Though best known as the larger than life guitarist of Limp Bizkit, Wes Borland is not one to be lumped into a particular category. He is also an accomplished painter and his skills as a versatile musician and songwriter are on full display with Black Light Burns, his the avant-garde alter ego. One of the hardest working musicians in the business, Borland let’s his creativity flow unfiltered with Black Light Burns which has never been more evident than with the band’s sophomore album “The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall” available from Rocket Science/THC: Music. This powerful band released its debut, “Cruel Melody,” in 2007 featuring Danny Lohner (NIN), Josh Eustis (Puscifer) and Josh Freese (Guns N’ Roses), and a much anticipated follow-up LP of covers and B-side material, 2008’s, “Cover Your Heart,” and an accompanying DVD entitled, The Anvil Pants Odyssey. In 2009, Borland and Black Light Burns hit the road for an extended run with industrial powerhouse, Combichrist, and contributed the track, “I Want You To,” to the Underworld: Rise of the Lycans soundtrack. BLB took a temporary hiatus while Borland stayed busy with a world tour with the reformed Limp Bizkit. In 2012 BLB returned, to the delight of fans, with the track, “It Rapes All In Its Path,” on the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack, and the announcement of the impending release of a new LP. The arrival of their new album, “The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall,” fans were far from disappointed. The powerful new album delivers a fifteen track journey in a darker side of Borland’s psyche than their previous full-length release. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Wes Borland to discuss the creation of this impressive album, the challenges her encountered along the way, the status of Limp Bizkit’s upcoming album and much more!
I have been following your career for well over a decade at this point and we’ve spoken several times. I wanted to go back to the beginning and have you tell us a little about your first memories of music and how it came into your life.
My first memories of music are my dad playing acoustic guitar in the house. I think he listened to John Denver a lot. [laughs] I think John Denver was probably the first music I heard. It was that and Jim Croce. My dad listened to a lot of folk stuff. For some reason, he had a Moody Blues record. It had tons of analog synthesizers on it and I thought that was awesome! I would put that Moody Blues record on and pretend I was breaking into some science fiction castle in the living room! I would go through all of these booby traps that I was making up in my mind and set up pillow trap doors and all of that stuff. [laughs] I guess my first experiences were dumb, funny and adventurous experiences.
That definitely foreshadowed what was to come!
The latest chapter in your life musically is “The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall” from Black Light Burns. When you were first starting out to make this record, what were your expectations?
The last song to make it on to “Cruel Melody,” which was the first Black Light Burns record, was the first song on the album, “Mesopotamia.” At that point, in my mind, that was the jumping off point of the band steering away from the industrial sound. There were still elements of that goth, industrial era of music but I really liked that sort of surfy, stroked, punk rock, more danceable rock element. I continued to write for this record immediately after “Cruel Melody.” When I was writing the first record, I just cut the songs off, even though I was still writing. I just thought, “OK! That’s the last one on the record. Everything from here on will be on the next one.” As the first record was being mixed, I was still writing constantly and coming up with ideas. I was even to the point where I knew that the first song of … Are you familiar with “Cruel Melody?”
Yes, I am.
The very last song on the record, after it fades out, there is a whispered, barely audible, couple of lines of poetry. Those lines are the beginning of “How To Look Naked.” It is the first half of the verse of that song on the end of “Cruel Melody.” I knew that was going to happen at the end of that record and I was continuing to write the new record. Everyone that worked on the first record had been involved with Nine Inch Nails at some point. We received a ton of criticism for sounding too much like Nails on the first record. That was a definite goal on this one was to steer away from that happening again. I am not really sure how it happened, it just kinda did. It’s not the worst thing in the world. So, there was that and I also wanted less of a metal sound. I wanted it to be heavy but not sound metal. Whenever things started to get heavy, I put a lot more emphasis in the bass being distorted, having the guitars be more overdriven or more twangy or bitey — a sort of Jesus Lizard-y sounding guitar attack. I think that was successful as far as being pulled off in that way and steering away from a muted metal sound. The other thing was to make a dynamic record that sounded less clean and more live. I wanted to keep some of the mistakes in and have everything be a little more crazed sounding and not as polished. This was because the songs on “Cruel Melody,” when we took them into a venue environment and we were actually playing them live, they got wilder and more gritty. I didn’t want that change from record to live to happen as drastically as it did on the first record. Right away, I wanted to have things sound unhinged, right off the bat.
What is the significance of the title of the record?
