Mo' Money Mo' Problems
Linkin Park's Chester Bennington says fame stinks and money is a pain
Heavy-metal and hip-hop have been the rebellion music of choice for the past two decades. Linkin Park's spruced-up crossbreed of the two styles has made them one of the most successful bands of the new millennium.
The group was living in poverty when they wrote the darkly themed material for their debut "Hybrid Theory," the biggest selling rock album of 2001. After watching a remix version of "Hybrid" also go platinum they sounded no less miserable on "Meteora," which has been on the pop charts for 70 weeks and is on pace to match its precursor's global sales of 12 million.
From a stop in Cleveland, lead singer Chester Bennington says the fame and money haven't made life any easier. He also talks about rewriting a song 150 times, pimping-out a PT Cruiser and his band's inability to attract groupies.
Bradenton Herald: What's the big news so far on this summer's Projekt Revolution tour?
Chester Bennington: The shows have all been kick (expletive). Promoters say they could squeeze a couple extra in, but I couldn't tell - every show has looked packed. It's been awesome for all the bands. I couldn't imagine it going any better.
Bradenton Herald: How was hooking up with Jay-Z at L.A.'s Roxy for the pilot of MTV's "Mashup" series that's scheduled for the fall?
Chester Bennington: Killer. I don't even know how to put it into words . . . It was a magical meeting of two artists who really take pride in what they do, and have a great work ethic. Jay-Z had such a good time, he came out and joined us at our show in New Jersey.
Bradenton Herald: Any chance of a Snoop Dogg/Linkin Park mashup when Projekt Revolution comes to Tampa?
Chester Bennington: We might be able to work something out. We brought him out for the first time the other night. Jonathan Davis (of Korn) came on with us the other night, too.
Bradenton Herald: What song did Snoop join you on?
Chester Bennington: We'll keep that a surprise . . . It doesn't happen every night, so we'll just let people come and find out.
Bradenton Herald: Rumor has it you and Mike Shinoda wrote 40 different choruses for "Meteora's" first single, "Somewhere I Belong." Is the songwriting process always this tough?
Chester Bennington: Yeah, ya know, we're not ones to settle for just good - it's gotta be great. We take everything that serious. I rewrote "Runaway" (from "Hybrid Theory") about 150 times. The frustration of writing that song sprouted "One Step Closer."
Bradenton Herald: Was there fear of the sophomore jinx when you entered the studio to record "Meteora?"
Chester Bennington: Nah, even though we were new at the game, we understood that each time you make a record it is like the first time. You restart your career and take all the risks each time you put out a release. We put the pressure to the back of our minds and just concentrated on making good music.
We will not release anything unless it's awesome. If you don't hear from us for a few years, it's not because we're on break, it's because we're working on making our next record worthy of release. We're not going to put something out that will disappoint
our fans or disappoint our label. We won't make music we're not proud of.
Bradenton Herald: What's the most expensive item you have purchased for yourself since the fat royalty checks started pouring in?
Chester Bennington: That I didn't really need? (Pause.) It was customizing my PT Cruiser.
Bradenton Herald: What did you fit it with?
Chester Bennington: I can't even get into it. Put it this way, when I get it back you're gonna need shades to look at it - it's that bright.
Bradenton Herald: Has wealth and fame made it more difficult for you to write about the inner pain your fans have come to expect from your lyrics?
Chester Bennington: Fame is fleeting and money is a pain in the (expletive).
Bradenton Herald: It's just one of those things, you know, life doesn't change just because certain people think you have it made.
Chester Bennington: Yeah, I live in a different world now than I did at 19 or 20. I'm 28, I'm a father, a husband and I'm in a successful band. I get to see and experience a lot more . . . But (chuckling) there's still plenty of (expletive) to come out of my disgusting mind.
Bradenton Herald: Growing up in Phoenix, were you more into rock or rap?
Chester Bennington: Hip-hop was my first passion. I loved it, still do. But I'm probably more the rocker.
Bradenton Herald: What do you listen to at the end of a miserable day?
Chester Bennington: I listen to The Beatles these days more than anything.
Bradenton Herald: What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
Chester Bennington: Nothing really cool. Music is my life. I like to paint and that kind of stuff . . . talk to friends, throw barbecues - how stupid, that's not even a hobby.
Bradenton Herald: How about passing time on your tour bus/mobile recording studio?
Chester Bennington: All we do is play (the video game) "Halo" and write music.
Bradenton Herald: Your lyrics paint a dark picture of your childhood. How emotionally taxing is it to revisit these unpleasant memories each night in concert?
Chester Bennington: When I write about that stuff, it's taxing, but when I perform the song it's different. It doesn't attach itself to the memories anymore. When you perform it becomes more of a release and something for the fans.
Bradenton Herald: On "Breaking The Habit," you sing, "I know it's not alright. So I'm breaking the habit tonight." Do we sense a trace of optimism there?
Chester Bennington: It's about taking control rather than being a victim. So, yeah, it's very optimistic.
Bradenton Herald: What's the backstage scene been like this summer?
Chester Bennington: You don't have to have too good of an imagination to figure out what's going on back there with me and Snoop and Korn.
Bradenton Herald: What's the biggest difference between Chester Bennington the lead singer of Linkin Park and Chester Bennington the guy lounging around the house on an off day?
Chester Bennington: Hmm. I don't think much, but people do say we're two different people. On stage they say I'm this raging ball of energy and negativity and offstage it's this nice, laid-back, kickback guy - but I don't know if we're that different.
Bradenton Herald: More musicians than perhaps ever before are taking a stand on the upcoming presidential election. How do you feel about this?
Chester Bennington: Speak your mind in the (expletive) voting booth! Music and politics don't mix, dude. Haven't we learned that from the '60s?
Bradenton Herald: What kind of groupies does Linkin Park attract?
Chester Bennington: We don't have groupies. People think of us and they don't think sex, they think Linkin Park saved my life or helped my relationship or kept me from running away from home or got me off drugs . . . The groupie thing just doesn't work for us.
Bradenton Herald: Does it ever get overwhelmed having so many troubled fans seeking your guidance?
Chester Bennington: No, I love helping people. That's what the music is for. It would bother me more if people assumed I liked hookers and (cocaine) and wanted to talk about that, rather than talk about something that could be positive.
Bradenton Herald: What advice would you give to someone struggling with the same type of drug abuse problems you have dealt with?
Chester Bennington: Stay strong, willpower is the key to everything. If you can't fight and stand up to yourself you can't fight and defeat anybody.
Bradenton Herald: What makes you laugh on TV?
Chester Bennington: Oh, geez. "Chappelle's Show" is the funniest show on TV. That guy has got some (expletive) going on. I thought I was the only person who thought like that. I'm so glad to see a guy in his position do what he's doing so honestly.
Bradenton Herald: Do you have a favorite reality series?
Chester Bennington: (Sheepishly) Yeah, "The Newlyweds."
Bradenton Herald: Have you met Nick or Jessica?
Chester Bennington: (Laugh) No. No I haven't.
Bradenton Herald - August 13, 2004