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[AltWire Interview]: Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park

I remember hearing my first Linkin Park record back when I was only fifteen years old. It was in the middle of my first year of Junior High thirteen years ago. I was heading on my way home from school that afternoon when I first heard “One Step Closer” on the radio. Prior to listening to Linkin Park, I admittedly wasn’t much of a metal or rock fan. Back in the year 2000, MP3s and file-sharing were still in their infancy, and my computer playlists of ‘downloaded songs’ were more likely to consist of Dr.Dre, Snoop Dogg, Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, Eminem or Nas than Linkin Park, KoRn, Disturbed or any of the other hard-rock or metal acts that were popular in the earlier part of the last decade.

But something was different about this band. Something had pulled me in despite my hip-hop roots and I was intrigued about this ‘hot new band from Southern California’. I decided it was time for me to find out more, and twenty minutes later I was home, pulling up their website on my excruciatingly slow 56k connection, replaying the stream of “One Step Closer” over and over to the point I probably made my dad want to bash his forehead repeatedly into the wall. It was then that I bribed asked my dad to drive me to Best Buy and buy me Hybrid Theory so I could listen to the album in its entirety. I probably could’ve been studying for an upcoming test or could’ve been working on homework, but dammit…nothing was going to keep me from listening to that album! Teenage priorities for the win!

To say that the album was a life-changer would be an understatement. My introduction to harder rock music via Hybrid Theory would lead to my music tastes evolving to include all the rock music I had been missing at the time, and eventually would grow to all types of rock music, both indie and mainstream. In the weeks and months that followed my first introduction to the band, I’d sneak onto linkinpark.com on my school’s library computers taking any opportunity I could to post on the Linkin Park Message Boards and Chat Room, meeting new friends and learning more things about the band in the process. On those very forums I would end up meeting a longtime friend of mine, Omar, who decided along with me that it was time to open up a website to show our support for Linkin Park.

In the years that followed, that very website (The Linkin Park Association) would take us to places that we’d never thought imaginable. Millions of people from all over the globe have visited the site since its founding, and the staff and I have become friends with people of all different walks of life, and from many different countries. As for me? A lot has changed in those 13 years. I’ve grown older (pushing 30, but who’s counting?) and I am thoroughly convinced I’ve found my first gray hairs -although my parents think I’m totally seeing things- and it goes without saying that I’ve changed a lot from the naive fifteen year old who opened up that site with no inclination of how big it would eventually become.

In fact, it’s the very success of the LPA that lead to it being possible for AltWire to exist as a community in the first place, and much of AltWire’s history is in direct thanks to Linkin Park and their music. I think it is fair to say that that the website owes its birth to a chance listen of “One Step Closer” all those years ago.

As for my appreciation of Linkin Park? It has never faltered. In the years that have followed, I’ve continued to follow the band and their music. Through watching their development as artists over the last few years, I’ll admit to being pretty excited about their upcoming album.

Recently both AltWire and its sister site The Linkin Park Association had the opportunity to ask Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park a few quick questions. For those who may have been living under a rock, Mike Shinoda is best known as the rapper, principal songwriter, keyboardist, rhythm guitarist and as one of the two lead vocalists in Linkin Park. His projects have ranged from his side project Fort Minor, scoring the US version of The Raid, designing a limited edition clothing line, hosting two different art shows containing his artwork and various other endeavors.

In the questions that follow, we discuss the band’s upcoming new record, Mike’s current thoughts on the rock music industry as a whole, and much, much more. Enjoy.

I’m looking for ferocity, innovation, and energy without giving up songwriting, sophistication, and craftsmanship.

AltWire/LPA [Derek]: Maintaining the drive to continually record and produce music seems like it would be a difficult challenge in the long run. Who or what inspires you to continue the work that you do, and where do you look for motivation these days?

Mike Shinoda [Linkin Park]: When it was our first or second album, we had a more limited scope of the aspects of what we do. And it went beyond writing and recording; I’m talking about the whole picture–how a release and an experience feels to a fan. In general, as we’ve made more albums and experimented with many things both in and out of the studio, we learn how to be better artists, better songwriters, better performers, better designers, better community builders, better communicators. I wouldn’t say we “raise the bar” each time, or that every move we’ve made is better than the last. It’s often all about the journey, taking risks, and enjoying what we’re doing at the time. But while we’re doing that, we strive to innovate and achieve.

AW: You recently made some very interesting comments on the state of rock music, and how the genre has gone soft. Are you unsatisfied with the current version of rock music?

