Q&A: Shaun Morgan of Seether
Seether vocalist/lead guitarist Shaun Morgan doesn't sound happy. Morgan doesn't feel like his band fits in on its current tour -- the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival featuring Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for My Valentine, Black Tide and Three Days Grace, among others -- or on the radio.
"We're not a metal band," South African-bred Morgan told SoundSpike. "We don't have thrash guitars. I certainly can't play any speed solos like anybody else on this tour can. Sometimes we feel like we're a little bit of the black sheep. Luckily we have the Three Days Grace guys that also write music in that sense that it's melodic not necessarily thrash. We feel like we're a rock band on a thrash tour. That's kind of a weird place for us to be. We feel like we just don't measure up."
That feeling, Morgan explained, began with the new album, "Holding onto Strings Better Left to Fray," which rose to the No. 2 position on The Billboard 200 album chart.
"This album was kind of dealing with that kind of stuff, the music business in general," Morgan said. "Trying to get rid of frustrations and trying to find reasons to keep on going. It's an ongoing process, but it's what I'm exploring right now."
Recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville (with additional sessions in Atlanta and Los Angeles), "Holding On To Strings Better Left To Fray" follows the album "Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces," which debuted in the Top 10 on The Billboard 200 albums chart.
The South African band debuted on the scene in 2002 with the release of "Disclaimer." Issued by Wind-up Records, the album went on to sell more than 500,000 copies. Finding success with the collection, Seether put out a reworked version of the album which included a DVD and bonus tracks. Aptly titled "Disclaimer II," the album went on to sell more than 800,000 copies when a new rendition of the track "Broken" -- which featured guest vocals by Amy Lee of Evanescence -- became a hit.
In 2005, Seether released "Karma & Effect," which debuted at No.8 on The Billboard 200 album chart. The band returned in 2007 with the release of "Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces." Now it is pushing "Holding onto Strings Better Left to Fray."
Morgan spoke to SoundSpike about the jaunt, the making of "Holding onto Strings Better Left to Fray" and the state of rock music today.
SoundSpike: How's the tour going?
Shaun Morgan: Um, it's a tour. It's a rolling band of idiots all showing up at the same place every day trying to impress the people out in front of us. But it's been fun. We've got a couple good friends out here that we've known for years, so that makes it a little more bearable.
It looks like a great bill.
Yeah, we've known the Three Days Grace guys for years, since, I think, 2004. That's obviously the one band we hang out with here. We don't know much about the other guys. We've never really done much with the other guys here, with the exception of Sevendust. All these guys are pretty much new, certainly in the live sense. It's kind of cool. You're kind of discovering new bands and you're kind of seeing what the other guys are up to. That makes it interesting.
What can we expect from your show this time around?
Well, we never really have much of a plan. It's more of a "go out there and see which way the wind is blowing." We don't like to have anything orchestrated or choreographed or too well planned out. We feel rock 'n' roll should have an element of chaos to it. If you came to watch the show last night, you don't see the same set again tomorrow. That's really important to us. There are only three of us. We proudly say that we don't use backing tracks or MIDI assistance, or ProTools rigs running. It's just three guys on stage making noise. As a result, it doesn't sound like the album. That's not the point. We're waving a flag for how rock 'n' roll used to be played. If you couldn't play your instrument, it's very obvious on stage. You're not hiding behind any sort of technology. That's where we're at right now.
You recently released "Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray." What inspired the record?
We finished touring a pretty long tour. We did about two years and a couple months here. It was time to come off the road. I think we'd reached a point where we were almost burnt out on playing music. When you start playing, every tour you go out there it's pretty exciting. It's brand new songs we get to play every night. We don't have to keep rehashing the old shit every time. We can actually move on and do something that's newer and interesting to us, and obviously to the fans. But you do that six nights a week for two-and-a-half years and it becomes really old. We'd reached a point where we were kind of burned out. We really, really needed a break and to get off the road. We took some time off and started writing music. We spent the first six months that we were writing just coming up with ideas. Then we eventually got Brendan O'Brien involved, and the work started, basically, last year. We probably sent through five or six [songs] the first time; we ended up recording four. Then we thought that we'd raised the bar. Then we'd go back and we'd write brand new material, and we'd come back the next time with eight or nine songs and record five of those. Basically, it was an album done in three different sections. It's basically about trying to find a place. We're still trying to figure out where we fit in.
Your first single from this album, "Country Song," was a gutsy move. But it's a great song.
