By Brian Ives
Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda is a self-aware guy. He knows where rock music — and his band’s brand of rock music — stand in today’s pop culture landscape, and he knows that 2014 isn’t the best climate for them to re-emerge with a new album.
“We’ve been around long enough that music trends have gone away from us and come back,” he tells Radio.com. “And right now, they’re away. Rock music has gone in this direction that’s like indie pop jingles. It’s like songs that could be on Nick Jr. and the Disney Channel. I can’t see myself writing music like that. I don’t want to follow that trend. Forget it!”
He’s quick to point out that he enjoys some of the big indie pop artists of the moment. “Bands like Chvrches and Haim to Vampire Weekend, I like those records, I like those bands, I always cite those bands when I talk about this subject. I like that style of music. But there was a point at which that was fresh and new, and they were making it because it was part of their identity and they were making something different. And now it’s a different situation. None of these bands are indie bands, they’re all major label bands. So if you think they’re not, you’re mistaken.”
The thing that he felt was missing? Loud guitars. And his own band was guilty of that as well. “On the last two albums, there was not much guitar. “And the guitar that was there, I usually wrote and played.” The band’s other guitarist, Brad Delson, was more involved in the song arrangements.
Shinoda recalled an important conversation with his fellow guitarist. “I said, ‘Look dude, I need to hear some guitar and I know that I can’t write the things that you can write. [Bassist] Dave [Farrell] told me that when he first met you, he told me you were one of the best guitar players that he had ever met. Do you think our fans know that?’ He doesn’t like to be a very showy guitarist. I asked him, ‘What do you think the 14-year old Brad thinks of you right now? What would he say if he heard your music right now?’ That kid was listening to really heavy metal and shredding in his room all day. ‘That’s the kid you want to impress, to inspire to be a better guitar player, or be a guitar player at all.'” And so Delson plugged in and turned it up, pointing the album in a much heavier direction.
Of course, “heavy” is relative: “I know the thresholds of heavy, I’ve heard Meshuggah. I’m not under the impression that we’ve made the heaviest album of all time. But I do know that what’s going on out there in rock music, is that rock music, even the most popular bands, is not really influencing the zeitgeist. It’s not moving the needle of pop culture. I don’t want rock to be pop. I do want it to be exciting. And right now, it’s moderately exciting.”
The billion dollar question, obviously, is how do you change that? “The way to move the needle for rock music? I don’t have the answers. All I know is what we can do as a band. We’ve made the best record we can make right now, that’s always what we shoot for. We’re going on the road with two really, really, really great bands, 30 Seconds to Mars and AFI, we will do more tours with more rock bands, and we’re looking forward to what comes this year.”
Linkin Park’s new album The Hunting Party is out June 17.