By Mike Bax
Photo by David Rubene
Richard Patrick is many things. An inaugural ex-member of Nine Inch Nails. Brother of the T1000 (Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick). An editorial writer, outspoken on the harder topics like warm, religion and politics. He’s also an outspoken ex-addict. He’s a husband and a father of two children. He also writes damn good songs.
After a few albums of what I would describe as decent but lacking albums, Patrick, along with his current bandmates Oumi Kapila, Ashley Dzerigian, Chris Reeve and Bobby Miller have created a new album called Crazy Eyes utilizing a label (Wind-Up Records) and fan funding via Pledge Music. It’s is easily the best thing Filter has done years, getting its commercial released this coming Friday April 8th. Take note: Filter, Orgy, Vampires Everywhere & Death Valley High play a show together at The Opera House in Toronto on April 24th. Tickets are available HERE
If you have ever wondered what the angriest Filter album might possibly sound like, you’ll find out in less than a week – Crazy Eyes is THAT Filter album. Patrick took some time out of his busy pre-album release schedule to talk for almost a half hour with Lithium Magazine about topics including: being a dad, drunken ex band-mates, and striving for great music and engaging fans on Pledge Music.
Richard: (checks his schedule for today’s press) We’re good. I just got the kids in the car – they’re heading off for a play-date. We’ve got time to talk.
Mike: I’ve always wondered this. How do you juggle being a parent and a rock musician?
Richard: A lot of communication. You have to change your mindset when you are around kids. I try and bring a lot of inspiration and fun and creative energy into it. My wife is a little more on the ‘be good in school, work hard, get good grades’ mentality. So am I, really. I tell them it’s going to be a lot easier on them if they have great grades. When I go on tour I go into a little bit of a pocket. It’s hard. I miss my kids. FaceTime is amazing. Skyping. All that stuff is great. But ultimately it does leave you heartbroken when you have to say goodbye. It’s bitter sweet. On the one hand you get to play concerts and have a great time. You’re making money and everybody is happy to be on the road playing live and signing autographs. On the other hand, your kids want a regular, normal person that is there every day. But they understand. I just explain it to them – Some people are policemen. They drive around and look for the bad guys. Some guys are in the army; they travel to a dangerous part of the world. And some dads work in an office and they come home but only have a few hours a day where they see their kids. For vast amounts of time I’m at home working on a record. So I’m really in their lives for extended periods. So you just have to explain it and make sure that they understand it. And I think about all of the families that have gone through divorces; the single mothers out there and wonder… I actually wrote a song called ‘Surprise’. It’s about when my wife is on her own with the kids. It’s a dangerous world out there and she’s gotta live life right. She’s gotta be the pillar of strength and goodness. And she does. She is an amazing woman. We would have never had kids unless I knew that a very strong woman was going to be leaned on while I was gone, you know? That’s just one thing on that topic.
Mike: I’ve been playing the new Filter album, Crazy Eyes, over the past few days. I’m super impressed. It’s a really great album.
Richard: Thank you. I appreciate it. I’m really proud of it, too. It was fun just to get back into the driver’s seat again. There’s so many eccentricities in making albums. When other producers work with me they make my work less angular. Less weird. So for this record I just said, “Look, at the end of the day I’m the producer and it’s my musical take on everything and just let me have the final say.” The record company was behind me and everybody understood that it’s more Filter if I just say “Dude, I know you have worked on this but I’m telling you it’s not something Filter would do.” When you can do everything on a guitar or everything on a computer, you tend to forget that it’s your opinion and your style and who you are as a person that puts it all on a trajectory that’s original. I just wanted to keep Crazy Eyes as original as possible. Back in 1986, I was listening to Skinny Puppy and Ministry and I was hanging out with this friend who had gotten a record contract, and I couldn’t believe that he had managed to even get one. We were from Cleveland Ohio; things were different there. We just didn’t think that these places/things existed. We were in a band and he already had his record done and some of it was pop but some of it was really heavy. And I thought that we should do more stuff like that. And then he did a record three years later, and it sounded really heavy and cooler and more industrial, and he listed me as an influence on his record. And I thought that was cool, but I want to do more than just be an influence. So I wrote this song ‘Hey Man, Nice Shot’ and they wanted to own it – they wanted to have everything behind it and they were going to give me a little credit and I said, “Shit man, I wanna own it. I wrote it.” SO then I left that band and went off and got signed to Warner Brothers and it was very easy. I just started building my life in Filter.
Mike: Thank god you did that. Some of those albums have scored bits and pieces of my life.
Richard: I got back to my industrial roots on this album. I wanted to be more electronic and dangerous. There are so many artists like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift and Katy Perry who are being awesome at being optimistic and lovesick and all-involved in relationships. But someone has to be dangerous and weird and has to offset that to bring balance to the galaxy. That is what Crazy Eyes is all about. Obviously I’m a 47-year-old musician, I’ve been around the world a couple of dozen times and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I’ve made a record that is a little more socially aware. But at the same time it still has a heart. That’s what we do.
