Debuted to the world at Tokyo's Summer Sonic Festival on August 10, 2013, "A Light That Never Comes" - Linkin Park's Steve Aoki-produced lead single from forthcoming remix album Recharged - showed a marked change in the band's mainstream direction. Turning down the live instruments and turning up the electronic melodies (and the bass!), the heavy, moombahton-flavored track was surprising to some. However, if a fan of the band's decade-long career, electronic and hard dance elements have always existed in the underpinning of many of their major hits. However, instead of a band adopting a populist change-of-pace, the band's latest single actually is better told as a story of the band's activity in the digital and organic realms in social media and online communities paying off. Having already consistently engaged producers like Datsik in remixing their material for online-only consumption, the band's awareness of a growing fan base for this material has evolved into Recharged - an album solely comprised from remixes of tracks from Linkin Park's 2012 released album Living Things. Do Androids Dance had the chance to get band member Mike Shinoda on the phone for an interview regarding the new single, Shinoda's thoughts on EDM overall, and an answer to that burning question, "are DJs the new rock stars?" Enjoy!
Prior to working on "A Light That Never Comes," how aware were you of Steve Aoki and his work?
I was absolutely aware of Steve and had heard of him for a long time. I knew that he was very active making remixes and stuff like that. As well, I'd see him on all of those "Most Powerful DJs in the World"-type of lists. When I became more interested, I heard his collaborations with artists like Lil Jon and Iggy Azalea, and was impressed. Just like Linkin Park, he can reach into different genres and styles of music with his sounds. As far as the collaboration, we reached out to each other during an unrelated conversation on Twitter, so it all happened organically. We exchanged DMs back and forth, which led to emails, and then the song.
As a band, Linkin Park - even from the days of the albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora - has always blended electronic sounds with live instruments. However, "A Light That Never Comes" pushes the electronic elements to the forefront more so than in your previous work. Was that the intention, and how do you feel about how the track finally turned out?
I love it. When mixing a Linkin Park song, there are always layers, and they major issue is figuring out what will the hierarchy of sounds will be. On our earlier material, live drums, guitar and bass took the stage. Still, if you listen to the beginning of Hybrid Theory, "Papercut" had jungle and hip-hop elements in the song. [Linkin Park's] intention was always to show people what we liked to listen to. As time passes, the balance gets shifted in different directions when our interests change. The sound of Linkin Park at any given time is usually a reflection where we're at at the moment. Of course, we try and stay respectful of whatever genre it is that we're playing with. The final sound of our tracks is not a "surface-y" thing, its definitely more analytical.
I wanted to get your thoughts about dance and rap being so synonymous with Linkin Park, and now, being so intrinsically linked as genres. I feel like from the days of working with Jay-Z on Collision Course to "A Light That Never Comes" that there's a lot of territory that your band opened the mainstream to, that has developed through dance. Because of that, I can only presume those spaces create styles that Linkin Park can get into now with a fresh perspective. Your thoughts?
When we released our last album, Living Things, we offered one or two free remixes a month for the fans who bought the album directly from LinkinPark.com. We reached out to a lot of people and had some great remixes come from that. Through that process, I got to to know [dubstep and heavy bass producer] Datsik quite a bit, and he offered me his perspective on where things were headed. He's an up-and-comer and a [generally] hungry dude, and he was schooling us on styles!
That's excellent. Production doesn't seem to be the issue in dance now, though. What do you think dance music needs to continue to excel in the mainstream?
As far as dance music moving ahead, my perspective is that electronic music in general is on the cusp of songwriting coming into the genre. Dance staying underground is all good, but if it wants to go mainstream, the easiest way for that to happen is through great songwriting. There are many DJs though who don't know about songwriting, and try to do it by feel - which is not doing it by having a song-crafting experience. However, with songs like "A Light That Never Comes" and others, you're hearing it more and more.
As far as the forthcoming album Recharged, it's all remixes of tracks from Living Things, plus "A Light That Never Comes," correct? Who's on the lineup for the album?
Wait. There's Rick Rubin. Rick actually remixed "A Light That Never Comes." Killsonik, Datsik, Vice, Schoolboy, Nick Catchdubs, DJ Enferno, and Money Mark all have remixes, but that's off the top of my head. There are rap features from Pusha T and Bun B, and oh yeah, I have a few remixes there, too.
I just wanted to make sure I heard that correct. Rick Rubin remixes "A Light That Never Comes?" Interesting. I mean, it's already a moombahton track, so, it's already kind of spacious, slower and reduced, so, what exactly did Rick do? I'm curious.
Rick's remix is "breakbeaty," almost disco-ish. It definitely sounds more old school, but not in an 808 or 909 sort of way. It's influenced by stuff that he has listened to recently. He broke out no drum machines when he put it together, though.
Earlier in the interview, you mentioned the use of jungle rhythms on "Papercut." I just wanted to get a sense of prior to now, when you were "all about dance music," what were the sounds and styles that you were into, and were you actively taking part in the culture?
Other than right now? I got in during the era of the first and second Prodigy albums. Actually, my college roommate was a gabber (mid-to-late 90s popular precursor to hardstyle with beats ranging from 180-220 BPM), techno, and jungle DJ. I went to a couple of raves and it felt like the heavy metal of electronic music. The hardcore scene had a lot of people [who appeared] wacked out of their minds, clamoring to stick their head inside of the speaker. When I think of EDM these days, I think of people with smiles on faces and having a good time. Yes, the drug thing is a part of the culture, but now, it's definitely a case of take it or leave it.
Actually, in putting together some of my remixes for the album, with all of the newer material I'm listening to, I went back and tried to find tracks from a lot of the artists I liked back then. However, my roommate made cassettes, and even then, I often had no idea who the artists were on there, because there was no Google, so I couldn't look up the artists. However, I definitely was a fan of [Dutch hardcore DJ] Angerfist, and definitely gabber and jungle.
They're saying that DJs are the new rock stars. Your thoughts about that?
Absolutely! Rock needs to get its shit together. I look to - and am inspired by - the vitality of electronic music as a place where the culture doesn't give a shit if it's popular or not. Dance definitely is more about an interpersonal connection with the fans and artists. The genre grows through direct contact on social media, and doesn't need radio or YouTube to grow. Instead of rich guys in suits, it's the DJs, producers, and artists are at the center of it. There are tons of artists creating an experience and making a connection with fans. The fans are the center of attention, too. The only difference between DJs and rock stars is that at their height, Motley Crue wouldn't have to fly aroud the world and do seven shows in seven different countries!
From seeing Linkin Park's desire to be so involved in electronic music, and as well in seeing artists like Korn's Jonathan Davis DJing as well, I was wondering if we'd ever see Mike Shinoda behind the decks at any point in the future?
I'm not wanting to DJ. It's already crowded enough in that realm. I mean, I could hang, but, I like to stay busy with Linkin Park. I'd want to keep any side project I'd do by myself as something separate from the band. But, no, I definitely don't see myself DJing anytime soon.