Time to get big again!
Time to get big again.
Calling FILTER’s charismatic front man Richard Patrick for an interview is always fun, because you’ll get twice what you hoped for. When I finally got him on the phone he was just taking a huge bite out of what sounded like a burger to me. Not that I’m the expert on food-phonetics, but from his mumbling I guessed, that I caught him right in the middle of something delicious. Something big. Like FILTER’s new record that’s coming out today: „The Sun Comes Out Tonight“
Usually, I need a record to sink in. I give it some time before I make up my mind, give it a few days and a couple of spins. Lots of spins. This time I had less than a day before the interview, but on the other hand I was listening to a FILTER album. I had the advantage to just love all the previous albums, I actually adore „The Trouble With Angles“. Back then it was clear that something had changed. From the young angry kid that had decided to quit NINE INCH NAILS to the platinum-selling rockstar-brother of the coolest movie villain of all time, to the blessing of sobriety after a long downfall. Quitting the support-tour for „The Amalgamut“ in favor of his stay in rehab may have cost FILTER and Patrick millions in sales. But that’s nothing to the change of a man for the better side of life. While „Soldiers of Misfortune“ was a pretty strong statement of a rock record, „The Trouble With Angles“ showed a grown, matured man who definitely found his vibe, who struck the deepest chord inside of him. You can hear that in every minute – and all the fans who felt the same way will be delighted that Patrick and FILTER have moved on to go even further.
For quite some time and thanks to rumor-keepers like Wikipedia the new album’s title circulated as „Gurney And The Burning Books“. Richard was not happy with that, but that’s the plight of the (dis-)information age. „I immediately told the guys at the label this was just a working title and subject to change.“ Well, things have cleared up now. The cover motive hits you square in the eyes like the bright shine of a flashlight in a dark room. The sun comes out, but not like on any nice sunny day in the summer. This one’s dark. Richard goes back again to the days of his youth. „So much of this record is about when I was young, living in Cleveland, in this dark, industrial area. There was no money, we couldn’t really do anything.“ The line of digging up caskets comes into my mind. „We used to climb bridges, skate, drive through remote alleys, just stay off the grid, below the radar.“ When night conquers day. „We spent our nights that way, drinking beers under the bridges, disenfranchised, falling through the cracks. A lot of the guys had occasional jobs and hated them. The American Dream was not going to happen to any of these people. In these nights our lifes would shine.“ Richard kept in touch with them while he was on the road with NINE INCH NAILS, tried to stay down on earth even when he skyrocketed with „Short Bus“. „I was recognized everywhere I went, but I just tried to come back to the ambiguity of my youth.“
With the new record, it’s not just a blast from this past. Darkness comes creeping in also from recent events, it comes with the demons you have to fight every day and night. „The Sun Comes Out Tonight“ is an album full of contrast, contradictions, covering the whole spectrum of emotions. With Richard as a writer, you’ll never get your generic mainstream null and void message that nowadays pop music is blathering all over the airwaves. Richard always stood his ground, never hid behind his words. And concerning his lyrics, he can get pretty serious. „I’ve been betrayed by an incredible person in my life, but I can’t really talk about it. It’s just really dark stuff, and the only way I can deal with it is to just write about it. I can only hope it never really get’s understood, but by this particular person.“ In his younger years Richard may have spat out a bitter piece of hate. But where is darkness, there is light. „In every person’s darkest moments there are always these amazingly beautiful things. I have two kids that brought the best out of me. When you have these two little innocent kids who didn’t ask to be born – they came here and it’s my job to take care of them. What a surprise that was for my life!“
I have to have a little sunshine and happiness once in a while, because if it’s just dark all the time it’s a lie.
