Interview: Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland
The commercial-metal man chats about his art school past and love of dark electronic music, ahead of February's Kerrang Tour in Glasgow
The annual Kerrang! tour is a snap shot of the state of heavy rock. And 2014 finds us in a dark and disturbing place, with the monstrous riffage of Nottingham’s Baby Godzilla famed for their explosive live shows; the power-meets-thrash of Nekrogoblikon, the world's first (and only) 'goblin metal band'; and Crossfaith’s electronically enhanced metalcore. The Japanese quintet started off as a nu metal covers band so they should be particularly excited that one of their inspirations – Limp Bizkit – will be taking the headline slot.
Limp Bizkit and their brand of rap metal has its detractors but whatever you think about the band, it’s impossible to deny that guitarist Wes Borland is an incredibly talented musician, peppering their music with heavy guitar hooks. He always comes across as the odd one out: caked in horror make up, he's the freak amongst the frat boys. ‘That originally came from wanting to do something on stage to take advantage of a live situation and turn it into something theatrical,’ explains Borland of his outlandish costumes, one night painted black from head to toe, the next performing as a witch. ‘As we became more popular I had more resources to hand so it was something that grew quite naturally out of boredom. Then it became a competition with myself to continue to top what I had done before.’
For a band associated with the dumbest end of commercial metal, Borland is an exceedingly thoughtful and erudite interviewee, talking knowledgeably about his influences in music, art and cinema. ‘I went to art school and was originally a sculptor and painter,’ explains Borland. ‘I also build guitars myself; I’ve modified every instrument I’ve ever owned but also built a couple from scratch, which has definitely had an effect on my music. I’m always tinkering with my equipment and adding things to it and opening things up.’
His influences have varied since he was a young Minor Threat, Black Flag and Misfits obsessive. ‘A couple of years later someone said, “Here’s Metallica Kill ‘em All” and I put that on top of all the punk stuff I’d been listening to and from then on it was just me chasing it constantly. I got into death metal, grindcore, I was always after the darkest fastest thing I could find until I hit Ministry, which opened up the floodgates to all this other music that’s crazy and electronic like Depeche Mode and The Cure. I’m attracted to real darkness, not evil, but things that are mournful and depressing, music that is made at times of infinite sadness. Sad music makes me happy.’
That might come as a surprising statement considering the slamming party vibes of LB’s output. However Borland has also played with Marilyn Manson; Trent Reznor asked him to tour with Nine Inch Nails and his own Black Light Burns project is far more sinister and complex than his day job. ‘Someone said to me: “Limp Bizkit is your Saturday night, out on the town bar hopping, while Black Light Burns is your thoughtful novelist persona”, and that makes sense. I don’t think what I do in Limp Bizkit is artless – it’s very commercial but it’s not completely artless, and Black Light Burns isn’t completely non-commercial because there’s still some songs that definitely have pop hooks.’
‘I know Bizkit has come to a point where a lot of people are into the band for nostalgia reasons,’ admits Borland, but that doesn’t mean the likes of ‘Break Stuff’, ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’ and ‘My Generation’ won’t fuel a ferocious mosh pit. Their trailblazing tunes are burned into the psyche of many a metal head, an irresistible call to arms, so come and get it.
Kerrang! Tour 2014, O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sun 16 Feb.