Interview date: 05/15/2008
Run date: 06/13/2008
Richard Patrick is absolutely amped up about taking a new and improved Filter out on the road, and completely geeked about Anthems for the Damned, their new record. He is upbeat, passionate, extremely confident and pretty darn funny. Bullz-Eye found him trapped in a New York hotel room doing interviews and unable to enjoy the beautiful weather outside. As we scrambled with the tape recorder, Ricardo Patreeck is already midway through his response about the doldrums of back-to-back phone interviews.
Richard Patrick: It's exhausting. You get on the phone and talk about the same shit over and over and over and over, but I love my job. When you stack up these interviews one after another, it gets exhausting, but I get a little coffee (adds a thick New York style accent and pronounces the word caw-feeee) and I look around and I see that I'm in New York City in a beautiful hotel suite, and you make it good.
Bullz-Eye: It could be worse.
RP: (again with the New York accent) I got some caw-feeeee!!!
BE: (laughs): I will try to ask you some different questions so it doesn't seem so boring.
BE: Before we get into the new record, I wanted to ask you about the Damning Well [a short-lived project that featured Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit, Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails and Josh Freese of the Vandals, Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle]. I have read that there is an album's worth of material. Is that true?
RP: (adopting English accent) That is completely and utterly false. (back to his regular voice) We were thinking about maybe doing a band. Wes Borland had a ton of music and we did one…no actually, two songs. We did two songs with the Damning Well and one song had Amy Lee [Evanescence] singing with me, and it's amazing. I actually have a copy of that and like to listen to it once in a while. It came out as "Coward" on Wes Borland's Black Light Burns CD. I'll tell you what; Josh Freese plays drums on my record, mmm hmmm.
BE: Freese is an amazing drummer. You've worked with Wes and John (5) and Josh, but how did you get them to work on the new Filter record?
RP: After I left Army of Anyone, I said I am going to go do [another Filter record], I called John 5 immediately. I even called [long time Filter collaborator] Ben Grosse and said "Ben, I'm thinking about doing another record." He asked who was going to do guitars. I said, "John 5." He said, "All right." So I called John 5 and he wrote two songs with me. He's amazing. He did "The Take" and "What's Next." So around June-ish, July-ish, I was meeting with Josh Abraham and he said, "Let's do a record, but are you still signed to Warner Brothers?" And I was like, "NOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOO!!!!" When he heard that he said that we will be amazing and we'll own it. Once we figured out the details of the deal and stuff like that, I just jumped in the studio. Plus, I had done all this stuff on my own, so we got the record done in, like, 14 days. It was great.
BE: You had material lying around, and you wrote the two tracks with John 5, but you wrote, recorded and produced a record in 14 days?
RP: I also wrote "Lie After Lie" but everything else was kind of there. Some of it was from 2003. I was thinking, well, this song won't mean anything when the war is over in 2004, 2006, and then it's still relevant today. Josh suggested it be the first single because he felt it was so beautiful and so elegant. We did it and it's marching up the charts.
BE: So how do you go from having John 5, Freese and Borland help you in the studio to the band you have now out on the road [Mitchell Marlow on guitar, John Spiker on bass and Mika Fineo on drums]?
RP: Well, by being the main dude in Filter, I can kind of do what I want. That's the benefit. It's something I realized immediately after I left Army of Anyone, is that every single detail, item can be answered very simply and quickly by me. When it came time to choose the live band, I just went with who is extremely talented and who is dying to go out. When people hear the name Filter, they feel that the name is a credible one, a credible band. So, I grabbed Mitchell Marlow and John Spiker and Mika Fineo and most of those guys came from my manager, Josh Abraham. He has a huge database of people who are talented and waiting for their shot, waiting to get out. These guys are so talented; they are going to go beyond just being in the live band. Spiker is a bass player and singer, but he is also a Pro Tools guy and an engineer. Fineo is a piano player and a composer, not just a drummer. Marlow is an amazing producer, so all these guys will contribute. When it's time, and I say "Let's make a Filter record," we can get it done quickly.
