Ashley Zimmerman [New Times]: For the Warped Tour 20th Anniversary. How did that whole thing come about? And what was it like for you?
Mike Shinoda: So, I think it was just, like, through some mutual friends. A friend of mine was telling me – like, for example, he kind of works on and off with a lot of folks and they would say, “Oh, I’m with so and so and he grew up on you guys and he just wanted to say, ‘hi'” and so on. And it’s just one of those things, like, we’ve been in the same situation where, like, we played shows with, for example, Metallica. Like, I’m excited to play; I’m excited to meet them. Tell them I love what they’ve done and so on, and pick their brains about how it works, how they’ve come up with stuff, and how they’ve evolved. It’s to see I can learn [and compare to] what we do. And that’s what these other Warped Tour bands have done – we’re just on the receiving end of that kind of situation. So, a lot of those guys over the years have just shared these stories and stuff and the idea came up to do a surprise set-up there. We ended up doing it in Ventura, California, and it was just so much fun. Like, a lot of those guys were actually nervous. I almost couldn’t believe it. But they were nervous. We had some guys, like Machine Gun Kelly wasn’t on the tour. He came in to play. Jeremy McKinnon was not on the tour, but he came in – he flew in from Canada to play, and the rest of the guys were just awesome. Like, we picked the songs together. We sat down together and rehearsed them. I loved how it was kind of thrown together in a sense because there were so many people and so much going on that there’s, like, a punk rock element like-
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) I loved that about that.
Mike Shinoda: – it had a sloppiness to it, which I thought was so awesome, so fun.
Chester Bennington: It reminded me of when I was young before computers; it was part of making this. When you would go out and play a show with your friends and, like, they would want to come up and say, “Dude, I want to come up at the next show.” And, like, you teach your friends, like, how to get a song and they come up and sing it with you. That’s kind of what it was like. It reminded me of just, like, we’re just going to do this because we like each other and we’re going to do it right now . It was really fun and it reminded me that, like, this is what I love about being in a band. This is what I love about making music. It’s, like, this whole experience. It’s pretty cool.
Ashley Zimmerman: Awesome. I had one more question for you guys I’d like to ask, because on the kind of World Tour, $1 for every ticket sold is going to benefit your organization; Music for Relief. What can you tell me about the organization and why are you guys passionate about it?
Mike Shinoda: Music for Relief started in the mid-2000’s as a response to the Indian Ocean tsunami. We had just been out touring in Asia. We’d just been there, gone, like, sightseeing tours and stuff, and then we were watching – we got home and we were watching the news and the whole place has been, like, destroyed. And we just felt like we needed to do something. A year later, Music for Relief had been around for a year and we realized that we were actively involved in cleaning up messes, but not so much involved in anything preventative. So, we added an environmental component to Music for Relief, and all in all, I mean, we’ve done projects all over the world. We’ve worked with the UN. We’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity and Direct Relief and the Red Cross and put on concerts with No Doubt and Jay-Z. And most recently, we did an awesome, really fun, and awesome show with – it was Offspring and Bad Religion, so just a fun show. Travis Barker came out with us, and it was, like, all of these things – we’ve – it’s just an ongoing, like, effort that we hope to involve more musicians. Like, Music for Relief isn’t about Linkin Park. There are, unfortunately, always disasters to go get involved in after and there are always environmental causes that we can get involved in to help prevent the natural disasters or at least keep our oceans and our land clean and our air. And so, this I don’t know how many tours now we’ve done where we’ve donated a dollar from every ticket to Music for Relief, and that is obviously in addition to, like, running the buses on biodiesel and recycling at every venue. I mean, what’s funny is I had, like, there were some fans on Twitter last time we did it. They were, like, “Oh, like you said you were going to recycle at every venue. I didn’t see any recycling bins.” Actually, it’s funny. A lot of people don’t even know this stuff works. Some of the venues find it more effective to physically go through the trash after the show and separate the recyclables, because they find that in their region, the fans tend to not really care about where they throw the trash and it ends up in those bins anyway. So, they just put out one bin and separate it at the end of the day. That’s effective. So, the bottom line is Music for Relief is being built up as something that you can – hopefully, we create trust with the fans. We create trust with the musicians and the industry and let people know that this is a group that does work hard to make sure all T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. And on this tour actually, we’re also working with another group called, Reverb, and the last thing I’ll say about this is Reverb is really great. Reverb is actually a group that – if you’ve ever heard LEED certification; that’s the certification for essentially an environmentally-friendly building. So, if you’re gong to do a LEED certified building, you can be assured that, for example, it was built in a way that was a sustainable build, but they weren’t throwing away stuff needlessly that they were reusing materials, that they were replanting in a way that saves the plants and wasn’t wasteful. Reverb is a group that is doing that for concerts. So, they want to set up a Reverb Certification. They’re working towards a goal so that you can go to a concert and know that if it is certified with Reverb as a partner, that it is a green concert. And they have various things – they look into, for example, how are the groups and the crews traveling; what’s their carbon footprint; what are they throwing away; what energy are they using; are they trying to offset that with anything? It’s very complicated stuff. They’re an excellent partner, and they do a great job of making sure that the bar is set really high so that we’re not being wasteful when we go out on tour.
