Chester Bennington of Linkin Park talks records sales
January 17, 2008
In a time of slumping sales around the world, Linkin Park continue to confound the trend and sell records. Chester Bonnington and Rob Bourdon chew on their success.
Before your latest album Minutes to Midnight was released, you said you weren't sure if the kids who were 15 when Hybrid Theory came out would still be into Linkin Park. Have they stuck around?
Chester Bennington: Yeah, now they're bringing their kids. It's cool.
Rob Bourdon: Our core fans that loved our band from the beginning are still around. That's really cool to see. It makes us feel old sometimes when they come to the meet and greet and they have kids.
CB: There's one girl in particular that we ran into. Rob leaned over to me and said, "Wasn't she like an original fan-club kid?" And I go "Yeah, she was in high school, she was a little girl when we met her".
She's been to probably 30 meet and greets. She came with her boyfriend and her daughter, and she's all grown up, she's a woman now. It's like, you recognise them but you kind of don't -- they're not kids any more. It does make me go "Oh yeah, I do have some grey hairs and I have to trim my nose hair now . . ." We're getting older. I have a litter of children myself. It's fun to watch it happen.
Do Linkin Park kids tag along on tour these days?
RB: Yeah, touring's definitely a lot different. A lot of these guys have their family and kids out. It's a lot easier than it was when we were all jammed into an RV.
Before Minutes to Midnight you hadn't done a full tour for a couple of years. Did you find you were not match-fit?
CB: I'm actually in better shape than I've ever been in my life. Me today would kick the s--- out of me five years ago (laughs). And I think my voice is better, too.
Are you wiser than you were five years ago too?
CB: We're all wiser and calmer.
Does calmer mean duller?
RB: It just means we get tired a little earlier. We don't hang out for as long after the show, we head back to the hotel a little earlier and watch TV.
CB: We don't get upset over the same things -- that's what I meant by calmer. We're all more mature. But I'm more fun now than I used to be.
Chester has an 18-second scream in Given Up -- is he managing to pull it off on stage every night?
RB: Yeah. The first few times I heard him do it in rehearsal, I was laughing because I couldn't believe it.
CB: When we rehearse I can do the full 18 seconds without stopping, but when we're in the show environment it's really difficult to do that, because your adrenalin's pumping, your heart's pumping. To pull off that scream I'd have to literally be like a lump on stage. It's pretty much 18 seconds, but right in the middle I do a little (inhales) and split it into two nine-second screams.
Chris Cornell supported you in Australia last year. You lot would have been prime age to be Soundgarden fans.
CB: Yeah, it's weird. There are certain groups that haven't been around as long as we have, and we feel like, OK, this is our place. But when you have Chris Cornell opening for you, it feels disrespectful to a certain degree (laughs).
RB: We like to say we're "sharing" the stage. It just happens that he's playing before us.
Don't be modest. When Minutes came out everyone was using the "biggest band in the world" tag to describe Linkin Park.
CB: Apparently we're not doing too bad. We keep growing. Our shows keep getting bigger. A lot of bands that weren't too keen on us in the beginning, we've earned their respect.
In the early days, did other artists disrespect you to your face?
CB: Oh for sure. People who don't like our band, apparently because of that they can't like us as people either, so they're a---holes to us, more than those who talk s--- about us all over the place in the press. Then when we meet 'em it's all smiles and handshakes and happy times. That's confusing to me. It's like "I thought you hated me, why do you wanna hang out with me right now?"
Usually that changed after they saw us play. Like, if we got stuck on a bill with a band that didn't really like us and had been vocal about it, and then we played with them -- we've had a few apologies (laughs).
You chose My Chemical Romance to play on your Projekt Revolution tour last year in North America. Do you see a lot of your younger selves in a band such as MCR and the stage they're at now?
CB: For sure. I see a lot of similarities in their fanbase and how they deal with their fans. And in how other bands viewed them when their first record came out and now how everybody's coming around, going "I didn't realise they were that good". It's like "Well it's OK, but yeah, they are, they're really that good".
I'm confident that as long as they keep making good music -- which I'm positive they're going to continue doing -- they'll reach a stage where they go "Nah, we're not gonna do the Linkin Park thing, we're gonna do our own summer tour" and we'll be competing with them (laughs). It'll be fun because I enjoy watching bands succeed, especially when they're cool guys.
Do Linkin Park have anything left to prove? Are there still people to set straight?
CB: I think so. Every band, once you get complacent and like "Ahhh, we can do whatever we want", that's when bad things start happening. It's important to have some tension. When you're fishing, you don't want to drop the line in and then pull it all out and just let it sit there -- you need to have some kind of tension if you're gonna catch what you want.
Also, from a fan's point of view, it's like "They better f---ing make a good record or I'm gonna be p---ed". It's a good, healthy battle that happens. On every record we lose fans and we gain. I remember when we released Somewhere I Belong as our first single off Meteora, everybody was like "What happened to the band that I love?" And it's one of the biggest songs we ever put out.
Now it's like if we don't play that song, everybody's disappointed (laughs).
The industry is in a slump, record sales have dropped. Why are Linkin Park still selling records?
CB: I dunno, man. Kanye West is selling some records, 50 Cent is selling some records, Reba McEntire is selling some records . . . and Tim McGraw seems to be selling records. There's a lot of records being sold. I think they're not including digital sales in the big picture. If you added digital sales as well as record sales and singles, I think people would notice that the big secret is people are spending more money on music now than they ever have, it's just not going to the record companies. . . it's going to iTunes (laughs). It's going to Steve Jobs.
The next Linkin Park album?
CB: It won't take as long. Unless we literally don't do anything for a couple of years, we're gonna kick one out fairly quickly.
RB: Yeah, this record took a long time because there was a lot of experimenting and we learned a lot. We have some great ideas still lingering that we can go back to and re-address and get a record out a lot sooner next time.
Minutes to Midnight (Warner) is out now.