Mike: Hi, 1, 2, check, check, 1, 2.
Spotify: Uhm, so, thanks for coming in, Mike.
Mike: Hi! Yeah, thanks for having me.
Spotify: We appreciate it. You’re a Spotify supporter, so it’s good to host you here.
Mike: Happy to be here. Haven’t been to the office yet. Nice! Got a nice rooftop and a nice almost studio.
Spotify: It’s almost studio, yeah. Uhm, cool, so, The Hunting Party coming out in June, correct?
Mike: We have a new album coming out in June, we haven’t confirmed any titles yet.
Spotify: Oh, OK.
Mike: But that does sound like a good title.
Spotify: Haha, OK. Yeah, there’s a lot of information out there saying that IS the title. You don’t have to *** anything.
Mike: Yeah, you know, I, I… we’ve been working really hard on it and we’re almost done. Uhm, in the next couple weeks we’ll be mixing, mastering and then, uhm, we’ve already announced tour dates in Europe and in US, so if anybody hasn’t picked those up yet, uhm – go to LinkinPark.com. That’s where we’ll be.
Mike: Yeah, around…
Mike: In the summer!
Spotify: In the summer? With the new album?
Mike: With the new album out and everything, yeah.
Spotify: Ok, the now untitled new album…
Mike: Yeah, haha.
Spotify: Uhm, so, let’s talk about what is out there. Uhm, Guilty All The Same is out on Spotify…
Mike: Yeah, yeah, aha.
Spotify: …a track with Rakim
Mike: Yeah. I grew up, listening to Rakim. Uh… He’s like… Well, the way this thing came about was, uhm, we were in the studio, working on a track, and it was… It’s, you know, it’s a, for those that haven’t heard, it’s a 6-minute, uhm, heavy song. It’s, you know, art-**** metal, I don’t know what to call it. It’s hard rock, I don’t know. Uhm, but it’s very, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s loud, it’s aggressive, it’s long and there… at a certain point in the bridge, yeahm, there’s this like rap beat breakdown, and originally I’d written it thinking maybe I would rap there, or maybe we’d do some kind of solo thing there, and I just kept listening to it going like: “I don’t feel like rapping on it, like, it just doesn’t sound… It won’t be surprising. It won’t be THAT interesting, if I rap on this part. Like, what else can we do?”. And I’d mention in kind of like casual... there’s... casual conversation in the studio, uhh, “Wouldn’t it be cool to gets a guest… to get a guest on this part? I don’t know, like Rakim, or something.” And, and, the, uhm… and our engineer, who’s actually from here in New York, said: “If you’re serious about that, I can reach out, because I know…” I think it was like: “I know a guy, who knows him.” or: “I know his engineer.” or whatever. And that’s, basically, how it happened. It was like, you know, a week or two later, I was on the phone with him, and, uhm, talking about the song.
Spotify: Yeah. It’s, it’s cool. Yeah, it’s interesting also because, uhm, you know, it does feel like a harder track… and, you know, you guys don’t have many, you know, guest spots.
Mike: No, we rarely do… This is actually the first time we’ve invited a guest, uhm, this is the first time we’ve ever released with the guest on it.
Mike: Really, the eh, like, we’ve done things with other artists before, you know, but like in the case with Jay-Z collaboration – that was based on music that we’d already written. It wasn’t new music. It was a mash-up, which was new, but it wasn’t new music and then we did a song with Busta Rhymes, but that was his music, we were featured on his track, so we hadn’t, you know… It wasn’t like it was our song in our studio, whatever, and our… our album. Which this is.
Spotify: Yeah, so when he came in, was it just kinda like, he was like: “I know what I’m doing”, like: “I feel good”. How much back and forth was there between two of you, or the band?
