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Seether

Seether formed in 1999. Just one year later their demo was charting in their home country of South Africa. The year after that, US label Wind-up Records flew the band out to NYC for a showcase performance, promptly signed them to a deal, and the rest is history. In this episode we speak with singer/guitarist Shaun Morgan and bassist Dale Stewart about Seether’s grassroots rise in South Africa, their big move to the US, and their brand new album, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.

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Transcript

Evan Ball:
Hello, I'm Evan Ball. Welcome to Ernie Balls' Striking A Chord Podcast. Today on the show we have Seether, or at least two of the members. We have vocalist and guitarist, Sean Morgan, and bassist, Dale Stewart. So we talk about how they got their initial break on South African radio, then we talk about the next big move, which was getting signed to a US label, and moving the band from South Africa to the United States. Then we talk about their brand new album, which is set to release in one week, that would be August 28th, 2020. So we talk about the album, and also the realities of releasing an album during a pandemic. It's obviously a tricky time for musicians. But without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Shaun Morgan and Dale Stewart of Seether. Shaun and Dale, welcome to the podcast.

Dale Stewart:
Thank you.

Evan Ball:
All right, well, let's start here. How did you two meet?

Dale Stewart:
Wow. That's a long time ago.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. The memory is dim. We met through... I was dating a girl. I was at Technikon , which is basically an arts and design college. And I was dating this girl, and her brother and Dale were in a band together. So I went and watched Dale's band a few times and was instantly impressed with his ever present row of ice cold beers to take place... If we ever ran out, there'd be one close by, and we would not be hurting for a drink. We hung out a couple of times, and then I played him some stuff from the band that I was in at the time. And he was unduly impressed. I think it was... If I think about it, I thought the music was terrible. But he was enthusiastic about it. And basically we sort of... I don't know if we were friends really at that... Yeah, we would see each other and hang out. It wasn't like we were buddies or anything, it was just that we were always around each other because of the sibling connection.

So we cut forward to probably five or six months later, and our bassist at the time decided to quit, had some sort of meltdown or whatever. And I say, "Whatever," I'm not trying to make light of it. I think he was pretending to have a meltdown. So then, we had a gig coming up, the drummer and I, and we were desperately in search of a bassist. And I knew Dale could play bass. So I was like, "Well, I know this one guy." So we called him up. We wet him at a little pub, and we took with us a cassette tape of 17 tracks or whatever. I think it was 17. And we gave it to him and said to him, "Hey man, can you learn these by Friday? Because we have this show to go play to, three people."

And he did. He learned 17 songs. And we played to the drummer's wife, her sister, and I think, the bartender. But we had a blast. That's basically how we met, and how we came together. And that was, I think, the official joining of, or the official... The start of Dale and I playing together was probably, I'd say, January of 2000. So yeah, a good 20 and a half years ago now.

Evan Ball:
Wow. All right. Yeah. Well, you touched on my next question. I'm wondering, what does early Seether look like? I know you actually weren't called Seether yet, but right after the band forms, and in this era you're talking about, are you guys building a following quickly? Are you playing in someone's garage, playing gigs?

Dale Stewart:
We played anything we could get our hands on. We were just we're just excited to be doing it, and playing, and we were just having fun. And men, if it was a house party, we'd play it. If it was a crappy club, like Shaun said, we played for the bartenders, and your girlfriends and shit. We did those. But it was fun. Those were fun days because I think there's something so special about imagining, "Man, one day it's going to be like this, and it's going to be like that. We're going to have a record deal," and thinking about the future, and hoping for the best. And you don't have any money, and you're scrounging for beers and stuff.

But it's a really fun time. I think once you do get signed, and have the record deals and everything, then it almost becomes like a job then. It's like, "Okay, well now..." I don't want to say the fun's over, but it becomes almost serious.

Evan Ball:
Oh yeah, the hard work.

Dale Stewart:
"We've made it. Now we can coast." It's like, "No. Well now it really starts. Now you got to put the work in and hit the road and all that."

Shaun Morgan:
We'll let we used to tour in the drummer's pickup truck, which had a canopy on the back, like a shell, a hard shell, which my brother was doing our sound at the time, didn't know what he was doing. And often, Dale and my brother would share the back of the shell. We'd be up front driving with taking turns, the other two of us. And we'd have a trailer on the back, and we would be carrying our own PA system. And when we would get to venues, they'd make you wait until after the dinner rush. So you'd get there at about five, and you sleep in at hostel. Oftentimes, hostels were exactly... If you can picture that, we actually stayed in one that looked like they had those steel toilets from train spotting, but maybe a little bit less poo.

Evan Ball:
We'll link to that in the show notes.

Shaun Morgan:
We were sort of... And these holes in the wall, basically. There were these bunk bed things. And the venue was just up the hill from there. So we got there. They said, "No, we can't load in. You can come back at seven or eight o'clock, and load in when the dinner rush is over," and the show starts at 10:00. So we go down to this horrific shelter, I would even call it, at this point. And we wait. We go back upstairs, then it's kind of over. Now we have to carry in the PA ourselves. And at this point, this PA is being held together with tape and bubble gum. It's a complete disaster. And we get in there, we set up, and now we want a sound check. And of course, now they don't want us to make any noise until the show.

