AYEAR AGO, LINKIN PARK were just starting to make a name for themselves nationally, still playing small time gigs and waiting for their debut album to come out. But the six-man L.A. rap-metal crew made their big move in 2001, as [Hybrid Theory] went triple-platinum in the wake of huge rock-radio hits such as "One Step Closer," "Crawling" and "In the End." It's been a marathon year of global touring for the men of Linkin Park: lead singer Chester Bennington, 25; rapper Mike Shinoda, 24; guitarist Brad Delson, 24; DJ Joseph Hahn, 24; bassist Phoenix, 24; and drummer Rob Bourdon, 22. Since the guys hit the road in August 2000, their only break from the tour bus has been a three-: week vacation after their summer stint on Ozzfest, but as his band closed out 2001 on the Family Values Tour, Bennington found time to reflect on his hectic year at the top.

Quite a year for you guys, eh?
It's insane. We have the same intensity we had a year ago, but now it's to five times the audience. We've added a , lot to the show. We still go crazy; we just have to take up more space.

What was the high point of your year?
Me and my wife are gonna have a baby. And we're also celebrating our five-year anniversary. So that's really exciting. But as far as the performance aspect of it, the high point is doing this tour with Stone Temple Pilots, one of my favorite bands ever. I've actually got to go up and sing with [Scott Weiland] a few times, and that was pretty cool.

What's the best music you heard this year?
Coldplay, Dido, the Pete Yorn record - it's fucking awesome. If you like good music, you'll go buy that album. The Nikka Costa album is really good, and the Deftones White Pony, and (hed) p.e. And the new STP album, Shangri-La Dee Da. I can't believe people aren't out there buying it. I'm very disappointed in the music public. They have to show their respect.

What do you think about the state of rock music lately?
I think it's been. . . interesting. There's been really good and bad aspects of it, but I don't wanna get into slamming any specific groups or anything. I think what's cool is that the pop world is getting a little less annoying. There's a lot of cool rock music out right now, and I think that'll help lure kids away from the evils of pop music.

A guy can dream.
Well, that's what we all do. We all do dream.