Fred Durst: The Interview
Watch 'The Truth,' his new short film.
In theory, combining one good thing with another good thing can yield an exponentially greater thing. But for every delicious turducken, functional democratic republic, and aesthetically pleasing Supreme x North Face down jacket, there is a bottle of shampoo/conditioner that leaves your hair greasy, a war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, or a Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell that’s gonna make you shit your intestines out. Somewhere in the middle of these two poles of popular esteem rests rap-rock.
Though we look back on rap-rock as a weird footnote in music culture, by the late ‘90s it was a full-blown phenomenon, the new paradigm for all things loud, pissed-off, popular, and completely annoying to adults. At the center of it was Fred Durst, a pretty-boy skater dude from Gastonia, North Carolina who fronted Limp Bizkit and openly courted the sort of pop culture infamy usually reserved for serial killers and reality TV stars. He turned trolling into high art, transforming himself into the perfect, self-knowing pop heel: he bagged Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, jumped naked out of a gigantic toilet at OzzFest, discovered Staind, and named his dog after his own band.
The thing is, there has always been two Fred Dursts. There’s the Fred Durst who exists in reality, who listens to Twin Shadow, strives to be a father to his son, and makes funny, smart films like The Truth, which Noisey is premiering above. That Fred Durst gets overshadowed, however, by the greater cultural formulation that is “Fred Durst”—humorless douchebag incarnate, getting under your skin with a red Yankee cap seemingly superglued to his head and a soul patch affixed to his face like a shield of injustice. The thing is Fred Durst isn’t that guy any more, and if you ask him, he never was. But as long as that’s the public perception of who Durst is, then that’s who Fred Durst is.
When you talk to Fred on the phone, you get the Fred, the whole Fred, and nothing but the Fred. He’s open, friendly, self-aware, philosophical, and more than a little strange. He knows you probably think he’s a dick, and he’s fine with that.
Noisey: Where you at right now?
Fred Durst: I’m recording with Limp Bizkit right now. It's one of those times in life.
I was actually born in Gastonia.
My dad was Vice Principal of Hunter Huss High School.
That’s incredible; that’s where I graduated from. Class of ’88. That’s what I’m talking about! Ask him if he ever suspended me.
What do you see as the overarching theme of the film?
I think that it’s about hope. The world’s pretty crazy right now, and a lot of people have voids in their lives. They don’t know how to fill it. They want to know the truth; a light against the badness. Something that’s real. Did you enjoy it?
Yeah, I liked it a lot. I definitely saw parallels between the idea of the “superstar preacher” and rockstars in general. Maybe it was because you were playing him.
I could see how you’d see that.
Where did the idea for the film come about?
The hard facts of life, the hard edges, the things that have a foundation to them in life. These are things you just have gut instincts about. I grew up in a place that was very religious. We would skateboard, do different things, but I saw the other side—my mother worked at a church, so I was around lots of people who were one way in the church, but outside were in another reality. I always felt there’s something about the two sides of something that’s good—as real people, we’re allowed to sin. Real people are behind it, but they represent something more pure, role models in our lives. A person who grew up like that, seeing both sides, realizing he had a way with words, the way he explained things to people, he changed their life. He’s a product of this environment, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He doesn’t know a thing about it. He really doesn’t, at all, and he’s not religious. But he’s throwing out a piece of a prayer he might know a little bit of, in a desperate moment towards his bullshit. But it’s not bullshit, because he really believes it. And that’s why I like these duplicit characters. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to do interviews and discuss things creatively. I’ll do my best. Tell me if I’m hittin’ a wall.
How many interviews do you think you’ve done in your life?
A lot. Too many. And at first, I was very open. Somebody asks you something, and you don’t know why they want to know it, until you realize it’s part of the process. I exposed myself too much, and as someone coming of age in a different time it just kind of plays out. It’s hard to stop whatever I’m doing at one o’clock and tell you about my experiences. It’s all about our chemistry on the phone; have all parties feel comfortable. You lead the way, brother.
It’s got to be a weird thing, being a musician or a filmmaker and then having to explain a process that’s pretty abstract.
