By Lauren Rothman
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, philosopher, co-inventor of calculus and one of Isaac Newton’s most formidable rivals, declared that we live in the best of all possible worlds. He also proclaimed that all matter is made up of angels, which lends an exceptional perspective to the profound, exquisite songs and multifaceted implications that can be applied to the title of Filter’s latest album, “The Trouble With Angels”, released August 17th, 2010.
Were Leibniz alive and spouting his philosophy today, Richard Patrick, Filter’s central nervous system and front man, would probably get into a spirited debate with him, then go to band rehearsal. While he can’t claim to have given birth to calculus, Richard has given the world a gold mine of inimitable musical contributions through Filter (as well as the equivalent of music connoisseur’s wet dream, Army of Anyone, with Robert and Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots), and has no intention of slowing down. He has a wicked sense of humor and a booming laugh. He is quick to exclaim gregariously how much he loves his life, which includes a family (wife, kids, cats, siblings, parents), band mates, friends, and making music. Richard Patrick is prone to volleying astute observations about the world around him while talking; he knows what he likes and is just as quick to tell you what he could do without. From religious hypocrisy (he sides with science and is a self-avowed Atheist), the repetitive and ultimately destructive nature of drug addiction, the innate splendor of being alive, and how profoundly involved he is with Filter’s fan base.
Having spent a lot of time with Richard’s voice via headphones since the release of “Short Bus” and in passing around Los Angeles over the years , I was ecstatic to speak to Richard on the telephone one-on-one, especially after witnessing Filter put The Roxy’s stage through a grueling endurance drill on August 26th during The Sunset Strip Music Festival in West Hollywood, California.
What’s the deeper meaning of “The Trouble With Angels”?
All the crazy shit that has brought Richard Patrick to where and who he is today, that’s what.
“Drug Boy loves the night.”
Drug Boy, “The Trouble With Angels”
The morning after is another case entirely.
Without incriminating myself, I know the morning after intimately.
Filter’s versatility and robust sound greatly influenced and embodied my own fusion of cynicism laced with optimism, disdain for authority, and love of asking questions, be they grand or flippant, besides figuring out what the hell I was supposed to do with myself in life. Filter left an indelible imprint on me. After encountering his music, I felt like Richard Patrick was saying a lot of my words for me.
I had to know what else he was going to say.
The first time I met Richard Patrick in passing was at the age of 13 at the Burbank Oakwood apartment complex, a gated enclave of blocky, interminable apartment buildings, each represented by a letter of the alphabet. It’s usually populated by a repository of recording artists, pilot season imports, and people who inexplicably just live there, perhaps because the on-site clubhouse comes alive at night with a variety of celebrities, their entourages, and those just happy to bask in the presence of emanating fame. It wasn’t uncommon to see Richard roving around the premises, along with Stabbing Westward and The Wu Tang Clan during the months that I lived in building ‘L’. I recall his wild-eyed gaze well. His brother, Robert, highly visible for a variety of acting roles, above all an iconic turn in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, accompanied him frequently.
When recounting a night near the stairwell of my building on my way home from an audition only to encounter a highly intoxicated ‘Ol Dirty Bastard offering me a joint (which I staunchly refused) to Richard, he is audibly aghast. The late 90′s encompassed the tail-end of Richard’s wilderness years, wherein he would disappear and get loaded on a bouquet of substances under the cover of night.
The cover of “The Trouble With Angels” showcases his sobriety date – ’2809′ for September 28th of 2002.
Not one to shy away from controversy or anything with any of the instruments at his disposal, Richard’s voice becomes decidedly more solemn when he confides that the sentiments in “Drug Boy” are strongly linked to inebriated rampages of the past and an incident involving a Filter fan and an online suicide note. (“You’re trying to help me, and all I’m thinking, it’s just the biggest waste of time.”)
Richard is adamant that if there’s even a question of substance abuse in one’s life, there’s no fucking doubt about it, and your family and friends are already in the know, despite the penchant for denial that goes along with drug dependency. He gets to the point of what nurtures the essence of compulsion swiftly, and it’s no wonder why the lyrics that reflect his intrinsic knowledge of turmoil draw Filter enthusiasts to contact him in a bid to discuss their own experiences with excess. Richard takes as much time out of his rigorous schedule as he can to keep in touch with Filter devotees, especially when it comes to those seeking a template of better living without chemicals. “It’s the sense of community, the fellowship that’s important to me”, he says eagerly.
Now that he’s on the sober side of things, he cites Hunter S. Thompson – for a brief period of time, when one imbibes slightly, in turn uncovering seemingly-hidden inspiration, there’s luster and appeal before it turns into the inevitable madness of constantly copping and consuming. The dazzling, disconcerting opening track “The Inevitable Relapse” is a testimonial to the blurry line between love and loathing under the influence. This is a theme dear to his heart, and Philip K Dick wrote about it passionately in “A Scanner Darkly”, one of the few works written without his customary array of mind-altering drugs on tap. Doing drugs isn’t courageous, but surviving, and living to tell after being roped in by their allure is.
