Linkin Park recently released their sixth studio album titled “The Hunting Party”. The album is a departure from the groups more recent electronic-rock style albums however it is still very much Linkin Park. Media Mikes spoke recently with the groups front men Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington about the bands direction shift, the new albums unique sound and the bands upcoming tour.
Adam Lawton: Can you tell us a little bit about the shift in direction the band took with the new album and how it has been received by fans thus far seeing it was your first album not to go to number 1 here in the States?
Mike Shinoda: When we were making the album, I had a handful of demos that weren’t quite as heavy as this. They were a little more electronic-driven, and there was just a day that 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 energetic and I just kept finding either stuff that was modern and progressive and the only stuff I was finding that was modern and progressive tended to be a little more mellow and if it was heavier, it tended to sound more progressive. 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. As far as the reception goes it debuted at #1 in 67 countries. Friends of mine here in the U.S. said, “Hey, I heard it. Sorry that you guys didn’t get to number one on the charts” I feel like the billboard chart is for one thing. It’s for the 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 and an album that should be taken to the stage. That’s exactly what we’re planning to do right now with the Carnivores Tour.
Chester Bennington: It’s funny because I think probably more so than any other record, maybe other than possibly “A Thousand Sons” I feel like critically the record’s been overwhelmingly positive. 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. 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. 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.
AL: 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?
MS: For me, it was a bit of a process. I felt like Chester was on board from the beginning but it was still, like, figuring out at that point what we were. Conversations were happening mid-tour last album like, what does a louder record mean? What is bringing energy to the album and what does that mean? How do we do that without it sounding throwback or derivative of heavier stuff that we grew up with. At first it fell 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.”
AL: This was your first self produced album which you chose to recorded via analog tape. Is this something that you see the band doing again?
MS: Yes. I think it’s something that we’ve been curious about for awhile but 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. It’s was so nice because it forces you to slow down and really consider each performance and each recording of whoever’s playing at the time. It’s definitely something we have experience with now and we could potentially go back and use it again, if the song asks for it.
CB: I’ve been recording the drums in this way. It’s really great in that it does give the feel of the song. It’s a more live feel. For us, I think one of the things that’s always been surprising to a lot of people when they come to see us for the first time, especially my musicians’ friends. There’s 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. I think that with this record we’ve captured a lot more of what we’re like live in the sound of the record and I think that’s very exciting.
AL: With there being a two year gap between your previous albums was there ever a time in the recording process that you guys were worried maybe you went too far with the new sound and that it might alienate some fans?
MS: 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. We wanted it to be extremely different. We knew that it was going to be a risk to take and we could potentially alienate our entire fan base.
CB: Our goal is to make good songs and some are great song. If we accomplish our goal, it will be almost impossible to alienate everybody. Luckily for us 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 to see how far we could take these. For us 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 is. I think for people to get hung up on us not speaking to a specific sound is kind of a silly idea anyway, considering that we’ve never really been a single genre type of band. 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 or the drums 12 years ago because we’ve kind of gone around and tried new things and kind of alienated ourselves and some of our band.
AL: Were the guest performers on the album brought in to counter balance the bands new sound in anyway?
MS: The addition of those guys was, in most cases, pretty late in the game. I mean, if you’re just talking about from a fan recognition standpoint, then, sure, if somebody sees the guests names on there, they kind of know what they’re getting
CB: I don’t think those who appeared on the record would have been into working with us if that was the goal. though. If we were coming at this from the idea of “Hey, let’s go work with these people and then that’ll make the record even more cool.” But that’s a weird way of looking at what we do anyway and it’s kind of the opposite of what our intention would ever be. When we do collaborations it’s coming from a holistic place. 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. That’s just not the way that anything creative usually gets done.
AL: $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?
MS: 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. When we got home we were watching the news and the whole place had been destroyed. We just felt like we needed to do something. 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. Most recently we did an awesome show with Offspring and Bad Religion. Travis Barker came out with us and it was just so much fun. This is an ongoing effort that we hope to involve more musicians with. Music for Relief isn’t about Linkin Park. Unfortunately there are always disasters to go get involved after and there are also environmental causes that we can get involved in to help prevent the natural disasters or at least keep our oceans and our land and air clean. The bottom line is Music for Relief is being built up as something that creates 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 the I’s are dotted, or the T’s are crossed.