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

A few years ago, on a Family Values tour you did a duet with Scott Weiland and you easily went toe to toe with him. I realized that you weren’t only a great vocalist, but you’re a great singer. That’s really evident on this record, because you can really hear your range.

In Linkin Park, the thought process is like me and Mike share half percent of everything, so if I am doing stuff that only I could do in the band, then it kind of restricts us. No one else in Linkin Park is a vocalist, so we can’t do three part harmonies or anything like that.

Whereas in Dead By Sunrise, I have Ryan, I have Brandon, Elias, and they have all been singers in other bands before, so I have a pretty good arsenal who can do three part harmonies with me. Also this is probably the real truth, Howard Benson is just like, ‘I don’t give a fuck. This is your record, so we are just going to do it. People want to hear you sing.’ So he really kind of pushed the envelope in a lot of ways. It wasn’t just singing a harmony to a part, it was singing a harmony and then doing harmonies to harmonies which separate sections that cross in different ways and layering those. It was very complicated—it was the most layering I have ever done on any record. I think that it’s something that will really set it part from sounding like a Linkin Park record.

What was the song selection process like? For instance, ‘Morning After,’ which is also a great song isn’t not on the record?

That was done, because I already released ‘Morning After’ on the Underworld soundtrack. I felt that if I put that on the record, it would kind of be cheating. So we basically took some songs that didn’t quite make the cut, and we’re reissuing, because the version that is on Underworld II is kind of a remix, it has some guitars taken out, and a more danceable beat to kind of fit the mode of the soundtrack a little more. This is more of a direct, straight rock version, and I believe that is actually going to be on the record if you get it as an import from Japan or some parts of Europe. So if people want that on the Dead By Sunrise record, [there’s] that, and we did a cover of the Misfits’ ‘20 Eyes’ like as extras.

Why that song in particular?

Well, I actually started playing that song when I was in a cover band called Bucket of Winnies for a little while. I play it with Bucket of Winnies and Camp Freddy sometimes, it’s just fun to go play with a bunch of guys and play cover songs. So we started playing ‘20 Eyes,’ we recorded it and we really liked it. There’s nothing we’ll ever be able to do with it, so we thought that this was kind of good way of letting people have it.

You’re playing the MTV Halloween gala, is that the launch of a huge tour?

We’ve actually kind of gone back and fourth a little bit on how we wanted to approach touring. I was thinking festivals, maybe a couple of touring bands, and then I felt like I don’t want to do that. Maybe next year after the band has been around for awhile we could do that, but I really want to go play for people. Have their faces really close and loud and sweaty and right in people’s faces, and have them see the band in that way at first. I really want to build fans in a more grassroots way, not just because I’m in Linkin Park [and] the other guys have been in Orgy that we deserve to go play these amazing tours. I think we really need to earn our place. The goal is to go out and get people to fall in love with the band the old fashioned way.

Are you especially eager to do that, because it seems with Linkin Park, you guys just skyrocketed to the top?

I just feel like it’s the right thing to do. I feel like I don’t want to take Linkin Park fans for granted, and I know that the other guys don’t want to take Orgy fans for granted. I feel like hopefully, they will like this music that we’re doing, but those are fans of those respective bands, and we can’t just like leech off that.

It really feels like the right thing to do, and I actually if there is anyone else in the band who put in a little more time before things took off for Linkin Park, I have been doing this since I was fourteen. I made my first record when I was 16-years-old. I was in a band [Grey Daze] for seven years before I was in Linkin Park. We played with hundreds of national acts, and by the time we were finished and broke up, we were drawing anywhere from 1000-2000 people every one to two weeks.

That’s a pretty big deal for a band that’s never going to go anywhere. That was frustrating to me, so I feel like I have paid my dues. I don’t feel like I need to go out there and prove that, but I do think that it’s important not to just be like, ‘Oh, I am in my famous band, I can go play arenas,’ that’s ridiculous. ‘Or I deserve to have this great support slot just because I am Chester.’ It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Getting to the actual songs on the record, ‘Fire’ sounds like an open letter to someone who has passed.

That song took a few different lyrical changes. It started out one way that was really like a sad story using interesting metaphors and that’s where the name ‘Fire’ came from. The lyric that inspired the title was, ‘There’s a fire in our hearts that’s the reason why the tears keep falling, to put out the fires that our hearts are starting.’ That’s where it came from, [but] the melodies didn’t quite seem to fit. So I started over, and kind of just ran with that, and went with a more spiritual path of getting through the tougher times.
Some people may look at that song and just say, ‘Oh he must have wrote that about someone who passed on.’ Or, ‘Wow that’s really sad.’ Or some people may see it as a spiritual thing, looking up at the heavens, and you know that there is something greater than yourself that’s with you all the time. This is probably one of those songs that is written with a Linkin Park sort of a touch, because it’s more open in general.

Songs like ‘Condemned’ and songs like ‘Inside of Me’ are pretty straightforward—there is no question as to what those songs are about. This one the fact that it can be seen in so many different ways is what makes it special, and I think that’s what going to give it the ability to connect with people in a much deeper way then perhaps other songs on the record. Oh, and by the way, ‘Give Me Your Name,’ I wrote that song for my wife for our wedding.

That’s my favorite song on the record.

That’s my favorite song on the record as well. That one and ‘In The Darkness,’ those are my two favorite songs. Those are both written with love about the relationship I have with my beautiful wife. So I wrote that for her, and we danced to that at our wedding.

How did you meet?

We met through a friend, and we never actually crossed paths. Ryan was friends with her for many years. Almost for as long as I have [been friends with him], and we had known of each other for the same amount of time, but I have never met her for some reason. If she was at a party, I didn’t make it. We had never met and eventually, after I had split up with my ex-wife, we met at a party.
We hit it off right away, like instantly. Ever since we met—I think it was like four or five days before we’d see each other again, and we have been together ever since. I think she moved in with me about a week-and-half after I met her. We met, and that was it.

Out Of Ashes is out now. Dead By Sunrise performs at Gramercy Theatre on Oct. 14.