Latest album: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum (Fantasy/Concord)Website: www.seether.com
Originally from Pretoria, South Africa and then based in the States following a quick rise in popularity, Seether are no strangers to breaking new ground, evolving in their sound from a notable Nirvana influence. Their latest and eighth album, titled after the Latin adage, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, translates as ‘If You Want Peace, Prepare for War’. Musically speaking, the album title provides an apt, concise statement as the album itself conveys a swirling combination of emotions, ranging from quietly reflective introspection to the outright hostility borne of exorcising personal demons.
Before this latest album was released, Seether’s tally of gongs includes three platinum albums, two gold albums and 15 number one singles, and their sales figures reflect that eye watering level of success. But for recently joined, Nashville based lead guitarist Corey Lowery, the band’s unwavering musical direction and ongoing creative output from founding front man Shaun Morgan, is the key to their success. Lowery switched from bass to guitar, having known Morgan
for many years before taking on touring duties in 2018 and then ultimately joining Seether shortly after whilst on tour. Loud Online caught up with Lowery to discuss the creation and performances on the new album as well as how he is fitting in with the band’s well known legacy.
The first single Dangerous is very catchy. It is a bit different to the other songs on the album. How did that song come about?
Yeah man, Shaun wrote about fifty songs and when we finally got into the studio, we ended up tracking about twenty one of them. From that, even that was tough to narrow down the final thirteen because there were some other great songs within that. Dangerous was that one song that stuck out and it had something unique about it. It was a little bit different to some of the other stuff. Every now and then a song sticks out as having something special about it. We all loved it and so we cast that as the vote for the first single. For the video, Shaun knew a guy who did animation [Mertcan Mertbilek] and we thought that with the times being what they are, that it would be really cool to do an animation for it. So we sent [Mertbilek] a script and so we have super cool imagery with these times going on, you know.
It seems to be really well driven by the melody line. Your guitar figures might be strummed chords and so on but the melody line really carries it. I’d say that is what the Seether fans will pick up on.
Yeah, Seether fans love to sing and that is the thing with putting the record out. When we do live streams, it is cool that we are able to do some performing. It has been way too long and we are just trying to figure out how to stay connected to fans, the best way that we can right now.
Is there a lot of work in arranging the choruses? You’ve got a lot of backing vocals that feed off Shaun’s screaming.
Ha, you know, I love singing backing vocals. Shaun is the guy that writes a lot of it, if not all the stuff. So, when he sent this stuff to us, everybody was really prepared. When you are really prepared and you know the song inside and out, when it comes to tracking your parts, you really get to put all of the emotion in for that one particular song. All of the songs are a little different. It is important to be able to express yourself at that time for that particular song. That really is throughout the whole record, everybody was just into that – when they were tracking one song they were living that song at the time. It wasn’t like, ‘Okay, another song, another song,’ you know, everybody was really in tune with slowing it down and really getting it. That is a testament to everybody just learning the material so well. That is why it went so smoothly.
The mixing was done by Matt Hyde [Deftones, AFI] and you assisted on the engineering. A song like Pride Before the Fall is well done with the left and right panned, gated guitars in the introduction. Did you have those ideas initially or was it something that happens as a studio idea?
Absolutely, you come to it, when we went to mix it, Shaun, Matt and I came up here [Nashville] and Shaun has a vision of where he wants everything to be. For Matt and me, it’s about finding the sounds and making sure that this record had an edge to it. Matt had brought in some custom made pre-amps which of course were really cool with some Neves, API stuff and things like that, all through to SSL boards. There is a tonne of hardware that went into it. We did the drums at Blackbird Studio and then we moved over to Dark Horse Recording, here in Nashville, Tennessee. It was all hands on deck for getting tones and what sounds best so everybody was fighting for the right reasons for this song.
The song Wasteland is interesting as whilst the guitar follows the vocals, similar to other tracks, when it goes to say the middle eight, the guitar part is a grunge styled drone figure, followed by some sustained notes.
Oh man, I remember tracking that and there was so much distortion going on and when we were mixing it, Shaun would say, ‘Turn it up’ and he’d turn it up and then he’d say, ‘Turn it up some more, man,’ and it really is how it works, it is bleeding. There is so much emotion that goes into these notes and when Shaun wasn’t singing, that was the particular part that he saying, ‘Turn it up’ because it’s got to sing.
By contrast, Buried in the Sand has clean notes ringing out, which is very different.
Yeah, I like that as well. There are so many songs on the record that have just great melody lines. I think that one of the most important aspects is learning how to be sincere as a songwriter. I have been a huge fan of Shaun’s lyrical content for a long time, even before joining the band. He sent me Poison the Parish before the record was out, to check out. My family and I were driving to the beach and we listened to the whole record twice. I called him and I said, ‘Dude, this record is awesome,’ and it was cool to know that he got a chance to produce his own music. We’ve all worked with some great producers in the past but to step in and to get the chance to have that opportunity to really represent the music as you want, is either going to huge or not. I thought that my favourite record to that point was Poison the Parish but now with Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, I can’t wait for everyone to check it out and I hope everybody loves it like we do.
You mentioned his production skills coming to the fore. In that light, Beg has a lot of spatial dynamics. How much of that is Shaun versus yourself and Matt driving that sort of final product?
When you’re finding tones, you’re inspiring each other along the way. If the tones are there, you mean that to be the driving force of it. That first initial heavy guitar introduction and then when the second one comes in, it was like, ‘This is incredible,’ but then there was that melodic guitar that starts in the introduction and it was just this whole build. It is very important for us to keep the dynamics when we drop down and into to these verses with our harmonies and stuff like that. I think it just makes the song sing so much better when you leave that empty space with dynamics.
