Mike Shinoda labels nu metal "toxic masculinity", says Linkin Park didn't fit as they "didn’t identify with tough-guy sh*t"

Linkin Park Hybrid Theory
(Image credit: James Minichin III)

Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda reflects upon the band's early days in a new interview with Vulture, and suggests that the LA sextet stood out from their peers on the nu metal scene because they never bought in to its testosterone-heavy "tough-guy shit".

Looking back to when the group were still operating under its original name, Xero, Shinoda notes, "We had met with every label and most of the indies and got turned down by everybody. Then we got Chester [Bennington], and we were like, 'Now we’re going to get signed.' We went and met with everybody again, showcased for everybody, and they all turned us down again."

Reflecting back, Shinoda suggests that part of the wariness record companies felt about the band was rooted in their eclectic influences, which ranged from trip-hop and electronica to hardcore and metal: "Here’s what I assume they thought," he ventures. "Our thing, the combination of elements, was too esoteric."

Another factor, he adds, was that Linkin Park didn't sit easily alongside the more aggressive acts in the nu metal scene, having a more "introspective" sound and feel.

"What we didn’t like about what was going on in the scene was that it was very frat rock," he says. "It was toxic masculinity. We didn’t know the term yet. We just didn’t like how everything was about tough-guy shit, and we didn’t identify with tough-guy shit. So nobody wanted to sign us because we didn’t fit. They couldn’t see us onstage.

"Somebody said to me, 'If you guys were to open up a show with Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit, you’d get beat up.' It was a joke, right? But probably true, at least for me. I would’ve gotten beat up. Chester wouldn’t have gotten beat up. He’d fuck somebody up, too."

Back in 2020, Shinoda told Metal Hammer that he wasn't entirely comfortable with having Linkin Park marketed as a nu metal act, but acknowledged that there was an excitement and energy around the scene in its early years.

"I never wanted to be part of nu metal," he admitted. "There was a moment when that term, and what it meant, was actually pretty cool. It’s almost impossible to imagine! I remember when Korn first came out and when Deftones’ first couple of albums came out, and whatever you think about a group like Limp Bizkit, their first album was really raw. There were all these groups like Snot and Hed PE, and it wasn’t smart music, but there was something really visceral and culture blending that was important."

Linkin Park will release a special 20th anniversary reissue of their second album Meteora, on April 7 in a wealth of new formats, including a Limited Edition Super Deluxe Box Set, 4 LP Deluxe Vinyl Box Set, 3-disc Deluxe CD and digital. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.