Interview: Wes Borland of Black Light Burns
Wed, 09 Jan 2008 07:37:48
Black Light Burns Videos
On Black Light Burns' debut Cruel Melody, at one point frontman Wes Borland sings "I hate that I love you." That oxymoron right there provides a window into Borland. Everyone certainly knows him from his days writing riffs and playing to packed arenas with Limp Bizkit. However, the Bizkit never defined Borland, and it couldn't truly fulfill him creatively. On their records, his playing always a stood out: a brash combination of dreamy Cure-inspired melodies and full-on metallic assault, somewhere between Primus and Pantera. Borland remained the musical heart of the band, but he could never truly shine the way he deserved.
After, a botched attempt to revive Bizkit into 2005, Borland hunkered down in the studio with producer extraordinaire Danny Lohner [Ex-NIN] and drum phenomenon Josh Freese [A Perfect Circle] to write the record that he'd been dying to make. Cruel Melody is an epic, yet infectious collection of songs that follow Borland to Hell and back, all the while laying down some of his best riffs to date. Never one to rest on his laurels, Wes Borland spoke to ARTISTdirect from the studio, and showed us why Black Light will shine brighter than them all.
This record feels like a rebirth for you. What was your inspiration to start Black Light Burns?
Over the years, I started creating a folder figuratively of musical ideas that I really loved that didn't fit into what I was doing elsewhere. It was a collection of ideas and songs—many of which didn't end up on Cruel Melody. Nevertheless, this collection was the birthing ground for what did end up on the record. It formed over time. I was meeting a lot of dead ends in my other projects. I didn't find a situation where I would be working as the guitar player with another singer that worked. I kind of hit this wall where I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations. I realized that I had to work a little harder, personally. That meant that I was going to have to become a singer/frontman from that point on. I had to actually be a songwriter, instead of just a contributor to a group of people that were songwriters. So, I ended up taking this group of songs that I really cherished and started plugging away on them like there was no tomorrow. I knew I had to get this done immediately. I hated how I was perceived in the press. I hated what I was known for basically. I knew that if I was going to continue to be in the music business, I had to make a change. I wanted people to know what I was really like and shatter the negative perception of me. That perception was always that I was Fred Durst's sidekick—the dude with the black contacts that jumped around. That's maybe who I once was. Obviously, it'd done a lot for me, but people grow up, change, mature and end up becoming refined and evolved. That was kind of the general area that I wanted to nurture. I didn't want to get rid of my past or forget it, but I wanted to add to it in a way that it didn't feel like it choked me as much as it did anymore.
How did the collaboration with Danny Lohner begin?
I had been doing a lot of remix work at the time with Danny, and we had been working with Josh Freese a lot. So there was already a rapport there. Danny had already become one of my best friends over the previous four years, and I went to him and Josh with these songs. I asked if they wanted to be the team that did it with me. Danny got really interested and agreed. A two-year period off of working on this began. During that time, I was having splits with friends. I even tried to fool around again with Limp Bizkit for a second, basically to see if I was being too much of a shithead and too much of a pretentious prick. However, I realized that wasn’t the case, and I was right about the situation before. That being confirmed, I decided to go full force with this and not ever look back. At the end of the whole process, I made a record that I'm really proud of. So that’s how everything came together.
It sounds like this is very close to your heart, especially on the mellower fare, like "Cruel Melody."
Getting Carina Round involved on that one really sealed the deal. The lyrics are very personal for me, but bringing Carina in as the representative of the female involved in that situation couldn’t have been more of a knockout. It was incredible to have her involved, and she's such an alien when she sings (laughs). At the end of the song, she took the lyrics and said she wanted to sound kind of like a Sea Siren. I just went, "Go for it." It was a pretty dramatic record throughout, but Carina just ruled it, and I'm forever in her debt.
You definitely cover a whole emotional spectrum on these songs, was it a hard period for you?
During that transitional period from when I was 29 to when I was 31, there was a lot of crazy stuff going on. I tried to record it lyrically as well as I could, and tried to represent where I'm at on the record. [Over the course of the album] there's immaturity, good and bad life decisions happening, falling out, anger and then a resolution. There's a release at the end showing that I'm ready to move onto something else. I don’t need to cover that same dialogue again on the next record. That was the hope for Cruel Melody, that on a personal note I would get some things out of my system.
You were so young when Limp Bizkit blew up, and now you’ve undergone a complete transformation.
I finally feel like I'm in the right place, where I need to be. My life's a whole lot less "TRL" now. I live a much more humble and reserved lifestyle than I used to. I still work harder than I ever have, but I'm actually in a position of feeling like an artist, instead of feeling like I'm in someone's entourage. I feel better now that I'm around people that are like-minded. It's a good place to be, and we're already working on the next album. The little bit of this new record that we've begun already annihilates Cruel Melody to me. I'm really excited to see what the whole new record is going to sound like.
You've already started?
There's a bunch of stuff already done, and we're also doing three cover songs right now to warm up. They're covers that [drummer] Marshall Kilpatric and I wanted to do. They've been favorites of mine for a long time. I don't know what we're going to do with them now, but I think it's also to have more material to play live next year [laughs].
Was it difficult transitioning from guitar player to singer?
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