Right out of the park
January 18, 2008
This is Notthingham
They have been an arena band for a few years now but next week's show is a first for Linkin Park at Nottingham Arena. Past endeavours have taken them into Rock City, more than once. And yes, Joe Hahn remembers it well.
"One of my fondest memories was a few years ago," he begins warmly.
"When we visited then, the city officials were a little corrupt."
Not heard this one before. I'm heading for a scoop here. Go on...
"We had to retreat into the forest and a guy called Robin helped us get our money back," he adds before laughing like a drain.
Well, he's not the first to drop in the Hood reference so one can forgive the Americans, albeit through gritted teeth.
Let's move on.
Linkin Park arrived eight years ago with Hybrid Theory, their evolutionary crossover debut that top-ended charts on both sides of the Atlantic and sold 24 million copies.
Not a bad start. They didn't expect it, admits the band's turntable technician and programmer.
"We've always been driven guys and always set big goals," says Hahn. "But compared to what we actually achieved, those goals were miniscule. We were just hoping to be able to sell out mid-sized theatres and be able to travel to other states within the US. Worldwide travel wasn't even on our radar at that point."
He adds: "But even when the success came, we were all still driven to be bigger and better and develop bigger ideas like impressive stage shows, cool videos and the chance to start charities. It's been an amazing ride so far."
These days the rock/rap sound is as common as... Hood gags overheard around the castle gates by tourists. But how did they come up with it?
"We're all from the MTV generation, so we've all been exposed to so many different types of music. While so many bands and labels were focusing on specific demographics, we had rock fans and hip hop fans and we developed what was quite a natural sound for us.
"We had good songs then interpreting them stylistically into what we wanted to hear. It seemed to us to be a natural musical progression."
This "stylistic interpretation" has been perceived by some people as overproduction of the music, but Hahn is having none of it.
"Some of the people who've said we're overproduced see us live and realise we can replicate it live, though perhaps with more looseness. I don't think overproduced is the right word - it's just us deciding how we want to present our music.
"When we did the first album, the style was unique at that time and with our success we became the standard model that others emulate but it just represents where we were at that time. The irony is that to make the new album (Minutes To Midnight), we wanted the same vibe as before but to make it sound more minimalist and less produced and to do that we had to do more production than we've done before."
Minutes To Midnight sees Hahn move away from the traditional scratching sounds and more towards a programming approach.
"As far as scratching goes, there's no real school of thought as to its application so I'm always thinking about how I can bring an extra dimension to the music. Sometimes it's not about scratching and when it is, it can be so subtle that it creates an atmosphere rather than sounding like traditional scratching."
He adds: "I've actually done more on this album than the previous ones, but it's not to the forefront as it was before. That's the way this album came together.
"It wasn't about egos or who did what, it was just a matter of what was needed and the album represents the cream of what started as about 150 song ideas we played with."
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the band's crossover style has seen a range of collaborations, most notably with Jay-Z on the Collision Course album.
"It started with MTV developing a mash-up show where they put collaborations together for the show. Mike and Jay-Z started e-mailing and playing with songs before going back to MTV and saying 'OK, we'll do it, but it has to be our way'.
"So things went on and we had a whole album and live show.
"It was fun working with Jay-Z. We even ended up working with Paul McCartney which closed that chapter for us. It doesn't get better than getting a Beatle to do a mash-up!"
Within the Linkin Park environment, Hahn has found another role - directing several of their videos, including Numb and Papercut.
"I originally went to art school, so I have a visual arts background. After that I worked on special effects [including work on The X Files]. So when the band were trying to articulate to the directors we've worked with, my efforts were in trying to express what we wanted. I got so involved in it, that I ended up doing it myself.
"It's cool because now everything comes from the core of the band. We're about more than just music, so this lets us show another component of what we are."
Another visual aspects of the Linkin Park legacy has been the inclusion of their tunes on quite a few movie soundtracks.
"We're all just huge movie fans and it's great to hear cool music with a film. When we were asked to do something for Miami Vice by [director] Michael Mann, we jumped at it as we were all huge fans of his movies. Then when he asked again for Transformers, it was another golden opportunity as we grew up with Transformers - but it wasn't just nostalgia, it's also cool to see gigantic robots beating the crap out of each other!"