Interview with Chester from Groove Guide and Mike’s LPU chat

Mike Shinoda did a quick LPU chat last night, MSC has the transcript here

Groove Guide has posted their interview with Chester Bennington

The front man and lead singer of Linkin Park looks at changes to the band since their last visit to our shores.

The last time US rockers Linkin Park set foot in New Zealand on their 2007 tour, lead singer Chester Bennington was almost arrested for “bioterrorism” – with a pair of muddy golf shoes.

“Apparently they weren’t clean enough, and I didn’t think my golf shoes were something I needed to declare,” he says with a laugh. “It would have been my ‘biting the head off a bat’ moment.”

But despite his run-in with the law, Chester is clearly bursting with energy and excitement for the band’s forthcoming arrival in the country – and not just because he wants to get out on the golf course “on a day when the flags are standing up”, after a few disastrous rounds in a howling gale last time.

A lot has changed in six years and it has been a period of significant growth for the band’s sound.

The two massive sold-out shows in 2007 were on the back of their album Minutes to Midnight – their first album since Meteora in 2003. While it was still heavy with all the elements that made Linkin Park who they were – Mike Shinoda’s lyrically-innovative raps, seven-string guitars and a bit of scratching – it was the first step towards change.

And what followed was A Thousand Suns in 2010, a radical departure from anything the band had done before. Tied around a central theme of socio-political unrest, it was layered with instrumental interludes, samples from historical speeches and there wasn’t a single scratch in sight.

With incredible commercial success they had found with their iconic sound – including the diamond-certified debut album Hybrid Theory – it was a risky move for a band who had, until now, built their reputation on the nu-metal genre tag.

“We talked about it quite often,” Chester says of the risks involved. “We were like, ‘Okay, we could really be chopping our own head off here.’ But we decided it was worth it, to make a record we were happy with that was truly representative of the band and where we wanted to go.”

Admitting it polarised the band’s fan base, Chester says the boys felt confident going into the recording studio with producer Rick Rubin, who agreed to come on board so long as the band “didn’t make a Linkin Park record”.

“We could make whatever we wanted – there were no rules. That was the only rule. And that opened the door to going in and going way out. We kind of went into orbit and it was fun.”

When asked if their latest record, Living Things, is the band coming back down to earth, Chester lets out a laugh and says, “kind of”, before adding that “we like the idea of being in outer space, we want to live there, but we want to take a piece of home with us”.

That epitomises the sound of the record – a mix of conceptual sounds and “classic” Linkin Park elements, Living Things was the record that left the band “feeling comfortable in their own skin”.

“For so long we were in the frame of mind that we were always pushing forward and moving away from what came before and that idea only works for so long until you can’t do that anymore,” says Chester.

“Anything nu-metal over the last few years was banned from our sound. There used to be guitars tuned to C minor, keyboards, before we changed to heavy beats. Now, we are okay throwing a bit of guitar back in and going back to our roots. I’m not ashamed of the nu-metal aspect of the band because I know that’s not what we are and I’m okay bringing back the parts that don’t suck.”

It would be a mistake to think these creative decisions were something the band took lightly. Chester describes them as the kind of band that “writes a chorus 70 different times until we get one everyone likes – and if they don’t like it, we go back and write it again”. On a good day, a rewrite is lower than 60 times lyrically and less than 30 musically. Although creatively exhausting, that’s why there is more than one driving force to turn to when it comes to crafting a hit record.

“I’m fortunate enough to work with Mike [Shinoda],” Chester admits. “I’m not discrediting the contribution of any of the other band members, but, you know, I feel like Mike is truly one of the most prolific artists of our time – he is unstoppable. He writes and writes, and everything he does is good. It can be intimidating, but for me it’s invigorating.”

Talking about the band’s upcoming return to Auckland this Thursday, Chester jokes the band’s show will consist of “25 minutes of puppeteering our music videos to a backing track”. But in all seriousness, he says the show is firmly grounded in what the fans want to hear – no going out to space this time.

“We’re a pretty straightforward rock act. We are basically playing almost everything we think people wanna hear. It will be a fun show and we look forward to it.”

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