Xero (Demo Cassette Tape)
|Demo album by Xero|
|Linkin Park demo chronology|
Xero is the self-titled 1997 demo tape by American band Xero (now known as Linkin Park). The tape is the first publicly released work by the band and contains their earliest known recordings.
When Mike Shinoda was 15, a friend’s dad chaperoned them to a Anthrax and Public Enemy show during Anthrax' Attack Of The Killer B's tour in 1991. He was so inspired by the musical melding that when he decided to form his own group, he wrote with both rhymes and rhythms in mind.
Mike took piano lessons until he was about 13, starting when he was about 6 years old. At this age, he ended up wanting to go in a direction (hip hop / production, jazz, blues) that his teacher, Eileen, wasn't familiar with, so he left. He bought some production equipment (a keyboard and then a sampler with the help of Styles Of Beyond's producer Vin Skully) and started making beats and playing with MIDI and digital-based music. The beats were inspired by old-school rock & roll or blues songs and he eventually started rapping over them. For the most part, he made a lot of Gangsta rap joke songs, resulting in a demo tape called Pooch Pound.
When he was 8 or 9 years old, Rob Bourdon and his brother used to play along to Aerosmith and Faith No More on their parents couch with a pair of drumsticks. Later his brother got a drum kit and Rob started playing piano. When he was 12, he started taking drum lessons and switched to playing drums full time. He was inspired to play the drums after his mom took him to an Aerosmith concert and introduced him to Joey Kramer (Aerosmith's drummer). In 6th grade Rob started playing in a band with 3 friends called No Clue, that would play cover songs in backyard parties. In 7th grade they switched their name to Physical Evidence and covered Nirvana, Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies. When they started writing their own original music, the songs sounded like a blend of those 3 different artists, with most of the lyrics being about the teachers they hated in their junior high school. When he was in the 10th grade his parents made him join in his high school's jazz band (the Calabasas High School Jazz Band). He was in the band for a couple of months and played one show, but he didn't like it. In the audience, two musicians who were contemplating forming a new band called Karma saw Rob performing and recruited him to audition. He didn't get the job, but through the bass player of Karma he met Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda who both lived nearby in the San Fernando Valley.
Brad has been interested in music as far back as he can remember. He played trumpet in his elementary school orchestra, and started learning to play guitar when he was 12 or 13, taking lessons for about 5 years before he started teaching guitar and playing with friends in local bands. He was neighbors with Mark Wakefield in highschool and the two of them were in a band called The Pricks.
Mark, Brad and Rob, along with the bass player from Karma then started a band called Relative Degree. They had a dream of playing one show at The Roxy Theatre, where Brad worked as a bouncer, so they set it as their big goal. The Roxy was a popular club for up and coming bands located on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, California. The band wrote 12 songs and rehearsed for a year before playing the show at The Roxy which finally happened on May 17, 1996.
Brad said, "People laugh at me when I say this but my goal was - as a musician - to play a show at our local club, the Roxy, in L.A. in high school for my friends. I did it. Now I say this, and it may sound like bullshit, everything that's happened from that point on is all gravy. We're really proud of the music we've made, and for everyone that gets to hear it, that's more love for us. We're totally happy." After playing only one show, the members of Relative Degree started losing focus and the band eventually broke up.
Although Mike never joined the band, he would occasionally put samples into their songs and watch them practice, and developed a strong friendship with Brad when they were both in 8th grade.
Still in his development stage of rapping, Mike used to record demos with Ryu of Styles Of Beyond in his bedroom. He would later design Styles Of Beyond's original logo and produce an unreleased version of "Marco Polo" for the album 2000 Fold. He would also create album art for DJ Frane's Fantastic Boatride and Saukrates' The Underground Tapes as well as for the Styles Of Beyond album.
