Mike Shinoda will always make time for important business. Linkin Park's rapper-songwriter-producer has already been sketching out new songs with the band, and last week they began recording the follow-up to the multiplatinum Minutes to Midnight in Los Angeles. "I didn't stop writing since the last record," says Shinoda. "They've seen the stuff on my hard drives. I've got a lot of material, and I know the other guys have a good amount of stuff too. It's going to be fun."
The next studio album will likely appear in 2009. But on November 25th, Linkin Park will release Road To Revolution, a live CD/DVD set recorded this year at the Milton Keynes National Bowl outside London. Shinoda confirms he recently produced a track for Cypress Hill, but is more coy about another project he's been linked to: a mysterious online music video called "Barack Your World," which is credited to the band White Pegacorn.
Sitting in a West Hollywood hotel suite with a full beard and a plate of fresh ahi tuna, Shinoda awaits the arrival of drummer Rob Bourdon and talks about the video, which is performed by hair-metal hand-puppets who sing a wacky heartland-rock ballad of politics and sexual innuendo worthy of Spinal Tap ("Baby if you were my Iraq, I would never pull out, if you know what I mean" and "Don't tell me no lies, you got a weapon of mass destruction between your thighs!").
Can you explain "Barack Your World"?
Mike Shinoda: [Laughs out loud] I can neither confirm nor deny any relationship to that, although I think it's hilarious. I'll say this: I have a friend named Mark [Wakefield, onetime singer for pre-Linkin Park group Xero], and we've been friends since we were 12. He and I started my band together. We used to make joke songs on the weekends in high school and college. It's just fun for us to do. Whether or not that ["Barack Your World"] rumor is true, that's definitely what we used to do.
Can you predict anything else coming from White Pegacorn?
I heard a rumor that there's some interview footage with that band. Hopefully those will show up online. I don't imagine that project will be an album. But what would I know? That band is so mysterious.
Minutes to Midnight's "Hands Held High" is a very pointed song about the war, and you included it on the new live album.
We had put that song in the set and took it out because the chorus has 10 voices singing on it, and live it just never sounded right. But during the Milton Keynes show, there was a fan in front of the crowd who had a sign that said "Play 'Hands Held High.' " Halfway through, I thought, we can't play the song because we aren't prepared — but I can give him the first half. So I just threw the verse in a cappella. In fact, we added that verse to the set, so that kid's sign essentially changed the set for the rest of the year. It was really cool. As for the meaning of the song: We have a policy that we don't want to give away too much when it comes to the meaning of a song. We want to respect everybody's impression of what the lyrics are about. I don't think there's a ton of mystery over what it's about.
Rob Bourdon: I think a lot of the lyrics on Minutes to Midnight are really thought provoking, and when you listen to a song like "Hands Held High," you can't help but start thinking. It's good to encourage people to think for themselves and look at what's going on around them.
You're in the early stages of a new studio album?
Shinoda: Very early stages. I'm excited about it. I don't know what it's going to sound like. At this point we're doing a lot of demos in small groups. Everybody is throwing some ideas together. At this point, I'm producing. I don't imagine I'll be the only producer on this record. I think we're going to hire somebody else on.
Will it likely be someone you've ever worked with before, like Rick Rubin?
Shinoda: We haven't talked about it at length. Rick was really great. I think we will work with Rick again in the future at some point, but I don't know if this is the record. At this point, it's a pretty self-sufficient process. We're taking care of all our needs at this point.
This will be a faster turnaround for you?
Shinoda: Yeah. The stuff we've been writing is a little more challenging, a little more experimental in the way we've been writing and the sounds we've been making. But once we start getting our hands on it, some of it could straighten out and be a little more familiar. Some of the stuff we're doing now is a little crazy.
Bourdon: If we get it out in '09, we'll be doing pretty good.
Shinoda: This one will not take as long as the last one — from beginning to end, that one was about 18 months.
There was far less rapping from you on the last record. What about this time?
Shinoda: We wrote 150 demos for that record. If you'd picked a different 12 songs, there would have been a ton of rapping. It just depends on what we want to release at the end of the process. And the songs that we did in the last batch for Minutes to Midnight that did not end up on the record could end up on a record in the future. The good news is we have a ton of material.