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Mike Shinoda Reflects Back On Linkin Park’s Early Success: “I Should Give Groups Like Deftones And Korn More Credit”, Recalls Being Dissed On ‘Ozzfest’ By Sharon Osbourne


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Mike Shinoda, vocalist, etc. of diamond-certified nü-metal kings Linkin Park, recently chatted with Vulture about the group’s 7x multi-platinum sophomore album, “Meteora“. An expanded 20th anniversary edition of that album consisting of 89 tracks will be released this Friday, April 07th.

The conversation saw Shinoda look back on the band’s early days, their rise to fame, his favorite Linkin Park album and more. Some excerpts from the lengthy chat can be found below.

On the early days of the band:

“If you look at the chronology, the band started with me and my friend Mark Wakefield. That was the initial concept. We called it Xero, and we made a bunch of rap-rock songs and tried to get signed. The feedback we got was, ‘You need to put together a band and learn how to play in front of people.’ So we did that. Joe was my friend from college. Brad was Mark’s next-door neighbor. Phoenix was Brad’s roommate. We knew Rob from a school near where we grew up. At a certain point it didn’t work out with Mark and we parted ways and he went into management.

We had met with every label and most of the indies and got turned down by everybody. Then we got Chester, and we were like, ‘Now we’re going to get signed.’ We went and met with everybody again, showcased for everybody, and they all turned us down again. We were doing okay, playing shows for a hundred people in town, but nobody wanted to sign us.

We eventually signed a publishing deal with this guy who had signed Limp Bizkit and some other people and he ended up taking a job at Warner, and we went with him as a function of him taking the job. We basically had a development deal, where if it worked out, they put out our record, but if it didn’t work out, they’d just cut us loose. And it worked out.”

He continued:

“Here’s what I assume [the labels that turned us down] thought: Our thing, the combination of elements, was too esoteric. We loved DJ Shadow, Fatboy Slim, Moby, Aphex Twin, and Portishead. I’m missing a ton… The Prodigy. With that stuff in the music, labels were like, ‘Who’s going to listen?’ And then on top of it, we were more introspective.

What we didn’t like about what was going on in the scene was that it was very frat rock. It was toxic masculinity. We didn’t know the term yet. We just didn’t like how everything was about tough-guy shit, and we didn’t identify with tough-guy shit. So nobody wanted to sign us because we didn’t fit.

They couldn’t see us onstage. Somebody said to me, ‘f you guys were to open up a show with Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit, you’d get beat up.’ It was a joke, right? But probably true, at least for me. I would’ve gotten beat up. Chester wouldn’t have gotten beat up. He’d fuck somebody up, too.”

When asked about whether or not they knew their music would connect with fans on an emotional level due to it addressing uncomfortable topics, he responded:

“I think that was the point. It was always the point. While I loved and I grew up on very macho hip-hop, I was also, at that phase in my life, finishing college, more in tune with a more complex palette of subject matter in what I was listening to. I wanted to put that into my songs, like bands like Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails did.

I was listening to a lot of U2. None of those are, like, ‘Hey, I’m going to kick your ass’ songs. Those are all, ‘Oh, I got ass my kicked. This isn’t fair or this feels bad or maybe it’s my fault.’ We weren’t hearing those emotions as much in music that was out there. And when we did hear it, I liked what I was hearing.

I should give groups like Deftones and Korn more credit. They were doing that. I liked how Jonathan Davis was just an open book putting all of his most fucked-up stuff right out there in the lyrics.”

Regarding the pushback they faced in the press back in 2001 and on the then annual ‘Ozzfest‘ tour:

“Our review in Rolling Stone was one paragraph, and I think they called us kids with hot-pink nail polish on our Nine Inch Nails. Sharon Osbourne said the only reason we’re including these bands on Ozzfest — and she meant us and Papa Roach and some others [Crazy Town] — is for the girls. The day before we played our first show of Ozzfest, and she’s already shit-talking us.”

When pointed out how that festival is now often associated with the nü-metal movement, Shinoda replied:

“Now, it’s known for that. Back then it was just metal, metal, metal.”

Regarding his own personal favorite Linkin Park album:

“…We want to make sure that when we put something together, it’s thoughtful and we’ve done our best. Is it going to be perfect? No. Is it going to appeal to everybody? Of course not. It never will be. To me, my favorite Linkin Park album is probably ‘A Thousand Suns‘. When it came out, half of the reviews were one-star reviews.

Literally 50-50, five stars or one star. Nobody in the middle. Everybody loved it or hated it. If you make music just for other people and not for yourself first, then you’re going to be completely out of control in your career, and it’s a recipe for disaster in terms of your mental health and your ability to make great things. I can look back at my own shit and 20 years later say, ‘That’s pretty good for you, for that age.'”

You can find a whole lot more from Shinoda over at Vulture.

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