It seems as if most casual fans are still likely to associate
with the nu-metal sound that the band helped make popular in the early '00s. But that was then and this is now.
The groups' latest album, A Thousand Suns, finds the band making its most diverse music yet. For this record Linkin Park teamed up with producer Rick Rubin for the second time to create an album that features everything from tribal drums, samples of a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. and even an acoustic track on the albums closer "The Messenger."
Linkin Park is set to head out on the North American portion of their A Thousand Suns Tour starting January 20th in Sunrise, Florida and will be finishing up here in Phoenix on February 28th at the US Airways Arena.
Up on the Sun recently spoke with Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, who has Phoenix roots and has both a home and a tattoo shop here, on the phone to discuss the bands new musical direction, working with Rubin, and some of the differences of touring here in the US as compared to overseas.He also disses the movie he was in last year, Saw 3D.
Up on the Sun: You guys just finished up the European and Australian portion of the tour in December, how did that part of the tour go?
Chester Bennington: Europe was awesome, it's amazing. Every time we go back it just gets bigger and crazier, it's fucking awesome. Australia is a place we haven't been able to get to very often so we're still kind of being discovered by a lot of people out there. But the shows were really good. I think with the exception of the first couple of shows, where I personally didn't feel like I didn't do that great, the shows were amazing. It's always fun to get out and play a new record in front of people, especially with the way they work so well with the old stuff. And it was just a lot of fun to see people discovering us. It's pretty awesome.
UOTS: Is it strange for you to go from being such a huge band here in the States to being unknowns overseas?
CB: Yeah, I mean we played a couple of shows where we were playing in front of a thousand people and the next day we'd play in an arena with twelve or thirteen thousand people. So, it was kinda like a mixed bag but it was very cool. For a lot of people it was the first time they'd seen us play and its fun to run into people after the show and hear what they had to say. I think Australia is an amazing place and the people there are so nice I kinda didn't want to leave. I was like, "you know I think I'm just gonna stay here for a while." But then I had to leave.
UOTS: What are the biggest differences you find when touring overseas as compared to the US?
CB: I'm gonna try not to generalize America and Europe but I think that one of the things that is starting to pick up here, in the States, is the idea of the real music festival where you have lots of different kinds of music and lots of different things to experience. That's a very common thing in Europe. You're going to see blues acts play with pop acts play with rock acts and hip-hop and jazz all in the same couple of days. Here that kinda happened in the '60s but it kind of faded and it turned into a very genre driven kind of thing. I think that's one of the main things about playing in Europe that's different, especially the festival circuits, you could play with a lot of different kind of bands that you might not normally see play together.
UOTS: You guys will be finishing up your North American portion of the tour in Phoenix. Is there any special significance for you when you play Phoenix?
CB: In some ways it is and in some ways it's kind of a pain in the ass, the same way that playing in LA is a pain in the ass. I know a lot of people, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances and everybody wants to go to the show so I kinda just want to hide. There's something that's nice about playing in a city like Chicago for example where nobody knows me and I don't have to worry about it. When you have a guest list that's a thousand people deep in LA or Arizona it kind of becomes a job, [laughs] it becomes a second job that I have to do to wrangle all of the guests or say no to a lot of people.
But, it's really fun to play at home. I kind of get to say it's kind of like our hometown because I'm from there. I'm really excited to play US Airways Arena, because I don't think we've played there before. We've played outside pretty much every time we've played there so it'll be nice to kind of go inside and play a show that has a really great production, a good looking stage setup and isn't having a 115 degrees and then hail and rain flying at everybody.
UOTS: For the bands' latest album, A Thousand Suns, you guys experimented with some new sounds and kind of took the music in a different direction. Where did the idea to do something different come from?
CB: I think for us when we started working with Rick [Rubin] with Minutes to Midnight. We got to the point where we really comfortable stepping outside of the sound that we thought we needed to make, the kind of music we needed to make. There were glimmers of that in Hybrid Theory, Meteora where you could see that there was a diversity in style that we achieved but we still kind of felt like we might need to keep regurgitating that same thing over and over again and working with Rick really opened us up. We wanted to do something different, he wanted us to do something different and he was a great, strong captain of the ship. He kept us on our course. We just kind of carried that from Minutes to Midnight into this album, I think sonically a lot of the things we use to use as texture, like a lot of the electronic elements were really pushed to the forefront of this album. Which, in turn, made it easier for things to sound different and we kind of took on the philosophy that if it felt like we were supposed to do it or the instinct was 'put a loud guitar here' we then decided that's not what we were going to do we were going to go a different direction. It sounds easier than it really was but in hindsight those simple kinds of decisions were what made the record sound so different.
UOTS: How much influence did Rick Rubin have over the sound of the record?
CB: That really isn't the role that Rick plays with us. Really the sound, from my perspective, really came from the band and a lot of it came from Mike Shinoda. I believe that Mike is really the creative weapon in our band. He writes a lot of the music, he has a very clear idea, the band wouldn't be the band without Mike. So we need someone outside the band to kind of to bring a fresh perspective and tell us when something sounds too safe or predictable and that's where Rick really plays his role. We have a really great ability to take a song that's not that good and make it sound really good but it's still not that good of a song. I basically call it polishing a turd, we can polish a turd really, really well and Rick can come in and say, "I'm not feeling it, it sounds nice, produced well, it sounds good but I'm just not feeling it." That feeling that he's talking about is where his talent lies.
UOTS: You guys have already started working on the next album, correct?
CB: We have kept the creative ball rolling. We personally in the band didn't want to stop, turn the faucet off when we go to starting touring and then try to turn it back on when we get done. We wanted to keep that ball rolling while we were working on the road because the way we felt like we were working was really good. So we've been working music, there's a lot of new demos, I've got a lot of stuff I've been working on. So, yeah, there's definitely the making of the next album are happening now.
UOTS: Will the sound of the new record kind of flow with the last one or will the sound continue to evolve in new directions?
CB: I have no idea what the next record is going to sound like. I made the mistake of trying to explain Minutes to Midnight at one point, we were going through a phase of writing super, super heavy guitar driven music that was like fucking heavy and there was a lot of it. And I did an interview with Rolling Stone and they asked me what the record was going to sound like and I said Minutes to Midnight is going to be the heaviest Linkin Park record that we've ever made and when the record came out it was basically the opposite. So I learned my lesson at that point.
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UOTS: Any other projects the band is working on for 2011?
CB: We do have some projects lined up but unfortunately I am not at liberty to tell you what those are, yet. But I can tell you that there are some things that we've got in the works that are pretty awesome. So hopefully this year while we're touring and we're working on the new album there's going to be some more stuff for our fans that I think are going to be good.
UOTS: What about you personally? You were in Saw 3D last year, any plans to do more acting?
CB: I don't know, man, that was a pretty bad movie. It was fun. I don't actively go out and audition for movies. I've got a lot of stuff going on between the five kids I have at my house and my wife and Linkin Park I barely had enough time to squeeze out a Dead by Sunrise album. I think that I'm really stoked, I'm really happy where things are right now and I'm kind of enjoying the ride I'm on. So I'm just looking forward to making the next Linkin Park record, I'm looking forward to finishing this tour and getting back into the studio. All I want to do is sit in the studio and make new records, that's all I want to do. That's my goal. I want to get back into the studio as soon as possible and make some more music.