Has Filter Delivered the Scariest Video of the Year?
In their 20-plus years as a band, Filter have gone through a variety of phases. You might've gotten on board in the early '90s with the palpable industrial energy of debut LP Short Bus, or caught the wave of eternal summer jam "Take a Picture." Wherever you began, founding frontman Richard Patrick worked hard to master both heavier and lighter paths, valuing the impact of each approach.
Last year, Filter released their seventh album, Crazy Eyes, a record that reestablished them in today's current context as an industrial band. Nowhere was that evident more than the opening track, "Mother E." (The song's reference point is Dylann Roof's mass shooting at Charleston, S.C.'s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.) Today, Filter are premiering their video for the song, which plays off two kinds of horror: a) the supernatural horror, i.e., the spooky demon lady ever present through the video, and b) the very real atrocity of war. It's all set over one of the band's fiercest tracks, nailing exactly why Filter have the staying power they do.
Watch "Mother E" below, and read our conversation with Patrick about the video, Chris Cornell's impact on his sobriety and more.
How are you today, Richard?
Okay. I had a cold, like a flu-type thing a few weeks ago, and I thought I was going to die. But last night I got the stomach virus thing, so I had the full-on nausea. It’s awful. And I’m a singer, and I’m over there on the toilet just going [vomit noise], like I’m singing in Skinny Puppy. Just wailed on my throat, so I’m trying to rally here. I don’t usually sleep in til 1 o’clock.
Yeah. The worst is living with someone, because then it just gets passed back and forth. I live with my girlfriend in a really small apartment, so a cold becomes a five-month thing every time.
Packed in. Well, that’s the thing. I’ve got two kids — they’re 7 and 9. For the past seven, eight years, they have been with other children building up their immune system. When I got my cold, I had to be on — doctor’s orders — antibiotics; this is what we think will work. You’re a singer, you gotta go take some 'roids because you’ve got a gig. I can’t do falsettos and stuff — like, I live on antibiotics. He said it’s the cross you bear; you’re constantly going to be on antibiotics. That’s two weeks ago, but my immune system is still vulnerable. It’s so weird. That’s why I’m really one of those people that gets their kids vaccinated. If your kids aren’t vaccinated and they get whooping cough at five or six, [they'll be all right], but if they get it as a baby, they die. If you fight off a cold, if you have all these immunities built up, you’re making your community better. It’s like a test pool of vaccination and modern science. You know, like, “We’re not getting our kids vaccinated.” Cool, send them home. You can pull that shit in Malibu; you can’t do it here. Like, the most successful people [are] questioning modern science and everything we’ve learned, which is incredible, dude. We’ve cured diseases! We’ve thrown these diseases away, but they’re on the way back because all these hoity-toity, super liberal, chilled-out yoga people are like, “I don’t want my kid taking antibiotics!”
Yeah, or like, “I don’t want my kid getting autism!”
Autism stuff in general — “Oh, it must be something!” Is it toxins? Is it all the oils we put in the air? No, it’s vaccination! The government! It’s so fucking stupid.
It sucks because it makes autism a character flaw, as opposed to something people learn to live with, or a disability. Like, these people can’t take responsibility that it might be passed genetically in their family. It’s not the end of the world if it happens — you have to just accept it and how to make your kid’s life better.
Yeah. So, Chris Cornell died, and I’m on a phone call with a friend, trying to be like, “Hey dude, you’ve been drinking for 15 years, and you’re drinking like I used to drink. I don’t know how you’re still alive, but Chris Cornell died.” If you would’ve asked me [if] Chris or this other guy was going to die, I would’ve easily said the other guy. And I told him, “You’re literally defying the odds, but the problem is you’re not having anything in sobriety. Everything is in this drunken stupor. So, you’ve had 15 years.” I got sober and was like, “You’re next, bro.” He’s just defiant about it, like, “Nah, that’s not me, man. I’m not a fuckin’ alcoholic,” like it’s a sign of weakness. Acceptance. I’ve got another friend who lost 35 pounds and their throat hurt really bad, and they smoked, and didn’t want to go to the doctor. I mean, dude, something’s wrong, go to the doctor. They get into this thing where they don’t realize if you get it wrong, there’s going to be a problem. You might get your voice box removed; he’s gotta have all this surgery to take it out, have one of those electronic things. But people are just crazy. Psychologically, they’re not up to par, especially the president.
I remember reading that Cornell helped you get sober years ago.
Well, I wasn’t really allowed to talk too much about it. I talked a little bit about it after he passed away because I didn’t want to talk too much about my interactions with him in rehab. But I showed up, and I had made the decision: “Okay, I’m going for it.” I had mentioned to my band, like, I wish I could talk to another lead singer who has kind of the same daily challenges I do. I called my psychiatrist and they said, “There’s absolutely a great group, and I recommend you go there.” I went up there in Malibu, and was like, “Could you help me with my luggage?” Because I had everything from tour. And they were like, “No, gotta bring it yourself.” I was so weak, I couldn’t bring my own luggage up through the grass and into the building. But I got up there, you check yourself in and they take a picture of you; because if you died, they wanted to make sure they could identify the body. And I get there, they’re like, “Yeah, we got some guy here, too, some band Gardens of Sound — his name is Chris.” And I’m like, “Soundgarden?” and was like, “Man, cool.”
