INTERVIEW: Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland

Limp Bizkit imageLimp Bizkit are stayers, alright? They’ve had their ups and downs, their band member comings and goings, and they’ve ridden out a particularly intense backlash against the genre they helped to define – nu metal – maintaining their attitude and sense of humour along the way. A triumphant Australian return at Soundwave 2012 helped solidify their place within the current metal landscape, and they’re back to do it again this month with a series of headline shows in Australia. “It was redeeming,” guitarist Wes Borland says of the band’s last Australian visit. “And it kind of felt like us resurrecting ourselves, in a way, with what had happened at the Big Day Out, with the young girl’s death, as well as Australia and us.” The sense of sadness in Borland’s voice as he speaks of the tragic 2001 death of Big Day Out concertgoer Jessica Michalik is palpable. “When I think about the two combined, Australia has always been tied to grief in the past, and it was nice to kind of obliterate that and meet Jessica’s family, meet the friends that had been there at the show with her when she died, and in some ways the whole thing has come full circle for us to forgive ourselves and make new memories and have the air cleared. And now this’ll be our first headlining tour of Australia that is not linked to a festival, so it’s nice to kind of hit the reset button, in a way.” 

When Limp Bizkit hits Australian stages this month, there’s a chance audiences will hear some new material to go along with the classics: they’re hard at work on forthcoming album Stampede of the Disco Elephants, which is due for release in January. “The album’s not out yet, but we’ve released one single [“Ready To Go”] and we may be releasing another single,” Borland says. “We’re working very hard on it every day. Fred [Durst] has a home studio and I have a home studio that are very well equipped, and we’re deep into a postproduction area of the album, working on the icing on the cake right now.” Following the departure of DJ Lethal, that particular area of sonic real estate has been commandeered by Borland, although the change hasn’t particularly shifted the dynamic of the writing process. “We’ve always written as a four-piece, or drums, bass and guitar with Fred conducting or producing, and Lethal always came in after the fact, after almost everything was finished, so it’s not a big difference to how we wrote before.”

So what’s Borland using these days? “The last major company I had a signature model with was Yamaha and I was with them for about six years,” he says. “Then my artist relations guy, Mike Tempesta, moved from Yamaha to Fender/Jackson/EVH. And Yamaha was kind of getting a little bit strange with their artists, as far as not doing clinics for a lot of them any more to not doing signature models, to focusing on other areas of the guitar and bass part of the company that I didn’t really like or agree with, so I asked my guy if I could go with him over to Jackson. He said ‘Absolutely.’ Because I’d already been playing some Jacksons and Fenders. And then I moved from Orange over to EVH, who is owned by Fender also, so everything I have is under one roof now.”

Limp Bizkit imageThe switch to EVH 5150III amps is probably a surprising one for Borland fans – heck, it sounds like a surprising one for Borland himself “I like the whole tinkering aspect of Eddie Van Halen’s approach to his guitars, and the trashed look of all of his guitars. I love that. I’ve never disliked Van Halen but I’ve never been a big fan of the music. I guess I had in my mind what the 5150 amp was like when they were made by Peavey. And once Fender started manufacturing them, it’s just a different amp. It’s a completely different amp and the EVH 5150IIIs are just insanity as far as the gain and the loudness. I mean, there’s just something about them that is so powerful and impactful in kind of a smooth way. There’s kind of a smoothness to them and a power to them that just somehow wowed me. And I don’t really like digital effects or racks or switching systems – I’m very much a ‘plug it through the pedals into the amp’ kinda guy, and the amp just works great for that. Y’know, all this amp modelling, all these digital things, I really don’t like computers or digital things, as far as things that are vulnerable and have wire connections and can possibly go down. My amp doesn’t need to be rebooted if it crashes. I have another head that’s a backup and I just pull all the wires, plug it in and it’s good to go. They can keep trying to model tubes, and they say ‘close your eyes, it sounds no different,’ and something about it, I don’t know if it’s supernatural – even though I don’t believe in that kinda stuff – it just doesn’t feel the same. It doesn’t have that element of non-control. I like the human factor. I like knowing that my gear can malfunction on stage and that it’s not perfect, but with the amount of chaos that goes on during a show I also don’t want a computer anywhere near! I don’t want to have to rely on an operating system or an iPad that’s in my setup at all. A lot of guys are doing that and they’re doing some amazing things and it sounds cool, and I tip my hat to them because it sounds good for them, but it’s not for me. Not yet, anyway.”

Wes

As for pedals, Borland is a fan of Boss stomp boxes. “A lot of people use Boss stuff because it’s cheap, it sounds good and it’s reliable. They just really last a long time and can take a lot of moisture and abuse and they’re gonna work fine. So mostly I stick to Boss but I use some other things too. I do have some Electro-Harmonix things that are always on my board, like the Q-Tron, and I have a Z-Vex Lo-Fi Loop Junkie and a Super Hard On that are in my board and that are very much used a lot, especially the Lo-Fi Loop Junkie. It’s great for guitar changeovers because I can make a little bit of noise or just play the last note of a song and switch guitars, just grab a loop and have it keep going. Then I can grab another guitar and just pick up and start playing over the loop that I just made, and transition live, improvising into the next song in the setlist.”

A fiercely individual guitarist, Borland was one of the first wave of groove-and-texture-oriented metal guitarists to embrace the seven-string guitar, and yet he was also one of the first to abandon the seven if favour of six or even four strings. And he has no intention of dipping into the current trend of ultra-low-tuned eight-string guitars, Meshuggah-style. “I like less strings. I even play four string guitars, and I’ve found that once you get into guitars that move away from what’s generally accepted and what the generally standard model of the guitar is, you lose out on all this shared technology. You isolate yourself. People are like ‘Oh, this is an eight-string, it sounds so heavy,’ but dude, you can put one extra heavy string on a one-string guitar and it’ll sound the same. There’s all sorts of things that you miss when you limit yourself to something that’s that specific. So that’s why I got away from using guitars like that. It was just too much. I just didn’t need all of that, and I just found I got over that ‘I’m jacking off ten times a day, I’m 18 years old and full of testosterone’ part of my life. It’s not about how big the tyres on my truck are. I just started looking at it in more of an adult way, I guess, as far as guitar playing goes – says the guy who still dresses like a moron in costumes on stage!”

Limp Bizkit Australian tour dates for Soundwave Touring

FRIDAY 25 OCTOBER
BRISBANE, RIVERSTAGE
– Licensed All Ages
www.ticketmaster.com.au

SATURDAY 26 OCTOBER
SYDNEY, ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE – Licensed All Ages
www.ticketmaster.com.au

SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER
MELBOURNE, FESTIVAL HALL
– Licensed and Unlicensed Areas
www.ticketmaster.com.au

TUESDAY 29 OCTOBER
ADELAIDE, THEBARTON THEATRE
– Licensed All Ages
www.venuetix.com.au

THURSDAY 31 OCTOBER
PERTH, METRO CITY
– 18+
www.oztix.com.au