Mike and Mark have been friends since they were 12 and used to make funny songs together. They went to high school together and after both graduated, they started a new band called "Xero" in the winter of 1995/1996. At that point, Mike was mainly doing beats for various hip hop acts (and for himself as well), but decided he wanted to experiment with mixing different styles of music together. After one or two writing sessions, they enlisted the help of Brad and recorded a demo containing 4 songs with a few of them having guitars done by him. They sent it to an A&R representative from an indie label/publishing company whose mailing address was included in one of the CDs they owned and got a phone call from Paul, the representative, a day later asking them to come over. He was shocked to learn the duo recorded a professional sounding demo on a 4-track in Mike's bedroom and encouraged them to put a band together and start playing shows. They set their first goal to play at the Whisky A Go Go and the demo tape was eventually passed out to friends and new fans and sent out to record companies to try and get signed.
Brad was in his first year of college, studying communications at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), when he attended to a class taught by Jeff Blue, who had just signed Korn and Limp Bizkit. Jeff was also developing a young woman named Macy Gray and told everybody in the class he was looking for an intern to help build her career, and help him showcase artists, and Brad volunteered for the job. The next morning, Jeff walked in his office and his sister told him there was some kid waiting to speak to him, even though he had no appointments. He then saw Brad spinning on Jeff's seat. Jeff told Brad to don't ever sit in his seat again and asked him to talk about himself. He told Jeff about his dream of becoming a lawyer and about his band that he was developing. Brad then pointed to a big Limp Bizkit poster Jeff had in his office, which he was really proud of, and said "That band is not that great. I may have a band that's better than that." Jeff liked his confidence and hired Brad as his intern. Funny enough, DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit would later help Linkin Park by giving Mike music plugins, adive and sounds.
After the end of Relative Degree, Rob went through a rough period in his life, struggling with drugs and alchool, and became isolated from everyone. Towards the end of high school, he got his life back on track and went back into playing drums full time again. Around that time, he got a call from Mike asking if he wanted to listen to some songs he had written with Brad and Mark. He was impressed by their work and became involved right away.
Dave Farrell's older brother, Joe, started playing cello in fourth grade. Dave wanted to learn it too, but the cello was too big for a first-grader, so he started playing violin instead. He did a classical training for eight years and in the process learned a bit of cello and viola. In the beginning of high school, his mom showed him the basics on a guitar, and from there he picked up a bass. In college, Dave entered UCLA as a biology major (pre-med), but finished as a philosophy major with a minor in classical Greek. He was a college roommate of guitarist Brad Delson and the duo were playing small jazz events together. Dave had been excited about the progression Brad had been making with his high school friends in Xero, so when the opportunity arose, he joined the band.
Since the begining, the band knew they would need a DJ in order to perform their songs live, but the DJ would need to be someone who could handle more than just scratches. Mike met Joseph Hahn when both were studying illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. They had similar interests and shared a love for music, especially hip hop. Because of how expensive the school was, Joe only went there for about a year before he started working as a Special Effects designer/illustrator, dealing primarily with character design and storyboarding for television and movies such as Phantoms, Virus, Sphere, X-Files, Dune, The Outer Limits, and Species. A couple years after their initial meeting, Mike approached Joe about a project named Xero. Like Mike and Dave, Joe had been a classically trained musician and brought new capacities for sounds to the band. Joe played violin in school for a few years and then played guitar for a bit before he started getting serious about DJ-ing in high school. He says, "Around high school I loved music, hip-hop and all the stuff going on in KROQ back when people listened to the radio. I was DJing and I got into scratching and all that. The idea of a sound wave on a record and being able to manipulate it with speed and turning the volume up and down and having that turn into something totally different was really new and experimental at the time. I love the idea of just twisting sounds and manipulating beats; the idea of distortion and where that can go and how powerful sounds can be."
Xero played their first shows as a band on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, with the first one taking place on November 14, 1997 at the Whisky A Go Go, playing before SX-10 and System Of A Down. Mike said, "I remember that gig. I was wearing the most ridiculous thing ever. I had this white beanie hat on with blue goggles and white gloves, I think because it made me feel more like a performer and not the normal dude that I knew I was. So I had to get into costume in order to get psyched up and get into character. We were awful, just horrible but we survived." The club was packed with A&R scouts that had all fled by the third song. Jeff Blue said, "The place was empty. You could hear crickets." However, he saw that the group had potential but were pretty far from actually "making it", so he gave them a development deal with a little financial support from Zomba Music Group. With the help of a publishing company, the self-managed band was able to buy new instruments and equipment, get a decent recording and a better show.
