On Monday August 4th; AltWire, and several other members of the media, were given the opportunity to sit in on a nearly two hour telephone press conference with Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Intended as a means to promote their latest hit record The Hunting Party and their upcoming Carnivores Tour with 30 Seconds to Mars and AFI, the band opened up on a slew of interesting topics which included their inspirations behind the new record, thoughts on their career to date, and what fans can expect on the upcoming tour, and much much more. As a service to Linkin Park fans, we have edited the full official transcript for your viewing pleasure, and you can read it below.
John Moser [MorningCall]: Hi. This is for either of you guys. I read the publicity stuff about your new album and it talks about the sort of shift in direction, and I’d like you guys just to sort of recap that and talk about that a little bit. And tell me what you think about the reception to it. This is the first album in your last five that hasn’t gone to number one.
Mike Shinoda: Yeah. When we were making the album, I had a handful of demos that were a little more electronic-driven, and there was just a day that I was listening and I was looking for something to listen to and I couldn’t find what it was that I wanted. I wanted something more aggressive and heavy and energetic and I just kept finding stuff that was mellow. I wanted it to be, like, modern and progressive and the only stuff I was finding (if it was modern and progressive) tended to be a little more mellow. And if it was heavier, it tended to not be as progressive. And so, I think we all found that there was just a style that we wanted to hear and that’s what we decided to make. As far as the reception, it debuted at number one in 67 countries. So, that’s not anything near a failure. But some friends of mine in the U.S. said, “Hey, I heard it. Sorry that you guys didn’t get to number one on the charts,” And I said, “You know, I feel like the billboard chart is for one thing. It’s for first week album sales, and this is not really a first week album sales kind of album.” It’s a statement album. It’s a live album; an album that should be taken to the stage, and that’s exactly what we’re planning to do right now. We all fly this week and we start the Carnivores Tour here in the States.
Chester Bennington: Can I make a statement?
Mike Shinoda: Please.
Chester Bennington: It’s funny because I think probably more so than any other record, maybe other than possibly A Thousand Suns, I feel like critically the record’s been overwhelmingly positive. Like, I have yet to read anything negative about the record on a critical level that has been written, which is pretty amazing, and so for that we’re very grateful. But at the same time, almost on a daily basis I run into Linkin Park fans and I’ll take pictures or say, “Hi,” whatever, and every single person that I’ve met since we released this record has told me that they love the record. They are super happy that it’s out like it is, that they’ve been waiting for a great rock record. I’ve heard some other guys in the band say that they feel like it is a record that really the genre needed and that they also appreciate the record that we’ve made, that it is progressive and it is something that they want to listen to. And I feel like we have accomplished our goal on this album. I think not only creatively, but personally for the band, but also for a lot of our fans. Like, they appreciate what we do, but they’ve kind of been waiting for us to rock out for awhile, and I think they appreciate not only that we did rock out, but in the manner in which we did. I think that they can see that it was crafted in the same manner that we craft everything that we do.
Katrina Cameron [Sacramento Bee]: So, I was wondering for this upcoming tour, will you feature more songs from your latest release? Or will it feature some older fan favorites?
Mike Shinoda: Yeah. It’s going to be a little different from the last tour – if anybody caught any of the European tour online. We started [performing songs from The Hunting Party] there and we put some more work into [them] and kind of smoothed out some of the rough edges – and added a couple songs. So, it’s coming along. I feel it’s a solid set. It’s got a mix of the old – and basically stuff from every record.
Chester Bennington: Yeah there’s a healthy dose of the new record in there. And I think we’re playing Final Masquerade, Rebellion – those are the two that we haven’t played yet – Until it’s Gone, Guilty All The Same as well as Wastelands. So, there’s a lot of the new record in this upcoming tour, for sure.
Derek Oswald [AltWire.net]: In recent interviews, you’ve discussed how this was a direction that required some time to get the whole band on board. Was there initially a lot of reluctance or resistance to make a harder record? Or do you feel like the rest of the band bought in pretty quickly? Like when did you feel it, clicked for everybody?
