South Africa might not the first place, where you would look for a band with millions of albums sold. However national treasure called Seether, during their most successful days, were proudly competing with US post grunge bands as Staind, Creed, Puddle Of Mudd, Godsmack or Shinedown. On the other hand, rarely any these bands managed to keep a high standard today. Seether are a great exception and their upcoming celebrations of two decades on the scene are backed up with a great new album Poison the Parish. It was a real honor that Shaun Morgan accepted an invitation for this extensive email interview, where we discussed not only the new album, but also ended up emotionally discussing today’s society and his personal struggles. Second part of the interview took place personally in Prague, Czech Republic before Seether’s show on 29th of September, where also bass player Dale Stewart joined us.
Photos & video credit: Anna Pospíšilová
Full video from the interview in Prague show here:
It’s really your heaviest album so far. Even though, they are still some great big melodies, what led you this direction?
I think I’ve always been an inherently angry person who uses music to balance out emotional turmoil. I find that by channeling my anger and my sadness into music I can become a somewhat normal human being and function in society, on some level. This album gravitated more towards being heavy because I was a little angrier than I have been for a while. I look at the world around me and it pisses me off to see what types of people are celebrated and how self-absorbed they all are. We live in a world where mediocrity is considered exceptional and our children are becoming slaves to social media. On every conceivable level, that makes me furious. I guess that crept into the music.
It is the first time you produced an album in its entirety – Was this one of the crucial influences on the final mood of the album and how do you keep healthy artistic distance?
I think that by taking on the role of producer I initially put a lot of pressure on myself to make this album stand up to our previous efforts. As soon as we walked into the studio, I let go of all those feelings and went with my instinct on this project. I knew I wanted it to sound heavier than anything else we had done, but I also wanted some chaos and dirt and urgency that I thought was stripped out of our previous albums. Essentially, the goal was to make a rock record, not an alternative record, and the way to achieve that is to make all the elements of the band sound as big and powerful as possible. I didn’t think we needed a bunch of keyboards or percussion elements – just straight hard rock. Having an engineer like Matt Hyde didn’t hurt either – the guy is a monster at finding tones and making drums sound like fucking thunder.
What was the motivation for establishing Canine Riot Records – Was it based on your career experience, you don’t want any external label influence?
I wanted to start a label to sign bands that I believed in, that may have been overlooked by major labels or sloppy A&R guys. Essentially, find music that I’m passionate about and give those misfit bands a chance at having a career. I recently signed a band from London called LTNT who are absolutely killer – probably one of my favorite bands right now – and nobody else could see what I did. I think they’re going to make a huge wave and it makes me happy that I could help them in some way.
How did you enjoy working with Matt Hyde – within engineering and mixing?
Matt Hyde is a genius. Simple as that. I love the guy to death. We met the day we started recording and we immediately got on like a house on fire. He knew exactly what tones I was looking for as we went through the album, which made things flow quickly and smoothly. I consider him essential to the sound of the album.
If we can talk about the lyrics, I feel you went through personal losses and relationship heartbreak-ups. With all respect, do you agree it leads to creativity?
Hardship and misery have always been deep creative wells for me. I never run out of material since I have many different inspirations to draw from. To be honest, I always feel more creative when I am unhappy. I only write when I’m in a bad mood.
By channeling my anger and my sadness into music I can become a somewhat normal human being and function in society
I often work with kids and I understood, music helps them a lot, including lyrics. However, do you believe TV, YouTube and social media “celebrities” are affecting kids more than ever and developing in them a desire to become rich & famous?
Social media is poisoning our youth and making promises of fame and fortune based on your looks. It’s fucking disgusting. Kids would rather be famous and rich than have anything of value to contribute to society. I will disappear to an island one day and never return to civilization. I don’t want to be part of this culture anymore.
Do you believe one has to “fall on his/her face” to wake up and appreciate what she/he really has? (Family, friends, true strengths)
Unfortunately, that is often the case. There’s a certain narcissism that comes with youth that, if nurtured, grows into something ugly and powerful that becomes more difficult to eradicate. It is people like that who end up hitting rock bottom before they see what they have in life – things far more important than beauty and money. Beauty fades and money doesn’t last forever. We should be teaching our kids about the value of truly contributing to society and forging communities. Without strong communities our civilization as we know it will collapse.
What other tools do you recommend for kids/teenagers to fight self-insecurity?
Insecurity is an unfortunate side-effect of puberty – everyone will experience it at some point in their lives. Some of us don’t ever outgrow it, which is a very difficult way to live. We can only be as loving and supportive as possible, as parents, and try to educate our kids about the fact that magazines and the women, or men, on the covers are all lies. We have to teach our kids that their self-worth comes from their actions, not “likes” or fucking “thumbs-ups”.
If we look at a lyric: “I am never enough!” – Did you also fight with the internal need for ingratiation/appreciation/fulfilling expectations of the others? I know, I do still fight it.
I always do. I’m incredibly insecure and I struggle with depression all the time. All of us want to be loved and accepted by people around us. Nobody wants to be an outcast. I spent many years trying to make people happy at the expense of myself and it killed me. Now I prefer to be myself and not try to fit into a society I despise.
I spent many years trying to make people happy at the expense of myself
Plenty of us come to a point in life where one says „I want something else“– Do you feel one should follow his/her heart whatever the cost?