Mike: To my ears, and I’m saying this as an untrained musician, Crazy Eyes feels a bit like a circle closing. The album has as much piss and vinegar in it as Short Bus did 20 years ago. And I’m totally good with that.
Richard: Yeah, the reality is that that guy has never really gone anywhere. You know, when you get sober, you start taking advice and all of a sudden producers start saying, “Oh, you’ve gotta get on the radio.” You know, people don’t realize that I wrote ‘Take a Picture’ as a prank. Think of what was going on in music in 1998. It was Korn and Limp Bizkit. They were dominating the airwaves. They were huge. And I was just like, “Fuck it. I’m going to make the most sugary sweet song about drug addiction.” The music is the feeling of drugs and the vocals are all about, “I’m losing my mind”. “I’m in jail.” “I’m naked on an airplane.” “I fucking can’t remember anything so could you take my picture because I can’t remember anything.” So my record company was like, “Dude, you just made it as this heavy ‘metal’ artist, and now you want to change gears?” And I was like “ONLY Howie Klien could understand that. (laughs) Howie Klien was a champion behind that record. He was the mind smart enough to let me do what I wanted to do. But at a cost, right? People that get into music and then change things up on the labels? That gets questioned. Look at AC/DC. The guy runs around in purple shorts. I mean, he’s sixty-seventy years old! “Dude. Are you kidding?? Put some fucking pants on!!” You know what I mean? Or, Gene Simmons. “Dude, you’re wearing make-up?? You’re fucking eighty years old or something. What are you doing? Just be yourself. Change it up a little bit.” Well, they can’t. People want what they want from that era. Honestly, that’s why Filter remains an underground band. Every time we take off I like to change it up. I don’t want to be a part of the ‘genre’. I could have just cashed in and done Short Bus fifteen times like a million other bands making the same record over and over. But I’m a musician. I’m creative. When I got signed to Warner Brothers they were like “Look, you are the artist. It’s an artist orientated label. And that is what you are. We listen to YOU.” So it’s always been like that for me. But the piss and vinegar thing, going back to that really quick; what I realized on this record was that I just want to be fucking angry and say what I want to say. I have an entire song about my friend who is still an alcoholic. And he texts me all the time when he’s wasted. He says the shittiest, meanest shit. So I wrote this song called ‘Kid Blue’ because that’s what fucking 1996 Richard would have done. That guy is still me. “Fuck you, I’m writing a song about you and it’s called ‘Drunken Texter.’ Or ‘Kid Blue Rides the Short Bus Drunk Bunk’, you know? There was only one guy in my band that was ever known as the bunk drunk. The guy who would literally lie in his bunk and drink beer by himself. I just wrote an entire ‘fuck you’ song about it; you’re a drunk texter? Well check this out. You’re going to drunk text me at 3 o’clock in the morning and fucking be mad at me because we don’t work together anymore? Fuck you. Here’s your fucking song. (laughs) But you are right, it’s totally Short Bus. It’s a totally big song, with a little bit of a Jane’s Addiction anthemic feel to it, with a big drum solo. Our drummer went off on the song. I was like “If you can play something that I can program, I’m going to fire you!” This guy Chris Reeve is my drummer. (Patrick mocks his accent) “You mean I can do anything I want?” And I said That’s right! We are in this big fucking studio and you can go ape-shit on this. So one or two takes later, we had this amazing genius drum solo. And of course the threat was all in jest, right? I would never tell my drummer I’d fire him if I could program his parts. But the impetus was to go for it. Do something wild. And that song is buried, right? It’s on the last half of the record. That’s why I love this record. There is just so much good shit you are going into on it.
Mike: ‘Kid Blue’ is a rager too. It’s an angry song. I dig it.
Richard: Right? What’s going on right now? Shouldn’t the music of the world sound like this? Shouldn’t there be this angry fucking intensity right now? Look at the world?? Everybody says “Oh, once you get old you mellow.” It makes my skin crawl when people say that. “What are you talking about? It’s so easy to be angry and destructive and insane right now.” It is so fun to go off. And that is the whole point of this record. A mass shooting happened while we were making Crazy Eyes and I knew I wanted to write something about that. Oumi and I couldn’t believe how insane that shooting was and he really opened up and made something really heavy for the song. There’s a lot of great talent on this record man. I’m proud of it.
Mike: Is all of that talent going on the road with you as well? Oumi, Ashley, Chris and Bobby are touring with you?
Richard: Oh yeah. The record that is coming out is being performed by these very people. You know, before Cee Lo calls and steals Ashley back. Before Chris gets swallowed up with something else. So many members of this band have parted ways because it wasn’t working out or we parted ways because band members would say “Fuck it. I’m gonna be in the Smashing Pumpkins. Later!” That happened in 1997. Our drummer Matt Walker was like “I gotta fucking pay the rent. I’m gonna go off and play stadiums with the Smashing Pumpkins.” That’s the music biz. Basically Filter is like Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen or Prince. I just didn’t want to call it The Richard Patrick. I wanted to call it Filter because I thought it was a little bit more cool.
