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Interviews, Music

The Thrill of the Hunt – An Interview with Linkin Park

By: Daniel Gerichter (@ZenDonut) –

Linkin Park's sixth album, The Hunting Party (out June 13th via Warner Bros.), sees the sextet return to the heavier, more aggressive sound that made albums like their debut album, Hybrid Theory, a worldwide smash.

Linkin Park’s sixth album, The Hunting Party (out June 13th via Warner Bros.), sees the sextet return to the heavier, more aggressive sound that made albums like their debut album, Hybrid Theory, a worldwide smash.

 

Linkin Park have been superstars for almost fifteen years, and while they debuted among countless Nü Metal peers, they’ve managed to outlast them all. This is partly due to a versatile balance of style and substance, but also because of their willingness to evolve with the times. For 2014’s Hunting Party (the band’s 11th overall release and 6th studio album), the band returns to the heavier, more aggressive sound that made albums like Hybrid Theory a worldwide smash. We got a chance to chat with the band’s vocal one-two punch of Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington to discuss their new album, tour and what’s kept the band going after all these years.

Hunting Party was a return to the old, heavy sound of your first couple of albums. What did you think about the reception it got?

Mike Shinoda: When we were making the album, I had a handful of demos that were a little more – they weren’t quite as heavy as this. They were a little more electronic-driven, and there was just a day that I was listening – 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 either stuff that was – you know, there’s another part to it, too. I wanted it to be, like, modern and progressive and the only stuff I was finding was – if it was modern and progressive, it tended to be a little more mellow. And if it was heavier, it tended to sound more – it tended to not be as progressive. And so, I think we all found that there was just a style that was kind of being underserved that we wanted to hear and that’s what we decided to make.

Chester Benington: 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.

Was there initially a lot of reluctance or resistance to make a harder record?

Mike Shinoda: For me, it was a bit of a process. I felt like Chester was on board from the beginning – I think Chester and Dave (Farell) and I had talked about it a number of times, but it was still, like, figuring out at that point what we were – well, our conversations were happening mid-tour last album. And so, what is a louder record mean? What is bringing energy to the album, even more so than the last album? 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 tone, so that I could take that to, in particular Brad (Delson) and Rob (Bourdon), 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, 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, I feel like 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 or whatever.”

The Hunting Party touches on quite a few social issues. Was there a lot on your mind when you were creating this record?

Chester Bennington: 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 streaming and we do like to play really great guitar riffs and Rob Bourdon is really awesome at playing just to that drum. So, I think that, for us, like, we really wanted it toward 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 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.

Are you going to be playing songs mostly from this record on tour, or focus more on fan favourites?

Chester Bennington: We’re actually going to do a DJ style party set where we just play lyric videos. We thought that would be cool. We’re just going to bring our laptop up there, press “play,” have it on a big screen, lyric videos, lights; it’s going to be awesome (laughs).

Yeah. It’s going to be a little different from the last – if anybody caught any of the European tour online. We started there and we put some more work into it and kind of smoothed out some of the rough edges and added a couple of 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.

Earlier in your careers, you were always very interactive with your fans – to the point of jumping down into the crowd and signing whatever they put in front of you. At this point, what does that interaction look like?

Chester Bennington: Well, I think, for us, our fans have been the number one most important thing, and when we were jumping down and signing things for people, we were discovering each other. We were discovering our fan base, and our band was discovering the band, and it’s really exciting. But in the beginning, like you can jump down into the crowd that doesn’t know who you are and you can hang out all night. These days, it would be much more difficult to do that and keep people safe or virtually impossible to find T-shirts for every person that remains at the stadium, for example.

Mike Shinoda: I remember it differently. First of all, like, we’re staying really late and the crew is getting tired because you’re extending the end of the show so far and so on. The crew wants to take down the barricade; the security people and local venue were like “you’ve got to get these people out of here” and all that. And then furthermore, people would get stuff signed and they just wouldn’t leave. They just stuck around to hang out and stuff. And it’s, like, “Okay. You’ve got way too many people just hanging out here. You guys have to stop. You have to cut it off.”

Chester Bennington: Yeah. they were literally like “We can’t do our jobs because you guys are hanging out with the fans.” And so, basically we had to come up with a new way of doing that. And so, we’ve done meet and greets with our fans every night, every performance we’ve ever done. For us, meeting our fans is pretty mellow, so when we’re out on the street in our daily lives, we meet people all the time, every day who are fans, and us being accessible to a certain degree is really important to us. We’ve been able to thankfully keep our private lives private and share our professional lives with our fans and everybody’s been really respectful of all that. And it’s really cool to be in Linkin Park and kind of be a normal person at the same time. So, I appreciate that from our fans and it makes it that much easier to keep an openness with as much as we possibly can.

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