Tuesday, June 21st 2011
Interviews: Limp Bizkit
We started Antiquiet to be a megaphone for criminally underexposed musical greatness, and, equally, a magnifying glass focusing the heat of a dying star on the underbelly of inescapable sonic murder that shines in their place. Every so often however, a dialogue unfolds that can lead to new understandings, whether among writers, readers or even artists. And occasionally, we’ll even have the bullshit flag thrown back at us.
Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland is a schizophrenically diverse talent in a band as polarizing as they come. With rap-rock tilt and a violently aggressive narrative (provided by frontman Fred Durst), LB makes “music for the sneering scumbags who find kinship in the dregs of cultural rot,” as I personally described in my unflattering review of their new album Gold Cobra. Hardly the most favorable depiction of a band that’s sold 50 million albums in their incendiary career, but a reactionary testament to lyrics that run the gamut of variations on “Douchebag, I’ma fuck you up.”
To our surprise, Borland reached out personally to respond – taking specific issue with our one-star rating for Gold Cobra.
“The hatred you have for Fred is part of the reason we’ve succeeded,” Wes DM’d via Twitter. “I could see 1 out of 5 if you were expecting OK Computer, but… As far as LB records go, Gold Cobra is perfect. Your review was smart and I appreciate the kind words towards me, but I’m proud to be here.”
This led to a response loaded with questions and a discussion of the review rating (which was raised to two stars prior to the conversation – the rating, not any of the review itself), which led to a candid and fascinating email conversation that transpired between last night and this morning. Read the entire transcript below.
From: Wes Borland
Date: Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 7:56 PM
First of all, I’ve totally seen where you’re coming from, and I’ve seen it over and over again. I know many people who have a similar attitude towards our band (I was one of them 10 years ago when I quit) and in these weeks leading up to the release of the album, I’ve been promising myself that I wouldn’t succumb to curiosity by reading reviews, and I did. I was told that there were starting to be several great ones, so I read them and they totally got it and hit the nail on the head as far as identifying with our intention. But a few have had a tone similar to yours: the band is OK, but I don’t like FD.
There is no way in Hell that our band would ever have been as successful without Fred as the singer. Period. No matter what effect he has on people in a ‘TMZ Personality’ kind of way, he is an astonishing front man and performer. I’ve never seen anything like it and the feeling I have during our shows can’t be touched by any other experience I’ve ever had. I have talked to folks time and time again who hated us and had all these preconceived notions… after seeing us live they can’t wait to see the show again. We are a ridiculous band. We have fun. We are obnoxious. We provide an escape for ourselves and our fans through what we do and our fans seem to be so happy with this record and so are we. It would be appalling for us to try to come out with some kind of “oh, we’re in our thirties and Fred just turned 40, so let’s make a grown up meaningful record that makes us feel like men” album. We made a record that is 100% not thought out to be anything but other than what it is: a Limp Bizkit record. We went into the studio and did what came naturally to us. I’m pretty sure most of our negative reviews will be from people who always hated the band and are totally disgusted that we came back together to do anything for any reason. I am so proud to be a part of this band. Thanks for your time.
From: Johnny Firecloud
Date: Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 8:08 PM
Thanks again for reaching out directly and explaining your reaction so thoroughly – I appreciate it.
The one star review was clouded judgement and has been changed. The instrumentation is fucking fantastic, and there’s a wide consensus on that. But the general negating aspect, Fred’s impact, moves beyond the vocals and into the personality of the sounds, which in the writing rationalized my take/rating on the whole. If a kid says “Limp Bizkit sucks because they pander to negativity, hatred and violence,” what is the rebuttal?
To answer your question, I caught you guys in 1998 in New York with… Incubus and Staind? Pretty sure it was ’98. It was a fun-ass show, without question. I couldn’t get enough of that first record, and you’re absolutely right – Fred isn’t some talentless punk. I don’t mean to imply that he’s coasted to success, by any means. But Break Stuff changed things for me as a fan – shit suddenly got dark and disturbing, and no longer an escape, as you put it. And the people singing the songs & wearing LB shirts were the same people throwing fists where conversations would suffice. The encouraging soundtrack to aggression & intimidation became the Limp Bizkit MO. I couldn’t connect anymore as a fan.
The question I keep returning to is, what brought you back? With your talents, why identify with this monstrosity of character? Of course I don’t refer to your relationship with Durst, but the intentionally flagrant extremes that come to define LB. At what point does the vitriol become radioactively toxic? Is that the Limp Bizkit brand?
And I ask this not as a challenge, but as a fan of your ability in need of perspective: What makes you proud to be a part of the band that you didn’t feel before?
Thanks again, Wes. I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this.
From: Wes Borland
Date: Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 8:27 PM
The thing that brought me back is the same thing that may have been off putting to you. There’s something in me that enjoys the feeling of the train about to come off the tracks for some reason. I didn’t get that feeling in anything else I’ve done solo, or when I briefly played in Marilyn Manson or with From First To Last. There’s a chemistry that the 5 of us have that just works. I also feel more creative in this environment as well because it challenges me to be a better artist. My ideas don’t have to fit into any one spectrum and I can truly be as unhinged as I need to be onstage. I’m a sensitive and irritable person that bottles a lot of anger up and LB is the perfect outlet for me to vent. I can do whatever I want when I’m on stage and I never attack anything but inanimate objects, so nobody’s getting hurt. As far as Break Stuff goes, I always looked at that song as an interpretation or explanation of someone’s defenses to outside attacks. It’s not as much of a fight song as it is a fighting back song. I would encourage anyone to fight back and to fight back harder than they’ve been attacked. I hated getting fucked with when I was younger. I cried and cried at home after school and I never wanted to go back. I can identify with wanting to fight back and I feel like Fred has always tried to be communicative about his lyrics being anti-bully in interviews.
