Change does Linkin Park good
"I don’t think we ever do anything half-assed.’’ That’s how Mike Shinoda explains the sonic change-up his band Linkin Park made on its 2010 album “A Thousand Suns.’’
On the phone from a Chicago tour stop, the Linkin Park rapper-songwriter-producer says he and his bandmates in the multiplatinum rock group started down this new road with their previous album, “Minutes to Midnight.’’ But this time, they knew a radical alteration to the rap-rock hybrid they’d come to be known for since the turn of the century, with hits like “Breaking the Habit’’ and “What I’ve Done,’’ was necessary. Instead of channeling all of their angst into buzzsaw riffs, keening screams, and brawny raps, the band, with returning coproducer Rick Rubin, explore more electronic, ambient, and, frankly, mellower paths.
“We’re not trying to offend fans of [early albums] ‘Hybrid Theory’ and ‘Meteora.’ We’re trying to make music that’s challenging for us, that’s coming from an honest place,’’ says Shinoda. “We realized that [the old sound] was the thing that was selling, but we decided to take a risk.’’
Linkin Park brings sounds both old and new to the TD Garden on Tuesday.
Q. You worked with Rick Rubin again on “A Thousand Suns.’’ How was that? Was he on board with the new direction?
A. On the last record we were trying to break outside of the confines of a sound that we had established ourselves and we no longer wanted to feel like we had to make that thing over and over again. We wanted to do something different, so he was trying to give us the moral support and the tools to find new ways to make new sounds. On the new record we were already comfortable with being uncomfortable. We almost did the record ourselves but we took a meeting with Rick and it just fit. He understood the demos. He understood where we wanted the record to go.
Q. What’s been the reaction to the record? I think it’s your most interesting one yet, but I’m wondering if I’m in the minority on that.
A. I would say that you’re not at this point, which I’m happy to say. I feel like we really lucked out that the touring worked out the way it did, because the US got some extra time to get used to the album — because it’s a different record. It’s full of ideas, it’s a dense record, sonically and thematically; and to be honest, I’m surprised when I hear people say that they loved it on first listen. More often than not, you hear people say that they had to get used to it or grow into it. And that’s fine. We thought that was the kind of record we were making.
Q. There’s definitely a faction of your audience, especially the metal fans, who have been vocal in their displeasure. But do you think you’ve gained any new listeners?
A. I literally heard somebody say, “When I saw that it was Linkin Park and I listened to the record, I didn’t like it because it was weird. And then I heard this great new song on the radio and I didn’t know what band it was by and I loved it and I went to buy it and it was Linkin Park.’’ They had the weird baggage of old Linkin Park in their minds, and as soon as they got rid of that baggage they liked the new album. That’s what we need right now, people to have an open mind that Linkin Park isn’t about one thing.
Q. You guys have been together for over 10 years, what’s the secret to a lasting musical marriage?
A. I think we’re really lucky in that sense. I don’t know if we’re an anomaly or not. We’re good friends and we still get along in the studio and touring. We even occasionally hang out on our time off which is, believe it or not, for a lot of bands pretty rare.
Q. Pop, dance, and hip-hop have become increasingly dominant in the last few years, with rock losing its profile somewhat. Why do you think that is?
A. I’m not a chart guy, I don’t follow the trends. I know what I like, just as anybody else does, and I haven’t been listening to as much straight-up rock in the last couple of years because it’s boring. The rock bands that I do like — Phoenix, the Temper Trap — tend to have something special about them that rounds out the experience and makes it more original and unique. There was a long period of time where bands were imitating stuff from the ’60s and ’70s, and that’s cute for a minute, but if you can’t bring something else to the table on top of that you can only hold people’s interest for so long.
Interview was edited and condensed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.