Living things the Linkin Park way

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star

 MANILA, Philippines - Linkin Park’s latest work Living Things speaks volumes of how much of a “living thing” the band is: “Always moving, moving, moving creatively,” to quote vocalist Chester Bennington, and staying strong and relevant as it comes close to being around for two decades already.

 Has Linkin Park really been making music for 17 years now (counting in the years of toil before it finally struck a record deal and landed its big break in 2000 via its debut Hybrid Theory)? When reminded about it during a recent phone interview for The STAR, Chester sounded a little overwhelmed himself, reacting with a laugh, “It is a little crazy!”

Linkin Park, whose other members are Rob Bourdon (drummer), Brad Delson (lead guitarist), Dave Farrell (bassist), Joe Hahn (DJ and sampler) and Mike Shinoda (rhythm guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist), grouped in 1996 in California. It has since packed a punch in the subsequent years — released five records, sold 50 million albums worldwide, won Grammys, among other things worth-noting — and is showing no signs of slowing down. 

“It’s great to be doing something for so long. It’s an honor and a privilege. It’s still fresh and fun and exciting,” Chester said.

When the band was new and younger, reaching the “pinnacle of success” wasn’t something it was preoccupied with. Sure, according to Chester, “you dream about stuff like that and kinda hope about it. I personally had goals on what we were going to reach. But our expectations were not that high.”

Because everything now has exceeded the band’s expectations, the success has become sweeter. And if there’s anything that any aspiring artist can learn from Linkin Park’s story, it’s never resting on your laurels.

Chester believes that you can’t make it if you’re thinking that your way — even if it’s validated by awards, amazing record sales and a solid global fan base — is the only right way to do things. “One thing we’re really good at is taking constructive criticism,” he said.

Does Linkin Park keep tab of what the critics say? “Critics’ reviews kind of matter but they also kind of not matter. There are reviews that do not speak of the general public. Throughout our career, we got some great reviews, we got some mediocre reviews, we got some bad reviews. Reality is what we (take into consideration) is the fans. Had we based the outlook on our career on the reviews that have been written about us, we could have quit (laughs). Honestly, we don’t really pay attention to what the critics say although the longer (we’ve) been around, with each record that we make, the critics seem to like the band more and more.”

In support of the release of its fifth album Living Things last year, the band has been on the road almost non-stop, and it’s now on the last leg of its world tour, which will bring Linkin Park back to the Philippines for the Aug. 13 show at the Mall of Asia Arena. The band performed here in 2004. “We had a wonderful time. (The Philippines is) a great place to be. It’s crazy that it’s been almost 10 years though (since we last went there).”

At the time of our brief phone chat, Chester and the rest of the guys were in a recording studio. (The band’s sixth record is reportedly in the works.)

“We’re always moving, moving and moving creatively. It keeps things fresh and fun,” Chester said, “and the fact that we don’t put any limitations on what kind of songs we should be writing, that makes the potential for writing much greater than like, pigeonholing yourself into a specific sound or style.”

True, for its long-time fans, it’s not hard to notice that Linkin Park has unhinged itself from constricting labels (like the “rap-metal band” tag heavily bandied about during its early years is nowadays used less and less to strictly define the band’s music), making room for descriptions like “experimental,” “futuristic” or “multi-genre/concept.” Its latest album has generated adjectives like “hybridized” for fusing different music elements from its previous records.

It didn’t make everybody happy, Chester acknowledged, but they have to keep going.

“Once you get to a point where people know who you are, you kind of have to understand that there’s gonna be people who love your music, and people who hate it. But if you focus on the people that don’t like it, that’s gonna be a bit weird. Same time, we are making music that we want a lot of people to listen to. We know, as songwriters, what things would be appealing or what are not gonna be appealing to people because we’re fans of music as well...  

“We have worked our entire career to get rid of certain sounds of the band that we found were not appealing and by doing so, a lot of our fans have felt like, ‘What happened to my band (laughs)?’ But that’s part of evolution… We have to keep going.”

And keep going the band did with Living Things, which debuted last year at No. 1 on Billboard 200. The album’s songwriting is descriptive of, as Chester put it, “the place we are in life emotionally. We’ve become happier people (laughs). We try to make the songs as inspirational as possible, even if some of the content of the songs are dark.”  

“I think that’s important, generally speaking, as we want to write songs that are going to mean something to people — and that in itself is inspirational to me — we want to dig deep into what we’re saying and put it out there in a way that it can attach itself to someone else’s life experience,” he added.

When the band is not on tour or recording, the members maximize the time-out for home life, for charity or for side projects. “We enjoy our families. I have a lot of kids. If I’m not with Linkin Park, I’m working with other people. I’ve been working with Stone Temple Pilots and we’re making great music together.”

Told that we came across that bit of amusing trivia he gave to another interview that interestingly, they have wives, kids, families who don’t really care that they’re in a band, or that they are the Linkin Park, he mused, “My kids just care that they’re living with dad. They don’t care if they’re living with the guy from Linkin Park.”

Chester further shared, “There are times when we are doing things together and people come up to you and talk to you about Linkin Park. Sometimes, (my kids) think it’s cool. Sometimes, they wonder why people think it’s so cool. It’s funny! Does family make me feel grounded? I think so. It keeps things in perspective as to what’s important in life.”

(Living Things World Tour: Linkin Park World Tour on Aug. 13 at the MOA Arena is presented by Scala Events with ticket prices of P9,880 — VIP Standing, P9,880 — Patron Center Seated [reserved seating], P6,880 — Lower Box A [reserved seating], P5,880 — Lower Box B [reserved seating], P3,480 — Upper Box [reserved seating] and P880 — General Admission [reserved seating]. Call SM Tickets at (02) 470-2222 or visit www.smtickets.com. For details, visit linkinpark.comfacebook.com/scalaevents or twitter.com/scalaeventsph.)









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