Wes Borland on his Big Dumb Face album, new Limp Bizkit and ‘toxic’ fame

“I think the only person I’ve ever turned down is Will Smith to be in the Men In Black 2 video."

Wes Borland is set to release a new Big Dumb Face album, ‘Where Is Duke Lion? He’s Dead…’, appropriately enough on Halloween. The sequel to 2001’s ‘Duke Lion Fights the Terror!!’, it raids the musical dressing-up box to include death metal, electronic noise, steel pan samples and grindcore. As the moniker suggests, it doesn’t take itself overly seriously. NME caught up with the eccentric Limp Bizkit guitarist to talk time-travelling severed heads, turning down Will Smith and why some people still find Fred Durst and co “bozos”.

What are you up to today, Wes?

“I’m burning the candle at both ends, trying to make puppets for a video right now. The single is called ‘Jesus Retreats’ and it’s about good losing and evil winning, which is just like what goes on today in the world [laughs]. So the whole Big Dumb Face record is about the death of the hero of the first record – Duke Lion – and how hell takes over the earth, the universe and everything. So the video is going to be a puppet Jesus running from demons the whole time.”

Why did you decide to revive the Big Dumb Face project after 16 years?

“Well, one of the things is that I said I’d never do it again – and I’m into doing things now that I said I would never do again. Another thing is I got inspired by all of these ridiculous, unnecessary and unwarranted sequels to movies that happened a long time ago (Laughs). I thought, ‘if it’s working for them, maybe it would work for me!’. The main reason is I put out a solo record last year that was really not heavy at all and I wanted to make a really heavy record.”

How did you approach it?

“I mean, I really approached it like it’s a Hanna-Barbera [animation] or He-Man, like it’s a silly fantasy cartoon. People who liked the first record will find out that the ‘Blood Red Head on Fire’ [a single from the first album] is actually Duke Lion’s head sent back in time so he fights himself in a time loop forever. It’s ridiculous, man! (Laughs) I’m a big Harry Belafonte fan, which is an influence on some of the record. It’s a heavy record that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

It’s released on Halloween…

“Yeah, ‘cos it’s like a funny, evil, spooky, stupid record, so Halloween is the perfect day to release that.”

You’re partial to dressing up onstage. Have you flaunted any good Halloween costumes in the past?

“No. I usually skip Halloween because I’m dressing up all of the time. (Laughs) I mean, I did it when I was a kid but I’ve ended up skipping it most years since I’ve been dressing up in a band.”

What scares you?

“Being buried alive. Having to get a square job [laughs].”

 

What’s the current situation with the forthcoming Limp Bizkit album, Stampede of the Disco Elephants?

“I don’t know. I did what I was going to do on it over the past few years, and I think Fred’s just trying to figure out what he wants to do. I know he’s in a studio working on it right now, but I’m not sure what he’s doing. I’m basically waiting for him to finish something so that I can take it and starting mixing and editing it into whatever it’s going to be. We did so many sessions – there’s 28 or 29 songs, and whatever he chooses out of that to do vocals on, I’ll take that and work on it at my house and turn it into a record.”

When you left it, what was it sounding like?

“I mean, it sounds like ‘Gold Cobra’ or ‘Chocolate Starfish’. It’s the same sound. It’s not breaking down any new barriers.”

You’ve quit and rejoined Limp Bizkit twice. How do you feel when you hear your biggest known songs now?

“I have no connection to them. It doesn’t feel like I even wrote ‘em, ‘cos it was so long ago. I feel like they were written by another person. They’re so familiar to me now that I can play them without even thinking about them. They’re sort of a part of me, but I’m also not a part of them.”

Do you ever worry about the world at large not taking Limp Bizkit seriously?

