Interview: Shaun Morgan of Seether
Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:06:09
"The goal of every album is to make it the better than the last one," declares Seether singer and guitarist Shaun Morgan. "So far, we as a band think we're doing it like that. People seem to be digging it right now."
Seether’s latest Isolate and Medicate definitely upholds that tradition. It hits hard when it needs to, but it also flaunts some of the band’s most unforgettable and undeniable melodies to date. In essence, it strikes a chord between the raw grunge grit of Disclaimer and the sharpened infectiousness of Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray. The trio will have a lot of work on their hands to top this one, but given their track record, we’re in for even more timeless anthems from the boys…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Shaun Morgan of Seether talks Isolate and Medicate, looks back on Disclaimer, discusses horror flicks, and so much more.
There's a balance of preserving the band's identity, while still evolving on Isolate and Medicate.
Thanks man! This was an album that I didn't really have any plan or mission statement for. I just wrote songs that I enjoyed to play. When I was working on them, if they held my attention for more than a couple of hours, I'd finish them. We only had fourteen songs this time. We didn't have a big bank of songs we could go and whittle down from thirty to fifteen so we could record. I basically worked on the songs I felt strongly about and made sure they were as good as I could make them. Instead of breezing through the songs, I put some real time into them. I'm really happy with the result.
What will speak to you about a song and make you want to finish it?
It's something that grabs my attention, and it's got a good groove or melody. If it evokes an emotional response in me, I'm into it, and I'll continue working on it. There are plenty of times where you're tooling around and working on an idea and you go, "It's not as good as I thought it would be" or "It's not what I'm hearing in my head. I don't know how to improve on it". Often, it's the songs that grab you from the start. They connect me. That makes me want to play them, work on them, and finish them. It's difficult to say what kind of song that is, but I think this album is a good example of the kinds of songs I really like to play. That's the other thing. If I can imagine it in the live setting and it's going to be fun to play, that's pretty important.
What's the story behind "Nobody Praying For Me"?
I actually had the music for a long time. I had the chorus way before I had the verse. I struggled with that verse. I thought the chorus had a good melody, and I liked what the chorus was saying at the beginning. I had about three or four different verse ideas, and I eventually settled on the one it has now. I love that song. I think it's one of those songs I'd be pretty happy playing for the next ten years or so. For me, that one took a little bit of work. It's not very complex, and it's not very technical musically. However, I was very into the structure. That one started with the chorus. I had the melody and music ideas at the same time. That usually doesn't happen very often. I think I was in the shower, and I started singing it. I went upstairs to my studio and began writing it. It came out pretty quickly, and I was happy with the result. I knew it was a good chorus so I had to write a verse that would complement it. Sometimes, it works that way. It's not always that the verse comes first and is followed by a chorus. Quite often, the chorus comes first, and I have to think, "How can I make a verse that matches that?" That was an interesting one to write. I think it would be one of my favorites on the album.
What else was influencing you while making Isolate and Medicate?
I'm constantly reading books and things. I don't know if that came in as an influence. I certainly wasn't listening to a lot of music. The music I was listening to was from completely different genres. It was a lot of pop and hip-hop, especially working with some hip-hop artists at the same time. I try to stay away from rock music as much as possible because I find if I listen to it, it influences me too quickly. Because of that, I don't want to sound like other rock bands. If I start listening to a band at a given time, I start wanting to write things that are similar to their sound. I try to steer clear of that as much as possible. I was reading a lot of Bo Bryson books and theology books. I wasn't really reading anything that I assume could be influential, but it could subconsciously have crept in [Laughs]. I was reading a lot of atheist literature, which was interesting to read. All of that does filter in subconsciously, but there wasn't a conscious effort to be influenced by anything around me. Bo is awesome. He's very informative and intelligent, but he writes with a sense of humor. He deals with some heavy subjects, but he puts in some humor so it's easy for the layman to digest it.
If Isolate and Medicate were a movie, what would it be?
