For Limp Bizkit’s Napster-sponsored free tour with Cypress Hill, guitarist Wes Borland appeared onstage with his face painted white and his body covered in fake blood. But it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Borland had designed a leather suit covered with light bulbs for the tour; when he tried on the custom-made gear the day before the first show, the lights caused guitar feedback. “I’ve got the troglodytes scrambling to fix it for our arena tour in the fall,” he explains backstage before the Bizkit’s New York show. “It’s just more fun to go onstage with some kind of armor.” The twenty-five-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Heather, has eccentric tastes in music and gets to indulge them in his solo project, Big Dumb Face. In January, BDF plan to put out an album, which Borland says will sound like Ween and Mr. Bungle, with a little death metal thrown in. First the Bizkit will release their new record, Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog-Flavored Water, this fall. Borland describes it as a return to the heaviness of the band’s ’97 debut, Three Dollar Bill, Y’all$, but with better songwriting. “If you didn’t like Limp Bizkit before,” he promises, “you still aren’t going to.”
You cite avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn and electronic artist Aphex Twin as influences. Seems kind of brainy compared to Limp Bizkit.
Limp Bizkit is definitely a dumb rock band, as far as the fact that our songs are written in pop format. In the underground scene, there are all these fresh ideas and bands that are in music to express themselves. That’s always where I am as a listener. If I can bring some of that feeling into what we do, then we’re always going to be a step ahead. I could name a hundred bands that are just playing this retarded music: [Sarcastically] “Hey, we’re going to play heavy E chords — to a beat!”
You’re sick of hearing new bands who do the funk-metal thing?
Four years ago, I thought we were pushing it [laughs]. You had Rage Against the Machine and Korn and the Deftones and us. And then this whole slew came behind us. I never thought we would make it past the slew point. I thought we would be at the second-stage-at-Ozzfest level forever.
But now there’s the slew.
And it’s really boring. I know this is going to sound shitty, and that I’m supposed to spearhead this genre or whatever, but I could care less. We’re a rock-rap band, but we incorporate a lot of other styles, and we’re always trying to grow. We all stay off drugs, and I think the most important thing is that none of us have gone, “We’re all going to put as much cocaine into our faces as we can, and whore around with women, and light the stage on fire.”
But you’re aware that people think of you guys as troublemakers, right?
I think that, yeah, we’ve fallen into the Guns n’ Roses slot for this period of time. We’re given the “mean kid in the sandbox” rap — that we’re careless and don’t think about the consequences of our actions. Woodstock was a permanent brand on our arm. But we can keep writing music for years if we keep our heads on straight and treat this like a business.
You seem pretty levelheaded and happy. Is that a necessary balance for the band?
Fred [Durst] is a happy guy, but he’s very opinionated, especially about things that piss him off. Just as many things piss me off; I just roll with the punches. But everybody gets along now, and it hasn’t always been that way. We discuss things instead of fighting about them.
Success changes a lot. It allows you to get a little breathing room from each other. Fred and I finally compromise on things. I’m not such a knucklehead. I was on a medication called Dexedrine for about six years, for something that to me doesn’t even exist called attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder — which I think is something that society made up because not all people fit into the same educational system. I was nineteen or twenty and my folks said, “You act like an asshole all the time, and you don’t care about anything but music and artwork.”
Were you being an asshole?
Yeah, but all nineteen- and twenty-year-old guys only care about themselves. You’re filled up to the top of your head with semen, and all you want to do is go bang girls and get into trouble with other guys. Guys that age don’t care about people’s emotions. And then you roll out of that and go [as if weeping], “Oh, my God, I was such an asshole for so many years.” I weaned off the Dexedrine three or four months ago. But it had turned me into this freak that I didn’t even realize I’d become. They called me “Stress” Borland because all I’d do is worry all the time.
And you’d write songs in that state?
A lot of the songs on this new record I wrote when I was on it, but a lot of the recording was done afterward. Significant Other was the worst recording experience ever, because Fred and I — our foreheads were caved in from the amount of butting heads. I’m surprised we came out of that without brain damage. But now it’s just peachy [laughs].
Your fans are young dudes who are freaked out and angry. Do you feel like, “These are my people”?
Yeah. It’s crazy to be on the other side. And anything I can do to make it more memorable for them, I try to, no matter how tiring it is to us. Because we’re only going to get to do this for five or six more years, probably.
Why is that?
Our stage show, we can’t go out and do that twenty years from now. It would be pathetic. Down the road, I would love to be where John Zorn is, where I own a club or something and put out smaller records. When I’m eighty, I can still be playing guitar on a stool in a club, making weird music, and I don’t have to be jumping around like a headbanger.