Mike: When we first talked on the phone, I think that was a really important moment, uhm, cause we were just getting familiar and he was telling me about how he, like learned about the band, and followed the band and I was telling him about you know, uhm, I remember telling him about where we were at and why we’d called him and of course I’m a huge fan of his, especially from when I was growing up, like I all of his, his first like, you know… I mean I… over time, like, I listened to bits and pieces of all of this stuff, but, you know, I remember, like, from “Don't Sweat the Technique” till like, uhm, throughout… through that, that song he did for the “Juice” soundtrack. Do you remember that? It was called like “Know the Ledge”. Uhm. Great song, great song. And, uhm, I was telling him how, like, at this point in time in rock – rock has gotten a little soft. Like it’s like, you know, I listen... When you look at like, what’s… what rock stations are playing and what, you know, what’s popular in rock music – it’s pretty poppy. It kinda sounds like safe and like… Heh, to be honest, I feel like I’m listening like Nick Junior or like Disney channel. You know, it’s something like my parents will listen to, uhm and the kids… and kids will listen to. And I just felt like we were at a point where if that’s where… what is rock right now, like, I don’t feel… I like listening to that… I totally… I totally listen to that stuff, but I don’t feel like I wanna be making that. And there’s a type of music that I, I wanna hear that people today aren’t making. And that’s always a moment whenever I have that realization it’s, it’s… that’s the moment when I feel really inspired to like do something, to make something, and… and, so I was telling him about that and he said it’s like we’re living like through the same thing. Like, he’s gone through that a number of times in his career. And, and you know, he’s like: “Picture me writing, like a pop-rap song right now”. He’s like: “I just won’t do it. I just won’t”
Spotify: Yeah, it’s interesting, uhm, I think, you know, Linkin Park has, you know, throughout career, uhm, maybe… maybe filled a little bit of a void in music. Do you… do you see Linkin Park that way, as, you know, coming in and, you know..? Cause it’s hard to put you guys in a box, you know. I feel like people are constantly trying to do that.
Mike: That’s one thing that I actually… I struggled with… Like, I really got, like when Pandora first started becoming really popular I got really frustrated and I actually talked to the, the, the founder of Pandora about it. Talked to Tim on…, I got ehm, him on the phone at one point to talk to him about this. I said: “Look, you know, what, what do artists, like… like Linkin Park do when I pull up a Linkin Park station on Pandora and I don’t like it? Not at all. Not even close. What you guys are, you know… The way you guys designate us is, like, the DNA or whatever they call it of Linkin Park, is in my opinion, incorrect.” And he… he didn’t really have an answer. Like, he wanted to, you know, but at the end of the day it’s based on what those fans are listening to, you know, and I don’t… I don’t want to control that. I don’t expect to control that. And I learned over time to just appreciate it, because picture yourself, like trying to set a station or a playlist, based on artists that are like… quote unquote Like, uhm, Rage Against the Machine, or Red Hot Chili Peppers, or, I don’t know, going outside of that, like, Shakira, or, you know, there’s like so many artists, who are just their own thing. Bjork, like nobo… if you, if you sound too much like them, you’re clearly just ripping them off. And if you don’t and you’re… you’re, you’re, you know, really just doing your own thing, then you don’t sound like them anymore. You know, some groups and some artists just have their own thing and I just looked at it one day and I said: “That’s…” I’ve just gotta come to the terms with the fact that, like, it’s gonna be hard to put up a Linkin Park playlist together at any point.
Spotify: And yet your… your sound kinda changes, album, and album.. just like, you know, uhm, even just in the past two years, you know, you have Steve Aoki track now, but it’s still very Linkin Park, but at the same time, you know, you guys are always evolving. Uhm, so is that… is that a conscious thing, you know?
Mike: Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely conscious.
Spotify: So, you think… you’re thinking about filling like a new void in music?
Mike: Well, it’s pa… it’s because we get, uhm… we, we… we want to learn new things and we wanna stretch ourselves, so doing the same thing again kinda just feels boring, you know, we... I mean maybe we just start (*) like musically like ADD, or something. Uhm, but ever since the second album… like the first two albums felt… you know, were kind of the… brother albums maybe. Like, the first… the second album was made to sound a lot like the first album, almost like the continuation of the thing. And ever since that time we realized at that point if we’d made another album that sounded that way we’d be basically stuck doing the same thing forever and that was gonna drive us crazy. Like, we wouldn’t have been… We wouldn’t have lasted this long. We would’ve just given up. We would’ve imploded, if we had done the same thing again and again, cause we just would’ve gotten bored. Uhm, and there’ve even been points like two records are going on… on A Thousand Suns. At that point we knew we were making something that was gonna be very polarizing, like we knew the minute that we put three songs together that the fans were, like gonna love or hate it and some people were going to just… just be SO pissed off about the record and they were. They… I remember reading a thing where some kid called the album “A slap in the face”. And I was just like: “That is so dramatic. First of all, you’ve gotta be like thirteen. Second of all, that’s so dramatic”. And I knew it was coming, and I… we did our best to tell them: ”Look, this is not personal for you. This is not about you. This is about us. And this is what we need to make right now. This is what very, like, we need to stretch ourselves. We hope you come along for the ride. We want you to come in the door. But we’re gonna leave the door open, and if you decide not to come in, that’s totally OK with us. We don’t hate you, we hope you don’t hate us. We’re making our music, and that’s what it’s gonna be.” And it’s been that way since. I mean, even with this record it’s like, like I said, like: “If all you wanna listen to is HAIM and Vampire Weekend and Chvrches and… I don’t know what, like, that’s fine with me, cause I love those bands. I think they’re great. Uhm, that is not the record we made. And if you put it on the playlist with that stuff - it’s gonna sound out of place. Uh, but if you love all of those things together, then you’re probably a lot like me.”
