Filter frontman Richard Patrick has spent over two decades shoving a fist in the face of tradition. That has been Filter’s modus operandi since the release of their self-produced debut album, ‘Short Bus’ back in 1995. The album’s rough-around-the-edges production consisted of inebriated answering machine samples, lavish bass lines, and jagged guitars set to a backdrop of drum machines punctuated by the unfurling of Richard Patrick’s vocal prowess and signature roar. It is a process which has earned Filter commercial and critical success, while amassing them an army of fans around the globe. While band members have come and gone through the years, Patrick has stayed the course and remains the band’s magnetic and profoundly intelligent nucleus. As an artist, he shows no fear when it comes to adapting to turbulent climate of today’s music industry or upping his game by infusing new life into the band with the addition of a new co-conspirator. For Filter’s latest album, “The Sun Comes Out Tonight,” Patrick has enlisted the expertise of co-writer and mind-blowing guitarist Jonny Radtke. Radtke cut his teeth and honed his signature guitar stylings with his previous band Kill Hannah, along with the live incarnation of Ashes Divide, led by Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle. Not to be overlooked, Radtke’s own predilection for rebellion and versatility are hallmarks of his own one-man musical project, the ethereal Polar Moon. “The Sun Comes Out Tonight” finds Richard Patrick vocally at the top of his game. When coupled with Radtke’s rapturous vocals and furious guitar playing and the production of industry legend Bob Marlette, Filter unleashes a stereophonic assault that cannot be denied! Jason price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with the always fiery Richard Patrick to discuss his longevity in the music industry, the making of the new album, the use of crowd funding to support their world tour and much more!
You have been around the industry long enough to have fans both old and new. As a fan, I wanted to go all the way back to the beginning, what are you earliest memories of music.
I remember when I was around four years old, my Dad bought a huge stereo system from Radio Shack. His favorite record to play was Neil Diamond’s “Hot August Night”. Honestly, that was it! I remember hearing that record and thinking to myself, “This is badass!” I could hear the people applauding because it was a live record and I thought to myself “That is pretty awesome!” I just loved it! I remember having this amazing visceral context and connection with it. I was very excited and it was very cool!
What was it about music that intrigued and made you consider following your passion?
Within that appreciation, all of a sudden you start recognizing things. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were around forty when they put “Tattoo You” out. I remember some people around my parents age were like “That guy is my age! What is he doing? Why is he still doing that! He looks ridiculous!” I remember being ten years old thinking “Fuck That! That is the Rolling Stones! Start Me Up is an Amazing song! You are just not with it, man!” [laughs] Sure enough, I had a picture of Keith Richards on my bedroom wall, along with Farah Fawcett! I loved playing guitar. For me, a chord progression is like Einstein was with math. I am not comparing myself to Einstein but I am saying Einstein looked at an equation and on one side he had these numbers and on the other he had an answer. It was sitting there and he would look at it. There was almost an intuitiveness to completing that equation. When you have a chord progression like “Take A Picture,” that basic melody makes all the sense in the world to me. It completes the musical sentence. When I wrote that part, it was very easy for me to say “Ok. There is your chorus.” When I say that I mean this chorus is going to be affected by everybody. At first, most people would get the first part and say to themselves “What happens after that?” For me, it was easily there. That is because I listened just a little bit more to The Beatles or I listened just a little bit more to The Rolling Stones or to U2 or Pantera or Skinny Puppy, you know what I mean?
You have been at it, quite successful, for quite a while. To what do you attribute your longevity in the ever-changing music industry?
Stick to you guns is my attitude but at the same time, don’t be afraid to grow. You can’t be afraid to accept things. I am lucky because when I hear a song like “Firework” by Katy Perry, to me it is skill. She has brought a level of skill to that. That song has an effect, an emotion/visceral effect on people. Whether or not you get off on Katy Perry is up to you! If I were just going to be heavy metal and decided I was going to get the greatest guitar player in the world and he was going to play the heaviest, meanest shit and I was going to scream the entire time and talk about the devil, every single record cover would be black and I was just going to do that, I wouldn’t have “Take A Picture,” “Surprise” or “It’s My Time” in my catalog of music. I think “Hey Man Nice Shot” is in so many places on our new record, “What Do You Say” and “Self Inflicted” and those songs are my favorite songs. I think the longevity factor and the thing that keeps people aware of Filter is that I can completely do a version of The Beach Boys “Happy Together” in such a way, it just gives an extra twist on it. The other thing is I don’t give up. I love music and my job. I have made a wonderful, amazing life out of this! I might not be as big as Bono or Mick Jagger but I am thankful and I am grateful I am where I am at!
I think when people come and see our shows, I feel the first thing they see is “This is why they are so fuckin’ good.” They get it. They hear it. The next thing is, I jump off stage and say “They is no mystique in this! I am not going to be super fuckin’ cool, you don’t have to wait out by the bus and smell the fuckin’ diesel! I’m going to go over there to the merch booth. If you want to buy something great, I will sign it. If you want me to sign your ticket, great! I just want to meet you because you are my boss and I want you to know I respect you.” All of a sudden, it is completely a game changer and people are like “This is the guy I want to back.” My ex-boss, Trent [Reznor], can do no wrong. You know what I mean? Or guys like Bono. Personally, I have had a pretty crazy past. A lot of things have happened. I have done and said a lot of things, I have had a lot of issues and public battles. It is just different for me but it makes it even better! I love it! I am currently on the Summerland tour and I get to perform in front of five to six thousand people a day and I have nothing but gratitude. At the end of the set, I say “We played our thirty minute set! I hope you come back when we can play longer!” The entire crowd is like “FUCK YEAH!!!” We are only playing thirty minutes but this is a getting to know you tour. Next, we are going to go out with some bigger bands, I have a lot of friends. I would really like to see us on tour every day this Fall. We will always be that extra little thing. We will make them say “Oh, now I am definitely going because Filter is opening up! Cool! I was on the fence but now I am in!” We will always have that. We are going to be a support band for a while but at some point it would be great to come back and play a show and have lights and do the whole thing we did in the late-90s and this time be even better!
This new album, “The Sun Comes Out Tonight,” is a great jumping off point for that goal. What was the objective for this album?
For me, it was always about the heavy. For me, it is about the heavy aggressiveness of “Short Bus” without the sloppiness. I love “Short Bus” but it is reckless and belligerent but I am just not that guy anymore. I wanted to say something about school shootings. As you know, we brought up something with R. Budd Dwyer a long time ago and now we are talking about school shootings with “Self Inflicted.” The internet has just become this white noise which no one is paying attention to. Everyone is just yelling and screaming. Case in point — my Facebook page or my Twitter account! [laughs] I literally start with GOP and The Tea Party just because it is fun! You know what I mean? It is not a reflection of who I am. The band has nothing to do with my political agenda. It did for one record called “Anthems of The Damned”. Now it is just about my private social commentary. It is a hidden agenda. When I met with Brett Weinberg, he was like “I want a bunch of rock hits on Active Rock. I want you to bring you guns and make sure they are hits. Can you do it?” I said “Absolutely!” That was job number one. Job number two was wanting to continue to press our own limits with songs like “It’s My Time,” “First You Break It” or “Surprise” and cover the emotional experience. Between song one and song twelve, we take you on a journey and it’s not just some thing. We aren’t just selling you the same shit over and over again. You know if you buy a Filter album, you know it is absolutely worth the album and not just the single.
What can you tell us about the writing process of this one. Are you doing things differently than in the past?
Now, I am sharing the writing with Jonny Radtke. He makes everything a lot easier because there are so many things he can do on guitar that I just can’t. I am really psyched he is in the band. That is the big change, the addition of Jonny Radtke.
I have been a fan of Jonny’s work for quite a while now. He seems like a great fit for the band.
