Seether Talks "Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray", Dean Koontz Novels, Aaron Lewis, and More
Thu, 12 May 2011 09:57:40
With Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray, Seether catapult themselves into a new sphere.
It's a place where honest, heartfelt lyrics collide with raw, rough riffs. Flourishes of country, folk, metal, and even a little classical cycle in and out during expertly calculated moments. The stories on the album are unbridled, unique, and unforgettable with frontman Shaun Morgan poetically painting a picture that will resonate in the hearts of listeners for years to come.
He's never been afraid to open up, but on this album he lets everyone in like never before. Morgan and Co. have crafted the best record of their career and one of the best hard rock albums of 2011. It's because nothing was off limits working with super producer Brendan O'Brien [Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine] and the band followed their creative impulses unwaveringly.
"Everything was worth trying," says Morgan of the album's construction.
That approach led to a masterpiece…
Seether mainman Shaun Morgan sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray, Dean Koontz novels, and why he'd love to do a tour with Aaron Lewis of Staind.
Do you feel like you've evolved while maintaining the band's identity?
That's ideally what we hope to achieve with each album. You want to have some growth, but you want to retain the roots and have that sound people will recognize as the band's. We understand that we can't keep everybody happy all the time and make them think that every album is great, but it's something that we work very hard on for a really long time. We still have people coming to the shows and supporting the band, and that's the most important thing.
Did you have one cohesive vision for Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray? What's your take on the album as a whole?
It's interesting because we thought the album was finished twice. The first time was before I even showed the band "Tonight". I played it for them literally two days before we were supposed to be out of the studio. We set everything back up and recorded that song in two days. Then we thought, "Cool, now the album's done!" Then I wrote "Fur Cue" for a soundtrack. They didn't want the song for the soundtrack, but the label wanted the song on the album. Then that became the first track on the album. We recorded that last track on Sunday when the deadline for it to be finished and go to print was Thursday. It's been down to the wire the whole way. It's interesting that it took that long for me to feel like now it's completely one cohesive piece of work. I would've felt like something was missing if it hadn't been for all twelve tracks that are on it now. Originally, we were going for ten tracks, but things keep growing and changing on us. We never really know what's going on, but I am happy with what we've done this time. I really like the way it flows track by track and the journey that you're taken on when you listen to it.
Where do you draw from for lyrical inspiration? The lyrics hit harder than ever.
Well, I actually worked harder on them this time as well. Everything was scrutinized down to the very last detail. For the first time ever, I actually wrote and printed out lyrics way beforehand rather than writing them five minutes before singing them for the first time. I definitely felt like I was pushing myself to be better at what I do than before because I hold Brendan O'Brien in such high esteem. I didn't want to disappoint him and make him think, "Awe shit, I'm working with some idiot." [Laughs] I would've been mortified by that because he's worked with great lyricists like Brandon Boyd from Incubus, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen. These are people that he's worked with, and now he's taking the chance to work with us. I felt a little pressure. He was cool though. He had a lot of faith in us and in me. Because of that, I got through it and felt more confident this time when I was actually writing and creating. Brendan had my back the whole time. He said, "I think what you do is great. You know what you do is great." I thought if I had a guy like that in my corner, that's a huge compliment. That started coming through in the lyrics and singing.
Where were you coming from on "No Resolution"?
That was one of the songs where I was ready to pack it all up and throw in the towel. There were a couple of instances during the writing and recording of this album where I was completely demoralized. Those lyrics were definitely influenced by the feeling that I was getting like I'm just a piece of shit to these people. It's the thought that I'm nothing but a number and my feelings are never taken into account. There were a couple of moments where I was having a really hard time. A lot of honesty came out, and a lot of my innermost thoughts and secrets came out. It was tough at times, to be honest. I literally almost quit twice. If it hadn't been for Brendan, I don't think this album would even be finished.
Given the visual nature of your songwriting, do you tend to read a lot or watch movies frequently?
