Though Linkin Park
have only been around for a dozen years or so, they have already sold 50 million albums and earned a place at the front of the nu metal line of bands. Hybrid Theory
, their debut record, sold a ton and brought them instant recognition and cache. The albums that followed - Meteora
and Minutes To Midnight
- also scored big and they are right now working on material for their fourth CD.
, Linkin Park
's rapper and multi-instrumentalist found a few moments in a busy schedule to talk about the new record and other projects. These various other ventures include writing the "New Divide
," the title theme for the Transformers
film; a solo art show; music for video games; and more.
UG: Let's open with the The New Divide single is there a different approach to writing a movie song versus a regular album track?
We don't usually write a song to fit with a story like this one. Trying to find a way to make it our own was the challenge; to keep it true to the spirit of the movie, but true to our band's intentions as well. It was a careful balance.
Does writing a movie song present any unique problems not associated with album songs?
It's similar, but there's more of a time constraint and a focus on more moving parts.
Do you consciously strive for a bigger or more epic quality in a movie song? A bigger chorus or a more memorable chorus perhaps?
I guess the sound should be "epic," at least for this movie. When we were looking through our existing demo material, in deciding how to approach this song, we had a lot of more complex stuff, and more introverted stuff. Transformers isn't exactly an introverted film!
Will the sound/direction of New Divide likely be heard on the next Linkin Park album?
"We don't usually write a song to fit with a story like this one."
The new album actually doesn't sound a lot like "New Divide," but it sounds great. We've got about 40 song ideas so far. We're trying to do something different from our other albums, with a focus on making some stuff that's more experimental, and hopefully more cutting-edge.There actually might be more rapping. I'm putting all my Fort Minor energy into the new Linkin Park album...you never know which tracks will make the final cut, but hopefully there will be more rapping, and some great beats on the new record.
Can you reference what some of the early material for the new LP album will sound like? Will it include any of the elements of Minutes to Midnight?
One characteristic of Hybrid Theory and Meteora was their distinctive sound. It was a function of the writing; the gear we used; the way we recorded; the studio; the engineer and producer combination, and many other subtle choices along the way. Minutes To Midnight was an effort to break out of that "sound" and make an album full of new sounds. I think the new album will be a return to the idea of making "a sound," but it will be a sound unlike any of the other albums.
Please talk about how the band works up a track in the studio? Is there a sort of blueprint by which the band records? Or does it evolve and change depending on song/album?
We tend to record and write in one movement. We record every note we write. Our biggest challenge is keeping organized and making sure no good idea gets lost in the shuffle. Some people want to play a part on every instrument in the studio--guitars, keyboards, etc.We tend to write a part on an instrument and move on. We structure the song as we go, tweaking composition, performance, lyrics, and sounds until it sounds right to all six guys in the band.
Has the change in studio gear/applications impacted the sound of the band? How has digital technology and infinite tracks allowed Linkin Park to more fully realize their sound?
There isn't really a trajectory for us when it comes to gear. Sometimes we keep it minimal; sometimes we want to use everything in the studio. But I can say definitively that we're children of the digital recording age. We've recorded to tape, but our writing style definitely benefits from being able to playlist lots of ideas in the computer, and put the best ideas together. The tricky part is knowing which ideas are the good ones. To solve that problem, we have weekly band meetings to listen to--and vote on--all the changes to the songs. Luckily, all our guys have a good ear for the songs, and a pretty consistent view of how they are progressing.
How much experimenting do you do in the studio? Are you always looking for different vocal treatments/textures?
Lately, we're doing a ton of experimentation.I don't want to give too much of it away, but we're having a lot of fun making new sounds.
Linkin Park have been successful right out of the gate how did it feel to achieve that type of success so early? Did you ever have to live up to your own celebrity?
"The new album actually doesn't sound a lot like "New Divide," but it sounds great."
In retrospect, it was pretty weird. We had worked for a long time to make an album and make a name for ourselves, and suddenly we were blowing up bigger than we had ever imagined. I feel like our guys have done a pretty good job of keeping their heads on straight, in spite of everything that's happened.
Can you address some of the more challenging moments for the band? In other words, if you had to pick a song or two that were most difficult to record in terms of translating the band's ideas onto a record, what might they be?
There are tons of examples of songs that were a challenge for one reason or another. Each one seems to have its own complication! Most recently, "New Divide" was tough because, being a song for a big summer movie, it had a tight deadline. To be honest, the movie people had other bands they were considering in the beginning; all were successful bands worthy of having a song teamed with this movie.We were constantly under the time pressure to show Michael Bay and his team that our song would be the best one. Once we delivered it and they came back with a positive response, it felt we had won a race.
Feelings about the Projekt Revolution tour did you achieve what you set out to accomplish?
It's been great so far, and we look forward to seeing where it goes. It was amazing to finally take it outside the U.S.--and see it succeed. A lot of hard work from a lot of people goes into it, and we are appreciative of everyone involved. Once we get the next record done, we'll be looking to bring Project Revoution out once again, hopefully better every year.
Closing comments: Any other news? Next tour? Videos? Game music?
We're always really busy. Chester's Dead By Sunrise solo album will be coming out in September this year; I'll be doing a solo art show called Glorious Excess Dies in August here in L.A.; we're doing a video game for the iPhone; and meanwhile doing tours and working on the new record. Things are always busy, but the best way to keep up with everything is on linkinpark.com and mikeshinoda.com.
Interview by Steven Rosen
Check out a video for "New Divide
" at this location