I should set the scene for this. It was 1996, and I was working at my first job – music industry, but data entry – and doing fanzine stuff on the side. I remember my cheer of joy echoing around the office when I heard we’d got this interview, and downing tools and leaving at 4pm on the day we got to do this, even though I was well down on my flexitime clock. It was pretty weird meeting these guys – me as a fat teenager accompanied by my stunning blonde (but cripplingly shy) best friend and co-writer, seeing our relationship mirrored with the Hollywood-handsome quiet guy overshadowed by his plainer, more charismatic friend.
We arrived at the venue early, and first interviewed God Lives Underwater, who were supporting. We hit it off with them immediately, and arranged to meet for drinks after the show. Then we were quickly ushered onto the well-furnished tourbus outside to chat to Filter’s Richie and Brian. They were reminded some minutes in that they were late for their soundcheck, but after nodding briefly at Brian, Richie said, “Uhh … we’ll wing it. Seat of our pants,” and carried on our conversation. I don’t remember if his arm was in a sling for the interview but it was for the gig. He threw up backstage before doing the encore – not really sure what happened there – but it was a good gig.
You’ll have to forgive the quality of the questions – as I said, we were teenagers.
What’s the wildest party you’ve ever been to?
Richard Patrick: The wildest party I ever went to was my, well, you see … when I was in High School I used to play in bands and I never really hung out with my friends at weekends. And I never really started drinking or anything until I was, like, on my senior year. And I remember showing up to this party and being welcomed by all these f****ing … people. There were the jocks, just all these different people that kinda decided that a different lifestyle was better than what they had. So I was welcomed by, like, the captain of the football team and I just remember s****ing my pants when I saw this guy with a joint in his hand, a cigarette in the ashtray and a beer in the other hand. And it was the night when, like, four girls came up to me and were like, “Hey, where have you been?” I just remember that being pretty crazy. I was, like, eighteen and it was our graduation day party. Afterwards, I felt really regretful, like – damn! – I could have been hanging out all this time.
Richard is a very cool individual. He sits in the plush double-decker tourbus pufffing on a cigarette, at a table that houses computer games, cassettes and dozens of Kinder Egg toys. He is 28, handsome and talkative. He looks kinda creepy in the overhead light of the tourbus, because you can’t see his eyes, but his lack of ego and laidback style are reassuring. His equally unaffected but quieter partner in crime is the subdued Brian Liesegang. Brian may have Baywatch-style good looks, but he is evidently happiest covered in sweat and Budweiser, beating the crap out of his guitar.
Brian: Wildest party I ever went to was probably actually a Hallowe’en party I went to two years ago. It was at this exhibition of work by the artist HR Giger so we had no idea what to expect. I show up and my friend Tom and I take a couple of tabs of acid. It turns out to be just this complete Alien landscape. So, coupled with a very heavy hallucinogen and this Alien landscape, we were just sitting there drinking gin and tonics like water. I couldn’t focus my eyes the whole time I was there and I’ve been traumatised ever since.
You were only 21 when you joined Nine Inch Nails. Didn’t it all just freak you out?
Rich: Yes. It f***ed with me more than anything. It was so surreal and I couldn’t understand why this music was taking off and my friends couldn’t even understand what was happening. You know, I’d come home and I’d have all these incredible stories about being in front of these crowds. Then doing Lollapalooza and rubbing elbows with, like, Perry Farrell and all these people. And then coming back to a reality where it’s like everyone is living a dull or normal, non-exciting life and just having to readjust to becoming a regular person. I’d come home and just feel this sense of emptiness and it was because I wasn’t a Rock Star. I was just Richie Patrick living in his mom’s basement. Brian and I, for instance, if we weren’t friends, we wouldn’t be doing this. If we were doing this because we had to, or to make a buck or survive or whatever and we didn’t like each other, that wouldn’t be reason enough to be doing it – we’d have to move on.
Brian: So we left previous things because there was no joy in it … but there’s joy here.
Richie, I hope you don’t mind me mentioning your rather famous brother (the actor, Robert Patrick), but you bloody look like him!
Brian: Richie’s more famous than Robert.
Richie: The thing is, my father is a banker and he’s a Republican. He’s a three-piece man with the tie and everything and that’s, like, his life. And then you get Rob at 24 saying, “Okay, I’m, like, droppping out of College, I’m tired of living in Cleveland, I’m moving to Los Angeles to become an actor. My dad freaked. Ten years later, he’s in Terminator 2, and I can remember when I told my dad that I was going to be a musician, he just kinda like said, “Well, whatever!”
My brother paved the way for me to do whatever I wanted to do, because my dad was such an influence that, jeez, I could have been in school, learning how to get a regular job, so my brother Rob has always been a really positive influence on me. It’s funny, because Rob used to look on me as the Little Brother, like, “Okay, Richie …”
Brian: … Rob was in Italy a couple of months ago and someone goes up to him and says, “Hey, I recognise you,” and Rob goes, like, “Oh yeah?”, and he says, “Yeah – you’re Rich Patrick’s older brother!”
Rich: … and the great thing is, it’s like Rob now looks on me like an equal – I’m no longer the Little Brother he gets to beat up on.
Brian: Rob’s a great guy, he helps us out a lot …
Rich: It’s cool going to the cinema to see a Rob Patrick movie. I’m happy to say he has a new movie coming out with Demi Moore. It’s called Striptease, and Rob plays her ex-husband. Burt Reynolds is in it. Rob wants me to be in a movie he’s working on, and I have this one line: “is that it?”
(Cue much laughter)
Rich: … and there’s me getting him on stage on New Year’s Eve in Cleveland to get him to sing Under. Getting in front of a camera, I’m pretty nervous – I mean, acting? I don’t know anything, but I say to Rob, “Get up there and scream ‘this is my life / this is my world”, and he’s like, “No way, man, I gotta rehearse” – but he can be completely naked in front of a camera and look tough.
How do you relax?
Rich: You’re looking at it – a couple of Budweisers, cigarettes, sittin’ around conceptualising about music, blah blah blah, what do we want to do?
Brian: We get most of our work done in conversation, y’know, sitting over a couple of beers.
How would you like to be tortured?
Brian: A lifetime of f***ing Budweisters, sitting on a beach and …
Rich: I think the most tortuous thing for me would be to take my Marlboro Lights away from me. Maybe, uh, take my guitar away …
What, like, you prefer your cigarettes to your guitar?
Rich: They’re about equals.
Which living person do you most dislike?
Both: Bob Dole.
Rich: He’s tryin to mess with things back in the United States, with people that are creative, and with industry, and impose his skinny-penised morality on everyone else.
Brian: I dunno – Lenny Kravitz. We have a long hate list. Oliver Stone, Spike Lee – people that try and impose an indoctrination on people of our generation. It’s pretty bogus, especially when they don’t even know what the f*** they’re talking about.
You say how much you hate slackers. Are Filter the happy bunny brigade?
Brian: We’re the Post-Phenomenological Be-Boppers. At least that’s what somebody told us the other day.
Do you get road rage in America?
Rich: It’s funny because I was watching this Canadian thing where this guy goes down to Mexico – he’s Canadian. Someone hears him talk and says, “Are you an American?” and he says (adopts patronising voice), “No, I’m a Canadian. It’s kinda like an American, but I don’t have a gun.”
Brian: Suffice to say, we don’t own guns.
Rich: … We want to go to the desert for a couple of weeks to see what happens musically …
(Uh … bye, Richard, off on a tangent again …)
Rich: … and go off with our gear, y’know, take the first week, y’know, go to the y’know, weird scenes in the, y’know, goldmine …
(… we know! …)
Rich … type thing.
What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever done for inspiration?
Rich: We put the band together at the Grand Canyon on a bunch of mushrooms. We were at a point in our lives where we were really screwed up, like, what are we doing? Where are we going? What do we want to do? So we drew from this conversation that there was more to life than kind of … floating, which is kinda what we did.
You know your song, Hey Man Nice Shot?
Brian: I’ve heard it …
Was it about, y’know, a heavy metal fan who shot himself and missed and blew half his face off and survived? I saw it on the news?
Rich: It’s not about that …
Brian: … (ironically) it’s about Kurt Cobain …
Rich: … but that case really fascinated me because that’s Bob Dole’s whole argument. “Oh no, it’s not about society or school, or any of the things we’re in charge of – it’s music!” That kid’s parents sucked, he was inhaling glue every day, and his teachers couldn’t reach him – and the only argument they could come up with is “it’s not us, it’s Iron Maiden!” Y’know, and … uh … y’know, that’s the typical American thing. Blame it on, y’know, people with creativity. People like Bob Dole say that musicians are role models, and, like, why does it have to be so serious? They say that music is corrupting? That’s what they said about Elvis.
Brian takes another sip of beer. Richard lights another cigarette.
After the show, we reconvened for drinks at the venue, and then all hopped on the tourbus to hang out with God Lives Underwater in the hotel bar while Richie and Brian got changed upstairs. I think Brian left at some point – so many years ago, I can’t really remember, but certainly Richie reappeared a few minutes later and we chatted downstairs for another half hour or so. The concierge came over at one point. “You can’t smoke here.” Richard extinguished his cigarette but relit it a minute later when the man was out of sight. He didn’t get to enjoy one outside a few minutes later, either, stubbing it out on the window of the cab when the driver told him he couldn’t smoke in the back.
I don’t really remember the club, except that it was loud and dark, and I went outside and stayed there, chatting to folks whose name I can’t remember until everyone left an hour or two later. When we got back to the bus, someone put Raging Bull on, but I was falling asleep by that point and dozed off sitting upright on the sofa at the back to the hum of quiet chatter. Just before seven, they dropped us off at the tube station. My friend stayed in touch with Drew from GLU for a year or two, but we never saw any of them again. I did watch Striptease especially for Richie’s cameo, but I regret to say that it was a travesty of Hiaasen’s excellent novel and Rob Patrick’s performance was the only thing that made it worth watching. Rich is the guy who shouts out during Demi’s dance in the club, though like any of this, I think you really had to be there.