(PCM) In just a few short days, The Carnivores Tour featuring Linkin Park, Thirty Seconds To Mars and special guests AFI will kick off in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Words can not even express how excited we were when the news was announced that these bands would be partnering up for the co-headlining tour venture, as each has certainly earned their spot among some of the most highly engaging and entertaining live acts out there on the road today.
We were recently able to catch up with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda to talk about the upcoming tour, their brilliant new album “The Hunting Party” and more.
When speaking about the overwhelming amount of positive feedback the band’s new album has been receiving Chester Bennington tells us “It’s funny because I think probably more so than any other record, maybe other than possibly A Thousand Sons, I feel like critically the record’s been overwhelmingly positive. Like, I have yet to read anything negative about the record on a critical level that has been written, which is pretty amazing, and so for that we’re very grateful.
But at the same time, almost on a daily basis I run into Linkin Park fans and I’ll take pictures or say, “Hi,” whatever, and every single person that I’ve met since we released this record has told me that they love the record. They are super happy that it’s out like it is, that they’ve been waiting for the great rock record.
I’ve heard some other guys in the band that they feel like it is a record that really the genre needed and that they also appreciate the record that we’ve made, that it is progressive and it is something that they want to listen to. And I feel like we have accomplished our goal on this album.
I think not only creatively, but personally for the band, but also for a lot of our fans. Like, they appreciate what we do, but they’ve kind of been waiting for us to rock out for awhile, and I think they appreciate not only that we did rock out, but in the manner in which we did. I think that they can see that it was crafted in the same manner that we craft everything that we do.”
Both Bennington and Mike Shinoda claim that the band’s set list for the upcoming tour will feature a healthy mix of both old and new material. Shinoda says “It’s basically stuff from every record” to which Bennington adds “I think we’re playing Final Masquerade, Rebellion, those are the two that we haven’t played yet. So, there’s a lot of the new record in this upcoming tour, for sure.”
Everyone that has listened to “The Hunting Party” will surely agree that it is definitely a harder album for the band. It left us wondering if everyone was on-board with the style in which it was recorded from the beginning. Shinoda reveals “For me, it was a bit of a process. I felt like Chester was on board from the beginning and Chester – I think Chester and Dave and I had talked about it a number of times, but it was still, like, figuring out at that point what we were – well, our conversations were happening mid-tour last album. And so, like, what is a louder record mean? What is bringing energy to the album, even more so than the last album? What does that mean? How do we do that without it sounding throwback or derivative of heavier stuff that we grew up with.
And so, we were trying to find the right – and it really fell to a large degree, at first it fell on me to kind of find the right tone, so that I could take that to, in particular Brad and Rob, and say, “You guys, like, I know this is something that you don’t naturally gravitate towards at this point in your life, but check out these reference points.” And as I’ve said before, Derek, you know bands like Refused and At the Drive-In and Helmet and many, many more, but those bands are a great example of how – when you listen to those albums, I feel like there’s a huge aesthetic separation between those albums and other things that were going on at the time.
And that’s what I was keying into and saying, “It is possible to bring a smart, and maybe alternative in the more pure sense of the word, an alternative to, like, what people expect when they hear metal or heavy music or whatever.”
Linkin Park has been a band on the road for about thirteen to fourteen years now, so obviously they have seen quite a few changes with the way in which they approach touring now rather than in the past. Shinoda comments “I’d say, first and foremost, we have opportunities now that we obviously didn’t have then, and just like being in the studio, you have opportunities with knowing what you’re doing, number one; knowing what’s out there is, like, a possibility of whether you’re talking conceptually or being able to afford production or instruments or whatever. Like, we have so many opportunities and the focus a lot of times is on what’s the selection process, like, what choices do we make that keeps things focused and exciting.
I feel like on this one the production that you’ll see, for example, is, I think it evolves over the course of the show really well. It’s more video-based. The song selection and the technology we used to get the set into the form that it is right now. We’ve just finished the idea that that technology didn’t really exist, even seven, eight years ago. So, what’s funny about it is in our band, technology has actually allowed us to be more of a band, more of an organic free-thinking kind of group, because we are the kind of band that creates a lot of our stuff in the studio in layered forms.
