When it comes to blending genres, Linkin Park isn’t just any du jour, the band’s been been pushing the envelope to how rap and rock is interpreted for more than a decade. While their debut album Hybrid Theory soundtracked a generation who have long omitted their rebellious attitudes for adulthood, it harnessed a loyal following infatuated with their experimental, genre-less delivery. Here, we catch up with Linkin Park frontman Mike Shinoda, who compares the mashing of genres to cultural diversity today, in addition to making nod at some of music’s greatest — Zeppelin, Run DMC, Public Enemy, The Beatles, Rage Against The Machine — who have influenced their eclectic approach. In this conversation, Shinoda also shows clear comprehension of pop culture’s influential, mentioning Purity Ring, Arctic Monkeys and Santigold all in one sentence. An episode of A Conversation With… that’s worth your while, Shinoda shares his thoughts on the band’s growth, and the concept behind Living Things — their latest album that got ranked No.1 on the US Albums Charts in its debut week with over 220,000 copies sold.
Linkin Park has always seen a strong vocal interplay between you and Chester Bennington, would you say this is one of the band’s core aesthetics?
One of the best parts about having two vocalists with different voices is that we have an expanded palette. Plus, we both grew up listening to different things, so it allows for a wider range of approaches when it comes to writing and performing. Over time, we’ve experimented with a lot of different styles, too, dipping into different genres and mashing them together. I think it’s one of the things that makes what we do fun.
Linkin Park is one of the prominent bands of early noughties that fluently blended rock and rap. How do you think this sound has influenced musicians that came after?
We obviously learned from those that came before us, who experimented with blending genres. There were so many, like Zeppelin, Run DMC, Public Enemy, The Beatles, Rage Against The Machine. We were a product of a lot of things. These days, some of my favorite music is borderless, genre-less. It’s almost like skin color–when you’re living in a place where people are separated and race is an issue, you’re more conscious of it; when you live in a place where people of many races live closely together, you don’t notice differences in as much of a conscious way, if that makes sense.
Where do you think rock and rap lie right now? Would you say they’re even more compatible than before?
Yes and no. There are a lot of rap artists who are doing interesting things, from Kanye and Pusha to Odd Future and Kendrick. I like the A$AP stuff, and I’m excited for new Schoolboy Q music. Rock music is having a bit of a personality crisis; I feel like the heavier stuff isn’t as innovative as I want it to be, and a lot of artists are tending toward the other end of the spectrum, towards indie / pop stuff, which I feel is getting a bit over-saturated and boring. When an artists blend complex styles in a tasteful or fun way–like Purity Ring, Santigold, Haim, or Arctic Monkeys, I think that’s exciting.
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