Georgia Castro [OC Concert Guide]: Your newest album, Hunting Party, was just released two months ago. And if we could only listen to one song on the album, what song would you recommend? What do you think kind of, like, sums up the whole album? Or which one is, like, most meaningful for you guys?
Chester Bennington: Well, considering that there’s no break between the first five songs, I would suggest listening to that as one track. Honestly, I mean, that’s going to – that’s how I feel. I don’t know. It’s always weird to kind of say what your favorite song is on the record, because when you’re in the band, you kind of have a close relationship with all the songs and it’s kind of weird to – not that this song has, like, feelings, but you think of them that way obviously. But I don’t know. I mean, this record is a really difficult record to say that for, because there’s so much range in terms of the songs. So, yeah, I would stick to my answer. The first five tracks – it’s looking as one simple track and that’s the one you listen to.
Mike Shinoda: I mean, I feel like whenever we go into make a record, we try and create the best thing we can create for that moment, and obviously with this album, our effort was more in an aggressive, and I feel like still a very experimental, direction. And so, yeah, it’s been interesting. It’s, like, different people gravitate toward different songs for different reasons, and even I like different ones on different days. So, whereas, one day I love Keys to the Kingdom because it may be one of the wildest rapid fire songs on the album. Another day, I like Rebellion because it’s such a cool mix of the heaviest stuff on the record, but also it’s really melodic and a solid song underneath there. And then other days I like A Line in the Sand. I think A Line in the Sand does all of the best things that Linkin Park can do in, like, one song. So, yeah, so just different songs.
Frank Malerba [Cryptic Rock]: As mentioned, this new record is very heavy for the band, but there also seems to be a very strong social message, more than the records have had in the past for Linkin Park. For some reason, you seem a little more aggressive than in the past. Did you have a lot on your mind that you wanted to get out on this record?
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) Kind of for us, I guess, it was really lyrical when it came down to what we wanted to write about. We talked about things – actually the conversations were less about what we wanted to write about and more about what we didn’t want to do in the studio. And that’s really where the most interesting kind of revelations came from. It was, like, we said, we want to go into making a heavier record. Like, what are the things we should strive for in terms of the style and in terms of what we’re drawing our inspiration from? And then, what are the things that, like, we don’t want to? What are the things we want to stay away from? And I think that, for us, it was, like, well, clearly when you make a record with music, like, for me, it was to go more aggressive with the style and also with the lyrics. So, we want things to be really aggressive. And for us, it was really, like, “Well then, if we’re going to be aggressive, what kind of things can we talk about?” I mean, look at where we are in our lives; look at what we do for a living; look at what we stand for as people; what do we really have to be angry about? And so, that’s where we kind of, like, said – looking at things lyrically, schematically that, I think, were important to us, and not coming across like a bunch of whiny teenagers is something that we want to avoid. At the same time, I do like the screaming and we do like to play really great guitar riffs and Rob Bourdon is really awesome at playing drums. So, I think that, for us, like, we really wanted [to write about] things that we were fighting for and that was the one thing that we kept thinking about lyrically; like, what are things that are worth fighting for for us now in the place where we are in our lives? And a lot of different things came up on that list and we kind of drew from that as much as possible.
