Interview with Rob Bourdon

11.05.2008
While the music industry tries to figure out what sells, Linkin Park continues blurring sonic lines and melding musical influences. The result is one explosive release called "Meteora" that delivers a familiar sound while still taking chances. Shoutweb caught up with Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon as the band was wrapping up rehearsals for their LP Underground tour dates designed specifically for their loyal fanbase. Read on for details on how "Meteora" came together, why "Easier To Run" is the most challenging song for him to play, and what you can expect from Linkin Park in the next year.

Chester Bennington • vocals
Rob Bourdon • drums
Brad Delson • guitar
Joseph Hahn • DJ/samples
Mike Shinoda • vocals

Shoutweb: I was reading some of the journal entries on the web site and it's interesting to me that the drummer is always the one finished first! Is it less stress or more stress for you being the drummer? Nothing can continue until you're done but I guess the pressure is off once you're done with your part?
Rob Bourdon: I guess there is less stress for me actually *in* the studio and it takes less time because of all the work that goes on before. Before we enter the studio is when all the pressure is on me to get everything up to speed or up to where it needs to be for the actual recording. Probably about three months before we started recording I was working on my parts and working on the parts and getting all that stuff together.

Shoutweb: Do you have to write all of your parts yourself?
Rob Bourdon: Well, everything is kind of collaborative but all the drum parts are for the most part written by me. I also work with Mike a lot on all the rhythmic stuff because we blend a lot of samples to live drums so there kind of has to be a collaborative effort to get those to blend in a way that sounds really good. So we always discuss it and talk about where the live sounds and the electronic sounds will blend together. Umm...

Shoutweb: You okay?
Rob Bourdon: Sorry, Joe Hahn is over here interrupting me. He trying to give me a lap dance so I lost my train of thought for a second. He's trying to distract me.

Shoutweb: (laughter) Well, I guess it worked! Speaking of samples...
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, he giving me a sample of something I don't want! (laughter)

Shoutweb: As long as he doesn't start scratching, you'll be okay. (laughter)
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, whenever he sees me on the phone, he starts trying to distract me.

Shoutweb: Tell Mr. Hahn to keep his clothes on. (laughter)
Rob Bourdon: So, anyway... where was I? Oh, so Mike and I definitely talk about that. I spent a lot of time. On this record, one of the things that was cool was that I had a lot of time. I had a ProTools rig and I was able to get a lot of tracks from Mike's ProTool rig, which is where bass and guitars tracks were recorded. So I had a lot of time to write drum tracks for the new stuff and play around with it. By the time everything was done and written and everybody had given their input into what was going on, I kind of just sat in a room for ten hours a day for six weeks and I practiced the parts until I knew them perfectly. By the time I went into the studio, there were some minor changes here and there but it was pretty much done in four days and the pressure was off me, which felt good.

Shoutweb: How do you remember all of it? After being done so early on in the process, I imagine some parts gets rusty?
Rob Bourdon: Actually, I had a drum room with all my stuff set up in it. After I was done in the studio, I just went back there and continued to play the stuff that I had recorded. As the recording process was moving along, some things kind of changed here and there. A chorus might not be as long as it was before. It might be cut in half and then there are little changes. We definitely all went into the studio to give our input on it but I would get updated files basically off the ProTools rig that was in the studio and I could continue to practice what I did in the studio. So it was pretty fresh and now that we're rehearsing it's fresh so I don't have to go back and learn it all again.

Julie Hunt (Washington, DC) and Ani Lewis (Columbus, OH) arrived at the Roseland Ballroom at 10:15AM to get their front row spots at the LP Underground show in NYC. (March 12, 2003) Copyright © 2003 Therese McKeon / Shoutweb.com

Shoutweb: By the way, congratulations on your cover.
Rob Bourdon: Thanks. I was pretty happy with it. I thought it was a good article.

