Filter - Welcome Back to the Fold

Remember "Hey Man, Nice Shot," the 1995 industrial/metal suicide song that sent Filter rocketing up the charts? Well, unless you've been tapped into the esoteric world of film soundtracks, you could be excused for thinking the tune was the band's coup de grace, a single, explosive shot that marked both the beginning and the end for frontman Richard Patrick. In reality, such dramatic assumptions are generally shortsighted and overblown, and in the case of Filter, "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was merely the catalyst that allowed Patrick to re-enter the public eye following several frustrating years as a guitarist for Nine Inch Nails. And now that he's had a taste of success, don't expect Patrick to crawl away quietly. After all, he doesn't really know the meaning of the word quiet.

In truth. Patrick has had good reason to scream. Despite critical accolades and platinum sales plaques, it hasn't been an easy three years for Filter. First, Patrick had a bitter falling out with band co-founder Brian Liesegang, then he suffered an ugly break-up with his long-term girlfriend, which was followed by bouts of hedonism that threatened to snuff his once-bright flame. But Patrick had a motivating force that kept him from falling of the edge -- his passion for music and his love for writing dynamic, cathartic rock songs.

So, after setting up his own new studio and recording a few turbulent cuts for film soundtracks, Patrick was ready to tackle album number two, Title of Record. If Filter's debut, Short Bus, exploded like a Molotov cocktail in a fireworks factory, the band's latest offering is a live grenade in the engine room of a luxury cruise liner. Not that it's all flames and fury. While Short Bus fell a tad short in the diversity department, Title of Record is an emotionally expressive disc that runs the gamut from atmospherically serene to evocatively experimental to cathartically combustive. recently sat down with Patrick to discuss hostility, cynicism, spontaneity and studio wizardry. Did you intentionally strive to make Title of Record such an emotionally explosive album?

Richard Patrick: The idea was to have something that would cover every human emotion. I just wanted something that would take you somewhere. There are highs and lows, and by the end of it you're definitely affected and the mood has changed and it's a very dynamic record. I think that's what I tried to do. You were absent from the music scene for several years while you regrouped and constructed a new studio for yourself.

Patrick: They claim it's been four years since the last release, but I went on tour for two years and when I came back I had to build the studio for a year. And then I did all those soundtrack stuff. "Jurassitol" [for The Crow II:The Return] and "Trip Like I Do" [for Spawn], and The X Files song ["Thanks Bro"]. And then I finally got the studio built, which we called Abyssinian Sun. So I've only been working on this record for a year-and-a-half. It took me a long time to build the studio because I didn't really know what I was doing, but I wanted it to be done my way. I didn't want to waste a lot of money and build the Taj Mahal. I wanted something that was more hand built than something you'd have to take your shoes off to walk into. The whole thing costs $1,500 a month to rent, and then I put about $40,000 into building the walls and making some rooms soundproof. We built a kitchen and bathroom. It's pretty bare bones, but it's ours. It's in Bucktown, which is right on the border of Wicker Park in Chicago. Was the creation of this album orderly and scheduled or was it as chaotic as it sounds?

Patrick: There was no schedule or anything. I'm not about being like, "Okay, people. We're gonna track guitars for the afternoon, and at approximately six-o-clock we're gonna take a dinner break. Then we're gonna come back and record." I'm more about, "What do you feel like doing now? Hey, let's go to the fucking bar and drink beer. Let's go to a fucking Indians game." I don't like doing things on any regular schedule, and I don't believe in flogging the dead horse. I prefer working at the moment of inspiration. If there's a week of bullshit, and I'm having fun, and I come back on Friday and go, "Hey, I got a fucking song idea," and plop it out, usually Saturday the thing's written. I like that. I like the fact that it comes out of nowhere. Historically, many people who are ruled by impulse tend to get themselves in sticky situations that involve decadence and self-indulgence.

Patrick: I think I'm a self-indulgent person, but I believe that I never got to the super bad boy stage. I never did the massive drugs. I think I was living excess during this record, but it was mainly going out every night having beers. It wasn't your Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison type lifestyle. It's kinda funny that the song "Take a Picture" is the prettiest song on the record, yet it's about an occasion when you got drunk, took your clothes off inside in airplane and staggered naked through the aisle.

