Filter’s Richard Patrick talks “Crazy Eyes,” addiction, and Nine Inch Nails

Richard Patrick of Filter. (Photo: David Rubene)
Richard Patrick of Filter. (Photo: David Rubene)

Filter frontman Richard Patrick took charge on Filter’s upcoming album, Crazy Eyes, which is set to be released April 8th via Wind-Up Records.

Patrick produced the album with co-production help from friends, and while he’s been through the turbulent nature of the music industry, he told us in our new interview how amazing it is to be your own boss at the end of the day. He also shares more about the new album, some of his feelings towards the tragic death of Scott Weiland and battling with addiction.

Can you tell us a bit about Crazy Eyes?

It’s pretty heavy. Most of it is pretty heavy, but it’s also got that melody that I like so much, it’s old school Filter for sure.

Were there any specific reasons for that?

I produced it, but I had my friends co-produce it with me and it’s just basically [that] the inmate is running the asylum. It doesn’t sound like I’m trying to make some perfect Hollywood production, it sounds like I’m doing what I want to do, which is why everybody liked Filter in the first place. Short Bus [we were] like whatever, we don’t know any drummers, I don’t know, let’s just program using the drum machine, no one will care. It was a lot of that, a lot of “yeah who cares, it sounds good to us, that’s all that matters. We’ll deal with that when we come to it. Shit, we need to go on the road, let’s take this kid Matt Walker, now that we’ve met some people.”

That’s always interesting I’m sure, putting it together at the end like that.

The sad thing is that people think there’s an original band, but there’s not really an original band. There’s original people that went out and played it live, a live band, but it wasn’t like John Bonham and John Paul Jones, Jimmy page and Robert Plant sitting in a studio and practice space writing everything together [and] coming up with everything together. It wasn’t like that, it was two morons and a computer, just beating on a fuckin’ keyboard until it sounded right to them.

Were there any specific reasons other than the amount of previous emphasis on guitar in your last couple albums that you chose to let the electronic side take prevalence?

When I was on tour after The Sun Comes out Tonight, I would just go “what do you guys want to hear next?” and everything they wanted to hear was something really heavy. So I was like great and I started noticing [that] you listen to “Octane” and it’s just tonnes and tonnes of guitar bands that are heavy and it’s different. It doesn’t sound like the drop d world that I came from. It sounds like stuff I’m not familiar with and I was just like “you know what, I’m tired of the guitar.” It’s been done to death. I did so many records where it sucks up all the frequencies. You spend all this time getting this big guitar sound and it’s like every fucking kid and their little brother are out there doing this. There’s nothing original about it, so you start [thinking] let’s take the guitar out, put up a wall of cello’s, but distort them [and] run them through a distortion pedal. All of the sudden it immediately becomes an original thing, as opposed to “okay, we’re going through the Bogner, here we go, we’ve got our Les Paul and our heavy guitar sound once again.” It’s just boring.

What do you think producing yourself and co-producing with friends brought to the album?

It’s all the risk. If a record didn’t do well or something happens, you can always go “well, the producer fucked it up.” Not that I’ve ever really said that, but you can always go “that’s what they wanted me to do.” There’s risk [when you do it yourself] and you automatically make yourself really hungry, because you’re like this is my responsibility. I didn’t fully sit there with a computer by myself and do the record, I still collaborated with people. It’s just that at the end of the day, all the decisions were on my head and if I got into a disagreement I’d be like “look, this is my thing, this is my record and I’m the producer, so you have to listen to me.”

At the same time, recording drums, my buddy Brian Virtue was like “hey I’ve got some really cool drum sounds, can I help?” You’re like “fuck yeah, set it up, do it, take over.” So you’re delegating a lot of responsibilities to other people, but they’re people you love and you hired. They’re friends you’ve known for years and you work together as a team.

You said it was heavier, can people anticipating the release of this album expect a general vibe coinciding with that?

