Within one year Linkin Park went from a little-known Los Angeles group with no respect and no contract to the band with the best-selling album of 2001, Hybrid Theory. Their rap and metal sound was not new but, given a chance to shine under the Warner Bros, label, they found a huge following with their pop sensibilities and angry lyrics, making the term “nu-metal” mainstream. Their freshman effort yielded eight million sales in the United States alone and ten million worldwide, with 100,000 units still moving per week as of early 2003. Their second album, Meteora, sold 810,000 copies in one week and delivered two number-one hits within two months. With a hard-working attitude that is famous industry-wide, the group shows no signs of letting up.
Brad Delson, Mike Shinoda, and Rob Bourdon—the founders of Linkin Park—met in high school in Calabasas, a Los Angeles suburb. Their friendship developed from a love of music—especially the music of artists such as Nine Inch Nails and the Deftones—and admiration for musicians who mixed sounds that most people considered taboo. Aspiring to do the same, the trio started a band called Xero in 1996 that mixed rock, rap, and electronica. After high school they continued to make music together, crafting material that they still
Members include Chester Bennington (born on March 30, 1976), vocals; Rob Bourdon (born on January 20, 1979), drums; Brad Dclson (born on December 1, 1977), guitar; Darren Farrell, bass; Joseph Hahn (born on March 15, 1977), deejay; Mike Shinoda (born on February 11, 1977), emcee, vocals.
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA, c. 1999; released multiplatinum debut CD Hybrid Theory on Warner Bros, label, 2000; toured with Family Values and Projekt Revolution Tours with Cypress Hill, 2001; released second multiplatinum CD Reanimation, 2002; released third multiplatinum CD Meteora, 2003; toured with Mudvayne and Blindside on Projekt Revolution tour, 2003; toured with Metallica, Limp Bizkit and the Deftones on Summer Sanitarium Tour, 2003; contributed to Matrix Reloaded film soundtrack, 2003.
Awards: Grammy Award, Best Hard Rock Performance for “Crawling,” 2001; MTV Video Music Awards, Best Rock Video for “In the End,” 2002, and Best Rock Video for “Somewhere I Belong,” 2003; World Music Award, Best Selling Rock Group, 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Warner Bros., 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019-6979. Management—AMG/The Firm, 8484 Wilshire Blvd. 425, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Website— Linkin Park Official Website: http://www.linkinpark.com.
play to this day. As songwriters they did well, but they lacked the manpower to perform as a band, so they kept their eyes open for new talent. While attending art school in Pasadena, Shinoda met Joseph Hahn and was impressed with his abilities and strong work ethic. He invited Hahn to join Xero as their deejay.
The band members, who clearly shared the same enthusiasm for making music, worked hard on their material. This was no hobby—they were perfectionists who wanted each track tight both technically and creatively. When the Xero’s members felt their material was ready for the pros they went from label to label with the best demo tape they could muster and pushed hard for a contract. Although they were rejected over and over again, during this time they developed a stellar reputation on the Los Angeles club scene—packing them in even at the famous Whisky A Go Go. Performing in such high-stakes venues helped the band gel and made them even more determined to get their sound out.
Xero also used the Internet to promote their music, posting MP3s (compressed digital music files) on their website and asking listeners for their opinions. This helped them develop an international audience that was enthusiastic about their growing library of songs. Through a combination of touring and meeting fans, they recruited people to their website, intending to create a community of “LPUndergrounders.” Band members asked their online fans to spread the word, share their free MP3s, and buy their merchandise. It worked: by the time the band released their first album in 2000, they had 1,000 fans in New York City alone and hundreds more in many major European cities.
Unfortunately, most of their effort was being overlooked by the music industry, who tagged the band a latecomer to the “nu-metal” party. “We had the anti-buzz about us,” Shinoda told Siobhan Grogan of England’s Guardian Unlimited. “People would say, ‘Oh! You’re going to see them? Good luck . What a way to waste a lunch hour.’ But I didn’t care if we didn’t get signed because that just meant all those people in the record business didn’t know what the hell they were doing and we didn’t need those idiots. All I knew is that I would buy our record in a heartbeat.” Bennington had his own nightmare tale about their reception in the Los Angeles music scene. “In some cases,” he told Grogan, “they would actually call and say, ‘We wouldn’t sign you guys for a [expletive] million dollars.’ I’d be like, ‘Wow! They really went out of their way to tell us they didn’t like us!’”
