An interview with Linkin Park
Postulated by M.Blaq and A.Chan
Pop, Rock, and Hip Hop are what make up the Hybrid Theory of Linkin Park. They are the Cinderella story of the new year. With their emotional compositions, catchy hooks, and break-beat science, they've scored the winning-est combination this year in the Rock genre. The day before this year's MTV Video Music Awards, we got a pow-wow- together with lead singer/songwiter Chester, songwriter/MC/guitar-player Mike Shinoda, and DJ/Producer/Visual Conceptualist Joseph Hahn to see what's really goin' on. Add to that their multi-ethnic mixture of musicality and the end result is a ground-breaking FUTURE FRAMEWORK.
KRON: How do you feel about perfoming at this year's MTV VMA'a with the X-ecutioners?
CHESTER: It's pretty crazy just going and playing the Music Awards. It's kind of an honor for us because it's like our first time to be able to play in front of our peers.
MIKE: Another thing is how the X-ecutioners are like Legends. To me they're a group of guys that have definitely been doing some really groundbreaking artistry, and we're lucky to be able to mix two styles of music in this event that usually don't come together in this way. Crews like the X-ecutioners or X-Men normally haven't done stuff with bands like us so we're really happy that they were open to the idea. And we're happy we could get together.
MR. HAHN: Also, I think DJ's don't really get the props they deserve. Like, you never really see them in the limelight. So this was a good time for us to really reach out to them 'cause they're people that we respect and we think more people should know about who they are.
KRON: When you say bands like us, what does he mean by that? Define Linkin Park.
CHESTER: What I would assume from what he just said is a band like us has a lot more Rock in us, and they haven't ever really done anything with a band that does Rock. So I think that's what he means by a band like us. Not necessarily trying to say that we are a band that belongs to a certain type of genre. Because we like to mix our genres and we like to mix all the different styles of music that we like to listen to. We try to make it as congruent as we can, so it's like that's what's fun for us and that's what is different about what we do, and makes it more interesting than being in a band that sounds like everybody else.
MIKE: Before we go any further, I wanna thank you for doing this interview with us 'cause we've been trying to reach out to Hip Hop magazines. Because a lot of what we do is Hip Hop, even though initially you'll think of Rock. So I definitely wanna give you props because other Hip Hop magazines are not giving us any love. They're not really even giving the album a listen to see what those elements are. Now that we're on MTV it's like, "Oh, OK. On second thought..." In some cases it can be for the wrong reasons. We're not trying to sneak into Hip Hop magazines 'cause we got a video on MTV. That's kinda bullshit. I grew up on Hip Hop and I love Hip Hop, but I want to do stuff with Hip Hop groups because that's what I listen to. If an artist comes up and says, "I want to do something with you simply because this is the type of music I like. I like your stuff, and you like my stuff" To me, that's one of the best ways to work
KRON: You're an MC, right? Can you break those bars down on the song "Crawling"?
MIKE: It was partly coincidence and partly not that the first two singles had a little less Rapping in them. I mean, for people who just knew "One Step Closer", the chorus has some parts that are just kind of yelled or spoken in that realm. It was kind of a rhyme. But then in "Crawling" you've got, "Without a sense of confidence, I'm convinced that there's just too much pressure to take". That's a little bit more. But when we get to the third single which we're premiering on TRL in two days, both the verses in that are full blown rhyming. I drop the whole 16 bars and just laid it out there for 'em. I think the kids that listen to us are diverse enough to be glad that we put a better representation of ourselves out there for people to hear.
KRON: I heard you guys don't curse.
MR. HAHN: On the album.
KRON: So what do you guys think of Black Eyed Peas? 'Cause they don't curse on their albums.
