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Linkin Park on their aggressive return to rock


Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda isn’t bothered that his band’s latest album, The Hunting Party, debuted short of No. 1 on The Billboard 200 album chart. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t see No. 3 as a slight at all, especially considering it hit the top of the charts in 67 other countries.

“I feel like the Billboard chart is for one thing,” Shinoda says during a teleconference with bandmate Chester Bennington, a Gilbert native.

“It’s for the first-week album sales, and this is not really a first-week album sales kind of album. It’s a statement album. It’s a live album; an album that should be taken to the stage and that’s exactly what we’re planning to do right now.”

Shinoda is referring to the Carnivores Tour with AFI and Thirty Seconds to Mars, which comes to US Airways Center on Wednesday, September 10.

The Hunting Party is the first time since the band’s 2000 debut disc, Hybrid Theory, that the group did not land at the top of the charts in the first week of sales. That said, Bennington adds that he is “amazed” by the collection’s critical success.

“I have yet to read anything negative about the record on a critical level that has been written, which is pretty amazing, and so for that we’re very grateful,” he says.

“But at the same time, almost on a daily basis, I run into Linkin Park fans and I’ll take pictures or say, ‘Hi,’ whatever, and every single person that I’ve met since we released this record has told me that they love the record. They are super happy that it’s out like it is, that they’ve been waiting for the great rock record.”

Shinoda and Bennington describe the record as a return to rock, pushing aside Linkin Park’s electronic rock sound of its previous two studio albums. Bennington explains that his fellow musicians have said this is a record that the rock genre really needed.

“They also appreciate the record that we’ve made, that it is progressive and it is something that they want to listen to,” Bennington explains. “I feel like we have accomplished our goal on this album. I think not only creatively, but personally for the band, but also for a lot of our fans. They appreciate what we do, but they’ve kind of been waiting for us to rock out for awhile, and I think they appreciate not only that we did rock out, but in the manner in which we did.”

Bennington says Linkin Park just went in the studio and hoped for the best. The goal was to make great songs and, if that was accomplished, the band wouldn’t “alienate everybody.”

“Luckily for us, I mean, a lot of our fans have come along for the ride on the last two records and we really did go and stretch our wings and see how far we could take these,” he says.

“And I think, for us, like, going through that process of trying things and making sure that we’re creatively excited and energized helps us create music that still sounds like Linkin Park, regardless of what vibe the song is. I mean, that’s kind of what we’re known for anyway. So, I think for people to get hung up on us not speaking to a specific sound is kind of silly idea anyway, considering that we’ve never really been a kind of a single genre type of band.”

The follow-up album to 2012’s Living Things, The Hunting Party features the singles “Guilty All The Same” and “Until It’s Gone,” as well as guest performers Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Helmet’s Page Hamilton, System of a Down’s Daron Malakian and rapper Rakim. Shinoda says a lot of those special guests came about at the last minute.

“It’s got to come from a very open, spontaneous kind of grassroots way,” Bennington adds. “It can’t be forced or thought of in a boardroom and written down on a piece of paper and, like, 10 to 15 people that actually see it. That’s not the way that anything creative usually gets done.”

When asked if there was one song that Bennington wishes fans would listen to, it’s actually the first five, considering there’s no break in between them.

“It’s always weird to kind of say what your favorite song is on the record, because when you’re in the band, you kind of have a close relationship with all the songs,” he says.

“This record is a really difficult record to say that for because there’s so much range in terms of the songs.”

Shinoda has a different answer.

“We try and create the best thing we can create for that moment, and obviously with this album, our effort was more in an aggressive and, I feel like still, a very experimental direction,” he says.

“Different people gravitate toward different songs for different reasons, and even I like different ones on different days. So, whereas, one day I love ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ because it may be one of the wildest, rapid-fire songs on the album. Another day, I like ‘Rebellion’ because it’s such a cool mix of the heaviest stuff on the record, but also it’s really melodic and a solid song underneath there. So, yeah, so just different songs.”

Linkin Park w/Thirty Seconds to Mars, AFI, US Airways Center, 201 E. Jefferson Avenue, Phoenix, 800.745.3000, usairwayscenter.com, Wednesday, September 10, 6:30 p.m., $57-$98


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