Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda talks Honda Civic Tour
By Jessi Virtusio Gig of the Weekfirstname.lastname@example.org August 22, 2012 2:32PM
Linkin Park is headlining the 2012 Honda Civic Tour. | James Minchin photo
At the Honda Civic Tour
◆ 6:30 p.m. (doors) Aug. 24
◆ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park
◆ Tickets, $37 for general-
admission lawn, $36-$102.50 for first- or second-pavilion seating or $102.50 for general-admission, standing-room-only pit
◆ (800) 745-3000; livenation.com; civictour.honda.com
◆ Other bands on the tour include Incubus and Mutemath
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:32AM
Something I’ve loved about Linkin Park since I first heard the massive hit “One Step Closer” in 2000 is how the band does things on its own terms.
Refusing to be pigeonholed into categories like nu metal early on, the group has progressed to the “Living Things” album, which was released in June.
“This album came at an interesting crossroads for us,” co-founder Mike Shinoda said.
“It’s the fifth studio album. The first two [‘Hybrid Theory’ and ‘Meteora’] were kind of like brother records. They were closely related and they sounded very similar.
“With the third album [‘Minutes to Midnight’], we realized if we did another album like the first two, we’d be stuck doing that forever, so we made a patchwork of songs that sounded different from one to the other.
“With the fourth album [‘A Thousand Suns’], we took the concept album kind of route and picked one idea and went as far down the rabbit hole as we could.
“With the fifth album, we looked back and realized we were comfortable with the whole journey maybe for the first time ever.
“Having been together for so long, we’re had lots of opportunities to second-guess what we’ve done or feel uncomfortable about ways we were portrayed at this moment or that moment, especially during the early years.
“We were young. There was a lot of stuff. There were rumors about the band and ways people took the band’s image.
“For example, the whole nu metal thing. We never really felt like we belonged in that genre in the first place. Every time they tried to shove that flag into our hands, we tried to effectively drop it.
“Coming back with this new record, we just really came to terms with all that stuff. In talking to the band, the guys really have a sense of humor about that era and about themselves.
“They are comfortable with themselves, maybe more than ever.
“With this record, you’ll hear a sense of all the things the band has done and some things we’ve never done before all smashed together into one album.
“It’s frankly the most energetic thing we put together in the last few years.”
Honda Civic Tour
Linkin Park will bring this fresh material to the stage via the Honda Civic Tour on Aug. 24 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.
“I’m excited for the show. I’m excited for people to hear some of the new music live because I think it’s kind of built for the stage,” said Shinoda who handles vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards and piano for Linkin Park as well as co-produces the albums.
“The production is something I’ve always done, and the guys extended the honor of adding in my credit to the album a few albums ago,” Shinoda said.
“I’ve always been our in-house producer regardless of who we work with. I’m the one who records all the original demos.
“I make a lot of the demo tracks and bring them in and see what the guys think of the different ideas.
“I write most of the demos and then, as we flesh out those demos, I’m always kind of the hub of all of that recording and writing.
“With [vocalist] Chester [Bennington], just to give an example, he generally feels the most comfortable writing a vocal when it’s me and him.
“It’s not so much about the mechanics about that relationship. It is what our comfort zone is, and we made some stuff that we really love to listen to.
“By approaching it that way, it’s fun to do and we get great results that make great songs. We’ve done a lot of that.
“At the end of the day, I really enjoy producing and I really enjoy writing songs.
“I love challenging myself and challenging the guys, so I just try and be a leader when it comes to getting it done in the studio.”
Electronics and art
One of the coolest things about Linkin Park is how plugged in the members are to their music as well as their fans.
“Before the first album was called ‘Hybrid Theory,’ the band was called Hybrid Theory,” Shinoda said of the longtime use of electronics in Linkin Park’s music.
“It was always a part of our philosophy to be all the things we like to listen to, which in some people’s cases would fit into a genre a little more obviously.