Well, we also like to do stuff that's different. We don't sit down and say, "Let's try something that's completely different." We do like to add stuff that's challenging to ourselves and to people who are listing to it. There's no point in us rehashing the same thing over and over. We get bored with it and, I would assume, ultimately fans would get bored with it as well because they would start seeing it for what it was -- just rehashing something that was special before and then putting a new name and a different package on it and saying, "Here we go again." We always try to challenge ourselves and see how much we can explore the boundaries of music -- without becoming a jazz ensemble. We're not gonna suddenly … the next album comes out and we're a German Polka band. I don't think that' s going to happen. You never know, we might include elements of another genre. If we can figure out a way to make it work -- which is also debatable -- if we can figure out a way to make it work, then we succeeded. I don't think "Country Song" was in any way genius, but I do think for me it was like, "Wow, we can take this one sort of swampy thing and put this rock and sort of almost funky bridge on it." It all flows and it all works. I was proud of the achievement. When it came to picking a single, it felt important to pick something that would make us stand out on the radio and not sound like everybody else. Then that's the problem. It becomes so homogenized. Trying to pick out one band from another on rock radio these days is becoming more and more difficult. It just all sounds the same. To be honest, I find there is a whole lot more packaging and not a lot of product. It's all these little boys that are all dolled up. They take more time doing their hair and their makeup and their outfits than they do learning how to actually pull off their music live. I feel like all lyrics are generally now dealing with sexual content, which I feel is such a cop out. I don't know. It's that whole thing of where don't we fit in. I'm trying to use lyrics that have big words in them that cross over into the two-syllable mark, and what we're up against is other bands singing about blow jobs. If that's what's popular, I just don't get it. I thought rock music was the one genre that was supposed to have the substance. This actually makes me feel something for real. I don't know. It's supposed to be escapism. For me, it's supposed to mean something. Maybe it's also a dying trade.
I agree that it's a cop out to write a song about sex. How challenging is that?
Well, you're definitely going to hit Middle America with it because it's like, "I like rough sex," what you do between the sheets, "Could have been the cocaine." You mention a drug or some sort of sexual act it's gonna be eaten up. "That' so bad ass;" so, "Wow. Wow you guys are bad ass." No you're not. So often the ones singing about the sex and the drugs aren't the ones engaged in it. You know what I mean? It just feels so thought out and packaged. For me, there's not a lot of honesty left and that's just sad. We basically just get up and play our show. We don't give a shit. I don't talk to the people. I don't feel like I have to talk up people to make them listen to my music. If they don't want to hear it than fine. I'm not going to get up there and be like, "Yeah, how you guys doing? Woo hoo." That's not my shtick. Everyone else is doing it. Great fucking awesome for them because if that's what you need to do to get a crowd riled up, I'm happy for them. We just get up and it feels like it's us against the world. It's just the three of us on stage having a good time. People then have the choice whether they want to be a part of that or not. I'm not gonna force anyone into any decisions they don't want to make. I honestly couldn't give a shit anymore. People obviously think we're worthwhile bringing on a tour, so we'll just play our songs and get off stage and get back on the bus and go to the next town and do that again. It feels like it's all so empty and it's all so blatantly a lie. For example, getting up and playing music every night but not playing your instruments, for me, I would be embarrassed. I would literally be embarrassed. I would feel that I'm cheating the people who came to watch the show and that I'm a liar. That's what I'm doing, why am I even on tour doing it. I don't know. I don't understand when it became acceptable for bands to use assistance. In the early '90s, people were caught miming it was a huge scandal. Now it's like, it's quid pro quo. It's what happens. It just seems like it's all bullshit.
What are you doing the rest of the year?
We don't have any plans right now. We're just feeling it out. Maybe we'll do some radio show, fly in and out. We'll probably do the weekend warrior thing. There hasn't been much of a tour set up for us right now. I think it's kind of been the situation where we've done all we can this year. We've beaten this horse. We'll take a month or two off and come back next year, refreshed and, hopefully, with a more positive outlook. And maybe get on a more positive trek for us, and maybe do a headlining thing or something where we don't have to stick to a time limit and we can actually do what we want to do. Having said that, it's real fun playing 40 minutes. Before we even get into it, we're finished. We don't have to worry about selling tickets or any of that kind of thing. I do prefer the sets where we can do an hour and a half, an hour and 40 minutes and we can play the songs we want to play and not the ones that are expected of us.
So basically you're just doing the hits?
Yeah, we're trying to find a balance. Actually, we play one song from the new album and the rest have to be radio songs, all the singles. Otherwise, a fickle audience would turn on you. We could easily get up there and play a bunch of heavy stuff that nobody's ever heard because they only the band from singles. But who knows? We might just do that at some point. It would be more fun for us and way more interesting. You always walk that line of, "Do you appease the concert-goer who has spent the money to see the songs they want to see you play?" or "Do you become a dick and just play whatever you feel like?" Fortunately, we haven't crossed the line into dickhead yet. You never know. Maybe one night get up and play all new song from the new album, which might not be the worst thing in the world. We don't know. Unfortunately we're still slaves to what the singles have dictated.
21 - Cuyahoga Falls, OH - Blossom Music Center (Uproar)
23 - Council Bluffs, IA - WestFair Amphitheatre (Uproar)
24 - Bonner Springs, KS - Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone (Uproar)
25 - Maryland Heights, MO - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre St. Louis (Uproar)
28 - Calgary, Alberta - Scotiabank Saddledome (Uproar)
29 - Edmonton, Alberta - Rexall Place (Uproar)
1 - Auburn, WA - White River Amphitheatre (Uproar)
5 - Englewood, CO - Comfort Dental Amphitheatre (Uproar)
7 - Albuquerque, NM - Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque Presents The Pavilion (Uproar)
8 - Phoenix, AZ - Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion (Uproar)
9 - Chula Vista, CA - Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre (Uproar)
13 - Wheatland, CA - Sleep Train Amphitheatre (Uproar)
14 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre (Uproar)