If anyone could had ever foretold the future of Linkin Park, as in where they’d be today, would any of them have believed the story yet to be told? Three high school buddies, Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda, hearing for the first time about Dave Farrell, Joe Hahn and some dude named Chester Bennington, and all the great feats they’d accomplish over the years. Imagine the dumbfounded look and furrowed brows.
And so the story begins and time rolls forward like the spinning hands on the face of a clock. Linkin Park’s blend of “rock n’ rap” takes hold in the nu metal/rap metal world; their debut release, Hybrid Theory, becomes a best-selling CD the year it’s released and catapults them onto the world stage with better lighting; they’ve arrived. With each new release, Linkin Park breaks barriers and record sales; they’re on tour non-stop and several singles become hits for movie soundtracks such as Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise and the first Twilight film, to name a few. Fame gives way for the opportunity to pay it forward; their collective charitable contributions and benefit concerts abound, bringing much-needed help to those in desperate need: relief efforts for the 2004 tsunami victims, Hurricane Charley in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, not to mention the myriad of other charities and foundations they support.
Now, whether you love them or hate them, Linkin Park has been living through these things and in no way are the road signs up ahead anything but organic and green. Linkin Park recently released their fifth studio album, Living Things, debuting on the Billboard Charts Hot 200, Digital, Rock, Alternative, Hard Rock, the Official UK Albums Chart, German and Canadian Album Charts — all at Number One. They hit the road this summer with Incubus on the Honda Civic Tour in support of that release, which is proving to be one hell of a show for the price of admission.
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Brandon Boyd of Incubus can’t hide their boyish excitement about getting out on the road for this tour. “Well, I think that for us, the most special thing about this tour is the fact that you have two headlining bands singing together on one bill,” states Bennington, “which typically can be kind of hard to do, specifically, because usually when you’re in a position to headline a tour of this kind, there’s only room for one headlining band. So the fact that Incubus gets to come out and perform a full headlining set and Soul Production and Linkin Park gets to come out and perform our full headlining set with personal production and everything is kind of special. But also, we don’t really look at what the other artists have done on these tours. So really, I think from Linkin Park’s standpoint, we’re just going to come out and put on the highest-energy show we can, and incorporate as much of the new music as possible. And I’m expecting that Incubus will probably do the same.”
“Yeah, I just think it’s a good moment and a great opportunity to have two big giant rock and roll bands sharing a stage,” states Boyd. “I just think that’s going to be better than either of us would do in our own show. It’s like there are two headlining sets, which is going to be a good time, as well. So it’s almost like a mini-festival, which is amazing. And Incubus has done a Honda Civic-sponsored tour before. It may have been one of Honda Civic’s first ones, I’m not sure, but that was, like, over 10 years ago. And I remember it being really great. And I think the listeners and friends and fans and family who came out to those shows had a really great experience too. So I know that we as a band are really looking forward to doing it again this year. And personally, this will be the end of our touring cycle for our newest record, and so we’re looking forward to just making some music. And I’m very much looking forward to seeing Linkin Park with my own eyes for the first time since….I mean, I saw you guys, I think, once at a radio show, like, over 10 years ago, as well. So I think it’s going to be fun to be able to see you guys every night.”
Linkin Park has always remained a very “politically” minded group, and this tour is no different, promoting green energy throughout every state and country they all visit. When anyone holds such a status as, well, Linkin Park, what they say and do does have an effect on young, impressionable minds. Being that this is a presidential year, both Linkin Park and Incubus are on stage every night, giving them the platform to voice their opinions, but do they exercise that right? “Well, I know that within Linkin Park I’ve honestly never heard anyone talk about who they want to vote for,” states Bennington. “I think it’s something that we kind of take very personally. It’s so funny, I was watching some comedy show the other day and they were making fun of how Americans won’t talk about who they’re going to vote for. It’s such a secretive process. Whereas if you go overseas or something, people are talking about whom they’re going to vote for and who they don’t like all the time. It’s no big deal. But here in the United States it’s a little different for us. It’s such a private and personal moment to kind of choose who you think is going to be the best leader. And the last thing you want to do is influence somebody else to vote based on what they think of you, as opposed to what they think of the politician they’re voting for. So we definitely don’t really brag about who we’re going to vote for, but we do talk about the things that are important to us. And the things that are very important to us at this point are really making sure that our tours are as environmentally friendly as possible, and also giving back to our local community, as well as the world community; they’ve all been so good to us.”
