Filter: Nothing at Hand
29-Mar-2016 Words: Brendan Crabb
Pix: David Rubene
Latest release: Crazy Eyes (Wind Up/Caroline)
Founder/singer/guitarist/producer Richard Patrick has reconvened his long-time industrialised hard rock outfit Filter, whose seventh full-length album, Crazy Eyes, acknowledges the band's past while also pointing to its future. He worked with new band-mates Oumi Kapila (guitars, programming), Ashley Dzerigian (bass), Chris Reeve (drums) and Bobby Miller (keyboards), and former Filter cohorts, Johnny Radke and Danny Lohner. Patrick also collaborated with old friends such as the man behind 1999's platinum-selling Title of Record, producer Ben Grosse (Thirty Seconds To Mars, Marilyn Manson). During the making of the new LP, fans were also able to provide feedback via Filter's PledgeMusic campaign.
During Loud's previous conversation with the self-proclaimed 'Crazy Rich' in 2010, he proved an articulate, engaging and all-round entertaining interview subject. This time around, as you'll read, he didn't disappoint, discussing Donald Trump, crowd-funding and the “biggest punk rock song” of his career.
Q: Hey Richard, how are you doing?
A: I'm great, I'm just super proud of my record and trying to find out ways to fucking bring down Donald Trump's candidacy for president. It's freaking out in America, crazy eyes in America right now.
Q: Are there many Trump-inspired lyrics on this new album then?
A: The whole record is about his fucking lunacy. It's an anti-Trump record... We all fucking know that he's Hitler 2.0. He's dividing the country, he's doing all the tell-tale signs of Hitler's. He's taking everybody and getting them mad at brown people. Whether you're an immigrant from Mexico or you're Muslim, he's just getting everybody riled up, and he's dividing the country. Unfortunately, for him, there's a butt-load of people, like us, like me and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and all the other Democrats that have been backing Barack Obama this whole time. The Republican Party is absolutely for scorn and full of shit. They are dastardly, desperate people and they need to be stopped. And that's that. On top of that, I've got a record (laughs).
Q: Which also gives you plenty to discuss (laughs).
A: Yeah, the record is about the hysteria that I see in the world. We've got riots up here, we've got cops shooting black people while they're running away, in the back. We've got all kinds of stuff going on, and it's not right. Listen, Justin (Timberlake), Adele and all those people are singing about how lovesick they are, and how much they love. They've got love songs and the sugary pop stuff down. So I'm going to let them do that and I'm going to be the exact opposite, and be strange, weird and heavy, and fucking dig a deeper hole for myself. Because I'd rather be underground and real than full of shit.
Q: 'Nothing In My Hands' from the new album was reportedly inspired by the aforementioned shootings and riots – is that accurate?
A: Fuck yeah, written when the Ferguson riots were under way, and there was a new video of a guy being strangled to death for selling single cigarettes on the streets of New York. He didn't want to be harassed by the cops, and he resisted, because he's like, 'I don't want to go to jail for selling one cigarette'. He resisted, which you can never do, and he fucking, they strangled him, he had a heart attack and he died. It's like, over what? And that's the thing. There's a systemic, racist thing that's happening in America, and it's really, with the advent of cell phone videos and people with just cameras on cheap cell phones now, you can see this stuff.
It's not unlike Rodney King. Someone took their Camcorder, stuck it out the window and videotaped these cops in Simi Valley, California beating the shit out of Rodney King. Now, everyone has that capability in the palm of their hand, 24 hours a day. And you're seeing what black people have been seeing for 50 years, ever since the civil rights movement, it's been 50 years of... You'd think that things would be getting better, and it's not.
I have to say things in my music, otherwise I'm not being authentic. I'm not being real. For me, it's a big part of my life to see that kind of injustice. It's a big part of my life, it shapes me. A friend of mine was killed in Iraq, and I wrote an entire record about him. People are like, 'oh, we're so tired of hearing about you and your politics'. Well, I don't give a shit. For me, the reason why I went platinum in the beginning was because I was authentically crazy. I was fucking screaming about a guy that held a press conference, and blew his head off. I never thought that song ('Hey Man, Nice Shot') would ever be picked up, or considered a hit. And it was. The difference between this record and the past couple of records is that the only person in charge of this thing is me, and it has to be me, because people want 'Crazy Rich'. They don't want polished, super clean Rich.
