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  • Interview: Filter

    Mon, 12 May 2008 07:29:18

    Interview: Filter - Still so cool

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    • Filter - We Hate It When You Get What You Want
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    Richard Patrick has got a lot on his mind—a new Filter record, a headlining tour and well, jury duty. "The sucky thing is I just got jury duty, and I'm trying to beg those people for lenience," exclaims Patrick with a wide-eyed conviction. He needs to be out on the road with his band, and his civic duty is better done on stage. In addition to becoming a new dad, the Filter mainman stands on the eve of releasing his band's comeback record Anthems for the Damned. The Filter beast has been dormant since 2002's The Almagamut, however, Patrick has been far from quiet. He released the Army of Anyone record along with Stone Temple Pilots' Robert and Dean DeLeo in 2006, and hit the road with the band. However, Filter kept calling to him.

    That's a good thing, since Anthems for the Damned is Filter's sharpest and most incisive record to date. Patrick's focused his lyrics right on political corruption, and his aim hits the mark. The Filter frontman exorcises all of his demons on Anthems. His voice has never sounded more pristine as it careens over guttural guitar riffs and injections of industrial bombast over the course of the record's 12 vitriolic tracks. This is Filter for the 21st Century. He hung out with ARTISTdirect for an afternoon and held nothing back, bringing us very close to his Anthems.

    It feels like you have a lot to say on this record. What sparked your decision to do another Filter record?

    When I was on stage with Army of Anyone, we did some Filter songs. I just felt like, "Wow, that's what I do." I talked to the Army of Anyone guys, and I was like, "What do you think?" They were like, "Yeah, go back." I called up a friend of mine, and I just said, "I want to do a Filter record." He said, "How do you want to do it?" I responded, "I want to do it with friends, and I want to do it as quickly as possible. I also want 100 percent control." He was like, "Good!" I had the songs. I wanted to write some more. I started talking to people, and producer Josh Abraham came up in conversation. He has a label. I got together with Josh, and he said, "Do you still have that song 'Soldiers of Misfortune?' You should sing that an octave higher." So I did, and I was like, "That was a fucking great idea." It scared me that I overlooked something like that. I had my reasons why I sang it low. I wanted it to be like a My Bloody Valentine song, where the vocals are almost buried. He goes, "Dude, you have this amazing voice, and you're hiding behind all this distortion. Why? Fucking, use that shit!" So I did. It was just little things like that. I remember thinking that was the best idea I could've gotten. He had ideas like that on every song. Then he was like, "Come in and work. Who do you want to play drums?" I was like, "Josh Freese!" He just replied, "Josh Freese is a good friend of mine. He's here on Monday. Get together with us then." This was in the middle of last October. I went in on that Monday. 14 days later, we were done with the record. We had 12 songs. Having really spent a lot of time on The Almagamut, I wrote a lot. We actually facilitated Anthems, and we got it to sound amazing in 14 days. I was like, "How'd Bono do it?" Josh said, "Well Bono just grabbed the mic, sat at the board and sang it." I thought, "That's all I've got to do?" I don't have to go out there and stand behind the glass. I can just sit at the console and sing. There's a feeling and a vibe with Josh Abraham. It's relaxed and natural. We just had a good time. I took full advantage of that. It was done so quickly, and it was just a great record to do. I listened to it last night, because I hadn't heard it in a month or so, and there are a couple of amazing moments. It was so organic and natural.

    Was it more enjoyable to make than previous records were?

    Yeah, definitely. When I went into the studio with Josh, I just said, "You're in charge." Actually, I was a bit torn, because I did want to work with [Army of Anyone drummer] Ray Luzier. I've always wanted to work with Josh Freese though. I was going to work with him before I worked with Army of Anyone. Josh and I were going to do the Filter record years ago, but I stopped it to do Army of Anyone. Josh is really funny, articulate and cool. He talks for two hours on half a sip of coffee. Then he rolls into the studio says, "Hit it!" Three takes later, he's done. He nailed each song quickly. Some drummers take months. With Josh, every hit is amazing. There's not one fuck-up on the whole thing. There's a reason that everyone wants to play with Josh.

