Listen to Filter while reading:
For some, music is exorcism. Richard Patrick battles his demons in the heavy, aggressive, and eclectic electric musical blend of Filter
, the mesmerizing, multifaceted band that has been his artistic voice for 15 years.
Whether unleashing belligerent blasts of metallic sound or spaced-out excursions into ambient space, Filter’s compelling music reflects the open and unsettled mind of its creator. It is a roadmap to his soul.
Patrick, a twin and the youngest of five children, spent his formative years in Bay Village, a peaceful lakefront community outside of Cleveland. The suburb did not click with a child who had moved around a lot beforehand, and by high school he felt more connected with the punk rockers than his scholastically minded peers.
The throbbing industrial sounds of Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Revolting Cocks mesmerized the young Patrick in the mid ’80s, and he found himself vibing on the belligerency of the music. Having befriended a young Trent Reznor, Patrick joined the early incarnation of Nine Inch Nails, where he was affectionately nicknamed “Piggy.”
Patrick toured regularly with the band between 1989 and 1992 and lent guitar to a few spots on Pretty Hate Machine. He was also instrumental in pushing Reznor to go more guitar-driven, heavier, and darker, which NIN embraced on the Broken EP.
Patrick went to L.A. to work on that seminal industrial album in 1993 but defected to focus on his own music. Armed with the demo “Hey Man Nice Shot,” he says he “got signed to Warner Bros. a day later. It was amazing.”
After eight months he returned to Cleveland to work on Filter’s debut album, Short Bus
), in hopes of assembling a local-based live incarnation of the band. Finding the music scene there unreceptive to his major label mojo, he built his own private studio in a house in Rocky River, enlisted engineer/producer Brian Liesegang, and played all the instruments over a drum machine so multitracked that “you would need four or five arms to play some of the stuff we were programming.”
Offering many spontaneously jammed moments, Short Bus (1995) was ripe with aural and emotional claustrophobia, combining industrial propulsion, metallic riffs, incensed vocals, and the occasional acoustic respite. The angst-ridden hit single “Hey Man Nice Shot” was inspired by the televised suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer Budd Dwyer in 1987, while other songs like “Stuck In Here” and “So Cool” reflected a dreary, post-adolescent worldview. “There was a real anarchist approach to recording on Short Bus,” the singer/guitarist explains.
“The attitude was ‘I’ll see how it goes, I don’t care if it ends up on radio, and we’ll fix it later in the mix.’ I had gone back to Cleveland and taken that drunken kid that I’d turn into, tapped into my raw musicality, and just relied on spontaneity and the instincts that sat inside of me.”
Just as Short Bus was being released, Patrick relocated to Chicago, started building Abyssinian Sons Studio, and recruited guitarist Geno Lenardo, bassist Frank Cavanagh, and drummer Matt Walker to tour nationally and appear in the video for “Dose.” (Liesegang was also an early touring member.) Their profile was rising, and the group offered “Jurassitol” to The Crow: City of Angels film soundtrack (1996).
Between contributing to two X-Files-related compilations, Filter participated in the Spawn movie soundtrack (1997), the first major album teaming up popular heavy rock groups and electronica acts. Since his manager worked with The Crystal Method, he heard the song “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do” from their album Vegas. “I just said, ‘I bet you I could throw guitar on that and arrange it,’ and I did it in a half hour,” recollects Patrick. “Then we did this beautiful video for it. It was quick, super easy, fun.”
Not everything went so smoothly. While following up his platinum-selling debut with the superior Title Of Record
), Patrick was consumed by his addictions to alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, but the music opened up sonically, and he literally started finding his voice. “Actually trying to be melodic in those first days was tough,” he concedes. “I didn’t like the sound of my voice. I didn’t really learn how to sing until Title Of Record. [Originally] screaming everything and being drunk and talking about God-knows-what in the lyrics made more sense to me.”
