A multi-million selling, era-defining behemoth, Limp Bizkit's third album brought nu metal to its commercial peak. Ahead of their performance at Sonsiphere this weekend, we look back at the remarkable story of 'Chocolate Starfish...'
This feature originally appeared in issue 186 of Rock Sound.
'CHOCOLATE STARFISH AND THE HOT DOG FLAVORED WATER'
RELEASED: October 17, 2000
Producers: Terry Date, Josh Abraham
Personnel: Fred Durst (vocals), Wes Borland (guitar), Sam Rivers (bass), John Otto (drums), DJ Lethal (samples, turntables), Scott Borland (keyboards)
By the dawn of the new millennium, Limp Bizkit had become a phenomenon without equal. With the carnage of their mega-successful ‘Significant Other’ and an infamous appearance at Woodstock ’99 left in their wake, Fred Durst and Co. attracted unprecedented levels of devotion and spite, but they were back in the studio within a year, for their make-or-break album. No pressure, then...
Fred Durst (vocals): “There were definitely good times, but the record company were piling on pressure, chasing the dollars. None of us were really friends before Limp Bizkit – it was all about me putting the band together, getting everyone in a room, and then this magic would happen. I could sort of orchestrate everything: the direction of music, the style.”
Wes Borland (guitar): “Things were going ridiculously well at that point. We had a lot to live up to, but were psyched to be doing it at all.”
Sam Rivers (bass): “It was all such a blur. The writing process was probably the funniest time I’ve had in my life; parties every night and no pressure. It was so much fun.”
Wes Borland: “There was some conflict going on, and tension to a certain extent, but that was just the way it always went. When it came to that album, the writing process was actually pretty easy. It was a hell of a lot simpler than ‘Significant Other’, because we’d found our feet already.”
Fred Durst: “It was an interesting time in my life. There was all this negativity in the press, my idols and people in great bands, Trent Reznor and different people talking shit about me. Luckily, we’ve been able to have face time recently – we can sit back and laugh, and get along. Back then he said some things that were very hurtful, and I think that reactionary side went into the record.”
Sam Rivers: “The vibe was just like ‘Significant Other’; stressful and long hours, but overall we knew what we were walking into and made the best out of it. I can’t remember any particular conflicts.”
Terry Date (producer): “I wouldn’t say that the atmosphere was volatile, but everyone involved was intense. There were a lot of strong personalities. You had to be on your A-game.”
Fred Durst: “Nobody knew how to handle us, but I’d been ambitious and driven from the start. The guys followed my lead, and it ended up as this amazing hybrid. The more popular we got, the more we became aware that people were expecting certain things from us. Before it had been easy, because it felt like no one was listening. We just went in and did our thing anyway.”
Inspired by the vibrant chaos of LA, Bizkit set about piecing together a sprawling, scathing and entirely unconventional third record. ‘Chocolate Starfish...’ was beginning to evolve.
Fred Durst: “It was my version of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. I was the asshole, and the other guys could be the dicks.”
Terry Date: “Fred was getting pulled in a lot of different directions. But he was always great to work with: opinionated, with a generous side no one wrote about.”
Peter Katsis (executive producer): “No other rock group came close to them at the time, in terms of sales. MTV only used to play Top 40 bands, and then overnight they started playing the bigger selling rock acts. Limp led the way.”
Fred Durst: “I don’t know if the way I dealt with it all was right or wrong – I was just dealing with things the way I was built to. I’ve been a victim of bullying my entire life, but at least I had a way to let it out with this music. Some people are more graceful than others in the way they do things. I’m a sensitive person who’s been dealt a rough set of cards in life, so I was just trying to survive.”
Terry Date: “When those creative juices are flowing there are always going to be ‘discussions’, but we were all working towards the same thing. It wasn’t a battle. Fred even bought me a new computer, although that was partially because he wanted to smash the old one in the parking lot. I didn’t let him.”
Wes Borland: “It was a whirlwind. There wasn’t a lot of thinking; just doing. No breaks, non-stop, everything went through the roof.”
Sam Rivers: “We were in a bubble, but it was a super fun time. I was completely surprised, but loved it all.”
Fred Durst: “I always had to have that red cap. Every time I’d step off the bus or do an interview, it was for that red cap guy. I never put me out there. People were feeding off that persona, and it was a frenzy. People hated, but people needed it – everyone wanted something out of that guy. He was my Tyler Durden side, a way of dealing with it. It was a product of being really damaged, I think.”
Wes Borland: “We had no idea what some of those tracks would do for us. I have no idea how it happened in retrospect. It was just one of those incredible things.”
Selling over a million copies in its first week, ‘Chocolate Starfish...’ cemented Bizkit’s status as America’s biggest rock band: however briefly. Durst-mania was at its peak, and for the following months the band were utterly untouchable.
Fred Durst: “Somehow we’d found this moment in time where we were the big thing for a second. It confused the hell out of everyone. I didn’t think about myself as a celebrity back then, but everyone wanted a piece of me.”
Peter Katsis: “They kicked off the album with the Napster free tour. The label were certainly upset that the band took a couple of million dollars to do a free tour with Napster, the dreaded enemy of the day.”
Wes Borland: “The free tour we did was absolutely bananas. There were people camped out all night out front, they’d climb the fence in front of the stage, throw themselves off of balconies... it was insane.”
Fred Durst: “It blew my mind. The joke was on the critics, you know? We were a band without a direction, but by just going in the studio, this very organic process, we’d made something that was classic Limp Bizkit. It was a great time for me. It was safe for me to go out there, through that mic and persona.”
Terry Date: “It always felt destined for great things. We did exactly what our instincts told us, and it paid off in a big way.”
Peter Katsis: “By the end of the cycle they were exhausted: they even had to cancel a sold-out show at the Milton Keynes Bowl in England. But ‘Chocolate Starfish...’ still holds the record for first week sales by a rock group, selling over a million copies. They were right up there competing with Britney Spears and *NSYNC, which was unbelievable. Even Linkin Park couldn’t match that later on. At the same time, Bizkit challenged so many industry norms, giving a lot back to the fans.”
Wes Borland: “That record was our titan. We’ll never play a show without drawing heavily from ‘Chocolate Starfish...’ and that’s the way it should be.”
Fred Durst: “Limp Bizkit was insane; it still is. We’ve just learned to accept it as it comes.”
Limp Bizkit will appear at Sonisphere next weekend. For the full line-up, and info, head to this link.