Since the release of their GRAMMY-nominated debut album, 2000's Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park have pulled off quite the musical feat: earning six GRAMMY nominations and two wins, and releasing eight albums to chart in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200. All the while, the band — currently comprising Chester Bennington (vocals), Rob Bourdon (drums), Brad Delson (guitar), Dave "Phoenix" Farrell (bass), Joseph Hahn (DJ/programmer), and Mike Shinoda (vocals/keyboards/guitar) — have continued to boldly explore new musical territories and production styles while maintaining a sound and sensibility that are, unmistakably, Linkin Park.
That blend of heady exploration and distinctive songwriting is particularly well-showcased on Linkin Park's latest full-length release, The Hunting Party. Set for release June 17, The Hunting Party features 12 tracks co-written by the band, including the debut single "Guilty All The Same," which stayed at No. 1 on the Active Rock chart for three weeks. Co-produced by Shinoda and Delson along with GRAMMY winner Rob Cavallo, the album's guest artists include rapper Rakim, Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello, Helmet's Page Hamilton, and System Of A Down's Daron Malakian.
Linkin Park recently performed Hybrid Theory in its entirety for the first time at England's Download Festival on June 14. They will launch a U.S. tour on Aug. 8 in West Palm Beach, Fla., with supporting acts Thirty Seconds To Mars and A.F.I. Ahead of their new album release, Shinoda participated in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview and discussed the band's recording process, winning his first GRAMMY, staying together as a band, and the genesis of The Hunting Party.
Linkin Park are known for having a powerful sound, but a lot of times it's your melodies that really grab the listener. How important is it to come up with vocal lines and melodies that communicate a song's message?
Our songs have taken many different shapes over our career. I've stretched myself to see how many different styles and genres I can write in. But underneath it all, the melody and lyrics are key. I like to be able to play the song on a piano or guitar to make sure it's a good song, production and style aside. On this album, there are some six-minute hardcore/punk/thrash tracks, with moments of electronic experimentation and ear candy ... but even if you strip it all away, there's always a song under there.
Would it be accurate to say that Linkin Park are the type of band who use the recording studio as part of their writing process?
Yes. For us, the writing and the recording process are one. When we worked with Rick Rubin, he always told us that nobody he knows works the way we do. Sometimes we write into the computer and tear things apart and rebuild them, like Lego bricks. But on this album, we mixed in a slightly more traditional approach. I really challenged everyone to write the kind of music that would inspire [the band's] inner teenager to become a musician in the first place. They dug deep and wrote some of the most technically challenging material of our career.
What was winning your first GRAMMY like?
Weird. The category was announced at the Pre-Telecast, before we even got to the red carpet outside. So we didn't know we had won, and in the first interview we did, they asked, "How does it feel to win your first GRAMMY?" We said, "What? There must be some mistake ...."
Does it ever feel strange to you that the band's been around long enough to grow from nu metal upstarts to rock and roll veterans?
I'm still learning about and meeting so many bands that grew up on our music. Just yesterday, I met the guys from Bring Me The Horizon. Their singer's first concert ever was Linkin Park. He was like 13 years old, and he made his parents drop him off around the corner so nobody saw them; now he's in a hugely popular band. That story made a connection for me — after all, that was an important part of The Hunting Party's genesis: the moment we, as young people, heard something that made us realize we wanted to learn to play music.
You've had the rare opportunity to play with the same core lineup for almost 20 years. What's it like to be in a band with guys you know that well?
With each album, we try to learn new things in writing, recording, or simply as people. On The Hunting Party, we reached out to collaborate with a number of artists: Page Hamilton, Daron from System Of A Down, [and] Tom [Morello] from Rage Against The Machine. Hearing about their band dynamics and knowing, in general, how group dynamics affect the ability of a band to function makes me really appreciate the special thing going on in Linkin Park. I imagine it would be much easier to be a solo artist — you don't have to worry about bandmates' opinions and feeling. But conversely... if you can work through the difficult times that every band faces, and come together as a band, I believe it makes it even more special.
(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis and Elvis: My Best Man.)