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Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington: “If It Wasn’t For Music I’d Be Dead”

Andy Biddulph
Andy Biddulph 20 March at 17.37

Here are some things we learned about new Linkin Park album 'One More Light' in our interview with Chester Bennington.


LINKIN PARK STARTED WRITING POPPIER MUSIC BEFORE THEIR LAST ALBUM
Says Chester: “We actually started writing some really interesting pop music before we wrote ‘The Hunting Party’. We started down a pretty clear path of writing some pretty serious pop music.

"Mike was giving me litmus tests like, ‘Hey, what would you say if I said… let’s do a collaboration with Katy Perry or Kelly Clarkson?’ and I was like, ‘Fuck yeah! I actually really like pop music.’ It was just a test to see if I’d go, ‘Absolutely not, that makes me want to puke’ or if I’d be open to the idea, and I’m pretty much open to anything."


AN AWFUL LOT HAPPENED BETWEEN 'THE HUNTING PARTY' AND 'ONE MORE LIGHT'
"During 2015, 2016 – not only did I rehab my leg, but there was a bunch of other stuff in my personal life that just went fucking crazy. I spent a lot of those two years trying to hold my world together and everybody else was going through a lot of crazy shit too on a personal level."

"I think between going from all of that personal stuff, the band having some issues – not issues internally, but just a lot of life was happening and things kind of got weird for a minute for all of us personally – we had a lot of shit to get together before we went back out and started playing shows and doing stuff."

"We had to figure out what it was we wanted to do... ‘Where are we in our lives?’ It was like, ‘Let’s try something different creatively. Let’s work with some songwriters and bring them in' – we’ve never done that before."


THEY WROTE DIFFERENTLY THIS TIME AROUND
"We started off all of our sessions with conversations about life and what we were going through. We also decided to do what Rick Rubin had been so passionately trying to get us to do the entire time we worked with him, which was start with lyrics and melodies first and then write tracks around those to support the melodies and the lyrics.

"The combination of the outside writing, starting with melodies and lyrics and the conversations about what was going on in our lives really directed what this album sounds like. There’s a lot of fucking heavy stuff going on. I’m not saying it to be punny, there was a lot of really intense shit that we were all going through and we were all kind of searching for our muse, our intention.

"Mike took it upon himself to write down all the stuff we’d talked about as friends on a piece of paper and all the shit we had gone through, and it was fucking crazy. You know that phrase – it’s gone bananas? It's not been bananas, it’s been a banana avalanche. It’s a fucking torrential downpour of bananas."


Check out Linkin Park's new song 'Heavy', featuring Kiiara.


THEY'RE TAKING RISKS... BECAUSE THEY PRETTY MUCH ALWAYS HAVE
"Starting from ‘Minutes To Midnight’ on, it’s like, ‘Let’s take some fucking risks’. If the songs are great, that should be all that matters. We feel like we’re pushing ourselves creatively. If we write a bunch of pop songs that suck, we’ve definitely taken a wrong turn, if we write a bunch of metal songs that suck, we’ve taken a wrong turn.

"It doesn’t matter what style we write in, as long as it comes from a pure place and it’s something that we pour our hearts and souls into, we can deal with what happens from that point forward and we’re pretty confident that even if it may be shocking to some people – or even everybody at first – sometimes for us it was like, ‘We know we’re going to make a lot of people go, ‘What the heck is this? Who is this?’ and we also know we’re gonna make a lot of people go, ‘What the fuck happened to my band?’.

"I think for us, creativity is way too big to be put in a box, and for us we’re not a one trick pony. We like to really play with our palette and expand our abilities as songwriters and performers, and that’s what we did on this record."


LINKIN PARK ARE STILL NOT NU METAL
"We don’t want to be bound by a genre. It’s not like we hate nu metal music. What we hated was being branded as something. If it’s just hard rock, we’d be like, ‘are these people listening to the record?’ but we could equally be called a hip hop group, an electronic group, an alternative band. There are so many different parts to what we’re doing. That’s why we called it ‘Hybrid Theory’..."

THIS ALBUM IS HEAVY
"[One day in the studio] I was like, ‘Do you guys really want to fucking know what my day has been like?’ And someone was like, ‘Yes’. And I just came out and said some pretty fucking hardcore stuff. Somebody very close to me had tried to kill themselves, and I was dealing with the aftermath of that. Their lives are going to be different from that point on. They were like, ‘Damn...’.


"I relate to that. And what’s crazy is that after seeing someone I care about go through that, the fact that I wanted to do that myself freaks me out, because it’s horrible. We got into that, and we started thinking about how we get stuck in these behaviours and patterns or how we can get trapped in our own stuff, and boom - we started writing a song. By the end of the day we had a song that everyone could relate to, that everyone felt comfortable with and everyone felt like they had this relief.

"It also opened up a more intimate experience with these writers that came in who had no idea who we are as people. Talk about being vulnerable and just peeling the fucking scab off... When you feel like you can be real [in the studio] and that it’s a safe place, it’s the biggest relief. Going through every song in this way and going through all of our stuff... for me is going through all the process of doing everything I can to make my life better, like... where I’m at right now in 2017 is as far on the opposite side of the scale to where I was at this time in 2015. I literally hated life and I was like, ‘I don’t want to have feelings. I want to be a sociopath. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to care what other people feel like. I want to feel nothing’.

"And now I’m like, ‘Bring it on!’ I hated living at this time in 2015, and I absolutely love it right now, and I don’t feel like it’s some manic back and forth. I feel like it was a legitimate breakdown of me as a human being and then going through all of the effort and hard work it takes to rebuild it and reaping the rewards. A huge part of that is being able to be open and honest and real with the people in my life, and that means my band members and being able to put it down in music and get it out...

"Out is the best. Holding shit in? That’s really what ‘Heavy’ is about. Like, ‘What the fuck is going on with me? What am I doing to myself? What am I allowing others to cause inside of me to keep me stuck?’ That moment that you can separate yourself from the action or behaviour or circumstance and look at it and see it for what it is, you’ve made that first step in separating yourself from that and getting out of that.

"That’s where the line, ‘If I just let go, I’d be set free’ comes from - that’s what ‘Heavy is about. When I’m opening that song saying, ‘I don’t like my mind right now’, that’s fucking real. It is not a safe place for me to be unless I’m doing what I need to do - taking care of myself, being real, being open, getting it out, taking all the steps to make myself whole, then it’s a pretty safe neighbourhood, but it goes bad real fast. It’s great to get that shit out. I recommend that everyone goes and writes their problems down on a piece of paper, takes it outside and fucking burns that shit. Talk to somebody about it.

"I’m fortunate enough to be a member of some twelve-step programs, and we get in a room with a bunch of people who don’t know each other and we all talk about our lives. Regular people don’t have this in their life, they just carry their shit around. Getting in a room with a bunch of strangers and going, ‘Here’s what’s going on with me’ and then everyone either laughing about it or understanding you and giving you a hug at the end of the day and going, ‘Call me if you need anything’... any group of people can do that, but no one actually takes time to actually open up to people because they’re all afraid of what people think of them.

"I’m at a place where I couldn’t give a fuck what people think of me. Go ahead - say what you want about me as a person, say what you want about me as an artist, I don’t give a fuck. I know exactly who I am, I know exactly what I’m made of and I’m totally happy with it. So it’s really great to be able to be doing what I do, especially for a person like me. If it wasn’t for music I’d be dead. One hundred per cent."


Linkin Park's new album 'One More Light' is out on May 19. Listen to new song 'Battle Symphony' below.



This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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