“The biggest challenge really is to just stay around and to stay relevant and to keep making music that people want to listen to, and to keep challenging yourself every time you make an album as you have to retain a sound that is comfortable and familiar but you also have to make it more interesting and personable with some boundaries because you don’t want to bore yourself or anybody else.”
From Bio: On their sixth full-length album Isolate and Medicate, multi-platinum alternative rock trio Seether strip their trademark melodic thrash to its core and deliver the most poignant, passionate, and powerful record of their illustrious career. With rigorous minimalism and maturity, chief songwriter Shaun Morgan – long one of rock’s most unheralded melodists, has become a composer of deep emotion and clear-eyed vulnerability. The band too has developed into one of rock’s most fearsome units, playing with precision, grit and authority, yet still light on their feet. After 15+ years of hardscrabble success, it’s evident that Seether felt like survival was not enough. They had something to prove with this new album – somewhere farther to go.
After a few failed attempts, we were finally able to catch up with Shaun of Seether to talk about their new album ‘Isolate and Medicate’ as well as longevity, challenges and when we might see them back in Australia…
You’re about to release your newest album ‘Isolate and Medicate’ is there one word that you could use to describe it that you feel sums it up perfectly?
Gee that’s a difficult question, it’s way too early in the morning for me to use my brain that hard… I don’t know *laughs* honestly I couldn’t just sum it up in one word. Maybe, melodic… that was a good one, thanks for starting off on the easy question *laughs*
No worries, so what does the title represent to you?
I like to sum up the album writing process every time I like to knee deep put a bow on each one with an album title, basically with this one it’s pretty straight forward man, I just spent a lot of time by myself in isolation and unfortunately I would get very hammered all the time and write music, so it’s kind of fun, but it was just my coping mechanism. At the end of the day that’s where all the songs came from and so like I said, when we were in the studio and we’d be busy writing the stuff, you need to sum it all up and give it the final touch and that seemed to be the best name for this album.
You say you isolated yourself, was that a specific driving inspiration behind the songs for this album?
Well I don’t know that isolated myself as I felt like I was by the outside world, it’s just weird when you finish touring with everybody for two years and then you go home and everybody just ignores each other, it’s really bizarre and I live up in New Hampshire and I was about as far away from everybody as I possibly could be. I don’t know, I just feel basically a lot of the time I felt unappreciated at times, and I know it’s a horrible feeling when you feel like nobody gives a shit you know what I mean? It’s a question like while we’ve just been seeing each other every day for two to three years and now I don’t hear a single thing from anybody, so it sort of makes you question a whole bunch of things, it makes you question whether or not the relationships are based on anything besides the touring process, but I think the lyrics other than that as well there’s a lot of stuff that’s social commentary about how I think everything’s screwed up right now, in some places anyway.
You worked with Brendan O’Brien as producer once again, what is it that he brings to the band that works?
Well he’s just fun to work with first of all, and I think he’s just a creative genius, he’s been doing it for almost thirty years and he’s still going strong and he’s still working with massive artists all the time and he brings a lot of creativity and he helps us make the songs as good as they can be without losing the essence of the band. Basically he says ‘hey man, bring your amps and your guitars and it’s going to sound like your band, it’s going to be songs that you’ve written but we’re going to make them as good as we can and as interesting to listen to as possible’ so as opposed to most producers that we’ve worked with, you go in and they have a whole rack of guitars and amps, and say ‘well usually we use this amp and this guitar combination for clean sounds and this guitar amp combinations for distorted sounds’ and that’s why all of our albums started to sound exactly the same, they have a formula and that’s just not the way to do it. We’re not making a producer album, we’re making a band album with a producer’s help, a lot of these producers it’s just ego, they miss sight of the fact that it’s not about them and about how many sales they’re going to drive this weekend it’s about the band and the band’s career.
Using him again, did you set out to do anything differently for this album compared to your last?
No, I think we went in knowing the songs better than we usually did and we went in with sort of a ‘let’s get these songs down and get them sounding as good as we possibly can and then let’s just get this album finished’ as much fun as it is making albums, it’s the least fun part of the job, it’s like writing the music is awesome, then you get in the studio and you have to be professional, I don’t like being professional *laughs* you get in there and you have to play properly and it’s like lyric writing time and that’s like the business aspect of the whole thing, but we did it and at least with Brendan it doesn’t feel like a chore you know what I mean? We like being in the studio but I don’t think we consider ourselves to be a studio band, we consider ourselves to be a live band.
You’ve been in Seether for the best part of fifteen years now, what do you still enjoy about being in this band?
Nothing… *laughs* I must say that I enjoy that we’re still here. We’ve been touring for a long time and bands have come and gone and fallen by the wayside and have been dropped from labels and are either managing or tour managing or teching for other bands. I think it that sense whatever we are doing we are doing something right, we still have a career, we’re still putting out albums, we now have a better label with better people and it’s almost like we’ve taken a big step forward in our career with this album and with a new label. For some reason for us it just keeps getting better and better, and I hope that trend will continue, so that’s the best part about it, that we’re still here doing this, especially when I run into old guys that we toured with back in 2002, we were all baby bands and we were the opening band of three bands and now I run into those guys and they are literally like ‘I tune guitars for this band now’ and ‘I’m tour managing this band now’ and they had the same dreams that we did, so now it’s just kind of sad as you see a part of them has died now that they’re on the other side of the business. I think that part is really cool that we can still do it and we’re still together.