    When bands made records in the '60s and '70s, everything came together so quickly. Led Zeppelin made records in two weeks. Your new album has the vibe: no boundaries, no rules and it's completely natural. You're personality is coming through more clearly too.

    Having gone through the "band" experience with Army of Anyone, I learned all of the things that you can hand off to people and rely on them for. Not that I did that—we wrote 95 percent of the music together. In Filter, it's all up to me. I could use whomever I wanted to. I had initially tried to make it a band with familiar faces, but it doesn't work like that. I'm Filter. I hate to say it like that, because I came from Nine Inch Nails, and I never wanted to be the dictator. However, there's so much freedom with that as an artist. Take Josh Homme, for instance. He can take anyone on tour and do whatever he wants. Of course, he's the main guy. However, Queens of the Stone Age changes, grows and develops. That's what Filter should be like. It's always been that. I was a little hesitant on how I wanted it to live like that. But, I've got a bunch of guys in my band that, through the audition process, truly shined. I ended up with people that are not only really talented, but they're also great people to hang with. When you're with a guitar player that parties and you're sober, you're stuck—if you're in a traditional "band" scenario. You're only as strong as your weakest link. If someone's missing a gig because they're hungover, you're fucked. You're going to miss out on that opportunity to play for those people that have paid money to see you. I did that. When you're the man-in-command, you can find people that are completely together, and their lives are fine. My new band mates are also huge fans, and they love music as much as I do. Now I've got the opportunity to be with the perfect people at that time. If I do another record, I can continue to grow musically, because I'll learn from all of these different musicians.

    That's the best way to evolve.

    I want my music to keep progressing. My new touring guitarist Mitch Marlow doesn't sound like the guys that I used to hang with in the '90s. For him, it's not all about "drop-D" tuning. He has this youthful sound. He's really into effects. So, he's probably going to be all over the new record. That's another thing. The bands of the '60s and '70s put out a record every fuckin' year. If there's a way that I can quickly put out records and have success that way, that's the way I want to do it. It really does suck having to come back after being away for five years. I want to come back and have everything rocking and ready to go. You have to re-educate people though.

    Plus, it's a different ball game these days. Bands don't sell records as much. Kids are more concerned about what song can play on their MySpace page, rather than experiencing a full album.

    Exactly, they don't give a shit anymore, and they don't buy records. As a result, it's crippled our industry. The sad thing is there are a lot of great musicians out there. Filter actually had a top five hit with "Hey Man, Nice Shot." At that time, I was looking for musicians, and they were all tied up, because in 1995, you were signed. No matter who you were! They were signing homeless people [laughs]! If you had a guitar and were from Seattle, you had a fuckin' record deal [laughs]! There were 78 major labels 10 years ago, no there are about two. Josh Abraham and I are partnering up on making records. You have to do that. He's my manager and my producer. The lines have blurred so much, because you've got to be a jack-of-all-trades.

    You have to be pro-active these days to really be successful.

    The Stone Temple Pilots wrote, recorded and mixed Purple in ten days. That's literally what you've got to do. The reality is, I don't know how much time kids have to sit around and craft being a guitar player. When they're too busy playing Guitar Hero and they're on their computers 95% of the day, I don't know how much time they have.

    I'm horrified at what we're doing as a species to the animal life, the plant life, etc. What are we doing? If I don't yell and say something, I don't feel like I'm doing my job.

    Now, the communal aspect and reverence for music is gone.

    It's still around in Europe. People go to concerts regardless of whose playing. They fuckin' go, and they don't have DirectTV. They don't have that shit. They don't fucking care. They go to concerts, and they go out to dinner. People learn how to dance and about playing chess. Sometimes in America, I find myself on stage saying, "Put your hands up! Participate!" People just stand there with their camera phones out, and they're literally watching the show through their phones. I'm not dissing America, but it's a different breed.

    You've been doing this for so long. However, these days, some kid with a MySpace page and computer recording program is on the same playing field as you are.

    MySpace is a phonebook. How do you educate kids about music? To get a record out, you need everything. You need marketing, publicity and distribution. I don't really know how young bands are going to make it. Paramore had that incredible out-of-the-box hit. U2 didn't. U2 worked for years, and they had three "failures." The label spent millions of dollars developing U2 before they made it. Bruce Springsteen's first two albums bombed. The labels gave them money and believed in them, and allowed them to grow and succeed. Artist development doesn't exist anymore.