It was a lot of that. It was a lot of scraping to get by. We would do a tour for, I don't know, three or four weeks, but it would mostly be weekends. And then we would make just enough money to come home and give the drummer money for his electric bill, because he actually had a wife and kids. And the two of us were just young. He was 37 at the time, but going on 38. And Dale and I were 20 and 21. We had a completely different outlook on life.

Evan Ball:
Right, right. Right.

Shaun Morgan:
And as fun as it was to do all that loading and stuff, I really don't miss it. You know?

Dale Stewart:
No, absolutely not.

Evan Ball:
And what town are you in? Where does it start?

Shaun Morgan:
We started in Rooihuiskraal, which is basically this little suburb between Pretoria and Johannesburg. It basically means Red House [inaudible 00:07:12]. And we started playing on the drummer's garage. And I started before Dale, obviously. And it was me, and there was another guitarist, and there was a girl playing keyboards and singing. It was basically a five-piece band. And we had a rehearsal one time, where two of the members were gone, being the singer and the guitarist, and I said, "Hey, I've got some songs if you guys want to do something." So we started playing things like 69 Tea, I think was one of the earlier ones that I had. And we really found that that wasn't the way we wanted to go as a band anyway. We didn't want to beat this five piece with this...

Shaun Morgan:
The woman, she kind of sang like the old lady in church, kind of voice. Real nasally and whiny. But she would desperately want it to be in a rock band. So we went on as a three-piece. And then basically, we just played competitions. There were band competitions that we played in, and we lost to people that you'll never hear of, and don't even have bands anymore. Because even then on that level, it's political. And it's interesting. But the scene was great, because once... Basically, how we got the name for ourselves is by playing this battle of the bands every weekend, there was one DJ on at nighttime in South Africa, who was very, very instrumental in exposing us to new music.

Shaun Morgan:
And I remember, he used to come on from 7:00 till 10:00 at night. Or 7:00 till 11:00, maybe. And when I was a teenager, that's all I would listen to while I was studying. And that's how I found out about Sepultura, Pantera. Anything new that came out was played on this particular three or four hour block of the radio station. The rest of it was all pop, because it's the one national station that was, at the time, the big thing. So we gave him a demo of 17, probably the same 17 tracks we gave Dale to learn, to be honest. And we'd been recording them at a guy's... There was a guy that he knew who basically was a jingle writer. And he had his own little studio set up with a vocal booth, and he had instruments.

Shaun Morgan:
And then what we would do is, we would record, and this is pre and post Dale's joining. And we would record the songs in the band room with one microphone onto a cassette tape. And then we would take the tape to him, on a Monday, let's say, and then he would take Monday through Friday just programming the drums for us, with a horrendous drum sound. But it was professional, so we thought it was awesome. And then on a Friday night, we'd go in and we would record the songs. And it was normally a song or two per week, and then we would record them. And he wanted in payment was a McDonald's. Of course, that changed once we got signed.

Shaun Morgan:
So it was this cool little thing we did, and it was just us chipping away. So we built up the 16, 17 song, a sort of back catalog, if you will, and we gave it to Barney Simon. And he was the guy that was like the godfather of rock music. I think to this day, he still wears misfits tee shirts and things. And he's probably in his late 60s now. But he started playing... So we didn't hear anything for a week. And then suddenly, a week after we'd given him the demo, he was like, "Man, you guys got to hear this new band Saron Gas." And he starts playing one of the songs, and I go, "Oh, this is so cool. He's playing one of our songs." And then the next night he does it again, but he plays another one. And then the next night he plays another one, and the next night he plays another one.

Shaun Morgan:
So he starts this sort of underground rumble for us. And it doesn't really translate at that point to more people coming to the shows, but it does get the attention of the actual PDs, ad the radio programmers of the daytime shows. Because they were still playing rock music, but it was at a time when, I guess, Nirvana would have been heard on the radio station during the daytime. So it wasn't... Maybe it's not as pop as it is now. I'm kind of getting confused. So then the PD goes, "You know what? Let's playlist this song, 69 Tea." And we were an unsigned band, and it was basically a demo that we had done in this jingle writer's office. So here we are, and we get the song on the radio. There's a huge premiere. I'm on the radio talking about it. We're an unsigned band. And I don't think it's happened since in the country. But man, within a week, the show's exploded.

Shaun Morgan:
And we would be put on the early slots on these festivals, and we'd get out there, and there's maybe 100, 200 people. And we start playing, and the room floods with 5,000 people, to capacity. And suddenly, we just exploded. And then we could do tours, and actually kind of... It got so big that I was studying... I was learning to be a jeweler. I was studying for a Bachelor of Technology. And the next thing is, we've got this song on the radio. It starts charting in daytime, and then of course, we start getting some interest in record comp'... Not many, to be honest. But even then, it was only a small independent that picked us up. But that was how we built it up. And a lot of it was just basically because people believed in us, that had the power to expose us to other people without any money, with no advertising dollars. If you think about it's a pretty bizarre story. But that's how we ended up getting on the radio, and that's how we ended up getting a deal, and then that's how we ended up getting assigned, through that whole, long-winding process.

Evan Ball:
That's crazy. That's a great success story. I like that. I'm curious, what is the South African music landscape like? Are there a lot of South African bands that are popular, mixed in with American bands, British bands, kind of like the same mix we'd have here in the States?

Shaun Morgan:
I think in our time, there was a lot of South African rock on the radio, and a lot of interest because there was that explosion of Nirvana, and Alice In Chains, and Pearl Jam and South Africa. And so there were a lot of bands... Even Cold, Lithium. And there was a band called Squeal that was great. There was Amersham. There was Springbok Nude Girls. There was all these great bands that just suddenly blew up, and they were all local bands, and they drove the creation of the rock festival market. Because there really hadn't been much like that before then.

Shaun Morgan:
So then you started getting things like what we had. We had our own Woodstock, we had Splashy Fen. We had all of these festivals springing up. And so then we started being invited to play all of those. And you would hear those bands on the radio, and we were just as big fans of those bands as we were of any other band American, or otherwise. But we can at least see them on tour. We never got to see any of the international bands. So they became almost, even more important to us, as the interest in rock in the market for rock, especially in a country like South Africa, which demographically it's a very, very small percentage of consumers. So the record companies don't really care about making dimes when they can make dollars on something else.

Shaun Morgan:
But there were a lot of great bands, man. And again, I'm like Dale. I'm out of touch, but I have tried to figure out ways to find out more. But even the old websites we used to go to that, I used to sit on the chat rooms at night and trolley back in 1998, 1999, that's gone, and it's just defunct. So it's sad to see that it's corroded, but I think also, the bands have turned away from that and said, "Well, if we don't get signed, we're just going to try and do it through Spotify, or we're going to try and do it through SoundCloud or whatever, or even Facebook."

Evan Ball:
So you grab the attention of us label Wind-up Records. Do they call you out of the blue? How does this come about?

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. They called our manager Ingrid, at the time, as far as I know. And I think it was a Steve Lerner who used to be at Wind-up. He said, "Hey, we've got this demo." And we were like, "Demo?" We spent all this time and money and effort making the album with one of the top producers in the country-

Evan Ball:
How dare you?

Dale Stewart:
Yeah, calling it a demo. But anyway, "Oh, we've got this demo and it's really cool. And we'd love to meet you guys. Can you fly out tomorrow?" And we were like, "Well..." Being on a South African passport is like the worst, in terms of traveling. So we said, "Give us a week. We'll get visas, and once we have visas, we'll come out of there." So they gave us a week. They bought us tickets and everything, and we flew to New York City. And there was the dude with the sign saying, "Saron Gas," on it. And he's like, "Oh right this way." And we got in the limo, and they were driving us through Manhattan to like... I forget what hotel we were staying at, but super nice.

Shaun Morgan:
It was like the Hyatt on fifth or something. They threw their wealth and the power at us to impress us.

Evan Ball:
That's awesome.

Dale Stewart:
It didn't take much to impress us. I think a six pack of beer would have impressed us.

Evan Ball:
So once you find out that you got that call and they want to fly you out, are you guys over the moon? Do you go out and celebrate that night?

Shaun Morgan:
I think we did exactly that. We had our favorite a little rock club called The Doors. And I think we went out and we went and told the entire world that we were getting flown for this showcase. But man, we spent... That week, getting the visas, we were terrified we wouldn't get them. So there was this whole feeling of, "This is our only shot. This is our chance to really get a deal." Because we'd had guys in South Africa literally spend, in their executive armchairs, and just tell us, "It's not what I'm looking for. Sorry." And just skip through those songs as fast as he could. We had other guys who send us letters that said, "It's not what we're looking for right now, but good luck to you in the future." And you're talking about Sony and Geffen, certainly the branches in South Africa. We're talking major labels at the time.

Dale Stewart:
Yeah.

Shaun Morgan:
And so we knew for a fact that this was the shot that we needed. Because it's not every day, and it doesn't happen ever, really, that you get a phone call from a US label, and you are abandoned South Africa who's been around for a couple of years, but you've reached some sort of ceiling in the country you're in. And you're kind of one of the top-level bands. But if you're a South African musician, even as a professional, even as the number one selling artist, for the most part, a lot of those guys still had day jobs. And they would work in a record store, or a music store from Monday to Thursday. Then they would take Friday, Saturday and Sunday and go play some shows, and then they would be back. There's no tour buses. There's no crew. We had a one crew guy one time, who almost killed us in a van. But basically, it was this excitement, but it was also this dread, this fear, because we knew this was our shot.

Shaun Morgan:
So we basically went full anal mode and said, "Okay, how best can we impress this label?" They have the Fragile album that we put out, but we have these other demos in the can, which included Broken, for example. So we knew we had to impress them because if they liked what they heard, we thought we had better material. So we rehearsed some stuff we were going to do. We did some acoustics because we wanted to show out our flexibility and our range. So we get to New York city for the showcase. And Dale and I don't own a tuner. We don't have a guitar tuner. So basically what we do is, one of us tunes first, and the other one tunes to him.

Shaun Morgan:
And then, I also didn't have money for strings, and neither to Dale. Dale used to boil his bass strings once a week, or once every two weeks, and throw them back on. So we don't have any strings man. So we get to New York. I have my rusty old set of guitar strings. We started doing a little mini sound check and I break a string. So now, I'm broke. I'm in New York City where I have no idea where to find strings. Well, I don't know where to find anything. And I have 30 minutes before Wind-up record shows up for us to do a showcase. So then we scramble. We find on the strings. We come back, throw them on. I think I even just threw on that string, or I might have even bought a single string, because we had zero money. And we played the showcase.

Shaun Morgan:
And that fear from the phone call, only heightened as the showcase became closer. As we got on that stage and they watched in, and it's in this, what looks like a dance or a ballet studio-looking, because there's murals all around you on all the walls, a little stage. And then they all came in and sat down in chairs while we were up there trying to impress. Except for Diana Meltzer, who was in the front row. And she was just rocking out. And afterwards, everyone cleared out and we sat down with the President and he said immediately, "I'd like to sign you guys." And dude, the relief, that we weren't going to get turned down, and that endorphin release when the fear dissipated and the excitement took over, that was killer. It was awesome. Now, 20 years down the line, it's a moment I still remember quite vividly. And it was killer. And then we came home, and we had a contract man.

Shaun Morgan:
We waited for a contract, and I still was always afraid. I was always afraid. Because you spend your whole life being told, "Music is a waste of time. There's thousands of other bands out there that are going to do it. There's millions of other guys better than you." And for the most part, that's true. And opportunities don't come to some of the best musicians and the best players and the best bands. And that's sad. But luckily, the path was laid out for us somehow, and we managed to just hack our way through this.

Evan Ball:
Good for you guys to have the clarity to know that you need to seize this opportunity. You did it.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. Because I'd just had a baby. So my wife at the time... Actually, she was just my girlfriend, but we had just had a baby, so I was actually going to have to quit playing music. I was going to have to get a job. So in many ways, this flying us out in the June or July of 2000... No. Sorry.

Dale Stewart:
It was 2001, right before 9/11.

Shaun Morgan:
Right before 9/11. So that's why I was saying, "It's funny, because you said that they're holding up the Saron Gas sign." I was like, "Well, that must have been before 9/11, because it wouldn't happen afterwards.

Evan Ball:
Just to clarify for listeners, that was your previous name before Seether.

Shaun Morgan:
Yes. Yeah. Again, that name was kind of a dumb name we picked from a hat. We didn't have a band name, and it had been weeks of recording with this guy, John, in his jingle studio. He said, "Look, you guys need something. You need a name." He had a vault full of sound effects CDs, and they all had interesting titles. So we just picked a bunch of them, threw them in a hat, and drew out Saron Gas, and that's how it became our band name.

Evan Ball:
Well, yeah, that's a crazy story. Getting signed for any aspiring band is huge. But it's even crazier when it entails moving to an entirely different continent. Were you guys conflicted there, on the move? Or was it a no-brainer, "We're doing it."

Dale Stewart:
I wasn't. Sean just had the baby and everything. But I was a young... I wasn't fully single, but I was a young guy and I was ready to do whatever it takes. Just being given an opportunity like that, something we've been working for so long, it was definitely a no-brainer. I was ready to get on the plane and go overseas and see what it's all about.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. That's amazing. So did you guys all live together when you moved here, to the US?

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah-

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. We did wind up with like, "Hey, move over in January and we'll start," record the album and everything. And, "Don't worry. We'll find you a place to stay." We get to New York City with basically a little piece of paper with an address on it.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah, no more limos. The limo had [crosstalk 00:22:29].

Dale Stewart:
Yeah.

Shaun Morgan:
They've already got us now.

Dale Stewart:
So we go to this apartment. It's an Oakwood apartment. But it's right off of Times Square. It's like 42nd and 6, or something weird.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Shaun Morgan:
60th floor.

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. We're way up there, and we were like, "This is kind of a cool place." And it wasn't huge. And then after like a couple of days, we were like, "I wonder what this place costs?" Because we all paying for it. So we asked the label. We were like, "Hey, what's the rent on that place?" And they're like, "Oh, that's like 7,500 a month, or something like that." And we were like, "We can't stay here. We got to move." So while we're in the process of trying to figure out how to get out of this place before the next month rolled in, we basically got a phone call like, "Hey, your plane leaves in like a couple hours for LA. There's a change of plans. We're now recording in LA with Jay Baumgardner."

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. "Get to the airport," basically.

Dale Stewart:
So, "Move to the Oakwood and California."

Evan Ball:
And is that where you settled from that point on?

Dale Stewart:
We did for a while. Yeah.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. We had nowhere else to go. So Dale and I... We, also, at the time, right before the move to LA, our drummer who was coming up on 40 years old, he was really homesick. And you ask about how we settled. He was a guy... He is a decent, down-to-earth guy. But he's the guy who, if you go to a fancy sushi joint, he asks if they've got fried chicken and fries. He's a sort of down-home simpler guy. He thinks fried bologna on bread is a treat, and so do I. But I also think there's other things that are more of a treat.

Evan Ball:
It's not just that. Yeah.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. So he was gone. We get the phone call, we're moving to LA. "Pack your bags. You're out." We fire our managers... Oh wait. No. We didn't. That story we'll get to. That's a great one too. So basically what had happened is they put us up in this Oakwood in New York City. They said they were going to pay us a salary. When all was said and done, and the Oakwood was paid, we only had about 200 bucks to share between four of us in the apartment. Because our manager lived with this as well. So we had nothing. Try and survive on 200 bucks a month in New York City. Even in 2002, as a band, it's not going to happen. So we moved to LA and basically, the manager stayed behind, in Brooklyn, because she knew somebody. Probably was engaged in carnal activity with her, which is fine. It's her life. And so great.

Shaun Morgan:
So we were in LA. Now, we don't have a car, and we don't have any friends. And at this point, now it's just Dale and I in this Oakwood apartment. And we had no friends, but we basically start recording pretty much immediately. But we tried to bring another South African drummer over, because we thought it was important to have another South African, just so we could keep an element of purity about it. We flew a guy. He didn't work out, which was a real bummer, because he's a real nice guy. And then we ended up having Josh Freese play on the album. So that was incredible.

