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Interview: Wes Borland discusses Limp Bizkit’s accomplishments and blunders, his need to “restart” life

Posted by on February 1, 2015

wes-borland-2Sometimes you have to love social media. Last week, Wes Borland guitarist made an Instagram post that came off as both humorous and bleak, insinuating the guitarist was less than happy with Limp Bizkit’s current status and plans. Numerous websites (including us) ran stories analyzing Borland’s words. However, minutes after we shared our version of the story via Twitter, Borland himself directly responded. “Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! How can you guys even write an article about this? #nosenseofhumor,” Borland tweeted at us and The PRP. After a few light-hearted back-and-forth tweets, we DM’d the guitarist and asked if we could do a short interview with him. Ten minutes later, we found ourselves on the phone with Borland.

To be honest, it was rather surprising that Borland was so willing to speak with us. After all, most rock and metal publications have treated Limp Bizkit less than favorably over the last few years. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to a band more loathed by fans and critics alike than Limp Bizkit. Yet despite all of the haters, there remains a strong fan base who still adore the kings of rap-metal, as seen during Limp Bizkit’s fall tour last year and well-received festival sets. And even though it’ll be 15 years in October since the platinum selling album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water was released, there are still many anxiously awaiting the release of Limp Bizkit’s long awaited Stampede Of The Disco Elephants.

However, if there’s anyone who recognizes how polarizing Bizkit is, it’s Borland himself. While he provided updates regarding the band’s new album and plans to tour the U.S. again, our chat with Borland became a much more introspective look into Limp Bizkit’s accomplishments and gaffes than we anticipated. The soon to be 40 year old guitarist spoke to us candidly about what drove him away from Limp Bizkit initially, what he wish he could’ve done differently in the past, how he intends to completely restart his life (a plan that involves moving from L.A. to Detroit), and how it took years apart to truly appreciate what he had in Limp Bizkit.

 

I guess I should start off by apologizing if we offended you in anyway with our story about your Instagram post.  

How could I write that and then be offended by an article? Not offended at all! It’s funny when you make a joke that also has truth in it, people are going to take whatever they want out of it.

 

Websites’ reaction to your post somewhat reflects how over the years, people have been unsure as to whether or not to take Limp Bizkit, dare I say, “seriously.” There’s always been a humor element to Limp Bizkit, but how do you react towards people who might take some of the band’s actions a little too seriously?

I think Limp Bizkit has always put out a mixed message. Over the years, there have been funny things and there have been very serious elements. It is what it is. It’s a band that got too big for its britches really fast. I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do with a band, and Fred [Durst, singer] had a lot of ideas about what he wanted to do with a band. The whole thing imploded. Later with age, circa 2009, we were like, “Hey, you know what? We’re not mad at each other anymore. Let’s give it another shot. It’s a thing that has a bunch of good elements, a bunch of not so good elements, let’s just do it.” People take whatever they want from it. It’s a big, silly rock band, and now an aging rock band that’s moved into its own fan base – a band that’s still supported by a fan base that it kept.

 

What surprised you the most when you returned to Limp Bizkit, something you didn’t expect to experience when you came back?

I guess just being surprised that I could function in a world that wasn’t really my world. I feel kind of like a tourist in their world sometimes because I don’t identify with some of the musical tastes or the culture of some of that world that the other guys are interested in. So being able to not be so pent up with stubbornness – not being so focused on how I wanted things to be or what I wanted to change. Just to be able to go ‘This isn’t that big of a deal, I’m just going to take it for what it is and enjoy the elements of it that I enjoy and not care about elements of it that I don’t care about.’ Whether people like the band or not, or whether even I go through times of my likes for the band or not, I truly believe that Limp Bizkit did a bunch of great stuff. A lot of people think that the band has only a negative impact or leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the music industry and music in general. But I think we did a bunch of great things along with the blunders, and that kind of gets outshined by the blunders. I truly believe that. That’s one of the reasons why I still can function in the band.

 

What is your proudest accomplishment with Limp Bizkit?

The live shows, over the years, and how much I’ve enjoyed that, even when it got too chaotic and too out of control at times. I love playing live. I love playing with those guys live. They truly feel like brothers to me because we started as work friends when we were younger. When I mean work friends, it’s like the people you hang out with at work that you wouldn’t hang with unless you worked with them. Then we got to be closer. We’ve been a band for twenty years this year. I’m so wrapped up in the way those guys play, function and have grown. I started playing when I was 12 years old. I’ve been playing with them longer than half the time I’ve been a musician. As much as times change, as much as our interests go in different directions or the personalities clash and don’t clash… As soon as we’re playing together as a band, it just feels like home to me because I so naturally just fall into the improvisations with what John [Otto, drummer] can do. It built me in many ways. It built my playing style.

