Interview with Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda
Evening Session Interview
To coincide with the release of their new single, 'Papercut', Chester and Mike from Linkin Park joined Steve on the Evening Session. They talked at length about writing songs and defended themselves against some vicious rumours. This is the full unedited version of the interview which was broadcast on the session.
Hear the full uncut interview or click on the listen icons below to start at that point
Chester can you remember your address yet, I read somewhere since you've moved house you've been on tour, and when someone asked you for your address you didn't know?
Chester Bennington: "I had to call home, it's really sad. I think in the last two apartments I had I've spent a total of 18-20 days in them."
Your life must have changed dramatically, or have you spent so long on the road you haven't noticed?
Chester Bennington: "We've spent so much time on the road it's hard not to notice the things that you miss about your regular daily life. I think the biggest thing that's changed is I've never done four continents in less than two weeks before."
Mike Shinoda: "And also our lives at home aren't that different, it's just we are not there as much. But when we go home we are normal again."
Do you think that is because the success has come so rapidly, do you think you've had to do a lot of your growing up in public? More so than your peers?
Mike Shinoda: "We've been together for five years and only a year of that has been with people watching. In our minds we've already established a goal, an idea of who we are and what we want to do - far before anyone took a look at what we were doing."
Chester Bennington: "As far as you are saying about this being our first album, a lot of the bands that we are compared to are on their third or fourth album and we are competing with them. It's very strange to be lumped into a group of bands who have been around for a while, and have a couple of albums under their belt."
Mike Shinoda: "And when Chester said competing, it's friendly competition... I think that's a cool thing about this genre, everyone is really supportive of each other, and more of a big family than I would have expected."
There's certainly a lot of differences between the groups. You are under this Nu Metal banner, do you think there are things which set you apart?
Mike Shinoda: "Korn, Limp Bizkit and Deftones, they compare those three a lot and I don't think there's a vast difference between one and the next. I'd say the things you can look at on our album, which we take pride in being different than the next band, would be our lyrics for one thing. Generally we keep things to universal topics, things that everybody feels or has experienced at one point or another. Then when we talk about them we try and sum them up. Chester and I when we start writing lyrics we sit down and have a discussion about the song, and what we are going to be talking about, which gives us some time to talk out our ideas before we start writing. Which is nice because it gives us a better idea of what it is in the first place, it's not sitting down and starting to write whatever comes to your mind, and you've got to work with that."
Chester Bennington: "It's funny because we'll sit down and go 'Mike how does the song make you feel?', and that's how we start every song, what emotion is the music evoking? - what kind of ideas is the music drawing out of you? Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes they are different. It's really interesting to let the music guide the lyrics because Mike and I's focus is primarily on the melody and lyrics usually come later."
Do you think it's the background you've come from - you've actually got someone who used to sneak into university to listen to lectures -from your lyrics you sound that you have been very reclusive at times?
Chester Bennington: "I think there is a certain element to that. Everybody has a certain tolerance level of the interaction with other people, so when you talk about how you feel about a lot of the things that comes into play. In a song like 'Crawling' we are talking about self-consciousness or the lack of self-confidence. That's a big part of that song because when you get into those situations with a lot of people looking at you, you find faults in yourself and you get nervous and want to change them. Things like that are really charged topics to be talking about, and when we started to write lyrics we found ourselves energised and interested in writing these songs and going after them with a lot of intensity. Sitting in front of a computer thinking about the crap you did before you go to bed, that you thought you could have done better - that will freak you out sometimes."
Mike Shinoda: "There's times with everyone, you could be sitting in a car looking out of a window and thinking to yourself about things that you've done or said, which could be positive or negative. But to sit down and be forced to remember those things, rather than in some random moment is really interesting as far as writing lyrics, but when you pull that out of yourself consciously it is more interesting to evaluate yourself. When people read the lyrics to our songs they connect themselves to that too, and it's really interesting to see how many people really feel those things on a regular basis, and just don't talk about it... [We are in] a climate of music where people will throw in a lot of obscenities, generally I think a lot of kids have already heard that, and there comes a point when you've heard that enough and what something else. And that's why we write the way we write, because we want to talk about it in a different way and hear something been done like that - and it wasn't been done."