[Laughs] I'd actually like to write a movie that goes with the album. I don't know what it would look or sound like. This was one of the albums from start-to-finish that has a really good flow in my opinion. That's always important to me. This one just does it better than any of the other albums we've done so far. For me, it inspired me to do something else creatively. It would have to be something pretty eclectic. There are a lot of eclectic and different-sounding songs. There would have to be some sort of serial killer-type of character in it because I'm a big horror movie fan. Ultimately, if I do write a movie to go with this album, it would have to be not like a slasher, but a thriller-horror. I'd want to direct something like the old school horror films of the fifties and forties where the actors actually sold the suspense. I don't think there's been a movie I've been terrified recently. They put a bunch of pretty people to act in a horror movie! You can't act so am I supposed to believe any of this is happening? There isn't a movie I could think of now off the top of my head, but I'd certainly like to delve into putting visuals to it and see if there's anything there.
Where did "Save Today" come from?
I actually think that's my favorite on the album! A lot of times, I'm still dealing with the loss of my brother, and that comes through in the songwriting, especially when I write music that's more on the emotional end of the spectrum than on the rhythm and riff side. For me, it deals with that in a sense and the whole concept of loss. When I began writing it, it was really simple, but I liked what it was inspiring in me as far as emotion and lyrics. I ran with that. When we got in the studio with Brendan O'Brien, it became more interesting. He added some parts and made it prettier. I got a cool compliment about that song recently. I went to the grocery store by my house and this kid came up to me like, "Hey man, I really love this new album. My dad and I have been listening to it. That song 'Save Today' really struck a chord with me. It made me want to write a song like that so I sat down and wrote one". That's a huge compliment to be paid by somebody. There's something about that one I love, and it does strike a chord with people. We played it live in Europe a few times before the album was out. Usually, when you play a new song, people don't pay too much attention because they're far more into songs they're more familiar with. This one grabbed everyone's attention and had people crying which is weird for a song people have never heard before. It's special.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind now when you think of Disclaimer?
It's funny! It seems like it was such a long time ago. It was really fourteen years ago, but it feels like a lifetime has passed. We look back on it proudly. It was our American label debut. We worked with Josh Freese as the drummer. We were in L.A. in a big studio, and it was all very exciting. For me, it will always have a special place just based on the experience. There are songs on there that I'm sometimes embarrassed almost of. If you look at the songs on there until now, it's interesting to see the growth. Honestly, that album was done by Dale and I. It was these green kids from South Africa who didn't know what they were doing, going in and trying to step up to the plate and deliver something we could be proud of. We could prove a point at the time and illustrate why we were signed. It's funny looking back at it now. There are some things that are quite insightful, but you can tell I was a young kid when I wrote those songs. It was a timestamp of where we were at the time. It was a very good indication of who we were as people, where we were as musicians, and what kind of songs we were writing. I think that's what great about. Each album has been a different milestone along the way, and you can tell where we were at musically. At that point, we were really excited about being in this space for the first time and making a proper album. It was when the dream of being a professional musician came to life. That will always be a very important moment in my life.
What was the last horror movie that did scare you?
I got creeped out by the first Insidious movie. I jumped a couple of times. Then, there was that movie The Conjuring. The ones that are based on reality and aren't based on the paranormal freak me out. I recently moved into a house of Nashville. The things happening the house were insane—so much so that I decided to leave [Laughs]. It's on-going, and it's this constant paranormal onslaught of bangs, doors slamming, and knocking on the walls. It's creepy. I stayed in a hotel for a week until I could have someone come there and check it out. When doors start slamming, I start wetting my pants [Laughs]. It's easy to be tough with something tangible you can confront, but you can't be tough when you can't see it and don't know what it wants. I was really intrigued by the paranormal and ghosts. I thought the acting in The Conjuring was great, especially at the end, it gets pretty intense. It gets insanely creepy. Since I've had the experience with my house, I've slowed down on watching ghost movies.
What’s your favorite Seether song?