The Future Is Now

The Future Is Now: We Interview Seether

[New York] - Imagine being in a South African rock band that gets signed to a major label in the United States. Sound impossible? It's not. Saron Gas might have had to change their name to Seether along the way, but they've done it.
Picture the scene. It's the holidays, the roads are busy, you're in a stuffy van full of equipment and you end up stuck in traffic for longer than you care to remember. You get to the venue late, before you have to set up your gear and do a sound check, and there's a whole lot of journalists waiting to interview you.

Best Seether get used to it, because where they are right now, the interviews are not going to stop. Back in December 2001, the band was only a couple of days away from heading to New York city in the United States, where they'll be staying in a fancy hotel apartment and working on the release of the debut album in that territory for Wind Up, the label that took Creed to the top.

Being stressed and polite all at the same time is something they're going to have to do a lot of. Shaun Welgemoed, David Cohoe and Dale Stewart don't seem to have a problem doing so and after posing for photographs quite happily, they sit down for a breather to answer a couple of questions.

It's then that I realise these lads were a wee bit punch drunk and stunned, seemingly being swept along by the momentum created by their landmark signing. A seven-album deal and the producer of the Deftones looking after your debut isn't something to be blasé about.

I wonder if the band is feeling the pressure. "Sure, every day now we get more nervous," admits Shaun. "You don't want to go over there and end up f***ing it all up, and coming back and, it's like, 'Aw man...' So there's a lot of pressure."

This sentiment is echoed by the other two: "Yeah, pressure that we put on ourselves, or that's being put on us unwittingly or unknowingly," Dale contemplates.


Of course there's pressure. With a lot of Americans questioning the decision to sign a band all the way from Africa, Seether have a lot to live up to. The stress must threaten to overwhelm them.

"Obviously it's definitely a pressurising situation to be in," Shaun adds, "As the [departure] day gets closer, we want to just go. You know, the sooner we start doing it, the sooner we leave all the pressure behind us and start riding it."

By now Seether will have been in New York for three months, heading into the studio to start recording the first album of one of South Africa's only real rock signings to a recognised American label. With the US being one of the toughest places for any foreign band to crack, I was curious as to how they managed such a major coup.

"Well," David explains, taking up the story, "Our manager, Ingrid Rolling, sent a demo to Germany. They liked it, but they weren't allowed to sign anybody that wasn't German at that time. So they said they'd send it to Wind Up and put in a good word for us. It got to Wind Up and... well, they liked us and they phoned us up and said, come over and visit."

The band received the call while they were all together, continues Shaun. "We knew the guys in Germany liked it, so we were stoked about that. Then we were sitting around one day, editing a video we were going to send to the States, when we get this call. 'Can you fly out tomorrow?' was the question and we were, like, 'No way!' So we organised visas and a week later we flew out. We got there on the Thursday morning, played the showcase on the Friday and they told us they wanted to sign us up after we finished playing." It was the last thing the band expected.

"We thought we f***ed it up solid," Shaun laughs, "it was weird... because we finished playing a song and they'd be like [claps his hands in a prissy manner] and we were like, 'Uh, cool... [enthusiastically]... well try this one for size then.' And the more we got into to it, the more they seemed they weren't reacting as much. Heavy people just sitting straight in front of you, strange town, foreign equipment and foreign sound tech. It was a mind-f***."

Nevertheless, the band came out on top. "Yeah... that's the defining moment every band waits for, you know? Someone like [Wind Up] says they want to sign you. None of us expected it. We were thinking it couldn't be real... waiting for someone to start laughing... and they're like, 'Here's the limo guys.' [laughs]. I mean, they've changed our lives, to such a degree, they don't even realise."

The Dream

As far as the South African industry goes, Seether have been fortunate enough to be embraced by the stupidly fickle, spoilt brats who spend all their money on derivative rock drivel marketed at them by the bloated international music giants. Thanks to their tight manager Ingrid and their guts and determination, they're about to embark upon the hallowed rock 'n roll dream and may soon stand alongside bands such as Creed, who, some may argue, have less talent than the trio. It's something the lads are still trying to get their heads around.

"I think that's what makes it all that more scary," says David, "that the dream is now there, it's attainable. There's a lot of people out there who never get to realise their dream."

"Yeah," Shaun concurs, "it's all very well going for the dream, but when you're in reach of it, it's another story," he says soberly.

Luckily for the band, Wind Up seem to be the right kind of label to embrace three rockers from the tip of Africa... according to them, it doesn't get any cooler. "[Wind Up] are all really nice people and they phone us all the time, ask us how we're doing, if we need anything," Shaun reveals.

"When my little girl was born, they sent flowers, clothes... so you can imagine, it's very easy to feel confident with people like that around. They're not heavy with us in any way. They call themselves the Wind Up family. When we got there, they introduced us to the entire staff. We've never been treated that way in this country. I mean, we've met with execs in this country and they were more interested in watching cricket while we were sitting in their offices than actually listening to what we had to say."

Those very same fat cat executives are going to be whipping each other with cricket bats when Seether blow up and go global. It's the proverbial middle finger flip that ever musician in this country quite readily throws in the direction of an industry that almost never acknowledges the existence of rock 'n roll in this country.

"I think, in a way, what we've done is start breaking down the mentality that the industry has about 'white music' or 'rock music' in this country, that it's not worth s***," says Shaun. "Now that the rest of the world is actually sitting up and taking notice, we're all in a better position. It still takes hard slog, but hopefully the industry is waking up. But now we have to prove to the Americans and to South Africans that we can do it. That's a lot of stress... but we're up for it."