Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda Talks New Album
The MC tells SPIN.com about the band's studio work and what he wants for Christmas!
With the recent release of the fan club-only rarities compilation LPU9: Demos and a Grammy nomination for best Hard Rock Performance for “What I’ve Done,” from their live album, Road to Revolution: Live at Milton Keynes, the decade is drawing to a close nicely for Linkin Park.
Which is to say the ’00s are ending as positively as they began for the California sextet, whose 2000 debut, Hybrid Theory, ranked as the seventh-best selling album of the decade. “It’s been an absolutely unbelievable ten years,” says Mike Shinoda, the band’s resident rapper and sonic mastermind. “But I’m even more excited to find out what the future has to offer.”
The near-future will see the release of an as-yet-untitled new Linkin Park album and, hopefully, some other guerilla-style goodies. Speaking on the phone from his home in L.A., Shinoda filled us in on the band’s recent projects, what to expect from the new album, and his own holiday plans.
Did going back and listening to your demos for the LPU9 album reveal anything to you about the way the band works?
So we’ve got all this stuff on hard drives that we occasionally reference for ideas, but as time went on we realized that we like making new sounds more than listening to our old ones. So we decided that if we weren’t going to mine this older material, we should put it out.
Excellent. Now what about my original question? Anything to that?
[Laughs] Yeah! Sorry I went off on a bit of a tangent there. You definitely pick stuff up when you go back and listen to older material. There were situations, for example, when I listened to the demos and realized that I loved playing with my MPC sampler — it had a sound that I liked a lot that the samplers I was using on the new record didn’t have. So I ended up using that again.
Tell us about the new album.
Well, Rick Rubin is producing it. I’d say we’re about halfway done. I’m really happy with what we have so far. We’re having a ton of fun in the studio. We really want to do something special and unique for the next record — we want to redefine the band. I feel like on Hybrid Theory we wanted to introduce ourselves to the world with a certain sound. Then on [2003’s] Meteora we were trying to show that we weren’t a fluke and we could do the sound that made us successful a second time. By the time we got to [2007’s] Minutes to Midnight, we wanted to break down that sound and go outside its confines. Now that we’ve done that, we feel like we can do anything.
Can you describe any of the songs?
That would be really hard for me to do. I have a tough time doing that. But I can say that it sounds brand new. The thing is, there are so many different ways to make music these days with virtual instruments, software applications, physical instruments, and computer programs. Then when you get in the position of being able to use almost any of it — that’s what we did on Minutes to Midnight . We wanted to play with as many instruments and sounds as we could. But on the new record, now that we have a sense of everything that’s available to us, we can reel it in a bit and focus on just the things that we like, which so far is turning out to mean music that is more beat-driven and has a keyboard and drum machine kind of feel.
Have you picked a name for it yet?
Way too early for that.
Did Chester’s going off and working with [solo project] Dead By Sunrise have any residual affect on how he’s now contributing to Linkin Park?
That’s a good question. I related to where Chester was at when he was making the Dead By Sunrise record. I went through the same thing with [Shinoda’s side-project] Fort Minor. He had songs that he had to get out of his system; songs that the rest of the guys in Linkin Park couldn’t necessarily get behind. Not because they wouldn’t like them, but because they aren’t right for a Linkin Park record. I think for both of us, working outside the band made us feel like we could focus better when we eventually came back.
Aside from the album, what do you guys have planned for the future?
We really wanted to start a phase in our career where we could release music more often rather than have to wait to put out a new album every four years. The demo album is sort of representative of that. But we also wrote “New Divide” for the Transformers movie. Chester put out his Dead By Sunrise record. We’re working on the new album, so things are already moving along nicely. We’re really trying hard to give fans the opportunity to hear new material from us more often. It’s just a matter of finding the right outlets. Hopefully, those outlets aren’t always in the form of albums.
What’s going on with you for the holidays? Any big plans?
Usually I spend my holidays with my family. My parents still treat Christmas like I’m thirteen years old. It’s super traditional. I write out a Christmas list beforehand, we eat turkey and drink hot cider. It’s pretty funny.
What’d you put on your Christmas list?
That part’s pretty tough! I can’t ask my parents to buy me a mixing board or a Neve console. So I end up asking for a nice sweater. That’s more their speed.