erasing clouds

Durst Deconstructed Or, I Thought So Hard My Bizkit Went Limp

Essay by Matthew Webber

12:27 a.m., Couch

It's sometime after bedtime in the middle of some week, and I'm fetal on the couch, under afghan, in darkness. Neither Sominex nor Nyquil, warm milk nor White Castles, can anesthetize my brain enough to slow or stop my thoughts. What I'm thinking is nothing, or nothing worth remembering, just end-of-the-day forget-me-nots that dream of becoming dreams. They prevent me from sleeping as these evedreams often do, having napped throughout the moments when I would have welcomed their company. Where did they hide when I was driving to work? In the tape deck? In my pocket? Did I leave them in the bathroom? Why did they idle when I sang along to Sugar Ray? ("Answer the Phone," probably, or maybe "Every Morning," but it might have been some other big hit about doing it and doing it and doing it again, which I recite automatically like I recite the Our Father at Mass.)

Thoughts such as these. I'm sure you're familiar. The fragments. Images. Questions. Nags. They need to be shushed if I'm ever to fall asleep. I need a shot of novacain injected through my temples. I need to curl on the couch and watch whatever late night banalities I can find on the television because reading, while relaxing, requires too much thought; and the only four channels I watch after midnight every insomniatic night (every night) - MTV, VH1, E!, and Comedy Central - ask me for none.

Now, I do not need to think.

What I need are celebrity interviews. I need the latest J to tha L-O featuring Ja Rule music videos. I need programs on E! that I'd never watch in the daytime when my critical facilities, feminist sympathies, and ability to be offended by anything offered on basic cable would be at their apexes; these excuses for me to ogle girls in bikinis and envy guys whose skin color doesn't resemble Casper the Friendly Ghost's. I need Wild On and The Howard Stern Show, and I really need, on this night, to watch Howard interview Playboy's Playmate of the Year, Brande Roderick, so she'll be the last flickering image I see before my eyelids become weighted, and maybe, if I'm lucky, she'll be in my sleeping dreams.

So after click, click, clicking, I set down the remote, and I forget about thinking and trying to fall asleep and how I'm not sleeping but everyone else is probably sleeping and I really should be sleeping because I have to wake up in less than seven hours but if I fall asleep by one I can still get six hours of sleep. There might have been two, maybe three, thoughtless seconds, but mostly I'm thinking about how many seconds pass. I watch the beautiful Brande until her segment ends - which it does within seconds, because her allotted thirty minutes of after hours fame have run out. 12:30. Her exit interview. The Howard Stern Show's closing credits. My hand on the clicker, poised to click away.

--But I'm not quite fast enough. It's worse. I'm like a sloth. Because here he is, he - of the backwards red baseball cap on soggy cracker noggin. The Limpest of Bizkits. The Pillsbury Doh!-boy. The lyrical gangster of "Nookie" and "Break Stuff." The Chocolate Starfish himself, minus the Hot Dog-Flavored Water.

My new, most recent, before-sleep flickering image.

The Man I Hate Most In the History of Humanity:

Fred Durst.

Had I not known that when my remote control is dropped the batteries fall out and roll under the couch and I have to crawl and grope to find them, I would have chucked my remote at his face.

Had I not known that he'd still be shit-eatingly grinning on my television after receiving such a blow, I would have nailed him anyway.

Had I had access to a weapon, or any sharp, blunt, or non-remote-control object, I would have contemplated hari kari, seppuku, and other, more Western fashions of suicide.

Because if there is a heaven, and if I were privileged to go, I would at least not have to think about him in the years he remained on earth. (If a cherubic choir ever raises their heavenly voices in the Durst-penned "Rearranged," I'll know I've descended into hell.)

I've never hated anyone more than I hate Fred Durst at this moment. Tonight's topic on the second half-hour of The Howard Stern Show? Not the deconstruction of his lyrical vagaries. Not the musicality of his departed guitarist, Wes Borland. Not the fanaticism of his Cardinals-capped clones. But the hotness of various chicks Fred Durst has banged.

The Rapture has happened, and I was left behind, and this is my hell, and I'll never be able to fall asleep.

--But somehow, I do so - without ever changing the channel.

