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[AltWire Interview] Filter: “There are Things Worth Fighting For”

The year was 1995. A shocked nation watched as  OJ Simpson was put on trial for murder, Forrest Gump had just won Best Picture at the 67th Academy Awards and in Los Angeles, a young guitarist by the name of Richard Patrick (formerly of Nine Inch Nails) was stepping out on his own for the first time to release an album titled Short Bus that would change his life forever and pull him in directions he never thought possible.

Featuring the smash hit “Hey Man Nice Shot” (written in response to the  1987 public suicide of Pennsylvania Treasurer R.Budd Dwyer), the album sold over a million copies and gave birth to a long-lasting career that has resulted in six albums, a top 20 single (“Take a Picture”), and multiple side projects in the band’s two decades of existence.

After catching Filter live on tour with the newly reformed Stone Temple Pilots, and via their own Self-Inflicted tour late last year, we here at AltWire reached out to Richard to ask him a few questions and learn more about what we can expect in the year ahead.

What followed was a nearly hour-long conversation in which Richard fondly recollected the band’s formative years, candidly spoke about the new album The Sun Comes Out Tonight, his career, addiction and his thoughts on the current issues at home and abroad. The interview proved to be very insightful and honest while also opening a window into the mind of Richard Patrick.

Continue on below to read our exclusive interview with Richard, and don’t forget to watch their new video for “Surprise” and catch them live in a town near you when they go on tour this summer!

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AltWire [Derek]: First off, great work on the new album! To me it’s one of your finest works, and I really love how you managed to reinvent your earlier sound for modern times. How did the recording this album differ to previous projects and what was it like recording with the new line up?

Richard Patrick [Filter]: Thank you! The difference between this album and the last two records is that we did everything with fake drums. We purposely went back to a drum machine for everything just to kind of get that Short Bus vibe. Johnny and I pretty much did the record with Bob Marlette, and so we went back to the two-man kind of configuration where one guy is kind of there to bounce ideas off of me and I’m there to bounce ideas off of him. I like having that two-man collaboration where someone I trust is at the helms with me.

So that was a huge thing having Johnny work with me. He did a good portion, and he co-wrote everything with me. It was really cool.

AW: Definitely! I love how you used the drum machines on the record, as I feel it gave the album a unique sound. Given your industrial background, would you like to dabble even further with electronic elements on the next record?

RP: I think that this record kind of, you know, established us again as being able to go back to our roots. However, I think in future records I’m definitely going to go more electronic for sure.

AW: Since you brought up Short Bus, next year is the 20th anniversary of your debut record. Do you have any special plans yet for the 20th anniversary next year? Such as a special tour or concert?

RP: I’d have to see what Warner Brothers would think about a re-release. But I don’t know, you know? I kind of like where I’m at right now with my band, and we’ve each grown really close together. I think that we could go back and revisit those files, and you know, play more from Short Bus. But honestly, I feel kind of like I’ve been there, done that. The whole first tour of Short Bus was pretty fun, and we played the entire record every night but maybe it would be cool! Maybe I could do something around LA where I do it; or maybe just do the entire record and then do some hits at the end, and go through some other songs that we’ve done throughout the years. It’s always a possibility! I’d be willing to think that over for sure!

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AW: It’s crazy to think that your band has been recording and touring for 20 years. I remember hearing “Hey Man, Nice Shot” for the first time on my dad’s car radio back in 95 and going absolutely nuts. How do you feel you’ve changed as an artist in those 20 years? What are you the most proud of in your career?

RP: I think my proudest achievement is our development. Being able to go play “Take a Picture”, being able to do new songs like “Surprise” and “It’s My Time” and you know, growing as an artist and developing as a singer.

In all honesty I think that our last record is our best record. Now I always think that ‘Man! My last record is the best!’ but you always feel proud about what you’re doing at the moment.

Short Bus was an amazing time, I had just quit Nine Inch Nails. I was in a “band relationship” with Trent and I felt like ‘man I don’t know if I can just keep doing this’, you know? I wanted to be in NIN but I didn’t think that I was ever going to have the chance to really try to step out on my own. So I took the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot” to a couple of record companies, and they were like ‘Man this is a fucking slam dunk hit, you should release this!’ and I was like ‘You know what? Maybe my time to step out is right now’.

I had a crummy little studio off of Highland Ave right above a pizzeria. It had a little reel to reel consumer level 8-track, and a little crappy board that I loved. I slept there and someone had given me a stack of fucking pornos as a joke. So I had all these pornos lying around (*laughs*), and here comes Mike Austin the head of Warner Brothers A&R and he’s on his way to a Bar Mitzvah and he’s probably wearing about a $3,000 fucking suit and tie. He comes in, he’s like ‘I was going to a Bar Mitzvah and I was on my way to that, but I wanted to stop by and just see your studio and see where you work and talk to you, and run something by you’. So he looks at my little rig and I’ve got a little Mac SE Classic and I’ve got a sampler, and I’m sitting there all humble and then he looks at my speaker and he goes ‘So this is where you did all this stuff?’ and I said ‘well I recorded some stuff with Trent, but I did the last bunch of songs right here’.

(I recorded “Hey Man, Nice Shot” in Trent’s studio and he just kind of let me have the studio for a day, and I took all my elements out of there and remixed it with Ben Grosse later for the record. But a lot of that stuff was from my 8-track demo that I had done. I had done songs like “Spent” and “Under” and “Dose” and a good portion of the record right there.)

So you know…I’m sitting there and he goes ‘What’s going on with that speaker?’ and he looks down and I go ‘well this is my dad’s Realistic speaker that he bought like back in 1980, and uh…my cat from Cleveland ate out the woofer…he chewed it up.’ So the woofer’s just sitting there and he’s like ‘so you did all the last demos right here with this equipment?’ and I’m like ‘yeah’ and he goes ‘so this doesn’t happen much, but I want to sign you right now.’ And I was like “well…okay…um.”

My manager’s like, ‘Well Rich, he just offered you a multi-million dollar record contract, how do you feel about that?’ and the only thing I said as I looked down, I was about to tear up. It was fucking-a man! you know?

They’re like, ‘go back to Cleveland and go to where you live and make the industrial music that you want to make’. And I said ‘ok well I’m going to need a ton of gear’ and then the next day it shows up and it’s all in road cases like ‘there you go!’ and I’m like, ‘Well can I ship it back to Cleveland?’ and they’re all like, ‘Yes go! Do you want me to buy you a car?’

and I’m like, “I’ve got one.”

‘Well then let me help you with gas, and here’s living money…just go, be an artist!’

And so I dove into it and wrote music like “So Cool” and “Stuck in Here” that I knew was important because I wanted to expose that underbelly in music, as well as have songs that had that big anthem-like chorus like “Consider This”. It was really important to me to have those elements on the record, as well as the heavy elements, from that grunge place that I was at least kind of sympathizing with.

On this new record The Sun Comes out Tonight, it’s very much from the same place [as Short Bus]. I come from an angry place. In these last couple of years my family has gone through a lot. There’s this feeling of anger and animosity that I have, I want to let that back into my music and be angry and be pissed off. So the subject matter is really heavy, and deals with school shootings like on “Self Inflicted”, a song that I literally think is as heavy and as emotional as “Hey Man, Nice Shot”. With that song I went out on a mission to make a song as powerful and as intense as that, and then I wrote “What Do You Say” about how everyone’s screaming and yet nobody’s listening. With “Surprise” you have that “Take a Picture” moment where I wanted to think about women and I wanted to think about their rights. With a lot of single mothers out there and a lot of women it doesn’t feel like they’re getting a fair shot in this country. And yeah things are changing here, but then look at Saudi (Arabia), look at the Middle East entirely, or look at China, you know?

With my lyrics there’s so much to draw from the drug years and my crazy years as there is from where I’m at now. When you mature you see things from a totally different light, and now that I have kids it’s like the world is worth fighting for. There are things worth fighting for. There are things that I still want to talk about.

For example, R. Budd Dwyer held a press conference and blew his brains out, and someone from his family came to a show in New York and said ‘I’m related to R. Budd Dwyer and I understand why you wrote the song [Hey Man, Nice Shot]’. And I said ‘look, at the end of the day it’s an anti-suicide song.’ And she goes ‘and I get that, and I understand that, but some of the family members think that you just made a bunch of money off of his death’. And I went ‘But he held a press conference! I can’t help it if my song got big. It wasn’t supposed to be that way; I never even thought I was going to meet anybody!’

When I wrote it I was like ‘This is a really good song, I wanna play it in my car stereo. Yay!’ I didn’t think it was going to do anything, you know what I mean? You never really believe you’ll do anything. I mean you hope, and you think ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if that song was a hit? But it’s not gonna’. It’s “too heavy”, and it’s “too mean”, and I didn’t even tell people it was about R. Budd Dwyer until they started thinking it was about Kurt Cobain. It was written in 1993 way before he even did anything, even before his first attempt a month earlier. So when I met Dave Grohl and I could look into his eyes I went ‘Dave, I just wanted you to know…and I swear to everything in my soul that the song was written before he killed himself, and I just don’t want you to think that I’m here trouncing on his grave’. And he goes ‘you know dude, people think I write songs about Kurt, and I wrote them way before too. So I totally hear you.’

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AW: Thematically TSCOT deals a lot with your feelings of frustration over the current state of things in this country. We’ve recently passed the 1 year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Do you feel that mental health problems, as well as gun and safety laws are not being taken seriously enough in this country and what steps do you think need to be taken to fix this?

RP: Well I agree with the President’s gun act that he wanted to proceed with. As you know, Vice President Biden went through and talked to all the gun manufacturers and then talked to mental health experts and they came up with a list of suggestions. There was the first one which was to do universal background checks, and that would’ve least looked for a person’s mental illness record before they were allowed to go out and buy a bunch of weapons (which unfortunately wouldn’t have helped with Sandy Hook). And then there was another that was concerning Sandy Hook and these 30 round clips. When he reloaded…ten kids ran out of the room while he was reloading, and those kids are allowed to play, and they’re outside playing right now, while the other 28 people are not. And that was because he had these 30 round clips.

I was in a van going out to the Sturgis Bike Festival for a show, and the runner was like “Man ain’t nobody gonna take my guns. Especially not some Islamic Kenyan-born president who’s gonna bring the whole damn country down!” and it’s like these are the people who want to fight for guns. Not all of them, but I had a ‘ban assault weapons’ bumper sticker on my car and my wife had the two kids, and she went to drop them off at school on a Friday morning. And here comes this huge white Ford F-15…whatever the fuck it is, with I shit you not, silver fucking bullhorns on it. He pulls up next to her, takes a water bottle and starts throwing water bottles on her…gets too close to the car at one point, and she almost drives off the side of the road.

Now here’s my beautiful wife and two kids (my 4 year old and my 5 year old) driven off the road by some fucking gun nut, who…well you know how they have those “baby on board” signs? He literally had on his car a “gun on board” sign. And he’s just reacting to my bumper sticker! And it’s like, these are the people…like fucking Ted Nugent, who I know (and I’ve had friends who have hung out with that guy) uses the N-Word every other word…and not in a kidding way. There’s no joke behind what he was saying. The reality is this: There’s freaky people out there who really, really want their guns and believe conspiracy theories that are so fucking outrageous. That’s what really bothers me about all this.

[Editorial Note: A few days after this interview was conducted; and before we published this article, Ted Nugent made headlines by referring to Obama as a “chimpanzee” and a “Chicago, Communist- raised, Communist-educated, Communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel”. ]

And so I was near Sandy Hook, I was on stage, and I go ‘I don’t want to get in trouble…because I get in trouble when I open my mouth on stage, but I want to say something. Because we’re very close to a place where an incident occurred, and I want to, with all due respect, just let you know that our hearts are with you, our thoughts are with you and if there’s anybody here that was affected by the tragedy…I want you to know that we know, and we love you and that we’re against assault weapons and that we stand behind the President on just a few limitations on that stuff.’

And after the show, I go back and sign some autographs and the gentleman that walked me from the stage to the tent, was a navy seal.  He said ‘When I walked in I was the first responder to that. I had never seen anything like it and I’m a navy seal and have been there for years, and now I’m a police officer. When I responded I had never seen something as horrific and so tragic, and I wanted to thank you for saying that because we don’t want the rest of the country to forget about Sandy Hook.’

And to me when you look at the gun argument, you can listen to Ted Nugent talk about how he needs to hunt and kill deer and how there’s some kind of spiritual thing that he gets from killing the deer and eating it with his family and all that. Guns are a part of his life, I get that. But not mine! I’ve never had a gun. My father’s never had a gun but my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Captain Matthew Patrick used a musket in the Revolutionary War and he fought tyranny from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. So that’s how far, and how many generations. Six generations later here I am. I haven’t had a gun. No one else has had a gun. The only people who have had guns are military people and one of the wars he was in is complete bullshit! So that guy is in the military and he’s in my family. But I don’t need a gun, and you know.. I’m living fine.

