Linkin Park will NOT sign your breasts
Less than a year after the release of their major-label debut album, Linkin Park have become one of the biggest bands in modern rock. Currently occupying the number-eight slot on the Billboard 200, Linkin Park's 'Hybrid Theory' has earned the group a place on some of the industry's biggest tours, including the 'Countdown to Evolution' tour and 'Ozz-Fest 2001'. Those tours aside, the group currently finds themselves embarking across the nation with the likes of Static-X, Staind, and Stone Temple Pilots. These groups, along with a few others, make up this year's Family Values tour. It is on this tour that we meet up with Rob Bourdon; drummer of the band. Less than three hours before Linkin Park is slated to hit the stage, he joins me in a discussion about the mark they've left on modern rock, as well as the marks they haven't left on bare chests.
You're just over a week into the Family Values 2001 tour; what's it been like?
Rob Bourdon: It's been a great tour so far. Compared to other tours, it's been a really comfortable tour, I think. Everybody on the tour is really cool. There's been a great vibe on the tour. The shows have been great. The ticket sales are a little bit down, due to everything that's been happening. I think people are a little afraid to get out and about, but the tour's still doing really good, though. Most of the venues are anywhere from 80 to 100 percent full. We've had great shows and great response, and it's awesome to play with Staind. We've played some radio shows with Staind before, but it's great to be on tour with them for the first time. And then, STP is one of our favorite bands; especially Chester's. He has idolized Scot Weiland for… forever, basically. So, it's awesome to be sharing the same stage with those guys.
A better experience than this summer's Ozz-Fest?
Rob Bourdon: The Ozz-Fest was a really hard-rock-oriented tour. There were many Ozzy fans there, obviously, that really weren't interested in our style of music. There were a lot of our fans there, but they were so far back on the lawn, whereas the hard-core Ozzy fans were front-and-center. So, we were playing to these guys that had been up drinking since 10 in the morning, and they just, you know, didn't want to hear it. But, it was a challenge for us, and we took that challenge, and I think we did a good job. We figured some stuff out that we could do to get those people involved in our music, and tried to open their minds. After awhile, we kind of got into the trenches of old-school rock-and-roll; Chester would scream out some of your typical rock clichйs, and people took him seriously, and it got a lot of people's attention. It was a good tour. It was a good experience, and I think we reached out to another genre of music fans that might not have known our band otherwise. We learned some stuff on that tour, so it was a good thing for us.
When you guys began touring, around August of last year, "One Step Closer" hadn't even made its way onto the radio or TV. How has road life evolved over the course of the last 3 million albums?
Rob Bourdon: Yeah man, we started July 18th of last year. We went out… there were six of us and one tour manager slash driver slash…everything else that took care of… pretty much as much as she could. We pretty much drove ourselves. We were in an RV that kept breaking down, and we were on tour with the Union Underground; opening up for them. One of their songs was just starting to break on the radio. We didn't have any songs on the radio at that time, so it was hard. We were loading all of our own gear. We had those big road cases, so we'd show up to our gig, unload all of our cases, and unload all of the gear. I would set up my drums. We'd have 'em, like off to the side of the stage. We'd load all of our gear onto stage, usually after doors were open [to the public]. And then, load everything off after the show, pack our gear up, and load it out. You know, there'd be a big line of us walking down the sidewalk with all of our road cases. We'd load 'em into the trailer, and drive off to the next city. And now, it's like just over a year later, we have a 14-person crew, 3 buses, a studio on one bus, and it's much easier to be out here, definitely. We'd be beat up pretty bad if we were still in an RV. We'd still be doing it, if that were the case, though; no matter what. So, we're just lucky to have had such success, and to have those albums sell. We're fortunate enough to be able to sleep in a bus now, instead of an RV.
Now that your career has taken off, you're forced to make that all-too-important decision; where do you stand on the breast-signing-issue?
Rob Bourdon: (Laughs) I'm not a breast signer.
I gather that's more-or-less the general consensus of the band?
Rob Bourdon: Yeah. You know, you don't know how old these girls are. They're pulling their shirts off, and you start signing their breasts. If one sees you signing, then the girl next to her wants hers signed, and she might be 15-16 years old; and that's just not right, you know? So, yeah, we don't want to be signing breasts. It's not our thing.
A few minutes ago, you mentioned that you've got a studio on one of your buses. During Ozz-Fest, you really didn't stray too far from that bus. Have you been putting pieces together for a new album?
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, one of the buses we had out, we had a studio put in there. We actually have a bigger studio now on one of our buses, which has a drum setup; an electronic drum setup. We've got turntables, and Joe has his computer rig, too. On Ozz-Fest, you know, basically we love to write music. That was something we weren't able to do for a while on the road. Brad could always play guitar and use a little recorder to keep track of some ideas, but we always like to write music. All of us are very musical, and we always enjoy doing that, so just putting that studio on there has been great. We did spend a lot of time in there throwing ideas down. We're not really putting a lot of effort, or concentrating on our next album at this point, though. We're just kind of putting some ideas down, and when we stop touring at the end of February, we're gonna' take those ideas and go through 'em. We'll see what we want to use and keep working on it, and we'll continue to write the album from there. Hopefully, we should have a lot of good ideas down on tape by the time we finish touring.
You spent the better part of last month headlining in Europe. How stressful is it to be the headliner?
