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Linkin Park Appear on Cover of New Issue, Talk Getting Booed at Ozzfest, Why “Rock Music Sucks,” and Their Heaviest Album Yet
July 16th, 2014 at 10:15am

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This is an excerpt from the all-new August/September 2014 issue of Revolver, which is available online now right here and will hit newsstands July 29. For the rest of this story, plus features on Avenged Sevenfold, Judas Priest, Suicide Silence, Every Time I Die, Body Count, King 810, and a lot more, check out the issue.

By Dan Epstein

It’s a blisteringly hot afternoon in the summer of 2001, and the thousands of drunk and sunburnt headbangers in attendance at the Toronto stop of this year’s North American Ozzfest tour are in a deeply foul mood.

Already enraged to the boiling point by Crazy Town’s flaccid set of sub-Chili Peppers rap rock, they are considerably less than stoked to see fellow Southern California nu-metallers Linkin Park take the stage; before Chester Bennington can even grab the microphone for the first song of their set, the band is already being pelted with a rain of cans, CDs, and other detritus so torrential that Revolver—initially observing the show from just off to the side of the stage—is forced to take cover behind guitarist Brad Delson’s wall of guitar amps.

And yet the band plays on, feeding off the crowd’s energy and blasting it right back. Though Linkin Park’s songs, drawn entirely from their 2000 debut ‘Hybrid Theory,’ are more pop- and rap-oriented than many of the metalheads in attendance would prefer, the band’s high-energy performance—which includes Bennington whirling about the stage while wrapped in a Canadian flag—eventually wins over most of the once-antagonistic audience. Even the angry fat kid in the front row who doggedly chants “Fuck you! Fuck you!” throughout most of the set proves no match for Linkin Park’s steady assault; by the time the band leaves the stage, he’s slumped exhaustedly over the stage barrier like a doughy rag doll…

“I think a lot of those Ozzfest shows were like that,” laughs Linkin Park co-frontman Mike Shinoda, as he and Bennington relax and reminisce with Revolver outside their North Hollywood rehearsal space in May 2014. “We’d have the stage for maybe 30 minutes, and we spent the entire time trying to get them on our side.”

“Even if they didn’t like our music,” adds Bennington, “we wanted them to go away saying, ‘Man, that was a kickass show!’”

Thirteen years after being steeled in the crucible of Ozzfest, and millions of record sales later, Linkin Park have grown into one of America’s biggest rock bands. But now they’re ratcheting the kick-ass up another notch: Their new album, ‘The Hunting Party,’ is not only the hardest and heaviest thing they’ve ever released, but it’s also their first album to pack the sort of guitar firepower that would actually appeal to your average headbanger. If they’d released this album back in 2001, perhaps Linkin Park—who head out on the Carnivores Tour with Thirty Seconds to Mars and AFI on August 8—wouldn’t have had to work so hard to win over the Ozzfest crowds that summer.

“This isn’t the heaviest record in the world,” Bennington says, “but this is the heaviest Linkin Park record. You have to put it in the context of Linkin Park, not in the context of heavy music, because then it makes sense.”

“We know that Slayer exists,” seconds Shinoda. “We know that Exodus exists, right? So we’re not going to say we wrote a ‘heavy’ record, in comparison.”

But while it’s true that ‘The Hunting Party’ isn’t going to make anyone forget ‘South of Heaven’ or ‘Bonded by Blood,’ its potent mixture of punk, thrash and hard rock—as heard on such bracing tracks as “Keys to the Kingdom,” “Guilty All the Same,” “Mark the Graves,” and “A Line in the Sand”—is a pretty a ballsy move from a band that’s drifted deep into experimental/electronic territory on their two most recent albums, 2010’s ‘A Thousand Suns’ and 2012’s ‘Living Things.’

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The abrupt change in musical course, says Shinoda, happened last August, when he happened upon a lengthy post on ‘Pigeons and Planes,’ one of his favorite blogs. A lament for the current state of rock, which came with the self-explanatory title “Rock Music Sucks Now and It’s Depressing,” the essay struck a deep chord with Shinoda. “I totally connected with what this guy was saying,” he says. “He was a rock fan, and he was a little bit bummed out that rock didn’t have the pull that it used to have, and that the rock genre has so many bands in it that you wouldn’t really classify as ‘rock’—people like Mumford and Sons, and Lorde. And I totally understood where he was coming from, because I feel like I’m listening to a lot of stuff on rock radio that sits somewhere between a car commercial and Nick Jr. It’s so safe, so OK to listen to with mommy and daddy…”

Shinoda had already submitted multiple demos to the band for their follow-up to ‘Living Things’ when he came across the post. His first reaction was to pen a thoughtful response that was published by the blog, one which concluded, “At the end of the day, a movement will never be about one song, one album, or one band. A movement requires leaders who are restless, brave, and fucking disruptive.” And then, as if to underline his own words, he proceeded to toss his demos out and start over in a more aggressive direction.

“It all finally clicked one day,” he says. “I was listening to the stuff I was writing, and I realized it was so derivative. It wasn’t cutting edge, it wasn’t ahead of the curve, and it wasn’t doing the things that I wanted to listen to. I’d already played the stuff to the guys, and they were like, ‘Yeah, we like that, let’s do that!’ And then, the next time I saw them, I was like, “You know those songs I already played you, that you liked? I want to throw them in the trash…and I want to do this.”

Bennington was immediately on board with Shinoda’s new direction. “Chester, to his credit, he got where I was coming from right away,” says Shinoda, “but that’s not surprising, because that’s totally in his wheelhouse. He was like, ‘I want to do that all day!’”

“The bands I was listening to when I was growing up were all doing really innovative shit—Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Nirvana,” Bennington explains. “And I listened to a lot of punk music like Subhumans, Exploited, the Descendants, the Misfits… I even got into Napalm Death when I was about 13. And I would have killed anyone who put on any kind of pop in my presence. Bands like the Refreshments and the Rembrandts, that music fucking angers me to this day. And the same thing is happening now, where there’s all this stuff that feels like the soundtrack to ‘Friends’ or ‘The Wizards of Waverly Place.’”

The other members of the band—Delson, bassist Dave Farrell, drummer Rob Bourdon, and DJ/keyboardist Joe Hahn—took a little longer to come around, however. Though Shinoda has emerged over the years as Linkin Park’s main songwriter (“Everyone in the band writes songs, but mine mostly seem to be the ones that everyone votes for,” he shrugs), Delson has been his main musical foil throughout. “In the studio, Brad and I are the ones really pushing stuff forward,” he says. “We could only do what Chester and I wanted to do if Brad got on board. But in the beginning, he was humoring me. He was just doing it because I wanted him to do it.”

This is an excerpt from the all-new August/September 2014 issue of Revolver, which is available online now right here and will hit newsstands July 29. For the rest of this story, plus features on Avenged Sevenfold, Judas Priest, Suicide Silence, Every Time I Die, Body Count, King 810, and a lot more, check out the issue.

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