Mike: You know, when I found out I was doing this interview I went back and re-played some of your back catalog again. I listened to ‘Take a Picture’ again a few times in particular. And it’s not like the lyrics mean the same thing here, but our society is fixated on their phones and the cameras on them. Everybody is taking pictures of everything right now. That song is almost an anthem for the right now.
Richard: Yeah. It is. So, I’ve been dying my hair black since I was a teenager. “I’m punk,” right? Fuck you, goth kids!” Goth wasn’t even a thing back then. It was just kids that listened to the Damned and the Cure and Skinny Puppy. And there were kids who were into heavy metal and some of them were jocks or whatever, and I started watching our presidential candidate trying so hard to keep the four hairs on his head combed over in some kind of aesthetically pleasing way. And colouring it all with some kind of orange spray. And I asked myself, am I dying my hair black because I like the look of it? Or am I dying it because I’m trying to cover up grey hair? It sure isn’t the latter. I just stopped. I went totally grey. Acceptance, right? My fans were very receptive of that. It’s this incredible super shitty thing right now with Instagram. Do people not realize that you are only beautiful until you are like 33 or 34? And then you are just… everybody else. (laughs). That holy shit moment; we all get grey. Harrison Ford, he’s old and grey but he is still fucking Han Solo, you know? I love that. Bono is getting older but he still sings like a champ. Mick Jagger just played in Cuba with Keith. I think it’s great. I think age isn’t that big a deal now. I had this incredible back surgery a while ago and I’ve been making my way back ever since. I feel so good now, you know? I’ve learned so much about life because of it. Who better to kick down an industrial punk rock record that would just offset everything right now, right? You’ve gotta go around the world and get beat up a few times first. It’s one thing to be young and angry. But it’s another thing to be old and JUST as fucking angry. (laughs) Not that I’m old. I always say the word old; I’m still young at heart.
Mike: When I was 20 – 21, I couldn’t fathom being 49. You don’t think that way. And then it happens.
Richard: Honestly, with the drinking and the drug use, I thought I’d be dead before I was 30. I remember watching The Doors on TV and thinking: “Fuck, he went out early.” And hearing about Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. I knew there would be no way my body would be able to take what I was doing to it at 30. So when I lived to 34… and then finally decided to quit drinking, all of sudden it was like “Fuck! What am I going to do with the next 60 years of my life??” (laughs)
Mike: How did you find the Pledge Music experience as a musician Richard?
Richard: I abso-fucking-lutely adored it. And here’s why: people get that if you go to a torrent site and pull the entire Led Zeppelin catalog or the entire Filter catalog right off of some Russian website, that you are fucking over the band. And you are fucking over all of the people that it took to make that shit. The people on Pledge understand: “I’m going to pre-order the cd, and I’m going to buy a signed copy. I will get updates. I just want to know what Filter are doing.” They fund and pay for the record before it even comes out. And you (as an artist) don’t have to deal with the monetary BEGGING that goes on with record companies or stuff like that. Crowd funding already scares the shit out of me. But Pledge Music is so NOT crowd funding. These are fans who like Filter. They know they would buy the record anyway. They put their money where their mouth is. All of a sudden you can breathe a sigh of relief. These are your fans. They just want to have the real authentic artist. They don’t give a shit about getting a song on the radio. They don’t care about how something might affect your sales in Argentina or whatever. As much as Wind-Up Records is like that, you still feel responsible to someone as an artist. When they say “Hey, are you going to make a great record for us?” There is always this art and commerce battle going on. With Pledge, I literally was able to pop up the heaviest shit ever recorded by our band – the meanest fucking song in the world – but with something inherently honest about it and ask “What do you think?” It wasn’t worded like that, but I put up ‘Mother E’ and that song actually got way more comments and way more of a reaction than expected. What I realized is that the gut instinct of my soul was to go as hard left as possible and scream and fucking go crazy on this record. To be as left of center as possible, because that is what I really WANT to do. And the response on that Pledge post was “YES. Take my money. I’m going to buy the vinyl. I’m going to buy the CD. I’m going to buy the shirt. YES. I’m backing this 100%. Here’s seventy bucks.” The average fan was up to $30 to $40 dollars. What you are getting is this incredible, real, analytical experience. You start to realize that all of these pledgers are mostly guys. Only 17% of our audience on Pledge is female. You start to measure things. What is it? It’s the heavy shit. You read their comments, and the more you pour yourself into it and the more you are yourself, the more they dig it. I’m a fucking goof-ball. I like to kid around. I like to play jokes on my friends. When we did some of the videos I was more into goofing off. Fuck being ‘cool guy rock star’. I’d rather just be funny and make you laugh. So I created Rotten Bobby. Rotten Bobby is our keyboard player from New York. the nicest guy in the world. But I figured it might be funny if he would go through the record artwork and he’d go “Hey Rich, there’s not enough fucking pictures of me here man!” I had some fun with that. Meanwhile, the keyboard player thinks it’s hysterical that I put it up and that people are thinking it’s so funny. Rotten Bobby Goes Through the Record Cover gives you this whole massive way to be creative with the fans and have some total interaction and do something special with them. It’s for Pledgers. PledgeMusic.com. Absolutely 100% I’ll never make another record without it. That is the internet on a really good, amazing level to me. That’s what it was supposed to be. You don’t want to make people broke. But you want to give them a little bit more if they are going to fork out their cash early. It was really good, really cool.