Andrew Bansal [Guitar World/OC Weekly]: My question is pretty much more guitar related, you know. With this album being more heavier, harder, and aggressive, would you say that guitars have played a more important role as compared to previous albums that you’ve done?
Mike Shinoda: I mean, the is the first album since probably either Minutes To Midnight or Meteora that has had such a focus on the heavier guitars and drums and so on. And I should also say that, like, I think that for the most part all of those things always exist in a lot of our music, but it’s the choice of what do you put up front; how do you mix it; and how do you -in writing it, what’s the important part to really take away? And a lot of the guitar stuff on the last couple albums has been more atmospheric and, like, sets, say, a background tone as opposed to being, like, a leading role. So, yeah, so the guitars are definitely, like, the main character in the music of this album. And in getting there, I know I spoke a little bit ago about having the conversations with Brad about where to arrive and how to, like, prepare them for the right mind state to get into this, but I neglected to say, and I’ll say it now, that he and Rob – Rob’s situation was -I write this stuff for him and with him a lot of the times and I send him stuff and say, “This is what I’m thinking of for the song,” and he’s always up for a challenge. Like, there’s nothing I can send him that he wouldn’t say, “I’ll give it a shot.” And he had a lot of fun doing it, because he actually had to – he had to physically prepare. He needed to up his, like, cardio to, like, actually play the drums on this album, which was funny. And I don’t mean that – like, he wasn’t, like, lazy before. He was already in good shape and then this stuff comes and it’s, like, “wow, this is harder to play and especially if I’m going to play 100 minutes of it, like, I’m going to need to really be physically able to do that.” And he had to work up to it. Brad, on the other hand, is another story.
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) Sometimes when we sent him some stuff.
Mike Shinoda: Totally. Like, I would send him some stuff and it literally would be, like, “Good luck, Rob.”
Chester Bennington: That’s a great point. That’s so funny.
Mike Shinoda: And Brad, on the other hand, was, like, mentally not interested in, like, playing heavy stuff for a long time. And that was a function in him having grown up playing so much, like, Metallica basically that when you play eight hours of guitar or six hours of guitar every day when you’re in high school for however many, maybe through college, too. Like, so many years, he just got burnt out on that and didn’t want to do it anymore.
Chester Bennington: Especially with the things you’re creating.
Mike Shinoda: Yeah, and I mean, we are making stuff that was really – it was exciting to him in different ways and we were all fine with that. It wasn’t like we were going, “Oh,” like, being mad at Brad for not ripping some crazy solo. I think that’s not the kind of music we were making [back then]. But when it came to this album and we knew that if this was what we wanted to make, I was saying to Dave, like, “There’s no way that Dave and I and Chester – there’s no way that we could create the kind of guitar – not all of the guitar – that would make this album what it needs to be.” Like, we need Brad, because Brad is a better guitar player than we are and he needs to be on board with this. So, the more I talked to him about it, basically the conversation ended up being, “Oh, you realize the real, like, tipping point was that he needed to get in touch with his, like, inner 14-year-old who got inspired to start to play guitar and what he listened to back then and what he wanted to make.” And he’s a guy that inspired that 14-year-old, not, like, “Hey, I want you to write something that’s going to impress some kid in Idaho. No, I want you to write what would excite you as a young kid to learn to play guitar. Like, don’t make it about anybody else but yourself. So, what is it that would be exciting to you?” And he found, over the course of the nine months working on a record, more and more he found that.
Alan Sculley [Last Word Features]: Hello. Hi, guys. Thanks for doing this today. Chester, I think I want to ask you this one, because no one’s really talked about your other activities with Stone Temple Pilots. I’m just kind of curious how things are working out. There was word that you were going to be working a new STP album at some point during the year, and just kind of curious what’s going on on those fronts.
Chester Bennington: Well, we started writing some stuff a couple weeks ago, and that was a lot of fun. So, yeah, we’re planning on recording some music as soon as possible and we’ve got a kick start on a bunch of tracks and it’s fun to be around a bunch of people who just thoroughly enjoy making music all the time. It’s, like, I get to be in Linkin Park and play with some of the best musical minds, in my opinion, in music right now, and then I get to come home and go play with some more people who are great. So, it’s pretty awesome. I don’t know when we’re going to get in the studio. We want to do it as soon as possible, so we’ll make that happen with the time that we have when I’m not with Linkin Park.