It's been four years since the release of Short Bus, the platinum-selling debut album by Filter, the proto-metal outfit founded by Richard Patrick. Two of those years were spent on a worldwide touring campaign in support of the album and its controversial single, "Hey Man, Nice Shot." Lesser artists might have taken two years off just to indulge in some slacker-styled complacency. Album number two? Why not rehash some old ideas, write some songs about how hard it is being a "rock star," and throw in a cover version of your favorite '80's hit just to make the powers-that-be at radio tingle? But this is Richard Patrick we're talking about. When the time came to begin work on Title Of Record, Patrick set out to write about the most intense subjects he could at the timeČreal life, his life and what it had become.
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"The song 'I'm Not The Only One' I wrote ten minutes after I put my fist through a wall," remembers Patrick. "I had to go to the hospital to get stitches. I recorded the track, and when I played it for my manager, he asked me, 'What are you singing in that verse?' And I'm like, 'I don't know what I'm sayin'...' I was living the moment, confused and bewildered over a girl who was cruel to me. And my manger says, 'Well, why don't you fix this?' I was standing in front of a microphone with a bleeding hand, and I'm like, 'You don't get it, do you?'" Indeed, most normal people don't "get" Richard Patrick. The high-school jocks who made fun of him as a punk-rock teen in Ohio didn't "get" him. And later on, in 1994, when Patrick left his position as lead guitarist and punching bag for Trent Reznor in Nine Inch Nails, critics and fans wondered why anybody would leave one of the hottest rock bands on the planet. ("I did what anybody else would do. Before you leave a job, you better make sure you have a new one.") Call it an old-fashioned Midwest work ethic, or chalk it up to sheer determination, but when Patrick told reporters back then that his next project would be "less Wax Trax!, more Sub Pop," a reference to eschewing the electronic environs of NIN in favor of a heavy guitar-centered approach, he was going to see his muse to its logical conclusion.
"Fans of Filter are fans because I am my own person," says Richard. "They don't give a shit about what I'm wearing, or what I think is cool. My life is about Filter. If the kids dig it, great; if they don't dig it because I'm not wearing a gold chain, I don't care. I've never had a plan. All I believe in is writing music and articulating my own opinion out of millions of opinions and seeing if anyone else agrees." Patrick had written all of the 11 tracks that would end up on Short Bus, including the single, "Hey Man, Nice Shot." Patrick enlisted the help of his friend Brian Liesegang, whom he originally met on the set of a NIN video. Richard and Brian retired to a rented house in Patrick's hometown of Bay Village, Ohio, to record the album. Liesegang was an exceptional programmer and had interesting production ideas that involved everything from miking up malfunctioning toilets to splicing in answering-machine messages from drunken buddies. The result was an album that peppered Patrick's visceral straight-ahead rock riffage and chilling vocal howl with Liesegang's penchant for incongruent found-sounds and production techniques. The duo were labeled everything from "art-school Black Sabbath" to "idiot-savants for a slacker generation," a description that made the duo bristle.
Short Bus was met with that rare combination of critical acclaim and diehard fan loyalty. Richard was still very much his own person and his harshest critic. Filter headlined their own shows as well as supporting White Zombie in the States, and worked hard to win over European crowds during the band's opening slot on the massive Smashing Pumpkins tour. There were nights on the road where Rich thought the band didn't deliver the goods. On those particular occasions, he would hide out in the touring coach away from the fans, refusing to sign autographs because he felt it was dishonest to be given respect and admiration for the wrong reasons.
After the touring regimen in support of the album, Patrick and Liesegang contributed a song to the Crow 2 soundtrack ("Jurassitol"), and teamed up with bold electronica duo The Crystal Method for the single from the soundtrack to the movie Spawn, "Can You Trip Like I Do?" Both soundtracks have gone platinum.
On the surface it looked like things were going well, but real life sneaked up on Patrick. A member of the audience at an Arizona show sued him, claiming she was hit in the face with a beer can that Richard allegedly threw from the stage (the case was settled out of court, with the judge telling Patrick at the trial's end, "Richard, my kids love your music, go back to Chicago and make a new record," before slamming down her gavel). On the creative front, Liesegang began to make more artistic demands, wanting to record his songs for inclusion on the next album. At the time, Rich felt that Brian's songs were too experimental within the context of Filter. Brian severed his relationship with Rich. In hindsight, Patrick admits that he was trying to be politically correct.
"Brian had an opportunity to go out on the road," he recalls. "He wanted to do interviews, and I said, 'Go ahead, you like to gab.' He used to complain that he wasn't in the videos enough. He was my friend, and I said, 'fine, whatever.' But when it came time to write songs, his songs weren't very good. All I wanted him to do was to program and co-produce. When it came time to do the record, I told him to assume the position behind the computer. He wasn't about that, and obviously, it wasn't going to work. His production skills were quite good. But whatever kind of production hat you put on a project, you still have to have songs, melodies and lyrics. Brian left the band to get a record deal. I wish him luck."
