Six (And A Half) Questions For ... Seether
South African post-grunge band Seether has scored consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard's hot modern rock chart, with "Fake It" and, now, "Rise Above This." Saturday, the band performs at DC101's Chili Cook-Off in the downtown D.C. parking lot where the Convention Center used to be. (Big day for rawk, what with Staind, Live, Finger 11 and Chevelle, among others, also on the bill.)
Seether frontman Shaun Morgan called from another food-and-music festival, the Crawfish Boil in Birmingham, where, he said, "it smells like herbally spiced mudbugs." Good times? "Very good times," Morgan said. "Not only does it smell bad, but it's really muggy - and the lineup is bizarre. It's Candlebox and then us, then T-Pain and Three Doors Down. This is going to be one for the books. It's definitely a special day."
Safe to say you're not going to do a duet with T-Pain?
(Laughs.) I don't know anything about buying dranks for shawty.
Would Seether have existed if not for Nirvana? People seem to be obsessed with that comparison - and your Wikipedia page even compares your current hair color and style to Kurt Cobain's in the "Come as You Are" video.
The first album we released, "Disclaimer," was very heavily Nirvana-influenced because a lot of that stuff, I wrote when I was a kid. I was like 16 or 17 years old and heavily into Nirvana. I think the comparisons held water then.
What I don't understand is why it became such a stigma to sound anything remotely like Nirvana - whereas in other genres, you can sound exactly like some other crappy band, and no one has a problem with it. In rock music, if you have any kind of similarity to Nirvana, that's a bad thing. That is quite bizarre.
Look, Nirvana was a band that changed the face of rock and roll in the '90s and basically ended the run of bad, misogynist '80s hairspray metal bands. They had a positive influence; they were a champion of the underdogs with a pretty positive message at the end of the day, which was that it's OK to be yourself.
I think we definitely owe a debt to Nirvana. "Nevermind" was the album that made me pick up a guitar.
You guys have described your new album, "Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces," as "a hearty serving of the usual Seether sting and grit with an added twist of lime." Lime?
It's still the same band. We're just writing songs that are slightly different now. We're starting to evolve and starting to find a better way to get our point across. I just couldn't understand why people were so offended by a song like "Fake It." And now, on the message boards, they're saying "Rise Above This" is the worst song we've ever written.
I think people are just threatened by change. It's also that old-school mentality of ownership: "This is my band. I knew this band way before you did." I guess that scares some people. But it became annoying to have to keep defending ourselves.
Look, dude, I still write these songs for myself, to get me through things and to deal with issues that I have. That's not going to change. If you don't like it, then seriously, don't listen to the songs. But don't take the time and trouble to stand on your soapbox and give us your lofty opinion of what's going on there in your little private world of anonymity where you can be all-seeing and all-powerful and no one can ever touch you. I don't get that. I guess it's the new form of road rage.
(More after the jump.)
You mentioned "Rise Above This," which has become a huge hit. Is the success bittersweet given the backstory? (Morgan wrote "Rise Above This" for his brother, Eugene, who was going through a difficult period in his life. But Eugene wound up taking his own life before he ever heard the song.)
I'm glad that it's a success, because in a sense it's a tribute. And with the video, we managed to do something that I think can be quite positive, for other kids that might feel something similar in their lives - where their only choice is to end it all. Hopefully we can help those kids out.
Look, it was a horrible thing to go through. But as with everything else in my life, I deal with it through music. Every song has a story. Some of them aren't as tragic as that one. Most of the songs I've never even talked about what they're about. But it's not bittersweet at all. If anything, it's sweet. What better way to celebrate somebody's life?
Is it leading to awkward, uncomfortable moments, with fans telling you about the difficult times they're having in their own lives and with journalists sometimes approaching the issue somewhat indelicately?
It's all about the approach and how you word the question. You can use sympathetic wording, but most people are as subtle as a sledgehammer. Once that happens, my hackles are raised and I don't want to talk about it. I have no problem talking about it if someone treats it with some kind of respect.