Richard: (checks the time for his next interview) By the way… Canada. Do you have any idea how amazing your country is? All we want to do is get up there and play concerts. That is all we have wanted to do for 10 years. Apparently the shows up there are doing really well. We are going to have a great time.
Mike: I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be great to see you play again. And Orgy, too. I never got see Orgy back in the day.
Richard: Yeahhh! And he’s a Donald Trump supporter from what I understand. So things could get weird. I’m not really going to talk politics, but man. Donald Trump?? Man!!!
Mike: From the outside looking in at this presidential running, I’m pretty frightened about Donald Trump. That guy is a bully, and he won’t be a good leader.
Richard: And your Prime Minister? How do feel about him? He’s a gentleman.
Mike: I’m a bit of a sideliner politically. Trudeau is jockeying the weed thing, which I am ambiguous on. He takes a pretty picture and all that. He’s walked into a fiscal bill of goods from Harper that I don’t know if he ever had a chance of correcting. I think he’s getting a bit of a lynching on the public forum right now for that. He comes from good stock though. I like that he does his homework.
Richard: We like him. He’s civil. He’s willing to take refugees and he’ll go and select them himself.
Mike: Trudeau likes to be informed. He’ll go and look at something like that. Boards a plane and see’s what’s what. I do kinda dig that about him. He’s not just taking things that are being told to him at face value. He’ll go and have a look.
Richard: I like Barack Obama. Most of the country like’s him. Wish we could keep him.
The Stone Eye Singer and Guitarist Stephen Burdick Discusses His Band
The Stone Eye singer and guitarist Stephen Burdick discusses the band and their new album ‘Nothing Shall & By Any Means.’
With a commendable work ethic and a certain lightheartedness, The Stone Eye has found its way to some impressive success. This year marks the tenth anniversary since the talented duo of drummer Jeremiah Bertin and singer-songwriter Stephen Burdick joined forces in their hometown of Philadelphia. Their approach to alternative rock is original and innovative. But there is also a satirical side to the band where they make sure not to take things too seriously. It’s reminiscent of the sound and general approach of Queens of the Stone Age, a band that can rock out but intermixes it with a certain level of weirdness.
The Stone Eye released their latest EP, Nothing Shall & By Any Means, last month via Electric Talon Records. In only four songs, they can deliver a compelling and diverse musical experience. The hooks are infectious, and the riffs of the powerhouse variety. It combines stoner and progressive rock with a certain vintage sludge, fuzzed-out sound reminiscent of the early ’90s. Bertin and Burdick approach their songwriting with a broad-minded approach. They are out to push musical boundaries and carry the torch of alternative rock forward, presenting classic influences to a new generation.
Today, we are joined by Stephen Burdick to discuss The Stone Eye, songwriting, being an independent artist, and more.
How would you describe your music?
Stephen Burdick: “I would describe The Stone Eye’s music as something that slides somewhere in the alternative rock realm of music. I grew up a massive grunge fan. When I first got into composing music, Alice in Chains were my demigods of how to do things. So naturally, we will always have that influence lingering. As we’ve all grown as musicians and individuals, our tastes have evolved and we are always trying to fit new influences in. So, anything from jazz fusion to electronic elements tend to find their way into our music. But at the heart of it, I would describe the music as alternative rock.”
What do you like most about playing music?
“What I like most about playing music is the emotional return, elated or depressive, that it provides when you stumble across something that makes your ears perk up, whether it be a song you listen to that blows you away, a riff you write, a great gig that you’re playing and you’re like ‘damn we are on fire,’ etc. Art in general, whether it be film, music, photography, etc, has a way of moving me, be it in a positive or negative way, that quite literally nothing else has and for that, I am very grateful.”
What’s the most dangerous thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?
“The most dangerous thing that has ever happened to me at one of our gigs was totally my fault for being an egg-head. Essentially, we were having issues with one of our amps. The standby switch was faulty, and the amp was stuck in standby. I was trying to find a way to override the standby. And in all of my infinite wisdom, I kept the amp plugged in and powered on whilst I was poking around in the thing. Sure enough… zap. Receiving 250 volts or whatever is not fun, but thankfully, I was ok and the show went on without a hitch. I did, however, give up on the amp for the night and brought it to a repairman in Vegas a few days after the show. Trained professionals exist for a reason!”
Politics and Music. Yay, nay or what the hay?
“My answer is what the hay. I mean, I personally try to keep any political affiliation at bay when composing music. But music is all about what inspires you, right? So if you’re politically charged and are inspired by the current events of whatever’s going on… have at it! Sure, you may alienate a few people, but art has always been at the forefront of social discourse.
“My personal stance on composing my own politically charged pieces is… I’m not an expert on anything political, and there are a lot more informed people than myself out there. Hell, you are probably more informed than I am. So I tend to have the philosophy of letting the more-informed have the brighter spotlight.”
