In some ways, it’s a bit ironic that my first show of 2008 should be a pair of bands that wouldn’t even be on my radar if Fazer didn’t exist. I’m not much of a rock radio boy, and both Three Days Grace and Seether have both charted well on rock radio, with Seether enjoying a number one song
right now with ‘Fake It’. Late last year, I got to chat with John Humphrey, drummer for Seether. I like to have decent images to accompany anyone interviewed or profiled in Fazer. Hence, my sojourn into Toronto to garner some pictures of John on the skins.
Seether jumped on stage at about 9pm, and delivered a 9 song live set composed of material covering their full discography going back to Disclaimer for ‘Gasoline’, ‘Needles’, ‘Broken’ and ‘Fine Again’; lifting ‘Truth’ and ‘Remedy’ from Karma and Effect and playing ‘Like Suicide’, ‘Rise
Above This’ and ‘Fake It’ from their newest CD Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces, a disc I have been playing a fair bit since it was delivered to my mailbox a few months ago. The band is now playing as a three piece (with the departure of Pat Callahan on guitars after Karma And Effect
was released) and sounded quite tight as a three piece. Vocalist/Guitarist Shaun Morgan snarled his way through every song in the live set, garnering cheers of approval from an audience that felt to me like it was comprised of as many Seether fans as Three Days Grace fans.
This was the first of two shows for this bill, with this evenings show selling out quickly, and the second date quickly added and also sold out soon afterwards. Bassist Dale Stewart shimmied around on his bass for the duration of the set, delivering his music sans guitar pick (I like a bassist that doesn’t use a pick while they play – It seems more REAL somehow) and drummer John Humphry slammed away on the skins like a man on fire for every song they played. This was a solid set of music, from a band that has much more to offer than a snazzy ‘Fake It’ video and some tabloid fodder (the break-up between Amy Lee [of Evanescence] and Shaun Morgan was
the music equivalent of a Hollywood break-up a year ago). I’m sure Seether will be back around to headline their own shows in the coming year.
What follows is an interview with John, conducted by phone in late 2007.
Where are you right now, location wise? What part of the world?
John Humphry: We are in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – middle of America.
Crazy. What’s going on down there?
Not too much. It’s freakin’ cold is what it is. Experiencing a little bit of winter now finally. But we’re out on your – we got a show here tonight.
You’re coming up to Canada in the New Year right?
Yeah, in January.
You’ll want a parka for that action. I’m telling ya…
That’s what I hear.
It’s already getting pretty nasty.
We will bring some kindling. We can burn our luggage to keep warm.
What do you have going on this week that’s keeping you busy?
We’re back out on the road. We took an almost year-long hiatus. It wasn’t intentional. One situation compounded with another. I personally had back surgery last December. And there were like 3 months recovery there. And in the meantime Shaun did a lot of writing. So we reconvened in May and started what has now become Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces. So lately we’ve been on the road, we’re back to it. We are live-fiends, a live animal. We’ve been away from it, which we don’t like, so we’re making up for lost time. We’ve started with Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace in the states in August and it was sort of a precursor to the album – it was a good 3 months before the CD even dropped. We’re back out playing live. That’s what Seether is all about.
Back problems? That’s tough for a drummer. I’m sorry to hear that.
Yeah, absolutely. Being a drummer, and I guess years of rockin’ <chuckles> kind of threw my back out. I got through the last of that tour. So when Karma and Effect ended in October of last year I pretty much spiraled down into a crash and finally had surgery in December. There were no bones about it (no pun intended) I had to get work done, I had to get it addressed. I put it off and put it off. But I finally had it done and rebuild myself physically – rehabilitation, getting my strength back and rehearsing. That was the best thing for me, just playing, getting back with the guys are doing what we do best – turning stuff up and laying it out, you know.
It’s all good now?
Everything is good. Everything is great. I’m feeling good and playing better than ever I feel. The band is having great shows.
Awesome, that is good to hear. Can you talk a bit about how Seether got together?
Sure. Seether goes back before me. I joined 4 years ago. The band formed 6 or 7 years ago in South Africa. The band originally was called Saron Gas and was brought to the United States by Wind-up Records and did a showcase in the North and were signed. They were a 3-piece band. The original drummer who was from South Africa, went back home. They went through a series and drummers (and nightmares), which Shaun can tell you all about. And then finally we ran into each other. I was in a band, on MCA Records in the ’90s called The Nixons. You may or may not have heard of them. We had one hit – our 15 minutes. Actually it was pretty short, more like 11 minutes <chuckles>
I have actually heard of the Nixons.
Anyway, we had a mutual friend and sound engineer who was working for Seether and worked for me years back. And we ran into each other and he said “Man, Seether is looking for a drummer, I don’t know if you’re looking to get back on the road and tour again, but I think you’d be great for this band.” I wasn’t really familiar with the band. I had heard “Fine Again.” I picked up Disclaimer at that time and heard it inside and out. I auditioned for the band and met the guys. If you ever meet Shaun and Dale personally, they’re just really down to earth guys, just great people, you feel it right away. So we ran through the songs, and I did my job and nailed the material and Shaun pretty much hired me on the spot. That was fall of 2003.
That’s a good story. I was just watching the “Fake it” video online, and was wondering if you could discuss what is involved in putting together a video like that? How much time is involved?
A lot of the time, fortunately, we have the easy job. The hardest thing we have to do, and it’s boring, is wait around. There’s a lot of waiting. All the work they go through all day building that set – the jet plane, that interior they built. They created that, just like they would for a movie – the set, and the snow, a lot of preparation, many hours and manpower putting that together. And we’re the talent. We come in and we wait. It’s a very tedious process. You work easily 14-, 16-, 18-hour days on something like that. And it’s very little time playing or performing… a lot of it is set up.
