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Q&A: Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda


While toy store aisles in the ’80s were filled with many temptations for a child, not many topped the sheer coolness factor of Hasbro’s Transformers. Linkin Park co-frontman Mike Shinoda was one of millions who succumbed.

“One of my favorite toys growing up was Starscream,” says Shinoda of the bratty Decepticon who transformed into a fighter jet. “I loved Transformers when I was a kid.”

So being asked to write a song for the upcoming Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen (out June 24), has been a treat for Shinoda and his bandmates. Watch the trailer here.

We talked to him about all things Transformers, Linkin Park’s next studio album, his bandmate Chester Bennington’s solo debut, and why he can’t wear his custom DC sneakers to Lakers games.

While you were writing “New Divide” did you get to see any of the film for inspiration?
We actually met with [Revenge of the Fallen director] Michael Bay very early on in the process.They had a rough cut of about half of the movie to show us, but we had to use our imagination and take Michael’s word for what it was going to look like. There were scenes where you would hear explosions, and there were actors looking up in the sky at what was eventually going to be a Transformer, but there was literally nothing there.In other cases we saw some really cool stuff, like finished animations of what the Transformers were going to look like.

Did the storyline inspire aspects of the song?
I can’t really give away what’s going on in the movie, but there’s definitely a sense of [Sam, the character played by Shia LaBoeuf] leaving one kind of life behind and moving on to something new, and the difficulty in crossing that divide. And that’s where the name of the song came from. Who can’t relate to the idea of leaving one chapter behind and moving on to the next?

Would you categorize the song as more Autobot or Decepticon?
Decepticon, only because I think that’s fucking cool.

Composer Hans Zimmer ended up incorporating the song into the film’s score — how did that come about?
He heard the song, and he loved it. He and his team wrote a bunch of stuff based on our song to create various themes for the movie. We came in and we heard our song being played by a massive orchestra. It was a really cool, different take on it.

Does “New Divide” represent anything special for Linkin Park?
I think “New Divide” marks the beginning of what might be a new phase for us in terms of releasing more stuff for our fans. We’re trying to be in the studio a little more often, mix it up with some touring. Ideally, the next Linkin Park record will come out in the first half of next year.

What else is on tap for the band?
Chester’s solo project, Dead by Sunrise, is going to come out later this year. He’s been working on it for a few years. I think he’s looking at sometime around a September release date.

Has the rest of Linkin Park contributed to it?
We actually haven’t. It’s much more of a straight-up rock-based record. Howard Benson [My Chemical Romance, All-American Rejects] produced it and Chris Lord-Alge [Green Day, AFI] mixed it. This is what Chester sounds like on his own. I’m really proud of him for taking the reins on his album and going from concept to completion all the way through, guiding it on his own. It definitely sounds different from a Linkin Park record.

Tell us about the special edition DC shoes you’ve been working on.
Here’s the deal: It’s limited-edition, and the proceeds go to a scholarship that I started in Pasadena. This design uses lighter colors, mostly whites and off-whites with a little bit of green accent, and a clear, scale patterned sole. DC did a great job on them.

Do you wear them to Lakers games — and is Kobe envious?
I would, but I’d rather wear my purple and gold. The white and green DCs [are the colors of the Lakers’ archrival Celtics] — I’ll save those for another time.

WATCH: Linkin Park, “New Divide”