Long known for his sonic and sartorial experiments as lead guitarist of Limp Bizkit, multi-instrumentalist and producer Wes Borland will strip away the body paint and perform new solo material at this year’s Moogfest, which takes place May 17th through 20th in Durham, North Carolina. Along with drummer Alex Rosson, Borland will use an elaborate rig of synths, pedals and guitars to conduct a four-hour sound installation. The partially improvised set will inform material from his sophomore solo album, Astral Hand, due for release on this August. Described by Borland as his intention to produce “a soundtrack hovering somewhere between soundscape and post rock for a nonexistent film,” Astral Hand is the full-length sequel to his 2016 solo LP, Crystal Machete. “Sixty percent of the record is already written,” he tells Rolling Stone. “The other 40 percent is going to be based on ideas and structures that I’m coming up with for and during Moogfest.”
Today Rolling Stone premieres the phantasmagoric lead single, “Matadors and Daughters,” followed by its more umbral, cinematic B-side, “Arcturus” (both available for pre-order on iTunes tomorrow). Fresh off a tour with X Japan, who he performed with during both weekends at Coachella, Borland walked Rolling Stone through his self-fashioned gear rig and talked future plans from his home studio in Detroit, Michigan.
This is very different from anything you’ve done before.
I think [Moogfest] saw in me something outside of the stereotype of what most people see me as – who I am as a person, instead of who I was as a person. They’ve been following some of the things I’d been doing over the years. For me this is like a big chance to flex my muscles and show a world of people what I’m capable of. I know I’ll be fine, but I want to be better than fine. I want extra credit.
What’s your setup like for the show?
I’m setting up the workflow of the rig right now. I’m using some old analog, vintage boutique, crazy stuff that can’t fly. I have to rent a cargo van and drive everything down there for 10-and-a-half hours. It’s made up of lapsteel, synthesizers, nine delay pedals, four loopers, splitters so that I can run it all at the same time. I’m creating loops and going to, like, old recordings of mine and stockpiling my sampler – I’m armed to the teeth with samples for days. I better not drink any water.
What are some of the most unique pieces you’ve procured for your Moogfest rig?
Three main items that are sort of like my go-to sounds that I use a lot are the Moog Taurus 1, which is a bass pedal synthesizer. It’s classic from the late Seventies. I’ve used that on both my solo records and will also use that in my rig for Moogfest. That’s an important piece of gear and it’s got a very signature sound – it fills the bass spot but has this very warm analog.
I think I bought it at Black Market Music in L.A., which was like my favorite music store – they had to shut down because people suck and went to Guitar Center instead. For a brief period of time I knew Rick Rubin. Limp Bizkit was trying to work with Rick Rubin on a record, but it didn’t really go anywhere. This was like 2000. He took me gear shopping to Black Market Music. I ended up getting the Taurus there later, but when I went with him the first time, that’s when I bought my first Echoplex – a Maestro Echoplex EP-3 – which is a classic tape delay that I just love. You can’t even get tape cartridges for it any anymore. There’s a place in L.A. called Echoplex Repair that you send your tape cartridges to, and they wind new tape on them and send them back to you. I’ve got two of them with fresh tape in my rig.
Then I’ve got an Oberheim Two Voice, which is a really cool old Seventies synthesizer that I actually swapped with Ross Robinson, the producer. We’re always swapping gear. He had a broken Oberheim and I was like, “I’ll pay to get it fixed.” And it cost me $900.
Do you have any forthcoming plans with Limp Bizkit?
I just got back from Australia, New Zealand and Japan with them, then we’re doing festival season in Europe through all of June and July.
I heard you were also collaborating with Travis Barker.
We’ve done a bunch of sessions in his studio, but won’t release anything until probably next year.
What was it like to play Coachella with X Japan?
They pretty much leased me for two weeks for whatever Yoshiki wanted. Them trying to break into America is … such a clash of cultures and it’s so charming to me. I would do anything for them. I’m a fan of their spirit. They go hard and they live who they are all the time. Those guys are serious about what being a rock star means. Like every single member has an entourage and a glam squad. Ten years ago, when I first did shows with them in 2008, I met their other American guitarist, Richard Fortus from Guns N’ Roses. Richard and I were on this journey together, looking at each other like, “This is amaaazing.”