Black Light Burns reveals the man behind the Limp Bizkit monster

Black Light Burns is Wes Borland’s breath of fresh air, away from all the equivocation, conflicts and torments caused by Limp Bizkit’s heavy exposure. It’s an opportunity to be an artist in his own right, and to practice the many arts he masters, from singing to artwork, costume and stage-setting-making, and from keyboards to, obviously, guitar.

Borland’s playing is experimental and unconventional; it has allowed Limp Bizkit to enjoy killer riffs, aerial ambiences and psychedelic textures. Black Light Burns is a different deal entirely: The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall, released at the end of last year, is an industrial record that sees Wes Borland experimenting in a Nine Inch Nails-ish universe served with a punk dressing.

Wes Borland was in Paris on the occasion of the band’s European tour for this album. It was a good opportunity to talk to him about the record, rather different from Black Light Burns’ first effort, about his artistic vision as a whole, but also about Limp Bizkit’s eagerly anticipated new album and his relations with three of the main people behind this release no one believed in anymore: producer Ross Robinson, long-time-no-see DJ Lethal, and of course he who generally causes scandal, Fred Durst.

Radio Metal: You recently described your work with Black Light Burns as “opening up your chest and vomiting out all of your emotions”. What are your emotions these days?

Wes Borland (vocals, guitar): During the first record, I was just dealing with Bizkit and coming out of another situation with a band that didn’t really work out. It was a project I was trying to put together. I was very frustrated and angry. Then I went through a divorce with my ex-wife. My life was basically being turned upside down all at once. Everything sort of led here, to this band and to the first album. From there, it just continued, and this became the punching bag for everything, I guess. When I’m feeling upset, there’s Black Light Burns! I’m going to put all these ideas and emotions, and these things I can’t put anywhere else, into this band. It’s been seven years that the band has existed, from the writing of the first record till now. It’s gone from that really tight, dark place to more of a landscape of artistic freedom. Wherever I want to take it, I can do whatever I want. It’s really a good vessel for me.

« In Black Light, there’s no mask, no face paint. You can see the white of my eyes, they’re not covered. In Limp Bizkit, I become like a monster. »

You just got back from a series of concerts in Eastern Europe. How did that audience welcome the new songs?

We have a brand new album that people aren’t familiar with, and we’re playing two songs off of it – the more pop songs, since the others are a bit strange, they’re more like pieces of score. People really seemed to react to it and like it. A few people know the words. The European audience has been so much better than the American audience. I don’t know if the record has a more European feel, or whatever it is. People here just understand, and the shows have been great.

This new record is deeply different from the first one: it’s darker, more industrial. Was it a reaction to the previous one? Did you consciously think: “OK, let’s forget the catchy melodies and try to do something darker”?

The first one ended up a little too clean to me. I don’t see the songwriting being vastly different, I see the production being different, more textured and more live-sounding – a little wilder. I think The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall sounds like a band, whereas the first record was more like different people writing a record and putting it together in the studio. I think the third record we’re going to make this year is going to sound even more like a band and might be a combination. The first record was here, the second one was here, and we’re going to kind of spring back and be somewhere in the middle, to try and make the sound more cohesive and well rounded.

There’s a strong punk-rock side to this album – but punk-rock is not known for guitar experimentations, while you are. How can you explain this aspect of the album, then?

It just happened; it just is what it is. I really like The Stooges and The Jesus Lizard, and I grew up with Minor Threat, The Misfits, Subhumans… All those bands had an effect on me. I don’t think it sounds like punk rock, but it has a similar attitude. That’s who we are as a band. We walk on stage and set our own gear up and start playing. Some nights we talk and joke too much on stage. When the show’s over we don’t do encores. We just play until we’re finished. There are no frills, we’re a very punk rock band, that’s our attitude. It was always going to come out through the music.

Your voice has definitely evolved with this album: you’re going from very melodic themes to spoken words. How did you manage to find consistency in this album while doing all these different things?

It’s playing live, I think. We went on tour for about five months, and I found out that I would have to do things differently live from what I was doing in the studio. Through that I learned how to use my voice in different ways. I don’t have the strongest or the best voice, but I do have strength in it that I can use. I try to take those areas and push them as far as I can. A big difference between the first and the second record is confidence and personality: I feel confident singing, and I also learned how to be expressive by putting more character and more humor into the vocals, so it’s not dry and surgical-sounding. That’s the big difference, being on the road and learning how to front a band.

Do you accept the comparison between this album and the work of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, or is it something you want to get away from?

I accept it on Cruel Melody, because Danny Lohner produced it, and he was in Nails for ten years. Josh Eustis and Josh Freese, who were both involved in Nails, were also a part of it. Even Charlie Clouser did a bit of work on it. That’s very understandable for the first record. Maybe there’s bias left from the first record continuing on to the second record. Nine Inch Nails is definitely an influence on my life, it’s one of my favorite bands. But I don’t hear the comparison as much on the second record. But I’m on the inside, I’m not looking in from the outside, so… I hear more Death From Above 1979 and different other influences.

« A lot of people get writer’s block, but to me that is not real. It’s just someone trying to force themselves to be creative when they’re not ready to be creative. »

How different is it to go on stage with Limp Bizkit as a guitarist and to go on stage with Black Light Burns as a frontman? Is the mental preparation different? Does it bring different levels of anxiety?