Rob Bourdon: Well, it's much better being the headliner. It's almost as if there's less stress because, basically, it's your show. You're running the show. If something goes wrong onstage, it's like you have first priority to that stage and all of the equipment. If something goes wrong, you have the time to fix it. If you're opening up, and you have 20 minutes to do your sound-check, and if something goes wrong with your equipment, it's like, 'Alright, your 20 minutes is up'. You better figure it out before the show, or figure it out at the show. So, there's more going on, as far as our crew's concerned, and we have a lot more people out when we're doing a headlining run. As far as touring goes, it's a lot more exciting doing a headlining run. Especially because there are more people there that came to see you.
You, Brad [Delson, guitarist], and Mike [Shinoda, co-vocalist] attended high school together, right?
Rob Bourdon: Actually, I was at a different h igh-school than Brad and Mike were, but the high-schools were only about 10 miles away from each other, and we had mutual friends. I had been in a band with Brad before. Brad knew Mike at that time, so after our band broke up, Mike and Brad started working on some of the stuff that we do today, and I started playing drums with them.
How, and when, did Joe [Hahn, DJ], Phoenix [bassist], and Chester [Bennington, co-vocalist] get thrown in the mix?
Rob Bourdon: Joe came in like right when we started rehearsing as a band. Joe and Mike went to the Art Center together in Pasadena. Phoenix went to UCLA with Brad; they were actually roommates in college. So, that's how all of us got together. Chester joined about 2-and-a-half years ago. He was the last addition to the band. We met him, basically, through mutual friends. He lived in Arizona at the time, but somebody knew that he was looking to get in a band, and we were looking for a singer. So, it just worked out.
How on earth did you get booked at the Whisky; one of the most famous clubs in L.A., if not the nation?
Rob Bourdon: Basically, with clubs of that magnitude, you pay to play. If you can sell enough tickets, you can play. But, actually, we made a little bit of money, because we could sell a lot of tickets. At that time, all of us were either in school, or just out of school. I was in between high school and college. So, we had a lot of friends at school, and all of us would each try to sell 50 to 75 tickets. We would just go crazy, and try to sell them to everyone; family members, it didn't matter. We had to sell them to everyone just to play there. Actually, after our first show at the Whisky, we got offered a publishing deal. There was somebody from across the street that had come down to check us out, and we got offered a publishing deal, and ended up signing that about a year later.
And that got the ball rolling as far as hooking up with Warner Bros?
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, that got stuff rolling. We took the money we got from that, and bought new equipment; basically reinvested all of our money in order to have better stuff to record on, and have better equipment to play. Then, we started shopping around for record deals at a certain point; about a year or so after that.
Soon thereafter, once you began putting your album together, a lot of people were writing you guys off as just another rap-metal band, and nothing more. What sets you guys apart from the rest of the bands in that genre, and why do you think you've had such success?
Rob Bourdon: Well, definitely, when we were trying to get signed, labels wouldn't sign us. We were, like, begging for a record deal, because people thought that we were just a part of that…just another rap-rock band that was trying to come out when rap-rock was hot. But, you know, as a band we've been doing this style of music for over 5 years now; before it was big. If you listen to our music 5 years ago, you can really hear the rap verse and the rock chorus. You can hear the separation, with a little electronic breakdown bridge. What we've done now, and where we're at today… we've kind of fused all of those together in a seamless way where you don't really hear the separation. I mean, there are still parts where there are more hip-hop parts, and others that are rock. But, really what we've done, is blended it together so you can't really feel those seams or changes. It kind of all blends together into one style of music that's actually, we think, almost a new style of music; blending all of that stuff together. And basically, we really focus on writing good songs; good song structure. Writing stuff that, you know, when you listen to a song, there's never a part in the song where you're going to be bored. We're never gonna' lose the listener's attention. We write the songs; we put a lot of thought into writing songs so that it moves. It's an experience listening to a song, and then we put our album together the same way. We didn't want to have any songs on there that we felt weren't as strong as other songs. We wanted people to be able to sit down for 37 minutes, and go through the whole thing, and have the whole experience by listening to it.
Don Gilmore has produced albums for Eve-6, Sugar Ray, and one of my favorite bands, Pearl Jam. How much input did he have when he helped you guys out with Hybrid Theory?
Rob Bourdon: Well, that was a cool experience all around. We met with a lot of producers before we did the album. We were doing a lot of pre-production on our own, and we were always re-writing songs. The one thing that stuck out about Don is he was really into song writing; the structure of songs, and being a good songwriter. We weren't necessarily looking for someone that was more of a sound-based producer that was going to go for getting really cool sounds; even though we did come out with some great stuff. We kind of felt like we had that stuff nailed. We really wanted someone to take our song-writing ability, and cut the fat off in all areas, and really help us to write the best songs we could. He basically was like a coach that pushed us, you know? He'd say, 'That kind of sounds a little weird. You can do better than that. Let's see what you can do'. Just being in the studio, and the whole issue of being under pressure, and having a timeline to finish by. I think we worked good under pressure.
As hard as your music is, and as moving as some of the lyrics are, not a single cuss word flies out of Mike or Chester's mouth throughout Hybrid Theory. Was that intentional? Was it something you were going for from the beginning?
Rob Bourdon: It wasn't thought out before we started writing the record that we were going to do a record with no curse words. When they were working on the lyrics, it kind of just came out like that. They were trying to really express how they were feeling, and a curse word thrown in there would've almost been like a cop-out. It's much more difficult, I think, to find words to explain how you're really feeling, instead of just throwing some cuss words in an angry part of a song. Trying to find those words that express that frustration is much more expressive and difficult.
Crazewire.com - March 2003