With six studio albums under their belt, multi-award winning LA group Linkin Park are on the verge of releasing their seventh. Lead vocalist Chester Bennington and vocalist/producer Mike Shinoda sit down with Fault Magazine to discuss their surprising new album ‘One More Light’.
I would like to talk about your new album ‘One More Light’ in a sense that you’ve always wrote a lot of songs for your previous albums, how many did you write for this one?
M: It was interesting because in terms of demos; when you think of an un-finished song it can range from something that’s like basically got all the parts to it, music and vocals, but literally its one little loop of continuous anything.
C: I think at one point I counted in the file on my phone; the LP file, this is not including anything that wasn’t put in there, between the A and B lists there were at one time 36 max in the A list, and then 40 in the B list. So that was easily around 70 give or take a few if I remember the numbers correctly. And every one of those had some form of [pause] I think with the exception of maybe 3 or 4 songs, they all had lyrics and melodies.
How do you whittle the songs down?
C: Well yeah, there’s like all these songs we felt like they could potentially be singles, so we said lets use that and let’s make an album, we have a lot of great songs and we’re very fortunate. We had a lot of fun making it; it’s been a really interesting journey. Let’s put our best foot forward and let’s put out what we feel are the best songs; not hold anything back and not think about any other time than right now, and put out what we felt were the best tracks that we’ve made, out of this batch of incredible music that we’ve made.
Is it about what you feel confident with at the time, what you feel is right, even with the audience in mind?
C: The second part not really [Laughs].
M: People approach it with different things in mind and sometimes I forget all the context, I forget as a listener all the different contexts that people have. As foreign as it is to me, people go into it thinking “OK, here’s my marketing plan”, and they start writing things that fit their marketing plan. Thankfully lets never been part of our process, that would drive me crazy, but also we’ve never worked with anyone who is that way. The closest thing was Don Gilmore on our first couple of records where he would make jokes about that because he was aware of that stuff. But at the end of the day it really came down to we as a band, six guys and six artists; what are we expressing? What is the kind of thing we want to make? And if it didn’t fit somebody else’s marketing plan I’m like “sorry”. That’s like the fortunate position that we’re in right. We actually on our last album, I wanted to make sure that I checked in with the label before we made it, because I was like “OK, just how bad is it going to be if we make a super hardcore record?”
C:…that doesn’t get played anywhere. [Both laugh]
M: Yeah! Like where are we going to be able to be, where will it played because I don’t even know! You know, in terms of your popular mainstream presence, it’s pretty bad but here’s the positives of it you know, we kind of said “OK, that’s OK”. We had to talk it out, it wasn’t a snap decision I don’t think. The people who thought about it were like “this is the album we want to make” and then on the other side on this record, we didn’t ask anybody anything. We just kind of made the stuff and as we got into it, it was like the thing that everyone was worried about was like well are you alienating your rock fans, and we’re like well we’ve been here so many times at the point where we’re going to put out something that’s going to make people shocked in some way. We’re used to it and I think people that have been with the band for a long time, now they should be used to it. People who are new to the band; actually that’s my favourite, I’m curious to see how that plays out over time. I think theres a lot of people that are coming to us for the first time on this album and hearing the new album and be like “oh! So what’s this band about?”
They’ve got a real fresh outlook on you guys.
M: Yeah, my favourite thing that we just realised today; I looked up our album online on one of the services then I went to related artists, oh it was so refreshing. Sometimes I go on the thing and look at related artists and think “oh, of course, it’s that old thing, it’s whatever”
C: I would say most of the time when I see a related artist thing I’m just like [raspberry noise]
M: How is it related?!
C: I don’t know! What? I don’t listen to any of those bands and I never have.
M: Yeah, theres a lot of stuff in there where I’m like “Oh! That’s cool”
With every album you guys seem to push yourselves further so it becomes harder to sort of label or pigeon-hole you. On this new album you’ve seemed to have gone completely another direction, it’s about personal growth right?
