Tech-friendly Filter's 'Bus' rolls into town

September 28, 1995|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Filter is definitely a computer-friendly band. Not only did Richard Patrick and Brian Liesegang make ample use of computers while recording the band's debut, but they even advocate it in the album's liner notes, writing that technology "in the hands of creative, intelligent individuals is a tool for art, not a hindrance."

At first glance, then, the album's title, "Short Bus," might seem a computer reference along the lines of "data bus" or "expansion bus." (A bus, for those out of the digital loop, is a combination of software, hardware and wiring inside a computer that helps shuttle the data between devices). But as it turns out, the phrase actually has fairly low-tech origins.

"'Short bus' is not a reference to any kind of electronics," says Liesegang, the band's chief programmer, over the phone from a tour stop in Dallas. "It was slang when we were kids for someone who was different or weird, because the short bus was the bus that took the handicapped or otherwise maladjusted or different kids to school.

"It became a derogatory word, and I guess we wanted to claim it back. We'd rather hang out with someone that would be on the short bus than your average, homogenous frat-boy type."

Not that Liesegang and his band mates were themselves short bus denizens. "We all have our ailments, psychological or otherwise, but no," he says. "Actually, I think our bass player, Frank [Cavanaugh], rode the short bus, but that was 'cause his mom drove it."

Being misfits by nature, neither Liesegang nor Patrick ever expected "Short Bus" to sell, much less end up with a modern rock hit -- the dark, catchy "Hey Man, Nice Shot" -- and a secure spot in the Billboard Hot 100.

"We're lucky to exist in the post-Nirvana era, where you can make the kind of record you want," Liesegang says. "It can be hard, and it can be honest and loud and abrasive, and you can play with different textures and still get played on the radio. You know, five years ago, this stuff wouldn't have been possible.

"Rich and I were doing this stuff way back then, and our influences back then were bands that never sold more than 10,000 records," he adds. "We never saw, really, how we could make a living at it, but it was something we wanted to do. Luckily, the climate has changed."

Indeed it has. How else to explain the impact of "Nice Shot," an unblinking and unromanticized look at what drives a man to suicide? "It's not encouragement of suicide. I mean, the song was inspired by many things, one of which being the public suicide of R. Budd Dwyer," says Liesegang, referring to the Pennsylvania state treasurer who, facing charges over an alleged kickback scheme, put a bullet in his brain during a 1987 press conference.

As Liesegang sees it, the song is "more of an examination and a celebration of the guts that that guy had in the face of adversity. It's trying to get inside that mindset, and understand it."

Filter tip

When: Tuesday, Oct. 3, 9 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks

Tickets: $12

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 659-7625 for information

Sundial: To hear excerpts from the Filter album "Short Bus," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6221 after you hear the greeting.

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