Even though 'Take A Picture' was the biggest punk rock song I've ever written, because here's a song that sounds like the most luscious, dreamy music on the planet, but the lyrics are absolutely about how my real life is falling apart. I'm an alcoholic and I can't remember anything, and take my picture because I won't remember. The record company at first was a little shocked, and I explained it, saying 'it's punk. I'm singing about the worst parts of my life and you can't tell, because it's the sound of being drunk'. It sounds like being fucking high as shit, like all golden, glisten-y, beautiful. So it's all about that, about being punk and crazy and pulling one over on people. I'd rather sing a song like 'Mother E' than something like 'Take A Picture' right now, because I'm genuinely more angry. It's a natural anger towards what's going on in the world.
Q: Conversely, the new album features 'Take Me to Heaven', which is deeply personal.
A: 'Take Me to Heaven' is my constant battle to understand why people believe in it. I see it very simply; if your brain loses oxygen and then dies, you're gone, you're not even going to know you existed. It's just over, because that's what happens to the brain. There's no proof that it goes anywhere. So when my father was dying, I looked into his eyes and he looked back, and he saw me. I'd been there for three days, but he had been in this process called death rattle, where he was just unconscious and they kept him very medicated because we didn't want him to feel any pain. I would love it if Jesus Christ came down and said, 'yo, believe in me, here's a magic trick. I'm going to walk on water, but you've got to know this, I'm real'. I would go to church fucking six times a day. But I need proof, because I'm a free thinker that wasn't indoctrinated into religion when I was young. They tried, it didn't work for me. I questioned it, I questioned authority. And so everything that I do is coming from my thinking, and it has to be because I'm just trying to be authentic, trying to be real.
Q: This album features a new line-up as well. How do you approach recruiting new musicians for the band, and recognise that they'll be an appropriate fit?
A: Well, I found a guitar player through an old manager of mine. Him and I got together and the first thing we did together was 'Take Me to Heaven'. I just constantly love meeting new people, and his friend Chris Reeve from Perth, I had heard about him through a friend of mine, Jeff Friedl, who's the drummer for Puscifer and A Perfect Circle... Ashley, we had a bass player that was a little drunk, he was a little unruly and he was kind of, he was a little tough on this friend of ours. And I thought, 'You know what? You're too drunk to be in Filter, and because you were mean to that girl, I'm going to find a girl bass player'. I'd rather have a girl that's cool than some guy that kinda pissed me off about the way he treated a friend of ours.
So I asked Ashley Dzerigian to play bass and she's amazing. She's an incredible bass player. It was the right time to put a girl in the band, because I'm like, why is it always dudes? If I'm coming to terms with the fact that Filter has had a long list of members... Listen, I love working with new people. And if you're open-minded, and you go, 'Look, I'm the main guy in Filter', when people say, 'Hey, let's get the original band back together', it's like, 'Me and a computer?' 'Cause there was no one in the band when I did the demo. When I did the demo and I did (1995's) Short Bus, there was no one in the band. It was drum machines, samplers and my guitar, my bass and my buddy Brian Liesegang, my buddy from Nine Inch Nails who got fired or whatever, went his separate ways with Trent (Reznor). And I said, 'Dude, if you're not busy, come over and do some programming for me'. He co-produced the record with me, and that was the original line-up of Filter. Then I hired people to go on the road with me because no one wants to see me and a laptop, or back then, a classic Mac (laughs). No one wants to see that.
So I've always had new musicians in my life. Chris Reeve, and Bobby Miller is amazing. He's this kid from New York City that went out on tour with us as our monitor guy and a drum tech, and now he's like the keyboard player because he's so talented. I had no idea. He can sing, he can play keyboards. So it was like, okay, you're going to be our electronics guy. The next record, it might be the same people, it might be all new people, I don't know. The one thing is for sure is I love making records. For me, it's like I'm starting on a new record as we speak. I'm already starting to plan it, 'cause I love making new records.
Q: Filter were among that last gasp of artists whereby records still sold in large quantities and labels had lavish budgets for albums and videos. How do you feel when you reflect on the industry then compared to now?
A: Well, the technology has changed dramatically... I've always had a computer and I've always gone to my friends at the last moment and had them mix it. You find other ways to make a living as well. I'm working on scoring movies. There's always different musical outlets that I have, but touring makes a big difference. But yeah, you don't make a video for $300,000. You make a video for $20,000 or $10,000. The cameras are actually really nice. They're small and they're cheaper, but they look just as good.
The technology has allowed it to be inexpensive to make records. The only thing you need is a decent, for me, I can't speak for everyone else, but I can imagine for like the Deftones it must be really expensive. Because you've got five guys, you've got to go into a rehearsal hall. You've got to spend a lot of time there, you've got to hash everything out musically, plus everybody's got to have their home studios. Then you record it in a real studio for like weeks and weeks, and play together as a band. Then you kind of fix it up. It's a lot. For bands it's extremely expensive, and it's sucky.