When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind? Or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?
“So this is a tricky one as I tend to do both, or at least try to before my ambitions give in. I always have this, ‘ok we’re good, this is the song’ mentality going into the studio. Meaning, that what we play and sing in the rehearsal room is what I want the song to sound like on the final recordings… Meaning it is entirely composed for a seamless transition between a studio and a live setting. Then, however, I sit down in the studio, and the ideas start flowing out of me and I can’t help myself but add more to the existing formula. I mean, the DNA of the song stays the same, but I always find myself being like ‘Man… this sounds bare right here… maybe add a little harmonized riff? Or a little lick to round it out? Or this, or that?’ Everything fucking time.”
What is your writing process like?
“The writing process for us varies. Generally, it follows a proven formula that has been established over the past couple of years. Most tunes start as an idea that I formulate. This could be nothing more than a little riff to a completely structured tune that is 90 percent done. Then I pass the idea along to the fellas, get their feedback, and continue to shape the idea. Finally, after a bit of back and forth and refinement, we bring the tune into the rehearsal space and jam on it. Over these few hours of jamming, we may find that nothing changes, or that everything changes. Generally, though, by the end of this few hour-long rehearsal, the song is pretty much finished from an instrumentation standpoint.
“For the vocal side of things, that is a total crapshoot. Sometimes I am not done with the melody until I’m singing the tune in the studio. But sometimes the melody comes to me in the initial demo. It all depends, and there is no rhyme or reason to the vocals. One thing is for certain though, lyrics are always the absolute last piece of the pie. I never write lyrics before having everything in place.”
Tell us about your experience going it alone as an artist. How hard is it to get your music distributed, promoted, shared, etc?
“Throughout most of our career, we have been releasing music independently. We actually have had only one release that was not done internally (2021’s South of the Sun). Like anything else, releasing music independently is an evolutionary process that gets easier the more you do it as you gain more knowledge on the subject.
“When we released our first album in 2015, I can confidently say I had no idea what I was doing. I was doing what most artists do when starting out. Just throwing the tracks up online, making a few posts, sending a few terribly formatted emails to random bigshot publications, and hoping for the best. Naturally, though, you start picking up on the dos and don’ts of the industry, and start meeting individuals whose services coincide with your needs thus beginning working relationships. Nowadays, we have a little team assembled that makes everything happen. So it’s cool to see the evolution of the business side of things. It certainly makes things run smoother despite the operation being infinitely larger.”
Do you have anything you’d like to tell any fans reading right now?
“I’d like to tell our fans one thing: thank you! Without the support, we wouldn’t be able to do the things that we want to do and continuously find inspiration to work on our craft, tour, and release new music. Would we still be creatives without fans? Duh. But without your support, we would not be doing what we are doing right now. And for that, I owe all the gratitude in the world to each and every individual who supports us and our vision. Mwah!”
Dave Annable Discusses His Role as Zoe Saldaña’s Husband on ‘Special Ops: Lioness’
From Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan, the espionage thriller features a star-studded cast, including series lead and executive producer Zoe Saldaña, Laysla De Oliveira, Emmy Award nominee Michael Kelly (whom we interview here), with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, and Academy Award winner and executive producer Nicole Kidman. Special Ops: Lioness, a series produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios, debuted on Paramount+ last summer as the streamer’s #1 most-watched global series premiere on launch day. Special Ops: Lioness is now available on Blu-ray™ and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment as a 3-disc set that includes all eight episodes and over 90 minutes of bonus content, including two new featurettes and behind-the-scenes of every episode!
Lioness is a show based on a real-life CIA program. It follows Cruz Manuelos (De Oliveira), a rough-around-the-edges but passionate young Marine recruited to join the CIA’s Lioness Engagement Team to help bring down a terrorist organization from within. Zoe Saldaña plays Joe, the station chief of the Lioness program tasked with training, managing, and leading her female undercover operatives. The series is astounding and ranks amongst the best of the year. Lioness also features series regulars Dave Annable, Jill Wagner, LaMonica Garrett, James Jordan, Austin Hébert, Jonah Wharton, Stephanie Nur, and Hannah Love Lanier.
Top surgeon Neal McNamara has little information about his wife Joe’s government job. Suffice it to say she shows up at home exhibiting various states of PTSD and visits her family for small increments of time before deployment to parts unknown. Joe is a team lead for the Lioness special operatives program, managing deep undercover female operatives attempting to get close to high-level foreign government targets. The series starts with a bang and never lets up. Special Ops: Lioness is the newest addition to Taylor Sheridan’s growing oeuvre of captivating television. Sheridan’s work includes Yellowstone, 1923, 1883, Mayor Of Kingstown, Tulsa King, and the upcoming series Lawman: Bass Reeves and Land Man.
Special Ops: Season 1 Special Features:
Go undercover with the stars of Special Ops: Lioness with a behind-the-scenes look into the heart of The Lioness program, inspired by an actual U.S. Military program. Special Ops: Lioness includes behind-the-scenes episodes and two brand-new featurettes. Dive into interviews with the star-studded cast, get an immersive glimpse into the intricate world of the Lioness program, and explore the rigorous training required to make the series as authentic as possible.
