This song is about R. Budd Dwyer, who was the Pennsylvania state treasurer. He was tried and found guilty of racketeering, bribery, fraud, and conspiracy. On January 22, 1987, he called a press conference where he pulled out a gun, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. He died instantly as cameras rolled and people in the room screamed. At least one TV station ran the footage on their local news.
Filter frontman Richard Patrick, who wrote the song, explained in our 2013 interview
: "Everyone says that at some point for something. They may throw a piece of paper into a garbage can from ten feet and they're like, 'Hey, man, nice shot.' It's a strange way to talk about R. Budd Dwyer and suicides and stuff. It's almost like a little callous and almost sarcastic."
Filter took a lot of heat from people who felt this song was glorifying suicide. In response, the band released this statement: "The song 'Hey Man Nice Shot' is a reaction to a well-documented public suicide. It is not a celebration or glorification of taking one's own life. The phrase 'hey man, nice shot' is a reference to the final act itself, an expression of guts and determination of a person standing up for what they believe is right. We are extremely sensitive and respectful to the family and friends of Mr. Dwyer. We have both lost friends to suicide and felt nothing but sympathy and loss for the victims, and those involved in such a tragedy."
Richard Patrick tells us that this song hit like a bolt of lightning. Here's the story:
"'Hey Man, Nice Shot' was the 'aha moment,' where you're like, 'That was so easy.' Coming up with the riff and chorus was one of those things like, 'Well, how the f--k hasn't anyone ever done this?' Like, in the last 500 years of music, how in the hell has someone never just pieced this together? Because it makes so much sense, such a perfect little never-ending riff that you could just play forever and ever and ever and it would never get old.
Then we had that in the computer for a long time. I really had to focus on the verse, and so I just made the verse as sparse as possible. I threw in some atmospheric overdubs and stuff. The pre chorus was cool. You can tell that I wanted to build the song. I really didn't even notice I was creating a hook, because I didn't want it to sound like, 'Oh, this is a hook.' I was so far removed. I mean, the fact that I had anything remotely sounding like choruses to me was almost like selling out, because I was so into Skinny Puppy and the music that I was listening to was so avant-garde that I was like, 'You can't write choruses anymore, man. That s--t's been done.' It was so puritanical and I'm so far removed from that...
And so when I wrote the chorus, I was like, 'Well, there you go. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to just kill. I'm going to hit it out of the park.' And that bass line spoke to me immediately when I wrote that. I thought, 'That sounds like the Chameleons, but it's pretty bad bass.'"
This was the first single from Filter, who were formed by lead singer Richard Patrick and multi-instrumentalist Brian Liesegang. Patrick had been working with Trent Reznor as a touring guitarist for Nine Inch Nails when he came up with this song. As Patrick told us, Reznor loved the song when he heard it, and they recorded the demo at Trent's house. Richard considered making it a Nine Inch Nails song, but decided to go his own route, and released it with Filter. "I was like, 'Okay. Maybe I'll do that and be my own boss and not have to be the hired gun,'" he said. "Because the hired gun thing is tough. You're part of someone else's vision or dream."
Other popular uses of the song include the movie The Cable Guy, episodes of the TV shows The X-Files and Supernatural, and as the opening theme for the broadcasts of Channel 9's National Rugby League.
An alternate mix of this song called the "Quarter Pounder Remix" features a guitar section played over the verse and trumpets played before the chorus. (thanks, Donovan Berry - El Dorado, AR, for above 2)
This was featured in the movie Driven, which is about Champ Car auto racing. Cars were racing at 175 mph in a driving rain while this song played. (thanks, Tom - Milford, CT)
Many people thought the song was about Kurt Cobain, who shot himself in April, 1994.