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Linkin Park Singer Chester Bennington Discusses ‘The Hunting Party,’ Guest Musicians + More

Chester Bennington of Linkin Park
Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com

Linkin Park are back with the new album, ‘The Hunting Party,’ and the disc shows off a more aggressive side to the band’s music. Ahead of the release, ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Full Metal Jackie spoke with co-vocalist Chester Bennington and got the insight on what led them down their musical path with ‘The Hunting Party.’ Check out the chat below.

It’s Full Metal Jackie on Loudwire Nights. Chester Bennington from Linkin Park with us on the show. Chester, Linkin Park has a rich history of musical diversity. How did having so many styles to work with directly affect ‘The Hunting Party’?

We found ourselves in a unique position to be able to make a really heavy record because we can. We’ve set ourselves in this band to really be open-minded to doing anything that we want stylistically. If we want to write a hip-hop track, we can. If we want to write a country song, we can. Folk song that turns into a hip-hop track that turns into a death metal track, we can do that. There’s nothing binding us to a specific style.

For us, that really helped us create this album because in the beginnings of making this record we were going into the direction that I think most people were expecting us to go. It was more electro, it had a dance-y pop element to it — still dark and aggressive but more along the lines of ‘Burn It Down’ and ‘A Light That Never Comes’ as opposed to ‘Given Up’ or ‘One Step Closer.’ We were working on that stuff. It was interesting to us and it was kind of where we were going, it was comfortable for us.

At some point, Mike [Shinoda] was just like — he realized that not only are we making music that’s pretty typical to what’s going on right now, it’s so typical that it almost made the songs not even fun to work on. We got to a point where, there’s a lot of bands doing stuff like this, a lot of them are doing it well. Then there’s a lot of them that are doing it really s—ty. Even if we do it well, it’s still going to get lost in the noise of all the stuff that’s very similar, or whatever. This is not exciting to us.

We want to make something that’s heavy. We want to make something that’s got visceral energy and palpable, tangible that you can feel and experience, right? That’s kind of how we decided to change gears and go make a really heavy (for us) hard rock record. I think the fact that we had afforded ourselves the freedom creatively to kind of go wherever we wanted, it was easy for us to switch gears and go in that direction. It worked well.

So, did you change the songs into something different? Or start from scratch?

We tossed the songs in the trash and started brand new songs. It was like, “You know what? I don’t want to do this anymore, these piss me off.” I am angry at the state of alternative rock music, the state of indie music. It’s not alternative, it’s not indie. It’s unapologetically writing adult contemporary pop songs and selling them as indie rock songs and it’s f—ed. We need to do something about it and do something that shines a light on heavy music and bring some of that back hopefully because it’s not happening right now.

We’re not saying that we hate every band out there right now. There are a handful of bands that are really great. But there’s only a handful of them and none of them are making aggressive records. All the great bands that are doing aggressive records that are semi-popular, there are still only a handful of bands that do it consistently on a level that doesn’t really hit a niche market. So, we found ourselves in a very unique position to go in and make a record and use all of our skills as songwriters and our abilities to craft great pop songs, and throw some f—ing anger in there.

Chester, what was the conversation like when the band discussed possibly playing ‘Hybrid Theory’ in full at this year’s Download Festival?

That was an interesting situation that came up. We knew that this year marks the 15th anniversary of ‘Hybrid Theory’ [a demo version came out in 1999, while the album was properly released in 2000]. We wanted to do something special, so we were like, it’d be cool to do some small shows and just play ‘Hybrid Theory’ for some diehard fans. We were already starting to think about doing that.

Then when we got the call from the promoters of Download. We’ve headlined Download several times so they wanted to do something special. They felt like ‘Hybrid Theory’ was a real important record and they came to us to see if we wanted to headline Download, but they thought it would be really great if you guys did something different because you’ve been here so often, would you be interested in playing ‘Hybrid Theory’ from beginning to end to celebrate that record on its 15th anniversary.

And if you don’t, we’re probably going to ask someone else to headline because you guys were just here a few years ago. We were like, yeah — this is a great opportunity. Now we can do it in front of a huge audience, it’ll be real exciting. I can’t wait until we get to Download and we start ‘Papercut.’ Once that beat kicks in dude, I just have a feeling the crowd is going to f—ing lose their mind. It’s funny, we play that song every night but I think in the context of people being able to hear it beginning to end, we’ve never done that before. A lot of these songs we haven’t played in 15 years. It’ll be a real fun night. Then to follow that up with some of the new stuff, it’ll be awesome.

Talking a little bit about ‘Hybrid Theory,’ what’s the most direct link between ‘The Hunting Party’ and ‘Hybrid Theory’?

The fact that we kind of went back and started listening to the things that got us into wanting to be in the band when Mike [said], “I don’t want to work on these songs anymore, I want something that’s exciting and I want something that reminds me of stuff that. I want stuff that’s going to make me feel like I need to go be in a band.”

