The day after Linkin Park’s latest album was released, its lead singer, Chester Bennington, logged on to iTunes to check some of the reviews. Though the responses weren’t all positive, he liked what he read.
“This time around it’s like, they either love it and it’s five-stars across the board, or they hate the record so much that … if they could they would throw it at us,” Bennington said. “And I think that’s great.”
While there’s still heavy metal-fused hip-hop on “A Thousand Suns,” there’s also psychedelic, instrumental moments that are a departure for the Los Angeles-based rap-rockers. Mike Shinoda says “Suns” is an album that “asks a lot of attention from people,” adding that “it’s more of a 48-minute experience than it is just a collection of singles.”
“We really tried to make an album that took you out of your head a little bit … and we wanted to take people on this journey,” Bennington added. “It’s a musical drug type of thing.”
The new sound wasn’t intentional for the guys. They say while creating 2007’s “Minutes to Midnight,” they decided to head in a direction different from their first two albums: The 2003 multiplatinum effort “Meteora” and their 10 million-selling debut, 2000’s “Hybrid Theory.” But before creating “Suns,” the six-member band got busy working on music for their video game “Linkin Park Revenge,” an app for iPhones. Rick Rubin, who co-produced the new album and also “Minutes to Midnight,” says making music for the game was the “initial thrust” for the band’s latest sound.
“It was interesting the way it came about because originally they didn’t know that they were starting the album … and it just like kind of took on a life of its own,” Rubin said. “Then we talked about well maybe (if) this is the music that you’re passionate about making, maybe this is where it’s supposed to go.”
The veteran music producer says taking a new approach was best for the band. “They came out sort at the tail end of the wave of the rap-rock movement…and then when sort of the world of alternative music changed away from that kind of music, they were in kind of a dangerous spot,” Rubin said. “They could have continued making music like that, which they had great success doing, but…I think it would have been a very short-term game.”
Though some fans may not appreciate the new disc, others have. “Suns” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 200 chart this month; it also hit the top spot in Europe and Canada. Bennington says because of the sound the band is known for — a mix of rap and heavy metal — it’s virtually impossible to satisfy their many kinds of fans.
“As artists, [making music is] a completely selfish endeavor,” he said. “We’re making music for us, that we like. We’re not making music for other people…We’re not thinking, ‘Let’s make a pie-graph of all our fans and find out how many people fit in whatever category and then make the perfect album for them.’ Like, that would be absolutely ridiculous.”
Bennington says the band is more interested in growing creatively: “We like putting [ourselves] on the line so to speak and really take chances with the music that we’re making and we’re becoming more and more comfortable doing that.”
One main artistic departure for the band on “Suns” is the use of political speeches. There are interludes that take from an interview with physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer regarding the Manhattan Project and another from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 anti-war speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time for Breaking Silence.”
“They’re hearing hope, they’re hearing anger, they’re hearing stuff about, you know, humanity destroying itself,” Shinoda said of the album’s messages. “You talk to your friends, you see things on the news, you read things online and all this stuff just happens, and we wanted to find a way to kind of put all that stuff together.”
Shinoda says because of the digital turn music has taken in the last decade, most fans expect to hear a singles’ album, not an album’s album. He said he wanted to make sure Linkin Park didn’t fall into that lane. Quoting the band’s bass player, Phoenix, he explained: “I just feel like the music that’s out there in the mainstream for the most part, there’s so much candy. It’s good for a short taste, it’s good for a little short burst of whatever and then there’s no substance to it, and you can’t eat a lot of it or you’ll get a stomachache.”
“I want something that has some substance — some sustenance,” Shinoda continued. “[But] we’re finding that a lot of fans are having a hard time even wrapping their heads around it, much less explaining what it is that they’re checking out.”
But Rubin says fans will get on board, in due time. “I played it for some people who don’t like Linkin Park, or never liked Linkin Park, and they love it,” he told. “It’s going to take a minute for the people who are going to like this to know that they like it. It’ll be the open-minded fans who have kind of grown up with the band and grow with them.”
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