C: Yeah, on this album I was playing some new stuff for a friend of mine who is also an awesome musician and the stuff that he was working on; I’ve met this guy personally recently so he’s like a new friend. We just so happened to be hanging out and he was like “so, what do you do?”, and I was like “I’m actually a musician as well”. He was like “I did not know that!”, you know. He was like “no offence but I’ve never really been into the band, I respect from you guys do but it’s just not my thing” and I was like “cool, so what do you do?”, he said that “I actually play jazz music for hip-hop records, hip-hop stuff”. I was like “wow, no way” if you looked at this dude you’d be like “no way, this guy is in Kings of Leon”, you know? He doesn’t look like the jazz cat on a hip-hop scene. “So you’re doing some new stuff” and I was like “yeah yeah” and I could tell he was already bracing himself to be like..
M: I’m going to humor this guy. [Laughs]
C: You know what, yeah it’s not my thing but good, you know? He already said that Linkin Park isn’t like his thing, and so he listened to the first song and he’s like “That’s a really good song, I really liked that song”, he was like “do you have more?” and I was like “yeah, do you want to hear as much as we can on the way here?” he was like “yeah!”. So we listened to like five songs and he goes “OK, I just have to say this”, so I’m sitting there like all kind of excited about what he’s going to say and he goes “I respect Linkin Park, you’re a really successful band”, then he pretends to be pointing in the ballpark, let say here is where you’re at, he’s what I was expecting, he goes “what I just heard is all the way over…” and we’re sitting in my car so imagine we’re talking about being in this room and that’s where Linkin Park and his mind is. And you guys are in Nigeria, that’s how far off “my expectation was here and this is so far over there that I’m kind of blown away by it and he goes “but, that being said I love it.” He’s like “I love this music, I love what you’re doing, it fucking kicks balls, holy shit you are a punk rock motherfucker, and the fact that you’re doing this is pretty hardcore”. He goes “but, I love it, I can’t wait to hear the record”, and so that was like someone who’s not a big fan, understood who the band was, accepted it and to come out and say “wow, I see what you’re doing and it takes a lot of guts and I love it” was exactly what I wanted, that’s like the best response. “Wow that was not what I was expecting I actually I’ve got to wrap my head around it, and I love what you’ve done, and kudos to you guys for taking the chance.”
Yeah you’ve collaborated with artists such as Stormzy, Pusha T and Kiiara, I think that’s something that’s almost worked better for you guys.
M: I mean, I would love for someone to do a piece asking young artists in that generation what they think of Linkin Park because I’d just be curious. These folks, like the way we met Kiiara was through Zane Lowe, he texted me and said that he had interviewed her and he’s like do you know who she is and I’m like kind of yeah, and he was saying that she was on his show and he asked who her favourite artist was and she said Linkin Park right away. And I was like that’s really weird, I wouldn’t have expected that; when that happens, I’m so effusive about the artists that I like. I mean if you get me going on what artists that I love, I’ll name like a hundred artists that I love, I won’t stop. Yeah so when I hear other artists or anything positive from other artists; I think that’s one of the beauties of social media, you know? We hear these things and then people tell you, it’s really nice. I was saying in a different point today that something happened in the last like few years in the maturity of the band. Maybe five or six years actually that the guys have gotten more comfortable with who we are as a band, and who we are as individuals inside that band. I can say we were a little bit wound a little tight in the earlier years, you know? [Laughs] It’s a little self serious you know what I mean? We’ve always had a sense of humour…
C: Honestly like I truly think that given the kind of response that we got from the beginning, within the music world, our fans have always been great. We felt like we had to defend ourselves or justify what we were doing for a while, like from the beginning; from the beginning portion our career.
M: That’s true.
