EXCLUSIVE: Wes Borland has had many guises during his two-decade career. A respected solo artist and leader of "ridiculous metal band" Big Dumb Face, he’s most well known as the guitarist for Limp Bizkit. “I couldn’t move on and do anything to ever escape it”, he confesses as we meet at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods in London. On hand to collect the ‘Riff Lord’ award, we caught up with Wes to discuss his time in and out of the Nu Metal linchpins, and his activities away from the band. Significant others; Eamon O’Neill and Neil Jones.
Hi Wes, how does it feel to officially be a riff lord?
It feels like, sort of validating, for some reason. I've strayed outside of the metal community into all different kinds of genres of music, and to actually be recognised, because it feels like a very elite genre where people are just sort of like; “We only want, like, the best” – it’s more like a purist genre, and I’m a cheater when it comes to being pure with my musical genres. So, it’s really cool to be honoured in this way, and I’m just stunned. I had no idea it was coming, and they told me it was going to happen, and I was like; “Wow!”
What musical projects are occupying you most at the moment?
I just put out like a calypso grindcore silly record last year called ‘Victim’, which was the follow-up to my project Big Dumb Face - that’s like a ridiculous metal band. And then right now, I just got finished playing a four hour set at Moogfest [in Asheville, North Carolina], with my electronic project which is just me by myself. I opened two shows for A Perfect Circle in the U.S., and now I’m finishing that record, and there are rules for that record that almost don’t allow me to almost riff at all. That’s my go-to thing, so I never allow myself to use distorted guitar.
You written your fair share of riffs during your career though, haven’t you?
I think that riffs to me are maybe the one thing - and this is going to be weird to say, but I think that it’s appropriate to say - it’s the one thing that comes very easily to me, to where it just makes sense. So a lot of times I deprive myself of being able to do that, because I think in a way that’s just very [*sings rhythmic riff*] – they’re always in my head, so to get an award for it, it’s amazing, but it seems like I need to improve what comes naturally. I’d like to step it up, I guess.
Going back, how did you feel when Limp Bizkit broke big and scored a U.K. No.1 single with ‘Rollin’?
I think that for me, I never thought that any of this was going to happen in the first place, and I always thought that it was going to end all the time. So any sort of success like that I always distrusted it in some way, I guess. I was like; “This isn’t going to continue” – and of course it doesn’t – but at the moment, I had trouble enjoying it, I think because I was always skeptical.
Even back at the height of the band’s success?
Yeah, I just was like; “This is the last one”, every time. I guess I’m a negative person or a pessimist, but I was always like; “This is the last one, this is going to be it”.
Was that because you weren’t enjoying it?
No, I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word, because I always have wanted to be an artist first, and being sort of in the limelight or whatever, wasn’t really what my goal was. I wanted to be in a situation where like, I played, or made some sort of art exhibit, or did something, and then it was seen, and then I went; “Okay, bye!” And that’s what I kind of had hoped for. And I think that the success of Limp Bizkit was one of the reasons I quit the band, because it was too much.
You did step away from Limp Bizkit shortly after that period.
Yeah, because it was just too… It’s not what I wanted to do, you know? I didn’t like the popularity of it, and I thought that the money that was coming in was making everyone into different people and insane, so I felt like it had reached like a toxic place. But, then, I realised that I would never escape it!
Because the band had become a phenomenon?
It had become its own thing that I couldn’t move on and do anything to ever escape it, so the best thing for me to do was to go back, and try to incorporate it back into my life and be part of it, but also do other things and just accept it.
Was that an easy thing to step back into; was it just a matter of saying to Fred Durst; “Let’s talk”?
No, in late 2008 we had a meeting that was put together by some people that both of us still talk to, and we both said that we were going to concentrate on our current behaviour, and not our past behaviour, and move forward and try and make the band into a better version of itself that we both really liked and could thrive in. And I think that’s a good compromise and a good sort of like, extending of the olive branch, and that’s how it went down.
I’m guessing that that’s exactly where things are today, 10 years after that meeting.
Yeah. I’ve been in the band longer now than I was originally.
What’s it like getting up on stage in all that outrageous make-up?
I love it, I love it. It’s like, it’s fun, so fun. I live in Detroit now, so nobody knows who I am. I would not venture down with the gear on – that would be asking for trouble, I think!
What’s on the immediate horizon for you?
Right now I just put out an E.P., and I’m following it up with another solo record that’s mostly instrumental and electronic pop, and there’s a lot of guitar in it too, so that’s sort of an interesting thing, but that’s what I’m focused on now. I put out a Big Dumb Face record last year, which was a follow-up to the 2001 record, for no reason other than I thought it was funny to follow-up. And when I get home next month, I’m scoring my friend’s T.V. series, so it’s like a lot of irons in the fire right now.
Will there be another Limp Bizkit album on the horizon?
There’s a new Limp Bizkit record in the works. Yeah, I think it’s coming right now, so it’s been in the works for a long time, and I think that the vocals are finally being finished.
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