Within minutes, I feel my body sinking and my eyelids closing, and I click off the TV and sleepwalk to bed. My sleep will be delicious. It's before one o'clock. I can still get my six hours. I'm still alive. I'm not in hell. The Rapture hasn't happened yet. The batteries of my remote control are where they belong. In satellite space, Fred Durst and Howard Stern are still rating the in-the-sack-ability of the world's most beautiful women - and I am not thinking about it. It's not that I'm trying not to think about it; I'm just not. All of my undreamed dreams go ka-poof. I forget how much I hate this one particular pop star, which is more than I hate the tonal qualities of my alarm clock; the smell, taste, texture, and everything associated with tuna fish; the entire Cash Money Millionaires set; Colin Quinn; and advertisements that feature radio personalities hawking weight loss products that allow you to eat all the fatty desserts you want as long as you drink a certain magic elixerthree hours later, before bedtime, because it works while you sleep to melt away the pounds.

I hate him like I hate not being able to fall asleep.

As my breathing deepens and my heartbeats slow, I forget how thoroughly I detest Fred Durst and everything his whine represents about American culture. I don't think about the last six or seven minutes of television I watched and how offensive was Fred Durst's cavalier arrogance.

My final waking thoughts do not include Brande Roderick. Rather, they're the last of that day's unanswerable questions: When you saw his smirking mug, why didn't you change the channel? And a sub-question that might be more important to explore: Is it possible to actually like your musical arch nemesis because of how much you despise him?

Exit light. Enter night.

Pop Quiz

  1. Wes Borland is to Limp Bizkit as:
    1. Wes Borland is to Big Dumb Face.
    2. Jason Newsted is to Metallica.
    3. Judas Iscariot is to Jesus Christ.
    4. A man with an inflatable raft in his back pocket is to the Titanic.

  2. The other guys in Limp Bizkit are to Fred Durst as:
    1. The other guys in Big Dumb Face are to Wes Borland.
    2. The other guys in Aerosmith are to Joe Perry and Liv Tyler's dad.
    3. Wives and girlfriends are to the most beautifully exotic woman in any room.
    4. Hand puppets are to fingers in their assholes.

  3. Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water is to Limp Bizkit as:
    1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is to The Beatles (or so says Fred Durst).
    2. The Great Milenko is to the Insane Clown Posse.
    3. A lame album title is to a lame band name.
    4. A steaming pile of feces is to Fido.

  4. Brande Roderick is to Barbie as:
    1. Jenny McCarthy is to the type of woman Hugh Hefner likes to feature unclothed in the middle pages of his magazine.
    2. Mark McGwire is to his bobblehead doll.
    3. Okay, every Playboy Playmate is to Barbie.
    4. Fred Durst is to Ken; that is, if Ken is a chunky, wanna-be b-boy with a flow like a leaky faucet.

  5. "Nookie" just might be to contemporary Western society as:
    1. Godzilla always is to Tokyo.
    2. The Watergate Scandal is to Richard Nixon's presidency.
    3. Your aping of Fred Durst's backwards baseball cap, your spelling of "Mudd" with two Ds so it matches the two Ds in "Puddle of," and your confessing, "I like the way you smack my ass," is to your establishing any credibility as an artist.
    4. An appreciation for the fine arts is to your ability to find "Nookie" aesthetically appealing.

8:33 a.m., Editor's Office

She grips the lower left-hand corner of the first page of my manuscript, which at this stage of the writing process is titled, "He Does It All For the Nookie," as if her fingers are tweezers and the corner of the page is an eyebrow hair she's just plucked, which, although successfully removed, has chosen to rest among its unplucked cousins. Or, as if she's afraid that the paragraphs I've written are contagious.

I watch her eyes dart from left to right across the page, from the twenty-five word sentence that begins my essay to the periods throughout which end even more convoluted series of appositives and clauses to her own red circles and scratches and comments such as,"Huh?" It's then that I realize I don't know what color are her eyes. As her left hand tweezes, her right hand twirls a pencil, and both legs tap and she audibly sighs. It's a long one, her sigh, so I know she's perturbed. (She tells me not to use words that could just as easily be replaced by easier, more common ones. She also tells me she's not sure why it's Fred Durst who inspires such prose of mine rather than Dostoevsky or Milton or the plight of starving Africans. Or anything important in the General Scheme of Things.) She hasn't looked at or spoken to me yet. Her posture, however, is shouting.

