Linkin Park keeps it lean, mean and clean

04.05.2008
Linkin Park tours so much that it has a recording studio in its drug- and booze-free bus. The band may be loved by teens, tweens, and even some of their parents for their cuss-free lyrics, but they're not especially into the role model thing. The members of this nu-metal outfit live simple lives simply so that they can get more work done.

"It's been nonstop ever since 'Hybrid Theory' came out," guitarist Brad Delson says. "We talk to kids at shows and they always want new stuff, and we enjoy the creative process. We try to support and reward the dedication of the kids, whether in London or Malaysia." Delson's referring to their Far East show, which he says was that squeaky clean country's second-biggest concert after Michael Jackson.
"Hybrid Theory," released in 2000, has sold a mind-boggling 14 million copies worldwide, pushing Linkin Park (named after L.A.'s Lincoln Park) way ahead of more outspoken rock-rappers such as Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. The six lads from Los Angeles -- who are all around age 26 -- managed to perfectly integrate their taste for electronica with their hip-hop and heavy metal leanings when they remixed "Hybrid Theory" and issued it in 2002 as "Reanimation."

Last year they put out their second proper album, "Meteora," then just in time for Christmas released a CD and DVD record of their summer stadium tour, called "Live in Texas."

The latter shows that Linkin Park are a good value live. Just match their angsty lyrics with the bulging neck veins of lead singer Chester Bennington. They deal in generic anger so that anyone who has ever been slightly peeved can identify. There's a certain all-American humorlessness about them that is the product of good intentions and earnest toil. What sixth-grader wouldn't want to shout along to the song "Numb"? ("All I want to do/Is be more like me and be less like you.")

Delson is looking forward to being back on the West Coast, mainly because he loves the laid-back attitude. He can get by in relative anonymity because of his ever changing facial hair. Last summer he sported an Amish beard, which he shaved off then replaced with a goatee. Now he's going fully hirsute, almost shaggy.

"When I'm not with the guys, people never recognize me," he says. But location matters. "In the mall I'm a lot more likely to get recognized than if I were on the golf course."

All the band members are well-educated and dead serious about the business side of rock 'n' roll, each assuming a task such as marketing, art direction or Web content. This is a smart move in an age when record companies are no longer run by ponytailed executives who may once have been in a band but by corporate bean counters and people with MBAs.

In between songs, expect them to stroke the audience with motivational speeches about how hard work pays off. Delson has a degree in communications, so it's no surprise he calls interviewers by name and often drops in a flattering "That's a really good question."

Naturally, he dodges a question about whether he has a girlfriend to take to their Valentine's Day show, just saying he loves Portland and has no plans for that night.

As a guitarist, Delson radiates the same self-possession as U2's Edge. And like the Edge, he's destined to become a fixture on the cover of guitar magazines. It's Delson's ax work that prevents the mixture of rock, electronica and double-tracked vocals from descending into sonic sludge.

He still thinks fondly of the Fender Squire Bullet he got when he was 12, which was stolen at its first outing. Now he gets Paul Reed Smith guitars to smash up.

"I helped make the DiMarzio DropSonic my signature pickup, which I used on 'Meteora' with an Ibanez guitar," he says. The result sums up the whole Linkin operation: "It's really distorted but also smooth sounding."

Portland Tribune - February 13, 2004


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