How is working on a Linkin Park album different from working on your side projects, like Fort Minor, or the Raid Redemption score?
Well, they’re all different. I think we know what’s at stake when we do a Linkin Park album, so our attention to detail couldn’t be more forefront. With Fort Minor it was very loose, and in fact I never intended on releasing it when I made it, so it was a very different approach. With Linkin Park there’s a rigidity to the process. Every Monday we get together to talk about where the songs are at, what’s changed, ideas, what we like, what we don’t like. We throw all of that stuff around and then that day and for the rest of the week, we work on the songs. So on Monday it’s super rigid, then as soon as we leave the Monday meeting it’s amorphous, it’s whatever works.
We realized that if we made a third record like the first two, that we’d be stuck with doing that forever, and that terrified us.
Is there anything that you want to accomplish musically that you haven’t already?
Yeah, it’s hard to describe, but I think every time I go in to write a song there’s an effort to challenge myself to learn something or do something I haven’t done yet. Really, I think that began after the second record. We realized that if we made a third record like the first two, that we’d be stuck with doing that forever, and that terrified us. So ever since then we’ve tried to push and push to keep ourselves sharp and keep ourselves entertained.
Are there any artists out there that you really want to work with? I know you’ve mentioned you’re into Azealia Banks. Any others that you’re really into right now?
I’ve put a few words out to people. I listen to ten times more indie music than I listen to mainstream music. I listen to very little mainstream music at all. I’m that kid who, in high school, if a band I listened to started blowing up I’d stop listening to them. I wouldn’t hate them. But if the football players and the cheerleaders started listening to them, I’d stop listening. And over time I just started picking stuff that I knew they wouldn’t get into. Like, there’s no way those girls are going to be listening to Wu-Tang Clan, so that’s fucking awesome, you know?
We’re at a time when that stuff is even more prevalent, and it’s getting bigger than it could have ever been back then. And these artists have every reason to be very particular about who they work with. To be honest, I know, because I’ve dealt with them and they’ll tell me, “Look, I like you, and I’d be down to work with your music but I don’t know if it’s a good look for us right now.” I totally respect that, and I get that entirely. But at the end of the day, that’s where my heart is at. Even though I know our band is what it is, there’s always that element lingering in the background.
So what’s next for you? Do you have plans to continue with any side projects?
People always ask about Fort Minor and shit like that. I’m definitely open to do some more of that some day, it’s just a matter of when. I’ll do some more scoring too, probably produce some rap. Other than that, we’re going to keep our heads down and power through some more Linkin Park stuff. Creatively, we’ve got a lot of momentum right now.
Now that you’ve finished this album, do you just jump right back into writing again?
Traditionally, bands will write and then tour a record until the end of the cycle. Things for us aren’t as cyclical anymore. So we’ll place the tours where they need to be, and then work in writing time. And if it doesn’t look like enough writing time we’ll block out more writing time. It wouldn’t work for every band, but it works for us because it’s like a muscle. If you run every day you’re not going to be sore. If you haven’t run in six months, the first few times you do it you’re going to feel like shit. If you go in the studio and you haven’t written in six months, it doesn’t work.
The last thing I want to ask you is about the fans. It’s weird because you guys have had so much mainstream success, but your fans still seem like a very tight-knit group of hardcore fans. We were riding the bus here and it was an experience. People were all singing, and one guy was like, “You guys aren’t singing, you don’t know the words!”
[Laughs.] Oh, shut up! Really? That’s funny. What was the age group like?
It was a mix. The one leading the whole sing-along was a father with his kid.
That's the thing that trips me out at this point. There are people who got into Linkin Park and were older than us. I was 24-ish, and there were dudes that were older than us then, and now they have kids and their kids are old enough to be getting into us as teenagers. It’s a really interesting thing that happens out at the shows.
I was told a great story. A guy told me, “If you want to see pure musical joy, pure joy from a fan’s experience, I’m going to e-mail you a picture of my son at your show. It’s his first show. He’s 13 years old. From the moment the lights turned off, he stood on the base of his seat with his hands in the air, screaming every word.” I said, “Are you okay with the profanity?” He told me, “As long as it’s in the song, he’s allowed to scream it as loud as he wants for the duration of the show. Once he gets home, no more.” I thought that was a great rule. I looked at the picture and it truly was, like, the essence of a perfect first concert for a kid. When I see stuff like that, it’s exactly what we get excited about, it’s exactly why we do it. It’s so inspiring to see that happening out there.