Ask him what he wishes someone had told him 30 years ago, when he began his music career, and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst's answer might surprise you.
"To remain." Long pause. "Silent."
For a man who once was as much in the public eye for his controversial statements and bragged-about sexual dalliances, it's an unusual answer. But his band hasn't felt much love from the media over the years.
Limp Bizkit Features Controversy, Lil Wayne on Comeback Tour
Limp Bizkit is scheduled to perform Sunday, May 26, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
"Things in the United States have been slightly fickle, and we've avoided it for the past four years," acknowledges guitarist Wes Borland. "The band has a history of being so polarizing; people either really love us or really hate us."
This may be true, but there's no denying that the band has seen its share of success and loyal fans in the midst of all the tumult. In the mid-'90s, Limp Bizkit opened for Korn before they were signed to a label — or had even recorded an album. Starting with 1997's beloved Three Dollar Bill, Yall$, the band became the public face of the nu-metal movement, providing catchy, angry anthems that intertwined rock, rap, and metal.
Their second album, 1999's Significant Other, was another hit, and while 2000's Chocolate Starfish and Hot Dog Flavored Water caused many to think that the band's style was downshifting, it sold more than a million copies in the first week and, at the time, was the fastest-selling rock record in history. After 2003's Results May Vary (the only album that didn't include Borland), an extended hiatus, and 2005's experimental The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1), the number of Limp Bizkit records sold worldwide exceeded 40 million.
They reformed in 2009 and put out a heavy, energetic album through Interscope Records in 2011 — Gold Cobra — but mainstream success proved harder to recapture.
"A lot of that was because we were sort of fighting with Interscope at the time of the release," says Borland. "It's a shame, because Gold Cobra, I think, was a good record."
This year, they've taken another tack in their attempt to return to the limelight. In 2012, they signed with Cash Money Records, and earlier this year their new single, "Ready to Go," featured labelmate Lil Wayne.
Teaming up with Weezy was an interesting choice, but they've had a lot in common over the past few years: Both Limp Bizkit and Lil Wayne have done time in the media spotlight as the rock-rap act everyone loves to hate.
"Working with Lil Wayne has gotten mixed reactions, which is what we're known for," says Borland. "So we're just continuing to do something right, it seems."
Adds Durst: "He's [Lil Wayne] a unique individual with a lot of confidence, who is clearly genius in his use of metaphors. It was an honor to work with him and I just really like his style."
Skateboarding was the other thing that brought Lil Wayne and Fred Durst together.
"The front part of his house," Borland says, remembering a time he and Durst visited the rapper's four-story Miami mansion, "looks like a skateboard shop — boards everywhere and a work area to work on skateboards, and then you take an elevator up to the roof of the house and you have these huge ramps built everywhere, and street courses. He's obsessed with skateboarding. It's all he does when he's not working on music."
Borland pauses. "Afterwards, we quietly ate steak with him at a giant glass table."
Limp Bizkit's new album, slated for release later this year, isn't a departure from the band's well-known style — they've always been characterized by axman Wes Borland's down-tuned guitar riffs and creative use of six- and seven-string guitars and Durst's rapping and catchy shouted vocals. Combine that with bassist Sam River's simplistic grooves, DJ Lethal's hip-hop-style record scratching, and Otto's stylistic percussion, and you've got a sound that's recognizable even where it's not appreciated.
What the guys in Bizkit think will be apparent to fans is how naturally the writing and recording process went for them with the new record. They worked with Ross Robinson (who also worked with them on Three Dollar Bill, Yall$) on a few tracks, as well as Cash Money producers and Lil Wayne. But the majority of the album was done in-house by the members themselves — Durst produced his own vocals from a booth at his house, and then Borland took the sessions on hard drive (or Dropbox) to mix at his house.
"It's a comfortable atmosphere, and my vocals are influenced by what's happening in that moment," says Durst.
"We had just re-formed [the band] on the last album [Gold Cobra] and it felt like a really heavy burden," says Borland. "This new record sounds like us, but it sounds like us naturally being ourselves, instead of trying to sound like ourselves — if that makes sense. Everything this year that we've been doing has felt fun and exciting again in a new way, like when we were first starting our careers. This tour is us testing the waters."
Limp Bizkit's resurgence isn't the only thing you can expect from the band members this year. Borland's side project, Black Light Burns, continues to fascinate with his talent and vast array of influences, but Durst is delving even deeper — into film. It's not a well-known fact, but Durst spent Bizkit's hiatus building a career as a director, with films like 2007's The Education of Charlie Banks and 2008's The Longshots.
"I love the preparation of directing," says Durst. "You can almost predict the outcome. Since I don't prepare much when I'm making music, I really love that process.
"I'm working on something that's really awesome," he adds, excitedly. "I'll be at liberty to talk about it soon. It's with Showtime, and I wish I could talk about it now. But I need to be able to talk about it with confidence that it is actually happening."
So until the band members' next venture, album, or public disturbance, Limp Bizkit is on the road, touring the United States with a back-to-basics club-style setup.
"So far, most of the dates have sold out, so that's great," Borland says. "We were just waiting for the right time."
Limp Bizkit has always had timing to wrestle with, whether it's the '99 Woodstock riot, their much-derided album titles, or their ill-timed public statements. But now that they can look back on it, it's all part of what Limp Bizkit has always excelled at — knowing how to create confrontational art and then marketing and selling it.
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Even on Gold Cobra, Durst spent the outro on "Loser" cultivating music-industry controversy, busting out a verse from "Nookie" and stating, "We gotta' mess around with this shit, metal-style," before launching into the aptly named track "Autotune."
Maybe it was just Durst simultaneously mocking and dabbling in industry trends, like usual. Or maybe it was an unconscious provocation of the future partnership with Lil Wayne.
Either way, it's 2013, and Limp Bizkit is ready to go.