An Interview with Filter's Richard Patrick

Johnny Radtke & Richard Patrick (Credit: Leann Mueller)
As of this posting, Richard Patrick's Filter is attempting to reschedule their previously cancelled Regency Ballroom show for Friday, November 15th. We'll update this post as we hear confirmation of the date and location. In the meantime, Richard took some time during a day off in Saint Louis a couple of weeks ago to chat with us about the new incarnation of the band, the writing and recording of their most recent album, The Sun Comes Out Tonight, and looked back on his days with Nine Inch Nails.

We last spoke with Richard two years ago in an interview you can find here.

SFBayAreaConcerts: Richard, thanks for making the time today to speak with us. You've recently released The Sun Comes Out Tonight, and it's reminiscent of your earlier material -- how did the new songs come together?

Richard Patrick: Well, the addition to the band that I guess that I've been looking for, for a long time, is Johnny Radtke. You know... he kind of came in to fill in for somebody, and I originally got in touch with him through our road manager.  My road manager was like 'hey, this guy is a great guitar player, we should call him up!' and I'm like 'hey, wait a minute, I know Johnny Radtke. We use to hang out together back in Chicago when he was like twenty and I was thirty-two.' I think I was getting ready to put out the Almagamut... And I knew he was in this band that was signed to Atlantic, Kill Hannah, and so he came out and just kind of filled in... And within a couple weeks, I was like 'hey, let's write together,' and so we started writing stuff. We wrote "What Do You Say?" and I think I had already gotten "First You Break It" kind of going, and it was just very clear this guy is a total professional. We just started writing, and it was just super-fast and easy. He was happy and I was happy, and Bob Marlette [producer] was kind of just the caretaker of making sure that we had all our parts together. So yeah... and you know, Johnny's kind of the missing link that's been missing for the last couple of years. So that’s why this record is so... it’s just a great record.

SFBayAreaConcerts: And specific to the writing process, did you guys sit together and write? Or did you go off on your own?

Richard Patrick: Oh yeah, no! No, he would kind of mess around, and I would mess around, and then we would bring our ideas together, and most of everything was just like the three of us sitting in a breezeway at Bob Marlette's house. And we would just sit there with the acoustics and just kind of hash these songs out part-wise and come up with the basic chord structure. And then once that was done we would go immediately to the computer and just start recording everything. Then working in the computer like we did, you know back on Short Bus, which was a drum machine... you know just drum samples... stuff like that. And you know? It had that feel to it. And I was like 'let's just get back to our roots, where it's just one or two guys and we just sit there and hash this thing out on the computer.' 

SFBayAreaConcerts: So lyrically and vocally, on this album, you seem to be singing with more emotional intensity than in recent years. Can you walk us through any of your recent experiences that might have influenced this?

Richard Patrick: Ah, you know, everybody goes through trouble. Everybody has trouble and, you know, how I handled everything back in the nineties, was that I just lost it, just fucking lost it. And I kind of got a little older and I started thinking to myself, like you know, chill out dude, you know what I mean? Why are you so panicked and freaked out, you know? And horrified? And I started realizing that that guy that was in the studio in the late nineties was just trying to figure out anything he could do to convey his message... and so I just kind of made sure that I lost it in the recording process... I just made sure that I just lost control. And it’s really not that hard. I do it on a nightly basis now, where at the end of "What Do You Say?" and at the end of "Hey Man, Nice Shot" and the end of "Self Inflicted"...  on almost everything, I go that one step further, where is it just like 'is he singing?' or 'is he just losing it? What is it?' and that's the thing people love, that passion, and they love the fact that I'm not necessarily ok, and I'm not necessarily a great singer. I'm just super passionate about what I do, and I wanted to make sure that that was totally represented.

SFBayAreaConcerts: And so you recently had a personnel change too. Can you talk about the loss of Phil Buckman at all? [Editor's note: the original SF concert date was cancelled due to the departure of bassist Phil Buckman.]

Richard Patrick: Yeah, I think so. The reality is we just need someone to kind of be there and play.  And Phil just... I kind of hate to say it, you know, he just kind of made that complicated. And so we called up a friend of ours, Tim Kelleher, and it was kind of like 'hey Tim, we just need someone to just come in and play the CD, and play what was written for the CD. And so he comes in and he plays exactly what we wrote, and for right now, that’s kind of all we needed, you know? Phil kind of, you know, I am like 'hey dude, I don’t need you to expand on what we did with the bass. I just need you to play what we wrote. You're either down with that or you’re not.'

I asked Phil if he was going to contribute and like, hey, if you’ve got something you want to do, show it to me, and I never got that. He was just trying to modify what we had already written. So it’s like you want to be creative in songs that were already written, and I guess you should be creative out there on your own and you're not necessarily coming up with anything, you know? And I think that just kind of made him realize that like, you know?

The reality is that I remember being a hired gun and kind of like having to listen to the artist, the guy that wrote it, and I fulfilled that obligation and I loved that obligation, and it’s like if you want to do that, go do it! But what we need here, is someone that is going to pay attention to what we wrote, and do what we wrote, and just play the bass line that we wrote. And it’s like, you know, ultimately it wasn't the right scenario for Phil and we helped him make his decision by just asking him to leave. And he left, and now we're with a bass player that just loves the heritage, and also he loves what we do and he loves performing it and being on stage live with us and that’s the perfect thing.