Yeah! To have someone who can do anything on guitar is great but you have to make sure that stylistically and artistically, you mesh. If you have a big creative difference, forget it! It would be basically worthless. He definitely is the guy for Filter. There is always a fight against how heavy we can make it. I always want to make the record super heavy! At the same time, can go anywhere with my voice and I like that! He only has to give a little bit! [laughs] Know what I mean? He pretty much wrote all the music for “Surprise” singlehandedly. I remember I played a very simple bass line that was kinda similar to Madonna’s “Ray of Light”. Then he wrote the whole song around it. From there, I came in with a vocal melody and the lyrics and it was done! I wrote that song at home. My kids were messing around with me. I had my laptop on with my headphones and I was sitting there concentrating on the music of the song itself. My kids came up and one of them started to take my earphones off and the other one closed the laptop. They are only three and five. I though to myself, “Surprise. Here you are.” It was appropriate and very real. That is the thing. When you have a huge bed of music that is already made and you are singing on top of it, you are pretty grateful!
You worked with Bob Marlette on this album and several of your previous works. How has your relationship developed through the years?
I think Bob is a great thinker and producer. My only thought is that the next time, assuming there is a next time, he let’s us bring our own ProTools engineer, so we can get things done faster. I like to do things very fast. As far as songwriting, he has taught me a lot. He also taught me that if I have something to add, never to not do it. Sometimes, I will say “Hey Bob. We are going to go back and I am going to re-sing that part. It sounds like shit.” These are things I have to re-sing, live with and talk about for the rest of my life. If it is a winner, I don’t want to feel crappy about it. I want to know I did my best. Especially, if it’s a loser, I am going to regret never having the chance to re-sing it. It is one of those things! He has taught me so much and he is a great producer. I truly appreciate all of his hard work.
I have heard you talk about some of the themes of this album coming from a dark place. In talking to you, it seems you are in a great place creatively. You seem to be very interested in making new music and pushing forward. How far are you looking ahead?
Listen, when this thing is said and done, I want Wind-Up Records to have made a lot of money. I want to be bionic. I want to eat right, take care of myself and do this for the rest of my life. Thank the universe the audience is still there for the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2, Echo and The Bunnymen, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, as well as Skrillex, Deadmaus and Justin Bieber. This is an entire being. This is the only thing I want to do, other than having a couple of movies I have written and a couple of books I want to do. This is the whole thing I live for — music. To be able to know I am always allowed to make records the way they should be made is amazing. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with great people, especially Wind-Up, because that entire family is just perfect. We put together the whole record in about three or four months. I just worked really well with those guys. When they would say something, I would say “Oh. That is a very good idea. Let’s go try it.” Gregg [Wattenberg] is a hit-writer himself. He has written hit songs and it is great to have people like that around you who get you and want you to succeed.
Looking back on the creation of “The Sun Comes Out Tonight,” what jumps out at you as the biggest hurdles you faced?
Bob’s crazy schedule and the fact he doesn’t have a calendar was a big challenges! [laughs] Bon doesn’t use a calendar! He doesn’t believe in them! I was like “Listen old man, this is a different day! A different age.” [laughs]
Yeah, I imagine that could pose a bit of challenge in the record making process!
Yeah, it was like “Dude. Here is a cellphone. Start using it! Start telling people what is going on in your life!” [laughs] Sometimes it would be “Oh yeah, I got this band coming in from Canada. Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you about that?” And I would say “Uh, no. We could have gone on a tour and made about fifty grand and now we are apparently not. We have to sit around for two weeks while you work with this other band.” That is my only regret. Bob is very flakey. [laughs]
I want to jump back to something you mentioned moments ago. You mentioned wanting to pursue projects outside of the realm of Filter, like a book and a movie. How actively are you working on those right now?
I am for real on some of those. I mean, I am close to a few things and I don’t want to jinx it but I think it is going to be cool. That is another story though. That will be another article for you!
Awesome! Another cool thing you are involved with is giving back to the fans. Filter recently announced an incentive program for fans of the band on Indiegogo to fund a world tour. How did that come about? Tell us all about it!