Now if the apocalypse happens, and listen…one big solar flare could take out all the electronics from all of the Midwest and it would be a big huge deal. Two weeks after the loss of electricity, there would be roving gangs looking for food.  People have to eat, as they’re going to get hungry and all of the food is going to be gone instantly, and it’s going to become a serious deal. So having a shotgun in your house, I get it. I understand that. But 30 round clips, reduced to 10? Sounds like a great idea. Especially when you’re having mall, school and theater shootings. I mean look at Gabrielle Giffords, right? That guy had 30 round clips and a hand gun!

Now here’s the thing: This is the stuff that not all of my fans want to hear, but many of my fans applaud me for having a stance. I mean the President’s actually a decent guy! The Tea Party is scary. Why don’t we pass a bill that limits magazine sizes and authorize universal background checks for psychiatric patients? I don’t think I’d even be allowed to have a gun. I’m a recovering alcoholic!

I mean look what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the greatest actors ever, and people don’t even understand that death! ‘Well he chose to do it’, no he didn’t! It’s a disease! It’s like being mad at a cancer patient. It’s a disease and you have to live with it every day and you have to treat it with meetings, and by surrounding yourself with people in sobriety. That’s why half the band is sober, you know what I mean? Or normal!

AW: Lets go back to talking about the new record for a moment. Your new video for “Surprise” was just recently released. Could you please tell me more about the video, and the storyline behind it? What lead to the choice of Gus Black for directorial duties?

RP: The video is all about the strength that a woman has to have to raise a kid on her own. The storyline is basically that Johnny plays an addict who’s been arrested, who’s now back at home and coming out of his haze. They fight [Johnny & the woman] basically over the fact that I was there earlier as a social worker, saying effectively that the house is unsuitable with Johnny living there. But we wanted to leave a lot to the imagination. The tie-in is that I’m also in the desert, and I’m with the elements; I’m witnessing wolves and falcons as maternal predators that will do anything for their kids, the goal was for the audience to kind of see that.

In a lion’s pride, the lionesses do all the work, they do all the hunting, and they do everything. The only job of the male is to fight and to remain the king of the pride by being the strongest, and the most dominant so that he’ll make the best babies. That’s how evolution works; you know? You go for the biggest and strongest and the male lion is an attractive thing to the lioness and blah blah, survival of the fittest.

And so it ties in to that whole thing of women are far tougher than we give them credit for. I believe that woman should be in charge, and that we’d be a little bit of a nicer world if some women were in charge – not all, because that would scare the shit out of me [laughs], but Hillary Clinton is cool you know?

The way the video was shot, it was intentionally meant to be kind of vague – although I did just give away the entire meaning of the video by the way, but whatever! [laughs] I mean the reality is when you see it, if you read this interview and you see it, it’ll kind of make sense. But I wanted really just beautiful images. I wanted the photography to be a main thing and Gus is the guy, plus his editing told the story. When the song crescendos, there was a freak wind storm that came in and I just kind of held out my arms. We had a helicopter shot of a hawks point of view flying above the land and it just really made sense. I just think it’s a beautiful video. If you listen to the song, you should put your headphones on and watch it on a big screen. It’s really going to be amazing.

AW: Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, Richard! Could you let us know what we can expect from Filter in the year ahead?

RP: We’re playing a smattering of festivals in April, although I can’t really announce anything for the summer yet, because it’s not that time. But look for us on the road this summer, supporting our amazing record The Sun Comes Out Tonight!

We just performed last night (Thursday February 13th, 2014) for a group of friends and family. We did kind of a different version of all our music; and we stripped it down to more of an electronic side. We have electronic drums, and we did some songs that we just don’t do live like “It’s My Time” and “Happy Together” as well as “Surprise” and “Take a Picture” and that’s like a five song little concert. It was filmed and it was also recorded on 24 track so we’re going to probably put that out as some kind of DVD, so look out for that because that’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be really well done.

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Filter’s latest record The Sun Comes Out Tonight is currently available via Wind-Up Records and can be purchased via Amazon. Be sure to check out Filter live on tour this summer. The following dates have already been announced, and more are soon to follow:

Feb 22    RNA Showgrounds    Brisbane, Australia
Feb 23    Sydney    Sydney, Australia
Feb 28    Flemington Racecourse   Melbourne, Australia
Mar 01    Bonython Park   Adelaide, Australia
Mar 03    CLAREMONT SHOWGROUNDS   Perth, Australia

Apr 12    Central Florida Fairgrounds   Orlando, FL
Apr 18    The Paramount   Huntington, NY
Apr 23    Bergen Performing Arts Center       Englewood, NJ

Purchase tickets here.

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