The first song “Mother E”, is the heaviest thing I’ve ever written. Sonically, lyrically and emotionally. The subject matter of the song is so over the top [that] I don’t even want to mention it. Because it’s similar to when I had written “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and it was discovered that it was about Robert Dwyer’s press conference where he shot himself, then it got out and I felt like the magic was taken. “Mother E” is from a demented, horrible person’s viewpoint and what he was doing to convince himself to commit these atrocities. I don’t want to draw attention to him or the events, so I just left it there. I don’t talk about it.

But that’s the heaviest thing we’ve ever written and it’s the first song on the LP.

Were there any other themes that you focused on in the writing and recording process?

Every single day I would turn on the news, or in the studio I would go to CNN and there were riots, or a bill passed in congress that I really agreed with, or the Supreme Court ruled on something that was important to our society. There you go, there’s a song. I would just grab things from the headlines and talk about it from my perspective. There’s something going on out here [and] I want to talk about it. My old friend who’s an alcoholic is drunk texting me all the time, I’m going to write about him and how much he frustrates me. Because I love him and he’s driving me crazy with these texts at 4a.m. that are just mean as shit. That’s the Kid Blue song.

 Filter will release their new album, Crazy Eyes, on April 8th via Wind-Up Records.

Filter will release their new album, Crazy Eyes, on April 8th via Wind-Up Records.

Does the album being named Crazy Eyes have anything to do with what you said about it being about sounding different, forward, and real?

It’s just like take a look at some of the people who’ve made headlines. You know, the guy that shot up the theatre in Aurora, Colorado, [or] the Virginia tech killer. There was a period where every time these would happen, my wife would go “oh look, another crazy eyes motherfucker going crazy.” There’s a general sense of hysteria when it comes to these guys and the world, the world is creepy. The lunatics are running around doing whatever they can.

I mean look at Donald Trump, crazy eyes. We’re going to take all of the Muslims and kick them out of the country, yay. It’s like “uh no, do you know about the pilgrims? They came over here because they wanted religious freedom, you can’t do that, it’s the number one part of our country’s existence. What are you talking about you crazy eyed motherfucker.” “He says it like it is,” he doesn’t say anything, he contradicts himself every ten minutes. Megyn Kelly [for example], she’s the best moderator in the world and then the next week she’s totally unfair, she’s third rate, she’s very bad at what she does. He’s a crazy eyed motherfucker.

“Take Me to Heaven” was written at a very dark and confusing time in your life and the loss of your father is something that many can relate to. Do you feel that listeners’ interpretations of the song will bring as much soothing to them as it does to a songwriter confronting those feelings through music?

I don’t know. I mean I can only speak from my point of view. I know that I’ve written songs where people come to me and say “it feels like you wrote this for me, thank you so much.” A guy came up to me [once] and said “I just saw Filter on the marquee outside, [so] I came in. I missed the show, but I want to tell you [that] I was abandoned in a hotel when I was three years old by my father, was raised with foster parents and I was always very resentful to my dad. But then I realized when I heard your song, I heard it and just realized that I’m ready to let this go. Your song, even though it’s probably not about me, it helped me get through a terrible place in my life.”

So I hope my music is ultimately a tool for good and helps people get through what they need. Because music is an incredible, visceral, wonderful thing. It makes you involuntarily. Your head starts moving [and] sometimes if you’re lucky, a song will give you goosebumps and you’ll think wow, that’s awesome. It has a positive, joyful release and to be a part of the club that does that, the guys that can make music that actually affect people’s lives and make them better, that’s where I want to be. I love being there. I’ve enjoyed it for 30 years and I just keep making music, hoping it connects and helps people.

Your two month long American tour with a couple stops in Canada is set to begin right after the release of Crazy Eyes. With touring being so integral these days to surviving as a musician, what was it like working on an album with all of the fan support that came in?