Mike said, "We would write a lot more than we played. A lot of bands rush their songs, and go out and play a ton of shows; we spent weeks and weeks on the music, and probably only played one or two shows a month." Dave added, "We definitely weren’t polished but we had a lot of potential. We only really played shows as an excuse to get our friends together for a party afterwards. In the early stages, it wasn’t about getting a record deal. But the more we played, the more we realised we might have a chance." It was at one of those after show parties in February 1998 at Brad and Dave's apartment that Mark Wakefield introduced Mike to his friend Anna Hillinger (Mike's future wife) from Long Beach.
Xero played several shows after this to mostly empty venues with almost no one in attendance. The sets consisted of around six to eight songs and were 25-30 minutes long. The public was mostly there just to support friends. Local bands like Incubus, Hoobustank (now Hoobastank) and Xero would attend each other's shows. Andy Gould (whose management company would later work with Linkin Park) recalls watching Xero play at The Roxy Theatre in front of 10 people.
In 1998, Joe worked at the Urban Network magazine where both him and Mike contributed with artwork and original Xero songs for Lee Cadena's Rapology compilation series which promoted new and upcoming hip-hop artists. Cadena founded LCM, his own artist management and development company, and worked with Xero introducing them to music venues such as Whisky A Go Go, The Troubadour and The Mint. He also helped Joe improving his skills by getting him with some of the Beat Junkies.
At some point in 1998, the band would go by the name "Xero 818", 818 being one of the area codes for the San Fernando Valley area, which is where the band is from. By the end of the year, Mark left the band and joined System Of A Down's manager David "Beno" Benveniste on the Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group. Beno was also the founder of Streetwise, a marketing company which would later help Linkin Park building their street team.
Dave would soon leave Xero too. He was also committed to another band, Tasty Snax, with whom he had been close friends with since high school. They released their debut album, Run Joseph Run, in 1998 and when they left on tour, Dave went with them. They would release a second studio album, Snax, in 2000 and break up in the following year. Their vocalist, Mark Fiore, would later become Linkin Park's videographer.
Writing and Recording
The songs were mostly written by Mike Shinoda and Mark Wakefield in 1996, with Brad Delson and Joe Hahn also being credited for "Rhinestone".
"Fuse" features a sample of "The Very Long Fuse", a story narrated by Laura Olsher on Disneyland Records' 1964 album Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.
On "Stick N Move", Mike did a reference to "Check The Rhime" by A Tribe Called Quest.
The demo was recorded in 1997 in a makeshift studio set up in Mike's bedroom with gear he had been collecting one by one, starting when he was about 13 years old. The songs were recorded straight to tape on a Tascam Porta 07, a little 4 track recorder, without any live drums. Mike would record on three of those tracks and bounce the recordings to the 4th, then record over the initial 3. The final products would be bounced out to a separate cassette recorder. Since nothing touched the computer, no master digital files exist for these exact versions of these four songs.
Guitars were played on a Fender Strat guitar (Mark's first and only guitar) with a Crate G20 Amp. A Yamaha PSR 510 was used for keyboards, mostly bass. All vocals were recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone. A Roland MS 1 (that played up to 4 samples and was meant to be played by hand) and an Akai S900 (a 12 bit sampler that saved on floppy disks) samplers were also used. Since those samplers didn't have an internal sequencer, Mike used an Alesis HR 16 drum machine as his sequencer.
On the band's influences at the time, Mike said, "in our most rudimentary version of our band back in 1997, our earliest demos sounded like the Roots meets Alice In Chains meets Aphex Twin or Prodigy or something. It was all stuff that we were currently listening to that was kind of current at the time. Those were our earliest demos. Over time we just simply started listening to more stuff."
There were two issues of the Xero tape, both with the same tracks but different covers. The black and white shopping cart was the first issue and is very rare, having a small number of copies made.
