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What has Linkin Park cooked up with Rick Rubin?

”Minutes to Midnight,” the band’s long-awaited third album, has Rick Rubin at the helm, and a new sound. We asked guitarist Brad Delson about the collaboration, and the pressure to stay on top

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Linkin Park finally gave their long-awaited third studio album an official name and release date yesterday, announcing that it will hit shelves May 15 bearing the title Minutes to Midnight. The album has a lot to live up to: Linkin Park’s 2000 debut, Hybrid Theory, has sold over 10 million copies, and their 2003 follow-up, Meteora, racked up a none-too-shabby four million sales. But now the California six-piece says they’re ready to branch out from the massively popular hip-hop/metal amalgam that has defined their sound so far. EW.com got guitarist Brad Delson to explain what spurred these changes, and whether or not the band is still interested in chasing platinum plaques.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hybrid Theory was taken from an early name for the band, and Meteora was named after a group of monasteries in Greece. What does Minutes to Midnight mean?
BRAD DELSON: Well, Minutes to Midnight refers to the Doomsday Clock. Beyond that, I think it’s really open to interpretation.

Rick Rubin, who co-produced the new album, recently said it ”doesn’t sound like rap-rock.” What should your loyal fans expect to hear instead?
It’s really a departure for us. In one of the first meetings we had with Rick, he challenged us [by saying] there were no creative boundaries on what we could experiment with. We really pushed ourselves to try writing songs in a completely new way.

What new methods did you try?
We’ve made a number of records, and we went into this process thinking we knew what we were doing. In the past we wrote all our music, we structured it, it was pretty much set, and then we put vocals on for the very last part of the recording process. And [lead singer] Chester [Bennington] and [lead rapper] Mike [Shinoda] had the stressful challenge of coming up with melodies and words that were as good as the music. In this case, Rick didn’t want us polishing anything. We would look at the song in its roughest form and see if it was great. And if it wasn’t, we’d move on and write another song.

What was it like recording in Rick’s old mansion out in Laurel Canyon?
It’s a really famous — or infamous — place. [It has] a timeless feel. You’re almost not sure what decade it’s in. I think that’s reflected on the record, whether it was the Motown-inspired drums, or different pianos we experimented with, or vintage amps, or totally new electronic sounds.

In 2005 you signed a new contract with Warner Bros. that gave you a reported $15 million advance for this album. Do you feel a lot of pressure to bring in earnings that will justify that deal?
Well, we took our time with this record. We spent 15 months on it, probably almost every day. The only pressure that we put on ourselves is creative pressure — not to employ the same solutions that have worked in the past.

The music marketplace has certainly changed a lot since your last album came out. What’s your strategy for staying on top in 2007?
We never [made music] because we expected tremendous commercial success. We really just wanted to make the most honest record and the most exciting record for us. We have the philosophy that if all six of us love a song, that there’s a probability that someone else in the world will also like it. Every song that’s making the record is a song that we all love.