It was very reassuring, it gave me confidence to go even further and it’s fun speaking from this more animalistic kind of ID, caveman approach. This drunken caveman craziness is an easy hat to wear. I have so much recall from those days that I just know what that is. The primordial scream and all that stuff, I just love it. That’s what they want, they’re like “we don’t want sophisticated rich, we don’t want all this political gibberish, we want nutbar. We want the guy before he went into rehab.” I thank PledgeMusic for that, I would not have been in the diagnostics, the demographics pour in every week.

I’ve been on tour for 30 years, so for me it’s just making sure that [at] every show I tap into the different moods that I was in when I was writing, keeping it fresh and making sure I deliver and reignite. I really want to play a lot of the new record because I know once the fans get the record, they’re going to be really listening to it and really happy. So I know they’re going to want to hear a lot of it live, because it sounds so good, it’s going to sound amazing live. I’m really looking forward to it.

You talk about people coming to their own conclusions about your lyrics and assessing people’s inexplicable behaviour through sound. Does that ideology come from anywhere specific? Could you expand on it a bit?

Observation. Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber and all those guys have cornered the market on lovesick and love and all that kind of stuff, so I’m going to do the exact opposite of whatever they’re doing. I love to be strange and weird and talk about the darker things in life, or just things they would never hit on. My job is to be exactly the opposite of those people, because they’ve got the market cornered. They’re doing that, let them do it. Teenage girls want to hear Katy Perry’s “Firework” is great and I even like that song, I really like that song. My music is just… people like crazy rich, they don’t even like okay rich, the last three records have been me kind of level headed. This record is I’m doing what I want, I’m crazy, let me go.

There’s a spot for Beiber. He’s got one of the softest [voices], it’s like butter. Like that old SNL skit his voice is butta. His voice is pure, I mean I sing like that on a good day, with “Take A Picture” and stuff like that. I love singing real clear and pretty like that, but I don’t have any soul. I don’t listen to R&B and I don’t rap. I love Bono and stuff, but I kind of enjoy just nutter. I like being a bit of a nutter.

How would you compare working as a touring guitarist with other groups to working with other musicians to produce your own album?

When I was in Nine Inch Nails, I was always trying to say “what do you think of this and can I do this.” My contribution was like “hey here’s Hey Man, Nice Shot, I feel really good about it.” Then a manager calling me 10 minutes after Trent’s like “yeah, it’s pretty cool, I’d probably change this and do this and that,” and saying “oh you know that really cool song that you wrote? Yeah, we’re going to own it and you’re going to get credit on an LP.” A song that has kept me alive and been the cornerstone of my bank account for the past 25 years, [they’re] like “yeah we’re going to own it and we’re going to do all this.” It’s like you gotta be kidding me.

When I was in Nine Inch Nails [I was] broke and I live[d] my parents and I just got off this massive tour. Trent is buying real estate in New Orleans and I’m living in my parent’s basement. There’s no comparison. When you become the leader of your own band, it’s just the ultimate freedom. Everybody wants to work for themselves, they don’t want to have a boss. I’m always going to feel comfortable and happy just writing lyrics, singing, coming up with music and samplers and working with anyone I want.

Richard Patrick (far right) during his time in Nine Inch Nails.
Richard Patrick (far right) during his time in Nine Inch Nails.

How do you feel about people calling Filter and your 1999 hit “Take a Picture” a one hit wonder”?

Well, I’ve had six hits. It doesn’t matter what people say. It’s actually none of my business what people say about me. It’s their thought of me and they don’t know me 100% and it’s like anything else. You either like it or you don’t. There’s people that absolutely love and adore Nickleback and then there’s people that hate them. It goes without saying that everybody has different tastes. Some people are going to like it and some people aren’t.

Can you share some of your feelings towards Scott Weiland’s death and your ongoing journey of staying sober in his memory?

We lost another one and I was actually kind of vocal, like we’ve got to do something, online. I was very much worried about him. You’d see the videos and you were just like “oh my god dude, get your shit together.” He’s part of the 85 or 90 per cent of us that don’t get it and end up dying an alcoholic or a drug addicted death way too young. It was sad and it was drawn out and it was very public. The take away is that you can never literally blame Scott for being an addict. At a certain point, it’s not a choice. It was a choice to do it, there’s millions of people in this country that’ve tried cocaine, but there’s a small percentage, like one out of 17 people is an addict and they get addicted to it.

