Linkin Park talks "A Thousand Suns," preps for arena tour
When Linkin Park was getting ready to record its latest album "A Thousand Suns," the band weighed the idea of bringing in a co-producer to aid vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda in turning the knobs.
"We didn't want somebody else to come in and kind of muck up the things that we were doing that we liked," Shinoda said during a recent two-hour teleconference with reporters.
However, Linkin Park decided that legendary producer Rick Rubin was the man for the job.
"When he came in, it was obvious that he loved the stuff we were making and he didn't intend to change that," Shinoda said. "He intended to try and help us get there in the best way possible. So, that's why we ended up working with Rick. But that is to say we had a sense of what it was in the beginning, and then along the way we made decisions that helped us stay on track and keep our minds open to experimentation and new things."
Lead singer Chester Bennington, during the same teleconference, said the band was going for a specific vibe. The group knew it wanted "A Thousand Suns" to be presented as complete piece of art, rather than a mere collection of songs.
"I know the die-hard fans of Linkin Park are really open-minded to what we do and sometimes it takes people awhile to digest the new music, but when it sits, especially with this album, I think people really are going to appreciate what we've done here and see it for what we intended it to be," Bennington said.
Shinoda and Bennington were on the phone to promote "A Thousand Suns," a vast departure from its previous releases, tapping into industrial dance-rock music that hearkens back to the mid-1990s. "A Thousand Suns," which has sold 630,000 copies since its release last September, according to Nielsen SoundScan, is Linkin Park's first studio set since 2007's double-platinum "Minutes to Midnight."
"The difference in the band sound from record to record is something that we set out to do in the sense that we want to make something that sounds fresh and exciting to us," Shinoda said.
"However, at the beginning of a record, we may have a sense of what that sounds like, but we don't have a definite understanding of what that sounds like. So, just to give you a working example, when we were doing demos for 'A Thousand Suns,' we wanted them to sound different. We were making demos and we knew that the sound was a little bit more electronic-based and it was looser and almost more abstract. At that time, we hadn't even hired a producer."
Fans will be able to hear material from the new album live when Bennington and Shinoda -- along with bandmates drummer Rob Bourdon, guitarist Brad Delson, DJ Joe Hahn and bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell -- perform on a tour that starts Jan. 20. Bennington explained that playing arenas is the best possible scenario for him.
"You get everything in that kind of environment," he said. "There's an intimacy that you can still have with fans. You really get engrossed in the performance of a band and that, to me, is the ideal scenario."
He said the energy in an arena is so great that it makes the experience "supernatural," whereas with a smaller venue there are plenty of problems dealing with sound and the capability of the room. But that, too, has its bonuses.
"There's an intimacy to that, too, but you definitely have to work," Bennington said. "There's a lot more that you have to work around and kind of work in spite of yourself. But there's something to be said [for smaller venues]. We all love playing smaller places and having people right up in your face. There's nothing quite like that experience, too. And so I think they're both really, really great, but ... I think that you can have a better show in an arena, even if it's a bad band. It's just kind of a better experience to be able to do that. It's pretty amazing."
Shinoda said the new tour production is being built to reflect the story told in "A Thousand Suns," a concept album dealing with war -- including nuclear war..
"A lot of the themes that are going on the new record kind of take a central role in the visuals of the show," Shinoda said. "Our art team developed technology that's ust specific to this show and it had a lot to do with the fact that in our show, we don't play the exact same thing every night. We play different set lists and then within those set lists we improvise. So we wanted a way for the look of the show to kind of ebb and flow with whatever we do with the music. So, from night to night, the music will be different and the visuals will be different as well. No two shows will be the same."
As a souvenir for fans, Linkin Park is teaming up with Base Camp Productions to produce "official bootlegs."
"We actually have been doing the mp3s of the shows as a souvenir for awhile," Shinoda said. "The idea being that we want the fans to be able to take that special event of the Linkin Park show home with them, just something we give to the fans.
"In the past we've charged for it, but on this run we are actually giving it away included in the ticket price. So, when you get your ticket, you basically get your show to listen to for free. What basically happens is it's not what they call a 'line mix' or a 'board mix,' which is the cheapest and easiest way to do it. Most people do it that way. We just think that sounds terrible and it's kind of sloppy, so what happens in our show is the guy that mixes the show live for you records the show as it's going on and then he takes that backstage and we do a special mix for your iPod and your car and something that will sound good on your stereo, because the live mix doesn't sound good on your stereo. So, yeah, it gets remixed and then put up online for all the fans of that show to download."
Shinoda said that process of mixing a show for the mp3s can take anywhere from a day to a week. It depends on the length of time the crew travels in between shows. If the crew has to leave the show immediately afterward in order to drive overnight, it may push that recording release back a little bit.
Bennington said that the live mixes are just another way that Linkin Park can deepen its connection with its fans.
"Our music becomes the soundtrack of their life, their life story. And, as a songwriter, that's, the ultimate goal. [It's amazing] to write something that really means and that really matters to somebody. And we're fortunate that we are open enough to write a very diverse style of music and that we kind of think that we expect that from ourselves to really kind of have an open mind in terms of the kinds of songs that we write and the variety of the songs that we write and stylistically we have a chance to reach to, I think, a lot more people that maybe some other bands do."
20 - Sunrise, FL - Bank Atlantic Center (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
22 - Tampa, FL - St. Pete Times Forum (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
23 - Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
25 - Detroit, MI - Joe Louis Arena (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
26 - Chicago, IL - United Center (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
28 - Minneapolis, MN - Xcel Energy Center (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
29 - Kansas City, MO - Sprint Center (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
31 - Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
1 - Boston, MA - TD Garden (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
4 - New York City, NY - Madison Square Garden (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
7 - Montreal, Quebec - Bell Centre (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
8 - Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
10 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
11 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
13 - Cincinnati, OH - U.S. Bank Arena (with Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah?)
15 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center (with The Prodigy)
17 - Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center (with The Prodigy)
19 - Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand - Garden Arena (with The Prodigy)
20 - San Diego, CA - Viejas Arena (with The Prodigy)
22 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion (with The Prodigy)
23 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center (with The Prodigy)
25 - Salt Lake City, UT - Energy Solutions Arena (with The Prodigy)
26 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Center (with The Prodigy)
28 - Phoenix, AZ - US Airways Center (with Circa Survive and Paper Tongues)
4 - London, England - iTunes Festival at Roundhouse