Filter's Richard Patrick Says Sobriety Gave Him A Better, More Political Voice

After six-year hiatus, band returns, healthier and more focused, on Anthems for the Damned.

Before Tuesday's release of Anthems for the Damned, the last time we heard new music from Filter was back in 2002, with The Amalgamut, a record that touched upon some political themes and ideas, but wasn't as explicit as, say, a Rage Against the Machine LP. But that's all changed.

A lot has happened in the time since Filter first went on hiatus — affording the band's frontman, Richard Patrick, the opportunity to team up temporarily with Stone Temple Pilots' Dean and Robert DeLeo for Army of Anyone. Patrick quit smoking and drinking, opting instead to live a healthier life — not only for himself, but for his wife and 1-month-old daughter, Sloan.

Now that he's substance-free, Patrick has had more time to contemplate the current state of affairs. Living clean has also helped the singer find his voice again, which has given the band's live sets a more focused feel. Patrick admits that Anthems for the Damned is by far the most political he's ever gotten, and he hopes his sentiments will help to inspire others, he said.

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"The world is a pretty crazy place, and as soon as I got healthy and realized that I was going to live for a lot longer, I just started focusing my lyrical point of view on the realities of this planet," Patrick explained. "Humans really need to remind themselves that it's just a little world in a vast ocean of space, and maybe we can create happiness and not war.

"I was [always] very inward as a person — I was a drug addict and an alcoholic, and it's all about you when you're in that situation," he continued. "As soon as I started getting healthy, I realized it's bigger than me, and my part in this world could affect other people, or at least start a conversation geared toward change. It seems rock music is the only [place where that's happening]. I'm not hearing that coming from hip-hop necessarily, and rock is the perfect format to express those ideas. My idols are John Lennon and Bono, and they have never held back. As I got older, and I'm a father now, I worry about the world we're leaving for our kids, and it's important for me to use whatever platform I have to express the simple sentiment that we need to make this place a little bit better for each other."

In case you were wondering, Patrick likes both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama in this fall's presidential election, because "a six-day-old corpse would be better than what we have now."

The video for the album's first single, "Soldiers of Misfortune," takes his political message one step further. Toward the end of the clip, it depicts an American flag engulfed in a pool of oil. "We used imagery [like that] to support our view that maybe the Iraq war wasn't about freedom and democracy, but oil and greed, and the people involved in that — the soldiers over there — they're actually the soldiers of misfortune," Patrick said. "Frank Cavanagh, Filter's former bass player, is in Iraq now, and he's found himself in this situation where he's doing what he's told, because he's a soldier — but I don't know if he necessarily agrees with why he's over there. So, the video is about that phenomenon, of being caught up in something that's bigger than you."

This latest incarnation of Filter — Patrick, guitarist Mitchell Marlow (formerly of He Is Legend), bassist John Spiker (Tenacious D) and drummer Mika Fineo (Red Skeleton) — is "absolutely the best version," Patrick said enthusiastically, and he claims they've never sounded better live. Perhaps that's because instead of finding pals he could party on the road with, Patrick sought talent.

"In Filter's past, it was like, 'Hey, let's go get drunk.' It was almost a Replacements ethic — definitely a drinking kind of crazy, rock-and-roll punk-rock ethic, where talent wasn't necessarily the [reason] of why a person was in Filter. Now talent is the main reason, and this summer, it's all about really delivering the goods."

Filter has performed some live gigs in recent months, and Patrick said that he's now able to delve deep into the band's catalog and sing the way he used to be able to do only in the studio before. "I wasn't very healthy during Title of Record's touring cycle, so I couldn't do songs like 'Skinny,' " he recalled. "It was almost out of my range because I used to be drunk and smoke cigarettes all the time. Now that I'm healthy, those notes are very attainable. There are amazing moments on stage now which I never really got in the old versions of the band, and this band is delivering that."

Patrick said he thinks longtime fans will really latch onto Anthems for the Damned, because "the quality of music is there." He said he would never have dreamed of resurrecting the band if the material he'd written for the effort didn't match the quality of his previous offerings.

"Once that standard was met, it was really about delivering it on the road," he said. "In many situations, I've painted myself into a corner by singing so high and so hard in the studio that when I bring myself out on the road, it's really tough. But now that I'm healthy, I'm hitting those notes every time."