Outside the Park
05.05.2008Linkin Park rapper Mike Shinoda takes the solo route with Fort Minor and he has a few ghosts of the past to deal with, writes RIZAL JOHAN.
WELCOME to the world of Mike Shinoda. Linkin Park fans know him as the emcee for the rock band, which is one of the most successful contemporary rock bands to spread their influence around the globe. If you think otherwise, figures will show that Linkin Park has sold 35 million albums worldwide so far.
Vocalist/keyboardist Shinoda, however, is not one to rest on the heels of success. Staying on top of his game while Linkin Park is preparing a new studio album for next year, Shinoda took the solo route and recorded an album’s worth of hip hop material under the guise of Fort Minor.
Shinoda recorded the first demo of his solo material two years ago when hip hop mogul Jay Z collaborated with Linkin Park on the album Collision Course (which was released last November).
The rapper later served as executive producer for Fort Minor’s The Rising Tied. Shinoda not only wrote and performed about 90% of the instrumentations and vocals for the album, he also served as producer. In a phone interview with Shinoda recently, he explained the extent of his abilities for recording The Rising Tied.
“Well, I started playing classical piano since I was 10 years old and for the album I played keyboards, guitar, and bass. I recorded the instruments separately and produced the album. I’m proud of the string arrangements because I wrote them on keyboards. I programmed the drum tracks and the way I programmed them was very complex,” said an enthusiastic-sounding Shinoda from his Los Angeles home.
The album also features guest artistes like soul singer John Legend, rapper Common as well as new artistes from Shinoda’s Machine Shop imprint. The album title, The Rising Tied, is a play on words with the phrase “the rising tide” but the meaning goes deeper than that.
“The Rising Tied represents the group of people who worked on the album like John Legend and Common and of us rising up together.”
Although Shinoda is no stranger when it comes to recording and song-writing with his band Linkin Park, it was a different experience doing it all by himself.
“I had nobody else to look to when I was doing this solo album. In Linkin Park, (guitarist) Brad (Delson) and I will decide which are the better songs but on this album, I heard the material a 100 times and I needed a fresh pair of ears – so I chose Jay Z and Brad to help me out.”
Shinoda also used this opportunity to, lyrically, write songs that are personal to him be it about his life (the autobiographical (Remember the Name), and the ups-and-downs of being in a rock band (High Road). The song Kenji explores the experience of Japanese-American internees during World War II in America and featured recordings of Shinoda’s family members.
“Kenji was my family’s experience in America during the Second World War. In the 1940s, my dad and my aunt were put in interment camps like a lot of other Japanese Americans and they faced a lot of racism whether it was at work or school.
“The generation of Japanese Americans who experienced it then, their philosophy was ‘it can’t be helped’ and chose instead to look towards the future and not talk about it.
“I think it worked for them at that time but now with the younger generation, I don’t think that philosophy works anymore. So I wrote the song in order to tell the story and let it be out in the open and something we can talk about. I think the time is appropriate for things to be out in the open.”
Shinoda learned of his family’s experiences when he was young and remembered during the Reagan administration in the 1980s how the president made a public apology to the Japanese Americans who were put in internment camps and who were also repatriated.
“They were not paid very much. However, the most important thing was the public apology he made,” said Shinoda.
Fort Minor is expected to do a small tour and will be heading towards Australia and Asia sometime in February and March. Shinoda, however, has his plate full at the moment as Linkin Park is currently writing and recording songs for the upcoming album due to be released next year. When asked whether he has any free time for himself, Shinoda said: “We’re (Linkin Park) in the studio right now recording our next album, so I don’t have any free time. And since I have done a lot of production work (with Fort Minor), I’m co-producing the new Linkin Park album as well with somebody else,” said Shinoda who did not name the other mystery producer who is working on the band’s new album.
When reminded about Linkin Park’s massive concert at Stadium Merdeka (October, 2003) here, Shinoda recalled the gig fondly. He is excited about the prospect of touring Asia and personally had a message for all Malaysian Linkin Park fans.
“Please tell them that I would like to thank them all their incredible support and we will come to your country again soon.”
AntiMusic - December, 23 2005