Band members Lenardo, Cavanagh, and new drummer Steven Gillis joined him in the studio, while engineer/sound designer Rae DiLeo and producer Ben Grosse (who had mixed Short Bus) came onboard for what Patrick dubbed the “kitchen sink record,” which embraced a broader sonic palette. Looped hand percussion and ambient sounds emerged. Sitar, mandolin, and trumpet surreptitiously seeped in. Cellist Eric Remschneider played on “Sand,” “Miss Blue,” and “Take A Picture.” Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’arcy Wretzky sang the ethereal choruses of the gloomy “Cancer.” On the flip side, “Welcome To The Fold” unleashed super heavy, downtuned guitars. Lyrically Title of Record was more thoughtful than its predecessor. The edgy “I’m Not The Only One” was Patrick’s immediate reaction to finding out his girlfriend had cheated on him. “I literally hung up the phone, walked out, turned on the mic, sang the entire thing in a couple of takes, and then walked away and got hammered,” he recalls.
“Everyone told me what a great moment it was.” The song “Miss Blue” was about an old couple coming to terms with getting older and making a pact about what they would do if one of them died first. “Take A Picture” was the most personal song on the album, dealing with a drunken confrontation on an airplane in a deceptively languid style. “
‘Take A Picture’ was the biggest cry for help from an alcoholic who’s out of control,” declares Patrick. “It was like, ‘Can anyone step in and stop this because I can’t. Could you take my picture because I won’t remember this drunken insanity.’ That song was about as poignant as you could get. A lot of singers like to hide behind, ‘Hey man, I like to let the audience figure it out.’ I’m very into exploring what’s going on inside my head or the human mind in general.” With the platinum-selling Title Of Record, more concerts (including the Family Values tour) ensued. There was pressure to maintain a steady pace, especially as “Take A Picture” achieved notoriety in terms of chart position and personal revelation. The simultaneously more metallic and mainstream follow-up, The Amalgamut
), reflected the chaos in Patrick’s life. It was initially inspired by a liberating cross-country road trip. Producer Grosse and engineer DiLeo reenlisted, and Lenardo and Gillis made some contributions, but Patrick struggled to stay focused. “The Amalgamut was more insane because I was really, really pushing the envelope,” confesses Patrick. “It was the most Hunter S. Thompson four years of my life. It was fear and loathing in Chicago for four years. I hit bottom in ’98 and scraped bottom from 1998 until 2002.
In 1998 I was staying up for three or four days at a time. I was just crazy, crazy, crazy—totally pushing the envelope of human addiction. And succeeding.” The Amalgamut was a heavier, more intense offering than its predecessors, reflecting Patrick’s view of a world mired in chaos. The brutish “Columind” addressed the Columbine school shootings, and the ominous “American Cliché” broached the topic on a larger scale, while the concept of the album title—which he breaks down into “amalgam mutt”—revolved around what the singer felt was the increasing erosion of individuality in America. The album’s most personal song was “Where Do We Go From Here,” a stream of consciousness tune featuring lyrics that rolled right off his tongue. “The writing was on the wall,” Patrick recalls of making the album while trashed.
“People were furious. Hundreds and hundreds of thousand dollars were flying around. [It portrayed] all this responsibility of having to follow up Title and literally not going into the studio for weeks and weeks and weeks. Days of staying up all night, staying up all day, staying up all night.” The catchy “Where Do We Go From Here” was particularly daunting for Patrick because it took a long time to record and he could not sing as high as he needed to, “and by the time I got it done I was almost in tears because it was so hard. I was smoking three or four packs a day, just asthmatically wheezing.” Two of the most striking tracks musically were the album closers, the world beat-inflected “World Today” and extended ambient coda “The 4th,” which continued the trend of ending every Filter album on a mellow note. “It’s a finger in the air to people who are only going to buy Filter for this one type of thing that we do,” notes Patrick. “I want people to be as eclectic as me. I don’t just listen to Pantera or the Deftones. I listen to Radiohead, I listen to Patsy Cline, I listen to Hank Williams. The mind is like a parachute; it’s got to be opened.”
After gaining sobriety following The Amalgamut, which he could not actively promote due to health issues, Patrick started writing songs again, some of them about his recovery. Many would surface on the haunting Anthems For The Damned
(2008, info | shop
). Before then Patrick took a detour into working with the group The Damning Well—himself, guitarist Wes Borland, bassist Danny Lohner, and drummer Josh Freese—that contributed the song “Awakening” to the Underworld movie soundtrack in 2003. He then delved into creating the arena-rock-based Army of Anyone with Stone Temple Pilots siblings Dean and Robert DeLeo and David Lee Roth drummer Ray Luzier.