The guys we bring on the road with us are amazing people too, but they weren’t necessarily part of this record and you know, that’s the thing, that’s what happens when you have two geeks in a room together with their computers and their instruments. I never wanted to call the band "Richard Patrick and a Computer", you know? I went with Filter. And it's always been an understood thing that Filter is always this recording project that has new people in it, and right now it’s Johnny and I. And that’s the creative team. It took me a long time to find Johnny.

SFBayAreaConcerts: That makes sense. And since you brought up Nine Inch Nails, I think I read somewhere in a recent interview that you've mended your relationship with Trent and that you guys could work together in the future?

Richard Patrick: Oh, I would love to work with Trent in the future, he’s always got some amazing project that he is doing. Obviously, I would love to go on tour with him too. 

I just reached out to him when I saw that Dance Party USA video. When that popped up on the Internet, and I looked at how young we were. The publicist was this lady and she asks, 'So is there anything you really want to do?' and Trent says -- as a joke -- 'Yeah, let’s do Dance Party USA!' It was just this crazy show that they had back on the USA Network.

So we did it, and the next thing you know, we were taping at eleven o’clock in the morning. I remember being pretty nervous 'cause we were lip syncing, and they gave us a microphone with a cut-off XLR cable sticking out of it. It looked wireless because they just cut the end of it off and the little bit that stuck out looked like an antenna.  But everyone knows that we are not going to be plugged in. So I took my tuner and a patch cable and I just made it look like we were plugged in to at least radio equipment. At least I made it look like it was a wireless transmitter!

We were both commenting on it on Twitter and then I reached out to him like 'Hey, we used to fucking laugh man, we used to fucking laugh when we were young and crazy.' We used to have a really good sense of humor, and I think that’s why Trent really liked me. I would just constantly try and make the guy laugh. 

So yeah, it was just a really wild time and I reached out to him and he responded 'Dude, what’s going on?' and eventually I just went over to his house and I played him the new record, and he blew out his speakers. He was like 'Jesus Christ!' and I was like 'Yeah, I guess someone has to tell the mastering guy that maybe the low end is a little bit too deep on that.' But he is a super sweet guy, and it was just really great talking to him.

And you know when you are young, I think I was twenty six, and I am like, 'What do I do? I really, really have to commit to Filter' and it's right before The Downward Spiral was getting done... and I quit. And it wasn’t the best way to quit. Next thing I know Brian Liesegang calls me up from the house, from the Tate house, and he's like 'Dude, one minute you’re in the band, next minute you're not. We’ve got this song called Piggy [Editor's note: Reznor often called Patrick by the name, Piggy] and I'm like 'oh shit.' Now I feel like I've betrayed a friend. And eventually, we bumped into each other and it was still kind of weird. It took a sit down, and hey man, a lot of that... I was young, I was just scared. We were just young kids... So it was just a nice chat, just a really good talk. And in many ways he's been my mentor. 

Now we have kids, and I've always wondered what it would be like for our kids to hang out and be friends. When you get older, you just... Shit, we had a lot of fun back then. We had a lot of fun, we were goofing off all the time and those were really good times, good times to be young. And now that we're older, we are having great times. He's out there fucking rocking out. So am I. And it's just great that we kept it going all these years, and we get to make music.

SFBayAreaConcerts: Getting back to the new album, as a gamer, I'm eager to hear about how the Diablo III commercial came about.

Richard Patrick: It’s real easy, I mean we have some fans that made the game and they heard the new record and they were like 'man, we have got to use this for our campaign.' And they just reached out to us and said 'Would you guys be interested in letting us use one of your songs?' We were like 'absolutely!' We are totally ok with that. I've been a gamer my whole life. I don’t game as much as I used to, but I have always had game companies contacting us and using us for stuff. So yeah. I have always had my hands in movies and games and even commercials.

SFBayAreaConcerts: Ok, so you just released "Surprise" as your next single. I wanted to get your thoughts on the importance of radio nowadays.

Richard Patrick: It is extremely important. But all of it is important! You need to be featured on iTunes, you have to make sure that your Pandora channel plays the newer stuff. It’s everywhere, it’s everything. You have to have YouTube exposure. You have to get into the trailer for the Great Gatsby like our song... and that song got a million views on YouTube but yet it’s not on radio, and I don’t even know if people are showing up to our concerts because of it. I don’t even know if people come to our concerts, and they're like pretty much there for the fucking huge hits that we have had this summer like "What Do You Say?" 

There was a radio station that was playing 'Self-Inflicted' and the DJ and said to me 'I just kind of run my own radio out here, and I just played 'Self-Inflicted' because I think that song should be your next single.' Ok, wow! Ok. Sure enough, the song got in there, and the song was played last night, and the crowd went like fucking ape shit. Having a hit for us, it’s important. We like the fact that our songs are out there working for us. That somewhere in America right now, you can hear "What Do You Say?" on rock radio somewhere.

SFBayAreaConcerts: Great stuff Richard. Unfortunately, that's all the time we've got and thanks again for making the time to speak with us today. We're big fans of your new album and hope to see you in San Francisco in a few weeks!

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