Xero (Demo Cassette Tape)

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Xero
Album-Xero Tape.png
Demo album by Xero
Released November 1997
Recorded 1996
Length 12:36
Producer Mike Shinoda
Linkin Park demo chronology

Xero (1997) Hybrid Theory EP (1999)

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.

Background

When Mike Shinoda was 15, a friend’s dad chaperoned them to a Anthrax and Public Enemy show[1] during Anthrax' Attack Of The Killer B's tour in 1991.[2] Guitarist Scott Ian said, "I had one of the dudes from LINKIN PARK, a long time ago, one of them told me he was at the ANTHRAX/PUBLIC ENEMY show in Los Angeles on the tour, and he loved it, and it was a very important night for him. So that was nice to hear."[3][4] Shinoda 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.[5]

"When we started, we wanted to play something that we weren’t hearing. The first show I went to was Anthrax and Public Enemy. They did ‘Bring the Noise’ together, and I was like, ‘That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.’ Everybody in our band —– and our fans, too —– has just been raised on different styles of music. Everybody’s mixing everything. When you hear Redman do a song with Roni Size, or Busta Rhymes with Ozzy, you know something’s happening."[6]

Mike's first instrument was an upright piano his family had in the house.[7] His mother made him start taking piano lessons when he was about 6 years old.[8] He made his first performances at piano recitals when he was 6 or 7 and later started singing at a youth theater group with his friends. He was into Dungeons & Dragons, so his first song was inspired by videogames and medieval themed movies. He wrote it on piano when he was 11 or 12 for a contest his piano teacher ran and won first place (15 dollars prize). He was obsessed with Dr. Dre and at some point he asked a keyboard so he could try to make sounds like he was making.[7] At about 13, 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.[8] In 1993, at 16, Mike started building a library of sounds and making rap demos on a cassette four-track.[9] He bought some production equipment (a keyboard and then a sampler with the help of Styles Of Beyond's producer Vin Skully)[10][11] and started making beats and playing with MIDI and digital-based music.[12] "I literally learned how to produce by making mashups. I had been making mashups since '96 or '97 when I got my first sampler. That's what I did. That's how I learned to use a sampler because I didn't have enough recording gear to actually make a full song. I would just throw a vinyl a cappella down over a beat that I made. I ended up mashing up my favorite hip-hop records and my favorite rock records. It might be Depeche Mode and Wu-Tang, and Nine Inch Nails, The Jackson 5 and Public Enemy. It would be fucking bonkers the whole time. I wasn't making music for anybody else, I was making it for myself."[13] He was nicknamed "Spooky" by his friends because his beats were always creepy.[14] 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.[8][15] In highschool, Mike was involved in the Student Gov't and used to freestyle on the PA during lunch on Fridays.[16]

Brad Delson 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 with his guitar teacher, Keith,[17] when he was 12 or 13, taking lessons for about 5 years before he started teaching guitar and playing with friends in local bands.[18] Mike Shinoda said, "When I was a kid one of my best friends lived right across from Brad, and all you could ever hear coming from his bedroom was Metallica, Metallica and more Metallica. If you were lucky you might hear some Exodus, or maybe some Sepultura, but that was it - the guy was an obsessive metalhead."[19] In June 2020, Mike elaborated when asked about his first impression of Brad, "Brad lived next door to my friend Mark. And their bedroom windows were directly across from each other. And it was almost like a TV sitcom. He'd like play guitar in his room and you'd hear him shredding like Metallica. But it was always that really funny thing, you could out Mark's window and you could talk to Brad. I didn't know Brad at that point, he'd just like yell out the window and talk to Brad. Mark would. He seemed like a cool dude, though."[20]

Brad's first band was The Pricks. He was neighbors with Mark Wakefield in high school and the two of them were in the band together.[21] Mike noted, "they were both in several bands before Xero. Mark and Brad were in one called The Pricks, they were this awesome rap-metal band. I loved their stuff."[22] Their most famous show happened in June of 1995, during the summer, at Douglas Robb's parent's backyard. They played as an opening act for Hoobastank's very first show with around 150 people in attendance.[23] Members of both bands had been friends since long before The Pricks was formed[24] and to prepare for the show they stole stages from their local high school in the middle of the night, set them up in Doug's backyard and hired security, charging a dollar for admission.[25]

