Filter’s Richard Patrick, who grew up in Bay Village, says he can remember wanting to play guitar since he was 4 or 5 years old. He didn’t actually pick up the instrument until he was 8 or 9 when his parents bought him the instrument.
“My dad had been playing a ton of music,” says Patrick via phone from his Los Angeles studio where he was working on music for a film soundtrack. “He played Neil Diamond, the Hot August Night
record. I remember being fascinated by the guitar. I asked my mom for an acoustic guitar. Little did I know that when parents hear ‘musical instrument,’ they think it’s good for you. When she gave it to me, it wasn’t that great, but it worked. I just started playing. For Christmas that year, I got an electric guitar. I remember parking on this little 7-watt amp and creating all this feedback. It’s exactly what I do now for movie scores but on a technical level.”
His noisemaking went against the grain in Bay Village, which he says was “a little conservative.”
“My father was a banker, but my mom was rebellious and my brother Robert was very rebellious,” he says. “I told my mother I wanted to die my hair black and wear combat boots. She said, ‘Alright. You’re doing the punk rock thing.' My mother is this amazing Southern Belle from Little Rock. She told me to be myself and be different.”
He started listening to industrial rockers Skinny Puppy and eventually met Trent Reznor through a variety of bands that Reznor was in, one of which was the Exotic Birds. He eventually joined Nine Inch Nails, which wound up with a deal on TVT Records that Patrick says is “a case study on what not to do.”
“My friend teaches at UCLA and they go over his record contract as one of the worst," he says. "It’s really the publishing for his first three records that he got screwed on. The songs were owned for perpetuity, which means forever. It was a disaster.”
Still, NIN became an industrial rock success. While Reznor became iconic, Patrick lived in his parents’ basement. Destitute, he eventually grew discontent.
“Trent had this huge house and cars and everything,” he says. “They were paying me $400 a month. It was brutal. It was like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ I was 26 years old. They suggested I deliver pizzas [to make ends meet]. They told me it would put some money in my pockets. They were treating me like this guy who had nothing to offer. It would have been great if I had been on [Reznor’s] Nothing Records and made them a bunch of money.”
Patrick, who signed with Warner Bros. Records, would split from the band and form Filter in Chicago, where he lived for 8 years before moving to Los Angeles, where he now lives.
“My entire life since that moment has been from a position of utter freedom,” he says.
Patrick says Warner Bros. became an attractive option because of the way the label treated alt-rockers Jane’s Addiction.
“They were an amazing band that did whatever they wanted,” he says. “They technically never had a hit until ‘Been Caught Stealing.’ You could tell the label didn’t demand they write hits.”
Patrick says he sat in “a little house in Rocky River” and recorded a bunch of songs including the first Filter single, “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” which became a massive success, and the group continued to reap success throughout the ’90s. Though the line-up has changed countless times, Patrick remains a constant.
After releasing 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight
, the band toured relentlessly and even played Cleveland twice in the course of promoting the album. Before long, Patrick got the itch to go back to the studio to record Crazy Eyes
, which just came out this month.
“We toured for about a year and then I went into the studio and the label said, 'I want to make another album,'" he says. "I just like putting records out as quickly as I can. Records are getting easier and easier to make. I cannot believe how instrumental Pledgemusic.com was in finding out what the fans wanted. They adored the heavier, crazier Richard. I’m speaking third person because that guy was completely different than the guy I am now. I like dangerous, drunken Richard. He’s still there. He just doesn’t use alcohol.”
The album suggests a sound that Patrick has described as “new industrial.” It commences with “Mother E,” a song characterized by distorted vocals and pummeling drums. “The City of Blinding Riots” features howling vocals and industrial-strength synthesizers as it recalls Downward Spiral
-era Nine Inch Nails. On the song “Under the Tongue,” he tried to record the bass and a click track. He got the chorus right but screwed up the song and played two chug-a-lug bars in frustration. He liked the imperfections so much that he decided to keep them.
“I’m not necessarily the greatest musician in the world – we’re not all Dave Grohls out here,” says Patrick. “The world doesn’t need ten million Dave Grohls. The world needs Neil Youngs. Look at how bad American Idol
has become. They chisel you away and take away all the eccentricities that are you and make another soulful perfect sounding singer with no mistakes. That’s the problem. The beauty of punk rock and rock ’n’ roll is that you need three chords and the truth. You can be not that great of a musician. Look at Pere Ubu. They were fucking tripped out. Look at Chrissie Hynde. Look at the Black Keys. Ninety percent is attitude.”
Filter, Orgy, Vampires Everywhere, Death Valley High, Impending Lies, 6 p.m. Friday, April 22, Agora Ballroom, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Tickets: $20 ADV, $24 DOS, agoracleveland.com.