“I got so much shit for putting Auto-Tune in the verses.” he remarks, to which I opine the choice as a rarely intelligent use of what is otherwise an off-putting tactic. It brings an unnatural, buzzed ambiance to the track before the chorus and trademark scream brings you back to earth, only to return in the next verse, like that shot you forgot you downed abruptly collapsing the ground beneath your feet, or a line that goes down the throat with an arctic freeze. There’s an impact when the track breaks down on a single beat. It’s horrifyingly effective.
“If you’re not blowing your own mind, what’s the point?”
- Richard Patrick
On “The Trouble With Angels”, Richard has found his voice in a variety of ways; the rebel yell of 1995′s “Short Bus” is present, but this time it’s married with the melodic, plaintive vocals that were prevalent on 2008′s “Anthems for the Damned”. After I tell him that I think the album’s sound is a snapshot of Filter’s musical evolution and a sonic depiction of how he’s come into his own as a man, he asks my opinion of “Plume”, the deluxe album’s ethereal closing track. The composition of “Plume” has more in common with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Jeff Buckley’s catalog than “Welcome to the Fold”. Richard still knows writes and performs jaunty anthems punctuated with his characteristic bellow, as exhibited on “No Love” (a possibility for the album’s second single), “Shot from the Sun” (off the album’s deluxe edition), and “Absentee Father”, his vocal capacity is unfurled on “The Trouble With Angels”. The crescendo of “No Re-Entry” imparts impeccable vulnerability, and the effect is jarring, pleading, and visceral. “Catch a Falling Knife” and “Down With Me” embody Hurricane Richard, Category 5. Bob Marlette’s production and collaboration have brought out the most prismatic components in Filter yet.
There’s a compelling new mix of “Fades Like A Photograph”, which originally appeared on the soundtrack to the film “2012”; it serves as a bridge to the additional material on the deluxe album, and is the standard release’s swan-song. At his most tender, Richard’s vocals have hues similar to Chris Cornell; at his most vicious, a pacing, caged beast. The merits of the deluxe release constitutes Clayton Worbeck’s masterful remix of “The Inevitable Relapse”, “Drowning”, “My Life Before”, “Shot from the Sun”, and the graceful “Plume”. (Spring for the deluxe release or it’s your own fault for missing out on astonishing material.) Every track sounds cinematic – Richard could probably score film soundtracks exclusively if he ever hangs Filter up; he’s set on touring with Filter for as long as he possibly can, but his flair for song composition is one of “The Trouble With Angel’s” most outstanding accomplishments.
Despite the radical departure of style and theme on “Anthems for the Damned”, which was a heartrending focused on Richard’s political outlook, an album with architecture far more symphonic than “Short Bus”. Richard laughs,“we get compared to Disturbed a lot, not that they don’t do what they do well”, which could very well be a geographic association regarding Chicago, Illinois; Chi-Town’s musical syndicate can claim members of Ministry, Urge Overkill, Styx, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Big Black, and the aforementioned Disturbed for her own; Chicago possessed Richard for about for eight years.
Clayton Worbeck’s take on “The Inevitable Relapse” is even more discombobulating and claustrophobic than the final mix that introduces “The Trouble With Angels”. It’s almost sensory overload, harder, more menacing, tighter, filthier, and a reminder that even though Richard is capable of writing tracks that resemble lullabies, he’s fully equipped to get in your face and go off hard. I enthusiastically submit 2008′s release, “Remixes for the Damned”, a companion-piece to “Anthems for the Damned” complete with pithy, tongue-in-cheek titles like “What’s Next (The Art of Lying to Yourself)”, “The Take (Rumsfeld Torture Party)”, and “In Dreams (Chase the White Rabbit Into Pakistan)”; Filter does not fuck around with remixes, there is no such thing as a throwaway release with their name attached to it. “Remixes” takes the original “Themes” to another level, giving a shot for the masses to catch another interpretation of some of Filter’s most overlooked songs.
“I’d like to break free from here.
It’s gotten clear,
the reasons have smeared.”
- Soldiers of Misfortune, “Anthems for the Damned”
“Anthems for the Damned” is more than Richard’s petulance for the war in Iraq. It’s also a salutation to Army Sergeant Justin Eyerly’s legacy.
Before attaining rank, he was an inquisitive kid from Salem, Oregon with a desire to master computers and a website dedicated to Filter. He died while serving his country in Baghdad, Iraq, at age 23 on June 4th, 2004.