And that’s my cue, because the new album will – yet again, who would have thought? – surprise every single fan. I’d bet my third eye on that. „Surprise“ is the third song on the album and it bursts in on you like a lightning strike. Gone are the heavy riffs of the first two tracks, gone is the beating and pounding, instead you get acoustic tones and a song very close to electro-pop vibes. And Richard’s voice. Richard the singer. When you hear „Surprise“ you might remember „Take A Picture“ but it’s even more. With a song like that FILTER might have discovered a new, exciting side of their music. And it will surely piss off any oldschool fan who just can’t let go. When we had talked about „The Trouble With Angles“ Richard had mentioned his perspective on changing habits of music listeners, the eclectic generation i-Tunes. When people nowadays download a plethora of different singles and styles to their iPods, why should bands stick to only one scheme? Music fans are no dumb sheep and Richard knows that. „FILTER is not necessarily all about the heavy, but also the other sides. I have to have a little sunshine and happiness once in a while, because if it’s just dark all the time it’s a lie. I can scream, but I also want to focus on the real tender side of life. There is always the anger, and I don’t want to stay there all the time. That’s fake to me.“
The problem with anger is always that it first spawns immense creativity, but quickly turns into corrosion. Catharsis followed by delusion. Lots of musicians grow older, grow wiser, become fathers like Richard, and some fans still don’t notice the change – change that is inevitable. Change that doesn’t turn things upside down or in a bad direction. A close look on FILTER’s discography reveals that turning „mellow“ has a tradition, and that even „Short Bus“ has its soft spots. You just have to listen closely. Compared to the new record, of course, the two are worlds apart. But it’s still in the same vein, the same tradition, and FILTER being Richard’s first baby, have never left their path. „I love being heavy, I push for the heavy songs – I love listening to heavy industrial music like MINISTRY or SKINNY PUPPY. But at the same time I gotta lighten it up. Believe it or not, I also have Neil Diamond and Patsy Cline among my favorites. I wasn’t born in a vacuum.“
And before I can do it, Richard states the obvious about „Surprise“: „It should be the next single on the radio, followed by ‚First You Break It'“. I don’t know how American radio deals with rock and heavy stuff, but over here in Germany it’s just beyond ridiculous. We have stations calling themselves tough names, while playing the same generic mainstream shit over and over again, until you get the feeling of being brainwashed. But like Richard mentions between a giggle or two: beat them with their own weapons. „What Do You Say“ is an astonishing single, incorporating the very soul of FILTER, but I doubt that it will get the airplay it deserves. But if his label can manage to penetrate the walls of pop with „Surprise“, then it’s mission accomplished. More than ten years ago „Take A Picture“ was never intended to be a hit single, but it got picked up and went through roofs around the world. „Surprise“ has the potential to do just that. And „First You Break It“ could be the second strike, as I see it even closer to FILTER’s biggest radio success.
We could easily do a second ‚Short Bus‘, but that would be like shitting out a record that just doesn’t feel right.
But to set the record straight: „The Sun Comes Out Tonight“ is not about being radio-friendly or appealing to the masses. As a dedicated FILTER fan you will get a 360-deal. „This Finger’s For You“ and „Self Inflicted“ play it „Soldiers…“-style while at the same time giving you treats of „Trouble…“. „Faded“ sounds like a lost-and-found-again gem from the „Amalgamut“-era, while „What Do You Say“ brings back the heavy bass lines and drum machine aesthetics from the early days. You find elements of everything FILTER have released so far in here, and then some. You get the edge, the balance, the signature sounds, even brass sections – and then, after more then 20 years of music making under the FILTER flag, you still get firsts. „It’s My Time“ is a gripping, melancholic masterpiece that gives you goose bumps – just a piano and Richard’s vocals. „I’m really proud of this song, it instantly grabs you – actually, this is one of my proudest moments as a songwriter. They asked us to work on a TV show, and we presented the song to them – then they told us it’s great, but way too intense. [laughs] It was for the death of a main character of the show.“ The song deals with capital punishment and Richard tells me about the imperfections of the American justice system, about innocent people being put to death and the consequences. Once the switch is thrown, there’s no return. „Having a glimpse of what someone would be feeling in such a situation, well, I think that’s worth to mention, worth a song. We can’t wait to play this one live. We’ll buy a keyboard and bring it on stage.“