C: I think that set us up to not trust interviews or to like be almost like “you know what? we’re going to control this” so we would literally only give or share very specific things, we would never get into things squishy, right? It was always like very rigid. It controlled the communication and it kept this kind of distance between us and everyone else and for us, the fewer people who wanted to talk to us the better and that eventually became well like, people think we’re cold, but it’s not we’re kind of funny! We kind of made it that way and so we were like OK, we’ve been around a while and people know what we’re about, we don’t have to justify shit. We can actually just be ourselves, and if people don’t get it they’re kind of dumb, do you know what I mean? If they don’t get it, whatever! Definitely not our problem. So we’ve been afforded the luxury for being around a long time, and having a big catalogue and having a lot of fans, and I think that now we’re in this place we can just be ourselves. Also in that we’ve matured and become comfortable with who we are as people, now we’re just like “let’s have fun!”, and talk you know?
So the UK tour coming up, this is the first chance you will see a reaction from the new stuff from your fans, what are you expecting from the shows?
M: We always play cross sections from all eras of the band and like we play stuff from every record and this tour will be no different, and I think that people coming on this tour will see that we’ll play a tiny bit longer set than usual and usually when we start a tour we only play a couple of new songs, but I think on this one we’re going to be playing a lot more than a couple and I think we’ll still play all the fan favourites. I feel like the show is the place where you get the whole picture of the band, you get the real context of the whole career. You know because you get all the music and you get it in a order that is designed to give you a nice show. Obviously we want people to leave the show going “wow that was an amazing concert, that was an amazing experience”. What can we do to give that to somebody?
A retrospective into Linkin Park?
M: Yeah I think like what the show is supposed to be like, I guess you could do a show that where it’s just an artistic statement but I would hate for somebody to come to the shows saying like “I really wanted them to play Breaking the Habit” [Laughs]
There’s always going to be that isn’t there?
M: Yeah I mean where we have had shows when we had periods of not playing a song here or there, like we didn’t play Crawling or Breaking the Habit on a couple of things but that’s because the band need a break from it for whatever reason, but on this one I feel like we’re playing all the stuff?
C: Its funny because when bands tour off a legacy, and its like “OK, we’ve been around for a quite a long time, we’re just going to go out and tour and play all the standard Linkin Park tracks everybody wants”, part of me finds that very appealing but the lazy part of me loves that idea, and then the creative part of me is like “ew!” and then at the same time there’s a part of me that jokes and thinks that “I just want to go and play the new stuff” but how disappointing would that be even if you love the new stuff as a fan, it would just be like well that’s great I can play the new stuff but I really love this thing. I’ve been at shows where; like I’ve been to see Prince play and he did this thing where it was just him and his guitar, he did a medley; he sat down and started playing Little Red Corvette, and he starts playing it and I was like “dude, this is the dopest version I’ve ever heard”, just him and the acoustic guitar; it was fucking awesome. It changed the actual vibe of the song because you hear the words in a different way when it’s played stripped back and intimately, and he gets right up to the part and he sings “Little red corvette”, he doesn’t even sing it, he just gets there and stops, goes into another song. Its like, “I’m about to have an orgasm!” and he’s like, “OK, then stop!”, and he did that the whole night and I just walked out there with musical blue-balls. I feel so shitty right now! There’s nothing that is going to help me, fucking finish the song, play the best part. At the same time I know as a fan that I know there are songs that fans want to hear, so you know theres a good balance between playing new stuff and old stuff, all that kind of stuff. So from a fan’s perspective, I hope that they enjoy all the stuff they want to see, and from our perspective its fun to play new stuff because it keeps the energy of the show fresh and fun.
What is your FAULT?
C: Everything! Everything is my fault.
M: My fault is…[Pauses] trying to force a round peg into a square hole, and that’s my problem.
Linkin Park are going on a short UK run in July which includes London on the 3rd, Birmingham on the 6th and Manchester on the 7th July. Pre-order their upcoming new album ‘One More Light’ for first access to tickets here, and you can watch video of latest singles Heavy featuring Kiiara, and Battle Symphony.
Words: Stuart Williams