It’s all open to interpretation, man. It’s the general theory of relativity, man. It’s perception. I heard what you said and what you thought it stemmed from, and it blew my mind. It’s real.
I love being technical. I love preparing. In the moment you give yourself a little freedom to play around. We knew where we needed to go, but there wasn’t dialogue. We cast a bunch of extras and gave them a breakdown, and planted people all over. It really felt genuine. We all know these types of people, and on the smallest scale if you give them a chance to believe in something, more often than not the people around them they’re close with, they like the same stuff. It kinda swells, he’s not doing it out of lies anymore. He’s got an operation, I don’t know what it is, but I tell ya, I’m not going to lie to you. Ever. All I’m gonna give you is the truth. You’re gonna go home today with the truth. You need it. It’s why you’re here. It wasn’t because I thought the evangelists we grew up with weren’t real like your parents are. You’re one thing, but then you’re home and the real you is out.
One thing I really latched onto with the film, is after the sermon there’s a sense of overwhelming ecstasy for the audience, where they’re inspired. I thought it might have been allegorical to Rock and Roll because that’s the feeling the best shows give you. That energy.
I think it’s that moment, it’s that spirit that’s alive. That moment of release. Everybody’s feeling it; it’s in the room, and then it’s gone. And you’re like, “Oh my god.” Something happens. To me, it feels like WWE. People are there! They’re so excited! They’re amped up, and they know it’s not real. But they know it’s real, because they can’t fuckin’ do this. They’re athletes! Sometimes it is real! It’s the belief and the feeling. It’s not UFC, they know that, and they feel it and they got it. This guy was inspired by them at one time in life. So he grabs that chair, and he wants to show people that way.
What do you get out of making music versus making films?
I get something different out of everything I feel I need to connect to. Film is just another layer of magic, of not realizing that there’s so many moving parts. You’re actually experiencing a miracle, a story that’s full and satisfying to you. It’s this thing. And growing up and loving the effect they have on you and then wanting that anddo that and create that in real life. Like a scene in a living room—you learn that every element was done over a day or two, but they make it seem like they’re telling a story. I got obsessed with that, the idea of telling stories. It’s a little bit of everything, from making beats to making music to making film. I can be home later tonight and make something that fits the movie. In the process of building the film, the pieces, the decisions you make to be ready on the day for something to happen, just to know that you’re telling this story and you have this vision that you feel and see. There are so many ways, and rewarding in so many ways. It’s a little bit of everything for me. Limp Bizkit’s a different feeling.
When you were a kid, did you ever expect to be here?
When I was a kid, I was such a daydreamer. Everything I thought was real. I knew that I wanted to make movies I never said, “I’m gonna make a film that’s gonna come out in theaters.” I just said, “I’m gonna make a movie. I gotta do it.” A lot of times there’s politics involved in different things. I never felt like I was going to be making movies or be a rock star.
Was there ever a moment when you were like, “Wait. Shit. I am a rock star!”?
Yeah. That’s it all the time. It’s the elephant in the room. At the end of the day, I’m Fred from Limp Bizkit. No matter what. I’m that guy from this band. It’s a really interesting juxtaposition that I’m in. I have to continue, like a fish swimming upstream. Just move forward and take it, to know I have these things I have to do regardless of this other speedbump, where people look at it like, “That guy? This?” It’s a really difficult place to be.
Do you ever wish the public’s perception of “Fred Durst” would go away?
I don’t know the climate out there now. I really try to keep my mind away from it, because I’m a sensitive guy and I’m just trying to wake up in the morning and be grateful and stoked and ambitious. Every once in a while somebody’s gotta bring something up, something trivial. So that part of it, yeah. I wish I could escape it. But I’m really grateful for everything that’s happened in my life, so if that’s the rap I have to take and bare that on my back for those who need a target, then I will. It’s about your core—who are you as a person? When I meet a lot of people in person and you feel that chemistry with them, there’s never a moment of negativity.
That’s a hard question to answer.
Yeah, it is.
It’s difficult to identify yourself in a greater ocean of information.
You have an incredible way with words, young man.
