Playing their first show in 650 days, on tour with 3 Doors Down during the summer of 2021, played some temporary mind tricks on Seether frontman Shaun Morgan. When the band closed out their tour around their seventh album Poison the Parish, they were already working on the next album, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, by the end of 2019, just before the pandemic shut things down.
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“In my entire 20-year career, I’ve never gone that long without playing shows,” shares Morgan. “It was a lot of nervous energy on top of everything else. An hour into our first show we were ‘do we still remember that play?’ Ultimately, we were unceremoniously thrust into the beginning of the lockdown, so psychologically it was nice to feel like I was worth something and that we could do our jobs and not sit around for another three months depressed.”
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band’s lifespan, and 2002 debut Disclaimer, the band released Vicennial – 2 Decades of Seether (Craft Recordings) in October 2021, featuring 20 tracks, including 16 of the band’s No. 1 hits, “Remedy,” “Rise Above This,” “Fire Again,” “Broken,” and even a denser cover of Wham’s 1984 pop hit “Careless Whisper.”
Thinking back on the band now, more than two decades since first forming in 1999 along with longtime bassist Dale Stewart in their hometown of Pretoria, South Africa, Morgan never expected Seether to last so long.
“I would never have said we’d last this long, other than it’s so difficult to have any kind of longevity,” says Morgan, now based in Nashville, who says he also gained a different perspective on the band and where they are now, 20 years later after being off the road for nearly two years. “You feel so grateful that people still want to see you after 20 years,” adds Morgan, who was grateful to be able to watch his 4-year-old daughter grow up while the tour was halted. “We got to see her start becoming a little person who’s got a personality, who’s funny and vibrant and exciting. I got to experience things that I would not have seen if I had been on tour. By the same token, I don’t know that my heart is in touring as much as it used to be.”
Morgan adds, “I still enjoy it. I think I was deflated, because we were really excited to go back on tour [in 2020], and it was ripped out from underneath us.”
Seether also released Wasteland – The Purgatory EP in July 2021, which featured additional tracks pulled from the 45-50 songs that Morgan initially wrote while working on Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. No touring planned in the next six months, Morgan is going to use this time to work on the next album.
“I think that there’s enough emotional content for me to mine from the past year to write some stuff,” says Morgan. “I’m hearing things in my head and I know how I want them to sound. I’m not some sort of malevolent dictator or anything. I’m just trying to paint that picture and only I know which colors go where, and that’s been my process for so long.”
How the songs come from some ether is his favorite part of being a musician. “When I go into my studio, sometimes I won’t have an idea, and other times I’ll have a seed of an idea,” shares Morgan. “I start with nothing and an hour to a couple of hours later, I have another song—sometimes two or three songs a day—then other days there’s zero. I don’t try to force anything.”
Now two decades in, Seether was recently added to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame’s popular “Right Here Right Now” exhibit, joining Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, The Weeknd, and Kacey Musgraves
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Disclaimer, their Vicennial, and Seether’s continuing storyline of songs, Morgan shared some “Behind the Song” stories with American Songwriter on five of the band’s biggest hits.
“Words as Weapons”
Isolate and Medicate, 2004
“Words as Weapons” I had written when I was living in New Hampshire. It was very different for me. Some people have said it reminds them of a “Mad World” [Tears for Fears] but I don’t hear that. I’m a fan of that song, so maybe it was done subconsciously. It was one of the few songs I’ve written with a producer [Brendan O’Brien]. We put a bit of arrangement on it because the intro wasn’t the way it is now. I believe the bridge was originally the chorus, and the chorus was the bridge. It was all sort of flipped on its head. It was one of the songs, over the course of my entire writing career, that was most rearranged by a producer. It’s another one of those songs where people have really attached themselves. For me, those lyrics were really far more direct but still vague enough to construct outside interpretation. When I listened back to that song, I’m like, “holy cow, I was really pissed off.” I was saying mean things without directing them to anyone in particular. Still to this day, that was one of those songs where maybe it’s an anomaly, but lyrically it still hits me in the same spot from when I wrote it. That one hasn’t really shifted in its meaning.
