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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Tao of Fred Durst

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Things are good for Limp Bizkit these days. Improbably good, even. After a decade marked by transition, turmoil and hiatus, the rap-rock band has settled into a comfortable working groove. The group is enjoying its first extensive American tour since the early 2000s, and singer Fred Durst says that he and Wes Borland—the guitarist whose purist art-metal mindset often clashed with Durst’s every-bro mentality, causing fractures in the band—are now on the best terms they’ve ever been on. They’re also almost finished with a new album they’re truly excited about, Stampede of the Disco Elephants, which they’ll release later this year through their unlikely new label: Cash Money Records, home to Lil Wayne and his vast empire.

Hungrier veterans might see the signing as a fresh start, a chance to introduce themselves to a young generation and to bask in Cash Money’s prosperity. Durst says that for Limp Bizkit, though, the signing was merely a means to keep on carrying on the way they want to. “The label just empowered us in the right way,” Durst says. “They said, ‘We can’t tell you want to do; only you know how to do that. You’re Limp Bizkit, you just do your own thing.’ Our talks were so good and everything felt so right that it was an obvious decision going with them. They just said, ‘Do whatever you want, whatever’s in your heart.’ And that freedom was liberating. What we wanted to do was just to get dirty again, and not to have to worry about anything.” And so, with the label’s blessing, “we went and found the shittiest place we could find in the Valley, so it felt like the good old days,” Durst says. “It’s a pretty heavy record. We were able to work without limitations, with no worries of having to make radio songs or anything like that.”

If Durst is harboring any big dreams about his band returning to its turn-of-the-century heights, he’s mighty good at hiding them. Those days are over, he insists, and he doesn’t miss them. “We spent some time on that lonely peak on the top and we’re happy to be back down on the mountain with everybody else,” he says. “Relevance comes and goes, but we’re lucky because we’ve got a voice in the world, and we can go enjoy ourselves and tour because we’re passionate about it.”

Speaking with Durst, you’d be unlikely to mistake him for a man of great substance, but he hardly comes across as the same celeb-banging, shocker-flashing asshole who did so much to exhaust his welcome during the “TRL” era, either. In conversation he’s grateful and good-natured, and he speaks of his career with a Zen-like acceptance. “We’re constantly evolving, trying to better ourselves and be good people, and to make our fans happy and to touch people with our creativity,” he explains. “All of us have wars going on inside our head, and music is a great way to ease the stress sometimes.”

That sort of flowery positivity seems at odds with Durst’s public image, so I ask him if he’s always viewed things that way. He says he has, but concedes that perspective sometimes didn’t come across during Limp Bizkit’s heyday. “When you’re young, you’ve got these kneejerk reactions,” he says. “You’ve been beat up and pissed on and bullied your whole life, so you want to stand up for yourself and say what you want to. But as you get older, you get to this place where you’re like, ‘Just think about it for a minute, first. Think about it, let it resonate, then say what you want to.’”

It’s clear Durst has some regrets about his time at the top, though he doesn’t quite classify them as such. “I just think a lot of people didn’t take the time to look into who or what I or Limp Bizkit was,” he says with a touch of resignation. “I just wanted the bullies to fuck off, but the irony was that the bullies ended up enjoying the music, and not listening to the message.

“But you have to let it go,” he says, more to himself than to me. “You just gotta let it go. You made the decision to do this, to put your voice on a recording and put it out on the world. And ultimately that’s on you.”

Limp Bizkit plays the Rave on Monday, May 13, at 8:30 p.m.