Was that a conscious decision then to kind of stray?
Yes. When we decided to work with Rick [Rubin, producer], he encouraged us right off the bat to just start working in a way that was entirely foreign to us, and it was a really simple thing to do, but because we had had so much practice and success writing songs in one way, it was definitely tough to actually follow his advice and change. Over time, we realized how powerful the idea was that what we did on this record was, anytime we had an idea, we put vocals on it right away; whereas in the past, when we were doing Meteora, we had all the instrumental tracks done and then vocals went on at the very end, like the end of the recording studio process.
So what Rick’s process allowed us to do was to see the song in its very roughest form—just the very, very basic music and the basic vocal—and know if it was great. You know how you can take a really great song and pare it down, and sing it on piano, or play it on acoustic guitar and still sound like a great song? So inversely, he wanted to hear our songs in that very rough form before we spent the time creating layers and layers of sounds and samples and whatnot. Does that make sense?
Yeah, so it’s more of a kind of raw…
It’s more of a raw content, a lyric-driven record ultimately. And the style winds up being… like the icing on our dense cake. Whereas in the past, if you spent time first on all the embellishments, you could actually find yourself in a situation where you’ve tricked yourself into thinking a piece of art or a piece of music is better than it is because the style is compelling, but the substance may be lacking.
Well, the music video for the single ‘What I’ve Done’ has some really powerful images that kind of add this political commentary to it, which you guys really didn’t have in previous releases. Has your music gotten more political?
I think the lyrics are more maybe connected or aware of things going on around us out in the world. I think Mike [Shinoda, emcee/vocals] and Chester [Bennington, vocals] have always been good about channeling what’s going on internally, and some of the songs on this record are definitely a reaction to the external.
Well I mean, the lyrics for that song aren’t really overtly political so was the song written with politics in mind or just more on a personal theme that had larger applications?
I think you’re touching on a great point. Okay, with Hybrid Theory we spent a month on lyrics for the whole album. With Meteora we spent twice as long doing lyrics, and with this record, I think we spent nine months on the lyrics. So there really was a love and a commitment of energy to the lyrics, that they should work on multiple levels. That the best songs clearly, I think, you can connect with and you can connect your own experience to it and that’s because they work on multiple levels, and a song like ‘What I’ve Done’ for sure works on many different levels. Like for me, there are four different stories or four different themes that it connects with for me. So the video was Joe’s [Hahn, records/sampling] kind of one layer that Joe connected to the meaning of the song, and he can represent that with the performance married with the montage of imagery. And also in that video, I noticed your look is different. It’s sleeker, you guys are wearing suits, there’s no t-shirts or baggy pants on.
Was that just for the video or has your fashion changed?
My pants have definitely gotten tighter, and I think there’s an inverse relationship between the size of my pants and the size of my beard. You should print that. If that’s not a quote, then I don’t know what is.
That’s a quote. I promise you, that’s a quote.
I hear them actually as I say this. I know that as I’m talking, I hear myself and I know 90 percent of it’s crap and unprintable, and then sometimes there’ll be a turnoff maybe once or twice in an interview, but usually not at all. So I would say on par, this has been a good interview.
No, this has been going great, and that’s a quote, I promise you.
[Laughs] Oh no. Okay, I think I just screwed myself.
Hey, it’s all on the record here.
Alright, fair enough, fair enough.
Well, I know the album hasn’t even come out yet, but do you think you might end up reworking the songs on this one like you did for Hybrid Theory with Reanimation or Meteora with Collision Course?
You never know. If they do get reworked, I guarantee they’ll get reworked in a way that you’re not expecting. I’m actually looking forward to just kind of connecting back to the live show. In the past, we’ve only had two albums’ worth of material to draw from, and now we’ve got so much more material that I think our live show’s going to be much more three-dimensional, more varied. And obviously, at first, our intention is to play the songs off Minutes To Midnight as you’ll hear them on the record or at least as close to that as possible, and then as our live show evolves, you never know, you may hear different versions of songs on any given night on stage. That sounds like an ambitious claim and it’s couched with the word ‘may.’ You may.
Minutes To Midnight hits stores May 15. Linkin Park will be playing at this year’s Bamboozle festival on May 6. For more on the band, visit linkinpark.com
Photo Credit: James Minchin