Guitar World, Oct. '00
Answer the following:
Limp Bizkit's Wes Borland is
a) and extremely loud albino chimp from outer space
b) a zombie death clown with chops
c) the greatest guitaristy with oversize black contact lenses in rock history
d) the boy next door
If you answered, d, you're more troubled than we thought.
"And Chocolate Starfish obviously means an asshole..."
Wes Borland's home studio is like the bedroom of a hyper-imaginative adolescent. One wall is entirely covered in Star Wars action figures, still in their packaging. There are also plastic-packed effigies of Kiss, Austin Powers, the Crow and assorted characters from Yellow Submarine. A huge Jedi stands on one monitor speaker. There's some kind of bunny shrine, festooned with Christmas lights, off in one corner. The plastic packaging from the Christmas lights has been fashioned into a crucifix. There are lava lamps and pictures of Hindu deities.
But most notably, Borland has drawn all over the walls. If he weren't Limp Bizkit's guitarist, he could probably make his way in the world as a visual artist. Strange, anthropomorphic animals peer down from various nooks and crannies - characters in the Saturday morning cartoon show that plays continuously in Wes Borland's imagination.
Grinning inscrutably, the guitarist thumbs a remote control button, and Guitar World receives a super-advance preview of the new Limp Bizkit album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. Most of the tracks are still intrumentals at this stage of the game. Bizkit singer Fred Durst is off in Seattle trying to cook up lyrics, struggling to shake off a bad case of writer's block. But there is one vocal number, an old-school, L.L. Cool J-style rap ballad tentatively titled "Boiler." The track finds Durst reprising the lyrical stance he took on the last two Limp Bizkit albums, once again playing the jilted, resentful male, venting his spleen at some heartless hussy.
But if Bizkit's singer is revisiting familiar lyrical groun on the band's newest album, their guitarist has gone off into a whole new universe. Many of the tracks feature extended guitar jams that can best be described as "trippy" - wild excusions of heavily Echoplexed, ring-modulated spaciness that seem closer to Pink Floyd than Korn or any of Limp Bizkit's other new-metal cronies.
"I really got back to rock basics on this album," says Wes, who then plays a decidedly mellow - by Bizkit standards - track he calls "I'll Fight Back." "I think that this is one of the best melodic things we've ever written."
Other tracks exude the kind of heavy-metal hip-hop menace for which Limp Bizkit are most highly prized. Many of the tunes just have jokey, off-color working titles at this point, like "Cum on My Shoes" and "Nuthugger." But then again, some of these name might just stick.
"'Nookie' was a working title," says Borland, referring to Bizkit's biggest tune to date. "I just said to Fred, 'This one's called "Nookie",' and he went off with that idea when he wrote the lyrics."
Life is looking good for Borland right now. He and his wife, Heather, have recently moved to L.A. from Limp Bizkit's original home base of Jacksonville, Florida. The Borlands, who were married long before Bizkit struck it big, are setting up house in the green hills of L.A.'s Griffith Park area (also home to Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt). Wes is happily painting cartoon characters on the walls and working on a solo album of his own - a curiously loopy project called Big Dumb Face that's far removed from Limp Bizkit's bruising musical aesthetic. It's hard to believe this childlike, gently goofy guy is a member of Limp Bizkit - world-class proponents of what some critics have dubbed "asshole rock," a hand whose obscenity-laced lyrics have made them a prime object of parental alarm. But then Borland has also been the odd man out in Bizkit - the one who goes onstage dressed as a sci-fi robot or giant bunny. Strange to say, all of this is just as crucial to Limp Bizkit as Durst's belligerence and backward red baseball cap.
Guitar World The new Limp Bizkit tracks seem more rock oriented than anything on Significant Other. There are more guitar jams.
Wes Borland A lor of that has to do with my solo record, Big Dumb Face. That has a lot of rock stuff on it, so I was practicing guitar constantly while Limp Bizkit was taking time off. As a result, when we came back in to do the Limp Bizkit record, I was more open to trying more rock guitar things. And everything song we wrote ended up being in that direction. This has been the easiest record for us to make so far.
GW Did the success of Significant Other have anything to do with that?
Borland Totally. Instead of riding the success of Significant other, we said, "Let's do another record right now. Let's not wait." We had all been listening to Led Zeppelin and getting into a lot of the older bands that used to put out new albums every year. We want to try to live up to that - to raise the standard back up. It's pitiful how long bands take these days. Four years between albums? Come on. It's ridiculous to wait that long.
GW Nowadays, the kids might forget who you are.
