Steve Aoki and Linkin Park
Steve Aoki and Linkin Park with fans at Tokyo's Summer Sonic festival

CODE caught up with the DJ and the band’s Mike Shinoda to talk about their unexpected collaboration.

For the millions of Linkin Park and Steve Aoki fans who weren't in Tokyo for Summer Sonic this month, shaky smartphone video footage of “A Light That Never Comes” isn't going to cut it. After testing a collaboration with a surprise performance in Japan, the cake-loving DJ and the rock major-leaguers are making the bromance official: On September 12, Linkin Park will release a free Facebook game, LP Recharge, through which players can work together to unlock the track, “A Light That Never Comes.” Watch the teaser video below, showing the guys at work and pogo-ing around the Summer Sonic stage.

The morning after a few thousand Japanese fans heard “A Light That Never Comes” for the first time -- in between dancing, riding inflatable rafts and waving 'CAKE ME!' signs -- CODE caught up with Aoki and Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda in the more serene surroundings of a five-star hotel. While the Los Angeles-based musicians can't quite place where they first crossed paths (“Was it Twitter?” Shinoda wonders), they now have a familiar rapport.

When did you decide you had to work together on something?

Shinoda: The beginnings of this song was probably six months to a year ago.

Aoki: It was about building this bridge between our two worlds and doing it in an organic way. We’ve stayed true to both our elements. Our fans in the EDM space and the Linkin Park space can gravitate towards it naturally.

Shinoda: There was a balance aspect. In my process writing a song, I tend to add a lot of elements and sounds, remove them, then add more, until I get the vibe I like. On this, I don’t want to trample on some of the work Steve did. We found that out on our first two records. There are actually a lot of keyboard and sample-based sounds on “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora,” but in the mix they got drowned out by the guitars. Since then, I think we’ve paid more attention to balance as we go through the whole process, from the writing to the engineering.

Aoki: I always add a lot. Mike’s the one to say, let’s take some layers out to make this work. For me, it was a major learning process. It’s hard for me to gauge certain things when I just work with other dance producers. Working with the band allowed this different color palette to come out that I would’ve never heard before. I took this one much differently than I would on any other record.

Mike, what's been your take on EDM's watershed moment in America right now?

Shinoda: It makes me sound old to say this, but I went raves when I was in high school and that was back when it was like, The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim had just come out. People were like, “Holy shit, this is amazing!” My best friend in college was a gabber, techno and jungle DJ. That’s how far back I go. Admittedly, I’m not immersed in it, so I just get little touches of it here and there.

I love what’s happening right now. It’s stepped into the spotlight and then gone in so many directions, like Avicii doing basically a folk song. I’ve spoken to other artists too who are taking it in almost a metal direction. That’s so dope. It’s co-mingling with so many other things. For me, what always transcends any genre or movement is songwriting. When these producers start to understand the craft of writing a song, that’s when they’re going to completely take over.

Aoki: There’s a big gaping hole in the EDM space for songwriting. It’s one thing to learn how to be a great sound designer, and become big just on sound design. Especially if you’re in the dubstep category, it’s like how much fatter and more interesting can you make those drops. Skrillex is the perfect example of an artist who can actually mix those two really well, with great songwriting and interesting sound design, that’s the next evolution of breaking down any sort of boundaries.

Shinoda: Talking about sound design, I had a chance to speak to [musician/producer] Amon Tobin. I was trying so hard to pick his brain. Like, how do you make those sounds? What are you using? The truth of the matter is, he’s using the most techy, nerdy shit that they literally use to design sound for film. It takes years to even comprehend. I was listening like, “OK, this tells me I will never have the patience or whatever it takes to do that.” That’s why collaboration to me is so much more interesting, because I realized there are guys out there who are thrilled to devote 24 hours on a weird thing I would never be able to focus on. I’m not going to try to imitate or recreate that. I brought that mentality to this project. Let’s let Steve be Steve, and preserve as much of that as possible.

LP Recharge drops September 12, but fans can pre-register now at lprecharge.com to get a jump on the game and receive a teaser snippet of “A Light That Never Comes."

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