“Chester makes a lot of wonderful points,” says Boyd thoughtfully. “I think that any type of meaningful movement and/or meaningful change that’s going to occur, if you were to measure it based on who people were voting for and/or who even gets elected, it’s like watching water boil. It’s infuriating to try to hang anything worthwhile or legitimate upon that process, even though it is a valuable process and an essential one. My point is, I truly believe that most of the meaningful change, if not all, is going to come from the ground. And I think it’s wonderful that Linkin Park has the Music for Relief Foundation, and is able to make waves and make moves on the ground there. So if we can counterbalance some things or offset some things that we’re doing just naturally on a daily basis with renewable energy sources, so they don’t have to burn garbage, they don’t have to burn dung, those things actually go a really long way in terms of helping with the recovery process of a natural disaster. So, for example, if a community is deforesting the areas around their villages, and let’s say a hurricane hits, okay, now all of a sudden not only did the wind destroy the homes that so many people are living in, but it’s also now created flooding and mudslides and all of that kind of stuff.
“We’ve been trying very hard and very joyfully with the Make Yourself Foundation for many years to do the same thing,” states Boyd, “both with environmental causes, but also with humanitarian efforts, to inspire people, as opposed to hanging our hat on a politician or stuff like that, It’s an infuriating but fascinating process. So I think that we’re just in a very blessed position to be able to have even a remote influence on the ground here. I think that’s where the most meaningful change is coming from.”
Co-headlining tours has become very commonplace; the economy is literally killing us all. If you can’t afford to buy milk, how on earth are you going to afford a ticket to a rock show? It’s all a tradeoff at this point. In the digital era of rock n’ roll, everything is complete instant gratification with one press of a key and “enter”. Songs are downloaded in seconds legally and, well, let’s say “oops it was a shared file,” not to mention the plethora of information at your fingertips. Just as video killed the radio star, the digital world has become a curse and a blessing with regard to the rock music industry — sort of like God and the Devil playing a little game of football; nobody wants to be punted. While the members of Linkin Park may not feel the burn of the economy as severely as the rest of us, they are mindful of those who do, and what better way than to bring two huge acts together; more bang for the buck.
“I personally think it’s an occasion that’s kind of long overdue,. We have a lot of mutual listeners. I think that it’s one of those things that once the idea was floated, and we really kind of caught onto it, that it seemed like, ‘Why haven’t we done this yet’ type of a thing. Linkin Park has a considerably larger reach than Incubus has had, and I think it’s going to be wonderful for us as a band to play in front of more people,” Boyd says with laughter. “So we definitely appreciate the opportunity there. I personally think that it’s just going to be great because of the carryover between the listeners — there are a lot of Linkin Park listeners who are also Incubus listeners, and vice versa. But we’ve never done something like this before. So as far as the feedback is concerned from people around the world — Incubus has been on tour for the past year — once this tour was announced it’s been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. So I’m really excited for it to get started.”
“Thank you, Brandon. I agree. I think that it’s funny, because in Linkin Park we all have the things that we do better than other guys do. So for example, I’m really bad at reading long-form legal documents,” quips Bennington with a chuckle. “I don’t get those damn things and most of it doesn’t make any sense to me anyways. There are guys in the band who are much better and more qualified to kind of go through that process than me. So, one of the places that I actually can contribute some skill or input that matters is on touring. Typically I’ve been pretty even in my loosest form; I’ve been involved in figuring out who we tour with for a long time. And so, I swear, it feels like I’ve probably tried to figure out a way to get Linkin Park and Incubus on the road together at least once per cycle since probably Meteora. It just goes to show how difficult it can be to actually get two headlining groups together. “Kind of going back to that first question,” he continues, “it was surprising to me that we haven’t actually done more touring with Incubus than we have in the last 15 years. So the fact that we do share such a big group of fans that kind of listen to both bands, I still feel like there’s a large number of people who are Incubus fans that never really got into Linkin Park, or kind of vice versa. But I think that there’s a common interest there. And so I feel like that’s one of the things that’s been so overwhelmingly positive about everyone’s response to our bands going on tour together is that I think it gives both of our fans something that they’ve wanted for a long time, which is to see Incubus and go see Linkin Park, because I think they’ve had to choose a lot of times on which band they’re going to go see because we’ve both been on tour. Or when we’re on tour in the U.S., Incubus is off in the Pacific Rim, hopping all over Asia, or somewhere in Europe and we’re down in Asia. It just never works out.
“So I think the fact that they’re ending their cycle and we’re kind of beginning ours, this is a very specific time in our career that things have lined up for us to be able to do a tour like this together. We get to go out and just fully express ourselves as artists and really do whatever we want to do — this energy we feel our fans are going to want. I think that that’s something that’s really special. And so I’m very appreciative to the people on the Civic tour having the vision to kind of understand that this is something that is rare and is something that people are going to be excited to go see. You know, you never get to go see Bon Jovi and KISS at the same time.”
