It’s been two years since South African rock band Seether released its fifth album, Karma and Effect, so the group’s latest CD, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces can hardly be called a ‘come back.’ But the new album does represent a come back of sorts for drummer John Humphrey. In December of 2006, John underwent major back surgery to repair a painful and debilitating collapsed disc that had seriously compromised his ability to play drums. Regarding the chronic condition he lived with for over four years, Humphrey explains, “Physically, my upper body was strong and my hands were not affected, but in the year prior to my surgery, I noticed that my bass drum leg had become very weak. I didn’t realize how weak until towards the end of our last tour, when I was using two legs to play parts that I could usually play with one.” After three months of post-surgical recovery (that included John re-learning how to walk), plus three additional months of intense physical therapy, Humphrey was able to join his band mates in the studio. “The surgery was a great success,” he reveals. “I’m feeling and playing better than ever.”
Seether also saw a shift within the band, recording Finding Beauty as a three piece with the 2006 departure of guitarist Pat Callahan. John offers, “Shaun (Morgan, lead vocals, guitar), Dale (Stewart, Bass) and I share a really good chemistry, so we’re really solid as a trio. Shaun wrote over forty songs for this album and we recorded fifteen of those with (producer) Howard Benson. I think this is a return to straight-ahead rock songs with great hooks and melodies, and really cool choruses. It’s heavy, like Karma and Effect, but it’s the next step beyond that. I’m excited for everybody to hear this record,” John adds. “I feel really good about it!”
Metal Edge: With the surgery behind you, have you changed your approach to the kit at all?
John Humphrey: I decided to adjust the height of my seat. I used to sit pretty low, with my knee parallel with the ground, which put lot of pressure on my back. Now I’m sitting higher, so my knee is down. With gravity, it’s a more natural posture for me.
Metal Edge: Who are some of your favorite players and primary influences?
John Humphrey: : I like the power drummers with a presence in the band, and I’m a big fan of Tommy Lee and Dave Grohl: deliberate, heavy hitters who put their drumming “stamp’ on a song or on their band in general. But as far as what a drummer’s role should be, I feel the groundwork in Rock music as we know it today was laid by John Bonham. You know, you take a little bit from everywhere. Sometimes influences you don’t even realize get into your playing as your own style evolves. In the ‘80s I was a big fan of Tommy Lee and Tommy Aldridge; I loved their whole thing. When Alternative Rock happened in the ‘90s I was with the Nixons. That’s when I started riding the crash cymbal a lot like Dave Grohl. The Nixons took Sevendust out on their first tour and I got to see Morgan Rose in action. Watching Morgan every night was great. Seether also toured with a band called Dark New Day with drummer Will Hunt. He’s a great player who is with Evanescence now.
Metal Edge: On this new record, did you try anything a little bit flashier or more complex that made you feel like you stretched as a player?
John Humphrey: The first song, “Like Suicide” was actually very challenging drum wise. It has a small double bass jog at the end. I wrote that drum part very early on and it was one of the first songs we worked on. On our Myspace page we’ve charted the song’s evolution, starting with us in the practice space. Then it goes to the first day tracking drums and it’s got quite a long fill in the middle section of the song, between the toms and my double bass footwork. I was sure that Howard would take that out, but he let it stay. I nailed it as the first song we recorded – that set up the vibe for the sessions.
Metal Edge: I noticed you have a lot of cymbals in your set up.
John Humphrey: Yes, I have four crashes, one ride, one china and a splash – I’m surrounded by cymbals! I actually have a funny cymbal story from one NAMM show I was at in Nashville. (Former Billy Joel drummer) Liberty Devito – who is one of my heroes – was playing there with his band. I was with the Nixons at the time and a mutual friend introduced us. Liberty asked us to get up and play using their gear. We were playing a heavy cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” just bashing through it and having a lot of fun, but in the midst of playing one of Liberty’s cymbal stands fell over. I felt so bad about having done that. Off stage, (Sabian Cymbals owner) Bill Zildjian introduced himself to me. He said, “Man, I love your playing and how you’re knocking sh*t over like Keith Moon!” He asked me what cymbals I was with and I said I didn’t have any endorsements. He invited me to come to Sabian, and I’ve been with them ever since!
Drums: Pearl Reference Series (Red Sparkle with Black Hardware)
Sizes: 10” x 13” Rack Tom, 16” x 16” and 16” x 18” Floor Toms, 18” x 24” Bass Drum, 5” x 14” Pearl Sensitone Snare, Pearl Powershifter Eliminator double pedal, Pintech electronics
Sticks: Vic Firth
This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.