The A-Z Of Linkin Park

Chester Bennington live
(Image credit: Getty \/ Chiaki Nozu)

Linkin Park are one of the biggest names in metal, and have relentlessly pushed creative boundaries throughout their career. They’ve made a mark not just on the US and European alternative scenes but globally, and as they work on their seventh album, we round up the essential facts.

A is for… Agoura Hills

This is where it all started. Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon and Brad Delson met and formed the first incarnation of Linkin Park while at high school together in Agoura Hills, Los Angeles County, in 1996. It wasn’t until Chester Bennington joined the band in 1999 that things really began to take shape.

B is for… Booze

Although they’re clean-living now, both Chester and Mike have admitted that Linkin Park went for it pretty hard in the early days, and that it wasn’t a good environment for Chester, who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his childhood and early years with the band. “The tours we did in the beginning, everybody… was either drinking or doing drugs. I can’t think of any that were sober,” revealed Mike in an interview.

C is for… Charity

Throughout their career, Linkin Park have been involved in various charitable activities. In 2004, they founded Music For Relief to raise money for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, and since then, the charity has fundraised after a number of other natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina and last year’s Nepal earthquakes. On their 2014 Carnivores tour with 30 Seconds To Mars, LP worked with a non-profit climate change organisation to make the tour environmentally friendly.

D is for… Depeche Mode

They might not be the first act you’d associate with Linkin Park, but after the Meteora cycle in 2004, Mike Shinoda had one of his first forays into remixing and production work when he re-worked the Depeche Mode track Enjoy The Silence. Since then, he’s produced for Lupe Fiasco, worked with Avicii and scored TV shows including the 2005 MTV VMAs, a CNN documentary series, and the theme tune for US martial arts drama Into The Badlands.

E is for… Emotion

Chester Bennington isn’t afraid to get deep in his lyrics or his interviews – he’s opened up about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child – and in his 2005 side-project Dead By Sunrise, he held nothing back. “I came up with a few songs that felt and sounded really good, but I knew they weren’t right stylistically for Linkin Park. They were darker and moodier than anything I’d come up with for the band. So I decided to work on them on my own,” he said.

F is for… Fort Minor

Mike Shinoda’s hip-hop side project might only have released one album, but 2005’s The Rising Tied was a hit, with one of its singles, Where’d You Go, reaching number four on the Billboard chart. Mike had some big names from outside of the rock world working with him on the album, including Jay Z, John Legend and Common. Last year, he released the first new Fort Minor track in ten years, Welcome.

G is for… Grammys

They’ve been nominated for six Grammys and won two, but their biggest Grammy moment – as Chester recently told Metal Hammer – was performing Numb/Encore with Jay Z at the 2006 ceremony. They won the award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for the medley. They’ve also won five American Music Awards, one Billboard award and a whopping 26 awards from various MTV ceremonies around the world, including the VMAs, the MTV Europe Music Awards and the MTV Asia awards.

H is for… Hybrid Theory

It’s not just the name of their first album – for a short time after Chester Bennington joined the ranks, it was also the name of the band. But their breakthrough debut was initially a hard sell; despite them spreading the word on chat rooms (MySpace wasn’t a thing then) and gaining support from online fans, they were still rejected by a few of the major labels before signing a deal with Warner.

I is for… Innovation

One of the things that’s kept Linkin Park interesting is their willingness to step outside the confines of their genre and try new things with their music. Minutes To Midnight, their third album and the first to have Rick Rubin on production duties, saw them stepping away from their nu-metal roots. Rick himself said that “[they] are reinventing themselves, it doesn’t sound like rap-rock. There’s very strong songwriting. It’s very melodic,” and guitarist Brad Delson called it a “huge departure”.

J is for… Jay Z

LP and Jay Z’s Collision Course record is probably one of the most famous collaborations in metal. The Collision Course EP reached number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released in 2004, and its only single, the Grammy-winning Numb/Encore, reached number 20. To date, it’s sold around 7 million copies worldwide.

K is for… Knowing The Scene

The Linkin Park guys have always been open about their enthusiasm for new things, in both the tech and music worlds, and they’re plugged into the modern alternative scene. In a recent chat with Hammer, Chester cited Twenty One Pilots as a band who know how it feels to become huge overnight, just as LP did. “I think they’re probably experiencing a little bit of what it was like for us in 2001,” he said.

L is for… Living Things

Their fifth album, Living Things was an instant hit, entering the Billboard 200 at number one. Mike Shinoda, who co-produced the album with Rick Rubin, described it as the band attempting to “bridge the gap between all the previous records. We wanted to bring some of the old fans into the new and some of the new fans into the old and mix it up.”

M is for… Mike Shinoda

Mike is at the heart of LP’s crossover hip-hop and rock sound, and he’s also an accomplished producer in his own right. It’s pretty impressive that he also finds the time to work on his art. Last year, he customised a life-size model of a Stormtrooper for the Art Awakens Star Wars-themed exhibition in Hollywood, which was then auctioned off with funds going to UNICEF. It was valued at the time at between $15,000 and $20,000.

