One of the most polarizing figures in the rock scene of the late 1990s into the early 2000s, Fred Durst was the front man for the platinum-selling "nu-metal" outfit, Limp Bizkit. A former tattooist by trade, Durst formed the group in 1994 and within a few years, earned a rabid following with aggressive, hard-driving songs like "Nookie," "Break Stuff" and "Re-arranged." Durst's songs, which blended elements of hip-hop with heavier metal riffs, found favor with younger male audiences, but were largely dismissed by the mainstream media as vacuous posturing. He also won few admirers for his boorish stage presence, most notably at the 1999 Woodstock event, and for incendiary comments about fellow rock acts like Creed and Slipknot. Such behavior eventually turned the tide against Durst, who was already on the ropes for an alleged relationship with pop star Britney Spears and a much-publicized sex tape. With Limp Bizkit's fortunes in decline, Durst fell back on second and third careers as an actor and video director, which began during his tenure with the group. He eventually made his way into features, which was launched in earnest with the surprisingly kid-friendly comedy "The Longshots" in 2008. While he waited for his next directorial assignment to take shape, Durst and the original members of Limp Bizkit reunited for an album and tour in 2011. Love him or hate him, Durst was a determined self-promoter who refused to stay down for the count.
Born William Frederick Durst in Gastonia, NC on Aug. 20, 1970, he was raised in dire poverty by his mother, Anita. She remarried when Durst was two and the family relocated to Jacksonville, FL. He developed an immediate attraction to the city's break-dancing culture in the early eighties, and soon broadened his interests to rap and turntablism. The full-frontal assault of 1980s hardcore punk captured Durst's imagination while in high school, so he shifted his lyrical attention from the nimble wordplay of hip-hop to punk's brawnier, more angst-ridden focus. He struggled to find work after high school, eventually joining the U.S. Navy. After completing his tour of duty, he attempted to break into the rap scene with a partner, but found no takers. Durst eventually settled into work as a tattooist while exploring options in music.
In 1994, Durst met local musicians Sam Rivers and his cousin John Otto, who expressed interest in forming a group. Otto's school friend Wes Borland was recruited to fill out the lineup, which became Limp Bizkit in 1994. Regular performances in the Jacksonville club scene gained the group some necessary exposure, as did a meeting with then-reigning nu-metal superstars Korn. A three-song demo led to the band's first official release, Three Dollar Bill, Yall$, which was released in 1997. Initial response to the album was mediocre, but extensive tours with Korn and other like-minded bands helped to build Limp Bizkit a solid and devoted fan base, who responded fervently to tracks like "Counterfeit" and their hyperactive cover of George Michael's "Faith." Durst's onstage antics were also the source of much discussion and admiration; the band emerged from a colossal toilet for their performances on the Ozzfest tour in 1998, and the "Ladies Night in Cambodia" tour gave free access to female concertgoers.
Their 1999 follow-up, Significant Other, signaled to the music business at large that Limp Bizkit was a force to be reckoned with. A Billboard chart-topper, Significant Other yielded three Top 10 hits, including the unavoidable "Nookie" and "Re-arranged." A ball of sonic fury built around pummeling guitars and hip-hop scratching (courtesy of former House of Pain DJ Lethal), the album's lyrical focus - Durst's anguish and furor over a failed relationship - struck a chord with young male audiences who flocked to their live shows. Durst, who had made his directorial debut with the music video for "Faith," handled the videos for all of the singles from Other, most of which were built around elaborate fantasies of himself and/or the band undergoing persecution for their music ("Re-arranged") or collaborating with heroes like "Method Man" (N 2 Gether Now"). The polish of his videos led to assignments for other bands like Staind, Korn and Puddle of Mudd. Those who were not busy railing against Durst noted that he wielded a capable hand behind the camera.
But the band's success also brought the less savory aspects of Durst's personality into sharp focus. He urged audience members at the Woodstock '99 concerts to run amuck during their set, which resulted in mass pandemonium and assaults upon the MTV camera crews covering the event. In 2000, he courted controversy at a multi-band event in Los Angeles by unleashing an expletive-laden rant against Creed singer Scott Stapp, who had earlier criticized Limp Bizkit for holding up the rest of the acts by taking the stage an hour late. And in 2001, he received an outpouring of negative press for allegedly criticizing a medical team who was trying to rescue a stricken teen at a concert in Australia. The concertgoer, 16-year-old Jessica Michalik, died as a result of asphyxiation from being trapped in the riled-up crowd.
Events like these, as well as public feuds with Eminem, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, Slipknot and guitarist Zakk Wylde, led to a growing public perception of Durst as one of the more unsavory members of the current rock scene. But in spite of the rancor growing around the band and its frontman, Limp Bizkit continued to enjoy massive album sales. Their third album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water - its title a grotesque reference to various body parts - set records for highest sales in the first week of its release, eventually going on to sell over 25 million copies. Critics were again savage in their response; some fans even noting that the album's tracks were weaker than its predecessors.
Limp Bizkit suffered the first of several career-damaging blows in 2001 with the departure of Wes Borland, who cited creative differences between himself and Durst as the motivation for his decision. A nationwide tour was launched in 2002 to find a new guitarist, and contestants were dismayed to discover that they were required to sign a document that gave full ownership of any material they played to the band itself. Durst himself continued to alienate fans with his anti-social behavior during the tryouts; in Chicago, he arrived late, delivered an obscene gesture to the attendees, and left without hearing an audition. Local radio DJs spurred fans to respond in kind when the band returned to the city in support of Metallica. Pelted by garbage, Durst launched into a profanity-laded and homophobic rant before leaving the stage after less than 20 minutes. He was later sued by the promoter.
The band's fortunes continued its steady decline in 2003 with the release of their fourth album, Results May Vary. A distinct departure from the crunching riffs and buoyant beats of their previous discs, the album was weighed down by lugubrious ballads, including an acoustic cover of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" and songs that seemed to indicate that Durst viewed himself as a victim of spurious criticism. That attitude, combined with his self-aggrandizing music videos - which now featured a steady stream of celebrities like Halle Berry, Ben Stiller and Thora Birch - was enough for many longtime fans to sever their ties to the group. The final straw came with allegations that Durst was involved in a relationship with pop star Britney Spears. Both vehemently denied the connection until Durst bluntly and callously revealed the more intimate elements of their history to shock jock Howard Stern.
Borland returned to the Limp Bizkit fold in 2004, but his decision did little to stem the rising tide of negative press that surrounded the band. The newly reunited outfit released a seven-track EP, The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1), in 2005, but it failed to repeat the successes of previous albums. The band's label, Flip/Geffen, released a best-of compilation titled Greatest Hitz in 2005, but no one in the Limp Bizkit camp seemed interested in promoting it, and the release sank without a trace. Its disappearance was largely overshadowed by the revelation of a sex tape featuring Durst that was filmed using his cell phone. The clips were quickly leaked to the Internet, which fairly boiled over in contempt over the singer's latest snafu.
The remaining Limp Bizkit faithful were disheartened by numerous reports from 2005 through 2007 that Part 2 of The Unquestionable Truth would be released, yet no actual album ever materialized. Durst noted in numerous interviews that the band was hard at work on new material, but conflicting reports from Wes Borland stated that Durst's micromanaging habits had prevented any actual work to be completed on the songs. Meanwhile, Durst had begun to explore other venues outside of the music business. He made his acting debut in the 2005 supernatural miniseries "Revelations," and had supporting roles on an episode of "House, M.D." (Fox, 2004-12) and the eerie indie feature "Population 436" (2006), which saw him playing a small town police officer.
Durst made his debut as a feature film director with "The Education of Charlie Banks" (2006). A grim drama about a young man (Jesse Eisenberg) who comes to regret withholding evidence in the case of a savage beating by a local bully, it earned the Made in NY Narrative Award at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival before being released to theaters in 2008. The acclaim over Durst's achievement was severely dampened by his involvement in a 2007 incident in which he struck two pedestrians while driving drunk. He was eventually given a suspended 120-day sentence. In 2008, Durst's second feature film reached screens before his debut; "The Longshots," an agreeable youth comedy about the first female (Keke Palmer) to ever play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl, it starred rap veteran Ice Cube and earned largely positive reviews from critics. The following year, Durst announced the reunion of the original line-up of Limp Bizkit and that the reformed band was back in the studio, working on a new album. The fruit of their labor was Gold Cobra, the band's first studio album to feature the original members since Chocolate Starfish. Released in 2011, it charted at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and prompted a world tour.
By Paul Gaita
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Formed the band Limp Bizkit with Sam Rivers, John Otto and Wes Borland
Released debut album, <i>Three Dollar Bill, Yall$</i>
Made his directorial debut with the music video for "Faith," a cover of George Michael's late '80s hit
Directed the KoRn video "Falling Away from Me"
Released sophomore album, <i>Significant Other</i>
Third album, <i>Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water</i>, set records for highest sales in the first week of its release
Had a cameo in the Ben Stiller comedy "Zoolander"
Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit, citing creative differences between himself and Durst
Released the poorly received fourth album, <i>Results May Vary</i>
Had a small role in the NBC miniseries, "Revelations"
Played a police officer in "Population 436" opposite Jeremy Sisto
Made his feature directorial debut with "The Education of Charlie Banks" (released theatrically in 2009)
Directed Ice Cube in "The Longshots," about the first female to participate in the Pop Warner football tournament