It’s been 20 years since the release of the platinum-selling Short Bus, which propelled Filter into the public eye. The album contained “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” a top-1oo hit that has endured on rock radio and in sports arenas all these years later, along with fan favorites “Dose” and “Under.”
A lot has changed in 20 years. When I reach Filter frontman Richard Patrick on his phone, he is picking up his kids, a girl and a boy who are 6 and 7 years old. They love Taylor Swift. “Taylor f*cking Swift!” He laughs and stammers ambivalently, “I like it, too… I guess. I can’t not sing it! She’s good!”
When Swift was born, Patrick was working with Trent Reznor as the live guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, until he left to start Filter in 1993. That project’s first song, “Hey Man, Nice Shot” – about the on-camera suicide of Pennsylvania state Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer the day before he was to be sentenced on bribery charges – was, like so much of the material on Short Bus, drenched in anger, frustration, and bafflement. It set a tone the band is revisiting as it records a new album, after straying from that formula on its last few offerings.
“Short Bus really held up amazingly,” Patrick says. “It’s putting my kids through school and it’s the funnest stuff to play live. It’s really informed how I have approached this new record, because I’ve been more emotionally committed and more driven: turn the mic on, scream as hard as I can and exude all the energy and leave it as raw as possible and that’s it. So Short Bus is still telling me what to do every once in a while: Don’t be safe.”
The new songs are anything but safe. Patrick gave Uproxx a sneak preview of the material. The music is intense: contagious riffs and bass lines share their importance with drums and noise. The lyrics and vocals are filled with anger and disgust. It’s Filter, but it’s also something very unique. Patrick explains, “The most important thing that I have to say about the new music is that it’s way more present-tense- and future-oriented. We get lumped in as more of a rock band, and rightly so, especially with our last couple of releases; but this is where we are in the 21st century. It’s so much more cinematic.”
Patrick is producing the album, the first time he’s done so. “A while ago I referred to it, somewhat jokingly, as nu-industrial and some people were excited by that and it kind of stuck. What we’re doing right now is a new industrial sound. I’ve really been pushing my boundaries and I want to take industrial to another level and create a sound that has some guitar and symphonic elements, but also has clanging metal. I was really just trying to be as original as possible.”
What really stands out is how much the lyrics reflect what’s been going on in the U.S. for the past year. “Nothing In My Hands” was written around Ferguson and the Michael Brown shooting, but it could be applied to any of the many race-related tragedies involving police brutality that have swept the country in recent years. “This sh*t is happening all the time… All these black kids getting killed, and for what?” Patrick is outraged, and this comes through not just in conversation, but in his new songs. “It’s not just something to sing about because it’s dark: not one f*cking rock band is reflecting this stuff. I want to write songs about social matters. I have to say something about what’s going on in this corrupt world we live in.”
Patrick brings it back to his kids’ favorite singer. “Taylor Swift is cleaning house with her love songs, and that’s great; but a white kid shows up to a church… and kills nine people, and right across the street there’s a Confederate flag being flown over the state capitol. That has to be talked about. It’s f*cking insane. And what does that insanity sound like? We have a song called ‘Mother E’ which is me singing – screaming – from the point of view of this Dylan Roof character. What was he thinking and somehow trying to understand it all. He’s angry and stupid and f*cking crazy. How do you understand that?”
On July 10, when the Confederate Flag was taken down in South Carolina, Patrick posted a picture of it across his social-media sites stating “We Took It Down!” only to be ruthlessly flamed by angry fans and followers. “I went online to say this flag needs to come down, and I lost a ton of fans. But I’m going to be myself even if it hurts me.”
Filter is on Wind-Up Records, which also put out their 2013 album The Sun Comes Out Tonight, but has been funding the new album with a PledgeMusic Campaign, something Patrick had mixed feelings about initially. “For years and years I bitched about what the internet has done to music. I remember what it was like when we were all selling CDs: life was f*cking great. The internet has done a lot of damage to a lot of people. Unless you’re Taylor Swift, it’s very difficult,” he laughs.
“PledgeMusic has found a way to work with fans and in our case, they can literally watch our record being made and recorded, and they can also get a bunch of cool things that they can’t get anywhere else. I used to think crowdfunding wasn’t cool because it’s like begging for money, but the fans have more involvement, and it’s like they’re getting the record faster because of it. A website like PledgeMusic can actually have a Jurassic effect on whether or not a band has the funds to make a decent record.”
Patrick has assembled a new lineup, which inspires him. “The original Short Bus record was me and Brian Liesegang and a drum machine. Pretty much with every album I change band members. This time, they’re all really young, talented kids. Chris Reeve is probably the best drummer I’ve ever seen. He’s just a tremendous talent. Our new bass player Ashley Dzerigian worked with Cee Lo and Adam Lambert and she’s amazing. She plays like John Entwhistle. We have a keyboardist, Bobby Miller – DJ Rotten Bobby – we call him a DJ because we know what era we live in. And Oumi Kapila, another Aussie, is a virtuoso on guitar. These kids are great. We’ve been playing a few dates here and there, and the energy they bring to the shows really forces me to be that much better.”
The band is still recording, with a tentative release date of spring 2016 for whatever comes of these sessions. “But expect new music soon,” Patrick says. “It’s bold and daring and I think we’ve come up with something really great.”
But will it replace Swift as the music of choice for Patrick’s kids?