Interview: Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park

Minutes to Midnight

Interview: Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park
July 19, 2007 06:07 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon sees his band's latest single, "What I've Done," as evidence that the group is evolving.

Spawned from the new album "Minutes to Midnight," "What I've Done" finds rapper Mike Shinoda lurking in the background as a guitar player, thereby eliminating Linkin Park's trademark rap/rock sound.

"I think the single definitely has a new, unique sound for us," Bourdon said. "It definitely touches on some of the old elements of what we do as a band, but it also is a breath of fresh air at the same time."

Bourdon--who is joined in the band by singer Chester Bennington, guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, and turntablist Joseph Hahn--thinks the success of that single led to "Minutes to Midnight" selling 622,000 during its first week out, the highest first-week sales tally of any album released so far this year.

"I also think we have a really solid fan base out there, too, that went out and got the record, since we've been around for a little while now. We had our 10-year anniversary as a band and we spent a lot of time touring and on the road, really connecting with our fan base. I think that had to do something with the numbers also."

Bourdon talked to LiveDaily about the songwriting process, how the band went about choosing acts for its Projekt Revolution Tour [ tickets ] and the committees within the band.

LiveDaily: When was your 10-year anniversary? Congratulations.

Rob Bourdon: Um, we haven't really figured out the exact date, but it was somewhere in ‘97 that we came together, most of us came together. Shortly after that, Chester joined the group. We really started the concept of this band sometime in 1997.

Did you do anything special to celebrate your 10-year anniversary? Did you go out and have a drink or something?

No. We just decided to play a whole bunch of shows. We were on tour for about a year and a half.

The tour you're in the midst of is long, as well.

Yeah, we're currently in Europe. We're doing about a month over there, then we have a big tour in the US coming up, Projekt Revolution. We're bringing out a whole bunch of bands with us for that.

How did you go about choosing your bands for Projekt Revolution?

Well, we kind of all talked about the bands that we wanted to tour with. We basically just came up with a wish list of all the bands that we'd like to tour with. The way our band works is, we have miniature committees within the entire band that deal with all the different aspects of our band, from art to videos and business, and one of the committees is the touring committee. Chester and I are on that committee. We just put the word out to a bunch of bands. We were just blown away by how many of the bands on our wish list were actually able to do the tour. It's going to be a really incredible tour this summer. I'm really looking forward to it.

What other committees do you have?

We have one for art, which is mainly Mike and Joe. They are very involved in all of the album art. Joe directs our videos. We have a committee that looks after the business and legal stuff going on in the band. We do band conference calls. We try to do them once a week, just so everyone in the band has input on everything that's going on in our world. We've learned that it's really important for at least one or two people in the band to be involved in almost every decision that happens around us. We found it works better like that. Our message never gets lost in translation as long as we're involved in everything.

I noticed that "Leave Out All the Rest," the third song on "Minutes to Midnight," has a real Ministry sound to it. Is it sampled?

No, that's a completely original song. I don't know if anyone in the band listens to that much Ministry. I think it's more of a coincidence that it sounds like that. But I've heard other people comment on that too, saying it sounds like Ministry.

There's definitely a new sound on the album. It seems that Mike is being used a little less as a rapper on some of the songs.

There's definitely less rapping on this album than on the past albums. I think the best way to explain why is that, at the very beginning of the process, when we sat down with [producer] Rick Rubin, we knew we wanted to make a different album. We didn't want to follow our other albums up with a trilogy record. We knew that we wanted to do something different and Rick helped us to do that. One of the first things he told us was to forget about what we thought we should sound like as a band, just to go write whatever type of music we were inspired by. That's what we did. I think Mike was more inspired to write more melodic vocal parts. He did write a lot more rapping parts, but when we voted on the final songs, [the non-rap songs] were the ones chosen as the favorites.

How many songs did you write?

We estimate somewhere between 100 and 150. Some were very rough and just in the demo form. About 30 got closer to the final form. We ended up recording 17 total. We put 10 of those, plus an intro, on the album.

Will any of the remaining songs see the light of day?

I think so. One of them was released as an iTunes exclusive, called "No Roads Left," and I think the other ones will eventually find their way out. We don't know exactly what we're going to do with them yet. We have four or five other songs that are kind of really good and almost done. So, I think so. A lot of them will probably never see the light of day. We're going to hide them and erase them, because they're horrible.

That's a big chunk of songs from which to choose. What were you looking for?

Even though it sounds like an overwhelming amount of songs, it was a long process and every week or two we'd get together and vote on songs. A lot of them would get only one or two plays for the whole band and they'd get voted off or we would focus our energies elsewhere. When we got to the point when we had 30 songs in our A folder, like our top choice songs, we stopped the writing phase and went more into focusing on the songs and making them better.

Where did you write your songs? In the studio, on the road?

We were actually off the road for awhile before we started writing. When we came back from the "Meteora" touring cycle, we took a little time off just to relax. Mike was working on his solo project, Fort Minor, for awhile. Then, we just felt right after being home for a year, [and] we started writing together for the album. We did a lot of the writing in a studio in Hollywood that we actually rented from Korn. We worked there for about six to seven months, writing and recording. Once we had that solid batch of 30 songs [and] felt like we were ready to start recording, we moved to Rick Rubin's house in Laurel Canyon [CA] and finished writing and recording there.

Did you have a lot more freedom in the studio?

Yeah, on this album we've had more freedom in the studio than we ever had before. We didn't have a real deadline as to when we had to finish the record. There was a deadline out there, but we just kind of ignored it and kept working. We also definitely had the ability to rent and bring in a lot of different musical gear that we weren't able to do on the past records. Whenever we had an idea, someone wanted to try something crazy, we could just make a phone call and some kind of whatever instrument we wanted to work with would show up in the studio. So we were sampling a lot of different types of instruments and really experimenting a lot. A lot of the process was experimenting and writing songs that maybe weren't the greatest songs, but they led us to a new sound. It was great to have that type of freedom. I think it's really because of the success we've had with [our previous albums], it gave us the ability to have the freedom on this album.

What was it like to work with Rick Rubin?

Working with Rick was a really enjoyable experience for me. Rick is a great guy. He's really easy to get along with. He's so mellow. When he comes into the studio, it doesn't feel like this overwhelming strong hand is coming in. But he comes in and just drops these incredible suggestions and words of wisdom that keep the whole project on track.
Definitely he's the type of producer that, if you're stuck on something, he won't tell you what to do to fix it, but he'll kind of just guide you in the right direction. He'll give you some other songs to listen to or some ideas that open your mind up to going around to where you're stuck and coming up with something great. It was a real joy working with him. He definitely helped me a lot as a drummer and a musician. And definitely opened my mind up to different things and helped me to look at music and recording music in a whole new way.

What was the most important thing you learned from him?

The most important thing I think I learned from him was the way I listen to live performance. When I say that, I mean, when you record something, I used to listen to it, listening for perfection. I always thought the more perfect I had my drums sounding, the closer they were to the grid and the samples, that the better they were. I would work on them until I got them perfect. Rick was able to listen for something different in those performances and kind of evaluate them differently than I ever had before. He listened to the performance as it related to the song. If it added to the song, then it was good; if it took away from the song, it was bad, obviously. He has a great ear for real subtle things that are really hard to notice. He would pick out performances that he said were "the performance" or definitely had something special about [them]. It definitely took me a little while to understand why, but, once it clicked for me, I was able to hear something different in the performances. It changed the way I listened to recording.