M: The question is, what’s “rock” right now? Mumford and Sons? Capital Cities? AVICII? Vampire Weekend? Lorde? Arcade Fire has basically gone disco, and Trent Reznor spends too much of the new Nine Inch Nails album whispering–and I truly like all these bands, I’m just saying there’s something missing. I guess it doesn’t have to be “rock,” but I’m at a loss for something else I’d call it. I’m looking for ferocity, innovation, and energy without giving up songwriting, sophistication, and craftsmanship. It’s a tall order; even if we’re able to address it on our next Linkin Park album, it’ll take more than one band to really move the needle.

AW: Just two songs from your first five studio albums have eclipsed the 5-minute mark in length. In the future, are you open to writing longer songs and worrying about radio edits afterwards?

M: Sure, I’m open. It’ll happen if it happens–I really don’t write a song to fit a certain time length. When we make a song, the song length is dictated by how the “story arc” of the song progresses.

AW: Is the process for the writing/recording of the next album any different this time around, with Chester off doing his own thing with STP? What challenges does this bring forth?

M: He knew what he was signing up for–it’s very hectic for him, but he’s making it work! I don’t think our progress has been negatively affected in any major way by the STP shows.

AW: You’ve been touring as Linkin Park for over 14 years now. How do you balance keeping your live setlists fresh for yourselves vs. appeasing the fans? Are you sick of playing One Step Closer yet?

M: I think Mike Einziger (or Incubus) said it best, I’ll paraphrase: when I’m onstage, I’m not thinking about what my hands are playing or how the notes go, I’m engrossed in the experience of connecting with the fans, on that stage in that city. So with that said, it kinda doesn’t matter what song we’re playing, as long as everyone is into it.

AW: Although you did do a short run of European Projekt Revolution shows in 2011, the last time we saw a full-scale Projekt Revolution tour was back in 2008. Are there any plans to bring back Projekt Revolution in the future?

M: I don’t know if that will come back in name, but I hope to do a more robust U.S. tour in the next couple of years. We’ve missed playing in a lot of places in the U.S. because there has been such incredible demand overseas. I suppose it’s a great problem to have!

AW: What have you taken away from the process of creating video games?

M: One side project I really enjoyed working on was the LPRecharge.com game. As you know, I was a visual artist before I was a musician–I majored in Illustration and design in art school, and always thought I’d be a designer or painter of some kind. I also grew up drawing video game characters like Mega Man, Samus from Metroid, or Mario and Luigi. So being able to create and sculpt the characters in RECHARGE was a dream come true.

And we’re trying to get off of the computer as well, which is unusual for us.

AW: Your gear and instrument collection constantly evolves with each album cycle. What kind of gear are you working with in the studio right now? Anything new that might surprise some people?

M: I’m playing with a lot of different things; I don’t want to give away any surprises, because they might be a part of the next phase in our sound or tour. One interesting thing is that we’re expending off the usual platforms: we’re working on Mac and Windows, and we’re working in Ableton in addition to Protools. And we’re trying to get off of the computer as well, which is unusual for us.

AW: With the recent Typhoon in the Philippines, what is the band doing to support those affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan?

M: The band and Music For Relief are fully committed to raising funds and awareness for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which has forced over half a million people from their homes and killed over 10,000 and counting. One: we’re accepting donations at musicforrelief.org. Two: we’re going to offer an upgrade item in the LPRecharge.com game: you get a character boost and the purchase money goes to Haiyan relief. Three: we are in talks to put together a fundraiser event. Our partner on the effort is International Medical Corps., one of most renowned and experienced disaster relief organizations in the world. And our (MFR’s) overhead for programs like this have historically been close to nothing, because people donate their time, we offset costs with our own (LP) contribution, and we try to work with partners who will waive fees when it’s a philanthropic effort. I encourage every person reading this to go to musicforrelief.org right now and donate–there are literally millions of people who need your help.

“I’LL BE GONE (Vice Remix) Feat Pusha T” from Linkin Park’s RECHARGED Remix Album:

6 Comments

  1. thirtythree

    yea ok. trent reznor went soft, mr. shinoda? NO. LP went wayyy too commercial and soft. you lost it years back, although i admit ats was amazing. but living things? *yawns*. and this remix album might be cool, but again, riding on what you think certain people would like. stop idolizing chino, you can’t be him and get your balls back. dork is not in, and it’s inspiring that you help other people but honestly.. you need to help your music career.
    you are one insecure bastard deep down and it shows through your lack of focus. lay off the video games and get real. get back to what you stood for in 99 or loose more fans.

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  3. Maxie

    How ironic that Shinoda is biting the ‘Hand that Feeds’, after basing a career on watered down NIN-ish songs you say something like that? You started as watered down NIN and got progressively more watered down. Really, rock is dead, if Trent Reznor can’t revive it, Linkin Park surely won’t, having played a vital role in the death of it. I will guarantee you now that there will be not one song on the new LP record that is harder than ‘In Two’ off of Hesitation Marks.

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