I’ve also played with a lot of other bands and tried to mix it up and work with different people – especially with different drummers who have different sort of accents and vocabularies. The first time I played with Derek Bloom in From First to Last, which was a band I was in for a short amount of time in 2006 [editor’s note: in addition to touring, Wes also played bass on the album Heroine], he was speaking a language that was new to me. It was like, “Whoa! You’re accenting in all these weird places and rushing.” It was like the polar opposite of work with John Otto, who’s all laid-back. His snares are always behind the beat, but I’ve learned that vocabulary working with him and it pushed me to be better and more well-rounded and have a bigger tool bag to draw from. I think I’ve gotten way off track from what the original question was.

 

That’s still really interesting, because it sounds like the time apart from Limp Bizkit really did everyone good and made you all appreciate each other more.

It did. When I was in high school, I was a big Marilyn Manson fan. And when I was out of Bizkit, I got to be the guitar player for about eight months in Marilyn Manson. That was the last thing I did before I went back to Limp Bizkit. I went, ‘Oh, I’m standing in a yard where I thought the grass was greener, a place I thought I’d like more, and I don’t.’ That was a big realization, to go, ‘This is what I want to do. This is what I’ve wanted to do since a handful of years after I started playing guitar. This was the band I wanted to be like, or be in and worshiped.’ And it wasn’t what I thought it was on the other side of the grass, working with Manson. For a short period of time I was also dealing with Trent Reznor about possibly filling a different position in that band [Nine Inch Nails], but that also felt unappealing to me because it wasn’t mine. All these places where it seemed intriguing to me, I didn’t start any of them. I didn’t build any of them.

I have another band that has put out four albums called Black Light Burns. Although it’s not a huge success, it’s a pretty good success. People say, “You went back to Limp Bizkit because your other band failed.” No, those things are not true. I went back to Limp Bizkit because it felt like I couldn’t get it out of my blood. I basically had Limp Bizkit AIDS and was infected. No matter what I did, that was me. I started that band with those guys. It just feels more natural to be there. We’re getting older. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be a band. Who knows? We still get to play really big shows all over the world, and it’s kind of hard to say no. People still want to hear our music. We’re still able to go out and do this, and actually enjoy each other’s company, whereas before, when you were young, dumb and full of cum, you’ve got all of these biases where you [feel like you] have to be the head of the pack, and makes want to butt heads and fight. Now it’s not like that. It’s a lot more laid back.

 

You talked about how much you now enjoy playing with each other; the band’s tour this past fall in the U.S. was really well received. Are there any plans for another U.S. tour?

We toured the U.S. last year and the year before with similar tours; at House Of Blues and Filmore sized venues, and it went great. So the answer to that is yes, there will be more U.S. touring. We were kind of squeamish to give it a shot for a while; we were working with some people in 2010 who went “We’re going to put you and Snoop Dogg on a tour, and we’re gonna do amphitheaters, it’s gonna be huge!” The tickets went on sale, and nothing happened! And we pulled out. But in context, also in that year of 2010, all kinds of different artists were having major slumps in their ticket sales, especially in amphitheaters. So that freaked us out, and we went “No no no, we’re just going to keep doing Europe and South America.” So we stayed out of the U.S. for [about] three years and didn’t try again until we went “Ok, this makes more sense. Let’s do these venues.” And it works!

 

While fans have definitely shown a resurged interest in seeing the band live again, many are also interested in hearing the band’s long-awaited new album. Limp Bizkit has been working on new music for a while now, any updated on the album’s status and when it’ll come out?

Yeah, just to be blatantly honest about it, the new album has gone through so many different alterations and so many different sessions… I mean, we’ve gone into five different studios now. I think we’re up to 28 songs, or maybe even more. And those are completed songs. Fred has been working on vocals in his home studio nonstop for months and months. He’s told me that he’s almost finished, but I don’t know what amount of the 28 songs has been finished. I know that he rerecords and trashes vocals all the time. I don’t know, I think he’s in a mode where’s he’s liking something that he’s doing and not liking other stuff. But I think he’s just now starting to feel a lot more confident in what he’s putting in the songs.

The album’s really weird. There’s a lot of weird things that we did, that we tried. There are things that aren’t really full songs… Basically, we bit off a huge chunk and now we’re trying to make sense of it. So I think it’ll be out this year. If it’s not… I don’t know [laughs], I think it’ll be out this year.

 

Well it sounds like you’re also waiting for the new album to be finished like us.

Yeah, I can’t imagine it’s going to be much longer. I know Fred’s been in his studio almost every day for months, just grinding away.

 

I hate to end this by talking about Limp Bizkit’s “blunders,” as you put it earlier. However, if you could travel back in time to speak with the 12 year old Wes learning how to play guitar, which blunder in your life would you warn yourself about?

Oh my god, can I make a list? [laughs]

 

You can do top 3 if you want!

The number one blunder of our entire career without a doubt was staying on the Big Day Out festival one more day after Auckland, New Zealand. We should’ve pulled out immediately as soon as we played the first show, because the first show of that tour was fucking bananas. It was the first time we had ever been to Australia and New Zealand, and they had terrible barricades at this humongous festival. It was side by side stages, with people just moving from one stage to the next [to see bands play].  And for the entire festival, they just had one barricade across the front; one flat barricade… And that was really scary in Auckland. I wish we would’ve been more “Fuck You” at the promoters. We were pretty fuck you at the promoters and said “You can’t do this, you have to get more barricades in! This is really scary and not safe!” and they went “What are you guys thinking?! We had Rage Against The Machine here before, we’ve promoted Pantera shows before, there’s no way your crowd is going to be crazier than those crowds!”, and they were wrong! We played our way to Sydney, and a girl named Jessica Michalik got crushed to death. She was 16 years old. That’s the number one blunder of our whole career, and you can’t get rid of that once it happens. It broke our hearts and our hearts are still broken.

