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Interview: Wes Borland Talks Black Light Burns & More

We catch up with the artistic volcano and Limp Bizkit guitarist to discuss his spectacular new album.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud


For the past few years Wes Borland, the kaleidoscopically eccentric guitarist for Limp Bizkit, has pulled double duty as frontman and chief sound architect for Black Light Burns, a more industrially-driven sound in a Ministry-meets-NIN sonic pathway that scratches the itch felt by those enchanted by the man's artistry but not necessarily driven to join the "Nookie" legions.

With the arrival of their new album The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall, Borland delivers a 15 track assault of artistic excellence in a darker and more abrasive vein than Black Light Burns' first album, 2007's Cruel Melody. To hell with the labels – all you need to know is that when Borland steps up to the mic, an entirely new creative dynamic comes into play.

After debuting the lead single "How To Look Naked" exclusively on CraveOnline, I caught up with Borland just before the release of The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall to discuss the album and much more, including plans for a double-duty tour with Black Light Burns and Limp Bizkit, the art of rock remixes and proper music for a road mix on the way to Hell.


So the Limp Bizkit /Black Light Burns tour is happening? How the hell do you plan on maintaining that energy output?

As far as I know that's still scheduled for October. It's really not as big of a deal, when you think that Black Light will probably play for 30-35 minutes, with one or two bands in between Black Light and Limp Bizkit, so I'll have time to catch my breath and change into crazy Limp Bizkit stage clothes or whatever. I play for an hour and a half with Bizkit, and every time I get offstage with them I think 'Oh, I could do that for another hour.' It's really only a little over two hours playing, and I get a break.


That's not so bad. You've undoubtedly seen indicators in Twitter and such, but how do you anticipate the fan crossover in a live format?

I kind of think that a lot of Bizkit fans are aware to some extent that I'm doing Black Light, and if not, they will be by the time we go out on tour… or they will be that night. (laughs) I don't think it'll be a problem. I think it'll be great for people to see it.


What was the catalyst for firing up Black Light Burns again? Was it a matter of just scratching a creative itch?

That, and pretty much right after the first record we went into this terrible covers record. The ideas were good, but we didn't have any money, and we didn't have anybody great to work with, and a terrible console… and we just went for it and tried to mix it ourselves. Some of the stuff turned out okay sonically, and some of it just sounded awful. So I don't know if that was a hiccup or what it was exactly, (laughs) but it was fun to do at the time, and it kept us busy. I learned a lot from the process of doing it. And we went right in from that into starting a new record. I never really stopped writing after Cruel Melody – I had gone right into writing this, or at least the ideas that would become this record.

So over the past four years, I've been working on it on and off, and it's been done for the most part for a while. So I've been really busy with Bizkit the past three years, but every year I've been 'Jeez, am I going to be able to put it out this year? This year? Nope, how bout this year?' And finally I just had a conversation with Fred (Durst), on how I'd really like to put the record out this year if we can carve out a time when I'm not gonna be busy. And he was like 'Yeah man, I don't know why you didn't put it out last year.' Okay, cause things were busy (laughs). So this year it's just been a matter of getting all the little things lined up and pulling double duty to some extent with the goal of putting it out. I needed to get it out before it got any older to me, because I've been living with it for a long time. It was nice to live with the music for a long time, and come back to it to really feel out what works.

On the other hand it sucks because I'm the type of person who likes to put things out immediately and not be precious about it at all. But in some ways I think it was really good.


There's a lot of nuance and details on the record that make it sounds like it's been cooking for a while.

But not in a Guns N' Roses kind of way.


(laughing) No, not in a Chinese Democracy kind of way. Overall it just sounds like you're having a blast, especially on songs like We Light Up or I Want You, or Scream Hallelujah.

