After a tumultuous seven years, Filter returns with an album that celebrates the past while looking to the future, with Richard Patrick speaking with ReGen about The Algorithm.
An InterView with Richard Patrick of Filter
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Emerging from the angst and turmoil of the ’90s, Filter has been clamoring away at the peripheries of industrial and alternative rock music for nearly three decades. The band’s seventh album in 2016, Crazy Eyes showed Richard Patrick and his cohorts delving further into the distorted metallic grit that drove the band’s early material; since then, fans have been anxiously awaiting an even deeper dive into the venomous and distorted sound of Short Bus, with Patrick reuniting with original co-founder and former bandmate Brian Liesegang to produce an album that would serve as a direct follow-up to that 1995 debut. Sadly, due to the collapse of the PledgeMusic crowdfunding platform, compounded by a series of other unforeseen circumstances that led to Patrick and Liesegang once again parting ways, reBus was not to be… or wasn’t it?
Never one to pass on the opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive artistic construct, Patrick turned his attentions once again toward the sociopolitical zeitgeist, releasing the “Thoughts and Prayers” and “Murica” singles as a direct response to the waves of violence, denial of science, and other right-wing attitudes while hinting at what a new album would have in store. Driven by singles like “For the Beaten,” “Face Down,” and “Obliteration,” The Algorithm was released on Friday, August 25 via Golden Robot Records, presenting some of Filter’s most vicious material of industrialized alternative rock and metal. Prior to the album’s release and on the eve of embarking on the Freaks on Parade Tour as a support act for Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper alongside industrial/metal legends MINISTRY, Richard Patrick took the time to speak with ReGen Magazine about The Algorithm, addressing the album’s bleak themes, varied writing and production, live performance, and offering some insights into his artistic process.
How are you? How’s your health?
Patrick: Really good. I had a colonoscopy last year that came out perfect. I had fusion about six years, and now my back is completely rocking. I got a little neck pain, so I’m about to go back to the same spinal surgeon, so he can do something.
Too much headbanging.
Patrick: Oh, back in the day especially, when I was a little whippersnapper. And I am 20 years sober… it’s coming up on 21 years since on September 28, 2002 is when I got sober.
Let’s talk about the new album title, The Algorithm. The album’s gone through a long odyssey, and for a while, it was called They’ve Got Us Right Where They Want Us, at Each Other’s Throats. Obviously too cumbersome a title, but how did you come upon The Algorithm? How does that title signify the album’s themes, what does it mean to you?
Patrick: Everybody’s got an algorithm that they’re dealing with. Everybody’s got a problem that they need to solve, and that’s pretty much it. We are on this tiny little planet for 70 years, and we’re here to help each other. We’re here to be good to each other. That’s what 95% of us want. Don’t let the social media algorithms come and get you, don’t let the A.I. come and get you, don’t let pollution come and get you. Figure out the problem and solve it… it’s solvable, whether it’s climate change or American politics, we have to get to a place where we can handle and fix it.
I was going to ask this at the end, but since you mentioned it, you’ve never minced words in your discourse on social and political issues. Especially in the modern era when everybody is able to communicate and share (or reinforce) their views and opinions, what are your thoughts on the role of politics in art (or vice versa)?
Some songs like ‘The Drowning’ and ‘Obliteration’ have that distinctly classic Filter sound, but the chorus to ‘Summer Child’ almost reminds me of a ’60s-by-way-of-the-’90s grunge rocker.
Patrick: Well, that’s an Army of Anyone song. I wrote it with the idea that maybe Army of Anyone could do one more song and then release the record, but I just couldn’t stand waiting. So, I had Ray Luzier – he actually plays drums on it, and I was like, ‘Screw it, I’ll just play guitar on it,’ and Johnny Radtke plays guitar on it, and I just couldn’t wait for the DeLeo’s, so I just put it out.
On the other hand, ‘Up Against the Wall’ and ‘For the Beaten’ get into an almost metalcore sound with the distorted scrapes and severely down-tuned guitar growls, while ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ has some really militant drumming, yet it’s all still very melodic. How to you balance all these disparate sounds and influences out?
‘For the Beaten’ is still winning out as my favorite on the record, although ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is a close second so far.
Patrick: Cool! ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ was my song entirely; I wrote that one by myself, so I always get a little happy when people say they like ‘The Drowning’ and ‘Face Down’ and ‘Be Careful What You Wish For,’ because those are all the songs that I wrote by myself. The lyrics to ‘Summer Child’ came from Brian Liesegang, and he’s an amazing lyricist, but I did all the music for that one. It was awesome and a lot of fun. I poured a lot of my own self deeply into the record, and I think that’s what makes the difference. I feel like that’s what ties every Filter record together – not just the vocals, but my input.
Your songwriting is definitely very palpable across all of Filter’s albums, and what’s funny to me is that as I was formulating these questions while listening to the album, I was going to note how Crazy Eyes didn’t seem to have any ballads, but on The Algorithm, we get ‘Burn Out the Sun’ and ‘Command Z’ as the last two songs on the album. Was that part of the concept to have the album end with these softer moments?
Patrick: Yeah… well, with ‘Burn Out the Sun,’ if I could look at my lyrics here.
That is just straight up poetry… that is just me being a poet and writing from a stream of consciousness, letting the words just fly out of you and you don’t even know what it means, essentially. Once again, it’s about trying to fix your life, trying to fix something.
And the clouds represent all the problems of our world that we’re dealing with.
Yeah! It’s about overcoming adversity and doing it quickly before the sun burns out, which is going to happen… it will happen one day, billions of years from now. We have to work together. The Algorithm is basically me saying to the world that we need to work together, we have to try to find hope and happiness with each other, and stop being such bitches!
I saw your comment on the Blabbermouth article about Sevendust’s singer and his voice getting stronger as he’s aged, and you’re still hitting those high notes pretty effortlessly (or so it seems). How do you keep your voice strong, especially for live performances?
Patrick: Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Warm up. Don’t have a lot of acidy foods before you sing, because you’ll burp; I don’t eat for four or five hours before I play. Do a lot of warmups. And see a doctor. Make sure you have a good doctor – ear, nose, and throat doctor. Just take care of yourself and try to maintain.
You’ve been working with Brian Virtue for quite some time – Army of Anyone, and then Crazy Eyes, and I understand he’s co-produced this album with you?
Filter has roots as much in the industrial scene as in the alternative scene at large, and I feel that Crazy Eyes and The Algorithm are your most distinctly ‘industrial’ or ‘machine rock’ albums since Short Bus. What does industrial music mean to you?
Patrick: When I quit Nine Inch Nails, I kind of left industrial too, and I had more in common with grunge at the time because I had to make Filter sound completely different from Nine Inch Nails. Even though I used a drum machine, Short Bus is certainly very industrial with songs like ‘Under’ and ‘Dose’ and even ‘Hey Man, Nice Shot.’ But then, I kind of kept exploring more guitar-oriented sounds and got a little bit lighter with my musical approach on songs like ‘Take a Picture.’
But industrial is badass! I was fully industrial when I was in Nine Inch Nails. I was the guy that was constantly telling Trent, ‘Keep it heavy! Keep it fucking heavy! Keep it mean! Do fucking heavy shit! Make it tough. Don’t make it too commercial.’ Not that he would listen to me or take me seriously, but he did list me as an influence on the Broken EP, so I’m guessing that’s why he listed me by saying he was influenced by the live band. I was constantly trying to be the instigator then, but when it came to Filter, I didn’t totally grow out of industrial, but a lot of it turned into more like epic rock songs.
I don’t know. I love industrial music; I think industrial music is the shit, and I love MINISTRY and can’t wait to go on tour with Al.
I’ve only ever seen Filter live on festivals, like HFStival and most recently ColdWaves a few years ago. I’m hoping to catch Filter live on a proper tour.
Patrick: Well, festivals are great. This tour with MINISTRY is the two of us opening for Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper – we only have 30 minutes, so it’s kind of like a festival show. But hopefully, we’ll come back and do a big headlining tour of our own.
You recently did the California Screamin’ performance on HITKOR.
What do you think are the biggest difficulties with live performances right now? What do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should take away from the pandemic and use or think about going forward?
Patrick: Just bring the goods! Bring the goods and be awesome. Don’t just go through the motions and put on a show. Be amazing, put forth your talent, and exploit it! I prepare for my shows, and I have an iPad onstage just to make sure that my lyrics are perfect. You tend to rewrite things when you don’t have your lyrics in front of you, which is fine, but a lot of the fans want me to sing it perfectly like the record. But I care and the attention to detail is really important. Just make sure that you play with as much intensity as possible and bring it! Don’t just go through the motions. The pandemic… I mean, everybody get vaccinated, and the goddamn thing will go away!
You’ve signed with Golden Robot Records for The Algorithm. What are your thoughts on the traditional models of releasing music and how it applies to you? Moving forward, do you think we will still be bound to record labels?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Patrick: I love my band. Please come and see us live, because it’s going to be a great year; we’re going to be touring extensively over the next year or so. Check out The Algorithm. I’m super proud of it, and I hope everyone gives it a shot.