She releases what to her was an overgrown hair and slides it across the table to me. She washes her hands with air; or else she wrings them. I read what she's scribbled on the title page: "Sometimes I think you do, too. " Then, slightly below this, which means she wrote it after she finished the essay: "This title is cheap, so change it, because you're not really saying anything with this quote, like, for example, whether his 'doing it for the nookie' is part of your rant, the reason for it, or a totally different complaint. If he had sung 'making love' or some other clever metaphor would you be so offended? Is it the idea of his lust or his language which offends you, or rather, his tenor, the way in which he says it?"

What she didn't write, but what I know she thought and is still thinking was: "You've already written more words than are publishable in any printed source about an icon whose fans I know you think are, if not vocabulary-wise, at least culturally illiterate; or, if not illiterate, at least intellectually arrested; and whose enemies, one of whom you claim to be when you write that you 'hate' and 'detest' him like tuna fish, don't typically seek or enjoy to read 1,155 frivolous words about him; so whom, exactly, is your target audience? Precisely who, other than you, will care?"

And, "You need to edit yourself, especially at the beginning, where you're not really making any Fred Durst- or 'Nookie'-related points and are, as is your custom, just picking up speed until you discover your rhythm and what it is exactly that you want to say, since you usually don't figure out these things until after you've started writing, by which time you have hundreds of unreadable words that I know you'll never cut, even though you risk alienating the few people who care and are objective enough about Fred Durst to eventually savor whatever point about him you're trying to make.

"Of course, I know you'll write even more - I suspect you're nowhere near to finishing, since you not only haven't come to any sort of conclusion but rather have just introduced your 'love/hate' thesis - which you haven't even identified clearly but I've just intuited because I'm so familiar with your work, and because I've ridden with you in the car when that Fred Durst featuring Method Man song came on the radio and rather than change the station you turned up the volume, even though you always make fun of his singing/rapping voice by imitating it terribly. Didn't you once accuse him of yelping?"

What she does say is: "Just read my comments." A longer sigh. "Not that you'll take to heart any of my suggestions." A pause, even longer, and then she dives right in. "Mr. Webber. Matt. I'm not sure what you want me, or anybody, to do with this. People don't think about popular culture the way you do. People don't think about Limp Bizkit the way you do. What I think is they're better off, that you ruin for yourself what's supposed to be fun, and in spite of your writing an essay about desiring a lack of thought, you've thought so much about late night television, MTV, and Fred Durst that you've rendered impossible the effect you desire it to have. Can't you just let the existence of Limp Bizkit be? Can't you just let that band exist for those who want it to? Can't you just let yourself like them, if that's what you sometimes want to do anyway? If you don't want to think about these types of things, then don't. Save anybody who actually reads your essays this."

She points to my essay - which I admit is rather rambling - and, more specifically, to her comment, in red, that I'm reading: "Metallica lyrics? A clever trick or a cheap device? - As usual, I can't make up my mind, although I'm inclined to favor 'cheap device'. Maybe they're appropriate, but didn't you used to like them? Or, are you making some kind of critique about them as well, something about their supposed selling out, their - as I think I've heard you say - new excellence at crafting poppy rock songs at the expense of writing completely listenable albums? Oh well, that's probably besides the point, and I'm probably reading too much into it." Her hands appear to crave a faucet, liquid soap, and brown paper towels - and I don't think I'm reading too much into them.

"You're not finished, are you?" She looks at me for the first time this visit. Her eyes (they're sky blue) ask and hope; her voice (not a yelp) declares and knows. A lock of hair (it's honey blonde; I'm pleasantly surprised) tumbles from behind her left ear. "Because you haven't reconciled your hatred for Fred Durst with that other thing I think you're getting at: the way he encapsulates rather than dooms our culture, and how you actually like him because of this, because of your tendency to think about popular culture and use words like 'encapsulate'. You probably think he's emblematic of something, that his backwards cap signifies a brashness, a rebellion against some faceless authority that isn't quite government, isn't quite parents, but just a pervasive sense of some other, some Man, but that he's too ignorant of sociology, and too limited an artist, to fully capitalize on the zeitgeist in any way other than monetarily."


