In the late '90s and early '00s, Limp Bizkit was a juggernaut, and guitarist Wes Borland was the chugging soul of the band. The observant, cryptic counterpart to outspoken rap-rocker Fred Durst, he was responsible for much of the band's success, with his experimental, heavy riffs and outlandish look (makeup-caked face, theatrical pools-of-black eyes).
Borland's style and growing number of projects have only become more curious and "out there." His evolution is experienced listening to his band Black Light Burns. Borland's responsible for vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, and programming and just released his second album with the group, The Moment You Realize You're Going to Fall. In typical style, he kicked things off with a bizarre music video for the single "How to Look Naked." An almost eight-minute clip, it's a David Lynchian head-trip including bloody hands, a disturbing doctor/nurse duo, and a dimly lit fetish club where octopus genitals and neon paint reign. Warning: Don't try to watch this one at work.
Borland has also been busy finishing Limp Bizkit's next album, a follow-up to 2011's Gold Cobra due out later this year on Cash Money records (home, naturally, to Lil Wayne).
Following that release, Black Light Burns and Limp Bizkit will be touring together, so Borland will essentially be opening for himself.
Borland talked with Up On The Sun about his friendship with Fred Durst, the problem with technology, and the story behind those hypnotic, droning guitar licks.
Up On The Sun: Tell me a little bit about the intended direction of the new album, The Moment You Realize You're Going to Fall? Did you have a certain concept in mind starting out?
Wes Borland: Well, I think the main thing was that there were a few things going on with the first record that I wasn't pleased about. At one point, every single person we had working on the record had been in Nine Inch Nails at one time, so a lot of the sound on the first record was leaning towards all these different peoples' natural tendencies are, which was pushing towards the Nails' direction, so we ending up kinda having a lot of criticism on the first record, like "Oh, they sound a lot of like NIN." That was in my brain for sure, that I didn't want to go that direction on the follow-up.
The other thing was that I thought the first record was slightly too clean for what the songs on it turned into live. The songs live had this sort of visceral wildness that came out, and I wanted to sort of capture that right away this time instead of having songs on the new record start one way and then live, turn into something else. I wanted to make the gap between that to be as small as possible. So, it meant less editing, searching for wilder sounds, um I also wanted to do a dynamic record that got heavy, but when it got heavy, I didn't want it to sound metal. I wanted a lot of the heaviness more in the bass sound, and have the guitars sound more kinda rowdy and not like, the standard, chug chug chug metal sound.
So compared with Cruel Melody, were there different influences affecting this album, be they musical, cultural or political? Were you just seeing how far you could push yourself?
My old bullet trick that I use as far as inspiration and writing is that I try to expose myself to as much music as possible with the hopes that somehow it will all gel, go through my filter, and come out somewhat unique. I think that by having as many influences as possible at all times, it hopefully happens in the right way. So, the sound of the record is influenced by obviously the 'Nails and Ministry and bands like that, but there's also The Strokes, Lightning Bolt, and there's a band that really influenced certain parts of the record, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a weird instrumental band from the '90s. Really strange stuff, and The Cure, of course.
Lyrically, I think a lot of the stuff on the record comes is influenced by society, and reflecting on what's happening now, you know, the whole "living life through television" idea. Although I participate in social media, I think everyone's getting sort of tired of it, maybe without even realizing it, too. This idea that the more connected you are with everyone, the further apart you are from everyone. You're not experiencing anyone face-to-face or giving anyone your undivided attention. You feel like you know what's going on with some person because they just checked into a bar in Arkansas but there's no feelings shared anymore. I feel like we're getting more disconnected the more connected we get.
What track are you most proud of on the record?
Oh, I don't know. [Laughs.] They are all different, and they all kind of --at least to me-- need each other in order to make a record. You can listen to it from start to finish and it makes sense and connects. But I really like "Torch From The Sky" a lot. I think the "Torch From The Sky" and "Because of You" section in the middle of the record is a cool area.
Yeah, I was going to say that I think that those two running together seem to be the most prominent tracks on the record, for me--dirty, distorted, beautiful. What inspired them?
There are a couple different things that influenced that track. One was a poem spoken over a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song called "Dead Flag Blues" that I listened to. I didn't, um, I wanted to do something that was sort of telling a story, painting a picture, and doing so in a way that sounded really old, but in the future at the same time. The melody to me sounds like an old bar song that you would hear someone singing in Scotland when they are wasted [laughs]. But I wanted a story spoken over a soundscape. It gets really big and punchy with a crescendo that doesn't repeat itself. I didn't want a standard song, verse/chorus-type of format. So there are several verses, one chorus and a big ending. That song just made itself when I think back to writing it. I can't remember how it got written. It just sort of was.
You've done so many projects over the years, but if someone had never heard your music and you had to give them an album to represent you, what would it be?
Well, I'd have to go with this record. You know, I really trust my friends' opinions and after they heard it they came to me and were like, "Dude this is the best thing you've done. Done deal. This is it. You haven't done anything else that touches this." I was like "Yeah, okay!" So I'd give people this record. You know, I feel like looking way back to doing stuff with Bizkit on like 3 Dollar Bill Yall$, and the experimentation with pedals, I mean, I was 21 then. Over the years I've learned. This record was definitely taking all of that and putting it into one focus push.
I wanted to touch base on your costumes. What's the evolution behind that, and your thinking behind choosing the costumes for different tours and songs?
I always thought going on stage in street clothes is kinda a missed opportunity, because you're doing something musically impactful that you wouldn't normally do walking down the street. You wouldn't perform songs while you're at a restaurant just eating in street clothes, so why not up the ante and make your visual presentation big and powerful and impactful to go along with the music? So, that was something that I wanted to do. I always loved Bowie and what he did, and Peter Gabriel, KISS, and Manson. That idea just grew over the years. It started with small things like masks or some crazy skeleton suit I had made, and it always became me trying to top what I'd done the tour before. Now it's just ridiculous [laughs]. You know, LEDs light-up-everything, and mirror armor, and coyote face, and shoulder pads. Stupid hats. It's just retarded how crazy it's gotten.
What can you tell me about the new Limp Bizkit album?
We're working diligently and have been for awhile. We're doing stuff with the Cash Money producers and I've been going to Miami to do that, and we've also had several studio sessions, recording as a band here in L.A. Right now we've got tons of ideas and everything is about to move forward. I think the final push is planned for October, when we go in and finish everything. It's going well.
It seems like you and Fred Durst have made some peace. But what do you think will be more apparent on the album: reconciliation or more tension?
Oh, no. When we got back together in 2009 we just laid it out and said, "Look, everything that's happened in the past let's just forget about it, and moving forward from here we'll only base our reactions to each other on current behavior." Agreeing to do that and start over like adults, instead of like when we were working together in our early twenties, it's just been so much easier. We're friends now that actually hang out, instead of being band-mates that don't like each other that much but tolerate each other. The vibe now is completely different from how it was originally.
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Will it leans towards more raw and hardcore, or more hip-hop, especially as it's coming out on Cash Money?
I think there's both elements in it. We put out a record last year called Gold Cobra, and there's elements we took from there, but there's also some....some definite more of a raw hardcore path, a lot more metally. Then there's stuff that goes down more of a club [oriented] Cash Money path. Those are somehow crossing paths here and there. So hopefully when we're done with everything we'll have a well-rounded record that makes sense. Black Light Burns is scheduled to perform Thursday, September 27, at Rocky Point Cantina in Tempe.