Spotify: Yeah, speaking of playlists, uhm, you have, you know, some of the best artist’s playlists on Spotify.
Mike: Thank You!
Spotify: Uhm, really amazing, you know, like 13-hour long playlist.
Mike: I have a very long… I have a playlist called…
Spotify: Stuff you grew up…?
Mike: “Stuff I grew up on”, which is… is… how many tracks is this? A hundred and eighty-seven tracks? I… I’ve added songs… I keep adding songs to it once in a while too.
Spotify: Yeah, no I saw. I was just looking at it today – it’s like new track like this month, so it’s… that’s great.
Mike: Cause I just think of things, where I am like: “Oh, man, you remember that song…” What was the one that I added? I was like: “Oh, man, there’s that song by, like, Smoothe the Hustler.” It was like two guys in… from New York in like the 90’s or something. Uhm, I just keep thinking of these songs, that like I remember being at McDonald’s with my friends, like talking about some new song. And that was like, yeah, that’s, that’s… those are the songs that ended up on that playlist.
Spotify: Yeah, it’s cool and it’s… it’s interesting, uhm, you’re coming out with this, this new album and just from the one track you know it’s, it’s hard rock, but then also Rakim is on it.
Spotify: And the playlist is like for every Rage Against the Machine like 3 Mobb Deep tracks.
Spotify: So it’s like, is that… Where would you put your musical roots, if you, if you had to?
Mike: Uhm, I mean I grew up on hip-hop more than anything else, uhm, like and that… and that… you know, you said Mobb Deep like that was a really big, uhm, time for me, like o…f…, a lot of New York stuff, some LA stuff, uhm, Alkaholiks and like, uh, uh, from them to like Jurassic 5 and uh, but, but really like, you know, like you said like Mobb Deep and Biggie and uhm, and uhm, all that stuff start… it went back early… when I first got into rap it was really uh, you know, Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C., LL, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, a lot of Rick Rubin stuff, actually. Uhm, there was a time in high school when I started realizing, uhm, I started listening to a lot of the songs that were sampled in my favorite songs, so like the Beastie Boys got me into Led Zeppelin, for example and like, I don’t remember what sampled, like Jimi Hendrix but that… maybe it was like Pharcyde sampled like a Jimi Hendrix thing or Cypress Hill or something, I don’t know. And then it was like, you know, that started breaking me outside of hip-hop and, uhm, eventually I started making my own beats and then I really dove into other types of music, because then I became like really fun to like dig for records, dig for… for songs, not just records, but dig for songs that I could sample and then get into, you know mixing and matching interesting… interesting things.
Spotify: Yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s cool also cause Rakim is so, you know, the beginning
Spotify: You know, so, so the beginning. It’s cool. Uhm, you know, this is kind of a tough, maybe annoying question, but if you uh, had to say, like you know, maybe a favorite lyric, uh…
Mike: You know, I am glad, uhm, I’m glad I got a heads up on that question before I came here today, otherwise I would’ve had a really tough time answering that, uhm. You wanna know from me? From... Of mine or of his?
Spotify: Uhm… To be…
Mike: Cause I took it as mine.
Spotify: Yeah, yeah you know, that was gonna be the following…
Mike: Like when I… I know I read… I, I know, well of his, uh… of his… that was one I… I couldn’t... I just couldn’t answer. Like… I, I feel like his... what’s great about… The thing that’s great about him for me is that a lot of his stuff is about the verse, the like, the whole thing. And I remembered hearing, like “Don't Sweat the Technique” and at the time it was like Holy Crap, like this guy… cause it’s a song about… about what he’s doing, you know. And, uhm, and he did it so much better than anybody else, you know, when it came out it was like… But I feel like now, if you listen back to that it doesn’t… things have gotten more evolved, and so that was a moment in time, though you kinda had… I feel like that’s a song where you had to be there, like if you listen to his verse on “Guilty All The Same” is FAR more technical and FAR… the, the… like inspiration and the concepts are just SO developed and ingrained, like he’s now a master painter, you know and that was a moment of like a standout moment.
