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Linkin Park singer gets stuff off his chest, and now he's a big rap-metal star

Over the last five years, Linkin Park has climbed to the top of the rap-metal heap by channelling anger and an uncompromisingly bleak world view into two studio discs, ''Hybrid Theory'' and ''Meteora,'' that have sold more than 10 million copies combined.

But the man who articulates those sentiments, lead singer Chester Bennington, (bottom front in photo) is neither surly nor sour. In fact, during a telephone conversation, he's just the opposite — a sweet-voiced, funny guy from Phoenix, Ariz., who answers every question put to him without hesitation or resorting to a rehearsed response.

Bennington joined Linkin Park in 1999 (previously he played in a band called Grey Daze, which recorded two albums before breaking-up), cementing the Los Angeles-based act's lineup. At the time, the group was still playing small L.A. clubs.
Those days are only a memory. Last year, Linkin Park was one of the big draws on Metallica's Summer Sanitarium Tour that made a stop at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium in July.

On Tuesday, the sextet will return to Philadelphia for a date at one of the city's biggest indoor arenas, the Wachovia Spectrum, headlining a bill that includes P.O.D., Hoobastank and Story of the Year.

In an interview from a New York City hotel room, the 27-year-old Bennington reflected on a variety of topics, including how fame has affected his life and his band, the birth of his son in April 2002, the reason for releasing a live album, rap-metal's eclipse by emo and how Linkin Park might be remembered.

Q: You married your wife, Samantha, on Oct. 31, 1996, when you were 20. What has changed you more: the success of Linkin Park or the birth of your son, Draven Sebastian?
Chester Bennington: My son is way more important. Music was a hobby. It was something I did for fun and because I loved it. I'm lucky. I got married, got successful and then had a child. We waited seven years and felt we were really ready for a baby.

Q: As a new father, do you find yourself trying to present a more well-rounded picture of the world? Has it changed your lyrics?
Chester Bennington: No, being a father hasn't changed my lyrics. The world is still a scary place. I mean, we have been at war since I was born. … I write to get (stuff) off my chest. I'm not a role model, and I'm not out to save the world. There is no bright side. Success, to me, is a good marriage and kids. It's not what most people think. I think people perpetuate the wrong things for their kids. I just want Draven to grow up to be a tolerant person.

Q: You write all of Linkin Park's lyrics with MC Mike Shinoda. How do you negotiate content, and has there ever been anything you refused to sing?
Chester Bennington: We are from two totally different places. Some stuff we have to come together on, but on an emotional level, we both can understand sadness, anger and loneliness. Being on the road is lonely. It's hard to go from being a punk-rock kid to running a company. People don't realize a band is a company and (stuff) never goes the way you want it too. I refuse to sing love songs. Al Green is the only person who does it right.

Q: In general, rap-metal appears to be on the wane, while emo is on the rise. What has kept Linkin Park on top?
Chester Bennington: We blend pop in a not-so-cliche way. We don't sound like Crazytown, and not many bands sound like us. We also make our own samples. Mike and (turntablist) Joe (Hahn) are really good with beats. The problem with rap-rock is the people who play it either know one (style) or the other. They all sound the same. They're not doing anything new. As for emo, it will get old fast, too.

Q: Releasing, ''Live in Texas,'' a concert disc, after only two studio albums is unusual. How did that come about? And do you think it captures the energy of your live show?
Chester Bennington: Live albums are weird; something is always missing. That's why we released a DVD. Actually, the DVD came first. We had cameras at 15 different angles and an ambient microphone to really get the crowd's reaction. A live album never gets the full energy of the show, but if you watch the DVD and then replay the CD, you'll visualize the concert in your mind. I think it's really exciting.

Q: So, what do you think about stadium and arena tours?
Chester Bennington: It's exciting to play big stadiums. It creates a big wall of sound. But there isn't the connection with the fans. I guess it's a give and take. The perfect-size venue for me is Roseland (a New York City venue that can accommodate about 3,000 people).

Q: What bands have influenced you most?
Chester Bennington: Stone Temple Pilots are my biggest influence. I have never devoted so much time and energy to a band. And to go from a major fan to friends is way cool. Then I guess Zeppelin, The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode. I only saw Depeche Mode once, because I didn't have enough money to drive to L.A. to see them.

Q: What CDs have you bought recently?
Chester Bennington: I bought Bunnybrains' ''Holiday Massacre '98.'' They are this independent punk band from New York. I also bought a reggae mix covering old R&B songs. I also bought the first Candlebox album because I only had it on tape.

Q: What was the first big-ticket item you bought when you got famous?
Chester Bennington: I jumped from a Honda to a 2002 Sequoia. It was a big splurge. An SUV. I'm officially a member of the middle class.

Q: When all is said and done, what will Linkin Park's epitaph be?
Chester Bennington: It's weird to say now. After our career is over, I don't think we will be remembered like The Beatles. I think we'll be remembered as a band that consistently made good records. Linkin Park will be remembered as a band that temporarily changed things and worked harder than anyone else. - January 17, 2004



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