With a career spanning 15 years, SEETHER have been one of the biggest names in rock and metal for quite some time. Their seventh studio album, Poison the Parish, is released in May and was produced by frontman Shaun Morgan. We had a chat with Shaun about the new album, having more independence in creating music, and what he wants to do with his own label, Canine Riot Records.
So, your new album, Poison the Parish, comes out in May. Are you happy with the result?
Shaun: Yeah, I love it! You know, I got to produce it, so it’s more true to what we as a band wanted to sound like. So, it’s a little bit of chaos, instead of being too polished, it’s got some feedback instead of all that being removed, all that fun stuff. So, for me, yeah, it’s a good representation of who we are.
As you said, it’s the first album you fully produced. What was it like being able to take the record into your own hands and just do whatever you wanted with it?
Shaun: At first it was a little terrifying, but after a few days it was quite liberating because you realise “Well, there’s no one to answer to” and there’s certainly nobody that’s got an opinion on how your songs should sound, you know what I mean? I mean, fair enough, producers have been around forever, certainly some of them have done great things, and we’ve had great producers that we’ve worked with, but I just felt it was time to do something, you know, take the chance and do something I felt would be the best. Trying to make it sound like I keep hearing it in my head, rather than having somebody else come in and polish everything up, and that for me has always been kind of a big negative to have an album be done and then it’s never quite where I want it to be.
So, from this point on, do you think you’ll enjoy making music more because you have that complete freedom?
Shaun: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a great thing to have when you’ve spent the first fifteen years kind of being told what to do and which way to go with it. But now that limitation has been removed, I think it’s just a great feeling to know that from now on it’s in our hands. And as nerve-wracking as that is [laughs], I’m kind of up to the challenge, I think.
Definitely! I’ve given the album a listen and think it’s brilliant. Other than doing what you want and creating the sound SEETHER ultimately wanted, what do you think will make the album stand out?
Shaun: I think first off I think the mix is a lot more than we’ve had before, because in the past there was a tendency to sort of dumb down the guitars and bring the vocals to the forefront, whereas I’m more into the mix where the vocals are not quite the focus and the whole band and all the instruments are given equal attention. So that for me is already a big step forward. I mean, again, it’s just the fact there was no outside influence, be it positive or negative. That for me, personally, felt like this was something I created completely from the ground up, so all the pressure is on me, but I’m up for the challenge and I like that, for once, it’s close to the music sounds in my head as I can imagine. In fact, it sounds better than I can ever imagine because working with Matt, who’s a great producer in his own right, he’s a great man to find great drum sound and great guitar sound, so having him as a secret weapon also helped a lot.
What was the writing process like for the record then? Was it collaborative or did you take the forefront?
Shaun: I basically holed myself up for 8 months and wrote by myself, and that’s usually how it goes. I mean occasionally we’ll get together in a room and we’ll brainstorm some ideas, in fact on the last album we only had 8 songs written the week before, and then we went into a room and threw down four or five more to complete the album. Whereas this time, I think there were over 40, maybe 45 [songs] to choose from, so the more variety you have, I think the better the ultimate product is, so yeah. Sometimes I think I just work better by myself, so I tend to favour that.
That’s fair, whatever works! So how did you whittle the list down to twelve songs?
Shaun: Some of them, after a while you just realise they’re crap, so that’s an easy couple to cut out. And then, once I noticed there was a certain direction, those were the songs I started favouring, and at the end of it, when I listen to the whole bunch, there were definitely a whole bunch that stood out to me. So, at that point you just pick the 15 that you need out of those, and I mean, I wish there’d been more recorded, but obviously, that’s not reasonable. But they’re always there in case, one day, I need to find a song or I’m stuck on an idea. So yeah, I think they just start coming to the forefront naturally, and you start realising “These are the ones I like the most”, the ones where you wake up in the morning and they’re stuck in your head, that’s the kind of stuff you want to keep on the album.
So, what are your main aspirations for the album?
Shaun: I don’t know, I think we’re just trying to be a rock band. I think for the longest time, we were sort of steered towards trying to be a bit more accessible in a sense. I mean, I like melodies and I like writing songs like that, but I didn’t really want to write that many this time around, so we steered away from being to pop-y in a sense, and this was the whole focus here, to return to what made me enjoy playing music in the beginning. I put myself in the mindset of being a pissed off teenager again, that’s the result that comes out I guess!