Yeah, on the first record I was still learning how to sing and how to do vocals and record, so a lot of it was sort of tedious. And I kind of learned after the first record and after touring how to sing… I don't know if what I'm doing is singing (laughs), but I found out how to express myself with more confidence. And I really wanted to capture how a song sounds live on this record, and kind of have some of that fury that songs take on after you've recorded them and moved them to an actual venue. I wanted to capture some of that on the record, so I tried to do as many of the vocals in one take as possible, so that I'm actually…


The ownership of the album's sound, varied as it is, stands out as well. There's inevitably bound to be Reznor comparisons thrown around, though it seems that any time there's any sort of melancholy element in any rock atmosphere, Trent Reznor's name enters the conversation.

We get that a lot. I think that was also one of the things in my head when making this record, because we got so much on the first one. I think it's less Nails even than on the first record, but I would be lying if I said I didn't borrow from Reznor quite a bit. Nails is one of my favorite bands. I just tried to borrow from a lot of other places too, to balance it as much as possible.

But on the first record, every single person that played on it has been involved in Nails at one time or another. And this one, I was really trying to go 'Okay, I know Black Light kinda sounds a bit like Nails, but I'm going to take it somewhere new on this record.' But it's not a bad thing to be compared to.


I'm curious if you've heard of the band Cex.

I have not.


There's a lot of sonic elements in "Head Will Be Rotting On a Spike" that share a similar spirit with a song of theirs called "Baltimore". On other songs I find a comparative element in the band Hermano as well. But as far as the architecture of the sound overall, did you have any core ideas or mandates on what you were looking to create?

I think the people I tend to borrow from a lot, obviously Ministry and Nails, then I'm a huge Portishead fan, huge Strokes fan, huge Death From Above 1979 fan, Yeah Yeah Yeahs…


Death From Above definitely comes through.

Yeah, especially the bass. A lot of the bass on the record is distorted, really big sounding. Having that paired with guitars that are mostly single chord pickup guitars that have kind of a heavy sound – I really wanted to try to get that heavy guitar sound without going metal.


Something like the punky, abrasive, percussively driven sound of How To Look Naked – it's easy to draw a direct line between that and Death From Above. With their sound, it seems like a great one-two punch to a road mix on the way to hell.

Yeah, I think so. I'm putting ideas together for the second video..


What song is that one for?

This one is "How To Look Naked". There's gonna be a lot of nudity. I actually just bought an old VHS player as well, that we're gonna use for the third video. So we'll see how all that works out.


What's your overall perspective on rock remixes? It seems to be taking off a lot more now than ever before.

I do a lot of remixes with Danny Lohner, and we work together on a lot of stuff. Lately I haven't been doing as many while I've been wrapped up in film stuff. But whenever I do a rock remix, I just ask them for the vocals and no music. I don't even want to hear what the chord changes are. I make up my own chord changes. I don't want to know, if at all possible, when I do a remix what the song sounded like whatsoever. We just write a song around a vocal and that becomes the remix.


Does everybody warm up to that, as opposed to being precious about their own work?

Remixes now, there's so little money in it, usually I'm just doing it as a favor to someone that I'm friends with or a band that a friend of mine is working with. So they're not paying me anyway, so they're just going to take what they get. (laughs) That's my outlook on it. You don't have to take it if you don't like it. But as far as film goes, I just got done doing music with these guys for the Resident Evil movie coming out. Then I've got some under the radar comedies coming up, and I just did a song for a Miley Cyrus movie…


No shit?

Yeah, just like whatever. When stuff comes up it's like 'Yeah, okay, I'll do that.' So sometimes I get cool movies, sometimes I get not so cool movies. It's fun, it's experience and it's work so…


What's behind you at the end of the day, when you feel like you've really accomplished something?

Usually I've painted something… usually I schedule myself with whatever I have coming up, whether it be paintings that are commissioned, or paintings that are album covers or album artwork or something. I'm usually doing that, and working on whatever I have coming up. It's usually a varied day, so it's all art based, and it's ideal. But yeah, sometimes I've gotta work on Miley Cyrus movies. (laughs)


Keep up with Black Light Burns on their Facebook, where you can find tour dates and more.