Filter’s Richard Patrick, Leading The Rock Renaissance

by Mario Martin
May 2013

 - photo by Kevin Estrada

photo by Kevin Estrada

Somewhere along the line, rock got lost in the shuffle. More importance has been placed on celebrity and tabloids than the music. You might as well have seen rock turning up on milk cartons as fans desperately searched for it in a sea of pop and reality television. But a bright light has peeked through. That light provides hope. Among fabricated musical acts on derivative variety shows, original music is that ray of light. And more literally, The Sun Comes Out Tonight is the light leading Filter’s forthcoming success. Led by the enigmatic Richard Patrick, Filter is returning to form. With songs that are just as gentle as they are intimidating, a renaissance is beginning to stir. Amen. Rock is found, filtered…

While little is readily available about Patrick, he’s a humble guy. He’s intelligent and articulate, and while he’s impassioned, he is endearing. Taking in a conversation from backstage in Colorado Springs as Filter kicks off its headlining tour, Patrick alerts me to the fact that Colorado Springs is a starting point for the band, in more ways than one. “This is the birthplace of our first single, “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” says Patrick, referring to the lead single from the band’s first record, Short Bus. “Colorado Springs was the first market to play our song so it’s kind of fitting that I’m starting my tour here, tonight.” In the spirit of starting from the beginning, we journey with Richard Patrick.

Growing up in Cleveland, Patrick was always influenced by music. “My dad put music on at an early age at what he would call ‘concert hall volume,’” Patrick reminisces. “He would crank the stereo with those huge tower speakers. It was overkill, really.” When asked what his father would play, he notes a bevy of artists including Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, and Led Zeppelin but homes in on one specifically. “I remember he’d play Neil Diamond’s “Hot August Night”. And as a young kid, when I would hear that, I was like ‘that’s it. I’m done. That’s what I’m doing with the rest of my life.’”

As Patrick set out to make those dreams reality, he encountered a fellow Cleveland musician doing the same thing. In a chance meeting in Cleveland, Patrick ran into Academy Award®-winner Trent Reznor. Reznor, also just starting out, asked Patrick to play guitar in his live band, Nine Inch Nails. After years of touring on Reznor’s successful first record, which included traveling with the bands on the first-ever Lollapalooza festival, Patrick sought his own sound and his own musical catharsis. And after applying what he’d learned from the years on the road with Reznor, Patrick struck out to form Filter. Filter would go on to be Patrick’s vehicle for self-expression and was an instant hit that lead to five records to date, and participation in a number of other projects, including various soundtracks. But now with a career spanning over 20 years making music, Richard Patrick is at his most vulnerable—he’s able to look back. He’s able to recognize his mistakes and prevent them from happening again or from seeing them repeated in his own children. On the cusp of the release of his sixth record, Patrick is disarmed, but still angry.

Richard Patrick: “Betrayal is a huge part of this record. I’ve had to go through some really tough times in my life and there’s a lot of things that I can identify with from when I was younger. When I was younger I think I felt like society had turned its back on me. I dug deep to realize what’s hurt me in the last 15 years and it’s made me a generally angry person.”

What the world doesn’t know is how therapeutic music is for Patrick. “I was always told to write what I know,” he quips. “During the Army of Anyone days, I was sober and I was happy. But now I’m more introspective. I used to go against the grain and that’s harder but now things are a lot more enlightening. That’s where I have been spending my time, lyrically.”

“This time, these hills
We’ll march along and forget the kill.
Oh lord, it’s my time. 
Rest now, sleep tight
Close your eyes, breathe in the night
Oh lord, it’s my time.
Please, please not me.
But it’s my time….” 
—“It’s My Time”

The forthcoming record entitled, The Sun Comes Out Tonight (Wind-Up Records) is an example of that introspection. Well, introspection and a youthful pursuit of enlightenment. “I used to hang out, take drugs under bridges and just do things wrong. It was much more enlightening than just playing by the rules.” Through this, Patrick amassed years of adventure and experimentation upon which he has drawn from for the tone of the record. “You’d never in a million years think about doing that shit now, but there are a lot of bright points there when you’re starting out and you’re doing your own thing.”

The Sun Comes Out Tonight is a clever mixture of hard and soft—a yin and yang of itself, almost paradoxical at times. “You have to be heavy and you have to be mean, but at the same time there’s so much more than just one feeling,” Patrick continues.  The record is cohesive. It’s a work of art that could be consumed in pieces due to the digital world we live in, or whole. Collectively, The Sun Comes Out Tonight tends to be a product of Patrick’s utter love of music, so it comes across as compassionately tender, or delicate.

And with the introspection that surrounds the project, Patrick finds inspiration in new and unexpected places. “I’ve always been inspired by the bands that change and grow, and are great at whatever they do,” he says. “I love Skrillex and the electronic scene, right now. I love what Trent’s doing [How To Destroy Angels] and I’m so excited that the Deftones keep putting out records that sound different and new and amazing. That inspires me.” And considering the current landscape of the music business, an industry hit hard by digitalism, it only holds hope for Patrick as he views the intake as positive. “I think that because of iTunes, most people are very eclectic anyway, blurring those genre lines. That’s where I see Filter, where there’s something for everybody.” Yes, Filter does have something for everyone. And with that said, despite the audience, it’s just that good. Whether returning to form or experimenting with new directions, Filter has become a band well-versed in the art of recreation.

But after it’s all said and done, Richard Patrick is still that kid from Cleveland. He loves his family and loves his job. “Music has been a huge driving force in my life. I cherish it,” he says. Even the way in which he refers to his profession is endearing. But when asked if he’d be as open to his own children joining the ranks of musician or actor like his brother [Robert Patrick], Richard is perfectly candid. “They can do whatever they want. They’re extremely bright and it’s completely up to them. As long as they’re doing something productive and they’re happy, I support it.”

As we wrap up, Patrick remains completely open. Relaying that getting a chance to be with friends and musicians out on the road is the benefit of touring, as well as having a chance to interact with fans, Patrick is stern that the downside is being away from family. “It’s bittersweet,” he maintains. Hearing just how genuine and grounded he answers queries, he seems comfortable in his own skin, and in his life. Seemingly unfazed by social scripts, Patrick is forthright when I ask him what music his fans wouldn’t believe he owns. “I’m a fan of music. People would freak out if they knew I have Katy Perry in my music collection. My kids turned me on to her. The song “Firework,” I can’t even believe how amazing that song is!” The answer is the sound of a man content to be a number of things to a number of people, but namely, himself. The self-professed “fan of music” is the regular guy as much as he is the rock god. He’s a contradiction of stature in an industry he’s helped mold. He is kind and careful, but best of all, in an industry that allows rock royalty to treat its subjects poorly, Richard Patrick is appreciative, thanking me for my time before I could thank him for his.

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Filter’s Richard Patrick, Leading The Rock Renaissance
CD: The Sun Comes Out Tonight Record Label: Wind-Up Records
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