But the worst part about it is that you join this I've-also-lost-a-family-member's club. Yeah, it's very tragic for people all across the world when that happens. But the worst thing anyone can tell you is: "I know how you feel." Really, there's no way you could know how I feel. You could perhaps have an inkling, but there's no way you can really know.
And there's the loss comparison, which is the most annoying thing. That's where I shut down. Look, this is not a competition. I don't even really want to hear about your loss, because I'm still kind of dealing with mine. But there's no diplomatic way to get that across, so I find myself becoming more reclusive. Instead of being as approachable as I was before and hanging out outside the bus and meeting people, I just get back on the bus now and, to some degree, protect myself.
It's not that I'm not grateful for the stories, but it's a lot of pressure. It's a lot to deal with, and people don't necessarily understand that. Even one person a day telling them about how they lost a person, how they went to this experience or that experience - after hearing that over and over and over, in different contexts, it kind of wear you down.
There's the good side of, where I'm really glad the song helps you through because that's what it does for me. In a really selfish way, that's what these songs are for. They're there to help me. And if they help other people, that's great. It's awesome that somebody can get something out of what I've done. But people don't always approach it with as much tact as they could. They blurt out their loss, and it's like: Really? Really?
I'm not going to pretend to know how this feels, because it's never happened to me, but: Your ex, Amy Lee, kind of put your business in the streets - and onto the charts - with that huge Evanescence hit, "Call Me When You're Sober." Isn't it dangerous for songwriters to write negatively about other songwriters? Because you can always retaliate with a song of your own.
(Laughs.) I'm not going to lie, I did write some songs that were retaliations. But at the end of the day, I decided that I'd take the high road. It really wasn't worth the effort and it really wasn't worth lowering my standards just to return fire.
Actually, I think I should try and claim royalties for that damn song. I was the muse for it, so I might as well get something out of it. And I know what I've been through since people have heard that song and heard it's about me. I've seen the blind Evanescence followers that just believe her side of the story. They talk about what a bad person I am; these are people who don't know me at all and they're taking the lyrics of a song quite literally.
I was in Toronto a couple months ago and we get to the hotel, there's a couple of kids waiting outside. We walk into the hotel, dump our bags upstairs, then come back because we wanted to get something to eat. And one of the kids pulls his car around, parks it right in front of the hotel, opens all four windows and starts blaring the "Call Me When You're Sober" song.
Honestly, for a second, I kind of felt a little bit afraid. If somebody is going go through that much effort to sit outside of our hotel to play me the song, who's to say they won't go the extra mile and take me out just to try to make Amy feel better?
Having been through two major stalkers while I was with her, it's not too far-fetched to assume that somebody might take what she says the wrong way. "I'm going to ease her pain and take away her misery, which this guy caused. And hopefully she finds out it was me and she'll love me." People really think that stuff. It will probably be some 45-year-old guy who lives with his mother and looks at internet porn. I was definitely afraid.
I don't know if she got any real backlash, but I know some of our fans used to go to her shows and stand in the front with Seether shirts on and throw things because they were supporting us. She wasn't thinking it through, but those are the joys of youth.
Your bands are on the same label, Wind-Up. I don't imagine that the two of you spend much time together at the company holiday parties anymore, hanging out by the pheasant-carving station or whatever.
No, we usually get stuck at the macaroni and cheese section. Actually, there hasn't been a Wind-Up party in years, which is kind of sad. A lot of the bands used to get on really well. We would always hang out, like a family reunion. But that hasn't happened in years and really a lot of the bands have grown apart.
Finger 11 is basically the only band on the label we're friends with now. It used to be you were with Wind-Up, it was a family mentality, very much a sort of gung-ho brotherhood. It isn't that anymore. So no, I haven't had to run into her. But honestly, if I did, I would just want to see her. She was a good friend to me for years. Having lost complete contact for three years is kind of extreme. I was kind of disappointed by it. I would love to see her and actually congratulate her. Once I got over the brutality of the lyrics, I thought the album wasn't too bad.
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