Interview with Richard Patrick of Filter
Filter are soon to be back on Australian shores. Touring this September in conjunction industrial cult icons Ministry, Filter are by no means a supporting act. After famously splitting from Nine Inch Nails, lead singer and driving force behind Filter, Richard Patrick has carved out seven studio albums and the band’s latest record Crazy Eyes has not only received critical acclaim but also adoration from former band mate Trent Reznor in what has become one of their strongest releases to date.
Hi Richard and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at AMNplify.
You are about to embark on an Australian tour with Ministry. A double bill if I have ever heard one. How did the idea transpire?
Well it’s like one of those dream come true type situations. In 1987 I was a young, spire little 18 year old and I had been turned down by record companies because I was too much into U2 and they said you can’t use that delay and I was so destroyed that I tore out all of my U2 posters like a scorned 8th grader and I took all of my CD’s and traded them in. A friend of mine came over and gave me the record The Land of Rape and Honey and he said, this is where it’s at. That’s was how I was introduced to industrial and my life has never been the same since and it was because of Al Jourgensen, he was the gate way to Skinny Puppy, Revolting Cocks and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Hey Man Nice Shot off my first record was inspired by those Ministry, Skinny Puppy records. I was in Nine Inch Nails and Trent (Reznor) used to talk about how Al Jourgensen was his idol in 1987 before he was a big, famous Nine Inch Nailer and we were at the Revolting Cocks show and it was at sound check that the Revolting Cocks go up on stage and they are like we don’t have anything, can we borrow a guitar? So I thought about bringing my guitar to help out because the promoter was like do you have a guitar we could borrow? And Trent says I wouldn’t do that Rich, they are going to tear it up. Trent then says to me, see that guy on stage that is Al Jourgensen he is my fucking idol.
I have been on the peripheral edges of Ministry for a long time and I remember Paul (Barker) was interested in me coming out and playing guitar with them and Trent kyboshed it because he didn’t want me doing anything outside of Nine Inch Nails but that was inevitable because as much as I liked Trent, I wanted to be my own person, live my own life and I didn’t want to have to answer to anyone so when I started Filter, that is pretty much how I have lived my life for the past 25 years and I have been my own guy, my own boss, my own dependant and I wouldn’t change a thing for that freedom.
It is often remarked by artists that they paint lyrical portraits of people they see and the environment around them, as benign or as crazy as it may be and to paraphrase yourself you have said of Filter that “Our thing is to look at people’s unexplainable behaviour and assess it, using sound. It’s a way to approximate the insanity of the human condition”. How is your assessment of the human condition, not just in this day and age but in particular with the wiser and more mature perspective that only comes with age?
The intense behind my music has always been at the forefront of exploring the human condition. When Justin Bieber writes a love song I believe he is genuinely writing something about what he feels concerned about. When Snoop Dogg talks about smoking pot he is really reflective of that side of his life. At the same time, for me I am really into the weirdness and craziness of the human condition. For instance Mother E, the first track on our record Crazy Eyes was directly written the day after the Dylann Roof shooting in Richmond Virginia and it’s not condoning it, it’s not condemning, it’s just trying to understand it and what does insanity sound like.
I am now able to look at decades and if we say look at Fox News. That has left such an irreparable damage on the clown show that is our government. The right wing media, these fringe outlets with lunatics like Breitbart are in the White House! You know when they talk about the first amendment, they’re using it on behalf of the Klu Klux Klan and all these right wing organisations so when you see (Sean) Hannity the TV personality who talks directly to white middle class, he gets them all riled up on this oh we should be able to say whatever we want about black people or Mexicans and then at the same time take out $800 billion from Mediaite which is insane! This isn’t something I could learn at school, it was something I had to fucking watch unfold for the last 20 years. No doubts about it, they are guiding simple people who are poor or uneducated because they don’t want to put funding into schools, they want to puts funds into their friends pockets. I mean they (Trump administration) just sold $100 billion in bombs to Saudi Araba because they are all his buddies. So it’s only with an experienced and older mind that you really see this unfolding in America, it’s absolutely astounding.
We are waiting to find out if democracy works and the dollar doesn’t. If you can buy your way out of something like O.J. Simpson and how he bought his way out of a double homicide. Will this (Donald Trump) dollar, social media, ding-a-ling, money launderer buy his way out of this. Look at the Republicans, they own everything. They’ve got the Senate, they’ve got Congress, now they’ve got the Supreme Court because they stymied Obama’s choice. They control all four branches of our government, so it’s going to be an interesting couple of years. If we can’t overturn the son of a bitch and get this guy out of office we are doomed because we literally elected the gangster with all the money and the other gangster is over in Russia and those gangsters are going to fucking divide up the world and eat it for themselves.
