Filter frontman Richard Patrick had his first taste of success in the music industry as a touring guitarist for the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails.
He left the band after four years due to discord within the group and co-founded Filter, whose 1995 album “Short Bus” featured the massive hit single “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
Two more Filter albums followed, 1999’s “Title of Record,” featuring the hit “Take a Picture,” and 2002’s “The Amalgamut.” During promotion for “The Amalgamut,” Patrick abruptly left the tour to enter rehab for alcoholism, putting Filter on hiatus.
After becoming and staying sober, Patrick formed a short-lived band with Dean and Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots called Army of Anyone, and then released a fourth Filter album entitled “Anthems for the Damned,” which explored Patrick’s personal views on the state of the world, including such subjects as the Iraq War.
Filter is now touring with renewed vigor in support of its fifth studio album, “The Trouble with Angels.” They will perform at 8 p.m. at Harlow’s in Sacramento on Nov. 22nd.
I recently spoke with Patrick about the new album, the tour, and why the band has so many soundtrack contributions.
What are you up to today?
I’m in Reno. We have a day off, and I literally have not left my hotel room unless I was going out to eat. We are the hardest-working band in the world right now. I’m just grateful that I have a moment to myself and I can go to the hotel room and chill out.
It looks like this tour is coming to an end pretty soon.
Yeah, we’re gonna hit it pretty hard next year though. We did one tour, and then we’ll probably pair up with someone and be out all January and February. We got an offer to play out in Germany, and we’re thinking about when we’re going to go out there. There’s a bunch of activity.
How’s the reaction been for the new single “No Love”?
It’s starting to take off. It’s in that early stage, and we’re watching it get a great reaction from people, and it’s exciting. It feels like when I first released “Short Bus,” the building anticipation and people are starting to freak out about it. It’s cool.
I take it you’re playing a lot of new material on this tour.
We’re playing a lot of the heavy stuff from the record, and it’s amazing. We go right out for the gusto, and all the super-young people are there for that, and then the older folks are more into the older stuff. Well they’re not that old, but you know what I mean. It’s pretty cool to see such an amazing response from the young people. They’re really into it and digging it. It’s nice.
I was in high school when “Short Bus” came out, so I would be one of those older folks at the show with my kids.
It’s pretty cool! There are parents showing up with their kids, and they’re like “I love ‘Hey Man,’ and he’s into ‘No Love!,’ ” so that’s cool. And they love the new record. That’s the one thing, I finally got it right. It’s been a tumultuous 10 years. I had serious health issues with my drinking, and I messed around for a couple of years, and then I (was in the band) Army of Anyone. That took four years out of my life. And we did ‘Anthems.’ That was a tribute to a friend of ours that was killed in Iraq, and then by the time I got around to business as usual with another pure Filter record, it had been almost 10 years!
You’ve been to the Middle East to perform for U.S. troops several times. I think that’s awesome that you do that, and it’s incredible for the troops. How did you get involved with that?
Well we had this friend, his name was Sgt. Justin Eyerly, and he was a 14-year-old kid when “Short Bus” came out. He was the first kid to make an unofficial Filter website. He had this tiny little page, and we thought it was so awesome that he did that, and we became friends with him.
And (our friend) Adam Hubka knew him, and Adam gave me a call and said ‘Hey man, Justin Eyerly is in the army and he’s headed to Iraq.” And he gave me updates like “Justin just landed, and he said it was the worst thing he’s ever seen,” and he said the only thing he had was his iPod filled with Filter. He was talking about how war is horrible, and then the next e-mail I got from Adam, it said “Rich, Justin was killed yesterday.” Twenty-one years old. So when I was in Army of Anyone, I dedicated my portion of the record to him, and I did “Anthems for the Damned” for him.
When my agency found out that I was behind the troops – protesting the war but behind the troops – they called me up and said, “Would you want to do this thing called Operation MySpace?” and we said, “Absolutely.”
So we went out there, and we played and met all the people out there, and we would sign autographs for two to three hours afterward. And just meeting these kids – they’re kids, these soldiers! They’re there because they made a commitment to this country that they would serve, and then a lot of them would then get into college, and make a living, and a lot of them would stay out of trouble.
It was fascinating to meet those guys. And we found this organization called Stars for Stripes, and they called us up and said, “Would you be willing to go back and play for the troops again?” and we said, “Absolutely.” So we went a second time in 2009, and we went back again two months ago. So we’ve been there three times. It was an amazing experience.
You wrote all the songs on “Short Bus.” Is that how Filter operates now? Do you write all the songs and then hire a band for the live shows?
Not necessarily – the first version of Filter that put out the “Short Bus” record that we all love – that was me and a computer and an engineer by the name of Brian Liesegang. The idea of this band is similar to Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen in the sense that if there’s a change, it’s still going to be my band.
