There's a growing, if idealistic, sentiment these days that unsigned, independent musicians are bridging the gap between their major label-backed peers. The belief is that Internet innovations and digital have leveled the playing field for financially constrained Indie bands, pushing labels to the margins of relevancy. Then you listen to acts like Linkin Park discuss their recording process for their latest album, Minutes to Midnight, and it puts things back in perspective.
“What do you say we rent a marimba and a xylophone and an electric banjo and screw around with those today?” Mike Shinoda said, half joking, as he told reporters about the types of experiments the band pursued while recording Minutes.
With quotes like that you realize that Internet-built “bridge” still more closely resembles a wobbly plank for independent artists who sometimes struggle to secure a week's worth of studio time, in some cases touring between sessions to finance the remainder of the recording process. The flip side is the freedom Linkin Park enjoyed during their approximately 18 months in the studio recording Minutes on Warner Bros.' tab. Indie artists may be gaining, but it certainly still pays to get in bed with the big boys of the music business.
Having sold 45 million albums worldwide over the course of their career, Linkin Park has done its part to earn their record deal, and Shinoda is quick voice his appreciation for the band's fortunate position.
“As far as the label is concerned [and] the time they'll allow us to work on a record, financially we can afford to go do those things,” Shinoda said. “I mean, we are very blessed to be able to do these things, and we try and take full advantage.”
Judging by the returns on Minutes to Midnight, which has sold over four million copies worldwide and earned rave reviews from Rolling Stone and other prominent publications, Shinoda and Co. certainly did so. The band broke away from the nu metal/rap metal-categorized sounds of previous albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora and adopted a more straight-ahead hard rock edge with Minutes, on which Shinoda sings lead vocals for the first time on “In Between.” He also delivers a “The Way It Is”-like rap, summing up the modern day wartime way of life on “Hands Held High.” Fellow frontman Chester Bennington balances bellowing out the anthemic chorus of “Bleed It Out” with bereaved ballad “Shadow of the Day.”
The group rekindles memories of their earlier albums with the familiar “What I've Done,” but for the most part, Linkin Park was mining unexplored territory during their year-and-a-half studio stint.
“We blazed new paths and tried new things. It was great,” Bennington says. “We took our time and we exhausted every avenue.”
“Every avenue” included the aforementioned experiments of instrumental combinations that yielded more than 100 demos, even one that band members believed belonged on Disney's “Mulan” soundtrack. Unlike previous recording sessions, each of the band's six members — Shinoda, Bennington, Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson, David Farrell and Joe Hahn — contributed to the creation. If even one of them dissented on an aspect of any song, they'd scrutinize it until all six were satisfied.
“We call it 'magic sauce,'” Bennington said of the group's label for final, unanimous approval.
As time consuming as the process was, the band — and Warner Bros. — were rewarded for their dedication and investment to the tune of 623,000 sales in the first week after the album's May 15, 2007 release.
“I guess we should say kudos to Warner for doing a great job in marking that or helping make that happen,” Bennington said.
It wouldn't a bad place to start anyway.
• Linkin Park performs live at Baltimore's First Mariner Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 19. For more on Linkin Park, including details on the band's digital download offer for live concert MP3s, visit www.linkinpark.com.
Off Track: WAMMIE Watch 2008
Despite what your years’ of watching “Press Your Luck” may have taught you, the Wammies are not something to be avoided.
The Washington Area Music Association is gathering the region’s best and brightest musicians to the State Theatre this Sunday for the organization’s 22nd Annual Wammies Awards.
Among those nominated for honors are “Press Pass” veterans Billy Hancock, The Grandsons, No Second Troy, Shane Hines & The Trance, Justin Trawick, Luke Brindley, Middle Distance Runner and Welbilt.
Congratulations to all nominated bands and artists.