It's hard to tell whether Limp Bizkit are the luckiest, the most opportunistic or the best new band in the universe. If you've followed the headlines, you know that in 1995 Bizkit singer Fred Durst befriended and tattooed the members of Korn and passed them the first Limp Bizkit demo. Soon after, the band was signed, and started a touring apprenticeship with Korn. In subsequent endeavors, Limp Bizkit grabbed attention for paying a radio station to play the single "Counterfeit," emerging from a giant toilet onstage at Ozzfest and engaging in an on-air shouting match with a New York radio DJ. The unlikely clincher came when the band's cover of George Michael's "Faith" was released at a single, and blew up at commercial radio.
The record that spawned the hit, Three Dollar Bill Yall$ was promising, but it was also a tad redundant, piling torrents of Wes Borland's angst-riddled guitar volume atop raging raps, throat-ripping screams and pummeling backbeats. The band's new follow-up, Significant Other, however, is where the band's claims of greatness become credible. The disc, which debuted at number one on the Billboard Album Chart, revamps the Bizkit blueprint, retaining the rage, but tempering it with heavy doses of melody. In addition, the band has broadened its sonic scope, experimenting with a range of music styles including, trip-hop, funk, rap, electro-pop, metal, and alternative. We recently caught up with guitarist Wes Borland, and discussed creativity, Irish Folk music, celebrity, band chemistry and black and white bunny costumes.
Guitar.com: What were you striving for on Significant Other?
Wes Borland: We wanted to combine all these different styles into a single thing. We did that on the first record too, but it didn't always work out the way we wanted.
Guitar.com: Were you unhappy with Three Dollar Bill Yall$?
Borland: Not unhappy, unsatisfied. It couldn't have been any other way than the way it was. That was the best thing we could have done at that time, but this record is much, much better. And there's no ifs ands or buts about it. This is more of what Limp Bizkit is about and what we were trying to go for.
Guitar.com: You recorded the new album right when you were in the peak of public consciousness. Why so soon?
Borland: As soon as we came off tour from Three Dollar Bill Yall$, "Faith" blew up. We were already done working the record and then it got popular which was funny. But we didn't want to milk this record. "Faith" was it. We had done three videos and "Faith" was the fourth one, which was live and it came together instantly. So the whole record blew up from the most joke thing on it. That, to me, is pretty ironic. It completely took us by surprise that it happened at all. And it's better for us to use the time to record a new album. We were like, "Wow, everything's going great and the record is selling itself while we're doing a new record." How can you beat that?
Guitar.com: How do you usually assemble guitar parts?
Borland: When we did this record, I was listening to some Irish folk music and some female Indian music and some gothic stuff, and trying to gain experience from that, listening to the melody patterns and trying to study their progressions. I had always approached guitar playing from a real rhythmic, multiple octave level. Just playing with octaves and not really taking it to that level I was afraid of. On this album, I really tried to put a damper on what I was comfortable with and make myself face areas in which I was not a strong player.
Guitar.com: In the past, you listened to techno music, and then tried to approximate the tones you heard on guitar. Do you still do that?
Borland: Oh, yeah. I started getting into Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. That's just amazing stuff and that influences my playing a lot. The new, new post-record stuff that I'm writing on guitar now is much more influenced by that stuff. For a lot of the recording of Significant Other, I didn't listen to anything. About a month before we start pre-production, I'll try to shut my ears off and not listen to any music at all to try as much as possible to avoid sounding like any one thing.
Guitar.com: Is it restrictive to play in a hard rock band when you have such diverse listening habits?
Borland: No, it's because I'm in a hard rock band that that's what I listen to. I don't want to listen to hard rock all the time. You don't want to turn on the radio and hear about work. You want to hear what everyone else in every other genre is doing. In order to make those heavy riffs good, I want to go and not listen to other bands who play other heavy riffs, but go listen to other bands who barely touch their instruments. I've been called a sensitive artist before, but that doesn't mean everything I do has to be lima beans and vanilla ice cream. Naw, man, I want to make an impact. I want to make an explosion. I want to leave something after I'm dead that will stay around a while.
Guitar.com: You tend to wear bizarre costumes onstage and those wild, black contact lenses. What's the deal with that?
Borland: It just covers me up as much as possible so I don't have to ever show all of myself. I've always been into collecting masks and wearing masks onstage. It's more fun for me because I draw and do a lot of art work in the band. It just makes it more fun to be able to do it on myself just to try to turn myself into different characters. To look like an alien or something. I think it makes it more fun for fans too. One of the new things I'm gonna do live is I have a version of a bunny suit that looks like a black and white photograph. So, everything's gray and black and white. I'll look almost like one of the people in that movie Pleasantville. That's one of the new things I'm definitely gonna be doing because I just think it looks really bizarre.
Guitar.com: Are you the oddball/eccentric of the band?
Borland: I'm definitely the art-fag of the band. I'm usually doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I just hate big macho guys with attitudes. "Look at me and all my tough tattoos." I don't personally want to be around it because I think it's lame.
Guitar.com: Do you enjoy being a celebrity?
Borland: [Our singer] Fred [Durst] loves it. But I just don't think I'll ever be able to understand the whole human being worship aspect of it. People going, "Man, you're a guitar god," and I go, "Where?" And I'm glad that I'm making an impact on some people's lives, but I'm the kind of person who would rather be respected for what I'm doing than who I am. The masks and costumes are a way of avoiding all of that.
Guitar.com: It seems like you and Fred are very opposite people.
Borland: Yeah, and that's probably what makes the chemistry in the band work. That's why our music sounds like it does cause there are all these combining forces at play. It's just what happens when we all get together and play. And we all get mad about it when we combine stuff. I'll go, "No I want it my way," and then everybody goes, "Wait a minute. The whole compromise thing was what made us a good band in the first place."
Guitar.com: Do you guys all get along?
Borland: Yeah, we're all friends. We get along like siblings. We have little sibling spats -- this is my side of the car type of arguments, but nothing serious.
Guitar.com: You've spoken in the past about learning from, and even enjoying bad shows.
Borland: We all love to play, and we love for things to go wrong sometimes just for the fact of seeing things go wrong. Not all the time, but it definitely reminds you that everything isn't always right. It's more interesting than having the same predictable thing happen every night. We're definitely not predictable.
Guitar.com: As a band, you have this balance between aggression and euphoria.
Borland: Well, there's a "Fuck you, we hate everything" vibe there, and that was developed in the beginning to protect our emotions from the audience's hatred. But the point is, to let it out there is a lot better than letting it out at your family or your friends. We're not gonna be musical psychiatrists, and be able to play in every single city where we have fans all the time, so we try to really put together a great record and encourage our fans, if they're having a bad time in their life, to focus their anger on the music. It's a good way to release. And that's what our music has been all about.