South African metal outfit Seether took an extended ‘break’ in 2009 before coming back and recording their fifth, and most successful, studio album "Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray". After spending the better part of 2011 getting back on the road and touring for the album, Seether are set to head down to Australia early next year. Singer Shaun Morgan took some time out to chat with Kill Your Stereo about the upcoming tour, their return to Australia and his band’s latest album.
Hi Shaun, how are you going?
I’m really good thank you, I am sitting on my deck underneath the stars enjoying a cocktail so I cannot complain. How are you?
I am really good. Thanks for taking the time to chat with Kill Your Stereo.
No problem, thanks for having me.
Early next year, Seether will be heading back to Australia for the first time in three years. How does it feel coming back?
I am excited, I think the whole band is. For us, just to do international touring that is the most fun because we get to see different cultures and we get to experience a different kind of fan base. We tour America relentlessly and we find ourselves almost in a Groundhog Day kind of situation but when we get to go to other countries its great because it gets sad in a way that we don’t get to go there more often and we hope to remedy that in the future, but Australia has been a great market for us and it is always a great crowd, there are a lot of similarities between Australia and South Africa and so for us it is just an exciting time.
What is the preparation for the tour like and what will the months leading up to the tour involve?
Well we are the world’s least professional band so we don’t prepare for anything (laughs), so we kind of just show up and play. We may or may not rehearse just once before we come out there, but we pretty much just like to play it by ear. I think so many bands take this all way too seriously and I think when it comes to playing shows it shouldn’t be a reproduction of what you have heard on the cd, just come out and watch a band and go through the motions. We just like to keep it loose and have fun with it. I believe we have one show in the states before we come out to Australia and possibly a show in Thailand before that too, so we will have two rehearsal shows before we come to Australia and do the real deal.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Seether live, what can they expect from a live show?
It’s just really a fun time I think. We play music and we have a good time playing it, I think there’s a lot of energy on stage, Dale has normally had too much to drink but somehow still manages to keep playing the bass, so that’s great. He has an amazing genetic mutation of the talent that he can play with his eyes rolled back in his head and still sound amazing. I think especially playing a gig in other countries, we try to play smaller rooms so it is a more intimate experience and it is hot and it’s sweaty and there is a little more interaction. If you come out to a show we want you to have a good time because if you didn’t have a good time then why would you come out next time. We go out of our way to have as much fun as possible and hopefully that translates to the audience.
You guys have such massive catalogue of songs, how do you decide which songs you will actually play on each particular tour or show?
I guess that changes from show to show. Sometimes we might play as a main support act for somebody else so we get given a set amount of time and they will say "well you have forty minutes to play" so we pick those sets because basically we have to play all the singles and we feel that way because if someone says ‘well okay I am going to go watch Seether play’ then we have to deliver what they want to hear. But when we get to play our own shows and there is not so much of a time restriction we tend to play the songs that we have the most fun with. And because we have been doing this for some years now we came to know which songs the people like off the albums and which songs are most often requested. We like to throw those songs in as often as possible and that’s why its even more sort of nerve wracking coming out here because we are going to be playing some songs we haven’t played in years and that is fun for us because it makes the whole thing fresh, it makes the whole experience new and I that is good for us or else we get bored and I am pretty sure we have played some shows where we just boned it in (laughs), and they were like “Eh, well I have seen better bands”, but we try not to do that so when we play in other countries we really like to dig into the catalogue and play some of the stuff that we don’t normally play, some of the heavier stuff mostly, because we feel that we are a rock band and we have been represented at radio a little bit differently than we are as a live band so we try and cover all the bases and really try to get our point across as a band and what we stand for.
Will Australia be hearing much of your earlier catalogue?
Definitely, as well as more of the new album then we have ever played, which is again daunting because this album, we went out and recorded the album and honestly every time we play a new song we have to learn it again. Its been out now for almost a year, so its been a year or more since we have played some of those songs so we have to go and sit and work it out by listening to the tracks, but yeah we like to definitely throw in even some Saron Gas stuff from the very first album we had out in South Africa, so we try and cover as much of the band’s career when we do out headlining shows and we normally do about an hour and a half if not two hours just of as many tracks as we can until we feel that’s all we have.
That must be good for your stamina, to keep fit.
(laughs) You know what’s great for stamina? A couple of cocktails (laughs), so then you don’t feel the pain or the fatigue so you just keep going. But yeah, being with this band in a different country is great, I am just really excited, we have been waiting for a long time to come back to Australia so its going to be really good.
As you said before Seether released studio album number 5, Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray. What was the process like? After writing and recording so many albums have you found a formula that constantly works or was there something different this time around?
Well this one was different because this time we didn’t just have a bunch of songs and go into a studio and know the songs back to front and then just record them. This time we’d go in with verses and choruses sometimes and we would sit with the producer and write the rest while we were in the studio. And then we broke it up into three different parts. So we did batches of songs instead of just playing all at once because I had written about 20 songs when we first went in and our producer Brendan O’ Brien he said "well I like these four so throw the rest away" and when you hear that you are like "damn, that’s kinda harsh" but what he did for us was cool so we went to record those four songs and that was where the bar was set then we move on and we go back and we write for another month or two and come back and we record the songs that are better than the ones we have already done and then repeat the process again. So it was different for us as far as how we normally like to work but I mean there were pros and cons to it. The con was obviously that it just took a long time. From when we first walked into the studio to when we last walked out it was almost a year. Normally we just like to hammer the songs out and do as well as we can, normally take four or five weeks and then walk out with a finished product and then it comes down to opinions and we felt like with this one we really wanted to concentrate on making this album better than the ones we had done before, so we took more time with things like lyrics and musical parts. Brendan O’Brien was really good at making us make songs more interesting, he would challenge us to be better writers and that is a very huge part of why I think this album is my favourite. Next time, hopefully, we will do a similar kind of process but not quite as full on. This time it was both a great experience and a tough experience so I am hoping that next time around we can find a better balance between the two and have it all just be a really good middle experience between those two experiences.