So he started going back and referencing all these great bands that he loved — Refused, Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits. All these great bands that had done something that was real interesting, Helmet. And he started to try and find stuff that was more recent and modern. More current and there is nothing. That was what inspired us and going back — him talking to the band and encouraging all of us to go back and look at the records that really molded us and inspired us to become musicians to get inspired.

We sat down and had a conversation within the band, “OK, Brad people don’t know how great of a guitar player you are. They know you can play, but they don’t know. We want you to write music that’s going to inspire the 14-year-old Brad to go pick up a guitar and learn how to play it.” I was like, “I’m going to do that with my vocals. I’m going to scream and sing a record that will make kids go, ‘That guy is speaking for me.’”

I think that’s probably the most direct link. When we were making ‘Hybrid Theory,’ that was the stuff that was influencing us. We were trying to connect something that was new and different, that made people want to want to come and learn how to, and get into hip-hop or get into electronic music or metal. We wanted to inspire people, we’ve always wanted to do that with every record. We always go into every record wanting to make an album that’s interesting to us, that pushed us creatively and inspires people. This one in particular, we really went back and were like let’s go back to the roots of what made us who we are, and let’s attack that. Let’s go there.

Daron [Malakian] from System of A Down and Page Hamilton from Helmet are collaborators on the new record. What prompted their involvement?

That was another thing we did on this album that was different than anything we’ve done in the past. Several things that were interesting and fun, we produced it ourselves. It was cool that we got to do that. We didn’t really set out not to have a producer, we just started writing demos and working and as we were developing the songs and playing them for some of the higher ups at the label, people within the circle of trust, they were all just, “You guys are rolling. Keep going.” It just never came up, so we continued to make the record on our own, which allowed us to think freely. It allowed us to go from making pop dance music to hard rock. It allowed us to go, you know?

I want to rap on this part but I don’t know if it’s me. I don’t think it should be me rapping, let’s get Rakim in here. Then making that happen. This song we wrote, the chorus sounds so cool but it feels like Helmet. We don’t want to write a song that sounds like Helmet, but this is cool, why don’t we go straight to the source? Why don’t we call Page, and see if he would be interested in coming in and working on the song. If he likes it, we can continue working on it and we don’t have to feel like it doesn’t make sense. The song was telling us, go get Page. If you listen, as an artist and musicians, you need to listen to what the songs are saying.

We got to the point where we were kind of like, needing some inspiration and we wanted to work with someone else so we did a jam session with Tom Morello for a day, got some great music out of that. We called Daron, he was down to come down and hang out. There was no pressure, it was like, “Hey, we want to hire you to come in and write a song with us.” It was, “Hey we want to be inspired and curious if you wanted to work on something with us. We don’t know what that means, if that means come in and listen to our music we’ve been working on and collaborate on that or write something completely new together.” He came in with the song ‘Rebellion.’

The second he started playing that riff, I was like dude — that’s a badass track. We have to work on that, and within two days we had the whole track written, arranged and it was a matter of coming up with the right lyrics. It was great to be able to do that with all these guys. Even though I can’t remember his name, kicking myself for it, we worked with a producer that typically works as a songwriter on the song ‘Final Masquerade.’ This guy typically writes songs for the biggest pop artists in the world — Rihanna, Katy Perry. To work with a guy like that is stepping out of our comfort zone and we ended up writing a great song. It was a lot of fun, we had a lot of opportunities to step out of that, out of our world and invite people in for the first time.

Chester, in what ways does collaborating with other artists playing in other bands like Stone Temple Pilots benefit you creatively in Linkin Park?

There’s a number of ways. With STP in particular, just knowing their history and coming in – there’s a lot of healing going on. A lot of anger from their past going on. Things they need to work through. So, being around that really made me realize how great things are in Linkin Park land. It inspired me to tell the guys, “Hey, we live in this every day so we probably don’t notice it but we’ve got something really special.” It’s not normal for bands to communicate the way we do, to get closer over time and more inspired over time — deeper friendships, deeper respect. These are things that typically don’t happen and the fact that it does, it’s just a part of our everyday life and we can take it for granted.

Stepping out of our comfort zone and our box and going into another world. It allowed me to distance myself on it so I can look back and see how great it was, so it helped in that way but creatively you go in and see how other people work and see how they craft songs. You see how they approach lyrics or songwriting structure. It’s awesome. You take those experiences and you add them to your repertoire of tools you can use in the studio.

Our thanks to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington for the interview. You can pick up the band’s ‘The Hunting Party’ album now at both iTunes and Amazon. You can listen to ‘Loudwire Nights’ with host Full Metal Jackie Monday through Friday at 7PM through Midnight on more than 20 stations across America. To find out where you can hear ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.

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