Shoutweb: I haven't read it yet but I saw the cover and thought, "There's Rob, who everyone wants to always call Brad." (laughter)
Rob Bourdon: Everyone is always asking me for guitar picks. (laughter)

Shoutweb: (laughter) Oh, man!
Rob Bourdon: You'd be surprised how many times that has happened. It's pretty funny.

Shoutweb: I can understand that because you're way back there behind the drums. One of you will have to do something different like get a nose ring or something. (laughter)
Rob Bourdon: (laughter) I'll leave that to Brad. It sounds too painful for me.

Shoutweb: I read that you guys had a drum specialist in the studio with you?
Rob Bourdon: It's actually someone who is a specialist in tuning. His name is Ross. He's from the Drum Doctors. That's the name of the company. He has a whole, big collection of drum kits and if you kind of have an idea for the sound you want on the record. We talked before and talked about the kind of sound we wanted to get. He comes in and just brings whatever kits he thinks are great for the project. He brings a whole bunch of different snare drums and a whole bunch of different cymbals. I had a lot of time to experiment with all of these different sounds. He's great at tuning the drums and getting them exactly to sound perfect. He's the guy that can go in. When you record drums a lot of times after hitting the snare drum a bunch of times, it starts to change the pitch so he would have to go in and change the head real fast in between takes and then tune it up to match exactly where it was on the first half of the song. There is a guy who is awesome at that. I've never seen anybody tune drums like he does.

Shoutweb: What are you going to do, take him on tour with you now?
Rob Bourdon: It will sound pretty much the same live. I play Gretsch drums and I recorded the album with Gretsch drums. I have a great tech out here on the road that can do the same thing for me out here and when we start touring. In the studio, it's just more under a microscope. It's going to be on the album, so everything has to be identical to where it was before. But in an arena, the snare pitch changes from the beginning to the end of a song a little but they're not going to be noticeable. And the same goes for pretty much all the instruments in the studio.

Shoutweb: All of things that you don't have to think about unless you're a musician. Wow.
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, I guess so!

Shoutweb: So, I saw Brad and Mike in New York at KROCK's Claus Fest. When I asked them what they were doing, they told me they were out here mixing. When I asked them about interviews, Brad told me to call you because you were already done and sitting around doing nothing.
Rob Bourdon: I did have some down time but not much. I always seem to be pretty busy. I always seem to be scheduling stuff at night for the next day. We're definitely all involved. Every guy in the band is involved with different aspects of the band. Joe is directing the video for "Somewhere I Belong".

Shoutweb: I want to hear about that.
Rob Bourdon: It was a great shoot. The time was really condensed and we really didn't have time to do it because the album was just finish and we had a deadline to pick a single. The people at the label helped us and then Joe had a few days to write a treatment for it and get everything rolling on getting this video going. It came together pretty quick. It was an amazing shoot. The set design was incredible. We had fire and lots of pyro and things lighting on fire and blowing up. We just saw the first edit of it yesterday.

Shoutweb: So, the majority of this video takes place in Chester's head.
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, It kind of shows Chester in the beginning of the video in his bedroom. He kind of looks around and sees this environment and a couple of different things in his room and then he falls into this dream world. These things he had seen in his room are in his dream world and become big. When he is going into his bedroom, you see these robots and in the video you see these big pieces of them and things he saw just before he went to sleep. When he falls into his dream, that is where the band is performing.

Shoutweb: Sounds cool.
Rob Bourdon: It was a very well thought out video. It's cool when you see Chester fall into this dream world and he falls into his bed. It's this surreal world that is his dream.

Shoutweb: When I looked at the drum tracking dates and saw that it was July I couldn't believe it was that long ago. And you guys were writing for ten months before that!
Rob Bourdon: Yeah, we actually started out with a studio on our bus. We had a ProTools rig in the back of the bus when we were on Ozzfest. We continued through for Family Values and into Projekt Revolution up till March of last year. Throughout that time, we really had a chance to put some ideas down in that studio to throw a lot of things together. Once we got home, we were able to really focus on some of the ideas and weed out the weak ones and take some of those really good ideas that we had on the road. It gave us a really good start into the writing process. It definitely helped out a lot. There is so much time on the road so it's good to bring that stuff out there so you can be productive and have that creative side while you're on the road. The recording process was about a three-month process.