And that's why I think rock is... rock, the first thing a label says to you is 'go get on the radio'. So you fucking water down whatever you're doing and instead of making music that's intense and in-your-face, you're kind of making something that sounds like, 'please put me on the radio'. So you're constantly getting pressure from the record companies who are trying to get you on (the radio).
For Filter, when I talked to Wind-Up, I said, 'I don't give a shit. Let me make the record I want to make, let me just do it, and I'll keep the expenses down'. That's when I was introduced to PledgeMusic. And PledgeMusic is unbelievable, it's fucking amazing. PledgeMusic, the people know that you're making the record, they buy it ahead of time. You get thousands of people paying for it so the costs of your record are completely covered before you even really go into the studio. All you have to do is update, you keep them involved, you update stuff, you constantly do updates and show them what you're working on. And they tell you, like, 'Oh my God, this is awesome, I'm going to buy the vinyl'. Then they start pre-ordering things, so that is revolutionary.
It's actually amazing because you have true fans contributing to something. I'm in the studio, I take a video of what we're working on and show the speaker in the studio. I'll say, 'Here's what we're working on, what do you think of this shit?' People are like, 'That's awesome, this sounds crazy'. They tell everybody on PledgeMusic, they tell all their friends to check it out and they come over. You have this huge, never-ending sea of people that are giving you comments and feedback, and kind of emboldening you. Because the weirder and crazier I got, the bigger the reaction I had from my true fans. Like when I started working on the song Mother E, they were like, 'This is Crazy Rich, we've missed Crazy fucking Rich from Short Bus. Where has he been?' And I'm like, honestly, people have been fucking pressuring me to get on the radio for ten years. The people that hold the purse strings have been telling me to get on the god-damn radio.
I'm proud of every single thing that I've released, I love all of our music. 'Take A Picture', I fought to fucking make that and put that on Title of Record. I'm all over the map. I'm a genre-bending artist that goes all over the place, and my music was described as 'schizophrenic'. And it is. I'm like The Clash. The Clash did reggae, punk, blues, they did everything. Whatever style; they did hip-hop. Whatever the style they wanted to do, they did it and that's why I feel like I was inspired most by Joe Strummer. So for me, doing this record with PledgeMusic and the changes in the music industry, look, you either sink or you swim. You either fucking adapt or you die. It's evolution. People don't want to pay for records – got it. How do I make it in the industry? Just keep going, keep being yourself. You don't think about the dark times. I could sit around and tell you how many houses I could have bought if people literally bought hundreds and hundreds of thousands, millions of records. But they don't, and honestly, I have everything I need. I don't need the Lamborghini. That was never in my fucking cards. I was proud that I could get a BMW (laughs) at one point. But even then I totalled it. I felt so bad about it; like (screams) 'This is why I can't have nice things', because I'm just going to fucking total it (laughs). You know what I mean? It's music. It's always been about the music for me, it's always been about being true to yourself. That's more important than any dollar can pay for. Look at Bieber, he's going insane because he's fucking got everything he wants and he doesn't understand any of it. He's never had to work a day in his life. What happens is power corrupts you, and you become the fucking spoiled brat. Look at Donald Trump; he's had a fucking golden spoon up his arse the entire time. Now he's some crazed, power hungry piece of shit. He's the worst in rich people. You've got Bill Gates, who's trying to end malaria. And then you've got fucking Donald Trump, a real estate developer trying to make fucking golf courses everywhere, and ploughing over brown people... All of that corrupts, so for me, socialism has hit my life in 2000 when everyone got music for free. Whether I liked it or not, I've become a socialist because no one wants to fucking pay for music any more. And the people who do are like your patron saints that decided that well, I don't really need a CD, I can listen to this on YouTube and fucking I don't give a shit and the artist will make zero money. But because I respect what Richard Patrick's done for the past 20 years, I'm going to buy the record. Then they get involved with PledgeMusic, and it becomes full circle. They are literally part of our lives. So it's actually a good thing; the internet's an amazing thing. You have to adapt.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Our record Crazy Eyes comes out on April 8 and I'm super proud of it. And if you don't like it, fuck off (laughs). I can't wait to get down there. I'll tell you what, if he becomes president, I'm gonna fucking move my whole family down and beg for your help. I'm gonna be an immigrant to Australia if fucking Donald Trump becomes president. Actually, you know what? I'm gonna fight for my country is what I'm gonna do.
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