I don’t know if FILTER will pull that stunt off, but so far the new material is going extremely well with the audiences. Sometimes they seem to know the lyrics even better than Richard. He tells me about a performance where he had a short black-out while singing, because instead of learning the lyrics he had rather spent the time with his kids – but the fans didn’t mind. How could you, when there’s no super-ego on stage, but a man that has preserved his inner child, his youth? A man with a band, who rather go on a warm-up tour than spending time in the rehearsal room. Test the audience, see what’s working. In the end, it’s better to add some songs to the live-set instead of cutting stuff away. „It’s a gratifying experience, despite the exhaustion of a concert, especially when the crowd embraces the new songs so passionately. ‚What Do You Say‘ had only been out for a few days, but they already knew the lyrics.“
When talking about live performances and new music, there’s no way around Jonny Radtke. Being part of the band for quite some time now, Jonny played a crucial role in making the new record. „He is literally one of the best guitar players out there, he can play anything he wants. It’s all in his finger tips. He grew up listening to FILTER, NINE INCH NAILS, TOOL, all that stuff – he’s right in the vibe were we are, he’s on the exact level, spot-on. I like the fact that he’s ten years younger than me. He reminds me of all the cool stuff we did in the past – and he pushed for it.“ It’s safe to say, the KILL HANNAH-guitarist somehow had a similar essential and healthy influence on Richards creativity, that he found in producer Bob Marlette right before writing „The Trouble With Angels“. You can hear this kind of magic in a song that’s unfortunately not part of the regular album: „The Hand That’s Dealt“. „That’s the first song we have written together as a team, in his house. We were going to use it for a movie, but eventually the movie fell apart. Now we had this amazing song and nobody was going to hear it.“
At last, it was freed from its copyright ties and will be made available as a digital bonus. Jonny and Richard teamed up to bring something to the table, that can best be described as the fruits of diversity and versatility. FILTER is about originality, not repeating history. With every new record, you always have the same complaints from die-hard fans, who are desperately craving for a „Short Bus“ companion. Complaints about selling out, about going mellow. „We could easily do a second ‚Short Bus‘, but you still had to write great songs. It would be like shitting out a record that just doesn’t feel right. After twenty years I’ve grown to be a singer who can do so much more than just mumbling into a microphone, scared to death. I don’t want to wear the KISS make-up until the rest of my life.“ The cover of the new record expresses just that, the Studio 54 resemblance of the title font works like an exclamation mark. Jonny’s idea. And still, you’ve got the familiar band logo. That’s Richard, he will never give that away. Yes, you can read that metaphorically.
„The Sun Comes Out Tonight“ marks the return to a major label. I try a little joke – how did you wind up with this label? Well, that was lame, but I can hear a polite laughter. Wind-Up’s Gregg Wattenberg obviously found the idea intriguing to have FILTER aboard his ship. Richard quotes his reaction after a short mail exchange: „Filter? Great singer, great songwriter – with our radio division, we can do a lot.“ After years of going the indie-label route, with the last magnum opus being promoted poorly and way below its potential, you can clearly hear Richard’s satisfaction to finally going back to the major experience, with someone capable of handling all the stuff you need to make a record stand out in a world with a monstrous abundance of music. „I can’t say not enough good about the company, it’s just great.“ If everything goes as envisioned, the album will spawn up to five singles, maybe one or two videos. A nice feature are the vinyl editions, on which I jokingly tweeted about FILTER being the only band with a golden record, before the record is even out. „I think it’s funny. The label proposed colors for the vinyl edition, so I said, let’s make one like the sun.“
Richard’s voice vibrates with anticipation. One of the first to listen to the new album was his old buddy Trent Reznor. He was blown away, so were his studio speakers, as he tweeted it to the world. Could Richard imagine doing something with Trent in the near or far future? „Even if it’s just jumping on stage for ‚Head Like A Hole‘ – it would be really cool to have both our voices on some record before we get to fuckin‘ old for it.“ Says it and laughs. Both have been mentors and students to each other for years, and Richard get’s never tired of emphasizing the influence of his years in NINE INCH NAILS for his own career. „You never forget the first five years you’re in a band.“
After his departure from NINE INCH NAILS came „Short Bus“ and FILTER became big. And now, as Richard puts it absolutely right, it’s time to get big again. Make sure you don’t miss it.Galerie mit 24 Bildern: Filter - Filter - European Tour 2013
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