It’s totally different for different reasons. They’re two different characters, two different personalities. I actually have to play two shows with Limp Bizkit a week from now. I’m flying out to India and play two shows with Limp Bizkit, and then fly back to Russia to meet up with Black Light Burns for three shows, to finish this run. I’m so in Black Light Burns mode right now that it’s gonna be strange to switch into Limp Bizkit mode. I’ll do it and it’ll be fine; it’ll just be strange. Fronting a band is very different. I’m very hands-on, there’s a lot of contact with the audience. In Limp Bizkit, the character is very shut off from the audience. There’s a separation, a strangeness. It’s bigger, and my persona is different. I don’t really talk, and I focus on different areas of my personality to do that.

And I guess the audience must behave differently with you?

They do. In Black Light, there’s no mask, no face paint. You can see the white of my eyes, they’re not covered. In Limp Bizkit, I become like a monster. In Black Light, they’re reacting in a more loving, friendly way. In Bizkit, they’re more intimidated.

You’ve said that you’ve pushed the guitar riffs further than ever on the next Limp Bizkit album. Did your work with Black Light Burns help you to do that?

I think it gives me a direction to swing away. It’s a chance to clear my mind, and to come back and maybe approach Bizkit in a new way. If I were a carrot farmer, and I just grew carrots all the time, and came up with different formulas to grow carrots, then I would just hate carrot soup, and mashed carrots. I would really love it if I could go to a dairy farm once in a while, to have something else to go to, so I would miss carrots! (laughs) I could walk away from it, and that way, when I came back, I would be rested. When I go back to Limp Bizkit, my brain had time to relax. I go back and I’m fresh, I’m ready to think about it from a different perspective.

What’s the current state of the Bizkit album?

There were eleven songs the last time I checked. We recorded eleven songs, and Fred is maybe six or seven songs into the album, but I haven’t spoken to him for a week, so he might be further along now. He’s working on vocals with Ross Robinson, who produced Three Dollar Bill. He’s just doing vocal production. We went into a studio and recorded everything ourselves, with no producer. Ross is just going to work with Fred on the vocals on all the songs, as far as I know.

Is it exciting for you to work with him again?

Well, I haven’t been working with him. Ross is my friend, I go mountain-biking with him. But I haven’t worked on a record with Ross since From First To Last (note: Heroine is the album Wes is talking about and was the last one with singer Sonny Moore before he left to go on a solo career as Skrillex). I played bass on their record in 2006. So it’s been like seven years since I worked on a record with Ross.

Do you plan to release The Unquestionable Truth Part II?

Maybe. It’s something that’s been talked about. Right now we’re just focusing on this new record, whatever it’s going to be called.

Will there be some kind of experimentation on this record?

There is some experimentation. It was all written and recorded so quickly that I can’t even remember all the songs we recorded! It’ll sound new to me, cause we did it all within maybe one and a half month. I just blew through it. It’s almost like studying for a test, and then the test is over and you forget everything. That’s what I remember of this album right now! I remember pieces of what we did, that’s about it.

About Fred Durst : « He’s very charming, and very cavalier about things. When people are confronted with a personality like that, they’re either drawn to it or repelled by it. »

You’ve been back in Limp Bizkit for three years now. At the time you said it was kind of exciting to be back in a band that was so criticized. Do you still feel the same today?

Yeah, I do. Limp Bizkit is my family, they’re like brothers. They’re who I was raised with, and none of us would be what we are without each other. No matter what happens, we have to work together, and be a band for as long as we can. We owe that to each other.

Most of the critics are directed at Fred. There were Zakk Wylde’s insults, for example. What is it about Fred Durst that provokes these reactions?

He’s just very polarizing. He’s very charming, and very cavalier about things. When people are confronted with a personality like that, they’re either drawn to it or repelled by it. He just does that to people: they love him or hate him. Part of the reason that makes us the band we are is that personality.

DJ Lethal left the band, then came back. What is your opinion on this?

Lethal has sort of been in and out of the band, participation wise, all the time. I mean, the core of our band is Fred, John, Sam and I. We’re the ones who write the records. Lethal does certain things on the records that help but to me, with or without Lethal involved it’s still Limp Bizkit. Lethal is a very creative person. I think we’re strong with him and we’re strong without him. It just depends on where his head is at, I guess.

Given that you were a painter before being a musician, and seem to understand all the visual aspects of music, can you help us understand the way you create music?

I don’t understand how other people create music and I also don’t ever try to understand art. I just take it for what it is. I’m not a person that needs for everything to be defined. If there’s a painting of a goat wearing a submarine for a hat, I don’t look for a deeper meaning. There’s a goat with a submarine for a hat, and that’s what the person wanted to paint. They wanted it to be visually appealing, and that’s what it is. In the same way, I don’t try to look into anyone else’s creative process. The only creative process I’ve ever found is that I have a burning desire to do things. I’m so impulsive that (Note: he snaps his fingers) I just do them right away. I’m comfortable with my subconscious. I know that at some point, it’ll come up and just go: “Do this” and give me a little tap. I don’t even think about it. Things just come together. When it’s time to work, I work. If I don’t have a burning desire to work on music or art, I don’t. I just let emotions and ideas build until I get that little tap on the shoulder. Then I go to work. I don’t know if it’s insanity or a drive, but I’ve become very familiar with how my creative process works. A lot of people get writer’s block, but to me that is not real. It’s just someone trying to force themselves to be creative when they’re not ready to be creative. You just have to wait for it. It’s like the weather: you can’t make it rain or snow, it just happens.

Interview conducted face-to-face in Paris on February 9th 2013
Transcription: Saff’

Black Light Burns’ official website: www.blacklightburnsofficial.com
Limp Bizkit’s official website: limpbizkit.com

Album The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall, out since August 13th 2012 via Rocket Science

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