[pullquote quote="I think our newest record is always our favorite record because it's the newest and most exciting. It's like a new car." credit="Mike Shinoda"]In a secret North Hollywood practice space, Agoura Hills-formed alternative metal band Linkin Park took a break from their tour rehearsal (and their catered luncheon including crabs cakes and fresh coconuts), to play a dress rehearsal to a tiny audience of less than a hundred people. The band played a six song set including songs like “Waiting For The End,” “Papercut,” and “Burn It Down,” from their forthcoming fifth studio album, Living Things–their third with producer Rick Rubin.
“I think our newest record is always our favorite record because it’s the newest and most exciting. It’s like a new car,” says Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda when asked what their favorite record is. “Living Things has that new car smell.” “Hybrid Theory has that classic old car vibe right now. It’s like ‘ Dude that car was f**king dope,” agrees frontman Chester Bennington. “I remember that car. It was awesome. But I have the new version in my garage.’”
Linkin Park are getting into tour shape to co-headline the 2012 Honda Civic Tour with Incubus. The two bands, whom have often been put into the same musical category, also grew up in the same area and Linkin Park said they saw Incubus play some backyards when they were in high school; Incubus lived down the 101 freeway in Calabasas.
In an interview with Ted Stryker, the band recollected the early Hybird Theory days of their career–the days of dog collars and jelly bracelets–and how it compares to twelve years later in the Living Things stage of their musical journey.
“There’s an energy there, a spirit there that, in order to get there, I think that part of the process for us was to get OK with the fact that we wore dog collars and silly jelly bracelets up to our elbows and I had bright red hair,” says Shinoda. “I look at the pictures now and I was like, ‘God. What was I thinking?’ But at the same time I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Shinoda then told a story about a time, about two years into their career, when Bennington was hungover and had to get through an airport security line with all his rock and roll metal.
“There was a day when he was wearing a dog collar, he had the metal in his ears, he had the metal in his lip, he had spike bracelets from his wrist to his elbows, he had a belt that had metal all over it with like a chain, and metal in his boots and he goes to the airport with us,” says Shinoda. “And we see him, we get to the airport, we’re in the security line with this guy going, ‘Ummm, there’s like two people in front of you and we don’t say anything to him because clearly he was hungover.”
“It was like Mr. T came to the security line and forgot the lock to his dog collar,” continued the songwriter and rapper. “My favorite part was that he was kind of bitter. He was kind of hungover and angry, so he gets to the front of the line and we were like, “Oh, no. This is gonna be bad.’”
In the end, all the band could do was laugh at Bennington in his state, just like they laugh at the old incarnations of themselves. “That’s who we were at the time,” finishes Shinoda.
The band calls the new record a “developing journey” and one where they had a discussion about “getting real with who they are.” For Shinoda, that meant co-producing the album with Rubin, although he deems the word co-production a “technicality.”
“Rick comes in about once a week and he does a few hours with us where he hears it with fresh ears and gives us the Rick Rubin take,” Shinoda explains.
“There are a couple misconceptions with a band writing a song,” Shinoda continues. “One is that you think of a song, you like dream it up, and then you make it. And that’s not how it works for us. Another thing is people think maybe a band jams and then they write a song and then they go into a studio and then they record it and then when they’re done recorded they go mix and master and then the put it out.”
“Our process is weird because it doesn’t work linearly like that at all,” says Shinoda. “Like from the very first demo, which could be on a laptop, home studio, big recording studio…everyone of those places we’re just writing. And the demos, from the very first idea, we’re already trying to get a handle on it, the engineering of it, the mix, the sound. We’re doing all steps of it at once at all times.”
This also gets alluded to later as their “automatic writing” technique which Bennington admits can sometimes sound like “gibberish.” “There’s no words, just things that sound like words,” he says.
They did say they like to put a positive spin on their music, even some of the “doom and gloom” songs of Hybrid Theory, and when asked how age has played into their writing process, Bennington says that “age comes with a different perspective on life.”
“You know, when you’re young, everything’s about you. It’s not like your fault when you’re young and everything’s about you and you’re trying to find your place,” he explains. “And you view the world, in a way, at least I did, as things happening to me, and so, I think now my perspective is much different. I’m kind of excited about even the sh*t that’s bad because there’s always some good that comes out of it and I kind of wonder what that will be.”
“When Bennninton was young, one of his first rock and roll experiences, one which Shinoda dubbed as “fate,” was when he found a split record on the bus. One side was the Misfits’ Walk Among Us and the other side was the Descendents’ Milo Goes To College.
“And it changed my life,” says Bennington who admitted to spinning Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Mothers Milk continuously before that find. Shinoda says that the first album he ever bought with his own money was the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill.
Now Shinoda is working on what critics have dubbed one of the best action movies of the year, The Raid: Redemption. Shinoda says that he’s wanted to score a film for a long time
“Getting a call from Sony on that movie; those kind of things don’t come around that often,” says Shinoda.”People are saying it’s one of the best action movies of the last decade. And I’m not that versed in what’s been going on in action films, so for me I just think this film is cool. It’s an indie film; I can probably make mistakes and the whole world won’t be watching me screw it up. But it turned out good. If I have time, I’d love to keep doing it [scoring films].”
Linkin Park’s DJ Joe Hahn is also having “fun” directing a “low budget indie movie” called Mall. One which he said Linkin Park is doing the music for.
“It’s a great script adapted from an Eric Bogosian novel and it’s kind of dark and twisted,” explains Hahn. “Rated R. And we’re doing the music for it. It’s going to be cool. Probably going to take it to the festivals at the end of the year and you’ll see it sometime next year. Or maybe sooner.
Linkin Park’s Living Things will be available on June 26th through Warner Bros Records. You can pre-order it on iTunes here.