Richard speaks of Sgt. Eyerly with great fondness, his predicament similar to a number of American soldiers abroad: the promise of an education that he couldn’t afford without serving the military took Sgt. Eyerly to Iraq, and like too many men and women, his mortality was taken from him in the blink of an eye in a country he didn’t inhabit. Richard has hope that President Obama will use wisdom and sound judgment navigating the rough waters tendered by the Bush administration. He condemns the basis on the reasons for the war in Iraq, but will be heading to the Persian Gulf region to perform for the troops again. In 2008, Frank Cavanagh, bassist for Filter from 1995 – 2002, now a Sergeant in the US Army Reserve, played “Hey Man, Nice Shot” with Filter for an audience of elated troops in Kuwait for Operation: MySpace.
Sgt. Justin Eyerly’s name won’t be forgotten nor the loss of his life rationalized. His name is emblazoned on “Soldiers of Misfortune (Justin Eyerly)” in tribute, one of the most haunting works undertaken by the band thus far. The stark first verse unfolds into a lush, resonant final chorus, replete with soaring guitars and the sorrowful utterance of the song’s concluding lyrics.
I won’t come back,
when it’s over
- Soldiers of Misfortune, “Anthems for the Damned”
“They outlawed science!”
- Richard Patrick
The day I spoke to Richard, we cheered President Obama’s newly-announced pledge to bring more U.S. soldiers home – but what really gets his goat and can’t sell it back cheap is the hypocrisy and unimpeachable authority of organized religion. There’s no going back in time and rewriting history; Socrates was sentenced to drink hemlock after falling afoul of the Athenian King Archon for his convictions. Galileo Galilei used a newly invented technology, the telescope, to prove Nicolaus Copernicus and Heliocentric Theory true, only for the Catholic Church’s Inquisition to act as judge, jury, and jailer all in one, which sounds more like an unholy trinity than anything else. That’s why there’s trouble with angels.
The title track’s lyrics, a taunt likely delivered with a smirk, include “Did you hear the one about heaven? There’s a guy that’s running the sky”, setting the tone for a castigating rant against an institution Richard feels has done more to damn a variety of righteous people and not enough to decry a bounty of crimes against humanity. His brazen lyrics assert that Filter’s not making music to please any deity, Filter is for human beings processing their emotions and investigating the fabric of reality.
Richard does not believe any Sky Bully is watching over his behavior. He appreciates common sense, science, and science fiction, so the Church’s stance on science as a dark art akin to sorcery doesn’t fly with him. “They outlawed science!”, he cries. The destruction of the Library of Alexandria is something that angers him, yet another boon of history lost in antiquity. The Synoptic Gospels don’t cut it for this man. When fans come together to debate the quandary of religion on Filter forums, he lavishes praise upon their intelligence, thanking them for a wonderful discussion. It’s just another demonstration of Richard’s commitment to participating in society where loyalty, friendly patronage, and free-thinking are the keys to the kingdom of authenticity. It’s an earthly domain; take a seat, kick your feet up, stay awhile. In Los Angeles, it isn’t uncommon to catch a glimpse of Kevin Lee Light, a native curiosity donning the robe, sandals, and facial hair stylings of Jesus Christ, but that’s the only Jesus Richard believes he will ever see on terra firma.
“I love my life.”
– Richard Patrick
Some familiar faces were visible at Filter’s Sunset Strip Music Festival gig. Anyone who’s spent ample time at On The Rox recently know Phil Buckman, from L.A.’s own Petty Cash and ONESIDEZERO. Phil’s currently playing bass in Filter and looks jubilant about it. The Crystal Method, Filter’s collaborator’s from “The Spawn” soundtrack, rolled in and rocked out. Robert Patrick, Richard’s big brother, showed up and happily embraced the fine art of inciting a mosh pit, something he’s prone to doing at Filter shows. People don’t like to turn him down, no matter which TV show or movie he’s recognized for, amidst calls of “Doggett!” “T-1000!”, and one gleeful cry of “Wayne’s World!”, which made me chuckle. After the show, I spotted Robert outside and engaged him in a conversation about the Oakwood apartment complex days of the 90′s. Decked out in black jeans, a wallet chain, tattoos and a sly grin, Robert laughed at what he called “the good old days”. I imagine it was a time of innocence for lots of us, before many issues came to light for what they truly were.
The latest incarnation of Filter brought the house down at The Roxy. Whether the old days were good or bad, they’ve fueled Filter, and Richard Patrick does not deny any of it, or he wouldn’t perform “Take A Picture” or “Captain Bligh”, eyes igniting when the audience sings along. “Hey Man, Nice Shot” wouldn’t appear on Rock Band 3 if he didn’t feel an unyielding rapport with his fans or fervently acknowledge his own history, besmirched with a mad-cap concoction of pain and victory. His obligation to transparency and accountability extend an invitation for you to embark on a high-speed recollection of unappetizing former inclinations on “The Inevitable Relapse”. At least he isn’t revisiting routines of times transpired alone, emphasizing yet another example of how important kinship is to his sanity, happiness, and health.
Richard Patrick doesn’t need a priest to confess. He needs you, and a microphone.
Request “The Inevitable Relapse” on your local radio stations!
April 4th, 2008, KM.