Mike Giangreco, a local promoter, met Hoobastank through Incubus and booked shows for them. Hoobastank then introduced him to The Pricks. Besides giving Brad jobs as a bouncer at The Roxy and Whisky A Go Go[26] and as a waiter in his restaurant, Giangreco heard The Pricks' cassette demo and, although it was pretty raw, decided to work with them in the hope they would develop their sound and get better. The band played at many frat parties and he would let them borrow sound systems to play shows with the condition that they would carry everything by themselves and bring it back to his garage afterwards. The band would also spend a lot of time in local record stores searching for new releases and "showcasing their musical talents".[27]

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.[28] 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 when he was in the 4th grade and introduced him to Joey Kramer (Aerosmith's drummer).[29][30] 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.[31] 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[32] 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.[33]

Relative Degree played a show at The Roxy Theatre on May 17, 1996 before disbanding.

Mark,[34] 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, 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[35] 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."[36] After playing only one show,[37] 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. He developed a strong friendship with Brad when they were both in 8th grade.[38] "I loved the drums so much growing up, just listening to them. The reason that I got to know the Linkin Park guys because in high school I was really good friends... I started it with my friend Mark and we were both in art class together every day, we hung out outside of school all the time. I always gave him rap recommendations. He was in a band with these other guys from school (Relative Degree) that I didn't really know, and the drummer was from another school. And I would literally go watch them practice just to watch the drummer play. And then that ended up being Rob and our guitarist Brad. Eventually it was Mark on vocals but that didn't work out and we parted ways and found Chester. People always think "wouldn't suck to be the guy that didn't make it Linkin Park?" but he's a successful music manager and a good friend of mine."[39][40]

Still in his development stage of rapping, Mike used to record demos with Ryu of Styles Of Beyond in his bedroom.[41][42] He went on to design Styles Of Beyond's original logo[43] and produce an unreleased version of "Marco Polo" for the album 2000 Fold.[44] 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.[45]

Mike and Mark have been friends since they were 12[46] and they loved a lot of the same groups. Mark would introduce Mike to more guitar-based music like Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and Pearl Jam while Mike introduced Mark to hip-hop artists such as Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang Clan.[47] They went to high school together[48] and had a reputation as the guys who made funny songs.[46][49][50] After both graduated, they started a new band called "Xero" (pronounced "zero") in the winter of 1995/1996. "We named it Xero with an X because we thought it looked cool," explained Mike.[51] At that point, Mike was mainly doing beats for various hip hop acts (and for himself as well),[52] but decided he wanted to experiment with mixing different styles of music together.[53] 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.[54][55] The artwork was a Xerox photo of what appeared to be a mountain and the inside featured a faded photo of four band members and a close-up photo of Mike Shinoda. The tracklist featured "Fuse", an untitled track, "Stick And Move" and "Reading My Eyes".[56] 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 Pontius, the representative from Immortal Records, a day later asking them to come over.[57][22][9] He was shocked to learn the duo recorded a professional sounding demo on a 4-track recorder in Mike's bedroom and encouraged them to put a band together and start playing shows.[58] Rob said, "we haven't really figured out the exact date, but it was somewhere in ‘97 that we came together, most of us came together."[59]

After the demo, the band came together and started writing new music. Their goal was to have songs to play live. Joe explained, "Those songs have a very suspenseful energy going on, especially in the verses, with an outpouring of emotion in the choruses. Part of our goal was to get this personal idea that has conflict, and that was easy to do because of our age at that time and that universal emotion of not fitting in and teen angst (laughs). The other intent was to have those songs explode at a certain point, and how that translates live into people getting really charged up, eventually leading to a mosh pit-type moment."[55]

They eventually created a new demo tape with the second track, the band's least favorite, being replaced by "Rhinestone".[56] In regards to making the demo tape cover, Mike said it was an art project for school that he intended to use for the band. He explained, "So I started the band, the first songs were at the end of high school, me and Mark Wakefield. After that, we started to get a little interest and encouragement from this guy who worked at the label. So we started recording more in my house and playing some shows once a month or once every couple of months. We were practicing once or twice a week and recording once or twice a week. I didn't have time to do more than that. The further I got through school, towards the end the workload lightens up a bit. I was really good at consolidating my work. If I needed to make an album cover for us, like we had these demo cassettes that we'd hand out. CD burners were really unreliable at that point and we didn't have money to burn a whole bunch of them. But cassettes were cheap, so we'd send it over to the guy and he'd make a bunch of cassettes and they'd look professional. And everybody had cassette players. I was making the art for one of those, and one of my school projects was kind of an open ended design project. We're going to use these techniques, but whatever you make with the techniques... you can make whatever you want to make. So I'd do my project, and that would be the cover of the thing. So I was killing two birds with one stones, trying to be efficient."[60]