Shaun Morgan:
So now we've got a world-class drummer on this album, so we know it's the big time. We finished the album, we finished recording, and now we got to find members to play. We have to find drummers obviously, because we don't have one. So we auditioned and then we found a Nick Oshiro, and then we ended up moving to a different spot, not Hollywood, but Los Angeles, proper, to be more in the heart of things. And we all lived together there as well. And then I flew out my wife, who we got married in between there as well. Then I flew her out, and she lived with us as well for a while, and the baby. So there was a lot going on. And it was all kind of... If I look back at that, it was actually a really terrible time. It was just scrounging for money, trying to get by, waiting for tours, trying to get a drummer. Then we get a drummer, and he flakes. We get another drummer, and he flakes. And we finally get a drummer, and then we audition a guitarist, because Wind-up was very convinced we could not be a three-piece anymore. We had to be a four-piece band.

Shaun Morgan:
So we then have to find some other guy to play in the band. And then a couple guys flaked on us again. So it felt like everything had been such a good journey up until moving to LA, that at that point, I almost felt like the too good to be true part was very quickly fading to the, "Man. This is not what I thought it would look like." And the thing is, the thing that people don't understand, maybe they do. But you don't think about it is, when you first move, you say goodbye to all of your family and friends that you hang out with on a regular basis. You say goodbye to everything you know. The money you use, the electrical sockets you use, the side of the road you drive on, just little things that you grew up with. Everything is flipped on its back. So now, you've got to adapt.

Shaun Morgan:
And luckily, Dale and I, I think at the time we were 22 and 23, so we could do it. We were good. But the older guy, the drummer that left, I think all of that was just too much for him. And he's a real home-body guy, and his kids were very, very, very important to him. And for me, leaving was the opportunity I needed to create a life for my family. But it was so much fun and games, right until we actually got to get into the studio that it felt like, "Oh man, what have we got ourselves into?" Because we were working in a... But the studio was awesome. And was this beautiful... You got runners getting you stuff. Every beck and call is taken care of, but something about it just rang hollow, in the sense that the producer was never in the studio. He was always away. He showed up whenever we wanted to. And then we would walk in on a Friday, and we had been tracking music since the Monday, and he'd go, "Nope, do it again." And he'd just wander back out again. So I was a real beat down man.

Shaun Morgan:
And because we were so green at the time, and we were so grateful for the opportunity, and so thankful that this was a real thing, we never once thought to stand up for ourselves. We never once thought to say, "No. No. No. This is how we think it should be." Or, "Can we at least have a discussion?" We just said, "Yes, sir," and just meekly did what we were told. And it took many years for us. I remember, once the album comes out, the song is out and it's... We get on Ozzfest, but I remember having an argument with a head of Wind-up where he told us to go back to Africa if we didn't use the demo version of Fine Again as the single, rather than the one we spent three or four weeks rerecording over and over again at NRG studios. So it was a lot of things that in the beginning.

Shaun Morgan:
It felt like Dale was saying, once we got signed, the real slug started. That was when it was like, "Okay, now we have to earn every single fan. We have to get out there and earn them." Whether that's through touring or whether that's through radio play or whether that's through doing the 7:00 AM acoustic sets at different radio stations. That was when the hard graft really started. And I think people don't understand that.

Evan Ball:
Well, if I piece together your timeline, it seems like it's pretty impressive. You guys form a '99, signed to an indie label, get an album out the next year, within a year. And then what? 2001, the following year you're already in the US with a new label. That's pretty crazy time. And then, how long is it until your first single? Was it Fine Again? When does that break?

Dale Stewart:
When was that released? I forget. That was in May of 2000.

Shaun Morgan:
May of 2002. We had spent the first few months of 2002 to just recording. We were in the studio for about three months. And they rushed the single ahead, before the album was, I think, even finished. That's why there was so much frustration about single, because they knew that it was the first one they wanted to go out with. So we recorded that first, basically, because everyone's pants were on fire apparently, because it was like... Man, there was no downtime, except for Sundays, when Dale and I would sit and watch Comedy Central. We used to watch The Man Show. And we would sit and drink a case of beers together. And then, Monday morning, start up again and go to the studio.

Evan Ball:
Well, once that single hit, did the mood turn? Did it feel once again, like things were falling in the right direction, you were winning again?

Shaun Morgan:
Well, I think Dale will agree, at that point, once we finally got to the touring part, and really seeing what American touring was like, and doing 16, 17, 18, sometimes, or 20 shows in a row back-to-back, and living in an RV in really close quarters with some guys you barely know, who are now playing in your band, yeah, it just became a party. It was basically at that point, it was like, "Well, we're here now. Let's make the best of it." And I think, because also, that's the part we enjoyed the most at the time. Because the experiences recording had never really been anything that was something like, "Oh, I would love to do this again as fast as possible."

Shaun Morgan:
For us, the touring was the fun part because yeah, the drinking, and the hanging out, and just the basic sense of immortality. There were nights when we were in the RV, the tour manager would go to bed. We're all boozed up and high on cocaine, and we've got people in the RV, and we're cruising through the streets with the windows down, and there's a dance party in the back. And the guy who's driving should probably be in prison. That was me. But I think, because it was so much of... It was this realization of a dream that I'd had since a very small kid, and I think for Dale too, it felt like, I was happy because I was in it with Dale, and I was happy because my brother came out, and he, for a while, was our tech guy. So it was really cool. It was the beginning of a realization of a dream.