It is as simple as this — shit is expensive. For us to go to Australia it will cost thirty to forty grand to get down there, play five cities and then fly back. Obviously, you want to do the same thing for a trip to Japan. In that case you are probably going al the way from Germany, all the way over to Japan with a possible stop in Dubai. We are not on a major label like Warner Brothers used to be, where they would say “We will get the band over there to play some shows and let’s see what happens.” I sold records but when I got over there, I would be so damn drunk all the time that the record companies where kinda put off by that. Now that the audience has chewed up all of those budgets and I haven’t been over there in ten years, the audience is kinda like “Well, wait a minute. Why isn’t the record company paying for this?” It is because record sales have gone down 25% every year in the last fifteen years! That is why! [laughs] Every year, it is 25% down. It is not being replaced with digital sales, it is just disappearing. We have tons of people saying things like “What’s it going to take to get you to Argentina?” Put your money where your mouth is! Just put a few bucks in. If you put ten bucks in, you can buy the disc at the same time. If you out two hundred bucks in you get a signed lyric sheet. There are many different options! (CHECK OUT THOSE OPTIONS – CLICK HERE!) Basically, I’m tired of funding everything the band does and I would like my fans to help out, especially if they are from other countries who haven’t seen us. It is a dynamic. Bands like Nine Inch Nails or Pearl Jam have been going over there for fifteen years, we haven’t been there in ten years. I don’t care what people say about me. Every once in a while you will hear someone say “Why are you doing that? It looks so…” I don’t care what it looks like! It is a new economic state, which we are all in. If you want your smaller bands to get out there and play their brand of rock ‘n’ roll, you are going to have to pitch in and get involved. The last election was funded by the Koch Brothers for the Republicans and Obama was funded by millions and millions of people who gave anything from three to twenty bucks. That is what made him have money to fight big industry. They have to look at it like that — if you want to see Filter, you have to chip in a few bucks. What’s the big deal? You can can get a Filter vinyl record for nine bucks. People can’t sit back and tell me they are broke when they are typing away on their two thousand dollar computer! Ya know what I mean? I hear “Oh, I can’t afford that!” But they just bought a new hard drive to download illegal shit! Ya know what I mean? Every kid who says they aren’t downloading, well, I am not going to say every one of them is probably downloading but every one of them is probably downloading! [laughs] My crew was like “Hey Richie! Do you have a copy of the new CD?” I was like “I sure do!” and they are like “So, cool. So, So, So…” I say “Here. If you want to rip it, just take the CD and rip it. It’s no big deal.” I understand the way the world is. People want everything for free. I get it but there is an economical downside and again, it is just the way of the world. Aviation fuel is going to be super expensive and we want to take our equipment or at least take our guitars. We want to have the smallest crew available to make it a smooth and cool show and that is going to cost them extra. We aren’t asking for fuck loads of money! Ultimately, we are thinking maybe ten thousand for Europe and ten for Australia and maybe ten for the for Japan. It is only like forty grand we are talking, so I don’t see it being that big of a deal.
Sure and again, you are getting something in return when you do it.
Yeah! There are all kinds of perks and we are completely behind all of that stuff! We are going to do all of it and it is going to be fine! I sit on my ass for an hour every day after our shows, every day because I love the fans! I will do anything they want me to do!
Looking back on your career so far, how do you feel you have evolved as an artist and as a person through the years?
I am older. I am wiser. I am better. Honestly, I think anyone who can sing fourteen shows in a row, including two-a-day acoustic shows, is at the top of his game! I feel physically amazing and I am singing the best I have ever sung. The timbre of my voice is perfect. I am absolutely the best I have ever been, right now!
You can’t ask for more than that! That is really why we are excited to get the word about this album, Richard. It is definitely some of your best work and it feels very inspired. You’re hard work really shines through. As a fan, keep up all the hard work. I really appreciate it.
I really appreciate that, man. I really appreciate your time. It means a lot to me that you like it and that you hear it because we love what we do.
It shows, it really does.
Thank you very much, I appreciate it!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.