Mike Shinoda: For me, it was a bit of a process. I felt like Chester was on board from the beginning and Chester – I think Chester and Dave and I had talked about it a number of times, but it was still, like, figuring out at that point what we were. Our conversations were happening mid-tour last album. And so, like, what does a louder record mean? What is bringing energy to the album, even more so than the last album? What does that mean? How do we do that without it sounding throwback or derivative of heavier stuff that we grew up with. And so, we were trying to find the right [sound] – and it really fell to a large degree, at first, on me to kind of find the right tone, so that I could take that to in particular Brad and Rob and say, “You guys, like, I know this is something that you don’t naturally gravitate towards at this point in your life, but check out these reference points.” And as I’ve said before, Derek, you know bands like Refused and At the Drive-In and Helmet and many, many more, but those bands are a great example of how, when you listen to those albums, there’s a huge aesthetic separation between those albums and other things that were going on at the time. And that’s what I was keying into and saying, “It is possible to bring a smart, and maybe alternative in the more pure sense of the word, an alternative to, like, what people expect when they hear metal or heavy music.”
DJ Moran [ABC Radio]: You guys have been doing this for a long time now, 13 or 14 years. Obviously you’re all in different places than you were when you were 25. I’m sort of wondering how going out on tour has changed for you over that span of time, both in how you rehearse songs and get material ready, and also the personal stuff, your own lives. You have much fuller lives than you did then. And what’s involved in putting all of that aside for a few months and just leaving and going out?
Mike Shinoda: I’d say, first and foremost, we have opportunities now that we obviously didn’t have then. Just like being in the studio, you have opportunities with knowing what you’re doing, number one; (and number two) knowing what’s out there – like, a possibility of whether you’re talking conceptually or being able to afford production or instruments or whatever. Like, we have so many opportunities and the focus a lot of times is o the selection process, like, what choices do we make that keep things focused and exciting? I feel like on this [tour] the production that you’ll see, for example – I think it evolves over the course of the show really well. It’s more video-based, (e.g.) the song selection and the technology we used to get the set into the form that it is right now. We’ve just finished [implemented] the idea with technology that didn’t really exist even seven or eight years ago. So, what’s funny about it is in our band, technology has actually allowed us to be more of a band, more of an organic free-thinking kind of group, because we are the kind of band that creates a lot of our stuff in the studio in layered forms. Like, if you think back to when the Beatles made the decision to go off the road more and focus on the studio, one of things that they did was they made music that they physically couldn’t play on stage. There was so many layered vocals and so many layered instruments and things that at that time it would be virtually impossible for them to do any of that on stage. As technology has progressed, all that stuff becomes more and more possible. And for us, we create in the style where things get layered and there’s a lot of different stuff going on in each song oftentimes. And 10 years ago that stuff would be locked into a timeline with our sampler, keyboard, or whatever, and in more modern stuff, we can actually react on the fly and say, “Let’s slow this part down. Let’s speed it up. Let’s pitch it. Let’s up or down. Let’s loop it,” and there’s moments when we can just kind of jam out and enjoy it. And that, strangely, is, like, this merging of the humanity and the technology and the set that helps allow us to do that. The other thing that I should just mention is, although there is the technology in the set-up of what we’ve got going on on stage (and I feel like it’s very high-tech for music as far as what a music set-up on stage can be), we also have [what]I feel is a great deal of responsibility to be a live band. So, whereas, we have the opportunity to put certain things in the computer or on a sampler or whatever…we’re very careful about what we do and what we do put in the computer, because we want to be playing everything. We want the crowd to see us performing the song, and I feel like even in almost every case, if you were to remove that other stuff and just have what’s being in played in front of you, you basically have the same song. So, that’s an important difference or, I guess, specific approach to note.
Chester Bennington: Well, I mean, honestly when you’re young and you’re out there and kind of – you don’t have a family, I mean, yeah, those are important and you’re focusing on the shows, but you’re also kind of focusing on, like, “Am I going to see – where am I going to shower? Do I want to keep this box of clothes this company gave me, because I don’t really like them, but I also don’t have any clean clothes?” Those are the kinds of things you’re thinking about when you’re young and you’re on the road. Nowadays, it’s, like, we focus on having our families out and, if we can have our families out. For me personally, like, all I focus on is preparing for the next show. So, I really don’t think much has changed in terms of our set-ups to get ready for the tour. I mean, we still kind of practice in the same manner. We rehearse in the same manner. The great thing is our crew knows us so well and has been with us so long, [that] we don’t have to do sound checks anymore, which is pretty awesome because that frees up a lot of time to stay back with your families during the days and listen to stuff. And so, it really has gotten a lot better now, I think, now that we reached the place that we have in our career. We’ve found a way to balance our personal and touring life a lot better. And so, that’s been really great, I think, all around for everybody.
Kristyn Clark [Pop Culture Press]: First, I want to say The Hunting Party is an absolutely brilliant album. And I’m curious, this being your first self-produced album, and the use of analog tape grain, would you feel that you would go that route again? I absolutely adore that kind of perfectly imperfect sound.
Mike Shinoda: Yeah. So, I think it’s something that we’ve been curious about for awhile and it had to be the right moment to really dive into it. I’ve had a little bit of experience with tape on previous projects, but not really cutting such large chunks of the song and large performances to tape, and it’s so nice because it forces you to slow down and, like, really consider each performance, each recording of whoever’s playing at the time and whether or not you want it. That’s really, I think, it gives this album at least its sound. Yeah. So, it’s definitely something that’s kind of this point now is within our bag and we get to potentially go back and use it again, if the song asks for it.
Chester Bennington: I love recording the drums in this way. It’s really great in that it does give the feel of the song. It’s like a more live feel. For us, I think that one of the things that’s always kind of been surprising to a lot of people that I see when they come to see us live for the first time, especially like my musicians’ friends. There’s like this, like, raw kind of more prompt and in your face attitude about the band when you see us live. Like, even like our mellower songs; there’s an edge to them that you get in a live performance that kind of gets lost in the studio and I think that with this record, like, we’ve kind of captured a lot more of what we’re like live in the sound of the record. And I think that that’s exciting.
Adam Lawton [Media Mikes]: With there be kind of a two year timeframe there between your previous and the new album and then with this album being quite a bit different than what we’ve seen from you guys in the past. Was there ever a time in the recording process that you guys were worried maybe you went too far and were kind of like, “Are we alienating our fans in any way?”
Chester Bennington: I think since Minutes To Midnight we’ve kind of had this conversation. We knew that when we went into Minutes To Midnight that it was going to be different and we wanted it to be extremely different. And we knew that it was going to be a risk to take and we could potentially – worse case scenario, we could potentially alienate our entire fan base.
Adam Lawton: Right.
Chester Bennington: So, not since – we already knew at that point, like, “Okay. We’re crossing our fingers and just hoping that what we do in the studio, which our goal is to make good songs and some are great songs. If we accomplish our goal, it will be almost impossible to alienate everybody.” And, luckily, for us, I mean, a lot of our fans have come along for the ride on the last two records and we really did go and stretch our wings and see how far we could take them. And I think, for us, like, going through that process of trying things and making sure that we’re creatively excited and energized helps us create music that still sounds like Linkin Park regardless of what vibe the song has. I mean, that’s kind of what we’re known for anyway. So, I think for people to get hung up on us not speaking to a specific sound is kind of silly idea anyway, considering that we’ve never really been a kind of a single genre type of band. So, I think that going through that process is really a lot of being able to be creative on a heavy record like this. I don’t think we could have been as creative with the guitar and the drums 12 years ago. So, I think that because we’ve kind of gone around and tried new things and kind of alienated ourselves and some of our band, we’ve [actually] enabled ourselves, so then set ourselves up to make this record.
Adam Lawton: Okay. And just to kind of tie in with that, do you think having the guest performers, like Page Hamilton and Tom Morello, helps maybe even out some of that uneasiness when you put it out there for the fans? Like, “Hey, I see Tom’s on there. I see Page is on there. Rakim’s on there. Maybe I’ll still check it out anyway, even though it may be a little different.”
Mike Shinoda: The addition of those guys was, in most cases, pretty late in the game. I mean, if you’re just talking about from, like, a fan recognition standpoint, then, sure, like somebody sees those names on there, they kind of know what they’re getting –
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) I don’t think those guys would have been into working with us if that was, like, the goal, though. I mean, if we were coming at [collaborations] from the idea of, like, “Hey, let’s go work with these people and then that’ll make it even more cool,” and then people [would] want to listen to [our music], even if they don’t want to [listen to us].” But that’s, like, a weird way of looking at what we do anyway and it’s kind of the opposite of what our intention would ever be.
And it is like that. Like, if we do collaborations it’s because we’re coming from a holistic place. We’re totally into this artist for whatever reasons we are, and we’re interested in working with them and [we want to see if they] would they be interested in working with us. And if the answer is, “Yes,” then, like, “Let’s create something together” And then let’s go from there. It’s got to come from a very open, spontaneous kind of grassroots way. It can’t be forced or thought of in a boardroom and written down on a piece of paper and, like, 10 to 15 people that actually see it. That’s not the way that anything creative usually gets done.