Breanna Madsen [Rain City Ambiance]: Good. So, do you feel like your newest record, The Hunting Party, is a project you’ve taken the biggest risks on as far as sound and collaborators?
Mike Shinoda: It would be a split between this and A Thousand Suns for me. I mean, A Thousand Suns, we hadn’t done anything that outrageous yet. I mean, before we even, like, released – before we even, like, wrote five songs, we knew that we were on a path to, like, totally piss off a portion of the fan base, you know? And we knew that if we were going to go down that road, that we had to be committed to being okay with that. It’s not like a fun thing for us to be pissing people off. Like, we’re – I don’t feel like our thing is, like, “Hey, I’m just going to do this to, like, make our fans mad.” That’s never the thing. In the case of both albums, they were pulling in different directions. Like, at the time when we released A Thousand Suns, what was popular on rock radio was, like, The Strokes and The Killers. It was, like, at that time, it was more garage rocky, grungy kind of stuff, lo-fi, whatever, and we just decided to go out and make this really, almost esoteric artsy concept record that was really electronic-driven and really didn’t have a lot of that, like, aggression to it in that sense. And if there was aggression, it was, like, more of an outrageous, like, experimental kind of sound. Like, for example, the song, Blackout, or the song, The Catalyst. And on this album, it’s the same thing kind of happening, but in the opposite direction, and now everything is that kind of, like, electronic based, almost I would say, in a lot of cases, a kind of throwback. Like, I hear, for me, I hear, like, a lot of Talking Heads in it and, like, even Tears for Fears and stuff of that ilk, which I like. And that –
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) I even hear, like, Sinead O’Connor.
Mike Shinoda: Yeah. There’s a lot of that out there. And so, whenever I feel like, “Okay, there’s a lot of that.” Like, if that’s what I want to listen to, I’ve got a lot of that to listen to. What is it that is not out there that if I wanted to listen to, I can’t find it, except other than going back to records that came out in the ’90’s? So, that’s what ended up happening is we made an album that had that energy. It was more about, like, the kind of feeling of that music. It’s not nostalgic at all; this album is the point. Like, we wanted it to be heavy, but progressive as opposed to, like, “Oh, it should sound like that album or that band, whatever.” We wanted to take, like, those heavy things that we like and try and harness it and create our own new thing.
Breanna Madsen: Right. And, Chester, do you feel the same?
Chester Bennington: No. I honestly I feel like A Thousand Suns is a far bigger risk than this record. And although I do think that this record was written, the risks we were taking from the band perspective is that kind of we laughed at them a little bit, because they weren’t really risks for us. It was just, like, more of a business thing. Or it was, like, I felt like when we were doing, like, Minutes to Midnight and we were doing A Thousand Suns, we knew we were going to alienate probably some of our fan base, but we didn’t know if anybody was going to like what where we were going. That’s like, okay, we know people like what we’ve done in the first two records; now, this one is completely different. Like, are people going to, like, – are they going to buy it or are they not buy it in the store? Are they going to believe what we’re doing? Are they going to find the concept of what we are doing, like, a new head coach working; that kind of thing? Or are we going to have a team that’s going to revolt on us and, like, no one’s going to show up to practice and, like no one’s going to care? And so, for us, like, some of the team members left and most of them stayed, and when we went for A Thousand Suns, it was, like, “Okay, we’ve already kind of had a taste of what that gamble is we’re doing and that’s kind of scary.” The reality is potentially no. People might not like what you’re doing. With this record, I feel like, “Yeah, even the culture of radio and it’s probably not going to get played a lot on the radio. It’s probably not going to be number one in the United States.” So, we knew that going into it before – those things don’t really matter to us. Like, what we care about is making a record that’s exciting to us. And at this point in our career, we wanted to make a statement and we can and we found ourselves in a very unique position to do that and make that statement. So, for us, and in doing so, we knew if we did it right, if we made a good heavy record, we would actually be pleasing most of our fan base. So, I’m pretty sure that, like, 90 percent of Linkin Park fans would be excited to hear a record that reminded them of the Linkin Park they discovered early on. And so, I think in that sense it was not a risk. It’s, like, we’re willing to take a chance at radio and we’re willing to do those kinds of things that may not be fitting within the mainstream right now; that’s fine. But we know that we’re going to be making our fans happy and we know that we’re going to be happy, because we wrote these songs to be played live and bring the energy at the live shows up. And any time we can put the energy up on stage, everybody has more fun. So, it was kind of a much lower risk, in my assessment, than them, for example.