I bet you thought this’d be easy, since you’re talking to a tree.
I’m sort of shocked we’re having this conversation right now.
Life is so unpredictable. Where did you see yourself going when you were young and everything was possible?
I wanted to write novels.
You’re gonna write that, man. You’re just gonna do it.
I have a fantasy of going to North Carolina and hiding out for six months and just write.
That’s a dream come true, man. That sounds perfect. Literally. I’d like to be in a cabin somewhere and do something like that. I’m that kind of guy.
That’s the thing about North Carolina, you forget the value of silence.
It’s amazing. I love it. I miss it, man. I’m in L.A., and my son’s mother lives here. He’s 12, and we have equal time. If I were to move, I would become a long distance, stay-with-dad-during-the-summer-and-holidays type of dad, and I can’t do that. Sometimes we have to sacrifice things. We gotta break cycles. If you grew up and didn’t have that kind of love, you probably overcompensate for it.
How do you think the response to The Truth is going to be?
Honestly, I think people are going to be surprised by it. If people haven’t been paying close attention to you, they might not think of you as the world’s most humorous guy.
I think it might cause them to re-examine Limp Bizkit and say, “Oh, maybe this was actually satire of macho dude culture.”
Oh man! It’s amazing you said that. That’s it. The subtleties of Limp Bizkit; the satire. It’s almost like it got overlooked. We put it in almost everything. We just didn’t make it that obvious. It took its own life.
What was your take on celebrity culture when you were a huge part of it?
You’re on the phone with me and you’re saying you can’t believe you’re talking to me, do you feel like you’re still just this kid from North Carolina? Just like this sense of “whoa”? That’s what I feel. I still feel it. This thing that happens, and I’m just like “WHOA!” I’m not the guy that had the thought of being grateful in my mind, because I was so overwhelmed—You guys want me to do WHAT? And go over HERE? With WHO?—it was just a country dude buggin’ out. And I’m like, “I gotta bring my mom out here, and I gotta bring my brother and all my friends out here. Anybody I know, they should work for me!” Slowly, you realize some people don’t deserve opportunities and they end up abusing you. Being in it, man, you can’t even believe it. You’re just like, “What am I doing at the VMAs? I’m gonna have an anxiety attack.” I became this character, this Tyler Durden that I created with Limp Bizkit. All of a sudden, that guy took over. Everybody wanted that guy there, and after you’re a while it’s sort of like, “What’s going on?” You get a breather and you feel overwhelmed. So you drive a pickup truck, so you can go, “Well, I’ve still got my truck, got my dog, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.” You just cruise through life. It wasn’t always a thing, I’m still just a dude. I’m still cruisin’, like McCaughnahey says. Cruisin’, man. You just go “WHOA!” all the time. I was a guy who didn’t know anyone when I moved down to Florida. I didn’t know any of these guys, but I knew I had to put a band together because I had to direct a music video. If I direct a music video, this is gonna be something. I just know I gotta make this, I have to do this. That feeling never stops. I think as you go through life you evolve, and you become more graceful, more elegant. I tried to be good to the people I could be good to. Would I do it differently? I don’t know. I don’t think about it.
You’re right. You can’t.
I feel like what’s most important is that you life in the present, and everything you did to get to the point you’re at is important, even if you aren’t proud of it, because without it you wouldn’t be where you are.
Exactly, man. We’re just moving. We’re cruising. I’m a simple person. I’m just me. I’m no more special than anybody. I think people are like, “What’s so special about that fuckin’ guy? Nothing! He gets on my fuckin’ nerves!” I go, “Well, I get on my nerves too. What the hell am I doing here? What happened?” It’s crazy. I just have some stories inside of me that I need to tell. I feel compelled to put them out and to give them away, for people to react to. It seems like everything I do, meaning finds me later. I go, “HOLY SHIT! That’s why I fuckin’ did this?” It’s all lined up and you didn’t even fuckin’ see it. You can’t think about it too much, because if I did, I could have fucked it up and not have done it. Hell, I don’t know.
Drew Millard is the Features Editor of Noisey. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard