Interview with Chester Bennington: Dead By Sunrise Thrive In The Moonlight

Chester Bennington of Linkin Park notoriety has ventured outside of his trusty, hit-making hub for a tryst with guitarists Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh (Julien-K and Orgy), bassist Brandon Belsky, drummer Elias Anda (Julien-K) and keyboardist Anthony Valcic to form Dead By Sunrise. Their debut album, aptly titled Out of Ashes, plucks every possible emotional note on the human scale. It also reveals a new level of lyrical nakedness for Chester who’s backed by a more blossoming instrumentation. Bursting with punk rebellion, some gothic transfusions and villainous rock megalomania, Dead By Sunrise can allure fans from Depeche Mode to Velvet Revolver. In short, Dead By Sunrise would still a prove a worthy and addictive adventure even if names like Linkin Park and Orgy weren’t part of their linage.

Before embarking on a club tour, Chester who also owns the tattooing chain, Club Tattoo, told the Aquarian Weekly that he attributes the more ominous aspects on the record to the torment he was experiencing from a bitter divorce while the ballads are a tribute to his twin flame and current spouse. His candor mirrors the honesty displayed on Out Of Ashes which makes it such an exciting and refreshing listen.

The record is so well rounded; you really get something new from it with each listen. The sense of darkness and deep disappear is immediately striking, but there’s also the pure rock elements, the anger, a few great love songs, and acceptance. What contributed to that, were the songs written over a long stretch of time and so you had all these emotions to draw from?

The record was written over a long period of time, because when we started the record it was late 2005 or mid-2005, so I started writing it then and we worked till end of the year. Then I started working on Minutes To Midnight. So I took the next three years off basically from working on the record [Out Of Ashes]. After that, I started picking it back up again after we finished touring for Minutes To Midnight.

I had a bunch of new songs, I wrote other new songs in the process of recording with Howard Benson. So there are phases of writing in different periods over the last four years. A lot had happened in that time, you can imagine, a lot of things have happened to yourself in four years, so there’s plenty of stuff to draw from. Some of these songs are about when I met my wife and fell in love with her. That’s where the love songs come from. At the same time, I was having tough times in the middle of a long, drawn out divorce that was draining and pretty much put me on a downward spiral just because it was so…there was so much going on during that period of time, that you get songs like ‘My Suffering’ and ‘Condemned,’ and the heavier, darker stuff was all derived from the phases of that experiences. But yeah, there was a lot going on.

Yeah, because an outsider looking in on you could say, ‘Oh, Chester is in Linkin Park, and he has Club Tattoo, his life must be a dream.’ So the depths of despair on the record are shocking.

My life is a dream, but unfortunately, I am an asshole sometimes. I can be very selfish or my perspectives can be off, but there were a lot of really stressful things that happening over that period of time. Like waking up one day and having a lot of money and a big house, and a year later, not having a single dime and living in a seven square foot apartment in Santa Monica. That can make you go, ‘Okay, none of this stuff is actually going to be here for very long.’ That freaked me out, and that spun me into a place of like drinking every day. Kind of like, ‘How did this happen? All I did was not want to be married anymore and now, I have nothing.’

It was kind of crazy, but the thing that kept me going through the whole process was that I did fall in love again. I did find myself, because I knew that I had a lot to live for. Like you were saying, I do have this really blessed life. I do have Linkin Park, I do have Club Tattoo, I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful family, and all this great stuff. I put too much focus on the materialist things in life like money and houses. Yeah, families, everybody has got one and some suck, I kind of have a mixture of both, but I really consciously understand how much value I had placed on things that didn’t really matter. It was pretty tough and that’s what the record was inspired from. It was a combination of all those things.

Hence the title?

Right (laughs). I torched the life I had and started a new one.

How did you meet up with the guys in the band?

Well, Ryan, Amir and myself have been friends for ten years or maybe more. We met when Orgy was on its second record, Vapor Transmission, we [Linkin Park] were recording Hybrid Theory. We were working in studio called NRG, and there are multiple studios that bands can work in, and Ryan heard me screaming some parts I was working on for the record. He came walking down the hall and was like, ‘Who are you? And what are you doing here?’

He was very funny, and I told him who I was and honestly, like an hour later, we were best friends. We’ve spoken at least once a week since then. So when I was writing songs, after Meteora was finished, Ryan had heard me play some of these songs, and he kind of gave me the push to convince Linkin Park that they weren’t Linkin Park songs, which obviously they aren’t or do something else with them. I thought about that, he didn’t say, ‘with me,’ he said, ‘with them.’ It was going to be my solo album, and I was going to do pretty much everything that I could with the exception of play drums, and it very quickly turned into Ryan and Amir asking if they could manipulate the song structures or maybe playing things a little different. I just gave them full reign, ‘You guys can do whatever you want to the songs.’ That’s kind of how it started, and I knew the rest of the guys in the band from them being in Julien-K. The other half of the band, they are engineers or producers, so they are all working behind the scenes, most of them and we came together through friendship.