“But for us especially, as we’ve gotten older, the stuff we listen to kind of spread out from genre to genre and from time period to time period.
“You’re not just talking about hip-hop but hip-hop from what era, electronics from what era. And that always in the studio, for us, just keeps the process really fun.
“At any given moment, we can say this song feels like it needs something. Let’s take it into a direction that feels fresh and unexpected.
“What random unexpected thing can we bring to the identity of the song that will keep it interesting for us and the fans?”
It’s not just about the music, but it’s also about the visual for Linkin Park, with disc jockey Joe “Mr. Hahn” Hahn directing several of the band’s videos and Shinoda lending his artistic flair to the group.
Shinoda met Hahn at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s a great shock. I really learned a lot being there,” Shinoda said of his college days.
“Coming from that environment just really sets the bar really high. You’re just around people who are very different and good at what they do.
“It just motivated us to work really hard to make something that we felt was compelling and exciting to make and watch and listen to.”
Linkin Park has not only had hit albums but also several honors including a 2002 Grammy Award for best hard rock performance for the song “Crawling.”
The group received another Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration for “Numb/Encore” with Jay-Z in 2006.
“Our approach is a holistic approach, The band is involved in everything we do,” Shinoda said of Linkin Park, which also features co-founders Brad Delson (lead guitars) and Rob Bourdon (drums) and bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell.
“Some people are used to some artists not even doing their own social media. You see tweets by them, but it’s not even really by them.
“When you see album covers, they didn’t have anything to do with it. For some artists, it’s even the songs themselves.
“Ours is the polar opposite of that. We’re involved intimately in every aspect of the band whether you’re talking about the buttons on the website [linkinpark.com] or talking about the production on the album.
“And clearly when you’re coming to the show, we’re very particular about the details of not only the sound but also the look. We started this look about two years ago with the idea of building upon it as time went on. We’ve been kind of adding pieces to this stage look over time and adding themed music, the visuals and what not. It’s been a work in progress.”
Hitting No. 1
“Living Things” making its debut in the top spot of the Billboard 200 surprised the band.
“That was actually a really interesting story,” Shinoda said. “Maroon 5 was at our heels by only 1,000 records that week before the results came out.
“Before the final number was tallied, we were looking at it from the standpoint that [Maroon 5 singer] Adam Levine is on one of the biggest shows [“The Voice”]. He’s a huge pop star. They have a song on pop radio, a mainstream hit.
“They’re in the tabloids and have everything that could be going for you as far as going through the traditional route of being a popular band.
“The only thing we had on them was we had been around a little bit longer. We knew our online fan base is really supportive and really rabid. As it turns out, that made the difference.
“We activated fans in as many ways as we could think of. We tried to make it fun. We tried to keep it cutting-edge.
“One of my favorite things we did that week was a Twitter listening party where people around the world, regardless of time zone, all pressed play at one time. This wasn’t even something organized by the band. Talk about the real new model.
“The fans came up with this idea to do a listening party, and they chose the time and place. I said, ‘Two thousand of you are in on this. I’m going to get behind it and put Linkin Park social media machines behind it.’
“All of a sudden, it’s hundreds of thousands of people. We’re trending top two on Twitter worldwide for an hour.
“We just promoted [the listening party] for them. Everybody listened to it and were talking about it the whole time. I told them stories about how the songs got made.
“We listened to the whole album, and they wanted to listen to it a second time. It was really fun.
“I think it’s stuff like that that sets the Linkin Park online community apart from other bands. It’s not like you can just write it down as a formula. It’s got to be fluid. It’s got to be go with the flow and just know your fan base, be in touch with them and show them that you care and have a real relationship as opposed to some kind of marketing scheme.”
Jessi Virtusio blogs about music, movies and much more on Elaborating on Entertainment at blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment .
FYI ON FMBA
Find out what you need to know about First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park on FYI on FMBA at blogs.southtownstar.com/fmba.