Interview: Filter’s Richard Patrick talks 2017 Oz tour with Ministry!

This September, Australian industrial fans are going to be treated to one mother of a double-header in the form of the mighty Ministry and the fantastic Filter who will be playing dates in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Last year’s highly acclaimed Crazy Eyes features a dozen of Filter’s most intense and mature songs to date, including singles Take Me to Heaven and Mother E. Thanks to our good friend, John Howarth of Nuclear Blast, we had an in-depth chat with the band’s extraordinarily candid, authentic singer, Richard Patrick, who opened up about everything from the new material to the tour with Ministry, his musical beginnings, and his enduring fortitude in maintaining sobriety. 

SR: Crazy Eyes is a fantastic album and one of my personal favourites from your catalogue. How have audiences been responding to the latest material?

RP: Pride Flag was amazing. That was like the best song to write for our friends and family who are LGBTQ and it really goes over well. And Nothing in My Hands, written for Walter Scott – I’m really proud of that song. Oh, Mother E is scary (laughs). I sang that at a nice thing called Sunfest in Florida. I’m sittin’ there singin’, you know, (screams) ‘Motherrrrrrr!!!!’ at the top of my lungs and scared small children. I was like, ‘Well, someone has to write it’, you know? Someone has to have the heavy, someone has to bring the darkness, and our music reflects all that. Crazy Eyes is awesome. It’s really fun to perform and when we come with Ministry, we’re going to play a lot of it. Everyone needs to brush up and prepare themselves for Crazy Eyes, because we’re going to play a lot of it.

SR: Well, I’m well and truly ready. I’m actually sitting here wearing a Filter t-shirt while I’m talking to you.

RP: (Cheers loudly).

SR: What are your favourite Filter songs of all time and why?

RP: You know, Hey Man, Nice Shot. That was my fave. Here I am, I’m a young 25 – a very late bloomer. My boy, Trent (Reznor), is driving his fucking $500,000 Porsche and showing me there’s a great place down there at the end of the street, you know? ‘Maybe you could deliver pizzas if you need extra money’. I’m like, ‘Boy, dude, I’ve gotta fuckin’ split. I can’t stay here.’ It was my escape pad from the thuggery of a rich guy who wasn’t gonna give it up for anybody. And I love Trent, but damn, dude. He told me, ‘You want some of my stuff? Go write a record.’ So, I went, ‘All right.’ Then, when I did Take a Picture, it was about so many things, but now the song feels that it’s for my father and trying to help him. I miss him and he’s dead. You know, Jurassitol’s about how old men send young men off to fight wars. It didn’t necessarily have to start off about that. There’s all kinds of good stuff that I like doing.

SR: You’re known for wearing your heart on your sleeve and sharing very personal experiences. Is that ever daunting, or is it liberating to be able to be so open?

RP: It’s scary as shit! You know, I’d love to be calculated and ‘Oh, I’m not going to say anything about this because it’s too personal.’ There’s nothing brave about that. I would rather tell it like it is than be just doing it for the money. I mean Bono fucking talked and said what he needed to say. Bon Jovi wanted to kick back and talk about bullshit – regular shit, you know? Bono was like, ‘You know – I grew up in fucking war-torn Ireland’, you know? And Bon Jovi was like, ‘I want to live on a prayer and speak in euphemisms’. I mean, there was a certain inauthenticity to that whole hair band thing. I mean, be like Joe Strummer: tell it like it is. He’s the idol. And I remember when he was being picked on by David Lee Roth. They were like, ‘What do you think of The Clash?’ and he was like (adopts pretentious tone) ‘the problem with The Clash is they don’t know how to have a good time.’ I’d rather have Joe Strummer telling me something obscure about England. I mean, it was like London Calling – what the fuck is that?! What the fuck?! I’m 14 and I’m living in Cleveland, Ohio. What the fuck is London Calling?! You know? And Guns of Brixton! What the fuck is that?! (Sings a few bars). Holy shit! What are they talking about? I don’t know, man! It’s crazy! But it spoke to me. I mean, I don’t know anything about England. (Yells) ‘Goddamn it! I’m a fuckin’ Clevelander!’