She shushes me. "You think Fred Durst's a simulacrum, right? You think he's a false idol? That's why you both hate him and love him, or rather are somewhat fascinated by him because of the role he plays, a role you probably view as necessary so you and other pretentious critic types have somebody to condemn and against whom to champion your 'authentic' or 'real' or 'genius' songwriter or band of the moment for the precise reason that this new musical revolutionary is not Fred Durst - which you haven't mentioned at all in what I already know will be the introduction to your essay, which you probably could cut, because this, your final 'unanswerable question' at the end of your intro, right before your Metallica quote, is your main idea, your crux, your thesis, your point I know is there and you're trying so hard to express but haven't.

"You probably didn't even know you believed what you believe until you saw him on The Howard Stern Show that night; ashamed at yourself that you wanted to watch, wondering why, figuring it out immediately, and passing out instantaneously, at peace with a dilemma you were only then able to identify, even though you've battled it since you heard 'Nookie' for the first time and liked it, I mean, really liked it, even though you had no respect for Fred Durst as a lyricist, singer, rapper, or human being.

"He's a guilty pleasure for you - isn't he? - even if you'll never buy a Limp Bizkit album because of how much you'd loathe yourself afterward for giving that clown money and, further, for encouraging his record label and all labels to sign more of his type of artist because there is at least one person who will buy this kind of album, even though both you and I know there are millions of kids out there who like Fred Durst and his Bizkits without thinking about it; they just like that type of angry-at-the-world-for-no-particular-reason message, the type of message Ben Folds skewered in his 'Rockin' the Suburbs' song you thought was so hilarious and brilliant. The record labels are, in a sense, simply supplying most of their consumers' demands.

"Consumers, these kids, enjoy Fred Durst because he cusses on the mic tonight. They like him because he's what they think a rock star is supposed to be. He's everywhere. He's cool in the sense that he hangs out with other celebrities, gets good rappers and producers to appear on his albums, sleeps with beautiful women, leads a successful rock 'n' roll band lest you forgot that, and somehow manages to remain as angry as these kids themselves. As angry as you are that all of this is true.

"He's a rock star - and what a rock star he is! - the largest of the larger than lifes, the poster child for whatever the hell you want to call his musical genre or his subset of all things millennial and American. He's almost as iconic, and for not dissimilar reasons, as one of your heroes, that dead guy, Kurt Cobain. A voice for his generation. A screamer who's dismissed as a whiner by his critics. Yeah, I'm blaspheming; it's obvious Cobain's the better songwriter, but surely you realize how well they both fit this mold. They're exactly what their fans need them to be. They speak for those who can't speak themselves. It's irrelevant that Cobain, and by your own extension, his generation of fans, were more eloquent. It doesn't even matter that Limp Bizkit's music technically sucks.

"All his fans like him for the same reasons you hate him; for the same reasons I'm just now learning you reluctantly, guiltily, like him. You like some of his songs in the sense that you choose to listen to them when they come on the radio, you have memorized a line or two, and you thoroughly enjoy being pissed off vicariously through him. He certainly is a convenient target for your anger, Matt - you can actively hate something by hating him, you can loathe yourself by liking him - and, best yet, he gives you something to ponder before going to bed, something to write about in some increasingly unreadable essay that you won't even want to finish writing but will because you'll feel compelled to do so. He's so ubiquitous that no one's supposed to think about why; he's so ubiquitous that people with an iota of a scruple are apt to do nothing but think about how. He's a goddamn puppetmaster, and he's a good one, because he's pulling even your strings and you're trying to cut them like 'N Sync did! Ha!"

