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Interview with Filter lead singer Richard Patrick

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Rock and roll and politics just always seem to somehow mesh together and they do yet again on Filter’s latest album Anthems for the Damned. After a five year hiatus, Filter’s mastermind Richard Patrick has regrouped and put together a very solid rock and roll album that stretches towards social and political themes in a way we never knew possible of Filter in the past. In the years since Filter was a very significant player in the alt rock world of the late ‘90s, a lot has changed for Patrick and his band including a trip to rehab for alcohol and drug issues as well as parting ways with the other three former members of the group. Recently we were able to catch up with the one and only Richard Patrick for a very extensive conversation about Filter, the new album and the state of the world at large today. This was by far one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve had the pleasure of doing as Richard had a lot of funny and interesting things to say, despite the fact that I seemed to slightly annoy him when I asked if he had heard the latest Nine Inch Nails album The Slip...

Your brand new record is called Anthems for the Damned and was just released. Now that it’s out, how do you personally feel about the album and what’s different about it compared to past Filter releases?
Richard: Well the personnel is different, the people I use to make records with, it’s different now. First off, I’m extremely proud of the record, I think it’s turned out really good, I’m really glad that it turned out so well. It was a lot of really great work done by (producer) Josh Abraham, that was the biggest collaboration that I’m really happy about. Then there’s Ryan Williams, who did the mixing and engineering, I wrote a couple of songs with John 5 and another song with Wes Borland and it was just amazing, also Josh Freese plays some drums so there’s a lot of different people working on it. I think they helped me kind of achieve a newer kind of, wordly sound, um and… I don’t know, I wanted a change and I got it.

Anthems for the Damned is certainly an interesting name for an album as there seems to be a sort of anti-war or political theme behind the record. Would you consider Anthems for the Damned a concept album or merely a collection of songs with modern subject matters?
Richard: I don’t get into all that kind of stuff. I just know that it’s the fourth Filter record, I’m socially aware; I’m watching the country make huge mistakes. At the same time, I talk about social ills, um, you know this is kind of like three chords and the truth, well this is kind of like twelve chords and the truth. You know, the Bush administration is pretty crazy, at the same time we’re destroying our environment, we’re killing each other through war and you know at the end of the record there’s a song called “Only You Can Stop This” and it’s just kind of a little musical thing mystically saying that you’re the only people who are going to make a difference, just stand up and do something. It’s like you know, Joe Strummer, Johnny Lydon, Bono, John Lennon, they wanted to say something more than “I broke up and my girlfriend left me” or you know “my fucking car’s cool, look at my bling.” You know there’s so many more things you can do with music than suck your own dick, you know what I mean?

Hahaha, good quote there…
Richard: There’s your fucking bold lettered quote.

Now you mentioned a minute ago this new incarnation of Filter consists of three new members you’re playing with, guitarist Mitchell Marlow, bassist John Spiker and drummer Mika Fineo. How did you meet these guys and did they contribute to the new record at all?
Richard: No, they didn’t contribute to the new record because the record was already done when I met them. But I made this record with Josh and it was kind of like more of a studio record. But these guys that I’m with are extremely talented and they were picked primarily because of their talent, they were picked because they’re great at what they do. Back in the old days of Filter, if you could keep up with me drinking wise, you could stay in the band. That wasn’t necessarily true for some of the members, but for a lot of the other members, it was kind of like if you were my drinking buddy you had a gig and you know, that’s a pretty sad thing for me to say that. [laughs] But the reality is that I love (previous members) Frank, I love Gino and Brian and Matt Walker and everybody, Matt never really was a drinking buddy, none of the drummers ever were, they had to be on top of their game. But yeah, it was kind of haphazardly put together in between hang overs, primarily from myself. So this was the first band where it was like “hey look, let’s hire people that are incredibly talented.” All three of these guys are not just the bass player, the guitar player and the drummer. Mika is an incredible pianist, he’s classically trained, he’s really an amazing guy. John Spiker’s got an amazing voice as well as he’s a great engineer, he’s a pro tools guy. Mitch is a producer; he works with a lot of different bands and does a lot of different things. You know I’m really proud of them and I want them to not only go out on the road and flesh this thing out live, but I want them to be apart of the band’s sound in the future with writing you know...

Let’s just backtrack a little bit and talk about your work outside of Filter. You took a few year hiatus from Filter in favor of the Army of Anyone project with Robert and Dean DeLeo from STP. Although the band only lasted one album, looking back how do you feel about Army of Anyone? Are you glad you did it or do you think now that maybe it was a mistake?
Richard: I don’t think it was a mistake. I don’t think anything that sounds as wonderful as that can be considered a mistake, there’s no way. That’s an amazing, beautiful record but at the same time it kind of lead me to the point of realizing what I loved about Filter. It was really a conversation I had with my brother Robert the actor and he was just kind of like “have you ever noticed you always kind of turn your back on Filter?” And I was like “what do you mean?” And he brought up how I had some problems for years and it took me years to write a record and I’d be drinking all the time and then I released The Amalgamut and then I checked myself into rehab so I couldn’t tour on that record and then I get things going and then I join Army of Anyone and poor little Filter just keeps getting left behind. So he asked me why I keep doing that? And I was really blown away by that whole conversation, I was like you’re right, Filter is my legacy, Filter is something that has always been there for me and so I’m just taking this opportunity to realize that and try to get it going to the point where it was, you know, where it was a household name. And even to this day, everywhere I go I’m always spotted on the streets and it’s always about Filter. So having realized that, I just was like you know what, maybe I should put it back together.

Filter is a pretty amazing, quirky thing. It’s not industrial, but yet it has an industrial hit. It’s not pop, but yet I had a huge pop hit. It’s not electronic, but I had an electronic song. It’s a complete, total, creative outlet on any level, I can do whatever I want, I can have my band, I can use different people, I can use studio players, it’s complete, total freedom for me. If I want to make a video, now that I own my own record company, if the video has an American flame being engulfed by a huge puddle of oil, I can do that, I can say that if I want to. And that’s what this band is about; it’s being about being able to completely express myself. Army of Anyone was a band, there were three other dudes and we made great music and we talked about all kinds of different things in our music, but it was actually a wonderful thing and I’m very proud of it. Nothing’s a mistake; you just gotta kind of go through your life and try things. We tried something brand new and daring and bold and you know, I think that record’s an amazing record and I’m proud of it. It sold a hundred thousand copies; you know there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s a successful record these days. Going gold is the new diamond, with the internet and people file sharing and burning CDs so I think we did pretty well.

Yeah I just wanted to add, I really enjoyed the Army of Anyone record, it’s just I think the press didn’t really pick up on it much and I don’t think they really helped the record very much...
Richard: They’re too busy you know picking out fucking American Idols and trying to find the next Nirvana and they’re never going to find it. Nirvana’s amazing, but they’re just never going to find another one, there’s no artist development anymore, you’re never going to have a U2, you’re never going to have a Bruce Springsteen, those guys didn’t make it off of their first single and real artists probably won’t make it off of their first singles. Amy Winehouse will, she had a big popular single that did a lot of work for her but I mean Bruce Springsteen and all those guys, it wasn’t until after they had a minute to find themselves that they really got going.

Aside from Army of Anyone, you also previously embarked on a project called The Damning Well which never really got off the ground. It was rumored you had an album’s worth of music so whatever happened to this project?
Richard: Most of that turned into Black Light Burns. There was a song called “Power” I wrote with Amy Lee, I wrote all the lyrics and everything and then Amy Lee came in and sang on it. Her manager was such a, just so hard to deal with which is like that with a lot of the things she gets involved with you know, they were just so hardcore that we were like forget it. There were only two songs recorded under the Damning Well, it wasn’t a whole record. But I have the Amy Lee song I did with her, she just came in and sang my lyrics and sang with me, it was cool sounding though, I was really proud of it. It’s now on the Black Light Burns record. So yeah, we did one song for the Underworld soundtrack and it just kind of peted out after that. I wrote another song for something else and that was really about it.