Even though the music executives weren’t biting, the members were determined to keep playing. Still wanting a record to call their own, they changed their name to Hybrid Theory, honed their songs, and looked for an additional vocalist who could add some energy to their sound. Through mutual friends they met up with Chester Bennington, whose powerful voice can carry a tune while sounding like a primal scream. Bennington was equally impressed with the group. “I listened to a demo and quit my job to meet five guys I didn’t even know,” he told Grogan. “Half of my family’s income was removed because I wanted to do this.”
Their perseverance paid off when, after two previous unsuccessful attempts, they signed with the Warner Bros, label. A new problem emerged when legal requirements forced the band to change their name. They became Linkin Park—even though they had just gone from Xero to Hybrid Theory and there was some fear that they could lose local fans. The worry was unnecessary, Shinoda told the PRP website, because “[o]ur Lincoln Park is in Santa Monica, CA. But when we started national touring, everyone thought we were a local band wherever we went, because there are so many Lincoln Parks everywhere. It was basically our band joke: we were local everywhere we went.”
Once they had the contract, the lineup, the material, and the name, they wanted a record. Warner Bros, pulled out all the stops for Linkin Park and gave them both good management and Don Gilmore, a powerful producer who had worked with Pearl Jam and Eve 6. The softer-sounding music for which Gilmore was known concerned the band a little, but their recording experience was a good one. What resulted was their debut album Hybrid Theory, an ode to their old name.
The members of Linkin Park knew they had a good album but they couldn’t be prepared for what was about to happen. “We clearly didn’t expect it to do what it did,” Nelson told Grogan. “We thought we would tour for a year or so and hopefully go gold or just maybe, best-case scenario, platinum. But we were playing music before anybody cared and before there was a single penny to be made out of it. It just means now we can focus all our energy on it.”
The band’s rise to the top began with the singles “Crawling” and “One Step Closer,” whose electronic beats and catchy refrains caught on at MTV. Massive radio play soon followed and Linkin Park were on their way to popular acclaim. Reviews were mostly kind to the freshman effort, but a few qualifiers were always thrown in: “A rap-rock outfit with a jones for Depeche Mode? Is this a glitch in the matrix? Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, is a freaky-deaky fusion that works in spots,” wrote Matt Diehl of Rolling Stone. Though the comparisons to other bands continued, the band took it in stride. “We’re not a one-sound band, led by one voice,” Delson told Larry Frick for Billboard. “We’re a collection of concepts and thoughts and influences by a group of people who have a hunger to always grow. That’s what a great band does: grow. And I believe that we’re on the way to being a great band that will stand the test of time.”
Suddenly, Linkin Park was at the top of their game with hit singles, a best-selling album (eight million copies in the United States), and successful tours, making 2001 the fastest year of their lives. But soon the specter of a second album arose—always a daunting task for bands with a hit first album. Linkin Park decided to make a remix album (with some new original material) to appease fans while they waited for their next all-new album; they wanted to be sure, however, that the release was something special on its own. Reanimation was well-received and did what the band wanted it to. Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield wrote “Nobody ever accused them of having the most original sound around, but what sets them apart is how they shape all their heavy influences into something fresh and tuneful . Commercially expedient though [Reanimation] may be, it’s also a labor of love.”
The pressure to deliver the next all-new album kept growing, but the band members seemed impervious to the stress. “If anything, we were more relaxed as we made this record,” Delson told Frick. “We knew that we’d have an audience to play these new songs for. That was inspiring and energizing, not frightening. We’re prepared to spend the next year or so playing these songs for people. It’s going to be cool.”
Their touring days were filled with hard work on stage and in the mobile recording studios “One of the buses we had out, we had a studio put in there,” Bourdon told Fresch. “We actually have a bigger studio now on one of our buses, which has a drum setup; an electronic drum setup. We’ve got turntables, and Joe has his computer rig, too.”
