Linkin Park shows staying power with series of successes
04.05.2008"In the End" was the big hit from Linkin Park's megaplatinum debut album, "Hybrid Theory."
But the rap-rock sextet from Santa Monica, Calif., believes that it was only the beginning.
And it appears to be. "Meteora," the group's sophomore album, was the top-selling rock al bum of 2003. The more than 3.5 million copies sold in the United States alone proved that the Grammy-winning "Hybrid Theory" was no fluke. Add to that platinum sales of the 2002 remix collection "Reanimation" and gold status for the new concert souvenir "Live in Texas," and Linkin Park has a pretty formidable three-year track record.
"We're kind of perfectionists and definitely strive to make really great art and really great music," says guitarist Brad Delson, 26, a UCLA graduate who co-founded Linkin Park with MC Mike Shinoda in 1996, when they were in high school.
"I think there was actually less pressure this time. The first time out, if your record doesn't do well, that's it. Your career is pretty much over. But based on the fact we had such tremendous luck with our first few endeavors, we kind of know we have a career at this point. We all feel very secure and pretty much blessed with the opportunity to make music for some time."
Shinoda agrees, saying that Linkin Park approached "Meteora" with the goal of pleasing itself rather than measuring up to others' expectations.
"I think the biggest pressures we had were the pressures we put on ourselves," he says.
"We knew what we wanted to achieve with this album. I think that we just kept those things in mind and tried for those goals. You have to just be able to listen to it and know that it's good."
Willing to take the time
That doesn't mean "Meteora" came easily, but neither Delson nor Shinoda describe it as an ordeal. Shinoda says it proved fortuitous that Linkin Park - which also includes vocalist Chester Bennington, DJ Joseph Hahn, bassist Darren "Phoenix" Farrell and drummer Rob Bourdon - started working on new material in a portable studio on its tour bus during Ozzfest 2001.
"We probably got started about four to six months before people really started asking us, 'What's going on with the next album?' " he says. "So at that point, we'd already written a lot of material."
Still, the 12-track album took a full 18 months to create, with the band eventually hunkering down at NRG studios in Hollywood with "Hybrid Theory" producer Don Gilmore.
"We didn't care how long it was going to take," Delson says. "My attitude was, 'We've been working on this for a year and a half. We want it to be great. If we have to spend two more days working on a part, it's going to be worth it.'
"We didn't take any shortcuts or say, 'That's good enough.' We just wanted to make sure it was great when it was done."
Hot from the start
"Meteora" was a hit out of the box - soaring to No. 1 on the Billboard charts with first-week sales of 811,000 (nearly doubling runner-up Celine Dion's total) and launching radio hits such as "Somewhere I Belong" and "Faint." The track "Session" received a Grammy nomination for best rock instrumental performance.
But Linkin Park really felt its impact with the overwhelmingly positive audience reception on last year's Metallica-headlined Summer Sanitarium tour, says Bennington.
"When we started the tour, we were just thankful Metallica even knew who we were," says Bennington, 27. "And then for them to ask us to do a co-headlining tour with them kind of freaked us out. We didn't realize we were considered on that level.
"At the same time, it's no se cret what happens to bands that open for Metallica. Crowds turn their backs toward them and put their middle fingers in the air. But people were really stoked to see us, which shows us it's working. They were singing along, and I've never seen mosh pits that big - like, 50 feet wide. It was insane."
Getting it on tape
Bennington says Linkin Park wanted to preserve the memory of Summer Sanitarium in some way - ultimately via the "Live in Texas" CD and DVD set, which has sold more than a half-million copies since its November release.
"We were so pleased with everything during the tour, we said, 'Why don't we send a film crew out there and get the thing on tape?' " he says. "It was something we were so excited about, we wanted to catch it on film. So we did it in Dallas and Houston."
Linkin Park plans on riding "Meteora" well into 2004. After its current tour with P.O.D., the group plans even more road work and is hoping to expand its Projekt Revolution live shows into a full-blown summer festival. The band also has started its own record company, Machine Shop Recordings, which should start signing acts and releasing albums this year.
And, as with "Meteora," Linkin Park hopes to get an early start on its next album while on the road.
"We haven't written anything yet," Shinoda says. "But that's just something we do whenever we have down time. We enjoy messing around with something musical, and that being the case, it's inevitable new songs will just start happening."
In the meantime, Delson says the group is happy that "Meteora" has proven that Linkin Park was not a flash in the pan.
"We take our art really seriously," the guitarist says. "We think about Linkin Park not just as a band. We think of ourselves as a group of artists - musically, visually, the whole thing. When you get something that says 'Linkin Park' on it, we want it to come from the band. I think that makes people feel closer to it."
Cleveland Plain Dealer - January 16, 2004