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.[61][62] Mike said several new demos were sent to Paul Pontius but he wasn't interested in the band anymore.[22]

Brad was in his first year of college, studying communications at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), when he attended 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 his seat, told Brad to don't ever sit on 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.[63] Funny enough, Jeff had been playing the band's demos for DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit from the very beginning. He met Joe Hahn at Jeff's birthday party on November 20, 1999 and gave Joe several tips.[56] In addition, DJ Lethal said, "I helped linkin park when the were hybrid theory,mike shinoda came to my house and I gave him music plugins and adive and sounds."[64]

After the end of Relative Degree, Rob went through a rough period in his life, struggling with drugs and alcohol, 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.[33]

Dave Farrell's older brother, Joe,[65] 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. His mother, Kathy, played piano and sang and, in the beginning of high school, she showed him the basics on a guitar.[66] He switched instruments a couple years later when members of his first band, Tasty Snax, decided that they had too many guitarists and nominated him to play bass. He got the nickname "The Phoenix" around this time; it comes from the Ben Stiller movie Mystery Man.[67] He explained, "It was just a joke between a bunch of my high school buddies. Long story short, a girl once told me my real name ... was boring. Can you believe it? She was pretty annoying herself."[68] He and his bandmates gave each other ridiculous stage names, but his was the only one that actually stuck. He says he's glad they decided on that name because the other option was "Little Bitch" from BASEketball.[69]

In college, Dave entered UCLA as a biology major (pre-med), but finished as a philosophy major with a minor in classical Greek.[66] 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.

Left to right: Danny Hayes, Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, Joe Hahn, Mark Wakefield, Brad Delson, Jeff Blue.

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. “I’ve always wanted our show to be energetic. We use drum pads, samplers and turntables with original vinyl to perform all the sample parts live on stage, which I think brings an exciting uniqueness to the songs,” Joe explained.[70] Mike met Joseph Hahn when both were studying illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.[6] They had similar interests and shared a love for music, especially hip hop. Because of how expensive the school was,[71] 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.[72] A couple years after their initial meeting, Mike approached Joe about a project named Xero. "Joe came in like right when we started rehearsing as a band," Rob explained.[73]

Joe was born in Dallas, but moved to Glendale when he was 8.[74] 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.[54] 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."[75] He started off with drum machines and turntables, laying down demos on a four-track tape recorder, until it became obvious that he would have to turn to computers to fully develop sounds and create more atmospheric music.[76]

Once in college, Mike also turned to computers to further develop his craft. "Having spent years honing my skills drawing and painting, I hadn’t yet had the chance to bring those illustrations into the computer. At Art Center, there was a computer lab–a huge underground complex of rooms filled with computers. And the computer of choice for the designers and artists at Art Center was Apple. I loved the design, inside and out, and it seemed built for making art. And once it was my computer for art, it became my computer for music. It’s hard to think of all the ways that Steve Jobs’ vision has built a foundation for the products on which I work and create: Apple products have been used in making every piece of music Linkin Park has ever written, every album cover or poster we have ever designed, and all our music videos, ads, LPTV, and websites."[77]

Xero played their first shows as a band on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood,[78] 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. Rob explained how they got in the bill, "Basically, with clubs of that magnitude, you pay to play. If you can sell enough tickets, you can play. But, actually, we made a little bit of money, because we could sell a lot of tickets. At that time, all of us were either in school, or just out of school. I was in between high school and college. So, we had a lot of friends at school, and all of us would each try to sell 50 to 75 tickets. We would just go crazy, and try to sell them to everyone; family members, it didn't matter. We had to sell them to everyone just to play there."[73]

Talking about the show, 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."[79] The club was packed with A&R scouts that had all fled by the third song. Jeff Blue added, "The place was empty. You could hear crickets."[80] He saw that the group had potential but were pretty far from actually "making it", so he offered them a development deal with a little financial support from Zomba Music Group. Brad received the proposal on December 4th, but the band didn’t accept the deal right away.[56][73] Mark and Brad were convinced Jeff Blue was the right person to help them, but Mike and the others disagreed. They shopped the deal to other managers for 9 months in hopes they would find something better. When the band decided to sign it, Jeff's surfing buddy Danny Hayes was hired to represent them. The deal was signed by every band member except for Phoenix at the law offices of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in Los Angeles. The moment was registered with several group photos.[56] This was followed by a Zomba Signing Party at Hollywood Athletic Club on October 10, 1998.