Only one known copy of the shopping cart version exists in the current Linkin Park community, owned by "JomJom" / Giorgio from Italy. According to BPercy from LPCatalog, "A lot of people thought it wasn't legit until Mike confirmed it was legit at a meet and greet in Europe before A Thousand Suns was released. My buddy Giorgio from Italy owns it and showed Mike and asked him. Giorgio and myself actually started the first catalog in 2005 (known as lpcollectors.com) and ran it for a couple years. Then life got in the way. Mike Shinoda told him, the shopping cart was actually a joke for a cover for the demo tape but then they actually had some made before the baby version was made.. If I remember he implied fewer were made. Most hardcore LP fans know how rare a Xero tape is. Try and find one for sale (needle in hay stack.) Now the shopping cart version is like a needle in outer space in my opinion. There might be 2 or 3 in existence that didn't get tossed."
This version was apparently a joke between Mike and Joe, who said while in a grocery store that the first release they had would be of a shopping cart. In 2003 or 2004, a second shopping cart version was listed on eBay and known collectors were outbid; the buyer has never surfaced in the community. To date, only JomJom's, Anna Shinoda's, and the mysterious eBay auction's tapes have been the only three confirmed to exist outside of possible copies that the band still might have.
When JomJom showed his shopping cart version of the tape to Linkin Park in 2008, they proposed adding "Reading My Eyes" to that night's setlist for him. While Chester said no, this was the first time that Mike decided to rap a verse of "Reading My Eyes" over "Bleed It Out" (Heineken Jammin' Italy, 2008).
After the shopping cart issue, a version with a blue cover featuring a baby was made and is now most the most commonly associated cover when referring to Xero and the tape. More copies of this version were made, and these are the source for the current rips of the tape circulating online. No rip of the shopping cart version has been made, but due to JomJom's copy, we are able to confirm that the tracks on both issues are the same exact versions. While more copies with the blue cover were made, only a few of these are also known to exist in the Linkin Park collectors community, outside of the band.
The shopping cart version of the tape was confirmed to have been made in 1997. According to Anna Shinoda's story of meeting Mike after a Xero show in February 1998 and Mike handing her a shopping cart version of the tape, fans have speculated that the blue cover version could have possibly been made in 1998 after this meeting. No more information on the subject is available.
|A1||Rhinestone||Brad Delson, Joe Hahn, Mike Shinoda, Mark Wakefield||3:36|
|A2||Reading My Eyes||Shinoda, Wakefield||2:58|
|B2||Stick N Move||Shinoda, Wakefield||2:41|
- Mike Shinoda
- Mark Wakefield
- Brad Delson
- Rob Bourdon
- Dave Farrell
- Joe Hahn
- For touring and mailing info, write to: Xero, 311 Stocker Ave., Glendale, CA 91207
- For more info, call 818-549-9083
- Mike Shinoda
Songs Played Live
- "Reading My Eyes"
Cassette Tape Rips
Over the years, the owners and collectors of the Xero tapes have attempted different transfers of the four songs. The first existing rip was done by IDX on April 29, 2002 and was commonplace in the community for many years, but lacked bass and was very treble-driven. It also noticeably had a skip in "Stick N Move" at 1:05 in the first chorus. Since then, several Xero tapes have made their way into hands of collectors and other rips have been released as both time has gone on and technology has improved.
As of now, there are three known, circulating rips of the Xero tape, with the third rip getting two remasters in 2011.
It is important to note that all of the known rips have come from the tape featuring the blue cover with the baby, and no rips have ever been made of the shopping cart cover tape.
List of known rips of the Xero tape:
01. 2002 IDX rip (scene release, incorrectly titled "Xero-Demo Tape-1998-iDX (Pre Linkin Park)")
02. 2006 LP:Fuse rip
03. 2007 nkramar rip (also found in the "Demo Compilation" released to fans around this time)
+ Skittle021's first remaster of nkramar's rip ("Garage Days Revisited" - 2010)
+ Skittle021's second remaster of nkramar's rip ("Garage Days Unleashed" - 2011)
For four years, fans were only able to hear the first rip by IDX. The LPFuse rerip in 2006 is bassy and muffled-sounding, but it was the first time fans were able to hear the full version of "Stick N Move" without the cut in the first chorus.