When you first started writing what was the emotions you tried to touch upon? These days I think we are all trying to find bands that we trust, your lyrics seem to sense that you had to find people that you could trust to be with...
Mike Shinoda: "That is not something we thought about. It's more like everyday emotions you talk about and think about."
Chester Bennington: "And that definitely falls into that category. I think in our lyrics it does hint to that idea of who can I trust - can I trust myself even? I think that when you trust somebody you find security in that, and that also lies in with a lot of the lyrics that deal with insecurity, and self awareness. I think part of all this is a call to yourself, and I think that's who you have to find."
Mike Shinoda: "One thing that we've realised over the course of the last year is that it wasn't something we'd set out to do - to say 'hey everybody should believe in us, we are the band you are going to listen to to save your life'. We are just human beings like everybody else, we don't know the answers to these things. We don't know it anymore than the next person does, and we are all trying to figure it out, so why not figure it out together... I know a lot of our fans write songs and poetry, and paint pictures, and we are all looking for the same thing."
So you must be desperate to start working on new material. Have you been writing on the road?
Chester Bennington: "I'm ready to explode."
Mike Shinoda: "It's funny because we jam little things, and we really aren't a jam oriented band. We didn't write the album by going into the studio and playing until we had something. The way we write is directly into a computer, I'm really interested in computers I like the tech side of things. So, I run our little computer set-up, we have a Pro Tools rig which is basically like a computer recording hardware and software. Everyone will come in and sit with me and will record their stuff into the computer and we'll move it around until we are all happy. That's how we've recorded in the past, and we are going to be doing that to get started on the next album. The guys have already expressed interest in getting in there first and recording. They want to schedule out times and be in the studio and recording new ideas immediately. They've got all these things they want to put down on tape, so they can put them out of their mind, and know that they are saved, and try and start new ones."
Where do you see it going? The first LP is a mix of styles, what do you add in next?
Chester Bennington: "We have no idea because the idea behind our music is try and bring in different styles that we all grew up listening to and enjoy. Obviously some parts have more influence than others, and those will shine through our entire career, but it's difficult to say our next album is going to be the same. We always want to make music which sounds like Linkin Park, but I'm hoping for a totally different album."
So after this it's Ozzfest in the States, how long does that tie you up for?
Mike Shinoda: "About ten weeks, and we are not only doing that we are doing what everyone is calling 'Off-fest' with a few of the bands from Ozzfest - Slipknot, Papa Roach, Disturbed."
When do you think you'll get into a studio?
Mike Shinoda: "We are going to be working on things here and there. But our next album will not be ready for more than a year I'd say, because of the recording and mixing processes - we are pretty much perfectionists."
Chester Bennington: "We are going to put ourselves through six to eight months worth of pre-production after we write a lot of stuff. Then going in and having the producer rip our stuff apart and rebuild it. It's a long process but we hope that it will eliminate all the fatty tissue of the songs - all the pieces that you don't want."
Mike Shinoda: "It's funny because people have said - I don't know if you know the rumour that's been spread around about us and a few other bands - that these new bands are being manufactured by record companies. I mean that's inherently complimentary in the sense that they are saying the stuff is really polished and all that. But, then again it's negative because they are saying they don't write our own songs. I mean obviously we write our own songs, you can look in the CD cases and see all the publishing credits. That compliment is really interesting because we do spend a lot of time on our songs. I guarantee you on this next album we spend half a year writing the songs. That's a lot of time to working on a dozen songs, but we care about the songs that much. We want the lyrics to be perfect, every part of every little instrument to be perfect. Not to mention that fact that we've got dozens of samples and drum elements that we want to put in there. So, it gets to be crazy, but we definitely enjoy it and we want it to be the best thing that we make."
When are you coming back to do a proper tour over here?
Chester Bennington: "We'll be back in September... It should be really exciting and we are talking to some really cool bands to come out and have some fun with us."
BBC Radio (United Kingdom) - June 13, 2001