Shoutweb: So, there are 13 tracks, right?
Rob Bourdon: One of them is more like an instrumental interlude song. It's not really an interlude though. It really kind of shows the electronic element of what we do. There is a lot of drum editing and a lot of different editing on that. It's a really, really cool song.

Shoutweb: Is that "Foreword"?
Rob Bourdon: No, that is actually just a little intro. The song I am talking about is called "Session".

Shoutweb: So that actually makes only 12 songs on the record.
Rob Bourdon: It was almost 13. You know what? We had so many songs. We actually went into the studio with 18 songs that we recorded drums on. We really tried to concentrate on the record as a whole, besides just the songs. It's hard to cut songs out because we had songs that we're just so attached to and I think are really great songs but we really tried to pick the amount of songs that fit the record to make the record a whole piece of work. Not just a bunch of different songs thrown on an album. We really wanted to take you on a journey so you can listen to something from beginning to end. We want something that is going to grab your attention the whole time and you've gone on this musical journey that is just under 37 minutes this time.

Shoutweb: What is the general theme of this record?
Rob Bourdon: Lyrically?

Shoutweb: Yeah.
Rob Bourdon: It's similar in theme to the first record. Definitely, there is a similarity that goes from the last record to this one. Mike and Chester are really honest about their lyrics and the way they write lyrics. It really talks about universal emotions. It's similar to the old record, it that it's dark and talks about all these different emotions from anger, frustration, paranoia, and these different things that people go through. They have really pulled from their own life experience to write these lyrics and I think that's something people can really relate to. I think that's something that a guy who is 40 year old and going to work who is really frustrated about something in his life can really relate to what Chester and Mike are saying without knowing what they were necessarily writing about when they wrote it. A 16-year-old guy who is in school that is frustrated by something could listen to the same song and they both can relate to the same song. They can relate it to their own lives and feel that someone else is going through it too.

Shoutweb: A lot of times, bands go to write their second record and it's all about life on the road and the music business and the pressure. For a while, there was time when I saw you guys and it was very much that "deer in the highlights" type of thing because you had blown up so huge and were still signing every autograph and committing to every event possible. I was so afraid you were going to burn out and change from the down-to-earth people that you are. How have to you been able to balance yourselves as a band and individually to handle the level that you have achieved?
Rob Bourdon: As far as signing things and doing stuff for our fans, that's something that we've valued and it's such a huge part of what we do. We started out marketing ourselves and doing our own street team before a record label ever signed us. Finally, when we got on tour, we were able to meet a lot of these fans that we had met on the Internet and had given them songs to download. It's always been a huge part of what we do. It would feel totally weird to not have that element there anymore, so we do whatever we can. On Projekt Revolution, we started the LP Underground to keep that relationship going because we can't go to merch booth anymore to sign autographs. It was great to do that and I wish we could. So, during Projekt Revolution we actually signed stuff for every fan club member on the whole tour after every show. In some cities, it was crazy because in New York and L.A. it was something like 1600 people.

Shoutweb: I know, I was there to say Hi! and couldn't wait around that many hours.
Rob Bourdon: We were sitting there for about two and a half hours. Definitely, after being on the road for two years and just the fact of being away from home and out on the road for two years it does get a little tiring. I'm glad we had a chance to come home. We've all had time to re-charge our batteries. We're ready to go out there and do it again. We're excited to get out there and do it again.