“The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall” was the title of an instrumental idea, the last song on the record, which was written a few years ago. it kinda became the theme for writing the lyrics for the rest of the record. I had an experience where I was rock climbing, I was free climbing, and I got into a situation out in Joshua Tree National Park where they have these huge rock formations. I got stuck on top of this big rock formation. I had gone up a certain way and reached the top but I was exhausted and couldn’t get down. My friends that I was with didn’t know where I was. The sun started to go down and I could see coyotes running by and I realized I was in this oh shit situation. It took me a long time to find a way down. There were all of these moments on the rock where I thought I was literally going to fall off the rock and die or be severely injured. It never actually reached that tipping point of the moment I realized I was about to fall but it was very close many times. That theme of being on the edge and in constant fear, there is a beauty to that, where all of your senses are heightened. I also liked that the title could be taken so many different ways. It could be the moment that you realize you are going to fall in love or the moment you realize you are going to make a terrible decision that is going to affect the rest of your life. If you are a drug addict, it could mean the moment that you are going to give up your sobriety and fall back into drug use and being an addict and there is nothing you can do about it. It could mean if you are going to cheat on somebody or gamble your savings away. There are just so many different ways both positively and negatively that it could be taken that I thought it covered and fed a lot of the themes on the album lyrically.
How has your writing process evolved through the years? Are you doing anything differently these days?
“Cruel Melody,” even though I had demoed a lot of the songs myself, there were still a lot of guest appearances by people and collaborations. There were a lot of people putting their own two cents in. For this one, I really wanted to work in solitary and not have a lot of other people involved in it because I had a lot of ideas and directions that I wanted to take it. Working with other people in a collaborative manner, you can kinda skew what the original idea might have been. It can skew the direction of that and I wanted to make an album where I didn’t have to talk to anyone! [laughs] Basically, I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts and push the ideas in whatever direction they were going to go. The only time I actually was working with people was when we were doing drums and our guitar player played a little bit on a few of the songs but for the most part it was just me working by myself. I would have to come out of that every once and awhile and show it to other people and ask them what their thoughts were to try and get a perspective on where I was headed. That was really helpful for me in the process, you know, to be in a sort of cerebral isolation where I didn’t ever need to communicate verbally.
That being said, what do you consider the biggest challenge along the way?
Probably just getting it finished and out because it took so long. Most of it was written a while back. I stopped writing for this record, probably, 2-and-a-half to 3 years ago. That was the end of the writing process. I have just been so busy with Limp Bizkit that I haven’t had time to put it out. I had thought about finishing it last year and putting it out but different things and commitments kept me from doing that. Finally, I said, “That’s enough! I am doing it this year!” [laughs] And, “Whatever the consequences are of having to juggle between two bands and different projects — I’ll take them and do it!”
You have also been hard at work on the video aspects of this project. What can we expect out of you in that realm?
We have released one video which was kind of an appetizer and an introduction in some ways to the record. I don’t know if you have seen the video but it takes place on a beach. That is the first chapter of three. The second one is being edited right now and that is going to be the largest video that we are doing for the record. The video is for “How To Look Naked” which is the first track on the record. The third video is going to be more akin to the first video, where it is not as huge of a production. It will be a lot simpler. That video will be for “The Color Escapes” which is the fifth song on the record.
It’s safe to assume you will be hitting the road soon in support of the new album. Have you already started planning what the live show might include visually and musically?
Yeah. There aren’t going to be a lot of visuals besides us doing our thing. It is going to be a stripped down, “Hi! We’re at your neighborhood bar!” kind of show! [laughs] The connection level with the audiences when we play shows is a lot more intimate because we are setting our gear up and talking to the audience before we even start the show, so that whole part is really interesting. Then when we end the show, we actually go off the front of the stage into the crowd until most people leave. It is a very intimate to be in venues like that and do the show the way we do it. During the show, we interact and are on fire the whole time. It is a wild experience. We are going to be changing the set up a lot this time because we have so much material to pull from now. I think we have rehearsed 18 to 20 songs from both records, as well as a couple of songs from the covers EP we did. There is quite a lot to look forward too.
One thing I always enjoy about your work is it is always growing and you seem to have no fear when it comes to exploring new territory. How do you feel you evolved as an artist since you first started out?
The two main things I have learned … The first thing is not to be pressured about anything. I think it is better to work really hard on something and if it flops, it flops. I can’t be afraid that people aren’t going to accept something or that something will be misconstrued. I just like to create and put out. Of course there is quality control. I am not just farting in a bucket, recording it and putting it out. I am trying to explore things that interest me with the hopes that other people will be interested also. The other thing is to not filter any idea. No matter how crazy something is, I don’t like to dull the edges of it. I like to try to see it through to the nth degree and not worry about people being offended or be scared of people thinking I am dumb or anything like that. I just try to be myself and try to not censor myself.
What does the future hold for Black Light Burns? Have you already given thought to moving it forward?
