“I was doing a lot of writing and producing for other people and I was actively staying off the microphone. It was really inspiring, I was really excited, but it got to a point where I realised I missed making stuff for myself,” he told NME, discussing what made him start work on more solo material.
“From the beginning it felt like it had a lot of Linkin Park DNA in it, and it occurred to me: ‘Should I edit that out? ‘Should I move away from that?’ But it didn’t feel good to do that. It felt better to just embrace it and make the song what it wanted to be.”
While acknowledging that working alongside many famous faces recently has made a “subtle” impact on his own music, Shinoda revealed that the main thing he noticed is how the experiences allowed him to evolve as a songwriter, and see his earlier work with Linkin Park through a fresh lens.
“We’re not going to sit and let an instrument tell us what melody to sing,” he explained, opening up about the songwriting process with the likes Demi Lovato, PVRIS, Grandson and more. “We come in with an understanding of what’s on our mind. What do we feel like talking about? What do we feel like singing about?”
He continued: “When Linkin Park was a baby band, that had never even occurred to me. I was just making shit that sounded cool and forcing words on top of it. When I look back to some of those lyrics, I go ‘Yeah, that’s a young person’, but in our process we stumbled into some really great stuff that I’m super proud of. Over time, I learned a lot more about the craft of writing a song. It’s a never-ending art that you can get better at no matter how long you’ve been doing it, if you care.
“This isn’t me graduating. I’m not like a fully formed, perfect artist now! I just feel like I have a really good momentum right now, and I’m making stuff that I’m really excited about.”
Part of this evolution is from harnessing a different source of inspiration than seen in his previous solo releases. While 2018 debut album ‘Post Traumatic’ helped him process the loss of bandmate and friend Chester Bennington, and 2020’s ‘Dropped Frames Vol. 1’ aided him to “stay sane” during the pandemic, this time around, the music was inspired from a different perspective.
“Those were probably a little more cathartic in a way, I think that that was one of the things that was driving my process at that point,” he reflected. “Now, I don’t feel like there’s that same kind of drive. It’s much more energised. There’s a ferocity. I’ll just record weird shit! I’m chasing a thing that I hear in my brain and I want to make it real.”
That being said, the rock veteran isn’t one to shy away from the unmissable Linkin Park influence seen in ‘Already Over’ – and recalled to NME how there will always be an element of the band’s DNA in his projects, namely because of the similarities both projects have in the songwriting process.
“The way I write with Linkin Park is basically the way I write my own music,” he began. “I’ve always written on my own with the band much more than I’ve written with the band. Usually the process with Linkin Park would be that I would make demos that were more instrumental. Sometimes I would be like, ‘OK, this demo is not going to be like presentable until Chester sings it’, so then I’d have him sing and then we play it for everybody else.
“People think bands just get in a room and jam and write a song, and we have never done that. We sucked at that. We tried it multiple times over the years and it just never worked. I come up with a lot of my better stuff when I’m doing it on my own.”
It’s fair to say that 2023 has been a good year to be a Linkin Park fan. Alongside Shinoda’s newly-shared solo work, the founding member has also been busy creating a single for the sixth instalment of the Scream franchise and releasing the mammoth 20th anniversary edition of the band’s hit album ‘Meteora’.
As for whether or not we can hope to see any more reissues or celebrations of their discography anytime soon, Shinoda shared that he is open to the prospect, provided it retains the same integrity as in the original release.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Even with ‘Meteora’, until we really had pieces of it, I was on the fence about whether we should do it at all,” he told NME. “But the pieces we came up with were great, so if the pieces we come up with for other releases are great, then sure. In the meantime though, my main focus is making new great stuff.
“One thing that I’m really in tune with right now is that Linkin Park fans and anybody who knows our music very well, they know all of the diversity in it – the DNA of it. They recognise that a mile away, so the main thing to me [would be] that I’m back in tune with what that thing is and not running away from it.”
Shinoda also shared some of his favourite artists at the moment: namely US hardcore act Turnstile, and emerging Australian metalcore band, Polaris. As for whether he believes any new artist could reach the same heights as Linkin Park, the musician seemed less hopeful at the prospect.
“That’s a tall order,” he said. “It wasn’t as spread out as it is now, so it’s nearly impossible now to get everybody’s attention.”
“Back then [when Linkin Park formed], if you got on certain radio stations, played certain shows on TV or if you made fans out of certain people, then you’d reach a lot of people. That doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not anybody’s fault, people have just run into different corners of the internet. So I’d say it’s unlikely.”
He added: “But in terms of bands that I just think are cool and have a lot of room to grow, I have a new hardcore playlist and the bands that are on that are Gel, Speed, Zulu, Sunami, and Escuela Grind.”
Despite Shinoda’s sobering outlook on the future of the metal scene, fans eager for new music can rest assured – as the musician revealed to NME that his latest single is just the tip of the iceberg.
“The pro of releasing a single is that it’s a very manageable little thing,” said Shinoda. “Also, to be totally frank, now is not a good time for me to go on tour. I am having too much fun making stuff here at home and being in the studio. So I didn’t want to drop an album and do a tour thing. It just didn’t seem like a good time for that.”
He added: “The question that everybody asks immediately is: ‘Is it part of an album?’, and the answer is kind of no and kind of, ‘Yes’. It’s not an album in the traditional sense. I don’t have 12 songs that are gonna come out at some point. But I am writing things and I’m experimenting with things and there’s music on the way.”
Mike Shinoda’s new single ‘Already Over’ is out now via Warner.
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