With his shaggy hair, beard and tattoos, it's hard to imagine anyone not being able to tell that Dale Stewart plays in a heavy rock band. But given that he's the bassist rather than the frontman of Seether, he's able to get away with anonymity far easier than singer Shaun Morgan.
"I've got [the word] 'Seether' tattooed on my arm, so that kind of gives me away," Stewart says with a laugh. "Though I've had people be like, 'Wow, you must be a really big fan!' I'm like, 'Yeah, I've been to every show.'"
The band, comprised of two South African expatriates and two Americans, have been kicking around the hard rock scene since the release of 2002's Disclaimer. Yet it was a sweet duet between Morgan and Amy Lee of Evanescence - the rock ballad "Broken," initially intended to be just a contribution to the Punisher movie soundtrack - that would break Seether all over the mainstream. Although from the way the band understandably tells it, this success was something like both a blessing and a curse.
"'Broken" got us released worldwide and really kind of rose the profile of the band," Stewart comments. "But what's kind of a double-edged sword is how that's the song that most people associate with us, and it's not necessarily the best song to base the band on. I think a lot of people might have gotten the wrong impression." He shrugs briefly. "I mean, it's still Seether, it still sounds like us - we do have our softer songs - but fortunately we'd established ourselves first. I think if we came out with "Broken" as our first single, it could have been bad for the band. But I think having gone gold already and being into the album cycle already, that helped us a lot."
Now the cycle's starting to get into high gear again for Seether, with the recent release of their new album Karma And Effect, the addition of a new single ("The Remedy") to radio and music TV, and a nationwide tour on the horizon. But the foursome still find it hard to get away from stereotyping and pigeonholing - especially due to the audience split that came with the popularity of "Broken."
"We definitely did feel the impact from the two different kinds of fans: the rock-solid, diehard fans that come to all the shows, the fans that you earn by playing in their town over and over," Stewart says. "And then there's the TV fans, the ones who are very fickle because whatever's on TV is what they're going to buy, whether it's Usher or Seether or Ashlee Simpson or Good Charlotte. I guess a lot of the pigeonholing comes from those people."
Softer songs aside, Seether has stayed true to their rock spirit, and made sure to pay tribute to some of their influences as well. At the previous night's Seether show, Morgan had dedicated a particularly emotional performance of "Fine Again" to the memory of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, the Pantera guitarist shot dead onstage last year. When asked about his views of the tragedy, Stewart's voice goes quiet. "That was like my John Lennon. Pantera changed my life when I was a kid. I loved that band. I was just really sad because I'd never evenÖ" He pauses, then starts again. "Growing up in South Africa, you never get to see any cool bands. So I never got to meet Dimebag. I mean, I've met all the other guys - I've hung out with Vinnie and played blackjack with him, then met Phil and Rick at OzzfestÖbut Dimebag, I wish I could just meet him once more. Even just see him play. I'd never even seen him play, and he was somebody who had such an effect on me."
And to Stewart, further tragedy lies in the state of the music industry today, where there's a bit more to be concerned about than random gun-toting psychos looking to shoot you down onstage. He doesn't worry about that so much as he bemoans the fact that rock music seems to have gone "underground."
"If you're not doing bubblegum pop-punk, or you're not rapping, or you're not doing some American Idol thing, you're not cool," grumbles Stewart. "I think it's a combination of a bunch of things, but I think it'll pass. Everything goes in cycles, so I don't think it'll ever die. As long as there's screwed-up people out there who need to be angry or who need to get rid of stuff, there'll be a place for rock. That's what it's about. Rock is for the kids who just want to party, or if they've got issues like their parents having trouble, or if they break up with a girl, whatever it isÖ." He grins proudly, sounding every bit the maker of music for cathartic debauchery. "It's therapy!"
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss