Linkin Park’s lippy front man, Chester Bennington, doesn’t like doing interviews.
Despite his relatively tender years, it seems he’s encountered one too many wasted journalists.
But unlike a fair few other front men, he doesn’t mind other band members putting up with the perils of hacks.
Thus it falls to the band’s “significant other”, singer/rapper Mike Shinoda, to chat about life, art and the evolution of the Linkin Park sound on their crucial second album, Meteora.
musicOMH: Were you afraid of the legendary sophomore jinx (of second albums) while recording Meteora?
Mike: Everybody wants to be able to come through on their second album. Rather than thinking of it in terms of luck, we wanted to have enough time to create music that we enjoy.
musicOMH: There’s progress in your music in the form of experimentation, without steering too far from the original sound of Linkin Park. Do you write what you want to hear and play, or do you take into consideration what your fans want?
Mike: It’s a little bit of both. When the six of us get together and make music, there are some things that just naturally come out. And that’s part of the Linkin Park sound that you hear on the album. We wanted to step outside of the box, so we used some live strings, piano. We used a traditional Japanese flute, which is called shakuhachi. We played with time signatures, different tempos. Songs like Breaking the Habit and Faint are faster than any songs we’ve ever written and Easier to Run is much slower.
“I do our album artwork with a friend of mine.” – the multi-talented Mike Shinoda
musicOMH: Both you and Chester write the lyrics. Do you work together or does each write his own part?
Mike: We write together. We both have different life experiences. So when we’re writing a song, each of us will be thinking about something different. But we always have a conversation about what we’re going to write before we get too far into it.
musicOMH: Some tracks like Breaking the Habit are angst-ridden with getting-it-out-of my-system type lyrics. Is it a cathartic experience?
Mike: Yeah, it’s very therapeutic. I had this theme in my head that I wanted to write about, and I kept trying it, and it would always be too dorky or too cheesy. And somehow, when I sat down with this particular music, what I had been trying to write about for five years came out in two hours – just fell out on the page.
musicOMH: Would you ever exchange roles with Chester, just for the fun of it?
Mike: We’ve joked about it. I don’t think that I could compete with his talent in singing, and he wouldn’t want to compete with my talent in rapping. We do change roles a bit when we play live.
musicOMH: You wanted to collaborate with Bjrk. Anything planned?
Mike: I think our manager spoke to her at one point. The door, I think, is still open. I would love to. I think that she’s a very interesting musician. And one of the beauties to Reanimation was the ability to meet with other artists and learn how they work.
musicOMH: You have an instrumental called Sessions which is a good demonstration of how you’ve progressed.
Mike: I probably got Sessions about 85 percent of the way and something needed to be added. The other guys knew what it was. Brad came in with some guitar, Phoenix with bass and Joe with scratching. It’s very fluid, and the digital elements are very chopped up and harsh. I think it’s cool. That electronic element has always been there in the band – it’s just that sometimes we bring it closer to the front.
– Mike Shinoda
musicOMH: You have a slight element of Depeche Mode.
Mike: I like Depeche Mode, I do.
musicOMH: What would you be doing if you weren’t in Linkin Park?
Mike: I would probably be doing art, doing graphics. When I go home now and relax, I paint. I do get a lot of the artwork stuff to do in the band. I do our t-shirts and posters. I do our website with another group of friends. I do our album artwork with a friend of mine, who’s art director. Part of this is the fact that our band is very self-contained. You get a sense of consistency, because if we hire a video director and he doesn’t know our band very well, how am I going to get him on the same page with me? It’s much better if Joe, who’s in the band, can do that.
musicOMH: Does Joe give you a hard time when he’s directing?
Mike: (smiles) No, he’s a good director. He’s very creative.
musicOMH: He almost set you on fire during the filming of the Somewhere I Belong video!
Mike: Yeah. But all in the name of making a good video!
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