 

I can only imagine the huge toll that tragedy took on the band.

Yeah, I quit [the band] really soon after that. I had gotten the phone call that Jessica had died in the hospital after being in a coma since the show. We had pulled out of the tour after that show, and then all of the legal proceedings began. And then just months after that, 9/11 happened… I think that just really broke me. When the “Western” world got a sort of wakeup call, a lot of people put their lives in perspective. That’s what I did.

Which leads me to my second blunder… quitting. I think I could’ve handled things in a better way, and I don’t think that quitting the band and going off to start…because there was a project I started immediately after that that was really self-indulgent and was nothing that the people who had signed Limp Bizkit at Interscope Records wanted me to do. I was going in a completely different direction, and wrote some cool stuff with my friend Greg Isabelle on drums and my brother Scott, but it was the wrong move. I didn’t think I had an ego [back then], I was like “Those other guys have egos, I’m the down to earth one!” but it turned out I did have a big ego and didn’t even realize it. It was just a different kind, like “I could do whatever I want and it’s going to be successful” is what I thought, and boy was I wrong! Bottling lightning only happens once in a while. It’s easy to transition from one thing into something similar, but to completely just blow off and go away from what is expected from you is a misstep. And I think I could’ve talked more and worked it out with Fred and made my concerns known without having to put everyone through such disastrous number of years after that.

The third thing that’s a blunder that I wonder about sometimes, which is going to sound really weird but I’ll end it with this, is as much as I love where I am today, I wonder if I should’ve joined the band in the first place. I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been a touring musician, if I had gone to art school to get a fine arts degree and paint and do music on the side. Sometimes I think maybe life would’ve been better then. I would’ve been doing something more under the radar and not publically have my life on display for a period of time, not have had so many failed relationships with people. I don’t know, touring and being in a successful band really fucks you up because while you’re doing it, everything seems amazing. Then you get away from it and everybody’s like “Eh, fuck them! Forget about them! They’re terrible!” People try to shame and disgrace you for what you were doing while you were younger, yet also only want to enjoy what you did while you were younger, making it harder to do anything else… It’s a weird… dealing with being an artist and readjusting my life and functioning on a much more “out of the spotlight” level, but to still have that thing attached to you where people go “Oh, weren’t you in that band? That was your heyday, where are you now?” all those things people experience when they’re out of the limelight but still functioning in the industry. It’s a weird bag of shit to deal with.

A thing I’ve learned is that as soon as I get out to “nothing” and nature, and get involved in things that actually matter and talk to people who aren’t wrapped up in all of this stuff, you realize that not of it means anything at all! It’s just garbage, and you’re like “Wow, I’ve spent so much of my time and life focused on this meaningless garbage, this fleeting fame, money, and success.” None of it matters. My other band Black Light Burns, we spent all this time making these really in-depth, insane, painstakingly crafted videos for the last album, these two really amazing videos. And basically the reward for it was a YouTube comment, going “cool.” Not even a capital C. [laughs].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR98kZWA-k8

So it just like “What am I doing this for?!” … It’s just puts things into perspective, to go “Why do I care about this shit? Why do I care about people’s adoration? Why do I look at comments on my posts to get some instant gratification that I need filled?” The whole thing is insane.

One thing that I’m doing now to kind of correct a lot of things in my life I hope is I’m leaving L.A. My girlfriend and I are selling our house here and we’re moving to Detroit, MI.

 

Why Detroit?

Because Detroit is a city that needs people to come there. There’s kind of a gentrification going on, there’s a bunch of people who are really excited to build and steer the city after the bankruptcy, and there are all of these amazing properties there that wouldn’t be available in Los Angeles, New York or a larger city because you just can’t find spaces as big and as cheap there. I want to go there and open up my studio, not open to the public but open it up physically and have more room and space to work with because I have a little cluttered studio in L.A. And I want to actually go somewhere that I can write again because I can’t write here [in L.A.] anymore. Detroit’s exciting, and it’s recovering from bankruptcy and has all this urban farming there, new galleries opening up, artists are flooding in. It’s really similar to how Brooklyn was ten years ago.

I turn 40 in about a week and a half [editor’s note: this interview occurred on January 29], and maybe this is my midlife crisis [laughs] to go hit the reset button and move somewhere, but I need to. I’m going to Detroit, I’m not going to look at anything I did in L.A., no paintings or music, and I’m going to restart there on something.

 

Does this “restart” still include Limp Bizkit?

Oh I’m still going to tour and be in Limp Bizkit. I’m just going to start fresh, sort of re-blank canvas my life artistically.

 
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