Karma and Effect, 2005
“Remedy” was one of the first songs I wrote when we were working with producer Bob Marlette. I was in Los Angeles, and I would go to the producer’s house every day, and he had a studio in his garage. So he just handed me a guitar one day, and there was something about the guitar I just really loved playing, so I just started riffing and making stuff up. Then he said, “Oh, that’s great let’s run with that.” So we recorded the riff and he programmed drums to it, and then I came up with a verse, and we sort of built the song that way. I went back and we did the lyrics and vocals and that was the first single. That’s why I’m so proud of it. It’s one of those where you think “Man, I wish I could write another one like that,” because it’s still one of people’s favorite songs. When we play it live, it still gets one of the best responses. I wish I could come up with something in that vein, but I also don’t want to repeat myself. When the first album come out Wind Up [label] was very adamant that we just go with the softer songs. For me, that’s fine, but that misrepresents us as a whole. Whereas in South Africa, we had success with a song called “69 Tea,” which kind of put us on the map there. At least that song represented us as a band, so when “Remedy” was chosen, there was a big fight, because the label didn’t want us representing the heavier side of the band, so I was really happy we won that victory. When that single came out, it was the first time we saw a big jump in fandom, because it was a more true representation of who we are as a band.
“Fake It” / “Rise Above This”
Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, 2007
“Fake It” was written when I was living in LA, I was going through a really rough time. I was living in Venice [CA] and had this garage, which in LA is almost unheard of. So I set up my computer and just had this space to shut the door and not worry about anything else. I was experimenting with pre-programming with drum samples, which I hadn’t really done it before. One was called “Alley Cat,” and it was this sort of swing beat and I started playing the bass around it, and it ended up becoming what it was, growing out of that drumbeat. It was actually better than I was expecting, so I continued writing. It probably took me a day or two, because I was trying to figure out the technology that I was working with. I would always just record ideas straight to cassette tape, so this was the first time I had a computer. It was fun because I sat for hours and get inspired by drumbeats, and occasionally that’s been enough to inspire a song.
“Rise Above This” was when I was thinking about getting older, and the riff came because I was trying to see if I could write something similar to “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins. That was the original intent behind it. “1979,” I remember as a kid, and when some of my friends got their licenses and they had cars, and we would drive around with the windows down. You almost feel like low-key badass because you think you’re in this car, driving down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in California, but really were just a couple of kids in a car driving in Pretoria. I was trying to recreate that feeling because I was kind of down and miserable, to be honest. I was trying to cheer myself up. Lyrically, it was inspired by my brother’s suicide attempt, so I kind of wrote the lyrics to him, and then before he could even hear the final song, he committed suicide, which is unfortunate. I don’t know whether it would have helped him, but I certainly would have loved for him to hear it. That’s why we also started the Rise Above Festival, so we could raise awareness for suicide prevention.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, 2020
I love this song, but I didn’t know how other people would receive it. I just thought no one would like it, and it’ll probably just be on my hard drive, and maybe one day I’ll do a solo thing and put all the stuff that didn’t fit Seether on it. Then it just came back, and then the song was on everybody’s top 10 list. What I liked about that song is that I wrote it completely differently to any other song. This one time I said I was gonna write a song where the instruments—at least the two guitar parts and the bass—wouldn’t be doing the same thing at all if I can possibly get that to happen. Usually, you write a song, and the bass follows the root notes of what the guitars are doing and everything sort of follows. And in the chorus, it’s all sort of coming together in one big crescendo, and you go back to the verses, and there’s a bit of flow there. But for this song, I wanted the bass line to be something very different to the rhythm guitar, which is doing something very different to the solo guitar.
Lyrically, I was really proud of that one. I don’t remember writing it like that. I don’t even remember how I came up with the melody. I just ran with it. There were six or seven guitar parts on the demo. I wanted to build it up as much as possible, almost like doing music for an orchestra with all these different instruments playing different parts to make one cohesive song. It was a fun experiment.
When I do start writing again, I’m going to try and do more of that type of stuff. Ultimately, it’ll probably end up on potential solo stuff down the line.
Photos: Shore Fire Media