We have these people walking around saying oh climate change isn’t real and I’m like well Neil Degrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist who spend the last 10 years educating people because as a scientist you are automatically a teacher. His my guy, Neil, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. Those three people all believe that climate change is being accelerated by super complex gases that are coming out of tailpipes and furnaces right across the globe and it is only going to get worse. People are like really? Well yeah because they are the creditable sources, it’s not Congress. There is no scientific evidence in Congress, it’s all lawyers. Its wild and we are going to have to see what happens in America because right now, there is a glimmer of hope because the special prosecutor was just named. The Republicans are so party over country right now and this is bigger than Watergate because the Russians and Fox News Corporation are trying to see if they are bigger than the United States, democracy and civilisation itself. That’s how fucking crazy it is right now.
The album canvases a great many topics and one that would surely have to be the most personal of all Take Me To Heaven describes the moment of your father passing and I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to encapsulate such raw emotion than through music. How did you arrive at the concept for the style of track because on one hand a sombre tune would seem appropriate but on the other an unadulterated burst of rage would be equally fitting?
Music comes out of a weird place for me. Part of it is unconscious and I am just spitting out lyrics and I am trying to put words inside a melody but I was literally writing about a darker side of a relationship with your father or your family for that matter and the bad things that can happen. As I was writing the lyrics I had to fly back to my father’s house and I was there for my father’s passing and it all happened to quick and then I ran back and sung the second half of the song. You hear this I am not ok, we are not ok dad. As a family we have not healed from the last trauma and the next trauma begins and you wonder did he really understand how much I loved him. There was a lot of damage from another catastrophe we had in our family and are we ok dad because to me this is it, know that I love you dad as I am probably never going to see you again. There is no scientific evidence to say that there is an afterlife. Scientifically when the brain starts losing oxygen there is a lot of energy firing off and you start seeing the end of your life. They found that out with test pilots the 60’s. They would put pilots in a subterfuge and spin em around and they would do that until they blacked out. They all noticed a similar thing that they would see the end of their life and they all became blissful and saw white light all because of the electrical activity of when their brains were losing oxygen. Soon as they got the oxygen back it all felt like a big dream. So scientifically it’s right there, when the brain stops your gone. When people talk about near death experiences, I kind of know what they’re talking about because it’s their brain losing oxygen. It’s sad and its cold but it is scientific and so that’s what that song is all about. I want to tell the experience of what it is like to lose your father. His eyes where cold blue. The brightness of his eyes really hit me because he was under all these hospital lights. It’s always heavy with me, I don’t really have a soft spot and when it comes to music.
Considering the full circle of a generation. In the behind the scenes video for the clip Surprises, sees your daughter make an appearance on screen. How was having your daughter on set and how much inspiration has she provided in terms of what was contributed to the album and subject matter you address?
Well there are two new things in my life, my children. When I wrote the song Surprise I was with my kids. I had my headphones on and writing on my laptop and surprise, surprise they took off my headphones, closed my laptop and it was the cutest thing in the world. That tenderness is what being a parent is all about. I used to hear people talk about it like oh I really miss my kids and I’m like but we are on tour! Touring is the greatest thing in the world, why do you want to go and see your kids, I mean I get it but come on man. Then you realise that there is this bond you have with your kids that is 100 million years in the making. People talk about the human brain in terms of why it is big and that is why we are smart but that is completely backwards. The brain is so big because it takes so much brain power to handle the emotional bonds. The by-product to that is emotional intelligence. The emotion it takes when Sally falls into the river or cavewomen number one falling into the river and you worrying about her, that’s why our brains got so big. When human babies are born prematurely and all babies are born prematurely, their brains got so big that they had to come out earlier. When you look down at that baby you are emotionally connected. So I can’t just write something like oh I love my kids, I have to put meaning behind it to feel comfortable as an artist. When it comes to Surprise, my favourite lyrics I have ever written is ‘A light shoots out with a beam so bright, Your angels dance for your delight, You’ve got nothing at all but you hold on tight, It’s a dangerous world so you live life right’ and that’s where it all is for me because at the end of the day when you see a Syrian refugee mother carrying a child through a field in France to try and raise her child that is really all it is. You try and raise your children properly without anger and striving for happiness and to be good to them, that’s all it is. That’s what being a parent is and there is literally nothing else but taking care of that kid.
Having meet so many characters over the years and performed with so many different artists, have there been some really memorable instances that enlightened you and altered the way you approach your craft?
There has been so many people and I did mention Al Jourgensen and he took synthesizers into a darker, heavier world and he blended it with guitars. Another influential guy was Kevin Handley, he explained the world of art to me. Lastly Robert Patrick, my brother and he said do not settle for a mediocre life, get out there and fucking follow your dreams. I had a bunch of those people in my life, Trent Reznor, right there “come on Rich we gota go on tour, you look fucking cool with that attitude, I like that”
MINISTRY + FILTER: 2017 Tour Dates
Monday 25th September – Perth – Astor Theatre
Tuesday 26th September – Adelaide – The Gov
Wednesday 27th September– Sydney – Metro Theatre *
Saturday 30th September – Melbourne – Forum Theatre *
Sunday 1st October – Brisbane – The Tivoli *
Pre-Sale Monday 22nd May 9am
On-Sale Tuesday 23rd May 11am
* Filter for East Coast dates only