I think you should strive for happiness in everything you do, but not at the expense of someone else. If your choices to follow your dream, or your heart don’t harm anyone else then I absolutely think you should chase happiness with all your being. I think you should at least try to chase a dream and allow yourself the chance of failure. It’s a way to grow and learn and become a stronger person. You can learn so much about yourself if you put yourself in a vulnerable place.
On the other hand, why do so many (young) people run and risk their future? („I can’t seem to find the peace”)
I have no idea. Their parents failed them, perhaps? Running away from opportunity or responsibility is cowardice as far as I’m concerned. Nothing in life comes easy – it’s all hard work and passion that will see dreams realized.
“Nothing grows in the desert” – Do you agree road to happiness is a long and tough journey?
Few roads are tougher than that. As I’ve said – anything worth having is going to take effort, passion, hard work and dedication to achieve. The things in life that come easy are probably not always what they seem, or have a habit of losing their shine pretty quickly.
Early music influences/social media/seeking quality
If everything is done right, one might hear at the of his/her journey your song Against the Wall – With all respect, I hear Barry Manilow’s – Looks Like We Made It. Was this music by any chance in the collection of your parents?
I must say, that’s the first time ever that I have had a song compared to Barry Manilow! I’ll take it as a compliment. No, my parents weren’t into Barry Manilow. My dad loved Paula Abdul, Michael Franks, The Beatles and the Beach Boys – mostly artists like that. My mother listened mostly to oldies, as well as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. I’m assuming uncle Barry just snuck in somewhere…
I often hear listeners and artists saying: “It’s really hard to find talent in today’s world. But I believe there is still many, and I do often find it, but I have to scrabble through garbage. How do you search for talent, sincerity and artistry, which you said, you miss in the world?
There is so much CRAP out there it can become overwhelming. I think the key is to be patient and in time you will find great music, either through friends, or by accident. The same can be said for all aspects of life – talent hasn’t disappeared completely, it’s merely buried in garbage. You really just have to be patient to find good things in the world.
Social media might be sometimes dangerous place to be, but from your social media profile following, I feel its great place for your fans to gather. Do you agree?
There are certainly aspects of social media that aren’t completely deplorable. People can use it to gather information about artists and share experiences, I guess. I just choose not to be directly accessible because I don’t have the skin for that.
In general, how to promote quality and help the talented young people you come across? Using your words, after one fulfills one of these criteria: “Write a book, invent or cure something…” I try to support many young artists, but at the same time, I am writing a book of my own teenage experiences from Belgrade/Serbia where I spent four years – metal kid hated by everyone, in turbo-folk country, soon after NATO bombing. (I dream of helping as many kids I can, with this book in their dealing with teenage frustrations and possibly any of the similar conditions I had) From what I understood, your music motivation is to make other people’s lives better…
My music is firstly to help myself get through life’s bullshit. The fact that it helps other people is incredible to me, and it’s incredibly humbling. I would never have thought that what I write would reach so many people. If my songs can make one person feel less alone in this world, less unhappy, less fearful, then I have achieved something good. I know that my songs really help me to get through tough times so hopefully that translates to somebody else’s life and helps them out.
We live in a world where mediocrity is considered exceptional and our children are becoming slaves to social media
Do you feel, there are unique groups of global fans? I feel it moves in waves. Somewhere fans are very spoiled, whereas in some countries they are very hungry for your music, as it is relatively “new” to them. Personally, I believe you can expect really cool crowd in Czech Republic. Let say, I’m seeing your song Fine Again – really often of Czech Rock TV Rebel.
I find that crowds across the UK and Europe are far more appreciative of bands that tour through their home countries. There is a level of passion and love for the music that is incredible to experience. I feel like that may be because bands come through far less often than they do in the US. Over here, you can see your favorite band at least once every six months, to a year. In Europe that’s more like once every two to three years. I also think that there is just a different love for music in Europe. Fans don’t just like a band’s radio singles – they love the catalogue and know all the music intimately. I love playing in Europe for that one reason.
What are your most enjoyable albums, when you want to relax a reach for something valuable in long term? Do you prefer sth heavy or artists as Jeff Buckley or Alanis Morissette? (Jagged Little Pill will be always in my personal top 10)
I like chilled music for the most part – Alt J has become one of my favorite bands to listen to when I’m trying to relax. I love the lyrics, the melodies, the harmonies – they’re a great band.
Any interest in latest activities of Veruca Salt?
I follow them a bit. We heard somewhere that they were pissed off that we called ourselves Seether, so I don’t think we’ll be friends anytime soon. I really don’t know why paying homage to a band would make them angry, but who knows?
Why did you choose Letters from the Fire as your support band for upcoming US tour?
They’re a great young band with great songs and we wanted to take out a band with a female vocalist to change things up a little bit. It’s a better show when there is variety and they put on a pretty bad-ass show too, so in the end I think it’s great for the fans.
What music do you enjoy lately and do you still have energy and passion to discover new bands?
I listen to a lot of older stuff but currently I’m listening to LTNT, whose EP comes out later this year, as well as Thrice’s To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, Highly Suspect’s albums, some Brand New every once in a while. I still listen to the radio to find out about new artists and to keep up to date with what’s out there musically.
Have you ever properly enjoyed Prague as a tourist?
I love Prague! It’s such a beautiful city and the people are incredible. Last time we were there, we ended up in a bar that was in a basement and they had this crazy shot that included a chainsaw, being hit on the head with a baseball bat while you wear a helmet and some flames. It was hands down my favorite bar ever. If we have time, I’d love to see the city, but usually we are only in town for the night and then we have to move on.