Shaun Morgan:
And the idea was, live in the moment now, and have as much fun as you can, because there's no guarantee that this... Get us any steam. There's no way that this is... For me, I've always been a pessimist. I've always been a little bit hesitant. I always have to wait for a success to really be proven, or actually to be behind me before I actually will say, "Okay, I'll acknowledge that it was one."

Evan Ball:
Yeah. So you're taking advantage while you had it.

Shaun Morgan:
Oh man. We did it. It was-

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. It's not like we're going to be doing this in 20 years from now. Let's rage while we can.

Evan Ball:
That's great. All right. So fast forward, rumor has it there's a new Seether album on the horizon.

Dale Stewart:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). You know it.

Shaun Morgan:
The title is Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, which is Latin for, if you want peace, prepare for war. And it is coming out August 28th. So it's just around the corner, man. As of today, it's about four to five weeks away.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. That's great. So I think this podcast will release about a week before that, for context.

Shaun Morgan:
Cool.

Evan Ball:
I think usually, some touring follows the release of an album. How has releasing an album changed in the age of COVID?

Dale Stewart:
It's frustrating man, having this album in the can, and we think it turned out great. And we wish we could just get out there in front of people and play the new songs. And I use the analogy, we're all dressed up with no place to go, sitting around like, "Okay. Well, now what?" It's frustrating, men.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. It does. It's forced us to look at things very differently. It's shining a very big spotlight on a bunch of interesting things. The first thing obviously, they we're looking at is, how can we still play music for fans? And how can we still earn a living? So we were looking towards streaming platforms and how we can set up shows, and kind of... We're setting up production here in Nashville, which we can use, with full on video walls, and lights, and then the whole deal. So kind of like it would be at a live show. So that's a new thing to look at. But there's the spotlight then becomes, you see bands that are doing geo-locating shows, where it's locked to a certain area, or a certain grid. And then they'll do a show in that town, so to speak. So a virtual show in, let's say Cincinnati, Ohio. And then the next night you do a virtual show in Dayton, Ohio.

Evan Ball:
Really? But it's blocked out, huh?

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. So you can't watch... If I'm in Nashville, I can't watch the Cincinnati show. So that's one approach that some guys have taken. And then what we are looking at doing is, we're going to do a show, within a week or two of this album dropping, and just do an hour and a half long set, and charge people, I think 10 bucks to buy a ticket or whatever it is. And we're going to open it up to the world, and make it so there's no limit. And some other guys have also limited the shows to say, 1,000 people. So there's all these different approaches to it. And none of us know how to navigate these stormy waters. I think it's quite an interesting time.

Shaun Morgan:
And then the other part is, you feel a bit like a scumbag, just because I think I have too much empathy sometimes. But you don't really want to take money from people in a time when they may be slightly short on money. But driven by the same token, we're not just half-assing the show. And we will be doing concerts on a regular basis. In fact, we have all the band guys are coming down to Nashville, or up to Nashville from their various geographic locations. And we're going to do a whole bunch of content in a very short amount of time. And we're looking at stuff like, maybe doing albums from front to back. And then having that be a show. And then we are maybe looking at doing possibly, a second One Cold Night types show, where it's all acoustic, and it's a completely different set, and a completely different vibe.

Shaun Morgan:
So, yeah, man. We don't know. And other than that, I spend a lot of time trying to occupy my mind because I was mentally... My game was, I was getting prepared for that. There's a lot of mental stuff, preparation that goes in for me, now that I'm a father and a husband. That's another thing. My wedding has been postponed twice already because of this. So it's been a lot of weirdness, and a lot of bizarre situations. But when we were first told, "You can't leave your house," man, I'll make no bones about the fact that I drank myself into a stupor. A lot of nights, I don't remember going to bed because I was just so depressed. And I was so thrown off because I was prepared during the writing phase, that 2019 was a home year. And that's a home year, and that's when you do all the domestic stuff, but you also do the creative stuff. And then you record. And then somewhere in the beginning to middle of 2020, we go out and we do what we do. We do that for 18 months, and we come back home, and the cycle continues.

Shaun Morgan:
What the spotlight has shown for me the brightest is, most of my eggs are in one basket at this point, man. And most of my income, and if not, in fact, all of it at this point, is it's directly from this band and this music. So, if you take away the largest driver of revenue for us, which is live shows, and merch' sales, it really has an impact on, "Oh, wow. Okay. How am I prepared? What are my safety plans? Are my nets all in place that if this happens, and this continues for another year, is everything going to be good?" So there's a lot of things that you take for granted that the cycle is just going to repeat itself. And that for me, has shown me, that I haven't really... I've done some things that are to diversify the portfolio, so to speak. But for the most part, I haven't been very clever in creating new business opportunities up until this pandemic started. Right?

Shaun Morgan:
So now I've got my irons in a bunch of different little fires, and I'm stoking them to see which ones will grow in flames. But that was out of sheer necessity for my own, again, mental wellbeing. Because I stress about everything. And when you add something this big onto the top of it for me, yeah, it's been crazy. But it's actually made me look at my life and my world through a very different lens. And I think for the positive. I know where I could have made better decisions, and where I want to direct my life in future. And I also understand that I don't want to be dependent on live shows and merch' sales for my income. So these kinds of realizations have become pretty important. You know what I mean?

Evan Ball:
Yeah. The whole situation is so tough, especially for gigging and touring musicians. But it's going to be interesting to see what kinds of innovations come out of this, and are coming out of this.

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. And the influx of streamers and-

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. And I've thought about some of those. Dale's done some sort of... He takes the fans on a little inside trip to one of his fishing trips in the ocean, when he's hanging out with sharks and things, which I think is insane. I've thought about, "Do I jump on any of these trains, and maybe start a game streaming channel where I play video games, or start a podcast." I don't know. Dale's got his own plans, and he's had a longterm goal for a very long time. So these are the kinds of things that I hadn't thought about. And, again, I'm upset that it took me this long. But I did spend many, many years in it in a drunken haze, I'll tell you. So you don't really pay too much attention to the world around you, when the way you see it is, "The status quo is never going to change, and the money will roll right," kind of situation. So I've had to rethink and re-look at that, man.

Evan Ball:
Hey, do you guys ever get nervous before releasing an album, or anxious about critical response or even fan response?

Dale Stewart:
I think so. I think it's human nature to... I don't want to say, "Second guess," because once we make an album, I think, generally we've been pretty pleased with it. I don't think we'd be willing to put it out if we didn't think it was as good as it could be. But I think it's human nature though, to be critical, and especially be critical of yourself and say, "Wow, hope it's good. Hope the fans don't slate it." But there's always going to be some asshole who thinks, "Oh no, it's not cool because there's not enough banjos," or whatever-

Evan Ball:
Whatever it is. Yeah.

Dale Stewart:
It's like, "We're not that band bro. Try and be a little impartial." There's always that one review that you're like, "Oh man." So you got to try and not to let that get you.

Evan Ball:
Does it get to you?

Dale Stewart:
I try not to read them. I think the stuff that really counts is, the first time you play that song, or parts of that album live, and you watch the reaction in the crowd, and people-

Evan Ball:
Yeah. That's got to help put things in perspective. Critics be damned.

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. That's sort of about that, because it's not for the hipsters and the people that don't like your style of music, but they work for the publication, so they have to write a story. And if they say they like it, they're not going to be considered cool. That they'll have their mustache wax revoked, or something.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. I agree. I think there's a lot of anxiety before it, and I think that the album comes out and then it's a flop. And we've been very, very lucky in a sense. And I think we've been... I'm grateful that with every album that we put out, we build the fan base. And in my mind, there hasn't been one that's flopped and stalled the career, and the rising arc has taken a dip, in the sense of, where you really have to come out and work twice as hard with the next album. Maybe resort to writing with a well-known song writer, so you can get some hits.

Evan Ball:
Right?

Shaun Morgan:
You can go out there, and you can rejuvenate your career. And that, I've seen with him with a bunch of bands that, they were riding high, then they crashed down. Then they resort to outside writers and then they rebuild the career and get back on some sort of track. I know, having seen some people go through that, that it's a very difficult and very dark hole to climb out of. Because for the most part, people can be quite unforgiving, if they don't like something. But the other cool thing though is, I know that this stuff's can hold up to anything we've done in the past, if not way better than the stuff we've done in the past. And anybody who likes what we do is going to love this album.

Shaun Morgan:
And I know that, because I've written every single song that I've ever written, for myself, first and foremost. And if I'm not happy with it, it doesn't make it to an album. And if I am, and I love it, and it's in my head all the time, then it does. I'll write 40 to 50 ideas and songs, but there are a couple of clunkers in there. There's a whole bunch that don't fit on a Seether album. I'll be the first to admit that. And that's maybe why I write so much, so that I know that at the end of the day, I'll have a larger pile to pick from. And therefore, I can push it, I can raise the bar. And in my mind, push the band just one step further than we were on the last album.

Shaun Morgan:
So, it is nerve wracking, and it is terrifying. But I think that we have a really special fan base, man. Our fans are ridiculously hardcore. And you see that when you meet them, the stories they tell you. Our activism on the suicide front has really connected with a lot of people to it. And we've been doing that for a decade, about. Way before things became trendy and cool, we've been doing these activism things. And that's another thing that people really appreciate about us. So, there's always that, that I feel is almost the one reliable rock when an album comes out, is we're going to have that core, who's waiting for it, and really hungry for the new music.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. That's great. And you already have a couple singles out, from this album.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. Well, we have the official one, Dangerous, which is in internet radio. And we've released Bruised And Bloodied as a kind of a grat' track. And then we've released Beg, which is great. Because with Dangerous, you have a real different sounding Seether song that's, got the inherent Seether-ness about it, but it's got something that makes you... It's a little bit different to what's out on the radio right now. And that's important when you put out a single. Because you can easily fall in line, and put out as a straight ahead banger. But you have to also, I think, take chances sometimes, with the melody and presentation of the song.

Shaun Morgan:
And then you got Bruised and Bloodied, which is just a straight up rock song, with a happy, pop melody to it, with some really not pop lyrics. And then you've got somebody like Beg, which is really heavy, and really dark and ominous. And I think, with those three songs, the only thing that hasn't been represented is then, the softer, maybe more vulnerable, and pretty side of the-

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Shaun Morgan:
It gives you a good overview of what to expect when this album comes out.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I have a specific question on Dangerous. So Dale, you have that really cool bass riff that starts it out. Was that riff the spark for the song? Or did you make it up after there was already a chord progression in place?

Dale Stewart:
I wish I could take credit for that riff. That's Shaun's bass riff.

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. That's-

Evan Ball:
That's awesome. Yeah.

Dale Stewart:
It's a great little... It's so hooky and catchy. It cramps the hand a little bit, if you have to play it over and over in studio. But other than that, I love it.

Evan Ball:
So Shaun, is that riff what started the songwriting process for that song?

Shaun Morgan:
Yeah. I wrote it on guitar first, and it was obviously in the same place on the fritz, so it was much higher up. And I thought, "Well, you know what? I want to hear this on bass." So I picked up the bass, and I rerecorded it with the bass. And [inaudible 00:47:22], "That's what I want. This is where it's going to be." And I've actually been thinking about this a lot this week, because currently, Corey and I are going to get together because he's close, and we can throw out some material for the label when they require it. And they want us to do an acoustic version of Dangerous.

Shaun Morgan:
And at first I said, "No way, man." Because it's just got a lot of moving parts, and I don't, I don't think it's going to work. But then when I listened to it and I broke it down into all of its pieces, the bass is basically what drives the song the whole way through. The bass holds down the verses, the bass holds down the choruses. And then only with the exception of the beginning of the breakdown, is it guitar-centric. The rest of the song was basically guitars filling in and coloring in the things that the bass is doing. And the intention was to try and write parts for guitar that did not repeat parts that the other guitarists were doing, let's say, these imaginary guitarists, and as much as possible weren't following the bass. And then in the bridge, to bring everything together, to drive it home sonically.

Shaun Morgan:
So, I often sit and just noodle around on the bass, because if you switch it up, and you just move to a different instrument, especially on a day when you feel uninspired, or on a day where you just feel like, "Nothing's really coming out today. I need to shake this up." That's when I reach for a bass, or I'll start programming some sort of drum beat or something, to try and see if I get inspired.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Hey, do you guys Have a favorite song off the new album?

Dale Stewart:
I think mine changes. The more you listen to stuff, there's a little bit of a revolving door. But there's a song called Wasteland. And I think at the moment, that's my number one.

Shaun Morgan:
I'm pretty partial to Failure right now. I hadn't listened to any of this stuff in quite some time, and suddenly, my wife's in the garage and she's working on some projects, and the next thing is she's playing that song, and I was like, "Oh, man, I love this song." So that's my current favorite, for sure.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. All right. Well, before I let you guys go, let's talk about guitar strings real quick. What gauges are you guys playing?

Dale Stewart:
I play 105s on the bass, and then in the studio, sometimes we'll go up to the 45, and then sometimes we'll get a 1-10, if we're doing some really low beat type stuff, where we took tuning way down. Love the Ernie Ball strings, man.

Evan Ball:
All right.

Dale Stewart:
I used those before they were so graciously supplied for us.

Evan Ball:
That's good to hear.

Shaun Morgan:
He boiled many sets of them.

Dale Stewart:
I've boiled many Ernie Ball strings in my day.

Evan Ball:
New bass string technology right there. That's our next endeavor.

Dale Stewart:
Yeah. High-tech.

Shaun Morgan:
I tend to play either the 12 or 13. 13s, mostly live, because I've got ham hands, and I consider myself more of a precussionary guitarist than a finesse guitarist. And I also find, when we do it like that live, it stays in tune way better. And I can really dig in and play really hard, without losing any tone as well. Because that's the other thing. We have a lot of dropsy stuff. So those thicker strings definitely help to make that tone just killer. I've also now play the Music Man guitars. So combine those two together, man, I'm in heaven. It's such a killer sound. So yeah, I'm a huge fan. And we've had a long standing relationship with you guys, and we can't thank you guys enough, man.

Shaun Morgan:
Well, you know what one of the coolest things in my life was? Seeing our band name on the back of the packaging. That was like one of those old moments you go, "Oh man, this is so cool."

Evan Ball:
Yeah. That's awesome. And you're playing this... For good measure, you're playing the StingRay guitar, right?

Shaun Morgan:
Yes. I love that thing, man. I've got a bunch in my vault, and I was so ready to get out on the road and then bang away on those things, man. But as soon as they give us the go ahead, and they give us an all clear, we are the band that's going to be out there immediately. So, I hope people understand that about us, and know that when the time comes, we will be there, and we will definitely be out on the road and playing these beautiful strings on these beautiful instruments.

Dale Stewart:
Hell yeah.

Evan Ball:
All right. Well, Shaun and Dale, thanks for your time. Thanks for being on the podcast, and can't wait to hear the new house.

Dale Stewart:
Thank you.

Shaun Morgan:
Thanks man. I appreciate you having us. This is my first podcast I've ever done... Actually no. It's my second. But this is the first one where it was about music. And I really appreciate you having us.

Speaker 5:
Thanks for listening to Ernie Balls', Striking A Chord Podcast. Be on the lookout for that new Seether album. I didn't take Latin, but I think it's pronounced Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. If you'd like to contact us, please email strikingachord@ernieball.com. (music).

Evan:
Shaun.

Shaun Morgan:
Yes, hello.

Evan:
Hello.

Shaun Morgan:
How's it going?

I was just eavesdropping on that conversation like some creeper.

Dale Stewart:
Nice.

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