- Embedded With Special Ops: Lioness
- Battle Forged Calm: Tactics & Training
We thank Dave Annable for taking the time last week to field a few questions for V13 Media. The audio (on SoundCloud) and video are available here if you’d prefer to hear Dave’s answers in real-time.
Can you talk a little bit about what working on a Taylor Sheridan project is like?
Dave Annable: “Working on a Taylor show is incredible. My bread and butter has been doing television my whole career. And this is just a whole other level. The budgets, cast, and writing are top-notch in their particular fields. And coming together, it feels like this incredible circus to be a part of.
“And this show specifically, you know, when you got Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman, Zoe Saldaña and Michael Kelly, the stars kept coming, and you just felt the gravity of the show – the immenseness of the show. It was just incredible to be a part of; I love it. And it was cool because I only saw the family stuff. But then, when I was watching the show as a viewer, I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome – they’re crushing it.’ Everybody just was really involved in the story and the spy aspect of it. And then, of course, the spy’s got to come home! It was just incredible to be a part of it.”
Neal was my favourite character on the show. You brought a brevity to the show that was very different from what it was about. You grounded everything, and I applaud you for that.
“Oh, thank you. I read the pilot many years ago, and Taylor came to me with it and it was an obvious yes, no matter what. But, you know, Neal was only in three scenes in the pilot (3-4 scenes), and, you know, that character and other shows can be very one-dimensional. He could be, you know, the sounding board when she comes home from work, and he offers advice, and then that’s it, you know? I was blown away when I opened the script for the second episode, where we see Neal at work in the hospital, what he has to do, and what he is like.
“Taylor is just so good; He’s carving out this character. He’s showing that he’s a human being, and he’s going to have his issues that he’s got to deal with. And then, having a wife who’s a spy, they can’t talk at night about their jobs. And then having to deal with kids, the everyday stuff that a normal father would have to deal with. I was very blown away by Taylor’s writing; he crushed it.”
Neal’s scenes with his daughter, especially, hit home with me. Some of those speeches were just on point – so well done.
“Well, what’s funny is that we had a rehearsal before we started shooting, right? We were at Taylor’s ranch and had the cast around with Taylor. And he was sort of hand-picking scenes for the characters to read. And he chose that scene, Neal talking to his daughter after the car accident. You know, I was reading it out loud, and I came in sort of hot, you know, and I was like kind of pissed. And at the end, he goes, ‘No, no, no, Dave. Neal’s already lost. You’ve lost, right? No yelling is going to help her.’ And he’s like, ‘This is the softest you can be.’ And, you know, he was right. He was right.
“And I think, you know, I was taking notes. It was like, shit if my daughter’s in there? I want to talk like Neal. I don’t want to talk like Dave because I would get that wrong, you know? So he just nailed it. I’ve gotten a lot of love (specifically from a lot of men) that needs to be directed towards Taylor for that scene because that’s a very challenging thing, I’d imagine, to talk to your daughter like that. And my instincts were dead wrong, so don’t thank me!”
Were you cast early on in Lioness? Did you watch the crew kind of build up?
“It’s an interesting story because I was doing a flashback season four Yellowstone episode. At the time he called me to come back to that, he’s like, ‘There’s also this other show I want to talk to you about, playing Neal, the husband of Zoe Saldaña in a show called Lioness.’ and I said ‘I’m in.’ Then I read it, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh I’m even MORE in!’ Then, it went away for almost three years with COVID, scheduling, etc. Then somebody else took over Lioness, I believe. It wasn’t Taylor, and you know, a friend of mine was like, ‘Oh, my friend just went in to audition for Neal for Lioness.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?!’ I was like, wait a second?
“So Taylor had just taken it back over, and we reconnected, and he’s like, ‘you’ve always been the guy for me – you’re the guy. Would you come do it?’ ‘In a heartbeat!’ It was a wild ride. But here we are, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of a show I genuinely loved. You know, that doesn’t always happen, so this is really very cool for me.”
Can you talk about what it’s like working on a show with so much talent in it? Is there added pressure? Or is it easier because everybody’s just so good?
“I think both. Both things can exist. You feel it for sure. You know, it’s Taylor. When Yellowstone came out, Taylor was big, but he wasn’t, you know, Taylor-Sheridan-eight-shows-on-Paramount-Plus Taylor Sheridan. Right? So then this comes, and it’s Zoe and Nicole. And so, yeah, you feel it. But then when I specifically got on set, and you act across from these folks, you realize, ‘Oh, this is easy because they’re so good,’ right? Like a good actor is a given.
“And to be able to sort of play tennis back and forth with these superstars, it makes you better. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to be on Brothers and Sisters. It was my first real big job, and acting across from, you know, Sally Field and Calista Flockhart and Matthew Reese made me much better. You learn a lot from those actors. So, you know, I feel the same now.”
What memories come to mind when you walk on set for your first day? What sticks out for you?
