Wes Borland: 10 songs I wish I’d written

(Image credit: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

Wes Borland is one of music’s great shape-shifters. He may have made his name with Limp Bizkit, but he long ago shook off the ‘nu metal guitarist’ tag. While he still plays with Fred Durst and co, he’s spent the past 20 years exploring a myriad of genres with his own extra-curricular bands as Big Dumb Face, Black Light Burns and Queen Kwong, as well as collaborations with everyone from Korn’s Jonathan Davis to rapper Tech N9ne. We asked Wes to tell us the songs that have had the most influence on his as a musician. Here’s what he picked.

Minor Threat – Filler (Minor Threat, 1984) 

“I didn’t have an older brother, or any sort of older figure in my life that was into cool music, so I had to figure it all out for myself. My dad listened to The Moody Blues, Bob Dylan and John Denver, and a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t really identify with. But when I heard the first couple of Minor Threat records when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I kind of lost my mind. That was the first time I felt like I wanted to play the guitar, and Filler was the first song that made me feel that way. It was exciting and fast and heavy, and it felt like it was pushing past everything that I’d heard before, and was making a real difference somehow. So Minor Threat had a huge effect on me. They didn’t care about landing notes, and they taught me that it didn’t all have to be right, as long as the intention was there.”

Ministry – Thieves (The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, 1989) 

“This was the first time I really heard machines do music, and people manipulating guitars to make them faster than you could actually play. Thieves is so fast, and that riff is so amazing and drill-like. What I really liked about Ministry was they would just play one riff and it would go for about seven minutes, almost putting you into like a trance. I loved hearing super heavy, brutal music that sounded like a bulldozer, and didn’t have to jump all over the place and change time signatures or dynamics. It was just pulverizing, relentless and repetitive in such an intentional way.”

Prong – Lost And Found (Beg to Differ, 1990)

“This was the single off Beg to Differ, and Tommy Victor’s guitar playing really inspired me. After Minor Threat I’d kind of gone through some thrash metal, and after that I got to Prong. They were different in a way that stood out from a lot of the other bands. I also liked that they were a three-piece, and I liked the simplicity of their riffs. Their use of pitch and false harmonics, and how those interjected into the riffs, was another eureka moment for me. So I had Minor Threat for the speed and the heaviness, and then Prong came along and gave that heaviness more structure and the use of negative space.”

Primus – Jerry Was A Race Car Driver (Sailing the Seas of Cheese, 1991) 

“This was the first time I heard a band where the bass was the lead instrument, and Les Claypool as a bass player really affected me as a guitar player, more than any other guitar player. Having the whammy bar on the bass, and just the way that he played – that was life changing for me.”

Sepultura – Dead Embryonic Cells (Arise, 1991) 

“I’d been really into death metal and thrash metal for a while, but the way Sepultura did it was different. I only really like two albums by them: Arise and Chaos A.D. Even though my good friend Ross [Robinson, producer] did Roots, I don’t really like Roots as much as those other two records, and I don’t like anything before Arise. But those two albums are definitive Sepultura, and the perfect mix of the metal from time period, and the Brazilian drumming that Sepultura did so well. And as far as riff writing went at that time, Max Cavalera had a huge impact on me.”

Mr. Bungle – Quote Unquote (Mr. Bungle, 1991) 

“Mr. Bungle showed me that you could do all of these things with heavy music, and it didn’t have to be heavy all the time: it could be soundscape-y and it could be funny, and technical and non-technical within the same song. This song affected me more almost as a painter than a guitar player, because it made me visualise what could be done as far as mixing styles and not caring, and just going off and making art.”

The Jesus Lizard – Gladiator (Liar, 1992) 

“This song is one of the most intense songs ever written. It starts with an insane level of ferocity, but somehow seems to keep building like a fever throughout the whole song, until the very end. Duane Denison is an incredible guitar player and he’s been a huge influence on me, with everything that he did with The Jesus Lizard and Tomahawk, but with that band the bass and drums are like a combat unit too, and the heaviness was all in the rhythm section and the way their songs built. David Yow proved that you don’t have to be a singer to be a singer, too. He got to basically just be insane. I saw them one time and he had one cowboy boot on, no shirt, his pants were totally unzipped and he had no underwear on, with his full bush hanging out. He threw up twice during the show, and he was in the crowd within 10 seconds of the show starting. It was mind-blowing.”

Dave Matthews Band – Satellite (Under the Table and Dreaming, 1994) 

“The Dave Matthews Band is not my favourite thing as far as song writing goes, but that guy as a guitar player and the riffs that he writes on acoustic guitar were really impactful on me. I never wanted to like them, and I actually hated that band when I first heard them. But during the period when they were popular his guitar playing kept catching my ear, and I felt like I shouldn’t like the songs but something about his guitar playing was really interesting to me. So I started listening to them a lot, and getting into their albums just for the sake of listening to his guitar playing, and it really had an effect on me. Some of the sliding that I do comes directly from Dave Matthews, and I started writing heavier riffs based on his techniques of landing notes and sliding down the neck of the guitar.”

John Zorn – Bith Aneth (Masada 1: Alef, 1994) 

“I love all of John Zorn’s stuff. He’s a saxophone player from New York, and he produced the first Mr. Bungle album. He had a crazy album called Naked City, and he started his own label and worked with all these different people, and he puts together classically trained musicians with people like Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo, and directs them in these crazy musical experiments. His legacy and all the things he’s done throughout his life has been super influential on Mike Patton. If you look at their career patterns, Mike Patton follows a lot of the things that John Zorn has done. For me, he’s one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived, as far as his diversity and his openness goes. He’s the guy that can appreciate everyone from a fine oil painter to someone who just does weird performance art and throws up on themselves. He’d even find a way to put those people together and make something out of it. He does that kind of thing all the time, and I love that about him.”

Portishead – Mysterons (Dummy, 1994) 

“Portishead just blew my mind, especially during a time when I was listening to mostly heavy stuff. They brought around this whole other thing that I’d never experienced before, but it seemed just as heavy on the other side of the coin: it was just as mysterious and thrilling. They caught a lot of people that I knew who were in to heavy music as well. I’m not sure exactly why that was, maybe because there weren’t that many bands that sounded like Portishead. I fucking hated trip-hop. I just liked them, because they were doing something totally unique and otherworldly.”

Matt Stocks

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.