Linkin Park follows up best-seller
NEW YORK (AP) — Before Linkin Park was Linkin Park — when they were looking for a demo deal and scraping up money to buy a slice of pizza — guitarist Brad Delson asked each member to write down his ultimate goal for the band.
Sitting in a cramped, musty rehearsal space in Los Angeles, lead singer Chester Bennington wrote that he wanted a gold album. Delson wanted to sell out a show in his back yard, and vocalist-songwriter Mike Shinoda wanted to win a Grammy.
Drummer Rob Bourdon just wanted a record deal.
“At that point, it seemed like it was a possibility, (but) it seemed like it was a long way away,” Bourdon says. “We were showcasing for labels at that time and getting rejected by every label.”
The rap-rock band’s debut album, “Hybrid Theory,” released on the Warner Bros. label, was 2001’s top-selling disc, with 4.8 million copies sold. Their performances attract thousands of fans, and last year, they won their first Grammy — best hard rock vocal — for their hit “Crawling.”
“I think everybody’s achieved their goal so far,” says Bennington, sitting in an upscale hotel suite with his bandmates. “It’s been a pretty amazing ride.”
Though their lyrics have dealt with themes of betrayal, frustration and fury, you won’t find the stereotype of angry, sullen rockers when talking to Linkin Park, whose lineup also includes DJ Joseph Hahn and the group’s bassist who goes by the name Phoenix. (Phoenix didn’t make the group’s recent round of interviews.)
The bandmates, who range in age from 24 to 27, are humorous, polite and eager to talk — except Hahn, who spent most of his time checking his PDA-cell phone.
“They’ve always been these very smart, even-keeled people who just focus on what they love,” says Rob McDermott, who has managed the band for three of the seven years they’ve been together. “They’re very much regular guys. They are the kids that they make their music for.”
Their sophomore disc, “Meteora,” was released March 25. Like “Hybrid Theory,” the new album is succinct, clocking in at a little more than 30 minutes, compared with more than an hour for most other artists’ discs.
“Meteora” also contains plenty of hand-banging guitar licks and drumbeats, sneering vocals from Bennington and frenzied rhymes from Shinoda that are filled with angst, a term Shinoda dislikes because “it seems to trivialize what we’re talking about.”
Shinoda says the album’s lyrics reflect the band’s maturity.
“The first album has feelings of confusion and anger and paranoia. … There were really aggressive elements and really introverted elements,” he said. “We were writing about those from the perspective of young 20-year-old guys and stuff … and now, they’re still scary, but we have a little bit more experience with them.”
In several of the songs, “especially in the first single, you’ll hear like a hint of optimism or hopefulness, which is kind of new ground for us,” he said.
The band also cautions that their new disc is not a retread of their first.
“I remember listening to ‘Hybrid Theory’ around the time when we were going to start writing this record and going, ‘Dude, how did we do that?’ because there’s so much intricacy and detail, I had forgotten how we accomplished it,” Delson said.
The band worked for 18 months, exploring new areas musically, adding live strings and piano on one tune, revving up the beats per minute on others and experimenting with different styles.
“Everybody took what they were doing really seriously. We really kind of tried to push ourselves to do the best that we could do,” said Bennington.
Tom Calderone, executive vice president of music and talent programming at MTV and MTV2, says part of their appeal is that Linkin Park isn’t geared toward one member, though Bennington and Shinoda are the lead vocalists.
“You have six members in there with all different personalities, all different styles,” says Calderone. “It’s not just the lead singer, it’s not just the guitar player. … I think that’s a very cool process and our audience really gets into that.”
The members of Linkin Park don’t pepper their songs with curses — and they make it a point to avoid alcohol and drugs. (Bennington has talked about beating drugs in his past.)
Still, it rankles when they’re described as “the band that doesn’t curse,” or when their relatively clean-living ways are played up by the media.
“It’s easy to say something just for the sake of saying something for shock value,” says Bennington with a shrug. “I find it much more challenging and much more honest when you search for the real definitions of your feelings.”
“The reason we don’t do that stuff is because we’re representing ourselves and not rock stardom,” said Hahn, who directs the band’s videos. He adds: “I think we’re far from being good guys.”
The band members say they’re not enamored with the rock star life. Bennington, who’s married and has an infant son, says that’s evident in the goals they originally set for themselves.
“The great thing is that none of (our goals) were celebrity-driven or like, the typical kind of cliche … fast cars, a big house, a helicopter and (stuff) like that,” he says with a laugh. “What we wanted to do was to make music that was gonna be good enough that we could do this for the rest of our lives.”