lyrically I just have to try and write something that's a diary, a purging of things that have happened to me.

Can you tell me why you decided to release Disclaimer 2 as a revision, rather than just releasing the new tracks as a third album?
We didn't even want to put the song Broken with Amy on the album at all - we wanted to leave it as a soundtrack song. And the whole idea the label had was 'this song's going to be huge, you've got to put it out, you gotta put it on the album, move some albums'. We made it really dramatic specifically for the soundtrack - so they kind of coerced us a little bit and we reached a compromise. We got to make the artwork look the way we always wanted it to look, we got to make the album sound the way we always wanted it to sound, and add a whole DVD. It's an EP with 8 songs, with 45-minute live show DVD, and Broken, all our videos and the album thrown in as a bonus - that's the way I've seen it. We've already gone gold in America and sold 500,000 albums and I didn't just want to add a song, and bastardise the album. If anything put the album in a different version and add a whole bunch of other material.

You said in the web journal on seether.com that you weren't completely happy about the change, and that you were in a 'tricky position' - was the band pressured into re-doing the album?
Yeah, that was the politically correct version. And I wanted to preempt a negative reaction. I had very little choice in the matter, but I eventually had to give in because it wasn't worth the amount of grief for it. But since then a lot of things have come the bands way, and come towards the band rather than the label, we have a lot more of a say and a lot more control over things which we never had before.

You seemed quite concerned with the way fans would perceive it - is that true? Are you worried they'll think yr a sell-out?
Yeah. Its difficult. Because these people in the States have been our fans for more than two years, and they've definitely been very instrumental in our success. So I wanted to make sure they knew I was thinking about them. I try not to worry about it too much, but ultimately, these people that buy the album, we owe everything to them. People that take the time and spend the money on the album and the live shows, it's the only reason any band's successful. It's kind of a cliche, but at least we believe it and we prove. They email me every day, and we have this meet and greet thing where if you send an email the first 20 people get to come backstage and meet us before the show. So we try to keep things close to home and worry about what they think. I mean you don't want to let them run the band, but I guess I was really influenced strongly by fans.

Now, are you living in the US?
I live in California with Amy but go back once a year to see my brother, sister and my daughter.

Did you feel it was necessary to move to the US to achieve what you wanted - was it ever an option to stay in South Africa?
In South Africa we were headlining festivals, and everything we could do as a band we'd done. We actually wanted to move to London first, because the British market, is very close to South Africa, there's a lot of British culture in South Africa. It seemed like a logical move. We sent an album there, and we heard that Germany was a big rock country, so sent some there and even some to Australia. We wanted to get out anywhere because we wanted to broaden out horizons - we had reached the ceiling and needed to break through it. Fate would have it that someone in Germany heard the album, loved it, and sent it to Wind-up records in the US and they eventually signed us.

New Zealand and SA seem to have quite similar music industries - as in, plenty of talent, but not enough interest or population to have a self-sustaining industry, which means bands are always moving overseas. Would you say SA has a similar problem with keeping their musicians?
We toured for two and a half years in a pick up truck, we basically made enough money to drive to the next show every time - and that was when we were doing really well. The idea of trying to sustain any kind of lifestyle or make a living of playing in a band in SA...well, it's really tough to do. We did it for awhile, but then I had a baby, and I was actually going to do something else and quit the band. And that was the time that Wind-up heard about us and flew us out. We almost just disbanded because we couldn't afford to survive like. The trend right now is a lot of bands work at music stores, and by doing that they can afford to escape for a couple of weeks and go on tour, so you have to balance a day job, and the band. And the major labels don't really care, because unless you're going to sell them 100,000 albums they're not even going to put in the time to see you. We sat in one office in particular, and the A&R guy sat in his chair and watched cricket while he skipped through our songs, not even looking us in the eye, saying 'yeah, it's kinda cool but rock's not really in right now and we're looking for a Mariah Carey thing.' It was helluva frustrating because this was our life and life works playing for this guy and he won't even put in the effort to listen to one whole track.

Haven't ya showed him now?
Yeah, he actually said we would be lucky if we sold 50 albums. I wish I had it in writing because I would've framed it.