BE: Everything that I have read indicates that you plan on being Filter for a while.
RP: I do. Dude, if you could see the look on people's faces when I leave the stage. We do these radio festivals and they're [the audience] kind of like, okay, it's Filter; there are some new faces, what's up? Thirty minutes later, they're like, (in hysterical voice), "Fuck! Oh my God! Awesome! The guitar, fuck, this is awesome!" They are literally converted, and it's beautiful and amazing. They are absolutely convinced, and I love it. Halfway through the show every time, I say, "Filter's back, right?!" The audience is just fucking ecstatic and amazed and happy. It's wonderful. It's about re-educating people to the fact of who we were, who we are and what we are about to do.
BE: So when you move forward and you make the next Filter record, will these three guys be involved?
RP: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think these guys are super-talented. I think that they have a lot of stuff going on, and I would like to put a Filter record out quickly. When you have three other dudes and include Josh and Ryan, there are all these other people that can help. All the great bands have producers and other people that help them keep going, so you have to take advantage of those talents. You can't be afraid of those things. These guys have been in Filter for six months and they're like, "Fuck this, let's fuckin' rock! Let's fuckin' have a blast." Actually, they've only been in the band four months and they're like, "I want everything you have, Rich. I want a Gold record, I want a Platinum record." They are hungry as shit. Songwriting is a wonderful thing. When it clicks, it's awesome and you just feel it and it's an addiction. I want to be there when they experience that. You put a couple of chords together and you throw a melody on top and it makes everybody happy. Once you get that going, like when I wrote "Take a Picture," everyone looked around and was like, "Yep!" That sense of accomplishment, like I wrote that…when we play "Take a Picture" and "Hey Man, Nice Shot," those are the last two songs we play, and it is an amazing, powerful thing when you have hits under your belt. They want that, and I want them to have it. Fuck yes!
BE: Is it ever a curse when you go out to do a show and you want people to give the new material a chance and maybe they only think of "Hey Man, Nice Shot" or "Take A Picture?"
RP: I don't know. There has been such a great response to the record. You can sit around and think about that shit all the time. When I listen to the new record, and I hear "Cold" or "Kill the Day" or "Soldiers of Misfortune," and I think about the sentiment behind the songs, I am extremely proud. I can't worry about a fickle audience. I have to pound out new stuff and believe in it and love it because it's true in my heart. Bono once said, "You have to blow your own minds." You just can't release records and cash in. That's what I want to do, I want to blow my own mind. When I heard "Soldiers of Misfortune," the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and that, in my opinion, is the sign of a hit. It emotionally took me someplace.
BE: I am particularly fond of "Kill the Day" and "I Keep Flowers Around."
RP: Thank you. Those are at the back of the record. I am kind of demanding that people listen to the whole thing, they need to buy the whole record to find these tracks, not just grab a couple of songs. That's what Filter is for people, a slow burn. I think (Anthems) is a great record. I wanted it to be a deep record. I wanted 12 tracks that people could understand, and is deep. I want it to be like a movie, a start and a finish and you go through a lot of emotional things. If I gave you 10 "Hey Man, Nice Shots," I think you'd be bummed. (in a loud voice) "Check it out Martha, he's screaming again." I want you to have "Take a Picture" on the same record, I want you to have different stuff. I even went on an ambient trip at the end of the record because I like that shit. I think my audience is an eclectic audience like me. My audience wants heavy shit like Down or Pantera, but they also love Radiohead. If I can sing like a school kid, clean and soft and then scream with the best of 'em, why not have both of those modes show up on a Filter record? That has been something we have always been criticized for. I think it is one of our strongest attributes.
BE: That's the sad thing about audiences today, they're the iTunes generation, they want that one track, they don't dive into entire records anymore.
RP: (in British accent) I say! I agree, but at the same time, I can't afford to only make records every five years. That is why I am so excited to have my new guys around.
BE: It really sounds like you are re-invigorated and you have some really hungry guys with you.