Mike Shinoda: Yeah. I think that’s true. And I also say that, like, it’s a great point that Chester made that has to do with, like, how do you measure what’s a success and what’s, like, risky? Because clearly, as we were saying with the Billboard thing, like how important is – I mean, you have to keep in mind. Like, we lived through – our band was in music at a time when a number one album meant, like, it could mean, like, a million and a half records the first week. Like, if you’re talking about 150,000 records is the number one this week; it’s, like, it’s not that a tenth of the people are listening to music. It’s that the actual metrics live somewhere else. Like, if you’re measuring success by Billboard, no disrespect to Billboard. Billboard’s doing what they’re supposed to do and I think they’re doing their best to evolve with people’s music assumption, tendencies, whatever by including things we used to do.
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) Simultaneously.
Mike Shinoda: Yeah. Because really, I mean, what we care about at this point with our releases – are the fans talking about it? And that means anywhere, whether it’s online or in person or whatever. But you can gauge that on our social media. Like, are they excited? Yes, they’re excited. And then second, are they coming to the shows? Do they care enough that they want to come out and see us play? And, yes, they’re coming to the shows. Like, the tickets are selling out and it’s doing well. So, at least at this point, I mean, you could talk to us in six months and we’d say, “Yes, it’s been a debacle. Like, all of a sudden, they got bored and now they don’t come to the shows. Like, I guess we’ve got to – ” But barring that actually happening, like, we’re really happy with the reception that everything’s gotten. And, by the way, in a format that you can’t just, like, look at it on a chart and say, like, “How does this compare to so and so, whatever” Like, we’re living in a different age. Everything is niche or into it. Everything is, like, cut down into a sub-group where you can be a fan of ASAP Rocky and Linkin Park. Like, that’s a very realistic possibility in this world. So, just because numbers work out one way or another, whether you’re talking about radio or Billboard or Grammy’s or whatever it may be, like, those are all different metrics and that’s not necessarily how the world works.
Sandy Lo [Half Full Magazine]: Hey, guys. Thanks for speaking with us today. I just – our magazine is all about positivity, so I was wondering what’s your advice for people to live their life with a positive attitude?
Chester Bennington: That’s an interesting question, because I probably ask myself the same thing many, many times on a regular basis, because I do find myself, like, kind of complicating things a lot sometimes, which we all do.
I think piercing your thoughts is important, and I also think that not sweating the small things is really important, using your focus on, like, the big picture, because that’s really the trajectory of where you’re headed is the big picture, and a lot of times when you look at the easiest things happening now can get kind of chaotic and things will be all over the place. But you’re [either] still moving in the right direction or you’re moving in the wrong direction. For example, if you keep dribbling the ball and it’s coming down, even if things are good right now, you’re still on a downward spiral. So, you have to look at yourself honestly and then kind of figure out where you’re headed in the big picture sense, so you don’t sweat the small stuff, because that’s usually where all most of my stress comes from things that don’t really matter.
Sandy Lo: Uh-huh. Thanks, guys.
Chester Bennington: (overlapping) One thing for our group, like, has been so positive is that we have a really good pattern of being direct and honest and respectful with each other. Like, so people have to – to some people, it’s like we never fight, and that’s nice, but that’s not reality. Like, you get six guys in a group like ours, there’s bound to be stuff that we disagree about pretty passionately. And when those things come up, at least historically, the guys have been able to kind of, whether it’s of their own, like, I don’t know, that they feel compelled to just talk to somebody else about it and address it head on, or somebody else kind of has to push you in the direction and say, “Hey, man. You really need to go talk to him about that thing that you’re upset about, because if you don’t, like, it’s going to fester and you guys are going to be a mess later.” So, –
Mike Shinoda: (overlapping) I don’t think about it. It’s a common thing with people and everybody does – it seems like it happens in every group of people. And at least at this point, I really appreciate the fact that the guys have been so, like, open to, like, hearing criticism and putting themselves – really important, like, putting each other – put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and see it from their angle and listen with, like, respect. But also, stay confident about what you’re about and stuff, too, and just come to the table and try and find some middle ground. I mean, I always feel like one of the things that makes this, like, the root of a lot of my problems and other people that I know is usually, like, fear and a lot of that is based in, like, unfamiliarity. Like, people are scared of a lot of things that don’t look like something they understand. And being scared of stuff like that, that can manifest itself in so many ways. And whether it’s, like, a personal thing or, like, a decision that we make creatively or whatever, like, all those things, like, we’ve tried to be really cognizant about; not operating by fear.