A collection of songs softer in overall tone than their first album began to emerge from the 80 tracks they had written. Linkin Park was happy with their progress, but the creation of the second original album didn’t go flawlessly. Hahn told MTV News, “We’re trying to combine the [rock and hip-hop] elements to become one music. It’s inevitable for music to go that way. It just so happens that everything is so corporate these days, everything needs to be categorized. So we’re just trying to help close those gaps a little bit.” In the end, Linkin Park was proud of their third album, Meteora, released in March of 2003. “Somewhere I Belong,” the first single released, shot to number one quickly, proving that Linkin Park’s trademark mixture of rap and sweeping electronica pleased fans too. The album also went to number one, selling 810,000 units in one week.
It captured a few more fans in the press, too, as Meteora received good reviews and glowing articles, showing the band had legs. Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly praised the album, noting that “Linkin Park and producer Don Gilmore (who also twirled knobs for Hybrid Theory) have constructed a thunderously hooky album that seamlessly blends the group’s disparate sonic elements into radio-friendly perfection.”
The band hit the road in the spring of 2003 to promote their new album, touring with the second annual Projekt Revolution along with Mudvayne, Xzibit, and Blind-side. During the European leg of their tour, however, lead singer Bennington was incapacitated by a virus whose excruciating pain left him unable to walk or even eat for a full week. He recovered after being hospitalized, but not before the band had to cancel their European gigs. Although his doctor told him to take it easy, Bennington refused to lie low and began shooting a new video that same day. This kind of dedication is true for all the band members. As Hahn told David Fricke of Rolling Stone, “We’re the only guys that really get it. This is our career, and we take it seriously”
Hybrid Theory, Warner Bros., 2000.
Reanimation (remixes) Warner Bros., 2002.
Meteora, Warner Bros., 2003.
(Contributor) Matrix Reloaded (soundtrack), Warner Bros., 2003.
Billboard, October 6, 2001; February 16, 2002.
People, April 14, 2003.
Rolling Stone, March 29, 2001; March 14, 2002; May 1, 2003.
“Hybrid Theory,” RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/cd/review.asp?aid=78189&cf=78418 (June 29, 2003).
“Linkin Park,” All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 29, 2003).
“Linkin Park,” PRP.com, http://www.theprp.com/interviews/linkinpark.shtml (June 28, 2003).
Linkin Park Official Website, http://www.linkinpark.com (June 25, 2003).
“Linkin Park Trying Not to Suck on Next Album,” MTV News, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1457286/20020903/story.jhtml (July 7, 2003).
“Linkin Park Will Not Sign Your Breasts,” Crazewire,http://www.crazewire.com/features/200202151.php (June 29, 2003).
“Meteoric Opening,” MSN Entertainment, http://entertainment.msn.com/news/article.aspx?news=119098 (June 29, 2003).
“Review: Linkin Park’s Meteora” Entertainment Weekly for CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2003/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/26/ew.review.mus.meteora (June 28, 2003).
“We Wouldn’t Sign You for a Million Dollars,” Guardian Unlimited,http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/fridayreview/story/0,12102,918125,00.html (July 7, 2003).
Members: Chester Bennington, vocals (born 20 March 1976); Rob Bourdon, drums (born Calabasas, California, 20 January 1979); Brad Delson, guitar (born 1 December 1977); Darren "Phoenix" Farrell, bass (born Plymouth, Massachusetts, 8 February 1977); Joseph Hahn, turntables (born 15 March 1977); Mike Shinoda, bass (born 11 February 1977).
Best-selling album since 1990: Hybrid Theory (2000)
Hit songs since 1990: "Crawling," "One Step Closer"
The members of Linkin Park were as shocked as anyone when their debut album Hybrid Theory (2000) became the biggest-selling album of 2001. This was, after all, a rap-rock outfit whose nu-metal sound, a blend of turntable scratching, hard rock guitars, rapping, and singing, was allegedly on its way out. Instead, the six-man Los Angeles band that could barely get meetings with executives at record labels just a few years before became the surprise success story of the year.