Like, if you think back to when the Beatles made the decision to go off the road more and focus on the studio, one of things that they did was they made music that they physically couldn’t play on stage. There was so many layered vocals and so many layered instruments and things that at that time it would be virtually impossible for them to do any of that on stage. As technology has progressed, all that stuff becomes more and more possible. And for us, we create in the style where things get layered and there’s a lot of different stuff going on in each song oftentimes.
And 10 years ago that stuff would be locked into a timeline with our sampler, keyboard, or whatever, and in more modern stuff, we can actually react on the fly and say, “Let’s slow this part down. Let’s speed it up. Let’s pitch it. Let’s up or down. Let’s loop it,” and there’s moments when we can just kind of jam out and enjoy it.
And that, strangely, is, like, this merging of, like, the humanity and the technology and the set that helps allow us to do that.The other thing that I should just mention is, although there is the technology in the set-up of what we’ve got going on on stage, and I feel like it’s very high-tech for music as far as what a music set-up on stage can be.
We also have – I feel like we have a great deal of responsibility to be a live band, so, whereas, we have the opportunity to put certain things in the computer or on a sampler or whatever, we’re very careful about what we do, what we do put in the computer, because we want to be playing everything. We want the crowd to see us in performing the song, and I feel like even in almost every case, if you were to remove that other stuff and just have what’s being in played in front of you, you basically have the same song. So, that’s an important difference or, I guess, specific approach to note.”
Bennington comments “Honestly when you’re young and you’re out there and kind of – you don’t have a family, I mean, yeah, those are important and you’re focusing on the shows, but you’re also kind of focusing on, like, “Am I going to see – where am I going to shower? Do I want to keep this box of clothes this company gave me, because I don’t really like them, but I also don’t have any clean clothes?” Those are the kinds of things you’re thinking about when you’re young and you’re on the road.
Nowadays, it’s, like, we focus on having our families out and, if we can have our families out, we – for me personally, like, all I focus on is preparing for the next show. So, I really don’t think much has changed in terms of our set-ups to get ready for the tour.
I mean, we still kind of practice in the same manner. We rehearse in the same manner. The great thing is our crew knows us so well and has been with u so long, we don’t have to do sound checks anymore, which is pretty awesome, because that frees up a lot of time to stay back with your families during the days and listen to stuff. And so, it really has gotten a lot better now, I think, now that we reached the place that we have in our career. We’ve found a way to balance our personal and touring life a lot better. And so, that’s been really great, I think, all around for everybody.”
We were very curious about “The Hunting Party” being the band’s first self-produced album, as well as, the first to use analog tape recording. Shinoda tells us “I think it’s something that we’ve been curious about for awhile and it had to be the right moment to really dive into it. I’ve had a little bit of experience with tape on previous projects, but not really cutting such large chunks of the song and large performances to tape, and it’s so nice because it forces you to slow down and, like, really consider each performance, each recording of whoever’s playing at the time and whether or not you want it. That’s really, I think, it gives this album at least its sound. Yeah. So, it’s definitely something that’s kind of this point now is within our bag and we get to potentially go back and use it again, if the song asks for it.”
To which Bennington adds “I’ve been recording the drums in this way. It’s really great in that it does give the feel of the song. It’s like a more live feel. For us, I think that, like, one of the things that’s always kind of been surprising to a lot of people that I see when they come to see us for the first time, especially like my musicians’ friends.
They were, like, they didn’t know us but they had never really, like, listened to us very much and haven’t seen us play, and they come see play. There’s like this, like, raw kind of more prompt and in your face attitude about the band when you see us live. Like, even like our mellower songs; there’s an edge to them that you get in a live performance that kind of gets lost in the studio and I think that with this record, like, we’ve kind of captured a lot more of what we’re like live in the sound of the record. And I think that that’s exciting.”
Linkin Park has always been a band that has some amazing fan interaction. Bennington says “Our fans have been the number one most important thing. We’ve done meet and greets with our fans every night, every performance we’ve ever done.
For us, like honestly, like, meeting our fans is pretty mellow, so when we’re out on the street in our daily lives, we meet people all the time, every day who are fans, and us being accessible to a certain degree is really important to us. We’ve been able to thankfully keep our private lives private and share our professional lives with our fans and everybody’s been really respectful of all that. And it’s really cool to be in Linkin Park and kind of be a normal person at the same time. So, I appreciate that from our fans and it makes it that much easier to keep an openness with our fans as much as we possible can.”
The band’s video for their latest single “Final Masquerade” is visually stunning. We were curious as to what the visual aspects of the band’s stage production will look like and what fans should be expecting. Shinoda reveals “One important thing to start with is that the visuals on The Hunting Party were rooted in a handful of drawings, artwork by an incredible painter named James Jean. James, I don’t even know where to start as far as how important this guy is or how incredible he is. You can look him up on your own. So, he – Joe is friends of James. James drew a bunch of stuff for us.
In talking with him, we wanted to do something that has never been done with his artwork before and landed on the idea of converting it into an actual 3D sculpture, each piece into a 3D sculpture. So, although the sculptures live in the computer, they don’t exist physically yet, maybe someday they would, but at this point, we got them rendered in 3D art. Our amazing group at Ghost Town did those renders with James and then those built out the basic foundation of the artwork for the album. And that stuff, you’ll find that on the T-shirts and you’ll find that on the website and you’ll find that in the live visuals as well. And then, it’s not enough to just throw the stuff up there.
I mean, you can, but it’s beautiful, but I think that in the context of a live show, it’s really important to have something that lives and breathes with the show. And to some degree, one of the challenges that I posed on the production team was, based on what we decide to do with the show every night, if we decide to play something differently, if we decide to expand the part or whatever we want to do, I want the artwork to change with the performance. So, it needs to be malleable and that turns into – that’s where the real production challenges start to arise.
Without getting geeky into it, and in fact I’m not really versed in the geeky stuff, I can just tell them, like, “These are the ideas,” and then, luckily, we have an excellent production team that can do that. And the guys at Ghost Town, again, the guys who are involved with rendering the stuff in 3D, they’ve been intimately involved, as has Joe, on creating these tour visuals. I think it’s gotten real great. I’m not going to spoil any surprises as far as how the LED stuff gets – what it’s actually being presented on, or as far as what the stuff actually looks like. You’re going to have to come to the show to see that stuff. But, like I said, it adapts with the show and the show is a work in progress; like, we are changing – we do change things usually steadily from show to show, and then from tour to tour, there might be some broader stroke changes.
But, yeah, we take the live show seriously. It is, in some part of it, it’s as much a piece of art as the music is, so we want it to be compelling and fit with the overall kind of aesthetic of what the band is up to right at this moment.”
When speaking about how the idea for touring with Thirty Seconds To Mars came together. Bennington comments “Our respect comes from a professional between each other and, for me, I know that we’ve been very close to our fan base for a very long asking questions and seeing who they want us to tour with and it’s been really interesting, but every time – and it’s funny to say this because it probably sounds really corporate, but this is what happens when your band becomes as big as Linkin Park. We decide to poll our fans to see who they want us to tour with, and for like, what, five or six times in a row, I think, Thirty Seconds to Mars has either been the most popular band that they want to see us tour with or number two. I’ve never seen them out of the top three.
So, it’s been a long time the fans have wanted to see us tour together. So, for that, I think not only has Thirty Seconds to Mars, like, grown tremendously over the last several years into not only a great studio band, writing great songs, but they’re amazing live. And so, for us, at this point, our fans are really excited to see us play with Thirty Seconds to Mars. And also, if I can say this, they have released their 13th record in November last year, so that’s pretty impressive. I don’t know if you guys are listening to their most recent record, but it’s amazing.
And AFI are another band that are not only are great guys, but they keep making amazing record after amazing record and also known for their live shows. So, that’s kind of a simple kind of no-brainer. Luckily, this is one of those times where we were, like, “Hey, let’s ask 30 Seconds to Mars and AFI if they want to tour with us.” And they both said, “Yes,” at the same time. So, it all worked out really well.”
In the past, Linkin Park has done a lot with the video game industry and say that they would love to continue to do more in the future. Shinoda says “We love gaming. I mean, at this point working and doing what we do, we don’t get as much of a chance to play; for example, a console game. It’s mostly, like, mobile. But given the chance, I would love to have, like, a week off just to play video games. But we have had a lot of really fun experiences, like, doing stuff with games; making our own games.
We’ve got a game, like, currently out up on Facebook right now called, LP Recharge.” In fact, it’s lprecharge.com to find it. And we’ve done apps and stuff like that and we’ve worked with groups, companies like EA, worked with Capitol Glass. We worked as Medal of Honor franchise. So, I think there will be some – yea, there’s probably – hopefully, we’ve had some great relationships with all the folks and I would love to do more in the gaming world. It’s just – it is where our fans are at. It is something we love to do and it’s a really natural fit for our band.”
As many know, Chester Bennington, in addition to being a part of Linkin Park, is also the current frontman for Stone Temple Pilots w/Chester Bennington. We were curious as to how that was working out and if there will be any new material on the way soon.
Bennington said “We started writing some stuff a couple weeks ago, and that was a lot of fun. So, yeah, we’re planning on recording some music as soon as possible and we’ve got a kick start on a bunch of tracks and it’s fun to be around a bunch of people who just thoroughly enjoy making music all the time. It’s, like, I get to be in Linkin Park and play with some of the best musical minds, in my opinion, in music right now, and then I get to come home and go play with some more people who are great. So, it’s pretty awesome. I don’t know when we’re going to get in the studio. We want to do it as soon as possible, so we’ll make that happen with the time that we have when I’m not with Linkin Park.”
Keeping a positive outlook on life can be such a challenge nowadays with so much going on in the daily grind and the ups and downs of our own lives. When speaking about the ways in which he tries to live a positive lifestyle, Bennington tells us “I think piercing your thoughts is important, and I also think that not sweating the small things is really important, using your focus on, like, the big picture, because that’s really the trajectory of where you’re headed is the big picture, and a lot of times when you look at the easiest things happening now can get kind of chaotic and things will be all over the place.
But you’re still moving in the right direction or you’re moving in the wrong direction. For example, if you keep dribbling the ball and it’s coming down, even if things are good right now, you’re still on a downward spiral. So, you have to look at yourself honestly and then kind of figure out where you’re headed in the big picture sense, so you not sweat the small stuff, because that’s usually where all most of my stress comes from things that don’t really matter.”
He then adds “One thing for our group, like, has been so positive is that we have a really good, like, pattern of being direct and honest and respectful with each other. Like, so people have to – to some people, it’s like we never fight, and that’s nice, but that’s not reality. Like, you get six guys in a group like ours, there’s bound to be stuff that we disagree about pretty passionately. And when those things come up, at least historically, the guys have been able to kind of, whether it’s of their own, like, I don’t know, that they feel compelled to just talk to somebody else about it and address it head on, or somebody else kind of has to push you in the direction and say, “Hey, man. You really need to go talk to him about that thing that you’re upset about, because if you don’t, like, it’s going to fester and you guys are going to be a mess later.”
Shinoda concludes with “I don’t think about it. It’s a common thing with people and everybody does – it seems like it happens in every group of people. And at least at this point, I really appreciate the fact that the guys have been so, like, open to, like, hearing criticism and putting themselves – really important, like, putting each other – put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and see it from their angle and listen with, like, respect.
But also, stay confident about what you’re about and stuff, too, and just come to the table and try and find some middle ground. I mean, I always feel like one of the things that makes this, like, the root of a lot of my problems and other people that I know is usually, like, fear and a lot of that is based in, like, unfamiliarity. Like, people are scared of a lot of things that don’t look like something they understand. And being scared of stuff like that, that can manifest itself in so many ways. And whether it’s, like, a personal thing or, like, a decision that we make creatively or whatever, like, all those things, like, we’ve tried to be really cognizant about; not operating by fear.”
Be sure to head out and catch Linkin Park, Thirty Seconds To Mars and AFI on the 25-date Carnivores Tour before it wraps up on September 19th in Concord, California. It is without a doubt one of the most solid touring packages of the summer!