“People forget what it was like in 2000 to come out with this band,” reflects Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park’s origins. “Back then people listened to a style but now, you cant even pull one genre from another. Everything’s so mixed and that’s exciting,” he exclaims. “The most exciting music out right now is stuff that’s above genre.“
Linkin Park are currently winding down the album cycle for ‘The Hunting Party‘ before disappearing into the studio to work on album seven. There are 50 demos already floating about alongside a sense that “our best work could be infront of us. I feel really inspired.”
“I like to think our music has had some role in blending genres,” offers Mike en route to Moscow. “That’s what our music has been about since day one. We never felt like we carried a flag for Nu-Metal but we definitely carried a flag for people who loved many types of music. What we did in the beginning was differentiated from the other groups that did similar stuff because of our aesthetic and reference points. People would say they were in a rap rock band and that’s where they left it. For us, we asked what kind of Rap, what kind of Hip-Hop. I grew up on Hip-Hop,” explains Mike. “It’s the only thing I listened to for three quarters of my life so those reference points were super specific and that’s what I brought into our band,” he continues before listing his influences, The Roots, Mobb Deep, Wu Tang Clan as well as the West Coast scene. “There wasn’t a Dre, Cube, Easy E or Ren album that I didn’t buy.”
Originally conceived back in 2005, Fort Minor was a way for Mike to explore those hip-hop leanings away from the band. “The first two Linkin Park albums were very similar in style, so a bunch of hip-hop songs didn’t feel like they would fit.” An album, ‘The Rising Tied’ followed but as Linkin Park “decided to drastically broaden our horizons, every idea was appropriate,” Fort Minor fell by the wayside. “We opened the door to anything, so over the years any Fort Minorish ideas became a Linkin Park song,” explains Mike. However, “a few months ago I came up with this song ‘Welcome’. I listened to it and it was just me. It didn’t sound like Linkin Park. It didn’t sound like anyone else. It always just felt like a Fort Minor song so I decided to put it out and it opened the door back up.”
“I played it to the guys and they loved it,” explains Mike. “I knew that meant they were considering it for the next Linkin Park album but I told them I didn’t want it to go in that direction and they were supportive. These are good dudes, these are my best friends in the world.”
“The idea with the Fort Minor stuff was I wanted it to be fun, not only for me but for the fans,” starts Mike Shinoda who, inbetween arena shows, has been performing a handful of intimate one-man shows.
“I’m not planning on putting out another Fort Minor album, I’m not planning on going on tour so these shows are meant to feel exclusive and fun,” explains Mike. “It’s mostly album cuts and b-sides. Fort Minor’s always been a thing for the fans so I’m doing some stuff on this tour you won’t hear anywhere else. We or I haven’t released any of this stuff ever, the only place you’ll be able to hear it is at the show.”
“I realised there had to be a very specific role for this to play in my world because the Linkin Park stuff is so all encompassing. It’s so big and so much work that the Fort Minor stuff has to be fun. It’s why I’m going to play these small shows inbetween Linkin Park shows, I’m going to do stuff that Linkin Park effectively doesn’t do. The fans want to hear the rarities, they want to hear the weird stuff and that’s what the Fort Minor show is all about. When we’re choosing a Linkin Park setlist, we’re thinking about a crowd of between 15,000 and 50,000 people. There are things you can do in a 1000 capacity venue that you can’t do in those other venues,” ventures Mike of his live show.
“It’s a one man show and it doesn’t feel like anything else. I set up the whole show so I can walk in and do it completely on my own out of a headphone jack, if I had to. I could literally just plug into the stereo of your house and play a show, which is really far removed from Linkin Park’s stage setup. It’s pretty much the polar opposite.”
“It’s a personal challenge,” admits Mike on performing solo.
“I’m not that guy. For me to even get on stage with the other five guys in the beginning was a bit of a challenge. I really had to find my confidence to be up there that way. When I did the Fort Minor project before, I put a band together because I was too chicken shit to get up there by myself. This is supposed to be fun, so now I just want to talk to the fans by myself. Lets not bring anyone else into it. I’m going to challenge myself to keep it as entertaining as I can, as a single individual onstage and see where that takes me.”