Patrick: Yeah, it was about absolute, fucking unbelievable rock stardom, and I don't remember one second about it. All I remember was waking up with my pants around my ankles, and a nervous yuppie sitting next to me in first class literally panicking. Whoever was with me pulled my wallet out of my pants and took out $800. He gave it to the flight attendant and he said, "Look, he's a rock star. Please don't have him arrested." There's an awful lot of hostility echoing through Title of Record.

Patrick: Yeah, it reflects the past few years of my life, and a lot of the time I wasn't particularly happy. A lot of it is about the end of my relationship with my girlfriend. Like, the song "I'm Not the Only One" is about how she cheated on me, and the whole thing is this confused lover boy going, "Oh, my God. I can't believe she did this to me." The anger, the sadness. The resolution that this is really falling apart. It's all there. That was the main thing that ended the relationship. I was totally faithful to her, and after she told me there was another guy, I smashed my fist into the wall. I pretty much shattered it. After I went to the hospital, they had to fucking re-break it and put it back into place. You don't seem to have much faith in mankind.

Patrick: We're monkeys, for Christ sakes. Racism and hatred and greed and lying and cheating and stealing and murder. That's like the number one thing we do. Ruining the planet, killing animals for the fun of it, killing each other for the fun of it. Columbine? Those kids were having a blast. And then the party was over, and the highlight of the party was, "Hey, let's fucking kill ourselves." They were laughing. They were goofing-fucking off blowing each other's heads off. "Hey look, look at this!" BOOOM! "Blew his head off." We're a sick society. We're a sick planet. Now that we got that settled, let's talk about guitars. What kind of tones were you striving for on this record?

Patrick: It was the kitchen sink philosophy. Anything that you want to try, any idea, anything. [Guitarist] Geno [Lenardo] wanted to have a lot of textures on the guitar. I pretty much stood ground on my feedback Marshall sound. He wanted to use more effects, and as soon as he realized I was behind him on that, he just went to town. "Skinny" is a shining example of Geno's role as lead guitar player in the band. It's funny. Yesterday I said, "Hey, do you mind if I play guitar in this?" And he was like, "Rich, you can play guitar wherever you want. It's your band. Do what you want to do." I love when they says that because I'm asking for approval the way they would have done two years ago. The dynamic of our working relationship has changed a little bit this time around. In the past, they were used to me saying, "Hey Geno, do you have to use that wah-wah every fucking song?" How are your guitar chops?

Patrick: I have a really good right hand. I really love my style. But my method of guitar playing is just to say, "Fuck it. Who gives a shit?" and just to play anything. Whenever anyone asks me if I have any words of advice to young players, I say, "Yeah, throw the guitar down the stairs and record that. It's far more interesting." I think you can go learn how to play someone's stuff, but once you learn it you should de-learn it and go write your own fucking song. That's happiness. That's creating something original and it's far more interesting than learning one of our songs. When you were learning to play, did you emulate your heroes?

Patrick: Hell, yeah. I played the shit out of U2. I was better than the Edge. I was The Edge plus five, except that I was the Edge. And then eventually I was like, "Okay, what's the exact opposite thing the Edge would do?" So, I dropped all the delay and stuff. But you can still hear the Edge in my playing. For instance, all the feedback type-murky volume pedal stuff in "Hey Man, Nice Shot." It's almost like the fourth of July because I don't use high harmonics. I use low, droney stuff. It's more murky, American sounding metal guitar. The repetitive guitar part in that song was just me learning how to play without a delay. So I just imitated what a delay would sound like. The Edge was a massive, massive influence on me. Not what he's doing today, but what he used to do. He would say things like, "Don't practice. I never practice because I believe that practice screws up your spontaneity." I've had the interview he did for Guitar Player magazine for the Unforgettable Fire sitting in my library for the past 15 years. Do you often tune down your guitars?

Patrick: It's all D. Now, we're venturing off to A, A, D, G, B, E. But yeah, I like D, and my voice likes it. In E, I really have to scream even higher. So I keep it D because it breaks up at a perfect level, but I still have a lot of control over it. And we've really never run out of ideas in D. So, it's something that works really well for us and we've made it musical, and I think we're a really original sounding band.

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