As you said you recorded the album with Brendan O’Brien as producer. What was it like working with him and what influenced the decision to go with him?
Well he has worked on pretty much all of my favourite albums or at least the albums that were very instrumental in me becoming a musician as a kid, so Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, he worked with ACDC, and these are all huge bands. We had sort of thrown his name around on the last album but unfortunately we were sort of strung on to working with someone else so this time we said "well if we can get Brendan then we go with Brendan" so I had coffee with him in LA as he happened to be in town one day, so we sat down and we spoke for an hour and I got back in the car and I phoned my band members and said "Brendan said he is going to do this album" and they all said "yeah whatever, when we see it in writing then we will believe it". With all three of us he was the guy that we wanted, he was the guy that we wanted to get last time and we didn’t manage to get so if we can get him we would see what happens and as it turns out he was just a really, really cool guy, really interesting, really quirky, really good at making us become better at what we are supposed to be doing and he works fast and effectively. This was by far the most fun album for me as far as being in the studio, sometimes you’ll be in the studio and there is the guy that tells you what to do and then there is the guy that says "well what do you think you want to do?"
When you were writing the album, what were you listening to/reading/watching on TV/experiencing and how did that affect the concepts and themes used throughout the album?
Normally want I try and do is not listen to any kind of rock music because I feel like that will taint you a little bit, but inevitably that always comes out, you’ll always be influenced by the music you listen to. It might even be a song you heard on the radio once but for some reason it gets stuck in the back of your mind and it comes out as an influence, but mostly I try and become as insulated from the outside world as possible, especially this time, I wanted to make this is personal and I wanted it to come directly from us as a band and from me as a person rather than have too many outside influences, so I was reading books but nothing too serious, I might read an autobiography here and there or something like that, nothing that was going to affect me in a way where I go "oh that’s cool, this has now had a profound effect on my life". I insulated myself from everything and I feel like that’s kind of an important thing to do, there was a certain honesty about this album that I haven’t obtained before because I didn’t let other influences in and I need to keep doing that, I think, because I like what the end result is a lot more because of the fact that I didn’t let myself be affected by something beyond my own walls, beyond my bubble, so there wasn’t much going on on the outside but its just completely honest music and lyrics and songs and just working day in and day out trying to make them as good as possible.
The album was really well received, reaching number 2 on the US Billboard charts, and doing quite well all around the world. Does it surprise you that after all this time people are still so excited about your music?
It is always a pleasant surprise, you never know. We were gone for almost 2 and a half years from the last time we played a show on a tour until the next time we played a show on a tour so that’s a big gap and in this business there are very few bands that can pull that off and still maintain a level of relevance. In the back of your mind, whenever you put out that first single you always want to make an impression but you also always second-guess yourself. When the album was done I antagonized over it for weeks, you know, have we done the right thing? Have we represented ourselves? Have we been honest? Have we made something that we all feel strongly about and that we can all stand behind and back regardless of what the critics will say? And I think that we did and I mean, I will always find little faults here and there because that’s just who I am and I don’t think anyone is ever completely satisfied with the album but I just think ultimately it was good to come back after such a long time and release a song that we felt sounded different from everything else because we felt that it was important to sound different to everybody else because we didn’t want to sound like what homogenized, pasteurized, vanilla music is right now. A lot of music right now has become pretentious and its sad because pop music is in your face and way too heavy, rap is sexist and violent, but at least it is honest, and then you have rock music which has become all about sexism and there has sort of been this sort of reversion to the 80’s and the sentiment of the 80’s and there’s all these schlock rock bands that to me sound very similar and we didn’t want to sound like that and we wanted to release a single that was different so for better or worse that is what we did and so far we have been really very happy with the results.
After having so much success, what else is there for Seether to achieve?
Well, you know, (laughs), I think the real goal would be just to be around, to be continuous and to have a long career. I don’t want us to be a band that fizzles out and loses its mojo and becomes a bar band. I think all three of us have put every single thing we have into this and so have all the people around us, our managers, our record company, everyone has, this is something everybody has to believe in and as long as we believe in it and we continue to have fun doing this then that is really the only goal. On an accolade level, we never really care too much about awards and recognition and that kind of thing, but it is nice to get those things, it’s more important for us to play shows and do what we do. Playing live is, unfortunately, the drug we are all addicted to and so we have to keep feeding that need, as long as the desire and the excitement and the need to play is still there we will keep doing it, otherwise it’s time to call it quits.
Thanks so much for having a chat. Is there anything else you wanted to add before we let you go?
I don’t think so. I just want to say that the band is really excited to be coming to Australia and I believe we get there in early February so we are really excited to be there and we hope that everyone brings their drinking hats because it is going to be a fun time.
Well thanks a lot, see you in Australia soon.
Thank you very much.