Yeah! It’s nice to hear the older sound in the album with more development.
Shaun: Yeah, it’s got riffs and heavy drums and all that stuff. [laughs] It’s just, again, that liberation and the ability to play loud and heavy and have some abandonment which for the longest time we were discouraged to do, because it doesn’t make for a nice, shiny, pretty album, you know?
So, how do you feel SEETHER have developed as you’ve gone from album to album?
Shaun: I don’t know, I feel like they’ve all had their own sort of vibe going on, and they were just where we were at that time. I think now, I’ve got a better grasp on what I’m trying to achieve, whereas before I was figuring it out. And I think with this one I’ve gone back to the sound I love the most, I think that’s where I feel the most comfortable. The other albums had elements of this kind of sound in it, I think after a while we kind of drifted away from it a little. I’m glad we’ve managed to move it back to where I’m the most comfortable, and honestly again, it’s the most honest version of this music.
Excellent! Going back to your label, do you think you’ll pick up many bands?
Shaun: Yeah, one at a time. I’ve just signed a band called LTNT, I’m actually going next week to produce their album in Wales. I think once that album’s done, we’ll get them touring and start building a career for them, and then I’ll look to the next band. I think it’s better for the bands involved to have our direct attention every time, because we want to make sure that they’re treated well and that they aren’t neglected in any way. In that sense, I need to do one at a time to make sure that everyone feels like they’re taken care of.
Will you go back to South Africa and try to pick up some bands over there?
Shaun: I think so. I’d very much like to do that, and that was always one of my goals. It just so happens that, at the time when everything came together this [LTNT] was the band at the top of the list. So, I’d have to go back and spend some time and do some research and see what the bands are like out there, but certainly I would love to give more South African bands a shot at an international career.
Awesome. You’re like the success story of South Africa, so it’d be great if you could pick some up! Do you know of any at the moment who are worthy of a mention?
Shaun: Well, no, because the scene’s changed so much since we’ve been gone. A lot of the bands we really used to hang out and get on with have disbanded. So yeah, I need to go back and look at the situation, gigs and that kind of thing, to rediscover the industry, but I’d rather have unsigned bands rather than bands that have already been signed. A lot of those are a little middle-of-the-road, and I’m looking for something that’s a little bit more exciting. But yeah, I’d have to literally hit the ground and do the grass roots kind of research, I don’t know when I’ll have that time again. Hopefully around Christmas time I can go back and check out some shows.
Sounds good. And it’s the fifth Rise Above Fest this year. How does it feel to have created such an amazing awareness event?
Shaun: It feels really good to give something back every year, and obviously my brother killed himself years ago, so I always try to do something a little positive in that sense where we could turn that into a positive experience somehow, and to try and give him some kind of legacy. He was a good kid, and I feel like, yeah, it would’ve been nice if he was still around, you know? If we can help someone who’s depressed, then that’s the whole purpose, to start a dialogue about it and make people aware that there’s a lot of other people who feel that way. It’s not just an underground thing, and quite an epidemic, so it needs to be focused on, you know? We can’t just keep sweeping it under the rug and hope it goes away.
I think it’s an incredible thing you’re doing.
Shaun: Thanks man, I appreciate that.
Just to go back to the album real quick, where do your lyrics tend to come from?
Shaun: A lot of them are from personal experience and personal issues I’ve had to deal with. I came out of a long, self-induced fog and realised there’s a lot of shit going down [laughs]. Most of it is quite introspective because It’s what I identify with the most and it’s what I write music for, to get that stuff off my chest.
So, after the album release, you’ve got quite a bit of touring to do. What else have you got in the pipeline?
Shaun: I think that’s it for now, really. I definitely want to get to countries we haven’t been to before, like a lot of the Asian countries we haven’t been to. We want to come back to Europe next year and the UK to do some festivals. Really, when an album gets released, the expectation is that you’ll tour for a year, a year and a half, and then go home and repeat the process. I wish there was a more interesting way to put it, but that’s just the cycle.
For more information on SEETHER like their official page on Facebook.