I’m essentially responsible for everything, but I do a lot of collaboration, so it’s more than just I do everything and then hire the band.
Brian Liesegang just worked on this last record as an engineer, a sound designer. (Guitarist) Mitch Marlow wrote a song with me, “No Love.” There are definitely other people that are allowed to get creative, and they get everything you would get from songwriting, but ultimately it’s kind of my band. And I love my new band members: Phil Buckman, Rob Patterson, and Mika (Fineo). John Spiker played all the bass on the record. (Producer) Bob Marlette pretty much co-wrote every song on this new one. It’s more than just a bunch of hired people around me. I push them, and I try to challenge them and make them “a part of,” as opposed to just dudes on the road who resent me and are like, “Dude, you don’t let me do anything!” I hate that. I used to be in that situation when I was in Nine Inch Nails.
Do you stay in touch with Trent Reznor at all?
Not really. When a guy writes a song called “Piggy” about you, there’s obviously tension or some leftover shit. My nickname was Piggy. He’s writing songs about me … you know, I wish it hadn’t been so complicated and so weird. I wish it would have been a little more fun. Maybe one of these days we’ll talk and it’ll be OK, but it doesn’t feel like it’s a friendship, that’s for sure.
Trent’s most recent group is called How to Destroy Angels, and your new album is called “The Trouble with Angels.” Is there a story there?
No, I had no idea about that! In fact, the first thing out of my mouth was “Holy fuck, how did that happen?” Then I Googled it and saw I had mentioned it in a Fender article back in 2009 and he came out with his thing a month or two later. So I was the first, but I didn’t know anything about it. Obviously they have totally different meanings – I’m talking about organized religion and how sad it is that there are so many bad things that happen when it comes to religion. It seems like religion is maybe holding us back. And I think he actually got his from a Coil song.
You’re married and you have kids. Has that changed anything for you?
I do. I have young children. I get the meaning of life. I just want to do the best I can. I want to write the best music, I want to tour harder, I want to make more money, obviously.
The reality is it’s pretty easy to goof off when you’re single, or married and both of you are rocking out or doing whatever, but as soon as you put a timeline on it – these human beings are probably going to be dependent on me until they’re 20 – it just makes you “show up.” It makes you respect life so much more. It makes me want to be the best man I can be.
I can think of two adult artists who have recently put out children’s albums, The Verve Pipe and Keller Williams. Do you have a kids’ album in you?
Umm…maybe! I have some amazing gentle music. I look at it like this – Filter is one of those bands like The Clash, they could do all kinds of music. Whether it’s radio Clash or reggae or Caribbean kind of stuff, or really experimental – that’s what I view this band as. People were taken aback when I wrote “Take a Picture,” but if they had any idea how much pain and suffering that song is talking about … it’s still heavy as fuck. It sounds really dreamy and pretty, but it’s still heavy.
A lot of film soundtracks feature Filter songs, most recently the films “2012” and “The Stepfather.” Is that just about getting your music out there and reaching a bigger audience and getting paid, or do the film projects attract you in another way?
I love the directors, I loved working with (“2012” soundtrack composer) Harald Kloser. It was a total collaboration. He had the music, and we co-wrote a song together. All these directors, (“The Stepfather” director) Nelson McCormick, Ben Stiller and all these guys – I really enjoy meeting these guys and talking to them. I love film, I love the meetings, hanging out at the studios. I’m a big fan of my bro (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s” Robert Patrick). I did some acting in these last two videos we did, “No Love” and “Fades Like a Photograph,” and I really love the interaction you can have with the camera and working with another actor.
Are you planning to start going on auditions?
I would love to. I would love to get more involved in it, but right now Filter is the main thing, and it’s taking such a huge priority in my life. I feel like performing is where it’s at. And I also love writing! My brother and I are working on a screenplay for something.
What do you like to watch when you have the time?
My ultimate favorite TV show was probably “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” from Carl Sagan. “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.” Anything with science, but I love some drama. I love “House” – that’s a fucking great show. Jon Stewart, I’m a massive Jon Stewart fan. Stephen Colbert. I’m not a democrat, but I do lean left.
Krist Novoselic of Nirvana said his favorite Nirvana song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because it paid for his house. What’s your favorite Filter song?
I have to say my favorite Filter song right now is “No Love.” The whole record really – because of Bob Marlette and John Spiker and all the other guys that helped me do it, it just was a joy. And I think that’s why people are digging it right now, because you can tell there’s a lot of love in there, and it’s fun. For many people out there in the world, music is the only thing that gives them relief, so it’s awesome to be a part of that tradition.
Filter performs at 8 p.m. at Harlow’s on Nov. 22nd. For tickets, click here.