Spotify: Cause like his flow is just…
Mike: It’s one of a kind but it’s also like I, I, I compared it to like uhm, like, like a really great like guitar solo or, or uhm, the painting analogy’s good too because there’s a…, there’s a technicality in what he’s doing that maybe you have to be a rapper to like appreciate, because you’ve tried to do it, and you’ve realized the complexity of th… of the patterns and, and the way they waive into the next part but also the biggest… the biggest challenge is doing that at an A+ level and then also getting across emotion at an A+ level and concept at an A+ level – it’s like I, I always compare like when we are writing songs like there’s the left brain and the right brain that are kind of both working, you know, and sometimes there are odds and you’ll have something that’s very creative and… might… maybe really wild. But are you also checking the, you know, uh, the uh, right brain, uh, box.
Spotify: Making sure that it’s…
Mike: Yeah, is your logical brain going like: “Yeah, that’s, that’s… that makes sense to me and it’s compelling”. And he does it all. That’s, that’s, in a, in a, on a level that people can’t really do. Uhm.
Spotify: So what’s, what’s your…?
Mike: I was… that was the part that I always really kinda like Wow… I… Cause I write a lot of the singing lyrics too, so from… for... from a rap verse kinda thing I think I’d probably send… if there’s like, oh what is… Like, what are you… where, where do you think you hit the mark the best, uhm. I did a song called…. We did a song on Minutes to Midnight called Hands Held High and that was at a time when, you know, Bush was president, we were at war and all that stuff and uhm, I felt like I really just said what I wanted to say in that song, uhm. And there’s a part about… both verses end with uhm… Uh, the first verse ends with… They both end with laughing… the people are laughing, like: “What did he say?” Like, that’s… it’s talking about Bush, right. The people in America are listening to him going like: “Oh my God, did you hear what he said?” But the exact same thing the people overseas are listening to him going: “Oh my God, did you hear what he said?” They’re going that… this is fucked up, this is scary. Uhm, and it was a moment when this, you know, you felt from whether you, you know, you were democrat or republican you definitely knew the, like, severity of your situation, and the… there are other parts of the song that kinda, uhm, elaborated on the points, but... I also got to include a philosopher’s line that I really loved and a lot of our… a lot of the younger fans like attributed it to me which is, like, so sad. Uhm, but it’s a Sartre line. It says: “When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die.” And I k… I’ve like… I found a way to work that into a verse which is not something I usually do.
Spotify: That’s cool. It’s a pretty poetic line.
Mike: It’s really great, yeah.
Spotify: Cool, uhm, so tour this summer?
Spotify: Uhm, and half of the summer still in town?
Mike: Heh, right!
Spotify: Yeah, ok. We’ll, we’ll fr… we’ll get this up before it gets tide sense… Uhm, yeah, we just like to… we like to end these sometimes with uhm, you know, kind of like a, rapid fire kinda thing just.
Spotify: Uhm, so what’s the song that, you know, puts you in a really good mood.
Mike: Good mood, uhm…
Spotify: Always does it…?
Mike: I think, I’m thinking of the Beatles, uhm. What song is it? Is it “Because”? I think “Because” is the one I’m thinking of.
Spotify: If there are any alternates for that also, just cause the Beatles are not on the Spotify.
Mike: Oh yeah… Uhm…
Spotify: You can go…
Mike: Led Zeppelin – Tangerine!
Spotify: Cool, uhm, what song makes you like just wanna go crazy?
Mike: Haham, uh… Minor Threat – Out Of Step.
Spotify: Cool, and then the last one is: what’s your favorite noise?
Mike: Uh, the weird squealy sound at the beginning of “Insane In The Brain”
Spotify: That was quick. That was a quick answer on that one.
Mike: It’s the first thing that came to my mind.
Spotify: Wow, ok.
Mike: I love that, that thing that happens right there, because… and you hear us do it a lot. Sometimes it’s so fun and cool to start your song with a signature sound. And we… we’ve made that our, like part of our, our like, identity over the past three albums. It’s like so… when you find that one sound that you know that isn’t in another song – you just made something crazy.
Mike: Uhm, and original, that’s like such a… that’s like such a landmark moment and I’ve got to imagine that it was like… I know that first time I heard that song I was like: “I’ve never heard that before. That’s great.”
Spotify: That is a signature right there. Well, cool. Thanks a lot.
Mike: Yeah, thanks for having me. Want me to draw something on here?
Spotify: Oh, yeah!