I read a lot. I love reading. I have one of those electronic readers. I like being able to have a bunch of books in one place, but I still prefer paging through a book. I do love to read and watch films. I'm into anything that's really creative. I also try to stay away from as many outside influences as I can when I'm writing stuff because I don't want to be too influenced by those. I tend to not listen to a lot of rock music for example. I won't really listen to anything that's even remotely like what we do because I don't want to come out sounding like what I've been listening to. Subconsciously that stuff does seep in. I will tell you that Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray was a paraphrase that I read in a book somewhere which I thought was just an amazing visual. It stuck with me, and I changed it a little bit to fit our title, but I really did like the imagery of the book. I like poetry, art, and all things creative as well. I did quote Dylan Thomas in one of our songs. It's a B-Side on the album that you can get on iTunes or the deluxe version. The song is called "Yeah". I paraphrased Thomas on the whole chorus. I guess I was feeling saucy [Laughs].
Who are some of the authors that you always come back to?
Not a lot of it is really highbrow stuff. In terms of highbrow material, I like Kurt Vonnegut. Poetry-wise, I'm into Edgar Allan Poe and Sylvia Plath—the depressing stuff. For mass consumption or when I'm looking for something to read, I normally like a lot of Dean Koontz just because I like the dark stuff that he writes. He just came back with a new book. I saw that he has four books about Frankenstein which I'd love to read because I'm pretty sure his version of Frankenstein is going to be very different than anybody else's. If I'm in an airport and I'm jonesing for a book, then I'll just find a Koontz novel there. I actually started reading some of Jeremy Clarkson's books because I think he's awesome. I tend to like the material that's escapist, and I've always liked the darker side of everything. That's why Koontz is good. I felt like he was consistently smart and subtle too. I like Stephen King as well. I think his greatest book of all time was It to be honest.
King's short stories are untouchable.
He used to do collections of short stories where he'd have one and then there would be stories from all of these other authors. Those are great as well. He seems to get his point across and is far more powerful when he's doing the short material.
Would you ever want to write a book?
[Laughs] I've been thinking about it! Nick Cave is a great singer-songwriter, actor, and author. I just read The Death of Bunny Monro, and it's great because it's super dark. Nick Cave is a dark guy so I didn't expect it to be anything else. I'd probably start working on my book now and release it twenty years from now [Laughs]. It might be easier to release a book of lyrics, photographs, and artwork. It is something that I'd love to do. As a kid when I was in elementary school, I wrote a children's book, and it almost got published. I was only twelve-years-old. I did have the aspiration for it. I'd have to think very carefully though.
What's the story behind "Forsaken"? It's the perfect closing track.
I think so too! It's a little dramatic, but I think a little drama is always good in music. That was about coming to a realization when you're in a situation in a relationship where the only thing that really keeps everything going is both of you are either getting wasted or high the whole time. When you sober up at the end of the period that took way too long to get to, you realize there's really nothing going on. It was loosely based on something like that. The piano part in the bridge is what the song was really built around. We took that bridge, and Dale [Stewart, bass] came up with the melody line and choruses which we combined. It came together from a bunch of different pieces. On my iPod, I have a thirteen minute version of that song that we first jammed on [Laughs]. There was something about it that felt really epic. "Dramatic" would be the best description. It felt like the best way to finish the album. There's so much going on in the song. The idea was to make it a really intense finish.
What would be your thoughts on doing a full-blown acoustic tour with Aaron Lewis of Staind?
I'd love to! At some point, we will tour together. I think he's great. In my mind, there's not many people who can touch what he does when it's just him and an acoustic guitar. I've been a friend of his for years, and I've been a fan of his for longer. I couldn't think of a better acoustic tour [Laughs]. It seems to fit. He's a fan of mine, and I'm a fan of his. It'd be great to go out and do something different and make it known that this is a special occasion. It would be an experience. I'd love to make it really cozy and small. I'm totally down with that.
Adding Corey Taylor to the mix would be incredible…
He's killer too! The dude is just awesome. He's a cool guy. He really is one of the world's best. One day when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, I hope I'm there to see it.
Will you be picking up Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray when it hits stores on May 17th, 2011?