Patrick had never fully been involved with a band as a frontman, so between 2004 and 2007 they wrote and recorded their self-titled album and toured behind it. “I saw what it was like to be in a band, and a band is a democracy,” concludes Patrick, who enjoyed his time in the group. But he preferred the autonomous regime of Filter. “It’s the Richard Patrick administration, whereas with Army Of Anyone it was more like Congress. You can get into stalemates in Congress.”
Patrick returned to Filter and recorded their fourth album, Anthems For The Damned, in his home studio and Pulse Studios with producer Josh Abraham. Guitarist John 5 cowrote two of the songs and played guitar, and Borland, Freese, and DiLeo contributed as well. The result was the most melodic and mature, and in some spots mellow, Filter work to date. It spanned the moody “The Wake” to the super heavy “The Take.” After quitting smoking and learning proper vocal technique, Patrick’s voice became stronger and possessed more character than ever. “Anthems was waking up after the drug-induced coma and waking up somewhere deep in the Bush Administration and being horrified with what we had done to the place,” reveals Patrick. “My real alcoholism started in ’92, so by the time I snapped out of it, I had a look around the world and made a very socially conscious record.
In my soul, I had to do it.” Further, his friend and former Filter fan-site creator,23-year-old Justin Eyerly, was killed in action in Baghdad in 2004, inspiring Patrick to write the somber lead single “Soldiers Of Misfortune.” As anti-authoritarian as ever, Filter roared back onto the live scene after years of being absent, playing 80 shows in four months, including the Operation MySpace gig before 10,000 soldiers in the Kuwaiti desert. It was the first high-definition Internet transmission and reached one million viewers. With its new touring band—which included Mitch Marlow, John Spiker, and Mika Fineo—Filter made a strong comeback. A compilation, "Remixes For The Damned
), arrived last November. It’s been a long, strange, fulfilling journey for Patrick, from that frustrated teenager in Ohio to the sober, wiser 40-year-old he is now. But still angry at the state of a world plunged into despair, at young people’s apathy, and the illegal downloading trend that is destroying the livelihood of many musicians, Patrick is ready to roar at the world again. “It’s amazing how much that angry young man is returning now,” Patrick muses.
“The new album is going to be heavy and mean and kind of industrial. It’s going to be a dark return to where I came from. It’s back coming full circle.” A man who likes melody with his menace, Patrick is happy with the niche he has achieved in music and the loyalty of his fans. He says he has done everything his own way, without compromise, and without consideration for what the industry wants. “The proudest thing I can achieve in my music is making the hair on your arm or the back of your neck stand up,” Patrick believes. “On every one of my songs I’ve come close to blowing my own mind, and that’s always been the reason why I think I’ve made it this far.” —bryan reesman Bryan Reesman is a veteran freelance writer who has contributed to The New York Times, Playboy, Billboard, and Metal Edge.
Platinum rock band, FILTER have released their fifth studio album, “The Trouble With Angels
” (info | shop
) in September 2010 on Nuclear Blast Records.
Kevin Day, owner of FILTER’s US label Rocket Science, “I have known Richard for a good while and have been a fan of his music and the Filter ‘sound’ since their first release. “The Trouble With Angels” is exciting because it’s a strong return to the sonically dark jet engine growl that FILTER invented and defined.”
Produced by Bob Marlette (Black Sabbath, Atreyu, Saliva) the album kicks off with “The Inevitable Relapse” which features thundering chords and an isolated bass line that both conjure and modernize FILTER’s signature sound. “People think “The Inevitable Relapse” is about addiction, consumption, and obsession, but they’re wrong,” says Richard Patrick. “It’s a love song.” As harsh as the song sounds as soft, touching and moving a song like “Fades Like A Photograph” can sound. The masterpiece of a genius and a visionary artist – which also marks the first single of the album!
Richard Patrick has taken “Angels” to the next level both lyrically and musically, employing some of the best in the business for the upcoming US tour – European dates are being workd on right at the moment. The live band features Patrick on vocals and guitar, guitarist Rob Patterson (Korn, Otep), bassist Phil Buckman and longtime FILTER drummer, Mika Fineo.