    That's the saddest part. These kids aren't going to get that chance. The next Nirvana is out there somewhere, but we may never hear them. The labels are in the business of selling ringtones not records.

    When people tell me to check out a band, I go to iTunes, I buy it, and I put it in my playlist. I fucking listen to it on my iPod. It's done, and it's all there. It sounds good enough. It's fucking bizarre, and it's sad though.

    What inspired you to get more political in content?

    Tom Morello was the one that encouraged me to speak my mind more about politics. What's next is a full frontal assault on Bush. What could he possibly fuck up next? There are a lot of people that would go, "That's a bad idea."

    But you're an artist, and you've got to be truthful.

    You've got to be truthful! I'm truly disturbed with what we're doing, as a species. We have the Hubble Space telescope, and it says, "You're in this part of the galaxy. At the center of the galaxy, there's a huge black whole. There are 400 billion stars in this galaxy." We now know that most of these stars have planets around them. We're now finding Earth-like planets 1000 light years away. If we were traveling at light speed, it would take 1000 years to get to that star. So planet Earth really is the only thing we've got. We absolutely are so fucking into ourselves. We're arguing over invisible men in the sky. One invisible man says, "My wife has to be dressed in a Berkha, and she's not going to go to college." Another god says, "Well this is my land, and this is where we're supposed to be." Then you've got, "My God was hanging from a cross, and we're all fucked." I'm horrified at what we're doing as a species to the animal life, the plant life, etc. What are we doing? If I don't yell and say something like this, I don't feel like I'm doing my job as a person. I don't give a fuck about bling, I'm sorry. I don't give a fuck about your car. Fuck your crib. I don't fucking care. I care about people going out there to do something. John Lennon did something. Fuck your boy/girl trouble. I've been in love. I'm not saying there's not a time and place for it. I've written some love songs. I know what it's like to get hurt. At the same time, have you taken a look around at what we're doing? None of the Iraq war movies do any business at the box office. I'm putting an inverted rifle display on my record. Literally, it came from a friend of Filter's funeral. We took it and imposed it on a vast empty wasteland in the desert. That's what the Iraq war is. It's fucking death in the desert. Bush could've fucking united us after 9/11. He told us to go consume. "Make the economy thrive!" It's like Bill Maher said, "I've got your stimulus package right here!" [laughs]

    That all fits your title because these songs are in fact Anthems for the Damned.

    We're a damned people. It's not necessarily about America. It's about Islamic fundamentalists too. What is China doing to Tibet? What the fuck is that? What are they doing to the Dali Lama? I get all worked up.

    You've got the forum with Filter to say this though. Why not?

    Well people could be turned off. Maybe they want to hear about bling. There are bands out there literally screaming, "I want to be a rock star!" That's what I'm in competition with [laughs]. Carl Sagan was saying it back 40 years ago. "Who speaks for the Earth?"

    People do need to unite. Human connection has been dilapidated to the point where people don't even talk anymore, they just text or email. There needs to be some kind of movement, and it needs to start with the artists. You're in an important place.

    At the end of the day, when I fall asleep and I'm thinking about my family I just want to know that I said something. If there's one kid, that it resonates with, that's what matters.

    Having a new family, are you still looking forward to touring?

    Yeah, but the reality is, dude, there are a lot of benefits to going on tour. Especially when things are good: ticket sales are good, your single's on the radio and you're happy. It's another birthing process. Putting out a record is like sending this little child into the world and hoping she does great. This year is a rebirth for Filter, and it's a real birth for my family with my little daughter coming into the world. I love music, and I love singing. I finally am good with it. This is the first time I'm going to be able to do a song like "Where Do We Go From Here" and really hit that note every night with confidence and authority. It's the same thing with "Skinny." We never played that song. It was too hard for me to sing as a cigarette smoker and an alcoholic. It's one of my best songs ever, and we never did it live, until this year.

    "So Cool" is another great acoustic song that really highlights your voice.

    That was about this one person that I used to hang out with that was like, "I love turning people onto drugs." One of the guys actually died, and I was like, "You're so cool, yeah."

    —Rick Florino

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