February 7, 2008


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Still rocking but with a mature sound
Linkin Park, Coheed and Cambria hit Verizon
By Alec O’Meara aomeara@hippopress.com

While the rap-metal movement may be staler than the smell of Kid Rock’s green feather boa these days, Linkin Park continues to sell out arenas by defying a genre they never really felt they belonged to in the first place.

“Obviously if you look back on Hybrid Theory (Park’s breakthrough 2000 album), there was rap and there’s rock in it,” said Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park’s hip-hop vocalist, during a phone interview with reporters to promote the band’s tour. “But it just felt like a lazy category, that people were putting that name on us because they couldn’t come up with anything that was better. They just kind of felt like lumping everybody together because they were kind of the same.”

Shinoda, with singer Chad Bennington, delivered the one-two lyrical punch that became the poster child of mainstream rap-rock success in 2000 along with other bands, such as Korn. However, both Shinoda and Bennington maintain that the seeds of the band’s more maturely themed songs were always there, dating back to when the band first took off. There are entire songs on the band’s most recent effort, Minutes to Midnight, that don’t feature any rapping at all, and Shinoda, staying in line with the new direction, finds himself singing more than ever before. The result is complex melodies that leave 2000 behind and give songs a greater depth.

“We went more towards how the songs themselves made us feel and how we responded to them rather than what we thought we should create, what we thought our fans would want us to make,” Bennington said. “In doing that, we wrote a lot of different styles of songs, and we worked on a lot of songs that maybe were a little off the task for us. It really encouraged us and it opened our minds.”

With acclaimed producer Rick Rubin at the helm, the band went about the process of reinventing itself and its sound. All six members of the band had a say, said the singers, and the end result was a recording session that traveled all over the map musically.

“We got demos that sounded like anything, everything,” Shinod said. “There was stuff that sounded like Public Enemy. There was stuff that sounded like ’80s R&B pop songs. There was stuff that sounded like Johnny Cash.”

Just as the music found new depth, the lyrics themselves reflected a more socially conscious band no longer satisfied with just being fed up with the system. If Hybrid Theory sounded like young adults coming to grips with the angst of growing up, Minutes to Midnight shows a direction for that angst and an effort to actually do something with that pent-up aggression.

It isn’t all talk either. Linkin Park helped establish Music for Relief in 2005 to aid victims of natural disasters globally and has since worked to raise money in support of those impacted by both Hurricane Katrina and the wildfires of southern California. Linkin Park has also been at the forefront of raising awareness on the dangers of global warming. While the band has no problem taking stands on certain issues, it is unlikely that either Shinoda or Bennington will be following the likes of Bono and try to become politically relevant.

“I think that our fans don’t need us preaching politics to them,” Shinoda said. “They’re intelligent. They’ve got their own opinions, and they can make their own decisions. Obviously we encourage everybody to vote. We encourage everybody to go out and do their research on the candidates that interest them and make thoughtful, informed decisions.”

After returning with Minutes to Midnight in 2007 the band showed that it had grown both musically and lyrically and found itself once again selling out arenas. The Minutes to Midnight tour will mark the first time Linkin Park has played either Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center, two prestigious venues Shinoda said the band was excited to be heading for. Joining Park will be Chiodos and progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria. Shinoda and Bennington both said that the bands were hand picked for the tour in part because of the quality of the music the groups are currently putting out. Each band may have a different sound, but altogether, Park is hoping that the opening acts add a dimension to the concerts and give fans something new and different.

“I don’t know about you guys, but if I go to the concert and every band sounds the same, it kind of makes for a really long day,” Bennington said. “So we do like to keep things fresh and keep things moving, and play with acts we haven’t played [with] before.”

Linkin Park will be at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Monday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $39.50 to $49.50 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com.

“Is there anything else we should say about the tour before we get off the call, Chester?” Shinoda asked.

“Our tour rocks,” Bennington said.

Crawling in my skin!
What: Linkin Park with Coheed and Cambria
Where: Verizon Wireless Arena, 555 Elm St., Manchester
When: Monday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $39.50 to $49.50
More info: verizonwirelessarena.com