SR: Music can be such an education growing up. It’s amazing what you absorb from lyrics.

RP: Yeah! And they just got their dicks out and said, ‘We’re talking about this shit’, and I like that.

SR: Filter’s music is so wide-ranging in terms of style, Richard. You go from hook-ridden, radio-friendly tunes right through to really savage industrial. Do you have a personal preference, or do you need the variety?

RP: Well it’s hard to promote. One of my record company presidents goes, ‘Dude, you’re making it kind of hard to promote. There are girls, or middle-aged ladies, coming up for Take a Picture. They get there and they get bludgeoned by Welcome to the Fold and Hey Man, Nice Shot.’ I come from the alternative world and it’s a big, huge category. It’s a big emotional palette. See, and that’s the thing. I can do so much with my voice: I can sing really soft, like a choirboy, and I can sing really heavy, like a crazed lunatic. And that’s the thing – I kind of want to be able to enjoy that. So Take a Picture, or Surprise, the song on The Sun Comes Out Tonight, that means a lot to me. It’s a pretty, luscious-sounding song. What makes it aggressive is that it’s telling you what alcohol feels like. It’s sonically telling you what it feel like when alcohol first hits your brain, and the same with drugs. So the lie is that the song is pretty. The truth is that alcoholism sucks and that it’s a lie. It’s a gorgeous bed of music with these insanely intense lyrics about the most humiliating time I ever had – being drunk on an airplane.

SR: A lot of your material does tackle dark subject matter. In Mother E, which you mentioned earlier, there’s the line ‘I’ve got nothing but rage to kill the pain.’ Has sobriety made it easier or harder for you to access those depths?

RP: It’s easy to tap into now because I’ve been to performance classes; and, as opposed to just being crazy, I spend time recalling the craziness and anger and passion that I used to have when I’d be drunk and arrested and thrown in the back of a fucking cop car. I can recall the anger. I can recall being beat up and punched around when I was a kid – with recall and the right kind of performance classes, whether it’s acting or voiceover – I take a lot of classes just for the fun of it. For me to be enraged for Mother E? It was easy for me to tap into it. Obviously the music plays a bit part. Oumi Kapila actually helped me. He’s from Perth and he’s an amazing musician. He co-wrote some of the music on Crazy Eyes.

SR: And you’ve got your drummer, Chris, who’s also originally from Perth. We’ve always sort of taken your lead, so there’s not much difference between Australia and the States, but have you discovered any amusing cultural differences?

RP: Well, Chris is a very, very funny person. He studies the American accent, because he does voiceover stuff. And I study the Australian accent. We get into these things where he’s trying to sound American and I’m trying to sound Australian. And it’s like I’ve turned into Crocodile Dundee, and, for some reason his American is a bit feminine. (Adopts camp tone and elongates vowels) ‘So, thaaaat’s Richaaard and heee taaaalks a bit like thiiiiiss.’ And then I’ll be all (adopts broad Aussie accent) “Oh mate, you know how it is, mate”’ (continues to riff). So we’re always trying to riff on each other and have fun. The cultural difference is every minute with us. We are American and Australian a lot. It’s a constant thing. And I mean, Australia’s the kind of place you want to retire to.

SR: Oh, as in come here to die?

RP: No, it’s like when Trump starts World War 3, are you guys gonna let us in? How are you going to handle the American refugee problem when Trump sends us into a war with North Korea, for God’s sake?

SR: Well speaking of coming here, we know all about your tour with Ministry, of course. How did that come about and what are your feelings about it?

RP: Someone said ‘Would you tour with Ministry in Australia?’ and it was like a point zero zero one response time of ‘Yes!’ I will never forget the day when Trent Reznor and I were standing next to each other at the Revolting Cocks sound check sometime in 1987. He said, ‘You see that guy?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah’. And he goes, ‘That guy right there is Al Jourgensen and he wrote this record called Twitch. Unfuckinbelievable. He’s my fuckin’ idol.’ Al Jourgensen is the inspiration behind Nine Inch Nails and Filter and the list goes on. But the tour. Yeah, it’s me hopefully prepping the stage for the real deal, Ministry.

SR: It’s a fantastic double-header. What sort of relationship have you had with Al and Ministry to date?

RP: It’s one of respect and admiration. I remember being kind of stupid and crazy when I was younger, and I probably have to make some amends. I haven’t talked to him in years. He’s obviously just a massive genius and whatever he needs, I’ll be right there for him.’

SR: The last time I spoke with you, you were working on a movie score that you couldn’t talk about at the time, which we know was for True Crimes.

RP: True Crimes and there’s another one called Last Rampage – The Escape of Gary Tyson. That one stars my brother and I think it comes out it comes out in September or October. I don’t know, but we’re going to release the music and let it breathe. And yeah, then there’s True Crimes. We’re waiting for them to come out so we can finally say, ‘There it is.’

SR: Do you want to do more of that sort of work in future?

RP: Absolutely. I love scoring. You get to hang out with more creative people. It’s just another audience, but different. There’s a bit where my song comes on at the end of Last Rampage and people cry. It works so well with the actors and the scene and the writing and the direction. It’s like, ‘Oh, okay – I’m the guy who made you cry a little bit at the end of this movie.’ So, it’s cool. I love doing it. I love working.

SR: Aside from the Ministry tour, what else have you got planned for 2017? Any downtime at all?

RP: Oh, there’s always a little downtime. The tour is only about four cities big or something. That’s a week. I come home and I’m pretty much right back hanging out with my kids. I’m just enjoying this thing where I’m staying at home more than flying to shows, and not going on big huge tours. I’m actually doing that a lot more, because there’s way less travel and I don’t have to be gone for months at a time.

SR: Do you have a message you’d like to send out to your Aussie fans ahead of the tour?

RP: This is IT! WE are coming, and we don’t know when we’re coming back. For God’s sake, we don’t even know if we’re going to be alive – I hate to say it. Anything can happen. My friend Chris Cornell just passed away. I can’t even believe it. If you’ve heard good things about Filter in the last ten years and you want to see us, get out there, ‘cause God knows… I mean, I don’t mean to sound morbid or anything, but I just feel a little sad. My buddy passed away and I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. It’s just blown me away.

SR: Yeah, I read your post where you said he saved your life as a sobriety buddy actually. When was the last time you got to see him?

RP: Years. It was an Audioslave tour. And he’s got kids, I’ve got kids. You grow up and you grow apart. But for that 28 days, he was right there with me, keeping an eye on me. You know, when you’re an alcoholic, you feel like no one’s going to understand you; and then, on top of that, there’s the fact that I’m this rock singer. People just assume, like, ‘Oh, you’re a rock star! Everything must be great!’ But it’s not if you don’t have any self-control. When I got to rehab, there was Chris Cornell saying ‘By the way, it sucks. It sucks, period. And I’m two or three days ahead of you.’ But it’s better to be sober than it is to be wasted. You know, my brain’s trying to kill itself. My brain is trying to hurt me. It’s diseased. It’s dysfunctional. I have to fight that, and the only way I can do it is by being sober and kind of remembering, ‘Hey dude, you’ll never be normal. You’re always going to be a weirdo and you’ve got to be okay with that and find happiness in there.’

SR: Do you think having kids rescues from that, somewhat?

RP: No, ‘cause I can ruin their lives. The only thing that kind of rescues me is other alcoholics. It’s someone going five days and trying to make six, and me going, ‘Dude, you can get it, you can do it.’ That’s what saves me: hanging out with other alcoholics. And my kids have a better life because I’m just a better dad.


***MINISTRY + FILTER: 2017 Tour Dates***
Monday 25th SeptemberPerth – Astor Theatre
Tuesday 26th SeptemberAdelaide – The Gov
Wednesday 27th SeptemberSydney – Metro Theatre * Sold Out, Second Show On Sale Now
Saturday 30th SeptemberMelbourne – Forum Theatre *
Sunday 1st October Brisbane – The Tivoli *