True enough. It looked like it was fun to make though.
It was a blast! Those girls were very nice, to say the least, and beautiful, very easy on the eyes. It was a great day, no complaints here. It was a lot of fun. And it’s a great medium to get the music out. And these days you don’t have to rely on music channels to play your video, because they’re too busy playing reality shows. So with the advent of YouTube, or even going our MySpace page, or to our proper website (Seether.com), before the album was even out, you could direct the widget to your own personal MySpace or what-have-you and be able to view the video the day it came out.
I find it funny that we’ve got 2 music broadcasting stations, and I can’t watch them, you’re right, they’re all reality tv. So I seem to check the stuff out online now. Where was that video filmed?
That video was filmed in Los Angeles and a really cool experience.
If I had to pick a song I play the most off of your latest album, it is “Fuck Me Like You Hate Me.” I like the really wavering downtempo sound of the guitars that are on that song. I don’t know, the chances of it being a radio hit are probably slim to none, right?
Who knows? Maybe. We’re doing the song live. We’re doing a few new songs. We do “No Jesus Christ” right now and we’re doing that song, which we jokingly call the “acronym family home.” And of course we’re doing “Fake it” and “Like Suicide”. We’re also doing “Rise Above This”, so I guess 5 new songs. Which is a lot of fun for us to play, because a lot of the songs we have been playing for many years. But now that the CD is out and people are becoming familiar with the album we’re able to introduce new songs. That song is a great crowd song and I think it is going to become even more prominent as the tour and the album continues. Who knows? Puddle of Mud had “She Hates Me” so I don’t know why we couldn’t beep it and do the same thing.
True enough. Is that a concern for you? When you have a song that looks like it could become a single? I believe you are close to, if not, the number one band on Canadian rock radio right now. Would that affect whether you would drop a tune like that, because it has some profanity laced through it?
The songs tend to go where you want them to go. There was a bit of strategy with that one with the producer and the label. You do have those 4 or 5 that “ok, these are going to be the singles, and these are the songs that you can be artistically have a little more freedom on because we know they aren’t going to be singles.” At least you have this master plan. And you think you’re genius and you know exactly what’s going to happen. But that is never the case. Some songs develop just like that. It’s a great song, but there’s no chance because of the lyrics of it, and then it could be very well the last single to be released on this cycle. Who’s to say, you know? We’re pretty open to anything. If there is a single that takes off, we won’t squash it and say “No, no! Absolutely not!” If there is a song that people want to go with, that’s awesome.
Are you guys creative in any other ways in addition to music? Do you draw or sculpt or paint?
Wow, that’s an interesting question. Yeah, actually Shaun is quite an artist. I have not been “practicing” in a number of years, but I had a scholarship to an art school right out of high school, which I didn’t take because I was doing music. But I used to love to work with pen and ink and paints as well. Shaun’s always drawing and doodling to this day. He’s very talented. That’s interesting you say that. That music tends to lend itself to painting and drawing and other things as well.
The artwork on your album cover – do you guys have a hand in that? Or does this go out to a creative person and he gives you an interpretation?
Shaun is very hands-on. The artist for that, his name is David Ho. He is somebody that Shaun sought out and commissioned to do the artwork. We’re trying to get rights to the story. There is story line that goes with it about a girl. And those are basically illustrations from the story. So hopefully we can have that at some point and release it online, or post it on our site or something. Shaun’s very hands-on with the artwork, with everything. He chose that artist and the work and renderings. Shaun doesn’t like to leave it up to the powers that be.
If you were to look back on the last 4 years with the band, what is one of the craziest things you’ve been witness to with Seether?
Craziest thing? God man, a LOT of great times. I guess for me, we’ve had extra shows or toured and I’ve got to play with heroes of mine. We went to South Africa, a big home coming for them. And we did stadium shows with Metallica. To be playing and look over to the side and see Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield watching you and after the show they say “You guys are great. You’re one of the best new bands we’ve seen in a long time.” That is just jaw-dropping to me. Or when we did Audioslave, opening for them. And seeing Tom Morello and Chris Cornell come out every night and peek at your show. Those times for me are just gratifying. To kind of get a nod from, not your peers, but your heroes. It’s been amazing. That’s cool.
Do you see Seether moving into a more digital-delivery-orientated form of getting music out to your audience down the road?
Yeah. I think you have to stay with the times. And I think digital download is the future. I’m very much for, even being a fan of music, legally obtaining it. I think you have to pay for it. To immediately get that gratification of buying it instantly and getting it onto your iPod or MP3 player, if we can make that readily available, just like with the video, it’s just right there instantly, not having to wait for it. Fortunately our society is fast-food, the quicker the better and if done in the right way and through the right channels, I have no problem with that.
What is exciting you about being a musician right now?
For me, right now, I guess the excitement of watching to CD and how it is being received. I think the gratification of being away for a year and come back and have it be so successful, it could be one of the best charting singles we’ve had. And for me, being a musician, I’ve been playing a long time. It’s one thing for it to be the band’s 1st album, but it’s very gratifying for it to be the 4th album in and for this band to be having a career. And as a musician to have a career. Being able to do this after this many years, I feel very fortunate for that.
What do you guys do to relax? What does downtime look like for you when you are on the road?
When we get downtime – we’ve been pretty busy lately. We live on our bus. Our bus is home away from home and currently right now we live with Xbox 360 and Guitar Hero 3 is the game of or focus right now. We have a lot of fun with that – the band and crew, taking turns at the guitar is a lot of fun. I think Guitar Hero 3 has been the fun thing. And you feel like a kid again, we’re having a lot of fun with it. It is pretty popular. Yeah, I guess it just got a plug in there. I’m a drummer and I play little to no guitar. So playing Guitar Hero for me makes me feel like I can really play guitar.