Reverb Interview: Filter's Richard Patrick

Filter’s “Crazy Richie” Patrick is back with Crazy Eyes — a new record scheduled for release on April 8 — and a new tour: “Make America Hate Again,” with Orgy, Vampires Everywhere! and Death Valley High, which kicks off in May.

“It's kind of a middle finger to Donald Trump,” Patrick says. “We start touring in April. There's a new video coming out and it's not what you'd expect. It's very different,” he laughs. “A bunch of break-dancers!”

Patrick sat with Reverb to talk about the importance of creative collaboration, his compositional techniques, channeling his teen angst, his time with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, the many benefits of crowdfunding and the influence of ambient composer and producer Brian Eno and abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock on his decidedly aggro music.

You said you wanted to get away from big guitar sounds on this record. That surprised me because when I think Filter — and Richard Patrick — I immediately hear huge guitars.

It's gotten overdone. I wanted to take the guitar, use smaller amps, mix them down and make them not so dominating. They're still there, but I wanted to create more room in the frequencies for electronics and stuff like that. I really wanted to get back to where I was when I was 18 or 19, when I was into Skinny Puppy, Ministry and Front 242. I wanted to make a record that was from that time period — when I was growing up — and use the kind of angst and messaging that I always do but go full bore with it instead of making a strict rock record.

You used the phrase "new industrial" to describe it. Are you making a distinction between what you just described? Old school industrial vs. new industrial?

The term "new industrial" was just tongue in cheek. Obviously, we're hinged in 2015/2016 when we were doing this record. I'm using electronics that you could only really use today. When I said "new industrial,” I just didn't want it to just be like old industrial sound. I wanted it to be a new sound.

Are you writing these songs with synthesizers or does the guitar play a role?

Every musician has 12 notes, and they either start on a piano or they start on a guitar."

Sometimes I'll grab a guitar and I'll make a chord progression. Sometimes I'll start off with drums and a loop and a bass synthesizer. Songwriting is different every single time. There's always these little sparks of inspiration that I have with a computer. So as soon as we started writing chord progressions, it was like, cool! Now let's get rid of the guitar. We used a little acoustic, that was there for reference and chord progressions, and replaced it with the synth pad, synth sound. Every musician has 12 notes, and they either start on a piano or they start on a guitar. But, because the computer was right there in the beginning, you could go: Cool. Now let's do that on bass synth and turn it up really loud and distort it. It led me to a new place that I wouldn't have had if I'd just had acoustic.

Writing an industrial album on an acoustic guitar paints an interesting picture of your time in the studio.

You play a cool, D-suspended ninth, then flesh that out with a pad sound from this old synthesizer instead of having it on a guitar. We all know that it's D-suspended ninth, so we know exactly what we can do with the instrumentation. It's like when John Williams does scoring. He'll start with his piano, and then he'll flesh it out and start imagining it with French horns and a symphony. He'll figure it out. It's all in the instrumentation.

I was looking at your gear list and was wondering if you had recorded this record solo or if the band members were part of the creation of the songs.

Songwriting and production go hand in hand with this kind of music. There was a majority of songs that were done with Oumi Kapila. He co-wrote and co-produced the songs. Then we helped Ashley [Dzerigian] write a bass line; we all wrote a bass line for the song “Under the Tongue.” Then I worked with Blumpy [NIN’s Michael Tuller] and I sat there and wrote songs. Johnny Radke, from the old incarnation of Filter, wrote “Nothing in My Hands.” “Your Bullets” was my song, but then Ben Grosse [Thirty Seconds To Mars, Marilyn Manson] helped me with the vocal melody during the chorus. There's always my friends. It's Richard Patrick with his friends. There's always collaboration. We started with programming on the drums and Chris [Reeve] added. He came in and played real drums and added a ton of lift on a lot of the songs. Then we just mixed them in.

You produced the album. How do you balance the performance aspect and the production aspect? It seems like there's a lot going on there.