Borland They probably will. There are people who come to our shows who aren't familiar with Soundgarden. Everybody's forgotten Mother Love Bone, Green River and Sonic Youth. None of the kids who like our band has any idea who those bands are. They've never of the Jesus Lizard or Sebadoh. And those are the bands I really liked when I started getting into music, when I was about 13 or 14. But now there's people listening to us who were born in 1987. They're 13 now and they don't know any of the music I grew up listening to. And it's not like I'm an old man. Thing just move that fast today.
GW If you're a 13-year-old today, you either have to listen to you guys and Korn or else Britney Spears and 'N Sync.
Borland Yeah. And how weird is that? It's so strange that we got popular saying "fuck" every other word. What I can't believe is that parents actually let their kids listen to it. My dad's a minister and my mom's a first-grade teacher. Growing up, I had to cough when I was listening to a song that had the f-word or "shit" in it. [affecting a motherly voice] "What was that he said?" "Oh...[cough, cough]...nothing, mom."
GW Have you ever sat in a room with your parents and listened to a Limp Bizkit record?
Borland Yeah. I coughed a lot. But now they don't care anymore. Because they know we're not saying to kill your parents and burn your school down. They know it's all just about relationships and everyday life, and that's just how people talk.
GW So you're more true to life than 'N Sync or Britney.
Borland I just can't take any of that Britney and 'N Sync stuff seriously. I don't want to judge it and be all negative about it. But I just have to laugh, because people are calling those acts "artists" now. They're giving them Grammys. To me, that's insane. And they get up and thank their songwriters. And they're saying like, "Thanks to DigiDesign for making Pro Tools, so my singing can sound on key."
GW So what's up with Fred now? Why is it taking extra time to finish the album? Does he have writer's block?
Borland A little bit. We all feel that this is our best album ever. I think that's a lot for him. He's kind of building himself up to live up to the music, vocally. He doesn't want to disapppoint anybody. I've been concentrating on moving into my new house ever since I completed the guitar tracks. But now I'm going to go and spend some more time [with Fred] and try to help out. Because I know he's under pressure right now.
GW Do you have more creative input this time?
Borland I think I've done a lot more on this one than I have on the other two. There's all kinds of stuff going on in my life that's made me be more involved in this record than any other one. For one thing, I finally weaned myself off a drug called Dexedrine that I'd been on for six years. I realized I never needed to be on it in the first place. I got diagnosed in my late teens as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Which I think is a crock of shit now. My parents said, "You might have this. You're obviously not interested in academics. All you wanna do it be in a band and draw. So you should be on this drug." I was on that for six years. Coming off it, I just felt like my head cleared. It would have chemically changed me, just over time, without me knowing it. And made me an asshole.
GW Is it addictive?
Borland Totally. It's a narcotic. It's basically like I was on speed for six years. I found out later on that one of the side effects is dry mouth. So I've had to have five root canals, just from being on that. Every single tooth in my mouth had to get a filling.
GW The classic speed-freak thing.
Borland Yeah. I just feel so much better now. I used to be tense all the time, and really uptight. My wife, I started dating her and she fell in love with me and married me when I was being a dickhead all the time. She actually likes me a lot better now! I haven't been able to relax and just be laid-back in so long. I actually get tired in the late afternoon now. I haven't gotten tired in six years. I also quit smoking about a year ago.
GW You've also moved out to L.A., too. Has that been a good thing?
Borland Totally. My wife and I finally got over thinking, oh, all this craziness with the band is going to be over one day, and we're going to have a normal life. We used to say we were going to wait to have kids until I was off the road. But now we've finally accepted that I'm never going to be off the road, and I'm always going to be involved in music in one way or another. I've stopped fighting it. I've moved out to L.A. and given myself over to it. It's never going to be a normal life. I was never comfortable not having a home base, never getting to settle in any place. But now it feels good to be out here in L.A., because I know this is where I need to be. It made the record go so much better. Life has improved 1,000 percent - moving out here and getting off speed.
GW You prefer L.A. to Florida?
Borland In Florida, I couldn't leave the house. I couldn't go anywhere. I can't believe I lived in Jacksonville for as long as I did. I had people in my front yard taking pictures. I had 10 13-year-olds knocking on my door every single day. I didn't mind at first. But they came back every day. I love our fans to death. But I need a little breathing space.
GW In L.A., people are used to seeing Goldie Hawn in the supermarket.
Borland In L.A., people are just totally relaxed about the stardom thing. Whenever fans approach me here, they're always super cool and relaxed about it.
GW On this new Limp Bizkit album, you wrote and recorded all the intrumental tracks before Fred put the vocals on. So what happens if Fred comes up with a verse that's two bars longer than what you've got on tape?
Borland Oh, we fix it in Pro Tools. Actually, the verse in "Hot Dog Flavored Water" is too long for the vocals. So that's what we did. We don't fix bad notes or pitch-correct with Pro Tools. But as far as arrangements, it helps. We're not gonna set everything back up and re-record the song.