It is interesting that you say that because Let It Go has a very intense, even jarring rhythmic feel that is countering or going against what is going on in the song but then it suddenly all fits together. It is quite strange how it works.
Oh dude, that is one of my favourite songs on the record. We’ve been doing a little bit of rehearsing and kind of jammed through some of those songs. Yeah, Let it Go and Dead and Done; oh my God! There’s going to be super heavy songs on the record and then there’s some lighter songs like Buried in the Sand and Wasteland; just an incredible amount of melodic stuff going on with some of those songs. Even with the heavier stuff, you’re right, I mean, to be able to break it down and go into this real, kind of beautiful thing and then out of nowhere, it turns into this war sound.
You’ve known Shaun for many years but was it intimidating joining a band with such massive sales success in the States?
For me it’s got to make musical sense and when I’m playing it, it has got to feel like I’m home. You’ve got to be honest with yourself and ask, ‘does this feel like you?’ and it came so naturally that I think that’s what got me in the band. It wasn’t like I had to change or be somebody that I wasn’t, to be able to play along with these guys. It had the sound and the vision that Shaun created a long time.
Looking at both Stuck Mojo and the music played by your brother within Sevendust, there is certainly a musical link there.
Yeah and it has always been important to me to try to be yourself within a band and not try to sound like any other band. Even with my brother [Clint Lowery], I never wanted to sound like Sevendust. I wanted my own sound which led us to not play together. We played together as kids and played together in a group called Dark New Day but we want to make our own sound and put our own stamp on it. We are super supportive of each other.
A couple of songs on the album have a bass introduction and one of those tracks, Failure, even reminds of classic Tool, initially. In those songs, to keep in time, do you have to wait for the rhythm section to really kick in?
Shaun had sent the demos to us and when we got in the studio, Dale [Stewart – bassist] did an amazing job in just putting his stamp on it. His spirit is in it and he has a certain swing as a bass player that I love. Listening to it soloed up [isolated on the mixing desk] and stuff like that. It just kind of sets the tone and when the song kicks in, everybody is super pumped and that is when you know whether it is a cool bass line or whatever it might be, to start the song. When the bass starts and instantly, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is the one,’ and you get excited about it.
He has got such a good sense of time that you know exactly when to come in on the song.
Absolutely, it is a Seether groove and I think the fans relate to that. They know when it is coming and us, as guitar players, we know when it is coming. As far as setting a groove and the tone, whether it is guitar or bass, when you start the song you are setting the tone for that song and exciting people. The Seether groove, as long as it is there, and it always is, then everybody kicks in perfectly on time.
What got you into guitar playing in your early days?
My Mum and Dad played music and my Dad was guitar player in bands. They both played everything and I started out playing guitar first but my Dad said, ‘Play everything,’ so I never stuck with one instrument because I liked writing songs and I liked expressing myself. Picking up a bass, guitar or piano and singing, writing melodies and stuff like that, it was just really important to do that at a young age. If you could hear it in your head, you wanted to be able to express yourself and I could hear a lot of melodies, tones and instruments in my head so I wanted to learn a little bit of everything. I guess that through the years, writing so many songs in a lot of the bands that I have been in, a lot of that started out with guitar. But sometimes, you want to pick up a bass and start a song, sometimes you might feel, ‘Give me a guitar, I want it loud and aggressive,’ but my parents both played music. It was my Dad that said, ‘Learn a little bit of everything,’ and I’ve got to give him credit because had he said, ‘Just play one instrument,’ who knows?
Earlier you mentioned some classic preamps in the studio. Have you fully embraced the digital age or are you still using loud cabinets and amplifier heads?
You know, let me say this, I will always want cabinets on stage, no matter what but I have embraced the Kemper amplifier profiler and I love that amp. You can get a million sounds out of it and sonically, it is the same thing as a regular head and you can dial them in now. They’ve come so far. At the beginning of it, it sounded thin and synthetic. It just didn’t have the blood and sweat or something, about it. Nowadays, I think there is no reason to say it has to be this way or that way, technology has caught up.
What sort of guitars are you using and what are the tunings?
As far as guitars I play the Dean Icons. I have been jamming with those and they built a few for me and I love them, completely. As far as tuning, we’ve got a lot of different tunings going on from dropped D to B, you know, depending on the song. You’ve got to have the guitars that can handle those low tunings so the mix doesn’t get muddy.
Given you’re using Dean guitars, no doubt Dimebag is an influence?
Oh man, yeah and I got to tour with Pantera, so for sure. But I didn’t think about what guitar he was using. To me, you’ve got to find your own guitar, kind of thing. But then, if you’re a guitar player and you’re not a Dimebag fan, I don’t even know if you’re from the Earth. When I was in Stuck Mojo, I got to tour with Pantera in Europe and it was just incredible. I have never been more nervous on stage than having him and the entire band on the side of the stage, every night. I thought that was really cool. We definitely miss him and his brother forever.
Finally, you’ve also toured with Nickelback who are a band that cops a lot of flak for various reasons. But, as a live act, they’re good at what they do and the crew operates with military precision. So, was there anything you learned from touring with Nickelback?
You know, when you’re on tour, for us as Seether, you just want to do inspiring shows. Of course they [headline band] are going to come out and check us out and we’re going to check them out. I mean, it just keeps you on your A game, you know. Every night you want to bring your best to the audience and you kind of want to show the band you’re touring with, what your best is and how you can touch that audience. So you want to inspire the other band so that was the big thing. I could tell when they were really bringing their A game and being inspiring. I think that we had the same effect on them.