Mister Roboto


Pyro blazing, lasers cutting through the darkness, the massive survivor of the war of the robots stands centerstage, flanked by two smaller robot centurions on either side. This striking sci-fi scenario is also the setting of the latest Limp Bizkit show, which is one part of the current Anger Management tour. "Fred Durst, the lead singer of Limp Bizkit, came to see the Korn tour that we did at the beginning of last year," reports set designer Michael Whetstone of Whetstone Design of Santa Monica. "When Fred looked over the show, he turned to me and said, `We're going to top this on our next tour - we're going to do huge robots.' "

Whetstone, who has a longstanding relationship with the band, went to work with his art director Jake Amado on finding a look that would serve the band visually onstage. "They put on a spectacle; it's not dramatic, it's in your face, and it's appropriate for the band," he says. "It's what the band has always been about musically, and I think we tap into that in the set design." The driving force behind the band is Durst, who not only produces the band's albums, but also directs its music videos. "When you work with Fred, you're working with a perfectionist, which is the way we like it. It makes it a tough job, but that's also what makes it fun to do."

For Durst's vision of an apocalyptic robot war, Whetstone and Amado delved into the history of robots. "The first thing we did was research Japanese-style anime, and talk about which style specifically that Fred wanted it to look like," Whetstone says. "Fred had some robots that he had collected, and I had a lot of photo references, and we took it from there."

The next step in the creation of the robots was to actually find a suitable material for the set. "We looked at the design and needed to decide if we were going to use fiberglass or metal," Whetstone says. Parts of the show are dominated by fire, and here are over 400 pyro cues in the band's 60 - minute set. "The number of pyro cues we used is one of the things that made me switch my thinking from doing the whole robot out of fiberglass," Whetstone reports. "Instead, we decided to construct it out of aluminum, which is a little harder to damage." The staging, as well as the set for Limp Bizkit, was built by All Access Staging of LA, while David Perry created the backdrops and Architectural Details handled all the fiberglass work.

Once the robots' style was determined, Whetstone worked to combine the band and the stage set. One of the early ideas was to integrate the band into the 24'-4" center robot, located upstage center. After studying the design of the piece, Whetstone and Amado, along with set designers Adam Davis and Marco Miehe, found that the center of that robot could be used for a door, and part of the band could be placed in the right and left shoulder cavities.

After determining the location of the DJ and the drummer within the center robot, the next question was how to reveal them in the stage show. "We did a lot of research with high-tech ways to reveal the band, and we ended up going about it as low-tech as you could possibly go," Whetstone laughs. "We built a truss structure that supported the head of the robot as well as the upper chest and the two shoulder pads." During the set change, the motors would lower the units into place to mate with the rest of the scenic pieces onstage, and, at the start of the Limp Bizkit show, would lift the shoulder pads to reveal the drummer and DJ encased in the robot. "Motors are a pretty standard touring unit as opposed to getting into hydraulics or anything that has a high failure rate," Whetstone notes. "Using motors was the most effective, as well as the most cost-effective solution," he adds.

The Anger Management tour concluded in the states in Jacksonville, FL, in mid-December, but stormed through Japan in January and will conclude the tour in Australia early this month.