SEETHER are one of hard rock’s most successful and enduring outfits returns with their seventh full-length studio album entitled Poison the Parish. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to drummer John Humphrey about making the album and working with band mate Shaun Morgan in the producers chair.
Congratulations on the new album Poison The Parish, it must be a good feeling knowing it is done now and you can’t do anything else with it?
Yeah, we are very excited and have been for a while. The album was tracked last fall and has been in the can for a couple of months now. We’re excited to finally have it out there and have everyone check it out.
Do you find that limbo phase from when the album is finished right up to the release a difficult one?
That’s true, in the past we would tour so much we would do albums while we were still playing shows in support of it. There have been times where we have done a couple of songs that aren’t known or even have been heard. That is tough to do because hearing the song for the first time live sometimes is hard to understand. This is the first time we’ve hit it with an album being released simultaneously and the songs will be heard by the time we will be playing them live and that is pretty cool how things have lined up.
Was it always the intention to go for a heavier sound compared to previous albums? Did it evolve that way?
I think so, I said before that we have worked with some great producers and we have learned a lot over the years but sometimes in regards to production on some previous albums we wished at times there were more guitars present or a bit heavier in parts than ultimately was heard. In this case we were turning the guitar knob and turning it quite a bit. Seether is always known for being heavier live than in the studio in most cases. The band is a heavy band, a guitar driven band and we wanted this album to be guitar driven, heavy but melodic. Shaun is a great lyricist and has a great ear for melody so there is nothing wrong with having both elements in your music.
Shaun has been quoted as saying the album is about empty people and the attention they have been getting when it clearly isn’t warranted. Was that the theme you were going for?
I definitely think so and at the same time with Shaun producing it he did have the weight of the world on his shoulders as everyone would be critiquing it. Ultimately for Dale and myself we felt great with how things were going down and also it gave us that little bit of freedom. We didn’t have A&R blokes popping their heads in, we didn’t have a producer and we didn’t have to second guess ourselves. We could do what came naturally and everything felt comfortable. We are a heavier band, we’re happy we had those elements and the songs really fell in to place. Having that freedom in a way with Shaun producing and the band having to answer to itself kind of opened us up I think in a lot of ways.
Having the shackles off did you feel like you were more productive because you didn’t have that outside influence?
Right, there were no agendas in mind. Shaun had written the music and had sent it to Dale and I. We literally came in to Nashville and did a week’s worth of rehearsals then right in to the studio. The songs went down fast with the drums which is what you record first. It felt really natural and fell right in to place. It felt like Seether, nothing was forced and we certainly didn’t think these songs will be singles so we need to treat like dirt and clay. We did songs in no certain order and went down the list.
Is there anything about Nashville that enhanced the recording process?
As it so happens Shaun does live in Nashville and it is a great town. We went in to Blackbird Studios in Nashville where we recorded Holding Onto Strings with Brendan O’Brien, so we were familiar with it. I guess there was that comfort factor there even though it was the first time with us producing. In many ways it was new and exciting but having the comfort of that studio. It is a great sounding studio and on the tech end of things I tracked the drums in a different room than what we did with Brendan. We used this huge, very high cathedral ceiling drum room which was very loud whereas with Brendan it was very old school drum booth. Part of it was down to convenience with Shawn living there in Nashville but also it was great studio with the comfort factor there.
What was it like having Shaun as the producer? Was he nervous and apprehensive in the beginning?
As a band we have a really good chemistry working together, it is a team effort. We talked at length about drums sounds and what he wanted to bring with me, snares and stuff. There is a mutual respect there so I would have some suggestions for drum sounds and he would have some ideas which worked really well. I’m sure he would have been nervous and apprehensive, not so much working with the band but what would other people think. I don’t know if he ever really let that show to me. We got in there and worked hard, knuckled down and did our best.
It was a different tracking process, the demos which he completed with the songs were fully realised demos, almost finished songs, nearly releasable. I tracked to those demos starting with drums which allowed him and Dale to both be in the control room while I’m tracking. In other words, a band will usually track an album all in a room together playing the songs while the producer is in the control room telling you to try this or try that.; In this case I’m playing to pre-recorded demos which Shaun had already done and he is able to listen to it objectively.
That was kind of a cool thing and made for a different experience allowing him to be in the producer role objectively and not having to be concerned with playing the songs, just listening to the performances and making suggestions here and there.
What was is like listening to the final mix for the first time?
The beauty of this is that you put your blood, sweat and tears in to it and then it is open to everyone to critique. As a band we felt great about it, the songs came together well and quickly. Nothing was forced, everything came naturally and it didn’t take forever to wait for sounds. It was all there and fell in to place. I have to give kudos to Shaun for the preparation of the songs, he did his homework and everything was ready to go. All we had to do was go in there and play our asses off.
Are there any Australian tour plans?
Tentatively scheduled and working to sort out things out for late this year or early 2018 but we’re are definitely heading over to Australia and New Zealand. We have been there before and it has been great, great fans and great shows and we will absolutely be back.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Poison The Parish is out now through Caroline Australia