CHESTER: Well it's harder to write lyrics without covering up your vocabulary with vulgarity. Usually when you say somethin' like "Fuck that" 'cause you're mad at something; well fuck that is two words describing the entire situation. So we try to talk about that situation and that's another way for us to challenge ourselves creatively, 'cause it makes us think harder and it makes us respect the lyrical subpg of our music. And it makes people respect what we're doing also. It has nothing to do with trying to make a moral stand or anything like that. We kind of unconsciously did it 'cause when we were writing we would talk about what "Fuck that" means. We'd go into it and it turned out that we enjoyed listening to our own record a little bit more because it challenged us and pushed us to try and do something a little bit different than most people would do. The Black Eyed Peas are like, amazing! I think that their writing might possibly be on the same wave. I don't know if it's true, but they might think the same thing. They're probably trying to expand themselves lyrically because as an MC you have to be able to have a vast vocabulary. That's the way you make rhymes that are different from everybody else.
MIKE: And there's a certain aspect of positivity that goes into that where I think the Peas have a style of stories they tell that are a little more positive. Like, we don't necessarily wanna be like kick your ass type of music. We don't wanna be talking about all that and just being hard or aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive. We wanna talk about these things that occur to us at different points while being as honest as we can about them.
KRON: MR. HAHN, what other instrument you play besides the two turntables?
MR. HAHN: I got two MPC 200 samplers. We have some loops running but I try to use my hands as much as possible. Sometimes there's a lotta things going on at once that can't run, but I try to go from the records as much as possible in back of the samples. There's a piano part that I'll program onto the sampler and actually play it. I try to do as much hands on as I can to really bring out the live sound.
MIKE: I think it's nice for kids to see it being played in many situations where you can hear the stuff going on and instead of a tape or DAT or whatever; there's a DJ playing it live. There's a slight difference between hearing that DAT and seeing Joe physically press the buttons or cut the record to make it happen.
MR. HAHN: There's less room for error when you're in control of what's actually happening.
KRON: Are you guys straight-edge?
MR. HAHN: We get asked by kids all the time, but we like to have fun and go out and drink once and awhile. But we don't wanna be assholes to people. That's definitely not an image we want to portray to people, 'cause that's not what we're about. We actually throw up a lot.
CHESTER: Yea, we've been puking a lot this week. A little too much to drink in New York for the VMAs. We've been having a little too much fun. But the reason why we don't curse is because we're here as professionals. This is what we do to make a living and this is how we pay our bills. So this is how we do that. And the only way to do that is to be able to put on good live performances and be able to handle yourself in interviews without making a fool out of yourself. Because there's nothing worse than a Jackass. Nobody likes to hang around a Jackass. And more often than not, the only time you have fun is if you're actually drinking with somebody else. There's nothing worse than being a sober guy, talking to a drunk person. It's like, "God, what an idiot", both ways! You have to be on the same level. So its like we use our bus and our dressing rooms as places to go relax and chill and get away from everything. Because if you wanna go party, you can go out to a club or to a bar, whatever you want. We can go have fun someplace else. We don't have to do it everyday of our lives on the bus. It can jeopardize the quality of what we're doing. We use a lot of energy in the live performance. And it's very difficult to do that when you're trying to nurse a hangover and been vomiting all day.
KRON: So how was it going from touring with Ozzfest to performing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the space of one year?
MR. HAHN: Awesome. Definitely a different crowd. At Ozzfest we were exposed to a lot of like, Midwest Americans that are into Metal music. Which is cool because part of what we do is very aggressive in that way. But it was kind of refreshing to go back and be with a different crowd of kids that are a little more mellow.
MIKE: Another thing about Ozzfest is that some people don't know that we're not a Metal Band. And to be on that Tour was a different experience for us 'cause I've never been on a Metal Tour before. I wasn't that prepared for what we were gonna do. And we get on this Tour with all these really heavy acts. And there's things all the way over to ourselves and maybe Crazy Town and Papa Roach who have some influences in the Hip Hop genre. So we were bringing that to the show, kinda exposing these Metal kids to that. Then at the same time, the kids who came to see us were being exposed to Marilyn Manson and those types of things. So all around it was just people checking out some new music. And that's important to us because I want kids that listen to us to learn about these different things that are out there anyway.
MR. HAHN: I think it was a great challenge to be on Ozzfest because it exposed us to a different audience. And we weren't used to it. The first week, we didn't know what to do because we'd never played for these people before. So it was a learning experience because we learned how to work that crowd and have them embrace us. By the end of the Tour we were having a lot of fun. I think it's great to be on these different types of tours. The next tour we're doin', we're out with Dilated Peoples and X-ecutioners. That shows you right there the range we're trying to reach.
KRON: What's different now that you're larger than Madonna on your label, than a year ago?
CHESTER: When everybody was turning us down and telling us that kids wouldn't get it? It's like this; It's different when you're playing shows. We used to do shows here for free and tours for like a hundred bucks a night.
MR. HAHN: Splitting it between six guys, rolling in an RV.
CHESTER: We were all really hurtin' for cash and building up a lot of debts and things like that.
MIKE: Really starting to hate those Cup-O-Noodles!
CHESTER: Eating styro-foam food like Cup-O-Noodles and Ramen and things like that. And smelling each other's shit. Or smelling my own shit!
MR. HAHN: We've definitely come a long way in a short period of time. It's like, every week something new comes up. I can remember when Mike and I met at the Pasadena Art Center. We used to always talk about Hip Hop music and fight. 'Cause Mike is more into East Coast stuff like Wu Tang and Mobb Deep and I was more into Latyrix and Freestyle Fellowship and all that. So we'd tell each other that shit was wack. We all like the same stuff now.
KRON: When you put the music together where you're singing, is the goal to get emotion out?
CHESTER: One of the things that makes it easier for Mike and I to write together is just talking about things like emotions. That's universal, you know what I mean? Because you can have the same feeling but over different things, if you can talk about that feeling and the similarities between those situations that make you feel that way. So for us we use emotions to make up stories and stuff, and talk about them. At least ones that we've had and we can relate to.
MIKE: They're based in real life and based on stories and things that we've gone through, but then we take it and put it on a level that's common to both of us. It's not just like some story that happened to me. It's something that both of us can relate to because we both have to sing about it; we both have to talk about it.
CHESTER: When you listen to music, what draws you to it the first time isn't necessarily the words because a lot of times it's hard to really make out the words the first time. More often than not, it's the melody that catches your ear. What happens is you get caught into a rhythm and get the beat, and then the melody is usually what's goin' thru your head. So melody is very important in song writing. So when we write, our goal is for the song and strictly for the song. And the melody is the lifeblood of the song. That's important in guitars, bass lines, all that stuff. And if it's good and there's a hook and people seem to like it, then that's when they start listening over and over again. And that's when they start relating to the lyrics. That's why it's important from that end to be able to have something they can relate to. If they have something they can enjoy listening to, they can get into the emotion of it before they even know the words of it. Then they actually can put the words to the melody. That's what's so fun about music. That's why people enjoy goin' out and buying records and listening to different things.
KRON: As an MC, what's the chemistry with a Hip Hop DJ in a Rock band?
MIKE: We've always tried to mix it together as seamlessly as we can so that you can't tell one part from the other. To the best of our ability we want to blend it together so you can't tell what part we're in. When we first started out we were listening to a lot of bands that were doing similar things. There have always been bands and groups that have mixed genres, but the way they were doing it was separating the Rock parts from the Hip Hop parts. We wanted to come up with one sound that encompassed all those things. So we did that to the best of our ability and this is what we play. So when it comes to the elements that come from me, what you're listening to there is just what comes naturally. I used to listen to some East Coast Hip Hop, a lot of Funk, I write some of the guitar, I write some of this and that. In the parts that I write sometimes you can hear the things that I've listened to and still listen to.
KRON: So does it bother you when you get compared only to other Rock groups?
MR. HAHN: It doesn't bother me because especially in Journalism and for people in general, they need some kind of reference point. And for them to get introduced to us through that, I'm perfectly fine with that. I think the challenge is to really stand above the rest. I think so far we're doing a good job of it. In our minds we're doing something totally different from all the other bands that we're compared to. And it's something that we're definitely gonna develop as a career. I think we have a good chemistry in the band with all six of us to take that and develop a career out of it and be here for years to come. But for right now we have a DVD coming out. Then we have a remix album project where we're gonna remix the entire album. We're looking at people like Kutmasta Kurt, J-Gordon, Crystal Method, Z-Trip. Mike and I are doing stuff...
CHESTER: My little brother's doin' one.
KRON: Shout him out right now.
CHESTER: I'm just kidding.