Un-Filtered: Filter’s Richard Patrick and Jonny Radtke
” filter n. 1 Any device or porous substance, as paper, cloth, fine clay, or charcoal, used as a strainer for clearing or purifying liquids.
3 Phot. A colored screen of glass, or of other translucent material, placed in front of a camera lens to control the kind and relative intensity of light waves in an exposure.
v.t. 1 To pass (liquids) through a filter; strain. ”
– Funk & Wagnalls New International Dictionary of the English Language
Filter n. 1 An industrial rock band headed by Richard Patrick since 1993.
The definitions above can be used quite differently in the English language, but referring them all to the hard-hitting industrial rock group Filter just makes sense.
I was a tweenie when it comes to generations. I could be considered a late-comer to Generation X or the beginning of Generation Y, aka a Millennial. I probably acted like both at different times, or just melded all of my clashing likes and dislikes together to make it my own little generation that no-one but those in the same time could understand. This generational rift also created some of the greatest and constantly evolving music, no matter what naysayers say about the 90s. Groups like Radiohead, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, 2Pac, Nas, Fugazi, and Nine Inch Nails, while very different from each other, all seemed to say the same thing: you are not alone. Let’s scream at the world together.
One band that many of us screamed with was Filter. With Richard Patrick placing himself on the stage as an apprehensive front-man, the band has continued to put out great music whose sound and lyrics have evolved with those fans from the days of Short Bus.
Now armed with a new guitarist in former Kill Hannah member Jonny Radtke, a new record company with Wind-Up Records, and a new album with The Sun Comes Out Tonight, Richard Patrick and Filter are ready to tap into our grown-up anger while still introducing the younger generation to their sound. Whether it’s speaking about the death of an innocent man in the slow-moving “My Time” or hearing “Take That Knife Out of My Back” and wanting to break the speed limit while driving to recreate that scene from Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, The Sun Comes Out Tonight is not only a testament to the evolution of Filter, but the evolution of rock itself.
We sat down to speak with Jonny Radtke and Richard Patrick of Filter before they began the Summerland Tour to learn what Filter has been up to, and re-introduce ourselves to a band that we had, literally, grown up with.
Patrick Emmel: So, I just found out that Jonny is my age. Since Filter has been around since 1993, were you listening to Filter back then?
Jonny Radtke: I was. I remember the first time I heard it. I was with friends at opening night of Demon Knight, the Tales from the Crypt movie. Before Short Bus came out, it [Hey Man Nice Shot] was on that soundtrack. It’s actually the first thing you here in the movie. At that time we had been listening to Nine Inch Nails, and when that song hit I went, “What is this?! It’s f$%king amazing!” And then I found out it was Filter when I bought the soundtrack the next day or something at Tower Records. Being a big Nails fan, I knew who Richard Patrick was. Then a few years later, when I was out of high school, I knew his old bandmate Brian Liesegang.
Richard Patrick: He [Jonny Radtke] was in a band called Kill Hannah. I had met him because I heard, “You gotta meet this guitar player Jonny Radtke, he’s the s#!t!” We hung out once or twice. Then we saw each other again, somewhere in Europe.
Jonny: Yeah, years later…
Richard: Rockheim. Then all of a sudden we needed a guitar player and our friend Jack said, “Well there’s a guy named Jonny Radtke, and he’s amazing. You should call him up.” And I said, “Oh yeah, I remember Jonny Radtke.” So Jonny came in and played a bunch of the stuff, and it was obvious that he could play everything we had. And then he was like, “Which over-dub do you want me to do on “No Love”? Do you want me to do this, or this…why don’t I do all three?” Then we went on tour and it was like I was talking to a lost member of my family. So we started working on some music and we were on the same page. Then we’ve been working on this record [The Sun Comes Out Tonight] for the past 8 months, and he’s been a huge part of it. It’s kind of a cool story because we’ve known each other for so long, but…
Jonny: The opportunity had never presented itself where we could actually work on something together.
Richard: It was also really easy to do, and it was fun to work. It’s like the yin and yang where you’re saying, “Dude, that’s exactly what we should do. Great idea!” as opposed to, “What are you talking about?!” I’ve always wanted to have a collaborator, but keeping someone in the same mindset and always agreeing on something isn’t an easy thing to do. It was my name on the record contract. It was me and Brian [Liesegang] with a computer. Brian was more of a producer. I wrote all the music and lyrics, and he put some over-dubs in and did all the sound design. Eventually, he started to really get into more of a Radiohead vibe, and I was like, “No, man, heavy! But I want to do ‘Take A Picture.’ So then Geno [Lenardo] was available, and he was a good guitar player, but there was something missing there, so I took a break. Then I worked with Dean DeLeo and Robert DeLeo in Army of Anyone. There have been a lot of amazing people I’ve worked with, but this [The Sun comes Out Tonight] was a very easy record to make. To me, this is the best Filter record because it was easy, and it was fun. I love “Welcome to the Fold” and “Take A Picture” and “Hey Man Nice Shot,” but there’s also this brand new territory, and this record feels like the beginning of a whole new level to the band.
Patrick: Why did you get away from the industrial electronica vibe that early Filter was known for? There was Short Bus, but then there was you work on The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack with “Jurrasitol” and “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do” with The Crystal Method on the Spawn soundtrack. That was all great stuff.