LPA's news post from 2007 for nkramar's release read, "Tonight we are proud to present to you, a series of brand new high quality rips of Linkin Park's very first demo tape (provided courtesy of nkramar), from back when they were originally known as Xero. These rips are some of the best to surface on the internet to date as they came from a mint condition Xero tape, played only a limited number of times, before landing into the hands of its current and rightful owner, who was courteous enough to provide new rips for all of you to hear."
In 2011, a remaster of nkramar's rip was released by community member Skittle021, saying, "I would like to share something that I have been working on for the past three years. Since late 2007, I have been working on remastering the Xero Demo Tape to get it as close to studio quality as possible. Well, I've finally done it. I wasn't planning on releasing this to the public, but after showing it to a few friends and family members, they suggested that I do just that. So, here you go. Let me know what you think!"
Later unsatisfied with his work, Skittle021 worked on a second remaster, released in late 2011 and called "Garage Days Unleashed", which comes with the description, "The newly remaster version of the Xero Tape. This version contains many major improvements over the last version. Garage Days: Unleashed contains absolutely no filtering, of any kind. Previous versions of the tape contained very, very heavy noise and essing filters, but this time the sound is completely natural. The tape has now been remastered in full stereo using a completely different new method. This version still eliminates all signs of hissing or buzzing that is caused by ripping a cassette, but completely preserves all of the original backing vocals and instruments"
As time goes on, the tapes will age and slowly deteriorate, so it is likely that the best possible rips of it have already occurred and been released to fans. Only a few known copies exist with current Linkin Park collectors, as most have been lost over time.
Other than the 4 tracks on the demo tape, Xero wrote and recorded more songs as a band.
"Rhinestone" was re-recorded at some point when Mark was still in the band and used on the soundtrack of the 20th episode of the Canadian TV show "The Crow: Stairway to Heaven", entitled "Brother's Keeper", which aired on May 7, 1999. A soundtrack CD for the series exists but "Rhinestone" wasn't included in it.
On Hybrid Theory, "A Place For My Head" credits Mark Wakefield because the original incarnation of its demo, "Esaul", was written by Xero. Additionally, "Forgotten" was rewritten from Xero's "Rhinestone" and "Runaway" originated from elements of "Stick N Move". On the LP Underground 9: Demos album, a demo of "Stick N Move" was released with the date of 1998.
The unreleased song "Pictureboard" is listed on the BMI song database and credits Mark Wakefield and the rest of the band as well as Chester Bennington. It was later re-recorded by Hybrid Theory (which is why Chester is credited as well) but no versions have ever been released. Hybrid Theory performed the song once, according to Mike.
An LPU 12 video exclusive entitled "Perth Jam 1, Xero Reborn" from the Perth, Australia Soundwave show in 2013 featured Phoenix playing a guitar part backstage that Mike and Chester referred to as being an old Xero demo. Chester said that he sang on it and it was a demo they worked on and Mike said that it didn't make it past being a demo and it was "terrible". The song title is unknown.
- Brad Delson once mentioned a Xero song titled "Spark Marker" during an LPU chat, saying it was a "cult classic", but his statement is mostly regarded as a joke.
- On his MySpace page, a Californian drummer named Scott Belsha claims he played for Xero (supposedly before Rob Bourdon joined the band). This was never confirmed by any Linkin Park member and all attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful. He is a freelance drummer and percussionist who played for many local artists such as Klerize, Kyle Swan And The Honeybrew, Crow Magnet, Deer Leg Band, Jason Reeves, A Beautiful Army Of Trees, and Colbie Caillat.
- Rob Bourdon studied business at a college in Santa Monica. His first job was at a bowling alley. He was a birthday party coordinator for kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. He also worked as a waiter for a while at his uncle's French restaurant.
- Joe Hahn worked as a reviewer for the Urban Network magazine.
- Mark Wakefield supposedly wrote and recorded a song called "Ground Xero" after he left the band.
- Mark Wakefield is credited for the cover art of System Of A Down's 2001 album Toxicity.
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