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.[81] Jeff Blue also hired an L.A.-based vocal coach named Lis Lewis to help them improve their vocal skills.[82] She would work privately with Mark Wakefield and help both Mike and Mark warm up backstage before their shows.[15]

Left to right: Mark Wakefield, David Benveniste and John Dolmayan at the Rock En Seine Festival 2013.[83]

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."[84] 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.[85]

Xero played several shows 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.[54] The public was mostly there just to support friends.[86] Local bands like Incubus, Hoobustank (now Hoobastank) and Xero would attend each other's shows.[87] The band played in-store at Backside Records in Burbank for around 20 people[88][89][90][91] and Andy Gould (whose management company would later work with Linkin Park) recalls watching Xero play at The Roxy Theatre in front of 10 people.[92] When questioned if any footage of these shows exist, Mike said, "As Xero, there's probably. I think there's some footage. That was with my friend Mark and we just looks, you know. Like, we were children, right? Part of it it's like it's not the most flattering footage, but it's also that we don't have very much. Like people, you forget back then there wasn't very much... like having recording... what you call it? Like a camera even. You'd had to have literally a camera to do that."[93][94]

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.[95][96] 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.[97][98] He also helped Joe improving his skills by getting him with some of the Beat Junkies.[99] That year Mike and Joe had a photoshoot with Howard Min, an LA-based commercial photographer and creative film-maker, at the Los Angeles River. He said, "i met mike shinonda a handful of times - he was a fun, chill guy. joe was a very good friend since the 7th grade".[100]

A re-recorded version of "Rhinestone" from the Xero tape was released in 1998 by Zomba! Music Services on their New Music Sampler 1999 CD.[101] This new version of the track eventually found its way to producers of The Crow: Stairway To Heaven landing the band their first soundtrack appearance. However, the episode only aired in 1999.[102][103]

The band would go by the name "Xero 818" at some point in mid-1998,[104] 818 being one of the area codes for the San Fernando Valley area, which is where the band is from.[15] They changed it because there were other bands named "Xero". Brad explained, "so we called ourselves Xero 818, like when you can’t get the Gmail account you want, [so] you just put a number… That’s what bands were doing at the time."[55]

Mark Wakefield was fired from the band by the end of the year 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 build their street team.[105][106] Mike explained, "Mark and I started my band, our band together. Eventually, like, he wasn't a singer, he would get like crazy ulcers and stuff from the stress of doing band stuff. Having to get on stage made him physically nauseous. Then he went into management, he's really good at a lot of stuff that has to do with music, and so he ends up managing, like basically number 2 at the management company at the company Velvet Hammer who manages System of a Down, who he loves, Alice in Chains, who he has always loved, Deftones, like talk about a dream job. Just working with bands that you love."[107] The decision came following a public showcase at the Whisky a Go Go on December 10, 1998 with over 30 industry scouts in attendence. Both Jeff Blue and Danny Hayes thought the show was a bad idea because if it went bad the entire industry could decide Xero wasn't worth signing, but the band insisted on playing. They were 15 minutes late and had to stop and restart the first song so Brad could re-tune his guitar. The band played for 30 minutes and when the lights came up only Jeff Blue, Danny Hayes, Scott Harrington and a few of their friends were still in the venue. They received 7 official rejections in the next 36 hours, two executives from Geffen who wanted to hire Jeff Blue were fired, Danny Goodwin (who had shown interest in the band after listening to a demo) was fired from Virgin Records and Mark Wakefield was fired from Xero. Most of the rejections centered on how bad the vocals were. He was described as being horribly off key.[56]

Dave would soon leave Xero too. He was also committed to another band, Tasty Snax, with whom he had been close friends since high school. They released their debut album, Run Joseph Run, in 1998 and when they left on tour, Dave went with them.[108] 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

Mark Wakefield, lead singer of Xero.

The songs were mostly written by Mike Shinoda and Mark Wakefield in 1996, with Brad Delson and Joe Hahn also being credited for "Rhinestone".

