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Linkin Park Thrives by Forging a Band With Its Fans

Love it or loathe it, Linkin Park just might be the ultimate new-millennium band.
Consider the evidence.

The California sextet musically fuses hard rock with a dash of hip-hop -- two forms that always do well with teen audiences -- helping popularize so-called "rap-metal."

Lyrically, vocalists Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington deliver the angst and introspection that would do any "emo" band proud.

The group uses the latest recording technology on its albums. Forget tape: Linkin Park is all about digitized, computer-reliant recording systems like Pro Tools.

And when it comes to image, Linkin Park has staked out some turf any of its peers should envy. Through videos and album-art, the band managed to create a video-game-worthy world of space ships and robots on its monster debut, "Hybrid Theory," to attract everyone from sci-fi freaks to skaters to gamer shut-ins.
Rock, hip-hop, teen angst and an MTV-friendly image helped "Hybrid Theory" sell 14 million copies to date and sell more than any other album in 2001. While still touring that disc, the band started work on its follow-up, "Meteora," which two weeks ago debuted at No. 1 on the sales charts, moving 810,000 copies its first week.

One more factor in Linkin Park's success can't be overlooked. Even before "Hybrid Theory" hit, the band worked to forge bonds with its fans, from playing tons of shows to setting up "street teams" of teens to help market itself. Give fans a sense of ownership and responsibility for a band, and they will stay fans for life.

"It's great," Linkin Park DJ Joseph Hahn said, describing "Meteora's" debut. "We worked really hard on it and it feels good because it really paid off.

"A lot of it's due to our fans. We've got the best fans in the world, and they really appreciate what we're doing and we appreciate them likewise."

Talk to Hahn, or read interviews with any of the band, and they inevitably give credit to fans and emphasize that all things Linkin Park are true band efforts. The group -- Hahn, Shinoda, Bennington, drummer Rob Bourdon, guitarist Brad Delson and bassist Phoenix -- has an unofficial division of extracurricular duties (Hahn is one of the brains behind the video visuals and Web site, for instance), and the band wrote much of "Meteora" in each other's houses, taking hardly any time off after the last tour, and recorded near home.

"That was good, being able to sleep in our own beds while we were recording," Hahn said. "Even though we were working, we had a little time. We're used to working. That's part of our mentality."

It's hard to believe Linkin Park went away at all since its last album. Hits from "Hybrid Theory" like "In The End" and the Grammy-winning "Crawling" are still in constant radio rotation, and the new single "Somewhere I Belong" is quickly following on radio and MTV. If history repeats itself, songs from "Meteora" might be part of our lives for the next two years, and Linkin Park might have to stay on the road even longer.

"To us, touring is kind of the reward for finishing the album," Hahn said. "Getting out there and sharing the album with people is really cool. And being able to travel around the world definitely gives us a broader view musically, hearing a bunch of different things.

"We're just happy to be working musicians, to be able to do this for a living."

Salt Lake Tribune - April 18, 2003



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