As a band, Filter seemed to start out with a theme of being about you and your personal struggles but has shifted to a more political commentary on issues. How do you feel about bands commenting on political issues?
Richard: My idols, John Lennon, Bono, John Lydon, Al Jourgensen, my friend Tom Morello have inspired me to speak my mind. There’s a lot of fucked up shit going on down here. Are you calling from Canada?

Yeah I’m calling from Toronto, Ontario.
Richard: There’s a lot of fucked up shit going on down here and we’re really making some big mistakes and the only thing that it seems people really care about is whether or not Britney Spears is going to have another nervous fucking breakdown, who gives a fuck? So we gotta attract people from everywhere we can, when people buy my record they might hear a little like “hey, did you ever notice this kind of shit sucks and maybe we should maybe get off of fucking oil, why are we such crack whores for oil?” I mean it’s important for music to have a relevance every once in a while. Sure, I’ve broken up with girls, I’ve had drinking problems and I’ve publicly kind of addressed those in my songs and I think those are important too, I think those topics are great, I’m just a little tired of fucking people talking about their cribs, I’m a little tired of people talking about their fucking bling and their fucking money and their bullshit. If you want to be a fucking rockstar, go be a rockstar, I’m just a musician who plays rock music and I want to fucking enlighten people hopefully. I’m on this planet for another forty years at the most and I got a baby and a wife and I’m worried about their future you know and that kind of fear, that anger is spilling into my lyrics, I can’t just sit back and talk about myself until I’m dead. I’m forty now, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve got a lot of things to say, the war in Iraq was terrible, how did we let it happen? How did we let George Bush fucking get into the fucking White House again? How did we lose that election? You know what I mean; we have to start addressing these issues. Rock is the perfect platform to do that. You want to fucking forget your problems, go fucking listen to hip hop or fucking pop or whatever the fuck. They’re never going to talk about anything real; they’re only going to talk about what sells. And you know, my idols have always stuck to their guns and said what they want to do, fuck I’ll listen to a Dixie Chicks record, you know, I’m fucking proud of the Dixie Chicks you know, they fucking sat there and said what they want to say, they’re not sorry and I’m not sorry either.

Just to wrap up on this topic of political issues, are you supporting anyone for president or are you going to stay out of it?
Richard: Um, I’m going to stay out of it until it gets closer, I like Barack and I like McCain, obviously anything is going to be better than what we’ve had the last eight years. McCain is a little scary, you know, the Republicans are a little... I don’t know, there’s a lot of fear mongering going on, a lot of scary fear mongering that’s going on. I think 9/11 was a couple of thousand assholes in Afghanistan who ran rampant and just kind of did their thing and we could have gotten them in Tora Bora if that was handled better. The Iraq War is all about oil and it’s like that’s it, let’s just simplify it a little bit and it’s time to get out of there. During the Cold War we were talking to Breshnev, you know, we were talking to this crazy nut that had the KKB killing capitalists or killing anyone that was different. We had a fucking evil dictator that we were dealing with, you know and we’ve always been dealing with evil dictators, why can’t we go in there and fucking have a conversation with someone? Why don’t we go in there and just talk to them real quick? See where he’s coming from, it takes a human being to fucking try and reason with another human being. Any monkey can fucking you know, throw a fucking pile of shit at another monkey and fucking like start a war, you know what I mean? Any fucking moron can fucking just go “uhh, he’s a dick, let’s fuck him up!” We have to try and reason even with the craziest sons of bitches.