Yeah, I have actually. We go on tour in The States in about two-and-a-half weeks to do a run of shows. We are supposed to go back out in The States in November and then we are going to Europe in the beginning of next year, like the end of January and early-February. My next move with Black Light Burns is to hopefully put out a new EP within the next six months to a year. I don’t want to have four or five years go by between records again.
Another huge part of your life is Limp Bizkit. Do you mind if I touch on a few things there?
No. Not at all!
It’s been nearly six months since the band signed with Cash Money Records. How has that situation been treating you?
It’s really cool! It is interesting to be involved with that whole Miami scene — to go down there and check out what they are doing. They are so smart, what they are doing and with the way they do things. There are so many levels of, “Why didn’t I think of that!” as far as how they take their lesser known artists and pair them with their more well known artists on a track and, before you know it, everybody is listening to it and they keep building up their roster that way. It is genius but so simple at the same time. It is also cool to be working with hip-hop producers and people who have a different perspective on music than I do. For instance, there is a producer that we have been working with down there named Detail, who is super on fire and is so cool and into all of this different stuff. Working with him is super inspiring in the way he works and just how fast he works. They are crazy! They stay up all night! I love it! It’s so weird! [laughs] The whole studio is completely dead during the day and around 10 p.m., all of this activity begins and Lil’ Wayne is showing up. We had Flo Rida show up one night. There are so many different heavyweight artists in that world who are just around and hanging out with each other to work on music, so that is really cool. So, we have been working on songs like that but we have also been making band type songs, heavy songs, in the studio. We kinda have two different directions going on right now and they are starting to blend into each other but I think the beginnings of a record are starting to happen and we are starting to see where it is going.
I am paraphrasing from the last time we spoke, but last time out, you said the band created “a Limp Bizkit record for Limp Bizkit fans.” As things start to materialize, do you find you are doing more exploration on this record?
Ya know, I think so. Fred [Durst] has been really open lately to trying new things. He wants to do something that sounds like us but is different and covers some new territory. So, yeah. I think there will hopefully be some great new ideas on this album. He was talking about how the Black Light Burns album, every track kinda flows into the next one at some point. He really likes that idea and experimenting more with that kinda stuff and more interludes and stuff like that happening.
Any time Limp Bizkit is in the news or there is a new development, people respond to it, either positively or negatively depending on the venue. What do you think it is about the band that still polarizes the people?
I don’t know. I don’t know why some people still hold onto it. I know some people have always hated it and are shocked that it is still around in some ways but we have really amazing fans, who are really dedicated to the band. They understand that even if you can’t stand the band, the songs are not terribly written songs. There is something there that keeps it from disappearing into that refrigerator buzz metal of the world, the stuff that all sorta sounds the same and is incestuous. I would much rather be polarizing than boring and have people say, “Oh, that’s boring. No thanks.” Limp Bizkit isn’t really easy to ignore and I think that bothers people a lot. The other thing is that we are still excited about doing this. We had a long break from each other and sorta got our shit together as far as realizing what our priorities are and how much we like doing what we do, especially the live shows. Even if you hate the band, if you come to a live show, I talk to people all of the time at festivals who say, “I really didn’t like you before but now I have seen you live and I get it!” That is a big part of why we do, what we do.
You certainly left your mark on the music landscape. As a career musician, what is the best piece of advice you would give to someone looking to make music their livelihood?
Practice a lot, don’t worry about what other people say and keep moving forward. It is so much harder to make it now then when I started as far as trying to get your head above a sea of over-saturated music that is out there on the Internet. I mean, it is so crazy how many people are putting out music right now. There is really good music being put out right now and there are amazing new artists but they are just so hard to find. If you are crazy enough to start a band or to start making music, I would warn you not to [laughs], but if you disregard that warning, then by all means practice a lot, write all of the time and don’t filter yourself.
Another cool aspect of your career is your artwork. Anything new happening on that front we should be on the lookout for?
I paint all the time, so I am basically trying to amass a body of work that I feel comfortable with in putting it all together and having a big gallery show or something along those lines. I will probably align that with doing some kind of book at the same time with a bunch of my artwork. So, yeah, possibly a book and a gallery show. I have been saying that for years but maybe it will happen!
The power of positive thinking![laughs] Absolutely!
Is there anything you would like to add before I let you go?
That’s basically it. I am all guns blazing behind two different bands right now!
Keep up the good work, Wes. All the best to you and we will see you on the road soon! We appreciate the opportunity to help spread the word.
Thanks for being interested! Take care!
Check out the official website for the band at blacklightburnsofficial.com, complete with a free download of the album track, “Splayed” from “The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall”.
The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall can be purchased online at: