Interview by: metal-is.com [english version]
26 Jan 2001
The words 'meteoric rise to success' barely do justice to the way that Linkin Park have exploded onto the metal scene. Their debut album, 'Hybrid Theory' (the earlier name of the band), gave the lie to the music industry tradition that it's a bad idea to release a record in the months coming up to Christmas by selling by the truckload after becoming available last October and already achieving platinum status. Metal-is met the band the day after their triumphant London showcase gig, when, truth to tell, they were not at their perkiest. Guitarist Brad Delson and Joe Hahn (turntables) were engaged in interviews elsewhere, but a hectic week of promotion in Europe has obviously left its mark. Vocalist Chester Bennington (the joker), resplendent in a heavily spiked dog collar, sprawls horizontally across an armchair in their interview suite, babbling manically from a combination of high spirits and exhaustion. Meanwhile, his fellow frontman Mike Shinoda (the diplomat) is starting to draw a flow chart to explain how the band first got together, so he wouldn't have to recap the story yet again for the seemingly never-ending stream of journalists who kept changing every half-hour. In contrast to this noisier pair, drummer Rob Bordon (the quiet one) remains polite and smiley. Valerie Potter tried to introduce a note of sanity into the proceedings.
Metal-is: Have you been doing these showcase gigs all round Europe?
Chester: This is our last stop. We've only been out for a week, but we did Paris and Hamburg and last night.
Mike: It's been pretty gruelling. The day of Germany, we were up at four in the morning and didn't go to sleep 'til midnight. We did something all day.
C: Yeah, they paired us up and every half-hour, from the moment we arrived at the hotel 'til we actually performed, each pair did interviews.
M: We probably did 20 to 30 interviews
C: and at the venue after soundcheck, we did four photo shoots, one after another
M: It was like a photo shoot buffet!
C: and then they actually did schedule dinner, which was a new concept, so we got to eat that day!
Metal-is: With all the press attention you've been getting, are you starting to feel burnt yet?
M: Only today. (laughs)
C: We're not burnt on actually doing the press, we're just burnt physically, mainly specifically over here because of the time difference. Right now, in home, it's got eight o'clock in the morning, which is a time of the day which doesn't exist to me, and basically, we're awake every night and then almost every part of the day, every day. Our bodies are telling us this is afternoon and we can't sleep for eight hours right now, so we only get nap type of sleep, which isn't full deep sleep, so you wake up and you're (sits bolt upright) wired to go for like an hour and two, and then you're twice as tired as you were before.
Metal-is: At what point did you realise that Linkin Park were becoming very successful and you were about to be rich and famous?
C: Um - it hasn't happened yet. We don't really feel famous, because nobody recognises us - and we don't have any money. Probably when we can't go out into public and our bank accounts are full, we'll realise it.
M: You know what though? That's not entirely true, because of my stupid hair, so I'm halfway there. I got stopped during the holiday time at the mall when I was shopping for my parents and stuff. I went home and I thought that that was really cool for a bit and then I realised it's the type of thing that, if it happens on the wrong day, it could kind of get under your skin and I see why some people get all mad and whatever, but for real, you've got to suck it up. Those are important people, you know. For example, one kid came up to me who was one of our oldest fans and that day, he was wearing one of our old Hybrid Theory t-shirts from a year and a half ago. He was like, "I have a fan website and I was one of your contest winners", so he's like a huge fan and that's just awesome. I mean, how could you be over that? That's always exciting.
C: You know what's absolutely cool about that website competition? One of my good friends actually won free tickets for developing a website. We didn't judge it and I didn't know until he actually showed at the Celebrity Theater. I said, "Did you guys have to buy tickets? Why didn't you call?" and he said, "No, dude, I won free tickets for life for Phoenix (or whatever city he lives in) until you guys don't perform any more" and I'm like, "No way!" I don't even get on the Internet any more, I don't mess around with computers.
M: I'm the opposite. Rob and I are both really, really bad.
C: I'm sending him to Computers Anonymous!
M: We do want everyone to know that our home on the web is http://www.linkinpark.com/ and if you want to check out the fan websites, they'll be on there. We're going to be redoing our whole site, and that's going to be awesome. We're putting up new graphics and new things to entertain kids who go to the site
C: Yeah, we were thinking about adding these games called 'On The Rack', where you can rip people apart, and another one called 'Bash A Boy Band'. It's going to be really cool. It's totally original, it's never been done before!
Metal-is: Be careful - our lawyers are watching
M: Yeah, you're gonna be able to grab Brad by his bracelets and rip his arm off! You see, I only got one arm of bracelets, so you can only drag me in one direction, but you could pull him apart!
C: And my character, you can flip my necklace inside out and crank the necklace until my head pops!
M: Is it only boy bands and stuff on that thing?
Metal-is: At the moment, yeah, but if you e-mail us, we'll take your suggestions on board
C: Everybody thinks we're a boy band!
Metal-is: Yeah, where does this come from? I never mistook you for a boy band
C: We're sooo boy bandish, aren't we?
