Linkin Park: Surviving Success
Circus Magazine-Jan 2002
More than 7 Million fans bought the debut of Linkin Park, their Hybrid Theory, fueled by the 2 hit singles "One Step Closer" and "Crawling" - both were on heavy rotation with every music channel in the US and Europe - Hybrid Theory became one of the best selling albums in rock history. Things started to move for Linkin Park with so much speed, that they almost lost the overview completely. The six guys are still trying to understand what went on and bassist Phoenix sums it all up when he marvels how fast everything went.
"It's kind of crazy, last spring we supported the Deftones on their European tour and it was quite amazing. We never imagined that we'd play before a big audience like that. It really was kind of crazy and mind blowing. Then not even 6 month later we played even bigger venues - on our own. For a while we felt like we were dreaming, everything happened and everything seemed to happen at once. It was really really weird. "
According to him their biggest dream ever was to play the Roxy in LA just once, but it seems they have surpassed that stage by far.
"We always dreamed about playing the Roxy just once, it seemed something every band wants to do. We never even thought further than that. We often sat together and talked about what it would be like to play the Roxy. It was something like our mantra, like a dream. The silver lining on the horizon or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In a way we didn't really think it would happen but we held on to the dream. Then all of a sudden we were filling huge venues - stadiums - not just in the US but allover the world. It was crazy, mind blowing and it happen so fast that it was incredible even for us ourselves. I can't imagine how it must look to somebody outside of the band."
Phoenix remembers all too well how it all started and what it was like before they hit their own pot of gold with the multi platinum album Hybrid Theory. Given the success Linkin Park enjoys now, it seems hard to imagine that they had to scrounge for money to pay their rehearsal room, or barely could afford 3 hours of studio time to record a demo. It almost sounds like a fairy tale when Phoenix talks about it or something that happened in the distant past, but 1996 is not that long ago.
"Oh yes, I remember, it was a terribly hot day in 96 - we arrived in a mini van out of the recording studio in LA and tried to get our equipment out of the van and into the studio as fast as possible. We only had money for 3 hours, not a minute more, so we were sweating and trying to make it. Every minute we wasted with setting up our equipment was a minute we lost on our booked time, was a minute we couldn't use for recording. And we were all so broke, we just couldn't afford to book more time."
They also couldn't afford to pay anybody to help them setting up their equipment, so they just had to do it themselves and according to Phoenix it was back breaking work.
"It wasn't just back breaking, it was hell, pure hell! You have no clue how heavy equipment can be! Just the turn table rack Joseph used weighted more than 150 lbs. Imagine the situation, before we could even do a sound check - let alone start recording - we were completely washed out, real wrecks!"
Ever since their enormous success the media and fans tried to pin a label on Linkin Park - and most of them despaired, it seems hard to find a name for the many influences they unite in their sound, and even the band itself doesn't seem to be able to find a name for it. In a way they coined the new crossover of 2001.
"Crossover 2001 - I kinda like it, I think that I describes us really well" confesses Phoenix.
"We want the whole thing, everything, the whole specter of music and no limits. We got some fantastic song- writers in the band, they're absolutely great. Mike is very creative and he sometimes strays away from what the rest of the band is doing, while our guitarist, Brad Delson, he is fantastic when it comes down to structure a song and a chorus. It is - great, we all have different talents, everybody adds some-
thing to the band." While Linkin Park is one of the bands that didn't start to take themselves too seriously when they got successful and always tried to stay as normal and level headed as the
business allowed them, they earn a lot of criticism for being 'too normal' - but Phoenix only laughs about it.
"I know, it is hilarious, isn't it? A couple of the so called business people told us we are lacking the 'rock star element' - whatever that may be. We should probably try to kill ourselves and our career by drinking too much, being arrogant shits, misbehave every- where, cancel concerts and treat our fans badly - if that's what it takes to turn us into cool rock stars, I think we can give it a miss. Right now it seems to be very uncool to like us, but honestly, I really don't want to behave like an idiot just to be cool - or be labeled cool by some idiots."
But even if they try their best not to lose contact with their fan base and not to get sucked into the usual circle of drugs and drinking, that seems so nor- mal in the music business - Linkin Park doesn't even allow cigarettes or booze in their tour bus - they still have to deal with obsessed fans... "I never know how I should react when somebody starts to behave weird or starts screaming and crying just because I walk into a room. It just doesn't seem real to me, I keep thinking 'Why are they doing it - did I do something wrong?' I'm the same person I used to be '" and just because I'm famous now doesn't mean that I'm somebody else. It's really nice if the fans like what we're doing but it makes me uneasy if they worship us. I rather talk to them than be worshiped. But I came to realize that I have to expect a certain amount of strange behavior. It comes with the job it seems, people are not only trying to read something into the music, they are also trying to read something into the musicians. "
Linkin Park is certainly a very hard working band and their schedule seems almost unbelievably busy. Ever since June 2000 they've been touring without a break and it looks as if they'll keep on touring until March 2002 - again with hardly a break in between. That is something that takes it's toll and Phoenix is the first to admit it:
"You know you're busy if out of a year you spend only 3 weeks at home. That's kinda hard on you and you realize how much you miss the people and everything you took for granted. I miss my girlfriend, my friends, I miss just being at home. But I don't want to complain too much about it all. You can't expect to be successful without doing some- thing for it, without making certain sacrifices and I guess being on tour is one of them. It's not that I mind being on tour and doing concerts but it's being away from home that's a bit hard, even if we're traveling with far more comfort than we used to have!"
Part of the comfort he mentioned is being able to fly 1st class from the US to Europe and while he admits he rather enjoyed having a bit more leg room and not being squeezed into tourist class, it still seems strange.
"You know it is simply great if you're able to stretch your legs on a long flight, but I really did feel strange when the flight attendants kept offering champagne. I can see why a lot of bands really lose touch with reality, but we got one big advantage - we look after each other and if one of us would start to freak out and get a bit crazy, the rest of us would sort him out and help him along. That is reassuring."
It seems that Linkin Park is almost like one big family and like a family they have their own difficulties and problems.
"Of course we have fights and I think for an outsider it even may look as if we do fight pretty often but that's normal. We do spend a lot of time together and we're some sort of family and people in families do fight. But fights are not always bad, sometimes you just fight to let of steam and it clears the air."
Despite their busy schedule, Linkin Park are already thinking
about their next album, but as I~ Phoenix makes clear, they are not in a hurry, they won't get rushed and
despite the fact that the fans might -' eagerly await it, their schedule won't permit a new release before autumn 2002.
"We really don't want to be rushed and we won't release a new album before we are not 100% happy with the recording. With Hybrid Theory we did have to compromise, for example the sound seems to be too polished, too smooth - not like our live shows. With our next release we want a rougher sound, we want to have more of an edge, we want to deal more with emotions and I think we will sound harder and darker."
While the success of Hybrid Theory gives them a certain amount of creative freedom, their fame is a two sided coin, as Phoenix realizes.
"One of the advantages of success is the fact that we can take our own time, that we're going to have creative free- dom. On the other hand it's also a lot of pressure. You know they say 'easy come - easy go' so as a band or an artist you can't stop wondering if your fans might not just forget you and tomorrow nobody will remember Linkin Park. I don't think it will happen but of course it is a thought that crosses my mind sometimes..."
But given the fact that Linkin Park has worked and is still working hard for their success - Phoenix might not have to worry too much about being forgotten too soon.