“Well, it’s a funny story, Mike. Because our first day of shooting was actually the bedroom scenes with Zoe and I. We had met once, briefly, before that. So it was really, it was terrible, you know? Thankfully, we were able to sort of make jokes about it because it’s so weird and awkward. We’ve got a weird job. But it was like, ‘Hey, I’m Dave,’ you know? ‘Let’s hop in bed with a bunch of people watching!’ But I think it really did bring us together. And it got a lot of the awkwardness out, and we were just able to really sort of dive in and get gritty and play this real couple.”
Do you have a process that you like to adhere to when you’re prepping for a role, and do you find it changes from part to part?
“Yeah, my imagination can only get me so far, right? So it was very cool, specifically on this show. I got to sit and study with Dr. Russell Ward, who’s a surgical oncologist here in Texas. And he was inviting me into a surgery he was doing on a 12-year-old who fell out of a tree and broke his knee. So I was able to be in the room, experience it, talk to him about having to deliver bad news to parents and find out what that’s like.
“And more importantly, what is that like when you go home? Is that something that you bring to your conversations with your wife or your kids? All that stuff. So that was very eye-opening for me. Already having so much respect for medical professionals, it’s exponentially more when you see the day-to-day and you get to grind with them. Because we’re in and out usually, we see the doctor, and they fix us. But spending a day with them and seeing the patients and learning what their day really is and how hard it is – is my favourite part of my job, for sure. Learning about whatever job or relationship that the character is in.”
The Narcissist Cookbook Interview: Matt Johnston Takes Listeners Behind The Music
Matt Johnston, creative behind The Narcissist Cookbook, shares insight into their music, creative process, memorable moments, and more.
Born and raised on the picturesque island of Arran off the west coast of Scotland, The Narcissist Cookbook, led by the enigmatic Matt Johnston, has carved a distinctive path in the music scene. Fully self-taught and driven by the rebellious spirit of punk, Johnston’s musical journey unfolded through busking, playing in bars, and navigating the complexities of life. However, a dark period, including the loss of their voice for nine months and a deep dive into substance abuse, spurred a transformation. Experimenting with spoken monologues inspired by diverse influences, The Narcissist Cookbook emerged, using the guitar to amplify the power of their words.
Their recent album, This Is How We Get Better, marked a turning point in The Narcissist Cookbook’s career. It helped propel them into the spotlight. With a devoted global fanbase and a sold-out UK tour, Johnston witnessed unforgettable moments. Venues were filled to capacity, and meet-and-greet lines stretched for hours. Their unapologetic approach to songwriting lends itself to listeners seeking honest, introspective, and fearless musical narratives. The core message revolves around self-acceptance and acknowledging the parts of oneself that may be deemed too scary or vulnerable. The Narcissist Cookbook encourages fans to embrace their fears through music and storytelling, believing that true healing comes from openness rather than hiding.
Looking ahead to 2024, The Narcissist Cookbook aims for international tours and the release of a 40-minute compilation album. It will feature the highly-requested “Courtney (Director’s Cut).” Johnston is also crafting a new album, MYTH. That album will explore codependency, fairytales, and a haunted children’s book-on-tape. V13 sat down with Johnston to dive deeper into who they are as an artist and what has shaped their career thus far.
For those not familiar with your band, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Matt Johnston: “My name is Matt Johnston (they/them); I’m a Scottish writer who fuses monologues and storytelling with songwriting. I’ve just finished a sold-out tour of the UK playing to ~1000 people across seven shows.”
What is the story behind your band/stage name?
“I lost my singing voice badly in 2015 for around nine months and started writing monologues and spoken pieces so I would have something to perform even when I couldn’t sing. But I had a bunch of voices – internal and external, telling me that it was preposterously self-involved to think anyone would be interested to hear me just talking. The name the Narcissist Cookbook was like a shield to protect myself from that criticism. I’m levelling the criticism I’m most afraid of at myself before anyone else can, you know?”
How would you describe your creative process?
“A lot of the time, my creative process is sitting down to write or record something and realizing I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing and treading water with the hope of something decent coming along to fish me out. A lot of the time my tracks are coming from pinpointing something I’m too scared to talk about. Then, I use the writing process to kick-start the emotional process of figuring out why I’m so scared to say the thing. Other times, I’m more like a frustrated painter. I see visuals, landscapes, characters in my head, but because I can’t draw to save my life, I’m left using the mediums I’m somewhat proficient at: songwriting and monologues to try and get those images out of my head.”
Who are your biggest influences?
“I love Sidney Gish’s songs. I actually managed to catch her live in the UK supporting some band or other last year after assuming she’d never make it over here. I think I was one of maybe ten people who were there exclusively to see her. The theatricality of Say Anything has been a huge influence; the way Max Bemis can squeeze meaning out of words through his performance always felt like it went beyond simply singing.
“I’m also a huge fan of both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, and in particular, the triple live album they put out was a massive influence on how I approach writing and recording and the bleeding line between storytelling and songwriting, behind the scenes and front of house.”
What’s the best criticism you’ve ever received about your music or performance?
