Linkin Park Ever evolving, ever changing

- Nathalie Tomada -

MANILA, Philippines - If Linkin Park sounds nothing like the rock/rap-metal band of a decade ago in its latest record A Thousand Suns, the departure from the earlier sounds that earmarked the band to fans worldwide has been intentional.

In an exclusive phone interview with Brad Delson, one of Linkin Park’s founding members, he expressed his gratefulness at the support generated for the group’s new direction.

“I’m very proud of the album A Thousand Sounds. It was really a labor of love. And I’m appreciative of all the amazing support we received because it definitely was a departure from our earlier records,” the 33-year-old lead guitarist said of the fourth record of the Los Angeles-based, Grammy-winning band.

Linkin Park, whose other members are Chester Bennington (vocals), Rob Bourdon (drums), Dave Farrell (bass guitar), Joe Hahn (turntables and keyboard) and Mike Shinoda (vocals), hit it big in the mainstream music scene in 2000 with the first album Hybrid Theory. The band sustained its hot streak with the subsequent release of Meteora and Minutes To Midnight in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

After working on the album every day for two years, A Thousand Suns was released in September of last year. Brad defined the album as a “leap of faith,” emboldened by the highest hopes that it would connect with fans the way it connected with them. And A Thousand Suns has proved to be a commercial success, debuting at No. 1 in US and European charts. Its hits include The Catalyst and Iridescent, which was used in the Transformers: Dark of the Moon soundtrack.

“It’s inspiring to be able to go to the studio, and make the most honest and inspired music (that is) different each time. And to have fans come along the ride, that’s just been the most exceptional blessing,” Brad said.

The album’s title takes inspiration from the Hindu Sanskrit scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one” — a quote immortalized by the scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer in reference to the atomic bomb.

The album is made up of 15 tracks that also incorporate instrumental interludes and sample famous speeches of American political activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Mario Savio. All these go beyond the layers of “organic” and technology-driven sounds and for that, A Thousand Suns has had merited critical praise for breaking ground and defying convention.

“It’s a concept album in the sense that it’s a cohesive narrative — a creative journey that we set the listener on. It’s not conceptual in the literal sense, but it’s conceptual because it’s a cohesive album as opposed to a collection of songs,” Brad said.

Indeed, one can look it as an album of interrelated sounds and ideas. While Linkin Park’s lyrical quality has been described as intense and deep, it seems that it has gone a lot deeper, not to mention more universal in A Thousand Suns. It may even come across like a commentary as you hear the band talking about the scare of nuclear warfare.

“It’s definitely, you can say, political and global-themed, but on a personal level, like the unconscious level, I wouldn’t say that there’s really an overt message… it’s more of an emotional or subconscious exploration of fears that we confront on a daily basis,” Brad said. “The emotional substance in the album is something that resonates with most of us in the band.”

This complements what critics have pointed out as the core elements that make this album rock hard — the throbbing bass lines, pounding guitars, acoustic doses, raw rap verses and tribal beats.

Brad also said that the song arrangements have taken a notch higher in terms of difficulty. “We have very eclectic arrangements that it’s almost impossible how to figure playing them live. It requires a lot of flexibility and ingenuity. A favorite track would have to be When They Come From Me because here I get to do drums, guitars and sing a little bit. It definitely is a challenge performing the songs every time.”

For the past six months, Linkin Park has been on the road promoting A Thousand Suns, and this month, the group takes on Asia. On top of the Asian gigs is the performance on the Race Day (Sept. 25) of the 2011 Formula One: Singapore Grand Prix. This is their second time to headline the F1 event; the first one was last year in Abu Dhabi.

The group will also be performing in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Japan. Too bad, they aren’t coming to the Philippines. “But we hope some of our fans in the Philippines can make it to any of our shows in Asia, particularly in Singapore,” Brad said.

Last month, the band held a “secret show” in the US that served as a fundraiser for the tsunami victims in Japan. It was one of the band’s philanthropic efforts under its foundation Music for Relief, which provides aid to disaster victims across the globe.

“What’s really cool about being in this group is that there are so many diverse opportunities not just for creative expression or for business. But it has also put us in a position to help people. I am personally interested in it, and it’s something I enjoy doing,” Brad said.

Brad, who graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in communication studies, has actually set up with his wife a scholarship fund that annually awards four-year scholarships at the UCLA. He also sits on the board of directors of a nonprofit org named Little Kids Rock, which gives out free musical instruments and instruction to children in underserved public schools throughout the US.

Interestingly, 2011 is a milestone year for the band as it has been 15 years since it was formed in 1996.

“That makes me feel very old,” Brad laughed. “But it’s been fantastic because when we started playing music together, we just did it for fun. We certainly never thought that we’d get paid to do it, that we’d get to travel the world, including the Philippines, and perform before many great people. So, it’s really a blessing and I try not to take it for granted.”

What’s the band like off-stage and more importantly, what holds them together? “Everyone’s real cool, goofy and fun. When we’re not on stage, the energy is very light, there’s a lot of amateur comedy going on. The operative word is ‘amateur’,” he said. “Before the band started, we were friends. Through the years, we’ve worked really hard to be respectful of each other. As we grow older and hopefully wiser, the level of friendship has also grown.”

Asked for the secret of Linkin Park’s staying power, he pondered, “I think the fundamental tenets for the building blocks of longevity have been creative honesty, openness to risk and integrity. By the latter, we mean we’re not thinking of how we can make this or that song make people feel (a certain way) about it. We create music that inspiring to us.”

And there’s no stopping the band from keeping the integrity and staying true to themselves, as it currently works on its fifth album said to feature lesser “noise” and more serious and controversial subjects.

Brad said, “In terms of work, the stage the band is at… it’s always a moving target. I can speak for myself that I’m very appreciative of the opportunities that we have artistically. I’m very proud of the music we’re continuing to make. I love how things keep on changing and evolving.”








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