I delegate responsibilities to people. The reality is, someone will say, "What about this? Or what about that?" You know in your heart that, no, this is cool. Now we're done working on this.

With a producer, they're guiding you along. In many ways, producers have this agenda: They want to get this song on the radio. A lot of the songs that are supposed to be angular and weird — and not really for anybody but the band — get adapted for radio by a producer. For me, though, the artist is always right and it's always the artist's record. But it's the producer’s job to make it all come together. I was adamant that the strangeness and the eccentricities of my approach were getting lost within the last couple of records that I've done. It was important for me to make the mistakes and do weird things. But when it comes down to the final say, I have all the responsibility on my shoulders.

For the Fans

I was really excited and interested to see that you guys did this record with PledgeMusic. Can you tell me a little bit about that process?

PledgeMusic became a really interesting factual participant for us. I don't think I'll ever do another record without Pledge. It's made us money so that we can finish the record and we can add money to a video budget. It's really worked out amazingly. But I wasn’t a fan of crowdfunding before. It feels like begging.

The more I listened to them, the more they were telling me, "Yeah, go back to Crazy Richie. Be yourself. Do crazy things like you used to do on the old records."

I quickly realized when I started doing updates that these people are out there; now they're included and they've already bought the record. Now they're having a conversation with the band. The more I listened to them, the more they were telling me, "Yeah, go back to Crazy Richie. Be yourself. Do crazy things like you used to do on the old records." It was reassuring.

Then you get this weekly report. It's interesting. The people who are pledging are all young men, between 18 and 25, and then there are men 30 to 45. Then you look and, how many women? Like 20%. Now I know who my audience is. When I found out they wanted more heavy and more aggressive, I was like, "Yes!" because that's the stuff I like to do. When we play live, that's the stuff they all wanted to hear. Heavy is more fun than pretty.

That’s great; a lot of people fear that they are going to end up in a committee-style project if they crowdfund; it seems like it had the opposite effect on you.

When you're sitting in the studio and you're looking at four walls and four speakers and you're thinking to yourself, "I know I like it, but I wonder if anyone else will like it." You get an instant sense of reassurance. You feel better about it, so you do better instead of questioning yourself the entire time.

You're releasing it on vinyl.

Yeah. We're doing vinyl. We're doing four discs and we're spinning them at 45rpm, because the low end has to be represented. I was around when vinyl records were the thing. I remember my brothers beating the crap out of me if I scratched their records or if I forgot to dust the record right before I played it. When I got CDs, that was the ultimate. There's so much information. You can have the lowness of a humpback whale, and it's not going to skip the needle. And you can have the high frequencies. CDs are the perfect representation of your music. It's literally like someone is giving you the masters to their record. But people like vinyl. I like vinyl. I like opening it up and looking in and reading the lyrics. Whatever works.

Are there any lyrical themes that run through the record?

It's not overtly political. I don't want people to know what I was thinking; that takes the mystery out of it. I'm boldly talking about the darkest points in humanity, as well as some of my pride in humanity. I've got some grey hairs all of a sudden but, at the same time, I'm so connected to my teenage years. I love getting it out and saying whatever the hell I want. I think that that's the biggest thing.

The first thing I thought of when I heard the opening on “Mother E” was: There's that close mic’ing, like what Josh Homme used on Arctic Monkeys’ new record and every other awesome Queens of the Stone Age record.

Yeah. I got up on that mic Kate Bush style — from “Don't Give Up” on So with Peter Gabriel. You have to be careful of your “Ps,” because you might pop the diaphragm on it. It's always fascinating to hear the human voice right next to your ear, singing.

It's incredibly intimate sounding.

Then it gets really crazy. Dynamics: zero to 10.

“Nothing in My Hands;” I heard that and I immediately went back to “Head Like a Hole.” Did you use similar production techniques? Was it conscious?

No. My Nine Inch Nails days were interesting. When I was in Nine Inch Nails, I was the touring guitar player between Pretty Hate Machine and the Broken EP. I remember Trent [Reznor] thanking us for being an influence. If you listen to those two records, there's a massive jump in attitude and sound. My job was: fucking heavy and angry. And I think Trent recognized that and said, "I'd like to thank my band for being an influence on my direction on this record." He gave us credit on the record.

We were both listening to Ministry and Skinny Puppy and all of this kind of stuff. When people say that it sounds similar to NIN, I say, "No. It sounds similar to the stuff that we were all listening to when I was in NIN." Trent's not the first industrial artist; he's just the biggest. When people ask me about what I think of Nine Inch Nails being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I say that's cool. I get it. He's the most famous, but what about Skinny Puppy? What happened to the guys who actually created it? They literally were the first guys to take synthesizers and go really hard to make them sound scary and mean. I think that was an insane idea and it was completely original. Nivek Ogre and cEvin Key [of Skinny Puppy] showed up and started that whole thing.

At the beginning of “Pride Flag,” how did you get that fluttering percussion sound? It's arresting.

We went into one of our plugins. There are a lot of plugins that we used. Plugins are amazing. There are people out there who are trying to break into that business and they find out that we're Filter and are like, "Here! Try all of this stuff. We'll give you all this." When you're a musician, it's your ears that ultimately tell you when you like something that's your attitude and your style. Pun intended, but your filter makes you who you are. A lot of it's just regular over-the-counter stuff.

The guitar sounds in “Short Bus,” I recorded through a Fostex consumer-level 812 I bought at a Guitar Center. Everyone was like, "Wow! How'd you get that?" We dialed it; we EQed it to tape, which is an 8-track tape machine and we just did it. It doesn't matter what you have. It was, more or less, how does it sound to me? Well, I think it needs more mid-range. Well, cool, then crank it up. You're not defined by your instrument. Your style and integrity and eccentricities make the instrument sound cool for you.

I was listening to “City of Blinding Riots” and it reminded me of some of the found sound featured in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I loved it. I thought it was fantastic.

Danny Lohner co-produced that, I forgot to mention. He produced that song with me. He's like, "Let's just put stuff in!" I had gone to Iraq and played for the troops and someone had broken into the base. And they go through this big PA system, "Dootle dootle dootle doo dit: Operation round-up in effect. Dootle dootle dootle doo dit: Operation round-up in effect. Dootle oot." I had taken video of it and played it right out of my phone.

Another time, I'd gone downstairs to get a glass of water and I heard the music upstairs: the beat of the song. Then I heard his refrigerator making this sound. But it was this cool pulsating sound that worked with the tempo. It was one of those things that you could put it in anywhere and it would make sense. So I took my phone and I recorded it for, like, 20 seconds and then brought it upstairs and emailed it to him. He grabbed the MP3 off his email and inserted it into the first half of the intro and used it.

Brian Eno taught us: It's all music. If you hear something and you think it's interesting, that is the defining thing that makes you who you are."

That's what we do. Brian Eno taught us: It's all music. If you hear something and you think it's interesting, that is the defining thing that makes you who you are. Utilize it. Don't be afraid. There are no rules. There are no fucking rules in this great world of music. You can say anything you want lyrically. You can say anything you want with your guitar. There's a guitar solo at the end of “Nothing in My Hands” that's just my guitar going through a ring modulator. My guitar solos are avant garde. I don't use scales; it's all squealing feedback and weird stuff. That's because it has to be there. It's like my obligation to make sure that the Jackson Pollock type of painting still exists within rock ‘n’ roll.

Select Recording Gear of Richard Patrick

Slate Raven MTX

Slate Pro Audio Raven MTX

Neumann U 87 Ai

Neumann U 87 Ai

Focusrite Scarlett 8i6

Focusrite Scarlett 8i6

Universal Audio Apollo Quad

Universal Audio Apollo Quad

API 512c Mic Preamp

API 512c Mic Preamp

Gibson Les Paul with Bigsby

API 550a 3 Band Equalizer

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