To define exactly what rock music is in this day and age is somewhat of a dangerous task. It has taken many different forms over the years and if we take things all the way back, yesterday’s rock music may not appear in the same playlists today. With that said, is rock music a genre that should be continuously pushing boundaries? Should rock music be unsafe to listen to or talk about and a sign of rebellion against traditional music culture? The question begs asking ‘has today’s rock music become too popular?’
The year was 1996, the rock music scene was flooded with experimental groups trying different things and creating the divide between old school and new school, during this year Linkin Park was formed.
Just a few years later in 2000 Linkin Park released their debut album Hybrid Theory which whether you liked it or not was inescapable with the film clip for ‘One Step Closer’ shooting the group to international stardom, somewhat pushing the boundaries and confines of rock music at the time into what we now call ‘nu metal’.
“I’ve always been drawn to stuff that’s edgier and basically what my parents wouldn’t allow me to listen to” Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park’s vocalist and principle songwriter told us in a recent interview “I was never one to be into popular music”.
“The main thing for me is right now, in rock music, I haven’t been able to find this style to listen to. I remember distinctly being in my car and trying to find and flick around on various stations and visiting websites and things to find this ‘thing’ and I couldn’t find what I was looking for. You know, I found rock music, I found heavy music, I found experimental stuff but something that blended these specific elements that I was looking for was really hard to find.”
“Rock music right now is very…poppy, and pretty safe” he states. “An album like this [The Hunting Party out 13th June] really came about from this kind of realisation of that’s where rock music has gone, it’s gone to this poppy place and we can’t, we didn’t feel like we could go there. It just felt like it would feel derivative, it would feel like we were trying to play catch up, and when I think of our band I think of it as striving for innovation, striving for pushing the envelope and trying to do something different each time.”
One of great things about being a music fan is the sense of community that it creates. Perhaps, for some artists it has become more about themselves and image rather than the music. Being safe and not expressing themselves truthfully during the creative process, somewhat crumbling under the pressure of what everyone else wants them to deliver. Maybe the way to take the next step forward, the way to be the next big thing is in the collaborations and the sharing of ideas and working together and allowing that next experimental era in music arise.
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The upcoming sixth studio record from Linkin Park The Hunting Party highlights Mike and his band focusing on collaborations with the record featuring diverse and celebrated artists from the likes or rapper Rakim, System Of A Down guitarist Daron Malakian, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello and Helmet guitarist Page Hamilton.
Speaking about legendary rapper Rakim’s work on ‘Guilty All The Same’ a single taken from the band’s upcoming record Mike told us “we were making that song and had never really filled in the vocals on the bridge and I had suggested a rap part. Over the course of weeks as we listened to it, I kept thinking about writing something for that part. I just kept feeling like it wouldn’t be that exciting – to write to and for a listener.” Mike commented.“…we’ve kind of got this monkey see – monkey do, pop alternative thing going on and there’s so much of it.”
“If that was the first single, which it wasn’t at the time, but if it was gonna’ be then once you hear it you should be surprised and kind of shocked. It’s like this six minute thrash, punk metal song and then you get to the bridge and it’s got this interesting rap part. I threw it out there in the studio and said ‘you know it would be so much better if we could get somebody surprising, like Rakim.’ Our engineer who is originally from New York said ‘I know a guy, I can ask and see if he’s interested’ so that was the beginning of that.”
For this record the band have taken control over the album’s creation, completely self-producing it “we decided that we didn’t need it. We had our vision for what it should be and we stuck to that.” Mike explains.
Any band or artist who becomes successful will always reach a cross road that is; do we continue to do what we’ve always done and appease our fans or, do we try something new with elements of our past to try and reach another audience? “When it comes to alternative or indie alternative, you know I like the indie rock stuff, I like the stuff I hear on ‘rock radio’ but I think that the style that’s going on right now is a little passive.” Mike argues “we’ve kind of got this monkey see – monkey do, pop alternative thing going on and there’s so much of it. We want some visceral and animalistic, high energy, not passive and kind of different to what’s going on right now.”
You could argue that Linkin Park has played its part in this “monkey see- monkey do” culture in some way, when they first came to be they blended elements of what was popular at the time with rap, metal and hardcore but this is purely a hindsight opinion.
Talking about the salvation of rock music Mike believes that “if you look at the big picture, it’s gonna take more than us releasing an album to do it. I’m looking forward to hearing aggressive, visceral music from other artists. You know I’m hearing it now, I just heard a brand new song by Garbage, featuring Brody Dalle from The Distillers and Frank Turner is doing this hardcore band now and it’s amazing, I loved it. I personally feel like there’s so little of that going on, and there’s so much of the fancy, happy, pop shit going on, I’d love to hear some more aggressive music.”
Whether The Hunting Party works and we get the edgy, unsafe rock music Mike has been searching for will be revealed shortly enough.
Linkin Park’s new The Hunting Party album will be out 13th June via Warner Music.