Wow, time flies when you’re having fun; the members of Linkin Park were just fine young lads when their debut record broke. How does a band grow old yet stay young and connected? The new legions following them and the most loyal of long-term fans have been able to find what they’re looking for with every passing release or side project the band has conquered. What’s the secret? “People ask me questions like, ‘You see the Rolling Stones or guys who have been doing this for 50 years; do you see yourself doing this at their age?’ ” Bennington says in between his laughter. “And in my mind I know that however long I live, until the day I die, I’m probably going to feel mentally immature. And physically old. But my brain’s not going to be calculating, ‘Oh, I’m 70 years old.’ It’s like, ‘What do you mean I’m almost done? Aagh! I just got started.’
“And so I think that it will become a bit more difficult for me to perform a few songs on a roster that I did so easily through my twenties and thirties. When I’m 70, I don’t know if I’ll be screaming Victimized at anybody. Hopefully that will be the case, but I doubt it. That’s one of the things that’s so interesting about our business. None of us are guaranteed that anyone can come to one of our shows or care about the last record we put out. I personally, throughout my own career, every record that we go into, I look at like, this is our very first album and this is the best representation of what we are. And either people are going to love it or they’re going to hate it. Or not care. We take the creative gamble and we write music that we feel passionate about, and that we feel is important, and that we feel is, um, um, what’s the word I’m looking for, uh, damn it!”
“Vital?” asks Boyd. “No, not vital, but giving something to the people who are going to hear it.” Adds Bennington, “It’s basically like when you create a song and people hear it and they connect with it, you’re giving that person a sense of inspiration. And so I think that trying to find that word threw me off! My brain just went into a completely different area. I’m sorry, it just shut down. And so if Brandon wants to jump in, I just completely shut down. My brain went into left field!”
The laughter in the room seems to be rising as Boyd interjects, “You made me think of something, though, when you were saying, will you be screaming some of your most demanding lyrics when you’re 70. You can’t really imagine yourself doing that. I agree with you. We have so many songs that we wrote when we were in our young twenties. Some of them we wrote when we were teenagers and we still perform some of them. It occurs to me now at 36, damn, what was I thinking? This is hard! I have to really concentrate and sit still in order to do it.”
So is youth truly wasted on the young? It’s a catch 22. But luckily, we who have all grown old (gracefully, I might add) in the rock industry have a sense of humor we are aware of! It’s sort of a “reckoning” that comes with age where you don’t really care what anyone does or thinks — you do your own thing and do it well, because basically in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t friggin’ matter. The members of both bands, Linkin Park and Incubus, are sitting closer to forty than they’d all care to admit, so it makes sense that they would be concerned with aging vocal chords and the miracles of plastic surgery.
“Two things occur to me,” says Boyd with intense enthusiasm. “One was that somehow the guys in the Stones still look really cool doing it — performing. And I think that really is testament to, number one, their talent, as well as their tenacity. If you write good songs, and if you write songs that have a potentially timeless quality, yeah, I think that you’ll be able to sing them long into your sunset years. I think that’s really one of our intentions as a band. I know for me as a lyricist and as a singer, my deepest intention beyond just trying to express myself with a sense of purity is to hopefully achieve a sense of timelessness. You want to touch on subjects that are potentially universal, and that don’t really need to be tied to the 90s. Or the 2000s. Or the 2030s. Whatever. You want to be able to make music that will essentially transcend time. The other thing that occurred to me when you said that, Chester, and imagining, knowing from experience as well, there are certain songs that get harder as you get older.” Boyd takes a breath. “The term vaginaplasty came to mind, and if they can do that with technology, by the time you and I are in our 60s, why can’t they do laryngoplasty, where they can give us a 16-year-old’s throat? Can you imagine, being all leathery?”
WHAT? Oh, he means, vaginoplasty. Did you hear that pin drop?
“I would imagine that the vagina specialties will actually….” Bennington begins slowly.
“Might do well, right?” asks Boyd innocently. Laughter fills the room yet again.
“Yeah, they would definitely overflow into the vocal cord area,” states Bennington. “I think that there are a lot of connections that can be made to the mouth and the vagina. I think that that’s something — you may have actually just pioneered that entire industry. This is something that should be looked into. It’s genius.”
“We’ll talk about this more when we get on the road together,” Boyd says in an assured voice. “We’re going to pioneer this technology, and we’re going to get elderly people singing like 20-year-olds. It’s going to be awesome.”
“I just hope my vocal cords don’t have that worked-on look,” says Bennington.
“Right, right,” snickers Boyd.
“I want to look natural,” Bennington says with determination.
Well, there you have it: the band–Linkin Park; the music–it’s every where just listen; green energy–it’s like giving the world a big, fat juicy kiss; and the memories–you’re making some right now. You’ve learned much — including the secret to ever-lasting vocal cords. Knowledge is power; every day you learn something new. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow….