Slowly and steadily, the Southern California fivesome — singer Chester Bennington, MC Mike Shinoda, guitarist Brad Delson, drummer Rob Bourdon and DJ Joseph Hahn — raised their own profile alongside the rise of the disc's cranky, crunchy, maddeningly catchy first single, "One Step Closer," with a glossy, Gregory Dark-directed video pushing the guys into "TRL" territory and Hybrid Theory well past platinum. Don't expect to see these guys sporting swelled heads, though ... unless it's because you've been hanging them upside-down in a cave for seven hours, of course. But that's a story for them to tell, not us.
As their first headlining tour was getting underway, the band's dueling frontmen met up with MTV Radio's Roger Coletti and talked about why Linkin Park's fans are more important to them than sales figures, how they're beyond stoked to tour with Deftones, and why they can't make a lick of sense out of the "One Step Closer" video. They don't take this whole rock-star-interview thing the least bit seriously, either, as you'll soon find out....
MTV: Let's talk about your success. You've sold over a million records...
Mike Shinoda: We've sold a million records?
Chester Bennington: We did?
MTV: Have you?
Bennington: Yeah, we actually did go platinum.
MTV: How does it feel to blow up like this?
Bennington: It's tiring.
Shinoda: Yeah, it's tiring. If the record flopped we'd be really bummed, so we just think about that and it keeps us grounded — like what it would be like if we put it out there and nobody bought it.
Bennington: Not only that, but also we don't even think about how many we're selling. We just focus on our shows and our fans. That's pretty much what we're about, just playing shows for our fans and getting out there and talking to as many of them as we can and hanging out with them. I think that's also a key to the reasons we're getting the success that we're getting so fast. The fact that we kind of have a real connection with our fans, and our fans are the best fans in the world. Don't mess with them.
MTV: You've watched your audience grow and grow ... how is that?
Shinoda: What's cool is that right now we've got a nice variety. We're playing some bigger shows, we're playing some smaller venues. There's an advantage to both. We like playing big shows because you get to see all those kids and it's really energetic, and we like playing the smaller ones, too, because you can be intimate with the crowd and see your fans face to face.
Bennington: We're also playing with a lot of really cool bands. We've played with some really cool bands that we admire. Now we get a chance to go out with Deftones and tromp around Europe with them, and that's just ... I mean, that's where we're seeing the benefits of the success.
MTV: Let's talk about the success of "One Step Closer." When you play that song in front of a crowd, I'm sure they go nuts.
Shinoda: Yeah. "One Step Closer" is really cool because it's short.
Bennington: Yeah, it's short and fun.
Shinoda: It's a great way to end the set and a great chance for kids to —
Bennington: Beat each other up.
Shinoda: Yeah. Get rid of all the energy they got left.
Bennington: Kids really go off on that song, 'cause obviously that's the one everyone has heard. But a lot of kids seem to be paying attention to every song on the record, so what's really cool is the more familiar the crowds are with who we are, they're singing along to every song. There have been points where they've actually overpowered the band, and we've actually stopped playing and let them sing the song and hold the microphones out ... [Shinoda mimes holding out mic] like that — thanks, Mike — and just let them do their thing. It's a lot of fun to actually have to stop playing.
Shinoda: That's actually why we have two singers, so that we can just do that type of thing. Like, when I'm talking, Chester can hold the mic out like so: [Bennington mimes holding out mic] See? We're good at that. That's how it works.
Bennington: We're a team. Wow. Sometimes I'm amazed that we're not just, like, one person.
Shinoda: Please don't ask us what the video is about.
Bennington: There's no plot.
Shinoda: We don't know what this video is about. Joe [Hahn], our DJ, is the only one who knows what it's about, and he won't tell us.
Bennington: He's an alien anyway.
Shinoda: I think that's why he won't tell us, 'cause we wouldn't understand. But our DJ, Mr. Hahn, wrote the original treatment, sent it out to a bunch of directors and lucky for us, they were feeling that. They came back to us with similar treatments.
Bennington: They came back to us with the cost-efficient [version].
Shinoda: It was really similar, and so Joe got a chance to really get in there with our director, Gregory Dark, and make it happen. I think they worked really well together. They went kickboxing together, so I know they hit it off.
Bennington: I think they like each other.
Shinoda: Yeah, they're kind of sweet on each other.
Bennington: We kind of just like ninjas and dark tunnels and fire.
Shinoda: And guys with big hair that look like werewolves.
Bennington: Grr! Arr!
MTV:Tell us about the video for "One Step Closer."
MTV: How did you find the video-making process?
Bennington: Fun, but really tiring. That is one of the most physically challenging things to do, because you're not just going in for your little part. You go in and you pretty much put in a 20-hour day. You're working for the entire time the shoot is going on, 'cause they have to do it very fast.
Shinoda: One of the special things that was going on in our video was it was underground, very far underground. It was really dirty and dusty under there...
Bennington: So there was no oxygen. Just lots of mold and dust.
Shinoda: Yeah. Lots of dust. Meanwhile, while we're playing our song a hundred times over and over, we're also breathing in dirt and not breathing in oxygen.
Bennington: There's nothing like screaming "Shut up" for seven hours straight, upside down. That was another thing — when they hung me upside down, all the blood in my body rested in this small space in my head, 'cause I don't have that big of a melon. It was the most excruciating thing. I felt like my head was going to explode like a pimple. It was kind of gross.
MTV: Do you know what your next single's going to be?
Shinoda: No, what is it going to be? Oh, I thought you were going to tell us.
Bennington: Yeah, what do you think it should be?
MTV: "Points of Authority."
Shinoda: That's weird. Why would he say something like that?
Bennington: I have no idea.
Shinoda: Do you like that song? Is that a good song?
Shinoda: OK. Thanks!
MTV: You guys really don't know what your next single's going to be?
Bennington: We have no idea.
Shinoda: Good job, Chester. Good boy.
MTV: Any songs you'd like to see released as the second single?
Shinoda: We can't go into it, really.
Bennington: I have to plead the Fifth.
MTV: No problem. I guess that means no video plans for the second single?
Shinoda: Oh, the video's all planned out. We just don't know what song it's going to be for.
Bennington: Yeah. We totally have the concept and we've scouted out the location and —
Shinoda: We've basically begun shooting already.
Bennington: The treatment's been written and we've already begun filming, we just don't know what song it's going to be for.
Shinoda: We'll shoot a video for all the songs, and then just pick according to whatever single we release. It will be really inexpensive.
Bennington: It'll be like "Version 1," "Version 2."
Shinoda: I think Joe gets along with a lot of people in film, especially since that's where he was working before the band took off. He was working in special effects, and it seems like everyone we met with on the first [video] got along with Joe, so it kind of leaves it up in the air.
Bennington: Joe seems to get along with a lot of people. It's kind of annoying.
Shinoda: From my point of view, it could go anywhere. You'd really have to ask him, I think.
MTV:With Joe's relationship with Gregory Dark, does it look like he might be directing the second video?
MTV: Let's talk a bit about how you guys started up the band. How did having the two of you as singers come about?
Bennington: I'm actually a lab experiment. I was raised in a petri dish at the UCLA biomedical center.
Shinoda: And we just grew to like him, so we kept him around.
Bennington: And I just grew.
Shinoda: You're really not going to go on to another question and let us go on that one.
Bennington: He wants a real answer, I think.
MTV: Yes. Two frontmen, it's not something that's common.
Bennington: I think one of the ideas behind it is, in my opinion, bands up to this point that have tried to mix different styles, especially in hip-hop and rock and stuff, there's either a guy who can rap but isn't a very good singer, or it's the opposite: He's a good singer but not necessary that talented as a rapper. Our idea was basically not to even worry about that. We have a really good rapper.
Shinoda: And we have a very good singer. From my point of view, the thing we saw in Chester right away was he's someone that's been singing his whole life, and I'm somebody that's been rapping my entire life, so it just seemed natural. We've spent a lot of time working on what we do.
Bennington: And for some reason we like each other.
Shinoda: He likes me a lot, and I can't stand him.
Bennington: Oh. I guess not, then. [RealVideo]
MTV: How many fan sites do you have out there?
Bennington: We had a contest with our fans who like to make fan sites, and 'cause so many of them are just making them on their own, we were like, "Let's do something for these guys," 'cause they're putting a lot of time and effort into that stuff. It's not something you just throw together. We put this contest together where it was, originally, five fan sites that were the best out of all of them would win tickets to all of our shows to the city nearest to where they live, so whenever we rolled through they'd be able to come to a show for free and hang out with us and all that kind of stuff. But there was so many of them that were so good, we had to pick more than five. We picked eight winners. And it's cool, 'cause it showed us the fans are really involved, and it really keeps us involved with our fans. We hold our fans very close to us and they're very special to us, and to see that kind of interaction and that involvement —
Shinoda: And talent. Some of the sites were just phenomenal.
Bennington: Yeah. It kind of keeps us level, in a way, and it also makes us happy to see there's that much interest in it. People are spending that much time on us. It's nice to see that, 'cause we've spent so much time on us ourselves. We pretty much put the rest of our lives on hold to do this. It's kind of fun to see that other people are doing that too, taking that much time out.
MTV: What's next for you?
Shinoda: In March, we're going to be playing with the Deftones all over Europe.
Bennington: We are stoked. On our bio on our Web site, it says that Deftones is one of our favorite bands. We put that up there a long time ago, and obviously at that point, it wasn't even like we expected to get a tour with them. We were just laying it out there because that is just truly one of the bands that we admire a lot. For them to invite us on a tour like this is a real honor.
MTV: Is it going to be hard to go from your headlining tour to that tour?
Bennington: Nah, that's going to be easy, because Taproot is going to be coming with us. They've also toured with Deftones previously, so it's going to be like this fun little family going out. It'll be like "National Lampoon's European Vacation." That's what I'm thinking.