From: Wes Borland
Date: Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 8:33 PM
And just out of curiosity, would you say for instance a band like Pantera also panders to negativity, hatred, and violence? What about Slayer? Is it the same?
From: Johnny Firecloud
Date: Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 9:37 PM
The outlet you find in LB is undoubtedly the same outlet sought by much of your fanbase – and that’s by design. But seeing how the band bore the brunt of the Woodstock ’99 fallout, I’m sure we’re covering dusty ground in discussing how the fans don’t take the aggression out on strictly inanimate objects. Aggression and discontent are as deep a part of the mainstream climate as ever, so of course there’s going to be a market for explosive & controversial. This isn’t about indecency, so much as artistic ownership of yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater and a perceived imbalance of impact on the record (singer vs. the band). Why do the guitars drop so often when the vocals begin? It may be the copy the label sent me, but Fred’s voice seems so prominently above the rest. I have a few more production questions on the album as well if you’re up for it (that don’t center on vocals).
Fred may have discussed anti-bullying in interviews, but the work speaks loudest and longest, and he comes off as a textbook bully. Not many hormone-rocket teenagers are going to grasp the subtlety of violently lashing out against the right people / the bullies / etc. when chanting “douchebag I’ma fuck you up.” And when you’re such a talent on your instrument, how does one defend the creativity of such lyrics, in their total consistency on the album? It’s harder than ever to buy into the White Male Angst these days, no matter where it’s coming from.
I was never much of a Slayer fan, though I was in awe of their musicianship. The whole Satanic thing kept it at an arm’s length for me, because it seemed even to the ten year old I was when I discovered them that there was a schtick involved. A part played. Would I call it the same? Only to the extent that I’d compare the poorly-drawn [pentagrams] carved into arms & torsos with highly violent attitudes and perpetually clenched fists in high school hallways.
Which brings us to Pantera. Did they stir up the hate pot? Definitely. There’s a discrepancy in the Pantera comparison, however – and here’s where it gets sticky. Setting the words aside entirely, in my ears Fred’s lyrical designs and vocals fall far short of someone like Phil Anselmo. Fred’s spectrum seems far more narrow and consistent in destructive lyrical design. Though to be fair, the people wishing for an instrumental version of the record & that you’d “just get a new singer” aren’t fans who’ve stuck around over the years.
I chose to review the record because your work demands more than dismissive kneejerks, regardless of the final outcome. At the very least, with your permission, this conversation can be a balancing counter-argument to my own, from the horse’s mouth.
From: Wes Borland
Date: Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 10:30 AM
OK. Woodstock. Dusty ground for sure, but you’re basing your idea of our involvement there on the media’s slanted view of what happened. We were the poster child, in a nutshell, because we have a song called Break Stuff. The crux of that whole fiasco didn’t take place until the next day, yet news stations everywhere were broadcasting images of our set immediately followed by the fires burning and fences being taken down 24 hours later. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on what happened there, because my view and the popular view (which basically uses us as the scapegoat and excludes a plethora of additional problems: overpriced vendors, ATMs running out of money, alcohol influenced mayhem, and general mob mentality behavior) don’t match up. We never said: “please fight each other, burn everything, and rape.” We didn’t even allude to it. We did our thing.
White male angst. I think his vocals are beyond that now. Fred is one of the most hated people in music and he has to constantly put up with a slew of negativity thrown his way. Things he did began it and the more he fought it, the worse it’s gotten, so what do you expect? Of course a guy like that is going to be angry. It’s a cycle. He’s grown a lot and I personally find him easier to be around than ever. We’re friends. The hatred of our band at this point has been accepted and infused into what we are. I think that’s why I’m able to discuss it this easily now. It comes with the territory.
Heavy music should be made as an expression of violence in order to keep the maker and the listener from going on psychopathic killing sprees. I’ve found through talking to other people over the years, that as humans, many of us need to express a repressed hunter-gather primitive side that is no longer accepted in civilized modern society. Some people do it through video games, some love horror and violent movies, some people play paintball, whatever. I have a part of me that needs to go to war, but I’m not a soldier. I have a need to punish myself and flip out, but I don’t really want to cause permanent damage to my body or anyone else’s. I truly feel that LB is that outlet for many many people. It’s important. You didn’t like Slayer because of the satanic thing. See, for me, that was what really drew me to them. It was evil and forbidden and it made me feel something that I had never felt before. I could express feelings in my mind by listening to their music.
Brass tacks: this is really just a matter of opinion at the end of the day and because of that, we aren’t really ever going to get anywhere. I never thought once about the guitars coming down or the vocals being too loud, because I’m not biased in the same way that you are when I’m listening to it. To me it sounds like a snappy bombastic mix. I like the bragadocious, in-your-face vocals because they’re crucial as a part of the hip hop element we have. I absolutely love our record and I love our singer. I’m fine with you publishing this, I think it’s an interesting dialogue to be sure.
Photo by Neilson Barnard / Getty Images