Interview with Mike Shinoda and Living Things sneak peek

Hitfix and Golden Mixtape talked to Mike Shinoda about Linkin Park’s upcoming new album, “LIVING THINGS” and describe some of the tracks from the album. Complex Mag lists “LIVING THINGS” on top 25 most anticipated albums of the year.

In the studio with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda for new album ‘Living Things’

While making its new album, “Living Things,” Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda says, “it almost felt like a drug trip.”

Shinoda played six new songs from the set, out June 26, for Hitfix and a handful of other bloggers in a North Hollywood studio a few days ago. He further prefaced the listening session by adding, “We realized we’d run away from the things we started with.” But instead of returning to the sound of its first album, 2000’s “Hybrid Theory,” Linkin Park, along withproducer Rick Rubin (who co-produced with Shinoda), sought to bring in the best of the band’s rock and rap mix and pour in new sounds to create something else.

“We were looking to redefine everything.” Shinoda said, as he deliberated over which and how many songs to play. After a little deliberation, Shinoda decided that he wanted us to hear the album’s first four songs in order since they set the tone of the album: “You’re going to go on a little journey… There’s a very specific vibe,” he said. Then he picked two other tracks that seemed to best represent some of the experimentation the band tried in the studio.

Album opener, “Lost In the Echo” starts big and stays big, instead of LP’s tried-and-true pattern of beginning quietly then exploding into cacophony. Shinoda raps from the start , then vocalist Chester Bennington comes in, his vocals surrounded by echo on the propulsive track. The song signals, as Shinado pointed out at the end, that as much as the band was looking forward, it also took some of its cues from the ‘80s. Lyrically, the theme the pervades the song– and the album–is a sense of disillusion and disappointment. “These promised are broken, defeated. Each word gets lost in the echo,” Bennington sings.

On second tune “In My Remains,” Bennington sings of fear and pain over an electronic, aggressive, full sonic landscape; discordant and clangy. It shifts to a precise, military rat-a-tat as Bennington sings “Like an Army falling, one by one.” He repeats the phrase as the tension builds and Rob Bourdon’s drumming propels everything into lockstep.
“In My Remains”

We won’t spend too much time on “Burn It Down,” since that’s the first single that you’re already hearing for yourself. But let’s just say that we can’t wait to hear some dance remixes on that song.

The next track, “Lies, Greed & Misery,” was the most innovative and captivating we heard of the six. Opening with Shinoda rapping over percolating synths and stutter steps, the song sounds like Linkin Park crossed with Skrillex crossed with M.I.A. A jagged, fuzzy keyboard bridge gives way to Bennington chanting “You Did It To Yourself,” before he starts screaming the line over and over in a hypnotic frenzy.

“Until It Breaks” starts with Shinoda rapping over a swaggering beat, surrounded by beats coming at him from all angles. The song shifts into a Kanye West-like rap thump into real instruments—strings, keys—under Bennington’s vocal as he prays for the “strength of the rising sun.” The ambient sonics grew louder and stronger as the voices succumbed to the machines.

Along with “Lies,” “Castle Of Glass” felt like the biggest game-changer. Over an almost alternative country melody, Bennington sings “Take me down to the river bank… wash the poison off my skin…show me how to be whole again.” It’s one of the most straight forward tunes that the band has done with a traditional song structure. Bennington and Shinoda sing together as their voices, and desperation, rise, “I’m on a crack in this castle of glass.”

Afterwards, Shinoda referenced both Swedish hardcore band Refused and industrial group Ministry as reference points and elements of both are easily spotted in the tunes. In the songs we heard, it was clear the band wanted to take certain sonic sounds and turn them on their head, distort them and tear them apart.

“We’re experimenting with new tools,” Shinoda said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this five years ago.”

Linkin Park will co-headline the Honda Civic Tour with Incubus, and support act Mutemath, starting Aug. 11 at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va.

Linkin Park: LIVING THINGS (sneak peek)

Two minutes after a job interview email confirmation, one came through to get a sneak peek of Linkin Park’s new album LIVING THINGS. It’s safe to say I quickly rearranged the interview date so I could hear what was in store when the album officially drops on June 26th.

If sitting in NRG Studios where all but Minutes to Midnight were recorded wasn’t intimidation enough, having Mike Shinoda be the perfect host was. It felt almost like Vh1 Storytellers as he went in about outselling Britney Spears, how he got into music and being good at math jokingly. But we weren’t there for a meet & greet, we were there for the love of music.

Only half a dozen were shared with eight people in the room the music was created in. “LOST IN THE ECHO” and “IN MY REMAINS” both had incredible build ups that lead the listener to an explosion of a relay of lyrics that seemed to showcase opposing ideas. One declared “I won’t back up. I won’t back down” while the other succumbed to “wash away the worst of me.”

Next came the single “BURN IT DOWN” and my nominees for future singles, “LIES GREED MISERY” and “UNTIL IT BREAKS.” Everyone was tapping along to the single as it was familiar, but it was the other two I wanted to be played maybe one or two times more.

“LIES GREED MISERY” started off with an indie rock vibe but then as the hip hop sound LP’s synonymous for hit, they hit hard. Mike said earlier that they never wanted to fall into the niche market critics put their first two albums in, but I felt this track was a progressive look back at where they started and where they are now. Where the pissed motif in their earlier work was like an out of control teen, the anger displayed in “LIES GREED MISERY” is a mad adult who channels their anger into art.

As “UNTIL IT BREAKS” started, I thought how fitting we’re remembering 20 years since the LA Riots this week. This song reminded me of a time where rap was about something and not so called “bling bling.” The construction of the song made it sound as if it were escaping from a police radio at times. The 90?s feel is definitely something to highlight and celebrate on this portion of LIVING THINGS. Let’s hope more of that’s on the rest of the record.

Much of the record was expected and then “CASTLE OF GLASS” ended our session. Looking over my scribbled text, I can make out “Americana” and “Bayou.” Think of it as what you love about LP and throw in a pinch of folk. With Chester’s horror movie past, we might hear this one in a spooky scene soon. As it played I could imagine youths terrified and running to the pace of the song as “…take me down to the river bend” filtered through their doom; it gave off an eerie feel.

That’s only half of LIVING THINGS and I’ll be waiting anxiously to hear what the other half consists of when it makes its debut June 26th. And it seems like every time Linkin Park does an album try embark on a tour that delights the masses and well duh, they’ll be doing that on this year’s installment of The Honda Civic Tour with…Incubus! Of that’s not middle schooler from 2001?s dream, I’m clueless as to what is.

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