Addiction is a real disease, it’s a mental disease and it’s self-diagnosed, so usually alcoholics are the last ones to know. He was just someone who couldn’t believe that drugs were bad for him and that’s the sad thing. Because it’s so obvious to the rest of us and it’s sad. David Bowie goes out and we love him and we love Blackstar and he was prepared and he was very level headed when he was making his music for his final record and it’s an incredible record. You appreciate that almost a little bit more because he was aware of it and on top of it. With the addict [though], you think of Jim Morrison and you’re like “ah god damn it he died.” You get pissed. Kurt Cobain, you’re like damn it.

Unfortunately [with] Scott, everyone was just like “oh yea, finally, it happened”. Whereas other people when they die it’s a massive tragedy. When Michael Jackson died everyone was caught off guard, but when you go through the doctor’s trial and you find out he ordered 40 containers of Propofol, (because Michael was so god damn addicted), you’re kind of shocked, but it’s still a tragedy. I thought there would’ve been a bigger response with Scott. Stone Temple Pilots was such an amazing band when it was in full swing, but even STP has had so much trouble on the get together with Chester and we did Army of Anyone and they had to wait for Scott to get sober enough to do a tour. Really it was like you were seeing STP and you were thinking maybe this is the last time.

Is there any advice that you would give to an addict still fighting their battle with sobriety?

Find a meeting. There’s a secret organization for you. If you have the means, go to rehab. Believe in yourself and you know that you’re an addict. If you’re even saying “do you think I drink too much?” Yes, you’re an addict. Go online and take the 20 questions of addiction and see if you answer yes to any of them. Do yourself a favor, find out if you’re an addict and take charge. You’re the only one who’s going to get you sober. There’s plenty of help, but it’s you.

You experienced it first hand, what would you say to someone that’s struggling with doing that kind of thing because they’re not religious?

My higher power is knowledge. It’s learning from history, it’s learning from what science has taught us. You [put] a bunch of alcoholics in a room together and they talk out their problems and they walk out and feel really good. That’s the support group. You just listen to people. The biggest thing about being an alcoholic is you have to really, really listen to people. Because eventually, they start saying things that sound really familiar. The problem with addiction is if they don’t want to listen, it’s because they’re not ready.

Scott never got ready to be sober. He wasn’t willing to do the work and be sober. He went to rehabs all the time and I remember thinking to myself “dude, every day, one step at a time.” He’s like “I think I can drink, I’m going to drink casually.” There’s no such thing. You’re an addict. You can’t drink. “No, I can.” Um, no, you can’t. Then when his toxicology report came back and he’s got coke and ecstasy and all this stuff and it’s like you weren’t just drinking, you were lying to yourself. It’s tough because it’s really easy to be right and just think I know what’s up. You’re lying and for you to want the lie not to be there and [when] you can’t even see the lie, it’s maddening.

Do you think there’s any specific thing that pushes one to make that step and keep going with it?

It’s called the bottom and everybody has their own bottom. Everybody has to find their own bottom.

Do you think they just hit it, or it’s found?

Some people hit bottom when they run a family over with four kids, kill four kids and they actually die too. That’s their bottom and they didn’t make it out. My bottom was [when] I couldn’t stand on stage and sing. That was my bottom and I was like “this sucks, I can’t even do what I want to do”. I cancelled the tour, went to rehab and said [to myself] “take a good look around, because you’re never coming back here unless you’re an alumni.” I didn’t want to be one of those repeat, “it’s my third time in rehab and I’m going to really try this time.” I didn’t want to be like that, I wanted to fucking kill it. I realized it was a disease like cancer, I’m going to fucking kill this shit. “Get in there doc, take it out of me.” Except I’m the doctor.

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