At a listening session in New York, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park revealed some interesting news to Rolling Stone about the direction the band are taking for their sixth studio album, The Hunting Party.
While working on the follow-up to 2012s Living Things, one of their most pop-sounding – and commercially successful – records to date, Shinoda admits he had a sudden moment of clarity: that they were unconsciously making “Living Things Part Two”, and that they needed to considerably change things up. What did this mean in practice? Apparently, something of a return to the references that first inspired the band. As he told Rolling Stone:
“It needed to be visceral,” he says with a laugh. “We need to weed out a lot of the soft, emo kind of approach to our music, and we need to weed out anything that feels aggressive for aggressive’s sake. We’re not 18-year-old kids making a loud record – we’re 37-year-old adults making a loud record. And what makes a 37-year-old angry is different than what made us angry back in the day.”
So while he loves a lot of contemporary indie music, Shinoda went back to the bands that were on his mind around the time Linkin Park were forming and writing their first album, Hybrid Theory. Think Refused, Helmet and At the Drive-In, as well as Zach De LA Rocha’s pre-Rage Against The Machine group Inside Out, and late-80s NY hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits. “I was thinking, what albums predated nü-metal,” he says. “Without these albums there wouldn’t have been Linkin Park.”
The Hunting Party will even feature a few of these heroes, including System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian and rap legend Rakim.
“I got on the phone with Rakim and explained our M.O. and told him how rock music has gone in this direction that we, at this moment, don’t feel comfortable following,” Shinoda says. “He responded by telling me how his experience in hip-hop has been similar. Because rap music is so poppy, he can’t see himself making those kinds of records. It was at that moment, we realized we had a lot in common and I knew the song was gonna work.”
Rakim appears on “Guilty All the Same,” which you can stream below now (we’re definitely reminded of the Reanimation-era collaborations with Rakims vocals on this one). By the way, the video was made in upcoming game-making software Project Spark, and is available for remix to any open beta user.
Shinoda also mentions that in their efforts to avoid obvious nostalgia and update the sounds of their references, drummer Rob Bourdon put his back out playing the kind of angular, stop-start rhythms they were after. “He had to physically work his way up to it. He had to go running, lift weights, work with a trainer… It was fun for both of us to make something that was challenging to him. And he definitely feels that at the end of the day, he’s a better drummer for it.”
It’s inspiring to hear Shinoda talk about how he decided to ignore his initial concerns about what a heavier approach would mean in terms of radio play:
Around the time Shinoda began working on the new direction for the group, he realized that it might not be the most commercial direction for the group to be taking at this point in its career. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, shit. Rock radio’s not gonna play this, are they?” he says. So he consulted with his manager and a radio rep at his management company and they confirmed his fears. “They said the bottom line is, this music is gonna have a real hard time living on rock radio,” he says. “It’s kind of a bad move. We can’t rely on a home run at radio. But I’m always up for a challenge. Besides, I believe in the music.”
Of course, Linkin Park have the kind of fanbase that doesn’t necessarily rely on a huge roll-out on radio and other mainstream media to guarantee decent numbers of ears will hear their new work. But to my mind it’s still cool to see an example of a band that’s achieved a certain level of success stepping up to challenge themselves, whether it’s pushing against self-imposed restrictions or making an abrupt stylistic about-face, putting creative choices well and truly ahead of commercial considerations in order to keep things fresh.
The Hunting Party is currently being finished and mixed, and will be out on June 17th.
What do you think, is it time for a pre-nu-metal revival of sorts? And is this is a good example of artistic integrity trumping purely commercial factors, is it a backwards step creatively or a smart way for artists to restoke their original passion for the music? Let us know in the comments!