M: Here's the thing: we didn't really hear about that until we left the US. In the US, I think I heard a rumour through my brother that somebody started back East, but for the most part, nobody has even heard that before. Maybe it's the fact we've never been out here before and the lack of communication between fans and ourselves made that happen, but almost every interviewer has asked something about this boy band thing, and it's freaking ridiculous, it's so silly!
C: I think it's because of my strikingly good looks.
M: I think it's because of your strikingly bad looks.
Metal-is: OK, according to the boy band rumour, you were put together and manufactured by a management company. But you all met at school, didn't you?
M: Most of us met a long time ago. Brad and I met in junior high and we met Rob in high school, we met Joe in college
C: and they made me in college in a chemistry class. They copied Frankenstein's work and used pieces of dead people, which is why I have to wear this (touches his spiked collar), to hide the scar tissue.
M: except we were in art school. That was the whole problem. In art school, and there were no really good chemistry classes - so look what we came up with!
Metal-is: So where did it all go wrong? What made you decide to leave art school to form a band?
M: I actually didn't leave. Joe left before the band and did some stuff in film and I stayed in school. It's funny, because I almost wanted to leave, because things were going so fast for the band, and they were so hectic, as far as showcasing for labels and getting in touch with important people. I had to do my eighth term finals the same weekend we did a showcase for about six record labels. I didn't get any sleep for like two weeks just out of nervousness!
Metal-is: Like you said, things happened really fast for this band and are continuing to happen really fast. Do you ever think there is a danger that it's all happening for Linkin Park too quickly?
C: The only danger I think of having too much success too fast is the fear of it going to any of our heads, which fortunately isn't happening, because we pretty much aren't focusing on that, we're focusing on playing shows and making sure that we keep performing better and better. That's all we care about. We're not dwelling on the fact that we've sold this many records, because that doesn't really mean anything. We're just happy to be playing. Plus there's only room for one asshole in the band, and that's me!
Metal-is: Well, it's great to have a million-selling album - but then you have to follow it up
M: We're just starting the first one, so when we get there, we'll worry about that!
C: It's only been two months!
M: Besides that, we know that we're going to do a 150 hour jam session on the second album, so it won't be able to compete with the first one, because it will be so entirely different, you won't be able to compare it.
C: And we're actually going to change the name again to the Ambient Guitar Tapping Group. Brad won't actually be playing, he'll just be tapping the body of the guitar, so the pick-ups pick up the vibration of the strings and it'll be like "Mmmmmmmm…."
M: For 150 hours! And we'll release it in 150 hour long CDs. And you'll have to buy all of them to get the full piece.
Metal-is: You know, I don't think I should print this, in case Pearl Jam see it
C: Waaaaagh! (Narrowly misses taking metal-is' journalist's eye out with his spiked collar as he jumps up and hugs her!)
M: Oh, that's no dig on Pearl Jam!
C: Oh, you're my favourite person - and I didn't mean to turn you into a shish kebab!
Metal-is: I take it you haven't had time to write any new songs lately?
M: In all reality, we're just trying to concentrate on this one, but we've thrown out a couple of things. Right now, we're working on a song with the Dust Brothers and we're hoping that it goes on their album, but we'll see. When we write, we write by recording, we don't jam or anything, which means we have to record somewhere loudly. In the past, the place that we found was easiest to record in was my room. My walls are about three inches thick and my neighbours must have thought people were dying in my house! The whole neighbourhood could hear it!
C: And you'd hear someone go, "You fucking SUCK! Shut up!"
M: I think we were subliminally influenced for the bridge on 'One Step Closer' by my neighbours; "SHUT UP! I'M TRYING TO SLEEP!"
C: At ten o'clock every night, we'd hear (he bangs his fist against the wall) and that was our alarm, so we almost ended up naming the band 'Ten PM Stocker', 'cause we recorded on Stocker Street every night and at 10 PM, we had to stop.
Metal-is: You know, when I saw you live last night, I was kind of surprised by the hip-hop element in the band, because I'd previously thought of you as primarily a rock band. But when I got home and listened to the CD again, of course, it was there all along. Which is more important to you: rap or rock?
C: That's cool, that that's something that happened to you, because our idea right from the beginning has been to combine all these different styles to make them very fluid, so that you don't necessarily hear the 'hip-hop part' or the 'rock part' or the 'electronica part'. You should hear the record and go, "Oh, this is a good record", instead of going "Oh, this is a really good rap-rock hybrid type of whatever." If you come and see us live and that strikes you, then it means we've done a good job with that, and that makes me happy.
M: We fooled you! Ha ha ha! You know what I hope happens? That that happens to somebody who doesn't usually listen to hip-hop or rock or electronic. I hope that they can listen to our album and find some of those things in it that they like about those other forms of music, because it's nice to get other people in the club, to get people coming to the show that aren't familiar with some of the things that we're familiar with, and to introduce them to them.
C: There's been a lot of people, specially in the past, that are very jaded. Like if you were a guy in the crowd that pretty much listened to Slayer or Metallica and you showed up with thumping Jay-Zee in your car, you'd probably get some flak from your friends, you know what I mean? We're trying to be like the bridge between the gaps of all of these different things.