Linkin Park Q & A in support of “Minutes to Midnight”
LA's The Last Place
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Q&A through LA’s The Place Magazine with Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. The band is touring in support of the new album, Minutes to Midnight. They’ll be launching a North American tour on February 12th. Following below is what ensued in the interview.
Q: As far as the tour is concerned, with Projekt Revolution it seemed very specific with Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, and now you have post hard core band Chiodos and prog band Coheed. Why have these bands been chosen? Why did you guys choose them?
C. Bennington: When we choose groups to tour with, we really look at a lot of different things, but mostly we look at the quality of the band. We feel that good music speaks for itself, and I don’t know about you guys, but if I go to the concert and every band sounds the same, it’s kind of makes for a really long day. So we do like to keep things fresh and keep things moving, and play with acts we haven’t played before.
Q: Could talk a little bit about the digital souvenir package that fans are going to have an opportunity to get on the tour?
C. Bennington: The digital souvenir package is a brand-new product, brand new thing that we’re offering on this tour. I don’t think anybody else has offered it or at least offered this type of thing in this way. You can basically opt in when you buy your tickets online for the digital souvenir package. What will happen after that is you go to the show, you watch your show, enjoy that, come home, and in your e-mail inbox you’ll have a link to the show, to the MP3s of our set from the show you went to. In other words, you get to take home the hopefully memorable concert that you went to.
And the best part about it to me is that our live mixer, our official mixer who mixes our show every night at the front of the house position, he finishes his night with us, then goes back to his hotel or bus or backstage and mixes the show for you. That’s what’s so important about this idea is that it’s not a straight board mix or a cell phone or video camera, which is what you usually get on YouTube. This is a mix done for CD, so it sounds good in your car, so it sounds good coming out of your iTunes and your stereo, into your stereo. It’s intended to be played in your headphones and in your car, and it’s done by our official guy.
Mike Shinoda: That’s another thing that I think is really cool about it is we also encourage our fans, for those who get this thing, is we encourage them. Our sets change. We play songs maybe one night that we don’t play the next, and so if you want to get those songs, we encourage our fans to go on and trade them and kind of get to know each other. We really like the fact that, in the digital world, people who like the same things and want to be part of something can communicate and share and exchange things with each other. This is one of those things that we would really like our fans to kind of do that with.
Q: Keeping along the lines of the digital median, and you guys have always embraced technology. You’ve got a great Web site, interactive with the fans. A lot of groups, I don’t know if they resent it, but there’s the issue in the business of music fans now picking and choosing songs digitally and not buying entire albums. But for a band like Linkin Park, which has so many different sides, so many different styles from ballads, top 40 ballads, to real hard stuff that you’re never going to hear unedited on the radio, do you think it’s an advantage for you guys that fans can go and pick and choose the music that they want?
C. Bennington: From my perspective, I personally still like to buy whole records. I enjoy kind of the journey, and especially for records put together well. It doesn’t bother you to listen to the whole thing. But I do think that there are a lot of different kinds of people out there, and some people, they may just want three tracks or something. If that’s an option that they want to have, they should have that option afforded to them.
There is a benefit when it comes to that kind of person who maybe likes the single, but doesn’t really know of the band and isn’t sure if they want to buy the whole record. It’s kind of a pro and con. It’s a double edge sword. For us, I think we have a lot of support from our fans, and so they tend to buy our records. Every time someone is introduced to the group in a new way, they can go buy the single. It hasn’t really affected us in a negative way by any means, so we’re always trying to figure out new ways of staying connected and bringing our full album package to our fans and giving them something special. That’s important to us, but we’re not going to turn our backs on other ways of selling music as well.
Q: You had a very public contract battle with Warner Brothers a couple years ago, and of course now people are wondering all the more if record companies are the thing of the past. Why did you stick with Warner Brothers, and how do you look back on all that now?
C. Bennington: I think that for me, with the Fort Minor record coming out before Minutes to Midnight, the concerns were – I think we voiced all our concerns back then. I don’t want to get back into it at all. But we worked things out and we came to kind of a common understanding or a mutual understanding of how we wanted our albums to be treated, how we wanted our fans to be treated. We kind of made up and we stuck with Warner.
Mike Shinoda: I think the second half of your question is, are labels a thing of the past, I think that there are a lot of positive things that labels provide artists. I do believe though that it’s very important for the old model of the record industry to be – you know there’s going to be times to kind of work it out of the future, the future of the music business. It’s that the business model is dying. I don’t think that the label side of things is dying. I think it’s just going to be rejuvenated with a new plan of action. I think when that happens a lot of the issues that have been kind of argued back and forth from the band to a label and vice versa, I think a lot of those things could be put to rest or at least improved upon. I think we’re in a very interesting and really special time in the music business right now. I think people really are used to just focusing on the kind of negative aspects of what’s going on and not really looking at how amazing the potential is for the future of this business.
Q: How is this tour going to differ? How do you keep it different and keep it exciting for the fans?
Mike Shinoda: We actually put a lot of attention on our live show this time around, ever since we kind of came out – ever since we came out of the studio, we were really excited about different ways we could keep the show fresh. Having so many songs now, we’re definitely no longer in the position that we used to be in with Hybrid Theory where, with Hybrid Theory, we had virtually 40 minutes of material, and we were asked to play headline sets, and we didn’t even have enough songs to fill one out.