“Oh wow. I did have someone tell me, and not early on into the Narcissist Cookbook project either, that they could tell that, on some level, I didn’t believe I should be on the stage performing this stuff. That got under my skin because, in a way, they were right. Maybe it’s strange, but the bigger the audiences have gotten, the harder I’ve needed to work before the shows to tell myself that people are here to see me, that they’re here to sing along and have a good time. It’s not quite stage fright; it’s something else.
“For someone who has spent a long time honing what they do to get people to pay attention when people did start paying attention, I found it hard to cope with. Most nights, I get past it easily. But there was one night in London in 2022 where I had a full-on panic attack on stage and barely held it together.”
What was the highlight of the last tour you went on?
“I can’t lie, going on stage every night and hearing the room sing my songs back to me, and recite my monologues along with me, I hadn’t gotten used to it by the end of the tour, and I doubt I’ll be used to it by the start of the next one. But beyond that, the meet and greet lines after the show often went on for an hour or more. I got to meet all these amazing people who had tattoos of my work or had made fan art or fan clothing, whole jackets with hand-stitched lyrics covering every inch of the fabric, too much to recount here. And all just the most wonderful, kind people. I’m wildly excited to get out there and see and meet more of them.”
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows or on tour?
“My show in Berlin landed on Halloween, and so I brought along this insane costume I put together a few years earlier. A character called Beanman made up of a baked bean mask, a baked bean vest and baked bean sweatpants. It’s honestly horrifying to look at. It seems to set off the fight or flight response in about 20 percent of people who encounter it.
“Anyway, I dressed up as Beanman for the Berlin show, and when I went on stage, I got to hear the cheers slowly change to groans of discomfort as I walked into view. Excellent. Ten out of ten experience. Very funny for me, potentially traumatizing for everyone else. After that, I received a whole bunch of Beanman fanart, which now lives on my wall in my rehearsal space.”
What are you still trying to figure out?
“I’m always trying to figure out what the scariest thing I could do for my next project is. With my album MOTH (2017), I wanted to see if I could get away with an album where the second half is almost all spoken. For HYMN (2019), I had the terrifying idea to base an album around one song being rewritten and rewritten over and over again. On This Is How We Get Better (2021) I’d gotten worried that my albums would fall apart without a solid concept to tie them together, so I put out something much more freeform.
“On MYTH (coming 2024), I’m playing with an idea I’ve had for a few years. It’s doing things with album structure and storytelling that I’m not sure I can get away with, and that’s always the most exciting place for me to be.”
Politics and music. Yay, nay or what the hay?
“My music has been overtly political from the start. I can’t avoid it because that’s who I am. Is it cliche yet to say all art is political? I feel like that’s the stock answer. Anyway, it is. Unfortunately, for some artists, refusing to take a political stance is a political stance. I make music for me, music that makes me happy and which represents me, and so my audience unsurprisingly consists of people like me. Neurodiverse people, queer people, people who value compassion and are tired of society hurting their loved ones. I want those people to know I see them, that I respect them and want them to be happy. And the easiest way to do that, the way that is least ambiguous, is just to fucking say it and not hide behind fake nothing statements like Love Is Love.
“Conversely, I want people who don’t want what’s best for my people to know I don’t like them and don’t want them at my shows or in my community. Because them being there makes my people less safe in a very real way. So yeah, I don’t hide my politics. I feel like doing that is a disservice to people who are sometimes committing a courageous act just stepping out their front door, let alone into a music venue full of strangers.”
Share one thing about the band that has never before been revealed.
“I used a sample from an… adult film in one of my tracks. Not for any particularly perverse reasons, but because it fits surprisingly well in the original recording session. When I tried taking it out it made the track feel diminished. You almost certainly wouldn’t know it to hear it. To anyone reading this, no I will not clarify which track unless someone manages to pinpoint the exact clip from the exact video.”
Tell us about your experience going it alone as an artist. How hard is it to get your music distributed, promoted, shared, etc?
“In 2024, it’s easier than ever to put your music out there without a queue of middlemen making things unnecessarily convoluted and insisting on their cut. It used to be that you couldn’t get played on the radio or even get your music in physical stores without a distribution deal or a label behind you. Now, my music is in the same place as Bad Bunny and Taylor Swift, and the same place as the person who recorded an album on their iPhone and uploaded it through Routenote or wherever.
“We all share the same storefront now, and that is devastating to the traditional music business, which has historically relied on gatekeeping and other underhanded tactics to ringfence and protect their investments. I love being independent because I am in total control of the decisions I make, the music I write and record, how I promote it, how I portray myself on social media and live, what shows I take on, etc. I don’t have a team of people all looking to get paid. The only person I need to worry about pleasing is me. That’s a very comfortable place to be as a creator.”
What’s next for you?
“More touring, bigger shows, more people to meet and hug/shake hands with. I’ve got a new album coming out this year and a compilation vinyl that’s going to put one of my most requested songs, the full eight-minute version of my 2018 song ‘Courtney’ that I’ve been performing live for the past couple of years, on streaming services for the first time. And second season of the songwriting podcast Jam Mechanics, which I host with Bug Hunter.”
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