Linkin Park began life in 1996 as a Los Angeles high school heavy metal band named Xero. Guitarist Brad Delson and drummer Rob Bourdon had performed in a high school band called Relative Degree, which had set the single goal of performing a show at the Los Angeles club, the Roxy, which they did, then promptly broke up.
Vocalist Mike Shinoda, another friend of Delson's, had attended a few Relative Degree practices, developing a songwriting partnership with the guitarist. The two began the messy experiment of mixing Delson's love of hard rock with Shinoda's appreciation for hip-hop. The pair recruited DJ Joseph Hahn after he and Shinoda met while studying in the same painting course at the Pasadena Arts Center.
Xero's first recordings were created in Shinoda's cramped bedroom studio. Delson also asked fellow UCLA student and roommate Darren "Phoenix" Farrell to join the group; Farrell would leave the band in 2000 to join Tasty Snax, returning in 2002. The budding band decided they needed a proper singer, which they found in transplanted Arizona native Chester Bennington, who completed the lineup in 1999. When Bennington's impassioned singing melded with Shinoda's streetwise rapping, Linkin Park's signature sound was born: a unique mix of old school hip-hop rapping and turntable scratching, classic rock guitar riffs, and a subtle underpinning of electronic dance music beats and ambience. Before they had a recording contract, the group secured a publishing deal from Zomba Recordings in 1999 after their first showcase at Los Angeles' famed bar, the Whisky-a-Go-Go. They used the money to record an album of songs to play for record labels and sell at shows.
A Slow Crawl to the Top
Though in 1999 three different labels rebuffed the group—now known as Linkin Park—Warner Bros. Records offered them a deal with the artistic control they craved and they began work on Hybrid Theory with producers the Dust Brothers (Beck) and Don Gilmore (Eve 6, Pearl Jam). The album was released in the fall of 2000, debuting at number sixteen on the Billboard charts. Once the singles "Crawling" and the cathartic "One Step Closer" ("Everything you say to me / Takes me one step closer to the edge / And I'm about to break / I need a little room to breathe") gained increased radio play, the album began a march up the charts into the Top 10, where it would reside, on and off, for nearly a year.
Tours with Family Values 2001, featuring a lineup that, like Linkin Park, favored mixing heavy metal with hip-hop, and Projekt: Revolution, featuring rappers Cypress Hill, kept the group on the road for 324 days in 2001, paying off in January 2002 with three Grammy Award nominations. The group took home one Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for "Crawling." With more than 6 million copies in sales, Hybrid Theory was named the top-selling album of 2001, a huge accomplishment for a group's debut. Hahn and Shinoda lent their voices to a hit single, "It's Going Down," for the hip-hop group the X-Ecutioners in early 2002.
The achievements were a testament to the group's hard work and artistic vision, which extends to all aspects of their imagery and style. Bennington designs clothing for the Replicant Company, Hahn directed the "Crawling" video, as well as five other clips, and Shinoda designed the cover art for the group's albums, which he also co-produced.
Eager to keep their momentum flowing, the group entered a studio in summer 2002 to record the twenty-track remix album Reanimated. An amalgamation of ambient passages and radical reworkings of their songs, the album features new tracks and guest vocals from rappers Rasco & Planet Asia, Aceyalone, Pharoahe Monch, and Black Thought, as well as Staind singer Aaron Lewis, Korn singer Jonathan Davis, and Orgy singer Jay Gordon. For songs such as the hit "Crawling"—renamed "Krwlng" for this album—the group has completely reimagined the track, adding classical violin and cello in place of crunching guitars for a majestic sound that is more chamber music than hard rock. Aaron Lewis's haunting vocals float over the string section, layered with stuttering samples, a faint drum machine beat, and rapping.
Though their mix-and-match style of music was believed to be on the wane following a period in which many rock bands had added superfluous DJs or rappers to their lineups, Linkin Park's combination of arresting visuals and tightly produced rap-rock tracks made them the breakout success story of the early 2000s. Linkin Park's third album, Meteora, was released in 2003.
Hybrid Theory (Warner Bros., 2000); Reanimation (Warner Bros., 2002); Meteora (Warner Bros., 2003).