RP: They are also sweet and very decent people, and they live very healthy lives. They are very stable people. It is very nice to have this very cream-of-the-crop talent and useful people around. They are very good people. You get on a tour bus and there's no griping. The only griping is from me, and that's because I have been around the block a couple of times. And it's kind of sad, I mean I better loosen up or it's gonna be a long tour if I'm the only one bitching. That is the beauty of having this band. I mean, you got a show at 2:00, you get there at noon, there's one shower and 50 in the crew, and they're like, okay. And I'm like, Fuck that! I want a hotel room and I want this and I want that. It is so refreshing to be around people who are like, Who cares? All I know is I get to be on stage and fucking rock out!
The other thing is that they really love Filter, and they really love playing the old stuff. That's important, because that's a legacy and a huge collection of songs. We did this acoustic thing, and I didn't know how the hell it was gonna work out. Mitch and John Spiker worked it out on acoustic, and it was so beautiful. I would have never thought to transpose it like that, the way they did it. "Check this out Rich, what about these chords?" That was even a weirder and cooler way to do it. We did "Welcome to the Fold" acoustic, they did "The Take" acoustic. They don't care, they're like, "Dude, we will make it awesome. The songs are well written so we can make them awesome." It is really good for me spiritually, considering I was living at the bottom of the bottle at the height of my career. I was so bothered by having to actually sing because it was getting in the way of my beer buzz. Now, here I am at the age of 40 getting on stage and just enjoying so much of it. It makes it so worth it; it is just exciting being right here and right now.
BE: Richard, I want to ask a few more things, and I appreciate your time and that coffee for getting you through this…
RP: (back to New York accent) Ya gotta have CAWWWW-FEEEE!!!!!
BE: Filter has never been lollipops and balloons, but this record is particularly dark because you're taking a look around at the world and you're not particularly thrilled with what you see. Is this the one political record that you put out and then you go back and do different stuff, or is this where fatherhood and your life has led you, to put out this kind of album?
RP: I am horrified at the way things are going. I can't believe the Bush administration has made this many mistakes. I see a man like Al Gore and that's my hero. I have always loved Carl Sagan. He had a special episode of "Cosmos" in 1977 and he's like, "Who speaks for the earth?" Even when I was a little kid, I thought about this stuff. I would say, So this car uses gas and oil and (Jimmy) Carter just said gas is going to be expensive and we shouldn't use cars so much. Then there is the oil embargo and the Arabs have all the oil. Then there's the tailpipe and it puts out all these pollutants, and that can't be good, either. Why are we driving all the cars all over the place, and wouldn't it be better if we invented something that didn't run on this stuff. So even as a child, I would question these things and ask, what's up? In the '90s I wondered, why is everyone driving an SUV, and the thing is, humans are kind of stupid. You have to kind of remind your fellow man, Hey is this right? Are we doing the right thing? Even in the '90s with my "Take a Picture" money, I went and bought a small car. Granted, it was a (BMW) 330xi, but it was smaller. It wasn't an SUV. I wrote a song called "Cancer." Have you ever flown over Los Angeles? Have you ever flown into LAX? When you fly into LAX and you look down, the earth looks cut up and in pain. Not only that, but there is a fucking smog cloud that you can literally see around the disgusting air. THAT CAN'T BE GOOD!
I have been talking about this stuff for years and people have been talking about this shit for years. I know Britney Spears has a lot of great things to say, and that's why people buy her records, and hip-hop has so many interesting things to say about their ego platforms and how much money they have and whatnot, but I'm thinking maybe there is a crowd out there that wants to rock and wants to hear music that [asks], Fucking why? Why are our children getting whaled on? Why are we sending our children to die in Iraq? Look at my video (for "Anthems of the Damned") and the American flag gets covered in oil, it just consumes it. How much more fucking on it can I be as far as criticizing what we're doing? As long as I'm creating the conversation I don't care. You can hate Filter's videos… (breaks into Daniel Day-Lewis from "There Will Be Blood") "Ladies and gentleman, when I say I'm an oil man, I think you'll agree that my son and partner H.W. and I run a family business." It's fucking oil, man! You could take a hundred billion dollars and build a solar farm in the middle of Mojave Desert and then you could get 40 percent of the country's energy from that. Did you know that? Did you…
(At this point, the line goes dead. A while later, after taking a shower, Richard calls back.)