N is for… Numb

One of Linkin Park’s best-known songs, Numb reached number 11 in the Billboard Hot 100, as well as topping the Modern Rock Tracks chart for 12 weeks. It was given another push when the Numb/Encore remix with Jay Z was released, opening up the band to new fans outside of the alternative world.

O is for… Out Of Ashes

Chester Bennington only released one album, Out Of Ashes, with his side-project Dead By Sunrise, but it was a deeply personal one. He revealed in interview at the time that many of the songs on the record were inspired by the things he was struggling with: “My life was falling apart… I was writing about [it] on this record in terms of getting divorced, in terms of diving very hard into alcohol and drugs.”

P is for… Pharrell

No, he isn’t lined up to be the next Linkin Park collaborator, although that wouldn’t be such a far-fetched idea. Members of LP, alongside Rivers Cuomo, Tool and Poison have all signed a legal brief pledging their support to Pharrell Williams and professional creepy guy Robin Thicke, after they lost the copyright infringement case around their song Blurred Lines. The signees think the verdict is damaging for songwriters. “The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works… The law should provide clearer rules so that songwriters can know when the line is crossed,” the brief reads.

Q is for… Quashing Criticism

There are some who’d say LP aren’t heavy enough to be considered a metal band, but as long as people enjoy their music, they don’t care. “On a really heavy line-up, I’d feel like the Backstreet Boys,” admitted Chester in a chat with Hammer, “but I feel like we’ve earned our place.”

R is for… Rick Rubin

For Minutes To Midnight, A Thousand Suns and Living Things, Linkin Park brought super-producer Rick Rubin on board. Rick’s production credits are diverse – his CV includes artists from Slipknot, Metallica and Slayer to Run DMC, Lana Del Rey and Shakira – and it was this that attracted the band to him. “Rick Rubin has produced everything from Run DMC to System of a Down to Johnny Cash. Our whole style is based on the seamless mixing of styles. So who better to produce the next Linkin Park album?” said Mike at the time.

S is for… Support

Mike has spoken openly in interviews about how the band rallied around Chester was he was battling addiction. “When Chester had some problems, everybody jumped up to help him and tell him how supportive we wanted to be and how much it means to us that he was doing something positive,” he said. “We’re lucky to have a band full of guys who have their head screwed on straight… we just support each other. We have each other’s back..”

T is for… Technology

Last year, Linkin Park announced they’d started a venture capital company, Machine Shop Ventures, to invest in tech startups. “To be around that kind of culture with people who are super cutting-edge thinkers who are so smart, that’s inspiring to me. I feel like we’re more at home there,” Mike said at a tech conference in LA.

U is for… Unintentional Leaders

LP are often held up as a beacon of nu-metal, but according to Mike, that’s not what they set out to be. “When our band first came out, it was very much about a certain sound, and everybody was making variations of that sound. We hated being lumped into that shit. We didn’t mind the bands that we were being lumped in with, we just didn’t like the idea of somebody saying that there’s a nu-metal movement and having the flag shoved into our hands,” he told Complex in 2012.

V is for… Viral

Linkin Park’s fans know how to harness the power at the internet. When the band played at the world premiere of Transformers: Dark Side Of The Moon – for which they contributed to the soundtrack – at Moscow’s Red Square, fans organised a peace rally at the event via online message boards. Chester told The Guardian that “for kids to express themselves in that way was really moving, [it’s] something we’ll never forget.”

W is for… Warner Music

When LP scored their first record deal with Warner, it was with a little help from a guy called Jeff Blue. Previously a music journalist for Billboard and others, Jeff went on to become VP of A&R at Warner, and had previously hired Brad Delson as an intern. He helped them secure their first deal, but the band later had issues with the label – before Minutes To Midnight’s release, they spoke out against Warner’s cost-cutting strategy and its effect on artists, but went on to renegotiate their deal.

X is for… Xero

This was the name of the very first incarnation of Linkin Park. Before Chester came on board, Mike, Brad and Rob Bourdon recorded a four-track demo in Mike’s bedroom. It earned them their first publishing deal but was overlooked by the major labels.

Y is for… YouTube

As the band work hard on their seventh album, they’ve been using their YouTube channel and other social media accounts to keep fans updated on their progress. In the latest update, posted at the end of August, Chester says he’s “really proud of what we’ve accomplished in the studio so far. We’ve got a lot of great material that I hope challenges our fanbase as well as inspires them.” Sounds like the new record might throw a curveball.

Z is for… Zomba Music

Before they signed their big deal with Warner, LP – then still known as Xero – had a publishing deal with Zomba Music thanks to their friend and A&R Jeff Blue, who worked at Zomba before Warner. He championed the band in their early days, and signed them to Zomba after their first performance.

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