Patrick spent the next two years writing songs, building his studio in a Chicago loft apartment (hanging drywall, painting, waiting for the utility companies to turn the gas and electricity on) and "waiting to see who was coming back." Returning for active duty were bassist Frank Cavanaugh and guitarist Geno Lenardo. Soon after their return, Patrick found time to contribute a cover of Three Dog Night's venerable track "One" to the soundtrack of the X-Files movie, and search for a new stick man. Quickly the soundtrack went gold, and soon drummer Steve Gillis was enlisted from the Chicago underground. Patrick was now ready to put his life on tape. Readying co-producer Ben Grosse (the mixman behind all Filter recorded output to date), and programmer Rae Dileo, work quickly began. "I think records should be like biographies," he says. "I don't think that there should be a cute song for the kiddies. If it's coming from my perspective, the kids have got to learn something. This record is a snapshot of the past two years. This is what I've lived, maybe I can pass something on to someone else." To begin Title Of Record, Patrick sends electric shocks into listeners' synapses with "Welcome To The Fold," the opus that sets the course for the emotional EKG ride of the rest of the record. "Captain Bleigh" is another pulse-pounding rocker, modeled after the historical tale of the Mutiny On The Bounty. The title is a metaphor alluding to the failed relationships that Patrick had been through, professionally, socially and personally. "Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian were a perfect team. They were so close to being great, but their egos were just out of control," says Richard. "That song is about a bunch of people." The anthemic "The Best Things" accelerates from metal fury to electro-gothic tension, ramming home Patrick's staunch refusal of allowing other people to project their values on him.
Guitarist Lenardo wanted to contribute more to the Filter canon than just showing up for recording, rehearsals and gigs. Patrick was hesitant at first, the memories of trying to "play well with others" still firmly entrenched in his consciousness. But after a while, Patrick realized that Lenardo's motivations were as honest and real as his own. The fruit of their collaboration includes "Skinny," a song that mixes acoustic honesty within a dense wall of guitars, ending with a Led Zeppelinesque majesty, and the tense "It's Gonna Kill Me," where the subtle electronic drum-and-bass pulsings under the crashing chords heighten an already unhinged atmosphere.
"Geno wanted to write for the band and I was put off by that," Patrick admits. "But his attitude was 'You're the boss, and I'm gonna do what I can to realize your musical vision.' He had to see what I liked doing with my own music. He thought, 'What would Rich do?' He ditched all his effects pedals and just played through his Marshall stack. His songwriting embodies the spirit of Short Bus with a completely different vibe over it. He didn't demand to be in videos or interviews. He came through the back door, the proper door, and said, 'This is my music, can you work with it?' I'm proud to say that he is in this band." But Title Of Record isn't all about guard-dog snarling, Generation X angst, and how loud Patrick can record his guitar. "Take A Picture" is an acoustic track that details how Patrick found some clarity in his life after a hedonistic episode on a commercial air flight. And on the album's closing tracks, "I'm Not The Only One" and "Miss Blue," Patrick details the pain of a crumbling relationship. Some fans may find it hard to believe that the aching psychedelic folk of "Miss Blue" actually came out of Patrick. And that's fine with him.
"'Miss Blue' had to come out. I listen to that track now and I think, 'Jesus Christ, I was way in love at that time...' I remember that after each take I had to tell the engineer to stop the tape and hold on for five minutes because it was so emotionally draining. "Some people may listen [to that song] and think, 'Why isn't he banging his head?' Those people want me to be 25, pissed off at Trent Reznor and the world. But that's just one song out of ten. But when it comes to the hard stuff, you're damn right I'm going to sing about getting sued, and all the failed relationships and deceit and shit like that. This whole record is where you are going to find out who Richard Patrick is." It's been well over two years since Richard Patrick has been on a rock and roll stage, so new rock fans will be re-introduced to Filter when they embark on a worldwide tour in the Fall. And although Filter's sense of pummeling rock fury has been welcomed by these fans of "new metal," Patrick doesn't necessarily need to be welcomed into that particular fold. "This is the quintessential record of who we are as people," resigns Patrick. "We don't have a schtick. It's great that rock is making this resurgence and it feels like a good time to release a rock record ( but I'm certainly not 'new metal.'"
With Title Of Record, Patrick made an ambitious attempt to filter out all of the extra-musical things that have nothing to do with the stuff that comes out of the speakers. In an age where musicians feel they have to placate the expectations of fickle fans, staid radio playlists and participate in the pathetic victories of style over substance, Richard Patrick remembers that artists do have responsibilities. "Every word that you hear on this album, I lived through personally," he says. "I think that's what is lacking in music today, the lack of the human emotion. Being a musician gives you the responsibility to create musical journeys. That's what all my favorite bands did for me. If there's a kid in Ames, Iowa, who hears my record and says, 'I can do that,' I'm stoked that I was a catalyst for him. I have a responsibility; and it's not to talk bullshit."
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