Now we’ve got all these songs, and we can kind of pick and choose and fans want to hear different things at different times. It’s a pleasure to be able to get on stage and switch up the set every night. Not only that, but for the U.S. tour, and this kind of goes out to the people that have come and seen us play on Projekt Revolution, the production will be different. The set will look different. As you may have heard from some of the – how the ticket sales are going, a number of shows are being sold to 360 degrees. That means that the stage is obviously set up for a 360-degree show.
Q: The first part of the question is that you guys have really been involved in promoting awareness of climate change, especially in the last couple of tours. What are you doing on this tour in terms of extending what you’ve done before or maybe some new initiatives? And the second part of the question is, since this is an election year, is this something that you might kind of get involved with a little bit more politically, especially since the two sides have such different views on this issue?
Mike Shinoda: As far as the Music For Relief stuff, we will be announcing hopefully more of our ideas for efforts that we can make on the tour. I know the Music For Relief booth will be up, as usual. The easiest way that fans can help out, we offer information there at the booth. Please, if you come to the show, go check that out. Buy a bandana. They’re only a couple bucks, and that goes towards the charity organization. Music For Relief, just to give a quick overview of it, it started after the tsunami in South Asia. We started the organization at that point to help out with relief efforts. We continue those relief efforts through that and after the hurricane in New Orleans. We went down there after Katrina. We realized what a mess it was, and we tried to help out the best we could, raise money for that as well.
We then realized, as we were in the studio with Minutes to Midnight, that we could do things not just on the backend on the cleanup relief kind of end, but hopefully be proactive and combat global warning on other fronts, so we that we wouldn’t have to have as many, hopefully, catastrophes and be doing the kind of cleanup that we were already involved in.
We recently joined with Unite the United to assist in the recovery and reforesting of devastated areas in Southern California after the wild fires. That was the most recent thing that we did. I don’t know exactly what – we’ve already been talking. We talked just yesterday on a conference call to figure out what we’re going to do on this tour, so more information will come on that. As far as the other part of your question about the election, we try and stay out of that.
I think that our fans don’t need us preaching politics to them. They’re intelligent. They’ve got their own opinions, and they can make their own decisions. Obviously we encourage everybody to vote. We encourage everybody to go out and do their research on the candidates that interest them and make thoughtful, informed decisions.
Q: How do you think Minutes to Midnight has helped get a little closer to that goal of not being able to be so easily categorized?
C. Bennington: From point of view, I think that with Minutes to Midnight really, I think the most important part of that process in my eyes was really the fact that we kind of opened our minds up to writing music that just felt right. We went more towards how the songs themselves made us feel and how we responded to them rather than what we thought we should create, what we thought our fans would want us to make. In doing that, we wrote a lot of different styles of songs, and we worked on a lot of songs that maybe were a little off the task for us. It really encouraged us and it opened our minds. Songs like “In Between” and “In Pieces”, and “Little Things Give You Away”, songs that probably we would have thought were cool, but we weren’t sure if we could pull them off. I think it opened up that door for us.
I think that the longer that we’re around and the more music that we make, I think the more people kind of realize that we’re not just this band that’s going to kind of disappear or be part of a specific trend or a fad, which was kind of where we did get kind of put into that circle of new metal, which was kind of like you know it came and went, but you guys are still here. How much longer do you think you’ll stick around because no one listens to that kind of music anymore? It’s like our response has always been, we’re not that. We write music that we want to hear, and if that means putting a jungle beat with a saxophone is what we want to hear, then we’re going to write that. Whether that makes a record or not doesn’t matter, but that’s what we’re going to write.
I think people are opening up to that idea that we are a band that’s not afraid of extending ourselves and spreading our wings and pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable for us. Our fans, they stick with us through this process, and it’s pretty awesome. It’s a really special kind of thing to see that our fans enjoy the music that we make, regardless of what style it is. I think that’s something that they appreciate.
Mike Shinoda: We never felt, I mean, just to echo some of Chester’s sentiments, we never felt like we belonged in that category, that new metal, rap rock category. Not because, obviously if you look back on Hybrid Theory, there was rap and there’s rock in it. But it just felt like a lazy category that people were putting that name on us because they couldn’t come up with anything that was better or they just kind of felt like lumping everybody together because they were kind of the same.
But I think for us, from our perspective, there were more differences than there were similarities. And the longer we – the more albums we make, the more chances we get to kind of highlight those differences between us and the things that people thought we were in the beginning. At this point, we’re just making, like Chester said, we’re just making whatever sounds good to us. I think the big challenge or the big question that was posed at the beginning of the Minutes to Midnight studio sessions was are we going to change— Are we going to change the sound so much that people are going to think we’ve gone off the deep end, it’s weird, it’s too different, and they’re not going to like it. Well, what ended up happening, it’s easy to look back at it now and say, yes, of course. It was a hit and everybody loves it. But it’s not – if you look back to the day before we turned it in, the day we finished it, we were pretty nervous because who knows if the fans had grown up in the same direction that we had. We went underground and we worked on this record, and we popped up somewhere that was different from where everybody else ended up. Luckily, I guess, that was not the case.
Q: Final thoughts?
C. Bennington: I think the most important thing to say about this tour is that none of the bands suck, and I think it’s going to be really exciting for us to get back into arenas. It feels like we haven’t played arenas on this tour for some reason, other than outside the U.S. So it’s going to be fun for us to get back into arena and really take advantage of our production elements and the sound quality that that brings and performing new shows in a lot of these places for the first time in the round.