“Technology is something that’s built into the band”
When Linkin Park released their first album, Hybrid Theory, in 2000, people still bought cassettes to listen to in the tape decks of their cars, Napster was being tinkered with in some guy’s garage, and the best way to hear new music was on the radio. Needless to say, times have changed. But no band has adapted better than Linkin Park.
With the release of their latest album, The Hunting Party, on June 17, they can anticipate tallying their fifth No. 1 album in a row, a streak that extends back more than 10 years. A thrashy guitar throwback to the days when rock actually, you know, rocked, The Hunting Party is being marketed and distributed in the style that has earned the band fan allegiance for more than a decade—using technology ranging from apps to video games.
Band founder and rapper Mike Shinoda and bassist Dave Farrell sat down with The Red Bulletin in West Hollywood to talk about the state of rock and the brave new world of geekery.
The Red Bulletin: The Hunting Party has a heavy, propulsive sound. It’s a style not often heard now—why did you guys go that route?
Mike Shinoda: I read a piece online called “Rock Music Sucks Now and It’s Depressing.” Its tone was, think back about Nirvana, and then think where rock is at right now. His gripe was, “Really? Rock is like Mumford & Sons?” The word he used was “pussified” rock. [Laughs.] I have felt this way at various points—that there’s this thing that is missing out there that I want to hear. If we wanted to fill that void, where would we go to fill it? What would we listen to? It ended up being albums like The Shape of Punk to Come by Refused, Helmet’s first couple of records, At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command. When I go to those albums, I feel like that’s the visceral, grimy, inspired music.
You’re going on the road with Thirty Seconds to Mars and AFI this summer, and it seems like that kind of music is meant to be played in front of audiences.
Dave Farrell: Totally! And it’s good that you heard that, too, because at different points in the process for me, part of the way you think about what you’re hearing is “Would it be fun to play live?”
I looked it up today, and Hybrid Theory actually came out in cassette form, which kind of speaks to the breadth of your career.
MS: I was surprised to find out that a lot of our albums are still made on cassette. Certain territories, particularly Asia—love the cassette.
DF: Particularly Nashville.
MS: Particularly truck stops and Cracker Barrel. They love cassette. But yeah, I’ll do you one better with that. Back when we were starting out and playing clubs in L.A., we put out a mailing list for people to sign up if they were interested in more info from the band, and more often than not they would sign up with their snail mail home address because people didn’t have e-mail yet.
DF: Those were the days. When we started touring, I didn’t have a cell phone. That was crazy.
MS: And neither did our crew! When we first started getting crew, cell phones were new and people would advance shows on hardline phones. We’d stop the RV and pull over and somebody would get on the pay phone and call the venue. For real.
DF: And ask for directions.
MS: It was f*cking crazy.
I like that coming from cassettes, you distributed with Shazam this time.
MS: We did two promotions this time that I was really excited about, and Shazam was one of them, because I use it, and everybody uses it. I remember the first time I used it, we were actually in Mexico, and I was sitting at the little bar in the hotel. It was outside on the beach, and it was so nice. And this cool song came on, and I was like, “Oh my God, I just got this new app!” and it worked! So the promotion was that any time anybody Shazamed anything, they got their results and a banner for Linkin Park’s new song, and that was the first place anyone could hear it. The other thing that we did that was really exciting is that instead of a video for “Guilty All the Same,” we got the opportunity to work with Microsoft’s Project Spark. They have this new community-slash-technology that allows people to make and remix their own games in a social way.
And you have a history with video games—besides doing a song for Call of Duty you also did the game app 8-Bit Rebellion! Are you gamers?
DF: We have a history of video games extending back to like when we were 6 years old. [Laughs.]
MS: Were you ever, like, super jealous that you had a friend that had a Coleco, or whatever?
DF: Yeah! Baseball on Intellivision was so much better than baseball on the Atari 2600.
MS: Totally! I had a cousin that had an Intellivision, and I couldn’t have been a bigger pest to my parents about getting one. They never got us one, but once I got a generation-one Nintendo, and that literally defined me for like years.
DF: My brother and I, on the game RBI Baseball, we used to keep stats. We set up our whole entire season, with each team playing each other team maybe three times.
MS: You played a whole season?!
DF: Dude. It took us months and months and months. And we’d always update, from the game, the top pitchers, the top batting averages, stolen bases. It was really crazy.
So beyond Coleco, things have changed radically since then—do you think you’ve adapted well?
MS: Over time, the technology part of it is something that’s just built into the band. It’s as simple as, like, this morning, I just showed Chester [Bennington, the lead singer] this photo app I just found out about, Facetune. It’s a photo-editing, airbrushing thing that’s really good at smoothing out people’s faces and wrinkles. And I know that some people are using that to glamorize their photos, but I want to use it to make people look really crazy. I want to take somebody’s picture, and then I want to zombify it, and then I want to take them into Facetune and smooth it out. And this is the dumb shit that goes on in my head! Technology isn’t exciting because we’re going to change the world, it’s exciting because I get to kill time doing dumb shit that makes my friends laugh.
So take that to the side of social media. Do you like that?
MS: I’m not a believer that every band or every person with a fan base needs to be on social media. We have two guys in the band, Brad [Delson, the guitarist] and Rob [Bourdon, the drummer], who do not have a Facebook account, who do not have a Twitter account, who don’t have an Instagram account.
MS: Right? First of all, it would be madness. Second of all, madness in the boringest sense. Brad’s sense of humor does not lend itself to Twitter.
DF: My Twitter feed is usually more personal. Not in the sense of here’s my family, but in the sense of this is my idea of a funny joke and has nothing to do with band. It’s more of my personality than information about what’s coming up.
MS: That’s your Twitter feed? What about your Tinder feed?
DF: That gets crazy. And if you follow me on Pinterest, watch out, because it’s about to get wild.