Democrats, Barack seem to be a little more logical so I’m ultimately a Democrat, you know I’m more liberal in my thinking anyways, but Barack Obama, he’s half black, half white, it seems like it’s the perfect change, he’s new, he’s not a career politician like Hilary Clinton who’s been there for fucking forty years into politics, he’s new, he’s only like a few years older than me and he knows how to fucking turn on a Mac and you know get on the internet, he knows what TIVO is. McCain doesn’t even know how to fucking turn the computer on, I mean that scares me, my fucking seventy-five year old dad knows how to fucking turn on a computer, how does he get his information? He just gets it from the CIA, look where that led us, you know, I don’t know, it’s a lot but ultimately I’m a Democrat and I’m probably going to go with Barack Obama. But then again, look at McCain; he’s been saying the right things about the environment for a long time, he’s been a staunch critic of the Iraq War since it began, he’s been telling them that they’re not doing the right thing and you know why? He’s a fucking military man, he went to the Naval Academy, he’s brilliant, he ran a squadron in the Navy, and he understands how the military works. President Bush fucking avoided the draft during the Vietnam era and fucking flew a plane for the reserves. McCain was there, you know, how did his arms get fucked up? He was held up by his arms for I think three months, three months of them holding him up by his arms. He was a prisoner of war for eight years in Vietnam man, those bastards don’t fucking follow the Geneva Convention out there, they don’t fucking recognize that shit. Those fucking crazy bastards fucking shove bamboo sheets under your fucking nails to get information out of you.

So you know there’s a lot of really good quality people out there, McCain should have been running a long time ago but you know he got dicked over by the Bushes a long time ago. I don’t know man, for me I’m a musician, my favorite idols said something, my favorite rock record was Combat Rock, you know, one of my favorite records by U2 was War, I like things that have meaning now and are a little bit deeper than I broke up or I’m pissed at my parents. You ever notice that there are bands out there, there’s this certain heavy metal band that’s just always about fucking being bummed at your parents, how many times are you going to fucking beat that dead horse? Sure, growing up is tough, but look what they’re growing in to.

Yeah I know, it’s kind of been beating to death in rock and roll...
Richard: You know? I mean I don’t fucking care about “my daddy beat me, blah blah blah.” Come on dude, fucking grow some balls, you’re going to turn eighteen, and you can leave soon, go get a job, go get a job sir! Big Lebowski there...

...I really appreciate you taking the time and the interest you know, I really appreciate the time you’re giving me and the fact you’re going to put Filter back in your paper, I really appreciate it...

Yeah no worries man, we love you and the band. I’ll just ask you one more question, you mentioned this a little while ago, about a bit of an industrial feel to your music and specifically this record. There’s more of an industrial influence than previous Filter albums, reminiscent of your work with Nine Inch Nails many years ago. What caused you to rekindle these influences? Did the music just sort of come out that way?
Richard: There’s an amazing couple of songs that are really, just really industrial kind of tracks. Um, you know what? I feel like the place comes alive when I kind of light it up with some industrial stuff, I don’t know, it’s the kind of thing where I just wanted to kind of get back to some of those old influences. Skinny Puppy and Ministry were the most political bands that I listened to when I was a kid, like they were right fucking in your mother fucking face you know, God is an illusion, it’s completely made up. There was no doubt about it, they said the most fucking intense things, they were not fucking around at all, it was hardcore, right in your face and I kind of recognized that that’s how I feel lately, you know there’s just no bones about it. Even though mine’s way more kind of hidden, there’s one line where I say “George Bush keeps fucking us up,” that’s about as in your face as I’m going to get. The reality is... I don’t know, it just felt industrial to me, Anthems for the Damned, the title, the darkness, the sound design. Even though I’m still the guy that gave you “Take A Picture,” “Can’t You Trip Like I Do,” and “The Only Way is the Wrong Way.” I just recognized the fact that I did come from Nine Inch Nails and we were heavily influenced by Ministry and Skinny Puppy.

Yeah I know. Just speaking of Nine Inch Nails, have you heard the new record The Slip? It just came out recently on the internet?
Richard: Nope.

Hahaha, I don’t know if you’re a fan anymore, but if you are check it out, it’s pretty awesome.
Richard: Oh cool, thank you, I’ll check it out.  [ END ]
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