INTERVIEW: John Humphrey (SEETHER)
Yesterday I phoned up the USA and stole a few minutes of John Humphrey's time (aka drummer for alt-rock grungers Seether, rock and roll enthusiast and all-round nice guy).
With a new album in sight, the first since 2014's 'Isolate and Medicate', Seether are back with a vengeance - 'Poison The Parish' drops on the 12th of May, and in case you needed proof of why this trio are one of the most enduring acts in the heavy scene, this album is it. Full of punching beats, cavalier harmonies and a healthy helping of their earlier gritty tones, 'Poison The Parish' sees Seether in their best form yet.
But before the album drops into the universe, imagine if you will a charming Southern accent and a whole lotta passion, and get to know guitarist John Humphrey a little better.
TIANA: HEY JOHN! GREAT TO CHAT WITH YOU. SO WHERE EXACTLY AM I SPEAKING TO YOU FROM?
JOHN: I'm at home! In Oklahoma in the States.
TIANA: OKLAHOMA! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PLACE!
JOHN: It is, it's very flat and as of recently it's known for a few earthquakes, which I never had growing up...it's kind of a new thing. And, of course, we're world WORLD famous for our tornadoes.
TIANA: WELL I SUPPOSE THE REALLY EXCITING NEWS FOR YOU IS THE NEW SEETHER ALBUM DUE OUT IN JUST UNDER A MONTH?
JOHN: Yes! Finally! It's done!
TIANA: SO IT'S THE LATEST ONE SINCE 2014 WITH 'ISOLATE AND MEDICATE', AND I HEAR RUMOURS IT'S GONNA BE A BIT HARDER THAN LAST TIME ROUND?
JOHN: Absolutely! The album is titled 'Poison the Parish', and I think our motto or mission statement for this one was "taking back the rock", or reclaiming our rock as far as Seether is concerned.
TIANA: GOING OLD SCHOOL!
JOHN: Yes, definitely. Reaching back to some of the old school, and then some of the new stuff too, you know, what we've learned over the years from producers and from making music - it's still new, but yes it grabs some of the earlier heavy stuff.
TIANA: AND AM I CORRECT THAT WE'RE SEEING A NEW BAND LOGO WITH THIS ALBUM AS WELL?
JOHN: Yes absolutely, for the first time in the history of the band there's a new logo on everything, on new merch and for the theme of the album and I think it's a reinvention of sorts.
TIANA: DID ANYTHING PROMPT THIS CHANGE OR YOU GUYS WERE JUST LOOKING TO TRY SOMETHING FRESH?
JOHN: I think it was the thought process of making things fresh again, and this is the first album that Shaun (Shaun Morgan - lead vocals, guitar for Seether) has produced so in this case for the first time ever we didn't have to answer to anyone, to another producer. We were doing this ourselves. It was a lot of fun, and the songs came together very, very quickly. Shaun had written the music beforehand, but the tracking went very fast. In my case the drums were done in two days - everything just felt really natural and the songs felt great. And, I think it was sort of a methodic point to change the logo and the theme for this album.
TIANA: SINCE 'POISON THE PARISH' WAS SELF-PRODUCED, IT GAVE YOU ALL A BIT OF FREEDOM TO DO WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO BUT ON A MUCH GRANDER SCALE?
JOHN: Yeah, absolutely. And the label let us loose and do our thing at Blackbird Studios there in Nashville, Tennessee. We got to work! We didn't mess around, we just went into rehearsal for about a week, went through the music then went into the studio and just knocked it out! And it just felt like Seether, nothing felt forced and I think you can hear that in the new tracks.
TIANA: SO I GUESS THE BIGGEST QUESTION OVER ON THIS SIDE OF THE WORLD - IS THIS GOING TO MEAN WE'RE GOING TO GET TO SEE SEETHER IN AUSTRALIA ANYTIME SOON?
JOHN: (laughs) I was talking to my management about this right before this call and I said "I'm gonna be asked!".
TIANA: YOU KNOW I HAVE TO! WE ALWAYS WANT MORE PEOPLE OUT HERE!
JOHN: (laughs) Yeah, we wanna come, we love Australia and New Zealand. It's beautiful there, the shows are great, great crowds and we've had some great shows out there. So yes, tentatively working on the end of this year or early next year - but we will definitely be coming your way. It's worth the trip!
TIANA: NOW YOU KICKED OFF YOUR DRUMMING CAREER IN MARCHING BANDS AND JAZZ BANDS, WHICH ARE OBVIOUSLY HUGE IN AMERICA. BUT WERE YOU ALWAYS GOING TO END UP IN A BAND, OR DID YOU HAVE OTHER INTERESTS THAT MIGHT'VE TAKEN YOU ON A DIFFERENT TRACK WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
JOHN: No, my mum if you talk to her will tell you I was this weird little kid who loved music. I'm talking from the age of three or four, I always loved music and she started me out playing piano. She didn't teach me, but she got me lessons and then I discovered rock! And like you said, marching bands especially in school I just thought, you know, "I wanna do that" and that was a lotta fun in my high school years - yeah man! And then you start a band with some friends down the street, garage bands if you will, and it just kinda goes from there. But it's always been music for me - it's just always been my passion. And really no one else in the family is a professional musician, except for my brother who is a bass player - we're sort of the weirdos in our family.
