Interview with Seether – Rise Above Fest 2015

Maine Music News had the opportunity to interview the members of Seether at the Rise Above Fest Pre-Party held at Sea Dog Brewing Company, with the help of Waterfront Concerts, on May 8, 2014.  This was a quick interview, but a powerful one.  We would like to thank Shaun Morgan for his candor, and all the members of Seether, John Humphrey, Dale Stewart, and Brian Wickmann, for their efforts in raising awareness and support for suicide, suicide prevention, and mental illness.

Maine Music News – The Rise Above Fest is a fundraiser that supports suicide awareness, prevention, as well as mental illness.  Please speak about this cause and has creating this festival helped you process the death of your brother, perhaps empowered you?

Shaun Morgan – I think it helps every year when you know you are doing something good and you see how much money is raised.  The first year, I think it was $12,000, the next year was $70,000, and this year is going to be way more than that.  All that money is going to a good cause.  We were just talking to the guys from SAVE, and they said that worldwide this is going to be the biggest suicide awareness event to be done in a single moment or event.

MMN – Say that again – Rise Above Fest is …

Morgan – Worldwide, this is the largest collective effort to create awareness of the suicide rate, which is a little bit of pressure, I guess.

MMN – It is also fantastic and a great legacy.  How hands-on is Seether in putting this event together?

Morgan – We get ideas given to us, and then most of the leg work is obviously done by our management.  They know how important this is to us.  We just sort of sit back and get the accolades, but it’s not really us doing most of the work.  The logistical stuff they do.  Finding the bands that want to be part of it, that’s something that we have a say in because the bands bring people to the show.

Our main thing is to get out and meet the people tomorrow. It’s a tough one, but it’s something that needs to be done because someone needs to tell their stories.  Last year was really rough.  We did a signing at the CD store, and a guy told me that his daughter had just tried to kill herself for the fourth time, and she was like fifteen.  I was like, man, I don’t know what to say to you, it’s heartbreaking.

It is important to us that the lineup is great, and we come out every year and do the most good that we can.  Logistically, none of us are very good at that stuff, so we leave that to the pros.

MMN –This year’s lineup is stacked with really big names.  Do you have a vision for where this can go in the future?

Morgan – We were just talking about that, taking this on the road and involving a big corporate sponsorship and doing some sort of nationwide tour.  Or maybe just starting in five or six major cities.  If we can do something this big in Bangor, what if we took this to Chicago or to Dallas, Texas, or any other big metropolitan area? I think exponentially we can raise more, and we can bring more people in.  That’s the goal.  Right now, we figure we’ll get across the third show first, and come Sunday morning, we’ll talk about the next step.

MMN – You chose Bangor, Maine.  Tell us about that.

Morgan – I live in New Hampshire, and Meadowbrook was about thirty minutes from my house.  It was this perfect place, it was a good setting, and a beautiful venue.  Because the owner didn’t see eye-to-eye with what I was trying to achieve, we missed a year.  We wanted to keep it a New England-based festival because there’s not very much up here – we wanted to bring music to this area.

It turned out that the pavilion here is great.  Last year was awesome, and everyone was saying that it was a lot of fun to set this up this year because backstage has grown.  They have s’mores now and fire pits, and it’s a party atmosphere.

Last year we had one veteran come out.  This year we have five veterans sponsored by our label and SAVE.  They fly them out and bring them to the show, put them up at the Casino, and they get to party and be VIPs.  So five this year, one last year, maybe fifteen or twenty next year.  That’s the cool thing.  We can’t thank our label enough for being involved.  We have label members that we don’t see very often, and it’s important to us and to them that our label actually puts in money and flies people out.  It is really cool.

MMN – SAVE’s executive director, Dan Reidenberg, said that this is really about reducing the stigma and the shame that is associated with suicide, both for the families and the person who is considering that path.  You have a lot of press material – no, actually you do not have a lot of press material out there, I dug for it.  (Morgan agreed.)  Is there a message for those families, for those folks?  It would mean a lot coming from the band.

Morgan – I’ve dealt with being suicidal a lot of my life, and I know when it comes down to even thinking like that, the one thing you need is someone to talk to.  Like you said, it is embarrassing.  No one likes to talk about it.  I was talking to a cab driver today, and he asked what I was doing in town.  I said well we are doing this festival and it is for suicide awareness.  He said, ‘man, thank you.’  He gave me back his tip and asked me to put it towards the festival.  I thought that was really cool.  He told me that he’d been battling with suicide for forty years.  He said ‘I’m not ashamed to say it.’ That’s the problem – everyone else is.

You try and reach out to someone, but nobody wants to hear it.  So you internalize it because you don’t want to bug someone else with this ugly thing.  If I’ve got a joke to tell you, you want to hear it, but if I say I’m thinking about offing myself  then people are uncomfortable and don’t know what to do.  Most of the time, if people would just close their mouths and listen without being judgmental.   Especially at the high school level.  We all know what it’s like to be in school – it sucks.  (Everyone agreed.) The trend in social media is a lot of bullying, and anonymity gives it more strength, so there needs to be an open dialogue about it.  If people felt like they had someone to talk to on any level, to have a discussion and not be treated like you’re just trying to get attention or blowing smoke.

We were just talking about that earlier, most of the time when that happens they’re not trying to get attention.  They want you to say something that is affirming, something positive, not condescending and make them feel like they are just attention-seeking.  It is a tough line.  We need to break those walls down.  If someone comes up and says that they are feeling bad, that’s fine.  I mean I didn’t have that, and as a kid I used to sit in my room and cut myself up because I felt like that was the only way I could deal with it.  My dad wasn’t approachable, my brother was too young, and my mum was in the middle zone.

It’s that desperation, that loneliness, that’s the problem because you don’t think that anyone cares, that anyone is going to take you seriously, and I think it is a serious thing.  I think that for anybody who has feelings like that or has been affected by it, it is brutal to recover from.

MMN – This has been incredible and very generous. They are giving us the wrap it up signal.  We thank you.  Are there any final words the band would like to add?

John Humphrey– I’m just looking forward to the show tomorrow.  Thank you to all the bands that have contributed, not just the bands that are here playing but the bands who have items up for auction.  We just appreciate everybody – the bands, the venue, our management.  We are really looking forward to the show.

Morgan – And the people of Bangor, Maine, thank you.  A lot of people are coming down.  They are coming from South America and Canada and a lot of people support us online on the auctions.  It all contributes.  It all helps.  Thanks to everyone who made this a success.  And buy yourself a Rise Above Red, it is delicious.

Dale Stewart – Come to the show, have fun.

About the author

Ann James Joles

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You’ll know her when you see her – Ann is probably the only person at a live show scribbling down notes and guarding a camera case. With a long time career in higher education behind her, she is more at home at a rock show with screaming fans than in an office.