Richard: It was always a matter of who was around at the time. With Short Bus, I was trying to make a rock record because I didn’t want it to be, “Oh, he was in Nine Inch Nails, so he has to go sound like Nine Inch Nails.” I love electronics and stuff like that with Trent [Reznor] and Nine Inch Nails. We appreciated that together. I was inspired by Ministry. I was still embracing that when I was in my teens. He [Trent Reznor] liked Ministry, but he was at a level where he was not as influenced. I always loved it, but there are so many sides to my voice and the other palate I’ve come from as well, which is bands like U2 and The Clash…If a Radiohead record were on right now, I’d love to hear it. When “Take A Picture” and stuff like that happened, I wasn’t running from anything. I was exploring something new.
That’s kind of gotten us into trouble with Filter because some people are like, “Waitaminnit, ‘Take A Picture’ doesn’t sound like ‘Hey Man Nice Shot’. What happened to [you]?” We’re an album band. We’re not singles. When you listen to the album, it all makes sense. It all intertwines, and it’s all cohesive and makes sense. You can’t just take one scene from a movie and go, “Well, that’s the whole movie.” You have to watch the whole movie.
Patrick: Right. Because even Short Bus had “So Cool” at the end.
Richard: Yeah! It had “Stuck In Here,” too. That kind of stuff means a lot to us. Everyone can scream their asses off, and that’s why, with the heavy metal genre, they [fans] get angry when they [bands] lighten up. I listen to Pantera, but it didn’t shock me that they wanted to have some softer moments on their records, and I think that’s cool, too.
Patrick: While Filter is progressing, it has to be funny to see your fans progressing, from starting mosh-pits in the 90s to checking in on the babysitter these days.
Richard: Exactly. Here’s the reality. We played a festival just two days ago. We were standing in front of about 1o,000 people and, as an experiment, I did not announce the new stuff. I would just say something like, “This song is about getting f#%ked up on the internet!,” played it, and instantly the kids started moshing and going crazy, and the older people were like, “Is this…what? I don’t know if I’ve heard this?” But the kids were singing along already.
Patrick: Filter has been around for 18 years, at least, since Short Bus, and the band has been constantly changing around you. Some musicians would say, “F#%k it, we’re naming the band after me.” But you never did that.
Richard: You mean like Rob Zombie?
Patrick: Yeah…or Tom Petty even. How come you never did that?
Richard: It comes back to the fact that I always wanted it to be a band. I always wanted it to be collaborative. The reason why we used a drum machine on the first record was because the drummer that I wanted got into a fight and beat me up. So I was like, “Obviously we can’t use him.” And then we started listening to it and we’re like, “F#&k it. It’s ‘Land of Rape & Honey’ [by Ministry], man! It’s Big Black! We’re gonna keep the drum machine, man! We’re gonna make a rock record with a drum machine!” And it’s that crazy, youthful thing that turns it into that, but the reality of it was that I was devastated when Brian [Liesegang] and I broke up. I could have quite easily said, “It’s Richard Patrick” but that was never my intent. I wanted to hold true to the idea, especially after “Take A Picture,” that Filter is this thing that’s bigger-sounding than just one. Plus, the reason behind that name, to me, was that everybody’s life experiences are different, and it goes through the filter. The mind’s a filter. There’s the phenomenon and then there’s the brain that puts it all together.
Patrick: I saw you play, I think it was the Title of Record tour, around 2000 or 2001. The band just started rocking out an intro jam, and I was at the right spot to see you backstage in a black cowboy hat and sunglasses, just chilliing out and bobbing to the music. The first thing I thought of was, “This is a metal version of Bono!” Was that intentional?
Richard: I don’t think it is, but I think subconsciously it is. For some reason, that seeps in. I’ve even said it in interviews: “We’re the heavy version of U2.” Maybe it’s because the live shows are all about connecting. Maybe it’s because I like to mosh. I like to jump into the pit, and crowd-surf. That’s all stuff that I’ve seen Bono do since [forever]. Bono ran out into the audience and started getting in people’s faces. He broke a lot of rules, so it is an influence on me as a performer and as a musician. But I like to scream! And I don’t think I’m as cool. The new thing that we do now is I come out and sing “Happy Together,” and you’re used to hearing this song as this sweet love song. The way I sing it, it sounds like somebody is tied up and I’m about to blow their head off.
Our first video, I wore the most nerdy, old-man glasses you could have with a shaved head. You don’t have to be cool to be effective. That’s what the hair bands kind of over-did, so with the alternative kids like us, I didn’t want to be that rock star. And the goth kids were even showing up to Filter [shows], and they’d ask, “Why aren’t you guys all black?” We were trying to create a whole new thing where the creepy guy with the glasses is more dangerous and more authentic than the guy who has a billion tattoos and he’s rocked out and he has the head-band…AND HE’S REALLY TRYING. Whereas I just showed up in a pair of glasses that I bought at Sears. I asked James Iha [formerly of Smashing Pumpkins], “What did you think of that video we did?” And he said, “Dude, the moment I saw those glasses, I thought to myself, ‘How f#%kin bold is that?’” The spaz nerd glasses from Revenge of the Nerds makes an appearance in such a heavy song.
Patrick Emmel‘s only real activity in music was playing the clarinet from age 8-18 and singing horrible grunge love songs in the vein of Kurt Cobain while he was in high school. Then he got his tongue pierced and couldn’t do either, thankfully. You can see more of his work at www.theineptowl.com or heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.
Patrick last interviewed a more current member of Nine Inch Nails, drummer Ilan Rubin, on his new project The New Regime, and helped comedian Doug Stanhope make some beef stroganoff while interviewing him about dark comedy.