TIANA: THE BLACK SHEEP!
JOHN: That's right! And everybody else in the family was "normal", and of course my mum was a little disappointed at one point that I didn't go to college. But now, both my parents are my biggest fans, and fans of Seether of course!
TIANA: SO WAS THERE ONE ROCK SONG IN PARTICULAR THAT KICKED IT ALL OFF FOR YOU? OR WAS IT JUST THE GENERAL GENRE THAT LURED YOU IN?
JOHN: It was definitely rock music in general. My first concert was 'KISS', and they were wearing makeup and everything and that band definitely had an impact on me, being young you know? Not only the show, but the whole music and the image, and that sort of started it off for me. And from there Van Halen and Aerosmith and then later on...just everything! I'm just a fan of music generally - stuff from Ray Charles to Robert Johnson to Pantera and everything in between.
TIANA: AND BEFORE YOU JOINED SEETHER YOU OBVIOUSLY WERE PLAYING WITH THE NIXONS - DID YOU KNOW ABOUT SEETHER AROUND THIS TIME? WERE THEY ON YOUR RADAR?
JOHN: Yes! I was aware of the song 'Fine Again' which was getting airplay where I lived. I remember seeing the video on MTVX, a hard-rock music video channel we had here in the States, but I had to literally go buy the Seether album 'Disclaimer' (2002) and learn it in order to audition. I think the guys gave me four or five songs to learn, but I learned the whole album instead. And so I auditioned the few songs they wanted me to learn, but we just kept going down the list and they pretty much hired me on the spot! And this is nearly fourteen years ago, it's crazy!
TIANA: WELL CLEARLY IT WENT WELL SINCE YOU WERE PLAYING ON THE NEXT ALBUM 'DISCLAIMER II' IN 2004!
JOHN: That's right! The first thing I did with the band was 'Broken' with Amy Lee (of Evanescence fame) and it just took off from there.
TIANA: WHAT'S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE GIG TO PLAY? HAS ANYTHING STOOD OUT IN PARTICULAR?
JOHN: There's been a lot of great moments, obviously with Shaun and Dale (Dale Stewart - bass, backing vocals for Seether) being from South Africa, going there four or five times. We opened for Metallica for a series of shows down there that were just amazing. Playing Madison Square Gardens with Audioslave, and then with Nickelback were great shows, but I guess the standout memories are just playing live - we're a live band and that's what we do best!
TIANA: AND YOU'VE GOT A TOUR IN THE STATES COMING UP FOR THE NEW ALBUM?
JOHN: Yeah, I actually leave for Nashville on Sunday. We have a week of pre-production and rehearsals to get back into fighting shape. We haven't played some of these songs in a while, and we're gonna work on the new ones. Fort Myers is our first show, and we can't wait to hit the road in a little over a week.
TIANA: NOW, MY FAVOURITE QUESTION I LIKE TO ASK PEOPLE TO REALLY PUT THEM ON THE SPOT...
JOHN: Oh no...
TIANA: YES, I'D LIKE TO ASK YOU WHAT YOU THINK THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME IS AND WHY?
JOHN: Oh really?! (laughs) That is tough! I would have to say, and this is a guilty pleasure kind of thing...but I really think it's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' by Simon and Garfunkel. It's just a beautiful and epic song and Art Garfunkel's angelic harmony, man, it's just amazing. I know it's an old school song. Actually I remember once looking at the year you were born and the things that happened, and that song was on the charts when I was born - like the week I was born that was the number one song so it's funny that it would be my favourite song. But it's just amazing, it's probably my earliest musical memory, my mum playing that as a kid.
TIANA: WELL I THINK YOU HAVE GREAT CLAIM TO IT, ESPECIALLY SINCE IT WAS PEAKING THE WEEK YOU WERE BORN!
JOHN: (laughs) I'm sorry it's not overly cool, but I think it's just beautiful.
TIANA: THERE'S A REASON IT'S STILL A CLASSIC! IT IS AN INCREDIBLE SONG.
JOHN: (laughs) Thank you. It's a great question.
TIANA: WELL THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME, CAN'T WAIT FOR THE ALBUM TO FINALLY DROP, AND FINGERS CROSSED WE MAY SEE YOU IN AUSTRALIA AT SOME STAGE IN THE NEAR FUTURE!
JOHN: Absolutely! Thank you so much, good talking to you!
'POISON THE PARISH' IS DUE OUT FRIDAY 12TH MAY:
Pre-Order and Preview the album HERE in the meantime
BY TIANA SPETER