What do you see as the biggest challenge that has taken place within the band since your time together?
The biggest challenge really is to just stay around and to stay relevant and to keep making music that people want to listen to, and to keep challenging yourself every time you make an album as you have to retain a sound that is comfortable and familiar but you also have to make it more interesting and personable with some boundaries because you don’t want to bore yourself or anybody else. For example ‘Words As Weapons’ as a song is slightly different song for us but I think it’s still reminiscent of our band and represents our band. It’s funny our fans, every time we put out something new they have mixed reviews and it’s almost like the songs have to grow on you for some time for the old stalwarts, the ones that feel like they have an ownership and that their opinion means a lot more than it should I guess. We put out ‘Fake It’ and there was a mixed response, we put out ‘Country Song’ and some people just about disowned us, but I don’t write the music for other people man, I write this music for myself and if I was trying to write what the people wanted to hear I’d lose my mind because I don’t know what they want. I write music that I want to listen to or that I think is fun to play and I think literally at the end of the day it’s just interesting music, I don’t give anything behind that, so that’s all I care about, at the end of the day that’s just what it is, it boils down to we make music that I think needs to be challenging in a sense and it needs to be interesting and it needs to have an element of tongue in cheek, humour and you can’t take yourself 100% seriously all the time and I think that people take this thing so seriously and it’s supposed to be fun so we’re just having fun.
Has there been one moment that stands out for you as your ‘wow, we’ve made it’ moment?
I don’t know, there’s been many moments where I’ve said ‘wow this is awesome’ I don’t know that we really think, we never really sort of go ‘wow we’ve made it’ it’s a weird thing. I never really pay attention to the media side of it because often you’ll get a thousand good things said and one bad thing and that one bad thing will drive me insane, so I sort of choose to remove myself completely from that experience. There’s been great moments when you get on stage and there’s 50,000 people out there and you’re opening for Metallica, that’s awesome… those are the time you go, man this job isn’t that bad *laughs* and it’s good to be alive. I don’t know that we’ve ever felt like we’ve arrived, it’s an ongoing thing for us and we’ll just keep trying to build it up and keep trying to make a bigger fan base, like one thing about touring Europe is it’s very different to touring The States, back in The States you pull bigger crowds and a bigger audience as we’ve toured relentlessly over the last twelve years, and in Europe we’ve only now over the last three years concentrated on it and really put in time here, and it was no fault of the bands as we’ve always wanted to come out here, and even in the last two or three years we’ve started to see a massive increase in turnout and support. It’s a fun process, it’s almost like starting from scratch again and it’s great. I think we just play the shows and there are moments when you go ‘wow this is amazing’ you know you play Download festival for example, growing up as a kid, that was one of the holy grail festivals to play, so I think maybe when we can do a thing like headline Wembley like Foo Fights *laughs* if that’s even possible, that’s about that only time that a band can say ‘we’ve made it’ other than that I really think we’ve had a whole bunch of experiences where we can go ‘wow this is awesome’.
Obviously when ‘Broken’ blew up everywhere that would’ve been a huge moment for you?
Yeah of course, that helped us a lot initially and it was such a bittersweet thing *laughs* as it was like it almost felt like and we were told many times that we would never have been able to do it by ourselves which I think is bullshit. It definitely helped and it was interesting as I don’t think that was the best song to introduce us as a band *laughs* I think if you hear ‘Broken’ and then you hear the rest of our stuff, sure there’s that element to the band but it doesn’t represent the band in its entirety, so definitely it helped us worldwide absolutely, I think without that… you know also with that we had a fairly incompetent record label before and there’s a lot to be said for that, a lot to be said for some people that have signed a band that don’t really know what they’re doing, that company at one point had twenty or thirty bands and only three or four were successful, and it was always a formula. There was the Creed formula that was sold to the Christians, and let’s do that again with Evanescence, and then hey here comes Drowning Pool, let’s sell them to the Satanists, and then hey, what do we do with Seether because, well, no one can do anything… it was just sort of an interesting thing to see people sort of floundering for the ‘well can we go with the South African group?’ Is there an angle there? Can we use that to sell them?’ but anyway, it was very good for us and we’re very grateful but hopefully since then we’ve been able to convince people that there’s a lot more substance to the band than just that one song.
Well you’re still around so it’s obviously working…
*laughs* Yeah absolutely, fair enough…
I have to ask, when do you think we can expect to see you back in Australia?
Man, I hear rumours about early next year, I’m not 100% certain, but we haven’t been there since 2011 which is just blasphemous, but I believe that’s the rumour so you’ll probably find out way before I do, but I do know it’s certainly within the first four or five months of next year.
Maybe Soundwave would be a perfect opportunity?
Yeah that would be great man, I’d love to be a part of something like that. I think we’re shooting for that but I’m the last guy to find these things out…
Lastly, let’s try and predict the remainder of the year, so if you can finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2014, Seether will…
Be… old and decrepit *laughs* no, by the end of 2014, Seether will… that’s another one of those questions where man I have to think about this one… no, by the end of 2014 hopefully we’ll be riding strong and on a second single and still touring, so by the end of 2014 Seether will still be on the goddamn tour bus, how about that one? *laughs*
From: South Africa
Band members: Shaun Morgan – vocals, guitar, Dale Stewart – bass, vocals, John Humphrey – drums
Latest release: Isolate and Medicate – (Caroline Australia)