Linkin Park's new album heralds change

07.05.2008
Not standing still: The members of Linkin Park — Rob Bourdon, left, Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda, Joe Hahn and Brad Delson — will go on tour this summer in support of Minutes to Midnight. The band's new album reflects a change in direction.

TOUR DATES


Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution 2007 kicks off July 25 in an as-yet-undisclosed location; that stop and a July 31 show will be announced next week. Tickets go on sale nationwide Saturday at livenation.com.

Marysville, Calif. ................. July 27
San Bernardino, Calif. ..........July 28
Mountain View, Calif. ......... July 29
Phoenix .............................. Aug. 1
Selma, Texas ...................... Aug. 3
Dallas ................................. Aug. 4
Woodlands, Texas .............. Aug. 5
Atlanta ................................ Aug. 7
Charlotte ............................ Aug. 8
West Palm Beach, Fla......... Aug. 10
Tampa ............................... Aug. 11
Raleigh, N.C. .................... Aug. 13
Virginia Beach ................... Aug. 14
Wantagh, N.Y. ................. Aug. 15
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio ........ Aug. 17
Darien Center, N.Y. .......... Aug. 18
Bristow, Va. ..................... Aug. 19
Toronto ............................ Aug. 21
Clarkston, Mich. ............... Aug. 22
Mansfield, Mass. .............. Aug. 24
Camden, N.J. ................... Aug. 25
Hartford, Conn. ................ Aug. 26
Syracuse, N.Y. ................ Aug 28
Holmdel, N.J. ................... Aug. 29
Noblesville, Ind. ................ Aug. 31
Tinley Park, Ill. .................. Sept. 1
Englewood, Colo. ............. Sept. 3


By Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY


To get down to the dozen tracks on the new album Minutes to Midnight, the members of Linkin Park made about 150 demos.

"A lot of that stuff ended up straight in the trash, to be honest," says vocalist/emcee Mike Shinoda, who co-produced the band's first new studio disc in four years.

"But they were great experiments. We wouldn't have ended up with these 12 if we hadn't done the messing around with the sounds on the first batches."

The six members of Linkin Park have never approached new projects half-heartedly. And Minutes to Midnight amounts to a full-scale reinvention of the group's sound, away from the rap rock of multiplatinum albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora and toward nuanced songwriting that still incorporates hip-hop-infused hard-rock grooves.

"Those two albums were, in a sense, brothers, and we felt like doing another in that vein would be redundant," Shinoda says. "So we picked up and moved."

Additionally, the band has announced an ambitious, festival-style summer tour featuring 10 other acts. Projekt Revolution launches July 25 and features theatrical modern rockers My Chemical Romance, melodic hard-core band Taking Back Sunday and Finnish hard-rock quintet HIM, among others.

After a decade together, Shinoda and the group's other five members — lead vocalist Chester Bennington, guitarist Brad Delson, drummer Rob Bourdon, bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell and DJ Joe Hahn — forced themselves to re-examine fundamental aspects of what they did, from the way they played to the way they wrote.

"We ended up working on the songs a lot differently than we ever had, playing instruments that we'd never touched before," Shinoda says.

Such shifts aren't always welcomed. The cutout bins are filled with discs by bands that took creative paths their listeners weren't willing to travel.

But Rolling Stone executive editor Joe Levy expects Linkin Park's audience to follow.

"Their fan base is going to be psyched," he says. "They're going to hear that the essence of the band is there, but there's something fresh and dynamic and exciting happening. They have every reason to be excited by this record."

Co-producer Rick Rubin, whose background is in hip-hop and hard rock, is also known for helping artists such as Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks move into new phases of their careers.

Listening to their demos, Rubin asked, "When you guys write, how do you do it?" Shinoda says. "We told him we generally wrote a track first and put vocals on top.

"He said, 'Have you ever tried putting the vocals in at the very beginning instead of at the end?' So we started trying to do that.

"Little pieces of advice like that can provide us with months' worth of entertainment."

Take the single What I've Done. On the surface, it's about a relationship, but lyrics such as "Put to rest what you thought of me/ While I clean this slate with the hands of uncertainty" also prepare the audience for the new direction of the rest of the album.

"You've got a song that can be read as possibly something that has to do with the direction of our band, possibly something that is an internal struggle, possibly something that is a worldwide observation about the political and social climate in the world," Shinoda says. "People tell me many different things they think the song means, and I would say they're all right."

No More Sorrow and The Little Things Give You Away easily can be heard as criticisms of the Bush administration. But the band is reluctant to assign particular meanings to them.

"They aren't necessarily about those things," Shinoda says. "They can be if you want them to be.

"It was a real challenge to make the songs' meanings versatile and also to retain the power of the meaning."

While the band's first two albums focused inward, Minutes to Midnight takes a more all-encompassing view. That, perhaps, is the band's biggest sign of growth.

"A decade is a long time to be doing anything, much less to be with the same guys, chasing after the same goals," Shinoda says. "There would have been lots of chances to go off track, to get derailed and caught up in other things.

"I feel really lucky to be in a band where the guys, for all the opportunities to do things that potentially would be good for them but detrimental to the group, that everybody stayed loyal to the whole."

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