GW Once the vocals are completed, do you ever go back and change intrumental parts in light of what Fred has come up with?
Borland I've never done that before. We've always done the music first and that's that. Lee [DJ Lethal' is actually the very last one to record his stuff. He waits until the very end - until Fred is finished with the vocals and everything. Lee interacts with that, and then the song is finished. He's the icing on the cake.
GW Limp Bizkit records have these little interludes between songs. Are those things specifically written for that purpose? Or are they just bits of music you have lying around that don't fit anyplace else?
Borland A little of both, really. Fitting an album together is sort of like doing a puzzle. Once we decide on a song sequence, we make up a bunch of interludes; or we'll already have something that's an interlude - a funny sample or something. We'll put them in between songs and fade into them. It gives the record a better flow. That's something we'll do with this record too.
GW Are you still using your seven-string guitar?
Borland Not really, no. I feel I was never using the seven-string to its full potential. The only reason I started playing it in the first place is because the guys of Korn did, and Korn sort of took us under their wing early in our career. They hooked me up with the Ibanez people. And it was sort of like, "We can give you a free seven-string right now!" I went, "Sure, bring it on. I'll play anything want, if it's free." But now money doesn't matter as much, and I can pick and choose what I play. I was playing six strings up to the point where we were signed, and I've gone back to that. Seven-string was a phase I went through for a while, and it was a neat thing. But I learned that it's no good having an extra string if you lack fundamental skills. I shouldn't be playing seven if I can't smoke on six.
With this record and with my life, I'm trying to focus on what's most important. Like, I didn't do any of that two-hand tapping, Les Claypool-style stuff I've done in the past. I just wanted it to be a pick and my fingers - to concentrate on fundamentals like tone and just being a real strong player. I mean, I used and E-Bow a little bit. And I went back to using the whammy bar in a rhythmic way, which is something I used to do a long time ago. I guess I'll never stick to one thing. The seven-string is good for some people, but I'm just tired of it. It's too big. And I can actually playing every song that we have on a six-string.
GW Your four-string guitar is the opposite end of the spectrum - a really simple instrument.
Borland Yeah, it's more like a different instrument than a guitar. It's a little like a guitar and a little like a bass. But it isn't either of those. It has a real baritone feel. I just ended up using that a lot. But I might even end up abandoning that completely. As of right now though, that's a good tool.
GW Are your musical tastes really different from the other guys in Limp Bizkit?
Borland I think so. They don't like Beck all that much, and I love Beck. But that's what's good about Limp Bizkit. I don't like what they like either. So it's great when we can all agree on something. And we agree on the music that we make. Our musical tastes are so different that we meet at a point between that's kind of interesting. Like, I don't listen to hip-hop very much. A lot of that stuff takes itself so seriously. What makes it good in Limp Bizkit is that they can't stand some of the stuff I like. It's not even allowed.
GW What really pisses them off?
Borland Well, they hate Ween. I'm not sure why. They would never listen to them. I just started trying to play Jesus Lizard for Fred. He didn't get excited about David Yow's vocals. I think a lot of people find his vocals hard to listen to. But I think they're great.
GW What's the story behind the title of the new Limp Bizkit album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water?
Borland When Fred originally said that was going to be the title, in the press, nobody believed him. But he wasn't kidding.
GW Did Fred make up the title?
Borland He made up Chocolate Starfish and I made up Hot Dog Flavored Water. They were sort of inside jokes that we had going for a long time - stupid things you kinda say every once in a while. I made up Hot Dog Flavored Water in a truck stop, when we were looking at those bottles of Crystal Geyser flavored water. And they didn't have hot dog-flavored water or meat-flavored water. I don't know...ugh...it was just late at night and we were talking a bunch of garbage. And Chocolate Starfish obviously means an asshole. [wraps thumb and forefinger into the shape of an anus] The butthole. And so Fred calls himself Choclate Starfish, because people call him an asshole all the time. So it's like a band name: Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. Kind of like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
GW It's been said that you and Fred didn't get along at first because you dressed as a girl and he didn't like that.
Borland Yeah. I dressed as a girl just to make people mad, and to take the edge of seriousness off playing in a hard metal band. And Fred didn't like that. Now I look at that stuff and day, "God, I was such an idiot. What a moron." But then I look back and say that about myself every few years anyway. But the main reason Fred and I didn't get along is because I was uptight all the time. And he was uptight for whatever reason. It just took us a while to grow up and stop being such jerks to each other. I take a lot of the blame for the tension that was between us. It took me a while to learn how to lighten up. So every time I'm around Fred now, there's no tension. He's lightening up around me because he knows that I'm not gonna react the way I used to. I'm not gonna go [agressive voice], "No I don't like that! It has to be my way or it just won't be cool!" I'm much more of a smoothie now.