Linkin Park's fifth studio album, Living Things, came as something of a surprise to the band. "It wasn't like we said, 'Hey, let's make a personal record,'" the band's Mike Shinoda tells Rolling Stone. "It's more like we just started recording and these were the things that started showing up. It became obvious to us that it is the kind of record we need at this moment, that we wanted to get that stuff out."
Living Things, which was co-produced by Rick Rubin and Shinoda and is due out on June 26th, couples its introspection with broader interests; the band made a video art installation for "I'll Be Gone" that dabbles in astronomy. "The visuals for 'I'll Be Gone' stuck out to me because that song is a relationship-based song, but it's also got a second read of a space theme," Shinoda says. "A lot of the songs have metaphors, and one of the metaphors in that song is space. [The visual artists] picked up on that language and turned it into this weird, intergalactic space travel thing."
In the days leading up to the album's launch, the band is keeping a busy schedule. "We haven't had this kind of a rigorous release since [2003's] Meteora," Shinoda recalls of the group's second album. "We really dug in and spread ourselves out." As part of that build-up, the group held an intimate listening, art show and Q&A at Sonos Studios in Los Angeles earlier this week. The assembled friends and fans were treated to a visual presentation of the album, with each of the record's 12 tracks accompanied by a video. There was footage of the band performing live in the first single, "Burn It Down," a lightning storm cutting the sky in "Until It Breaks," flames illuminating a black screen for "Castles of Glass" and skulls rotating in "Skin to Bone. The elaborate footage will be used in the band's next tour.
"A lot of the stuff is part of the album experience. I know that it's going to be showing up in the live show," Shinoda explains. "If you go online and look at the lyric videos for 'Burn It Down' and 'Lies Greed Misery,' you'll see some of that imagery there. We use it in many different ways."
After the 40-minute presentation, Shinoda explained to Q&A host Jason Bentley of KCRW that the art show was partially inspired by the communal listening experiences of his childhood. He reminisced about going to the record stores on Tuesdays, buying new albums and listening to Wu-Tang Clan and Alice in Chains in cars with his friends. The discussion also included a guest appearance from Rubin.
Despite the grand visuals, Shinoda insists that the core of Living Things is sincere. "Any time you hear a song that's about me and you, it's always coming from a personal story and an honest place."