Seether's Shaun Morgan: 12 records that changed my life
“The best advice I’ve received over the years? Don’t go for lessons,” begins Seether singer/guitarist Shaun Morgan, with a wry smile.
“Often what happens is you end up sounding just like the guy teaching you. I’d say using your ears, listening to albums and using tab books to follow along with what you hear is a much better way of learning. I went to a lesson once and got taught how to play Heart Of Gold or something… after that, I just practised by myself.”
In hindsight, it was a good realisation for the frontman, who formed the group 18 years ago in the South African city of Pretoria. After inking a deal with American independent Wind-Up Records, Seether would defy the odds and become one of few bands from their corner of the world to garner success internationally. Shaun looks back on the scene his band came from…
“There’s actually quite a large metal scene in South Africa. At one point you had Architecture Of Aggression, Agro, Pestroy and Marlowe - who were like heavy Muse meets Tool. A lot of these bands fell by the wayside because they couldn’t break out. There wasn’t the support for them, little radio or anything like that.
“So it was a great scene in the 90s and early noughties,” he reveals.
“But in South Africa, a lot of bands lean on the trends. For a while it was pop-punk, nowadays it’s a bit more British indie-rock. It’s a very underground local scene - yet when Metallica play, there’s 70,000 people out there. So there is a fanbase for it. I’m constantly looking into South African music to keep it alive, even if just for myself.”
Returning this year with seventh album Poison The Parish, Morgan is quick to point out the difference in self-producing their music this time round. For him, other voices – as beneficial as they have been in the past – would only have diluted the sounds heard in his head. It was time to take matters into his own hands…
“I produced this one because I wanted more of a raw and heavy sound,” admits Morgan.
“I find a lot of producers will try and encourage something more accessible, like less screaming… This time, I didn’t want to be influenced or affected by anyone else. I wanted something a bit more rough around the edges.
“It took us about nine months to write the album before recording in Nashville,” he notes.
“There’s an Electro-Harmonix Polychorus I picked up recently that’s all over the recordings. It has a really wide range and I love it so much I bought a back-up just in case I need it. I know most people like digital gear, but I’d still never use it, even live… I just love my Triple Recs too much.
“I’ve tried the Duals, all the other Boogies, but the Triple has always been my favourite,” adds Morgan.
“And I don’t even use the red channel – the clean and orange crunch has everything I need. The lead never appealed, for some reason. I fly with these heads and sure, they get a bit smashed or dusty, but it’s always worth it!”
Here, the Seether leader offers up the 12 records that changed his life…
Poison The Parish is out on 12 May via Spinefarm/Canine Riot Records.
1. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
“This is the album that inspired me to play guitar. As a kid, I felt like I really identified with Kurt’s lyrics, and it made me feel like someone else out there got me… almost like I wasn’t alone any more. I must have been about 13 years old, so this was right I was getting really pubescent, feeling all sorts of emotions about stuff.
“Kurt Cobain was a combination of so many different things… looking at each one, he wasn’t the greatest singer or guitarist or whatever - but when you put it all together, you got pure rage!
“Because of him, I saved up some pocket money and bought my first guitar for 500 rand, which is next to nothing in British pounds. It was a Marlin model with a Floyd Rose bridge in a black and luminous green finish.”
2. Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine (1992)
“I used this album to teach myself how to play guitar… and at one point I could play it the entire way through. I think Tom Morello is one of the most inventive guitar players out there.
“His riffs are almost like funk-metal, which is a really difficult thing to pull off. Yet he does it with such a great groove, loads of anger and yet it’s beautiful and melodic.
“You might notice anger is a bit of theme here… I didn’t get on with my parents, so I was angry all the time. It was so simple: one guitar, which didn’t get doubled much at all, vocals, bass and drums - and it still sounds brilliantly heavy to this day.”
3. Deftones - Around The Fur (1997)
“I was in college when I heard Deftones for the first time. Hearing the intro drum fill to My Own Summer (Shove It) still gives me goosebumps. It’s another album I had to learn the whole way through, from start to finish. To be honest, any album that inspires me that much will involve hours jamming along to it.
“It’s like Stephen Carpenter can dream up riffs, then wake up and finish writing them. We got to play with them a couple of years back and hearing those songs live, in front of thousands of people, made me really emotional. My eyes started tearing up!”
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
“Maybe I have this inherent fascination with funk? Who knows! I had quite an eclectic group of friends growing up - we were all playing in various bands. I think one of the sexiest basslines ever written is on Give It Away. It’s the kind of riff that makes you want to shake your head and jump around with your dick swinging in the breeze! I still listen to it a lot.
“Sir Psycho Sexy is another one big one for me - it’s almost a bit creepy. They were still young and all about boning back then - it was well before they started putting ‘California’ in every song, haha! This album got me through a lot of stuff over the years…”
5. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
“It’s almost like The Beatles' grunge album. Listen to how John Lennon is screaming on that first song! There must have been a lot of drugs involved. The way the album moves and flows is beautiful, almost like it’s one long song.
“My dad was a Beatles fan, but he had never really exposed me to it. I found this record in his collection when I was a teenager and it looked like there were 1,000 people on the cover. I thought to myself, ‘That’s a big band!’
“I loved all the songs, melodies and instrumentation. There weren’t any limitations to what they were recording - if we did an album with sitars and harpsichords people would wonder what the fuck was happening! But The Beatles had that ability, and it was because of their diversity.”
6. Korn - Korn (1994)
“I heard the Korn debut in 1996 because of the South African lag - back then we used to get everything two years later. Just listen to Blind and the way that song starts… the anticipation they build up is unbelievable.
“After listening to Nirvana, then Kurt dying and finding not much in the years in between, I heard the intro to Blind and it was crushing. The last half of the 90s would have sucked without Korn. I definitely think they shaped how that decade turned out, and thank God that they did!
“I love their latest album, too; it’s a return to what their first few records were like. Jonathan’s doing more of his old-school singing, before he did all the vocal training stuff, and I love that raw sound. Head’s been back in the band for a little while - not that the riffs were bad with just Munky. But with the two of them combined… they’re unstoppable, like the Lennon and McCartney of metal.”
7. Marilyn Manson - Antichrist Superstar (1996)
“I lived in a very Christian household, so what better way to rebel than crank up the Antichrist himself. The songs on this album are so creepy, the riffs are great with interesting melody choices - which is weird for Manson, as he’s not much of a melody kinda guy.
“I used to smoke weed when I was at college and would zone out listening to this. It was my happy place: Antichrist Superstar and marijuana. And it was the cheap shit you buy on the corner, too… it wasn’t anything good. During that time, this band were on a ton of drugs… which, not always, but often makes for a better album. It turned out like this crazy conceptual rock opera.”
8. Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988)
“I always loved the quirkiness to this band. The lyrics had this bizarre, poetic sense to them, delivered in this epic, raw-edged insanity.
“I still listen to Surfer Rosa once or twice a month to recapture how it made me feel as a kid. It encapsulated everything I felt about the world and all the different mood swings - like how lyrics could be inane one moment like ‘buy me a soda’ and then off into something else completely different.
“They are one of the few bands from my youth I’ve gotten to see live, along with Rage and Korn. But I never saw Nirvana or the Chili Peppers, either. There’s something about Frank Black that totally fascinates me; it was almost terrifying how heavy they could suddenly get. I’m glad they’re still around…”
9. Silverchair - Frogstomp (1995)
“We still cover Israel’s Son every once in awhile… can you believe he was 15 years old at the time of this?! When I got this, I thought, ‘What a son of a bitch!’ He wasn’t even supposed to be the singer, but they didn’t have one so there he was playing these insane riffs with amazing lyrics and melodies.
“That was so inspirational: he found his voice very early on and became so prolific. This album holds up today and it’s 22 years old. My favourite song of theirs is Ana’s Song (Open Fire), which came a couple of albums after… Daniel Johns wasn’t this angry little kid whose voice had just broken any more; he became a man. The transformation was quite amazing.”
10. System Of A Down - System Of A Down (1998)
“When I first heard this, I thought, ‘What the fuck is happening here?’ It’s one of the quirkiest records ever made - it shouldn’t have worked or translated to the mainstream as it did. But man, it’s a seriously good album!
“Toxicity was great, too, but this first one was super, super-angry. They were really pissed about the world - and I’m not usually much of a political band kinda guy - but I can’t count how many times I drove down the highway screaming about ‘the Kombucha mushroom people!’”
11. Brand New - The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (2006)
“This is when they started getting really sad. Jesus Christ is one of my favourite tracks; the lyrics were really beautiful and had such depth. I always wished I could write like that - it’s the way Jesse Lacey presented the imagery as whole.
“It was literal but also not literal, and because of that, his lyrical prowess always astounded me. You don’t want to skip a single track on this record, that’s how good it is. The music isn’t heavy at all, but if I’m feeling a little melancholy this is what I stick on.”
12. Thrice - To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere (2016)
“This is a very recent album, obviously. I’d never really been a fan before, but I was driving when I heard Black Honey on the radio and nearly crashed my car, haha! As a songwriter, I felt like it was pretty much perfect in construction. The guitar tones, vocals, lyrics… all of it was amazing.
“This album made me a fan, to the point I was listening to them a few times a day. I was literally obsessed! It would also make me feel better when I was in a bad mood. I’m not a religious person like their singer Dustin Kensrue, but I don’t have to be. It’s all about the structure and imagery… plus, his voice sounds so good on this.”