My editor's face is as red as her pencil. She angrier with me and more proud of herself than I've ever seen her - and these are the only states in which I ever find her, unless you count exasperated as a state, which I guess you'd have to. She's huffing and puffing like the big, bad wolf, growing redder than the blood of the three little pigs, which reminds me of one particular time when she warned me that sometimes I get carried away with my metaphors, and I think of how I'll smite her like that farmer with an axe in some of the three little pigs tales or the pot of boiling water in some of the others I've heard. She almost, through reverse psychology, inspired me to cut short or scrap my essay on Fred Durst by saying whatever it is she's just finished saying - that I haven't really said anything; or that pop music only affects me, nobody else who's normal, with this kind of violent emotion; or that I need to be more linear, more like the newspaper music critics whose reviews of new albums, as far as I can tell, usually consist of nothing but a tracklisting and synonyms of either "good" or "bad"; that I ruin late night television by overanalyzing my analysis of it; that I've now put more thought into Fred Durst's lyrics than he ever did; and, finally, that's he's probably not a totem for anything, just a tool of your gardening variety, and therefore, not worth any discussion at all.

And even though she's right, I write. My thesis: Fred Durst is a tool. And I hate him, and I love to hate him, and sadly, contemporary Western society needs him. Is he destroying our youth like Godzilla destroys Tokyo? Does he merely represent them; is he some kind of projection or mirror image? Does it even matter? Should I waste my time thinking about it?

But since I can't stop thinking about it, is it something I should worry about, now that I know how much it is I need him? Because, right now, as always, every non-Fred Durst musical artist sounds newer and more beautiful and more vital to me. Fred Durst is so evil he's actually holy - no one can purify your music collection like he. He's maybe not the Anti-Christ, but he's at least the Anti-Handel's "Messiah".

"Are you even listening to me?" my editor asks, her lips a contortion of smugness and fear. "Don't even think of quoting me if you're not even going to listen to anything I say. Don't waste all of your time trying to justify why Fred Durst means or doesn't mean anything to you. He's not some ex-girlfriend with whom you may or may not get back together. Stop thinking about this kind of stuff, because you know these things don't matter. Can't you just enjoy the silliness of a line from 'Break Stuff' such as: 'Don't you know I pack a chainsaw?/I'll skin your ass raw'; and the hilarity of such a purveyor of potty who, in the aforementioned song uses 'fuck' more frequently than 'the,' but chooses instead, in his hit song 'Nookie,' to say 'yeah,' instead of 'ass,' as in: 'Stick it up your… yeah!'?"

"I can't not think about it," I tell her. "He pisses me off."

Her face blushes as red as Fred Durst's baseball caps. Her blue eyes look purple when juxtaposed with her cheeks. "Why's it always 'I'm gonna do things my way, it's my way, my way or the highway' with you? You know what your problem is? Do you know you think too much? That's it! Tell me why did I wait so long, did I wait so long, huh? To figure it out, but I did it, now I'm the only one underneath the sun who didn't get it."

With that, she disappears. Poof. Vamoose out the caboose.

It is she who doesn't matter, or at least her point of view. Fred Durst does matter. Because if you value great music, the shittiest artists definitely matter. So I would argue that thinking critically about him matters. (An argument that this many words makes redundant.) He's made himself matter. The kids have made him matter. And the kids of course matter, because they represent all those other things that matter, your sociological inquiries and whatnot into the heart of who we all are… Or some such drivel the likes of which I might write.

Or maybe it's simpler. Maybe it really doesn't require this much thought and this many typed words. After all, we all go through days "when we don't wanna wake up/Everything is fucked/Everybody sucks." Sometimes it's fun to not think about a song and scream along to it in the car. Sometimes we can all relate to a sentiment like "Give me something to break/How 'bout your fuckin' face." After relating to such a sentiment, we can (and usually should) feel guilty about it, but that shouldn't silence our empathetic rap/rockers - as long as someone like Fred Durst concedes that it just might be his fuckin' face we want to break.

Appendix A: Answers to a Quiz

  1. You didn't change the channel because you were interested in watching him, and you were interested in watching him because you hate him.
  2. It's possible, and probable, that you love Fred Durst because of how much you hate him. You probably need to hate him. It puts the work of better artists in perspective. To paraphrase that old sage, Butt-head, when Beavis asked him why do so many TV shows suck and why can't the TV shows all be cool: "Because, like, then everything would be cool, and you wouldn't be able to know what was cool." To paraphrase what I hope Beavis would say in 2002: "Heh, heh. Fred Durst sucks."

{Email me your thoughts, questions, etc. at}

Issue 10, July 2002 | next article

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds