"Remedy," the new single by South African neo-grunge band Seether, continues to climb the chart, which is a real thrill for a group that hasn't released a new album in three years. Yet frontman Shaun Morgan has some issues on his mind that are making him kinda cranky. And even though he knows that whining when you're shining can be a bad career move, he just can't hold his tongue.
"Our new album is the culmination of a lot of anger and fear of the music industry and the people that happen to have power over our careers," Morgan said. "There are a bunch of people out there whose job is to handle product, and they overlook the fact that there are human beings involved."
Such gripes often come from artists who have been neglected or unappreciated by their record labels, which isn't at all the case for Seether, whose new disc, Karma and Effect, is out May 24. Not only did the band's 2002 debut, Disclaimer, receive strong promotion that helped it go gold, two years later the band's label felt there was still a strong consumer base for the disc. They re-released it with a bunch of bonus tracks, including "Broken," a duet with Morgan's girlfriend, Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee, and sales picked up again. And that's when the problems began (see "Don't Expect Many Collaborations From Amy Lee, Shaun Morgan").
"It pissed us off to no end that we had to tour behind 'Broken' when that was the only song we had that was at all new," Morgan said. "We had already toured for two and a half years, we had written a bunch of new songs and we were ready to go back in the studio. So when 'Broken' became a hit and did amazingly well for us, it was a double-edged sword. It was great to be appreciated on that kind of level, but as a result, we wound up spending an extra year treading water."
Morgan's ambivalence is heightened by the fact that the now-famous duet with Lee was born of playful spontaneity, not marketing savvy. One night, Lee decided to step onstage with Seether and sing harmonies for the tune, and it went over so well that Seether were asked to record the song for use in the movie "The Punisher."
"We were told it was going to be for this awesome love scene in this movie, and it would be touching and the song would be perfect, and we thought, 'Man, if that's the case, it's gonna be awesome,' " recalled Morgan. "Then you watch the movie, and the f---ing song plays while Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is doing the dishes and it's on a little transistor radio. We were completely bullsh--ted, and we felt totally exploited. I don't think anyone who is in control of those decisions gave a sh-- about our credibility and our career."
Morgan's churning stomach was further soured by those who accused him of piggybacking Evanescence's fame to fatten his piggy bank, and by people who came up to him after Seether shows to ask if he could have Lee sign something and mail it back to them. "It affected my relationship with Amy to the point where I walked out a couple times because I couldn't deal with it," Morgan admitted. "There are still days when it gets to me. Most of all I think it's really funny to be Amy's boyfriend, but when people see a video with her in it and automatically assume it's her band, that kind of ignorance really pisses me off."
Morgan is pissed off about a lot of other things that happened over the past year as well: He was instructed not to swear on the new album, the cover art was altered and the original title, Catering to Cowards, had to be changed to Karma and Effect. His handlers may not have intentionally kept the fuming frontman in a state of rage, but they ultimately did him a favor. Karma and Effect is fueled by Morgan's angst and, as a result, is far more urgent and exciting than Disclaimer.
"I was very pissed off before, and I think I still am, but even more so now," Morgan said. "It just feels like there's a huge wave of conservatism washing over us. I always thought America was more liberal than South Africa, and in retrospect it's not at all. It seems like we're reverting back to a time when Catholic sensibilities take center stage and it doesn't seem like it's going to be too long before evangelists are running around in the streets like in medieval times."
Seether started writing for Karma and Effect in late 2002, but most of the tracks were penned in the last year. And while Morgan wrote Disclaimer on his own, his bandmates — bassist Dale Stewart, guitarist Pat Callahan and drummer John Humphrey — contributed to the process this time. With the help of producer Bob Marlette (Saliva, Shinedown), the band funneled three years of ideas into 13 surging songs that sometimes forsake convention in favor of creativity. "We didn't want to come out and simply reinvent what we've done," Morgan said. "I think we're starting to progress to where we want to end up. We haven't yet learned where that is, but we feel like we're going in the right direction now."