Shoutweb: Now, you're still calling your own shots but a much bigger level.
Rob Bourdon: We definitely have a lot more freedom in that we can call our own shots with the people that we work with. Especially at the label, we have respect and a trust and we have a good relationship with them now where we can really give our input into a lot of the stuff that we want to do. They listen to us and respect us, which is a great thing. We want to make sure that everything we do comes from Linkin Park even if it's a merchandise item or a piece of art that goes on the record or a video. We want to always be involved in everything that everybody sees that has to do with us. We don't want to just farm something out to have someone put something together with for us.

Shoutweb: I read about the titling of the record.
Rob Bourdon: Meteora is actually a rock formation in Greece. There is this monastery on top of it. Mike and Brad saw this place when we were touring in Europe. They saw it in a magazine that the bus driver had. It looks like a really cool, kind of epic, surreal, huge, timeless, place that represented almost like a goal of what we wanted the record to sound like. We wanted it to be a timeless record.

Shoutweb: Is that artwork going to make it into the record?
Rob Bourdon: No, even though it was the inspiration for the title, there is not that much focus on the actual place. I didn't even know what they saw or where it was and neither did any of the other guys but we just thought it sounded cool. Just hearing it for the first time, it sounded like a cool name for the record. Then when we heard the explanation of what the actual place was, it sounded cool too. Hopefully, the music will describe the name more than the name describes the music.

Shoutweb: Good point.
Rob Bourdon: That's kind of how it usually works I think.

Shoutweb: Do you guys have artwork ideas?
Rob Bourdon: Mike is really heading that up.

Shoutweb: I will be talking to him on Thursday.
Rob Bourdon: Okay, so I will let him cover that being that he is spear heading the art.

Shoutweb: I actually haven't heard the record at this point so it's tough to really get into questions about the music but it there anything you want to say about the songs?
Rob Bourdon: We will be having listenings. Our manager is actually flying around the world right now with the CD.

Shoutweb: Wow.
Rob Bourdon: That's really what the label required.

Shoutweb: He must be having the time of his life. He's probably like, "Damn, do I have to go to Paris?" (laughter)
Rob Bourdon: (laughter) Exactly.

Shoutweb: So, do you have any comments on the individual tracks that you want to share?
Rob Bourdon: There is a song on there called "Easier To Run" that is really exciting for me in terms of drums. I really worked really hard on that song and I think that I am really happy with the way it came out. I am really proud of the way it came out. I also think that a song called "Breaking The Habit" is a really different kind of sound for us. I think it's one of the best songs we've ever written. I think it stands on it's own level. We actually had a ten-piece orchestra come in and record strings on that.

Shoutweb: Wow, did you guys play that live?
Rob Bourdon: No, we never played that song live. That was written during the process of recording "Meteora". All of the songs are brand new. They've never been heard or played live before.

Shoutweb: Why is "Easier To Run" exciting for you as far as the drums go? Was it more difficult for you?
Rob Bourdon: In a way. It was more of taking a different approach then just going straightforward with it. It's different than what you'd expect to hear on that song. I kind of approached the drums in a different way on that song. I kind of thought out of the box on it, you know? It has a lot of intricate stuff and a lot of stuff going on in it but at the same time, it's not so technical that it grabs your ear and takes your attention away from the main aspects of the songs that are obviously the vocals and the melody. That's what we always try to achieve in all the songs. We want to find something that sounds interesting but that doesn't take away from where the focus is in the song. I think that's something that is important to do as a drummer.

Shoutweb: So, for touring, you guys are going to Europe and then doing these underground shows?
Rob Bourdon: We're going to Europe to do a lot of press and four or five shows. When we come back here to the states and start touring here. Projekt Revolution will kick up at the end of March or beginning of April and possibly leading into May. That's going to be great and we're really excited for that tour.

Shoutweb: For release, are you going to do something special?
Rob Bourdon: Everyone will have to check the web site. We're making plans now. We have a lot of people working on things to logistically make everything happen.

Shoutweb: Well, thanks Rob for talking to us and taking the time out of your busy schedule!
Rob Bourdon: Thank you. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

Shoutweb.com - March 2003


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