[AltWire Interview] Mike Shinoda on ‘Fine’: “I’ve Been Playing With a Lot of Different Sounds Lately…”

AltWire - Mike Shinoda Interview

Photo Credit: Frank Maddocks

Since the last time we caught up with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda back in 2015, a lot has changed in those four years. Starting with a comeback of his successful solo project Fort Minor with “Welcome”, Shinoda would begin work later that year on what would wind up becoming one of the most polarizing records of Linkin Park’s career, the misunderstood and often critically underrated pop-influenced record One More Light. No more was this divide between listeners more apparent than in the comments of our very glowing review, itself filled with all-out battle between the ‘poptimists’ and ‘rocktivists’ of the fanbase, with both sides passionate in their arguments for and against the band’s 7th album.

While views of the record may have been mixed, the band’s exemplary performances in their 2017 European Tour showed a band very proud of their latest material and unfazed by the criticism they encountered. As “Heavy” became a crossover hit and continued to enjoy decent airplay in the US, the band headed home to prepare for their North American Summer Tour, which was intended to begin on July 27th with a series of special shows featuring Blink 182. While this tour undoubtedly would’ve featured some of the band’s greatest performances, sadly, neither the Blink 182 shows, or the North American Tour would ever come to fruition as only a few weeks after their European tour, Linkin Park’s frontman Chester Bennington died by suicide on July 20th, 2017.

In the years that would follow the loss of his best friend, Mike Shinoda explored and channeled his grief into the masterpiece that is Post Traumatic, an album that was both unflinching in its honesty, and therapeutic in its messages of hope and finding yourself after tragedy.

Now, nearly 18 months after his first solo album under his own name dropped, Mike Shinoda is back with an absolute jam, the NIN and Aphex Twin inspired “fine”, written for the Russian sci-fi flick The Blackout which is in theatres November 21st. Read on for what Mike has been up to, as well as for insight into how the song came about.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: The song is part of an upcoming soundtrack for a Russian sci-fi movie called ‘The Blackout.’ Can you tell us how your collaboration on this film came about?

Mike Shinoda: The filmmakers reached out to me, and sent me a clip of the film which I thought was really exciting. As I was watching the clip they sent, an idea for “fine” came to mind.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: What’s the writing process like when writing a song specifically for a movie versus a song in a normal album process? Do you approach the songwriting differently knowing it’s going to appear on a soundtrack?

Mike Shinoda: I’d say it’s situational. Sometimes the film can really inspire a song, other times the song comes first. In this case, these lyrics were pretty intuitive, not super literal. I liked the idea that you hear “everything is going to be fine,” and you don’t know whether to believe the words or not. There’s a creepiness about that idea and I loved developing the song from that point of view.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: This track is a bit of a departure from Post Traumatic, both in terms of some of the vocal deliveries and the sound of the instrumental. At first listen I felt the song had a grittier tone than some of your other recent works. Have there been any artists in your rotation lately inspiring this awesome change in sound?

Mike Shinoda: I’ve been playing with a lot of different sounds lately. On this song, I guess there are threads to NIN, Gesaffelstein, Depeche Mode, and a little Aphex Twin.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: Visually the trailer reminds me sometimes of Blade Runner and maybe a little bit of Ghost In The Shell. Considering you’ve processed a love for anime and sci-fi in the past, what would you say are some of your all-time favorite Sci-Fi & Anime series/movies?

Mike Shinoda: I love those movies. Akira, Metropolis, The Matrix, and Aliens are some of my favorites as well. I’ve been thinking about Children Of Men a lot lately, maybe I should go back and watch that — I feel like it has a similar energy to The Blackout / Avanpost.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: While we’re on the topic of anime, let’s discuss World’s On Fire. While the music video was not the first time an anime video was tied to your music (the first being Breaking The Habit), this is the first time you completely animated the video yourself from start to finish. Could you walk through the creative process for that video? Has the experience made you want to do more animation down the line, perhaps even your own animated series?

Mike Shinoda: World’s On Fire started as a series of sketches in my sketchbook. Eventually it became an animated collaboration with a company called Venturia. They would send me storyboards and animatics, which I would comment on or edit. They did all of the heavy lifting in terms of actual animation. I could see doing more animation. I love the medium and have a lot of ideas. And the fan reaction to these characters has been really positive.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: You previously committed to releasing a music video for every song on the album. Notably (excluding the bonus tracks) “Hold It Together” is the one song that does not have a video attached to it. Do you still have plans to film a video for this song or do you consider the Post Traumatic cycle completely over?

Mike Shinoda: The funny thing is, I actually started a video for that song. But we had some technical difficulties with the files, notably that the hard drive got stolen! So, the video never got finished. I don’t have a solution to that problem yet, because we can’t re-shoot the footage that was on that hard drive and there wasn’t a backup.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: It’s been a long journey going from your first Post Traumatic Tour show at KROQ to your final shows in Asia. What did the experiences from that tour teach you about yourself and how would you compare the feeling you had then with those first few shows versus how you felt at the end?

Mike Shinoda: The Post Traumatic tour was an important period of time for me – I feel like I grew a lot. I started the tour playing by myself on stage, because I wanted to start with nothing and add only the most essential things. One of the things I was focusing on was just being comfortable on stage by myself and learning more about my own skill set, without any other support.

AltWire/Derek Oswald: You’ve been a jack of all trades the last few months, producing songs and now contributing to movie soundtracks. With the Post Traumatic cycle at an end, some are curious as to what comes next from here. Have you made any plans to write more music and perhaps release another solo record? Have you been working on music with the boys in LP?

Mike Shinoda: As usual, I’m always working on different things. I’ve done some production and writing on a few other artists’ songs – there’s a song by Kitten that just came out and something with Amirsaysnothing on the way. I only want to talk about them when they’re ready to be talked about. Just follow me on Instagram at @m_shinoda and you’ll have the latest news whenever the time comes.

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