So, there were all these people, and groups are important. The health of the group — if you’ve got some good, positive people around you, the group helps you get past your first three or four days of sobriety, which is important. Three days of anything — you don’t wanna get freaked out and quit. It’s easier to quit when you’re an alcoholic; all you have to do is open up a six-pack and drink. So, I’m there for a day and did a really intense group therapy where everyone was asking questions. It was really brutal. And then I realized it was a 12-step program, but I’m an atheist — there was no way I could do it. I’m not going to church, I’m not doing any of that. That’s when Chris was like, “Hey, dude, it’s not about religion, it’s not about anything — it’s about what you bring to the program and how you can help each other stay sober. And by doing that, you help yourself stay sober. Now, I know it feels goofy, but you just gotta do it.” And he legitimized the whole thing for me; for some reason, I needed someone I respected to sit there and tell me that. And the program would say that was a “godchat.”
You know, Chris passed away, and I don’t get it. But I do. He started taking more pills than he should’ve — it’s right there in Rolling Stone. He started taking more pills than he should’ve, and it means you’re out on your sobriety. You’re not following the directions of the doctor, and that’s the thing. You have to follow directions, especially with Ativan. My sister took Diazepam or whatever it is, and it’s like you take another one, you feel better. You take more than you’re allowed and you feel euphoric. That’s it, being high. I mean shit, we lost one.
I’ve got two years in the program. My shit was drinking mostly and experimenting on the higher end of things. I’m just thankful I never got into opiates or prescription medication, because I see so many friends just slip down that path without even knowing, and it’s harder to call out or pinpoint than just someone drinking too much.
I mean, I’m talking to my guy who I’ve known since literally before I got sober, and he will not get it, he will not listen. Like, all you have to do is go to a meeting. You do the “hard” work of looking up the meeting, and you walk down the street to wherever it is, and you sit down and listen. For that day, you just try really hard not to drink. And you do it. You make sure you don’t drink. All these excuses start coming out: “It’s a scam, it sucks.” It’s so amazing. Like, dude, see you in another year when you want to hang out for work or whatever! I can’t help you. I don’t want to be around your sickness. I don’t want to be co-dependent on your shit.
Let’s talk about this video.
Yeah! This crazy video, my man Lukasz [Pytlik], he kills it on that video. The first idea was just to go full-on making it about Dylann Roof, 'cause Mother Emanuel’s the church where he did it. Like, a song from his perspective — what does insanity mean? What does insanity, crazed hatefulness look like? “Mother E.” And I’d done that a couple times: “Hey Man, Nice Shot” inspired by Budd Dwyer. So, I’m used to doing stuff like this. It’s not a love song. [Laughs] We’re not worried about our demographic. But the video, I asked Lukasz, we found him, and just said, “Make a short film about whatever you want to do, what you feel like the music is about.” We were thinking potentially “Nothing in My Hands” or “Mother E,” and we both decided that, as a piece of art, “Mother E” sounded better as an idea for the video. And the video is [a] father comes back to his worst nightmare. He’s a hunter, he’s providing for his children, they have a pretty decent life, and then these Russian soldiers are walking through and they take advantage of what they found because they have guns. War crimes, that kind of thing. It’s actually inspired by events that happened in Poland in WWII. So, I just wanted him to make the video he wanted to make. I had a lot of say in the first video [for "Take Me to Heaven"]. It was my idea and my concept — basically, a bunch of kids go up to the roof of the Viper Room. So, they went on top of the Viper Room — a bunch of kids drinking and stuff — and then they break glass and start breakdancing in it. Then they end up bleeding out; they killed themselves to not get older.
Yeah, I think the “Mother E” video is genuinely upsetting. There are these two elements with the Mother Emanuel character with the bleeding eyes, and then when I watch it, it dips into the reality of what these soldiers are doing, and so it feels like you have two different kinds of horror: the supernatural, otherworldly kind of horror, and then the atrocities of what people are capable of.
The actual horror. Spooky stories and real horror. The reality of war; real life is horror. [Laughs]
I’ve been a fan of many different phases of Filter — love Short Bus, “Take a Picture,” all that. This track feels like an amalgamation of both a volatile time politically and — even outside of politics — bands like 3Teeth or Street Sects. Code Orange seem to be pulling a lot of elements from the stuff you were involved in. You put out this record, and songs like “Mother E” are a reminder of where all that shit came from. It’s a great track.
It was one of the last songs we wrote, too; the rest of the album is very spacious [and] modern-sounding, I think. But “Mother E” was like, "All right, now we’re going to let loose." Everything had distortion on it. The whole thing had distortion on it — the rectifier, whatever that plugin is. Pre-1980 distortion pedals from a Japanese company. But yeah ... and screaming as hard as I could. That’s full voice, as hard as I could, no secrets. Full-on, like, “Back up, get to a safe distance.” Singing it three times, fucking perfect, producer saying, “OK, we can stop,” but not wanting to because it feels too good. Just going off. It was so easy for me to do when I was younger. It’s not processed — just a regular fucking mic, and with me ripping it. Kind of letting the kids know, “This is what it is! This is what you gotta do!” 'Cause I see the 3Teeth, I see what’s going on out there. I’m like, okay … you got a little KMFDM, you got a little of this and that. But you’re not fooling me — you’re younger and young people like young people, but I know what you’re doing. [Laughs] I know Trent [Reznor] put something out and I haven’t heard it yet, so I wonder what’s going on with the industrial scene. That’s why I want to get into this new record. I want to work it out.