BE: I was listening to the first Filter record and then I listened to Anthems, and I believe this is the best vocal performance of your career. Your vocals have really matured between these two points. Has this been a conscious effort on your part?
RP: Yeah. After Short Bus went platinum, I decided it was now time to sing. It was time to unleash what I was capable of. I was really intimidated by having to sing originally, and it is something I still grapple with. These kids on "American Idol," by having to get up there and sing and literally be weeded out in front of a live audience, I have a lot of respect for that. I have a buddy, Ryan Star, who was put through the same kind of thing, and I'm just like, My Lord. I have had all sorts of things to help me; you're platinum, relax. So I did, I took that as kind of an encouraging thing to like finally chill out on myself, because I am my own worst critic. The other thing that really fucked with me is drug addiction and alcohol. That fucked me up on The Amalgamut. I was not able to sing "Where Do We Go from Here" live. It is incredibly high, and I couldn't sing it. In the last five years in being sober and quitting smoking and going to vocal coaches, that really put it into overdrive. But it is something I have always grappled with. I consider myself a guitar player. I do work hard at it, and there is something incredible about singing. I did it out of necessity. On Short Bus, I was like, "I don't know anybody else, so I'll do it." It was definitely done with that kind of attitude.
BE: I wanted to ask you briefly about Trent (Reznor) and Nine Inch Nails and there are some real interesting parallels. Trent is Nine Inch Nails, Richard is Filter. Josh Freese has worked with Nine Inch Nails and has worked with Filter.
RP: When we were starting out in Nine Inch Nails, it was my job to remind him that we were heavy, that we were dark. He came in and I heard songs like (sings), "Well you got me working so hard, baby." And I was the little voice in his ear that would say, "'Head like a Hole' is the fucking song man." That was where I was at in Nine Inch Nails. I was a never-ending nagging voice of darkness. He even said so on Broken, which was really like a Ministry record and he even listed me as an influence. So looking back on it, it was definitely amazing to be part of this Nine Inch Nails huge phenomenon thing. At the same time, it was incredibly alcoholic. Trent was drinking 24 hours a day; I was drinking 24 hours a day. It was a lot of excess, a lot of drugs and a lot of craziness, and that complicated things. And then I said, "I got this song, 'Hey Man, Nice Shot,' what do you think?" He said, "Maybe, I don't know, release it, I'm not sure." He really didn't show any interest. So I wondered what Warner Brothers would think. Warner Brothers was like, You can have a million dollars and go live your life in comfort. So, how do you like that?
I thought it would just probably be a hit. He couldn't picture me having an impact on the music world, so I split and it was a little weird at the time, but we were 20-something and then there was a lot of booze, and that complicated our relationship quite a bit. Looking back on it, I am definitely proud of it. I was the guitar player called "Piggy" and it was my job to be a crazed lunatic. I would get on stage and throw beer at the audience. I would spit beer on the audience, Trent would fucking tackle me onstage. I was in the band for three years and it was a great experience, and no one can take that away from me. The fact that I'm not really mentioned in any of that is interesting, but at the same time I don't really care because Filter is my legacy. I have had great success and I am very proud of my track record.
BE: Does being a parent have any effect on what you are writing?
RP: I'm trying to make my world a better place. When my daughter is 10 years old and she starts asking questions like what we were talking about earlier, I want her to have answers. I want her to know that I tried, that I am doing the best I can. Whether it's through lyrics or a conversation or it's pissing people off, I want her to know that I did something that tried to make her world a better place.
BE: Thank you so much for your time and I sincerely wish you nothing but success with the lifestyle change, the new record and I look forward to more Filter in the future. Best of luck.
RP: Thanks Robert, thanks so much.