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.[109] He explained, "Circa 1997, my parents house. I bought this mixing board from a reseller for a couple hundred bucks, and I felt like such a pro. Some of the tracks were broken, but it was what I needed to make my beats sound decent (it had EQs and I could route a guitar pedal for effects). It sat here in the corner of my bedroom in my parents house, with other gear piled up on the shelves of the closet to my right. Mark and I made all the earliest demos (Dialate, Reading My Eyes, Rhinestone, Esaul, Stick N Move) on this setup. We were shooting a roll of black and white photos because we thought it looked “artistic.”"[110]

The songs were recorded straight to tape on a Tascam Porta 07, a little 4 track recorder, without any live drums.[109] Joe explained, "We could only record four tracks at the same time and if you had more than that, you had to bounce onto other tracks, all on a cassette. There was also a limitation of recording time on a sampler, so you had to record really important sounds to that."[55] 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.[109]

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."[111]

The strings on "Reading My Eyes" were sampled from "Why You Treat Me So Bad" by Club Nouveau.[112]

"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.

Releases

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 two known copies of the shopping cart version exists in the current Linkin Park community, owned by "JomJom" / Giorgio from Italy and "Falloon19" / Chad Dix.[113] 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."[114]

Tentative logo created by Mike's friend Ryan Conlan, with whom he went to college.[115]

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, Falloon19's, Anna Shinoda's, and the mysterious eBay auction's tapes have been the only ones 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.

Track Listing

No. Title Writer(s) Length
A1 Rhinestone Brad Delson, Joe Hahn, Mike Shinoda, Mark Wakefield 3:36
A2 Reading My Eyes Shinoda, Wakefield 2:58
B1 Fuse Shinoda, Wakefield 3:19
B2 Stick N Move Shinoda, Wakefield 2:41

Personnel

Xero is:

  • Mike Shinoda
  • Mark Wakefield
  • Brad Delson
  • Rob Bourdon
  • Dave Farrell
  • Joe Hahn

Management

  • For touring and mailing info, write to: Xero, 311 Stocker Ave., Glendale, CA 91207
  • For more info, call 818-549-9083

Artwork

  • Mike Shinoda

Live Performance

Songs Played Live

  • "Rhinestone"
  • "Reading My Eyes"
  • "Fuse"
  • "Stick N Move"

Gallery

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.

Xero cassette tape owned by Anna Shinoda.[117]

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)
+ djzap's remaster of nkramar's rip (2020)

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.[118]

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."[119]

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!"[120]

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"[121]

Years later, djzap remastered the same rip once more, commenting, "Hey all. Made a remaster of the Xero demo tape. Think it sounds a lot more clear and full now compared to the raw tape rip. Primarily did a little de-noising and some surgical EQ work. Also raised the volume of Mike's verse vocals for Fuse & Stick N Move as they tended to get buried at points by the instrumentation." and " It's pretty lofi, due to it being an amateur demo recording on home equipment, on a cassette, ripped using a Sony Walkman. I'm not dissing it, it is what it is and it's awesome we have it in the fidelity that we have it now, compared to the older tape rips we used to have of it. I just thought there could be some adjustments made to make it a bit of a better listen. Like, compare the sound of the original tape rip to the likes of Blue from the LPU CD. That's the gap I'm trying to bridge with this essentially."[122]

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 Songs

Rapology 11 artwork by Joe Hahn. The logos of Xero and Styles Of Beyond can be seen on Joe's turntable.

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.[102] A soundtrack CD for the series exists but "Rhinestone" wasn't included in it.

Three Xero tracks named "Closing", "Drop" and "Fiends" were featured on Urban Network Magazine's hip-hop compilation series Rapology in 1998.

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. Linkin Park performed the song once, according to Mike.[123]

In November 2010, Linkin Park released a Xero instrumental entitled "Coal" on the LP Underground X: Demos album. The song was dated with the year 1997.

The song "Slip" on the LP Underground Eleven album credits Mark Wakefield as songwriter, which means it was first created as a Xero song.

LP Underground 15 contains a three-movement "stream of consciousness" art piece created by Mike Shinoda in 1998 while in college, called "Pods".[124]

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".[125] The song title is unknown.

Trivia

  • Brad Delson once mentioned a Xero song titled "Spark Marker" during an LPU chat, saying it was a "cult classic",[126] but his statement is mostly regarded as a joke.[127][128] Jeff Blue has addressed this saying he has no recollection of anything with that name.[129]
  • On his MySpace page, a Californian drummer named Scott Belsha claims he played for Xero[130] (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.[32]
  • Mike's first job was at his uncle's produce farm boxing fruits like orange and grapes.[7]
  • Joe Hahn worked as a reviewer for the Urban Network magazine.[131]
  • 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.

External Links

References

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