A chat with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park

Linkin Park, the youngest, most successful nu-metal band in the world will conquer Manila in a one-night only concert on June 15 at the CCP Open Grounds, as part of the band’s Meteora World Tour. This once-in-a-lifetime rock event is presented by Smart Buddy, No Curfew and Jag Jeans.

From rapping to the beats of Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim, Grandmaster Flash, and LL Cool J, Mike Shinoda began writing his own lyrics to perform in front of his friends at school. He formed the band Xero in 1996 which was later known as superband Linkin Park. Know more about 27-year-old Linkin Park heartthrob MC Mike Shinoda in this chat.

How did you guys get together?

The band started as friends, and when things got really serious, we decided we wanted to add someone like Chester. We sent him a tape of instrumentals to record to, and he kicked ass.

The group has gone from the name Xero to Hybrid Theory and now Linkin Park since its inception. What was the motivation behind these changes and did you have a tough time keeping a local following while going through them?

We changed from Hybrid Theory to Linkin Park because of some simple legal issues. We didn’t want to get into a big battle over it, so we changed the name. Our Lincoln Park is in Santa Monica, California. But when we started national touring, everyone thought we were a local band wherever we went, because there are so many Lincoln Parks everywhere. It was basically our band joke: we were local everywhere we went.

It was said that you guys were originally from Calabasas, California and not Los Angeles as most people think. Any truth to this?

Most people don’t know where Calabasas is, so we say L.A. Our drummer Rob is from Calabasas, though. We grew up all over the place. Joe is from Glendale, Brad and I from Agoura, Phoenix from Mission Viejo, Chester from Phoenix. But now we live all around the L.A. area.

The band recently enlisted former bassist Phoenix back into the group after having not played with him since your Xero days. How is the chemistry with him, and who handled the bass duties during the tracking of your latest album?

We wanted someone in the bus to beat up on. Since we hate Phoenix so passionately, he was the only logical choice. As for playing on the album, Brad played majority of the bass tracks.

As a group, you’ve maintained a fairly clean cut and positive vibe around you despite touring with bands such as the Kottonmouth Kings and (hed) p.e. who are known to get into a bit of trouble now and then. Would you say you guys are all relatively laidback?

We aren’t trying to be big bad rock stars or anything. But I wouldn’t say those bands are either, necessarily. We have fun at our own pace.

You handle the more rap-oriented side of things vocally. Who would you list as influences and idols as far as emceeing goes?

I really like listening to The Roots, Jurassic 5, Pharoahe Monch, and lots of others. I don’t think we really have space for me to list all my favorite emcees off.

The band is considered one of the new generation of groups who were almost born on the Internet. How instrumental would you say the Net has been in the exposure of the band and the evolution of your career?

Our street teams and fanbase were born and raised on the Internet. It has been a very important part of our evolution.

The band has been quite generous as far as mp3’s go. What’s your take on the whole situation, negative or positive?

We think those things have been very helpful for us, as a new band.

There’s a bit of graphical work on the official website. Was it past day job for your or more of a hobby?

I went to school for illustration. I’ve worked in graphics for a while. It’s fun for me to be able to be involved in these things.

There’s progress in your music in the form of experimentation, without steering too far from the original sound to Linkin Park. Do you write what you want to hear and play, or do you consider what your fans want to hear?

It’s a little bit of both. I think it would be unfair to completely take the fans’ needs out of the picture, so it’s partly for our fans and partly for ourselves, because if you’re not happy, then you don’t have much. You can’t make everyone else happy, so at least we should be happy first. I think that naturally, we just have kind of a sound. When the six of us get together and make music, some things just naturally come out.

We wanted to experiment and step outside of the box; so we brought in and used some live strings, piano. We used a traditional Japanese flute, called shakuhachi. We played with time signatures. There’s a song in 6/8 – we’ve never done a song in 6/8 before, different tempos. Obviously, songs like Breaking the Habit and Faint are faster than any we’ve ever written and Easier to Run is much slower.

Both you and Chester write the lyrics. Do you work together or does each write his own part?

We write together. Generally, when we write lyrics, we both have different life experiences. We’ve come from different places. So when we’re writing about something or writing a song, each of us will be thinking about something different when we write it. But we always have a conversation about what we’re going to write about before we get too far into it. We do that because it’s nice to have the song be about one consistent idea. But it’s not just his idea. It’s not just my idea. It’s something that’s in the middle. That makes it more of a universal than a specific theme.

Would you ever exchange roles with Chester, just for the fun of it?

We’ve joked about it. I don’t think I could compete with him, his talent in singing, in the same way that he wouldn’t want to compete with my rapping talent. It’s just that we have a natural inclination towards (what we each do).

What would you be doing if you weren’t in Linkin Park?

If I couldn’t play music for a living, I would probably be doing art, doing graphics. And what’s funny is that when I go home now and relax, I paint. So if I were painting for a living, I’d go home and make music for fun. My parents must have thought I was crazy when I was younger, because they’re thinking, "How in the world is this kid ever going to make a living? The only two things he likes to do are paint and make music. And the chances of him being able to do either are slim."

Do you fear with such a rapid rise to fame that it will wear off just as quickly or even the possibility of being branded as an MTV band?

We’re in this to have a career. I love watching MTV, but I don’t live and die by it.

With the way things are going, the possibilities seem endless for you. What should we expect from the band in coming months?

You shall see soon, my friend.

Well that about wraps it up. Any shoutouts or shameless self promotion?

I just want to encourage everyone to come out and watch our show in Manila on June 15 at the CCP Open Grounds. Our other shows are listed on www.linkinpark.com, so check this one out, and come say "hi". We always stick around to hang out with the fans afterwards.












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