“Yeah, of course. That’s probably a lot of the reason why we had so much conflict. It’s a double-edged sword. Being in Limp Bizkit has done a lot of great things for me, but it’s also hurt my career in a lot of ways too. So I get asked a lot if I regret it and yeah, some parts of me think maybe it would have been better had I never joined the band and got signed, because I would probably not have the same level of success, but I would maybe be doing something different and not be infamous. It definitely has cost me jobs – like working with other musicians. And it’s definitely been destructive to my wife’s indie band, Queen Kwong [which Borland plays guitar in] – having me associated with it has cost her.”

Which musicians were reluctant to work with you?

“Like when I was in [Marilyn] Manson for a little while, he was really nervous about it. And he didn’t initially want me in the band. And in 2005, I had the guitar spot in Nine Inch Nails, before Aaron North got it. Trent Reznor was very cautious about it. He was like, ‘I don’t know if I want that name being brought up in press about Nine Inch Nails. I don’t want to see Limp Bizkit and Nine Inch Nails in the same article.’ But he gave me the job anyway.”

After so many years, why do you think people might still regard the Limp Bizkit name as toxic then?

“I just think it was way too much. It was too much in people’s faces for too long. I think Fred’s romance with celebrity was really toxic and he realises that now. But you know, when you’re in your 20s and all this shit’s happening, you’re like ‘Yeah, I’m going to do that!’. When everything’s as crazy as it was for us and blowing up, we were fucking kids and we acted like kids. Then this arrested development happens where you stop maturing into an adult and become this complete bozo. And yeah, it bit us in the ass.”

When Hugh Hefner passed away last month, footage resurfaced of Limp Bizkit’s 2000 MTV album launch for ‘Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water’ at the Playboy Mansion. What do you remember of that?

“Oh, I didn’t want to be there at all. I hated it. The only thing I could do was dress up as a ‘70s porn director with a wig and moustache on and try and take the piss out of it ‘cos I really didn’t want to associate with that. At all. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could. I’ve never liked being around debauchery and stuff like that. I’m an atheist now, but I think growing up as a minister’s son in a Christian family who were conservative with that kind of stuff had an effect on me. I don’t know – I’ve just seen bad things happen to women on the road that I wish I hadn’t have seen, and it’s not something I would ever want to participate in.”

What’s the most surreal offer you’ve turned down?

“I think the only person I’ve ever turned down is Will Smith to be in the Men In Black 2 video. (Laughs) Which was bizarre. He wanted me to play this song and be in the video to one of the movies, and I was like ‘No, I can’t.’ (Laughs) And I think he was really upset.”

Have you met any famous people recently who you’ve been surpised have been fans of Limp Bizkit?

“JJ Abrams! I got to meet him the other day, with the people from [North Carolina festival] Moogfest, and got asked to play it next year. I’m going to be playing a four-hour improvisational set. I’ve reached out to Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who did it last year for some insight into when I’m supposed to pee. (Laughs) What did I talk to JJ Abrams about? Everyone at the table was mostly talking about how they have inside information about our phones being used to spy on us.”

There’s a whole trend of unexpected bands speaking out about Trump. Is there any chance of Limp Bizkit going woke on the next record?

“I hope not. I hope it’s just braggadocio silly lyrics that say ‘fuck’ a lot. I mean, I’m disgusted with Trump, but half of the country voted for him so something has to change within our country. I feel you guys have the same problem with Brexit. I feel people are so divided to the point where there’s going to be a civil war of some kind again. I thought we were moving forward. We had marriage equality and people trusted scientists, but now everything’s going backwards again. But what can we do? Those people’s minds are unchangeable. Talking to Trump supporters is like trying to talk to a brick wall.”

What do you have coming up?

“The Big Dumb Face record comes out on Halloween, then I’m jumping into ‘The Astral Hand’, which is a sequel to a solo record called Crystal Machete that I put out last year, which will be released in April. The new Queen Kwong record comes out then, which I’ve mixed and played on a little bit. I’m doing a new Black Light Burns record after that – because I said I’d never do that again. (Laughs) – which will probably come out in June. I think Bizkit and Korn are doing Australia in March, and we’ll be doing a bunch of summer stuff.”

Where Is Duke Lion? He’s Dead… is set for release on 31 October via Edison Sound