When someone who's worked on some of the greatest guitar albums of all time, Kiss' Destroyer and Alice Cooper's School's Out among them, calls you a "virtuoso playing at the top of his game," you can be pretty sure it's sincere.
And that's exactly what legendary producer Bob Ezrin said of Wes Borland when he first heard the ex-Limp Bizkit guitarist's new band, Eat the Day.
"They played me some stuff which struck me as being not only innovative, but also reminiscent of some of the more adventurous guitar work that had been done in the past by people like Jimmy Page [of Led Zeppelin] and Dave Gilmour [of Pink Floyd]," he said.
And while such comparisons are almost unbelievable, when they stem from someone who produced Pink Floyd opuses such as 1979's The Wall and 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason (though no Zeppelin LPs), surely they bear some credence.
"Lots of broad soundscapes" is how he described the rough mixes of the 20 or so demos he's been hired to produce for what will eventually be Eat the Day's debut album, to be released through Interscope Records. "And it's also groundbreaking because it uses new technology and experiments with different ways of creating and building sound. I fell in love with what I was hearing, even in its very embryonic stage."
Although the label contracted Ezrin's services, the producer, who's also worked with Lou Reed, Aerosmith and the Rollins Band, is surprised that he and Borland have never met before. They know many of the same expansive-thinking musicians, like Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails fame and drummer Josh Freese of A Perfect Circle, and Ezrin was a fan of Borland's contributions in Limp Bizkit.
"I was always impressed with the power and intelligence of the guitar in Limp Bizkit," he said, "and I think that had a lot to do with the success of the band. It just becomes very intelligent, beautiful, visual and at the same time powerful music."
Ezrin's role in the Eat the Day sessions is the same as his function in the other projects he's worked: to assist in forging a cohesive sound and vision while also pushing the artists to their creative apogees. And as it pertains to Borland, his brother Scott and Greg Isabella — all multi-instrumentalists — the benchmark is set pretty high.
"When I work with somebody, I like to get involved in the entire process," Ezrin explained. "The way I explained it to the group, I recognize what their true potential is, even beyond what they think they're capable of. I hold that up as the bar and then my job is to insure nothing falls beneath that mark. That way we make the best possible album."
A few rough examples of what Eat the Day has accomplished so far can be heard on the band's official Web site, www.eattheday.com, as the group continues to search for a new singer. After a three-month casting call led to Adam Yas of Oakland's Stalking Tom in January, two months later the search resumed (see "Wes Borland's Eat the Day Still Hungry For A Singer").
The three song snippets are a testament to Ezrin's praises, as each conjures a different and engaging atmosphere. Silence separates methodically surging riffs on "Beeblicowcarapis," while "dAdA" is a moody and dark percussion-driven journey to far-away place, and "Taste My Gun" is sinister riff-fest on the verge of doing something evil.
While all this may make for an interesting listen for some, the masses usually don't respond well to complexity, Tool perhaps withstanding. That doesn't really concern Ezrin.
"I'm just the kind of guy who knows from good music, I can't regulate my life with what I think can be commercially successful," he said apologetically. "On the other hand, this stuff has tremendous relevance and it's very much of today. People who are guitar fans and are good rock fans are going to fall in love with it.
"And I think there are a lot of those kinds of people, actually — lots more than people have thought in the last couple of years," he continued, citing the latest albums by the Deftones and Janes Addiction, the latter of which he also produced. "There's a lot more attention being paid to great musicianship, but there's not that much great musicianship to be had. So when we come across something like this, it can't hurt."