THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT

LINKIN PARK FLIPS THEIR SONG­WRIT­ING STRATEGY UP­SIDE DOWN FOR A BOLD NEW DI­REC­TION, AS GUI­TARIST BRAD DEL­SON EX­PLAINS. BY PETER HODG­SON

Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Linkin Park are used to con­tro­versy. Some folks lump them in with the ‘90s nu metal scene, but even the ti­tle of their de­but LP, Hy­brid The­ory, hinted that they saw them­selves as mu­si­cal melt­ing pot far re­moved from that genre. They col­lab­o­rated with Jay-Z on the Col­li­sion Course EP in 2004, and have al­ways jumped head­first into mu­si­cal ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. But noth­ing could pre­pare fans for the shock of One More Light. It’s a very dif­fer­ent al­bum for Linkin Park, much more in­flu­enced by pop, pop-rock and elec­tropop than any­thing they’ve done be­fore. It’s a risky move that the band knows could alien­ate fans of their heav­ier work, but at the same time, it’s a ballsy and con­fi­dent step that is com­pletely con­sis­tent with the band’s long-es­tab­lished pen­chant for break­ing the rules. Bands that play metal fes­ti­vals aren’t sup­posed to have songs that can sit side-by-side with pop hits on Fox FM, right?

Well, Linkin Park doesn’t care, and if you want crush­ing gui­tars and in­dus­trial beats, there are plenty of ex­am­ples of that in their cat­a­logue al­ready. What One More Light of­fers is Linkin Park’s song­writ­ing sen­si­bil­ity shot through a dif­fer­ent lens – one that high­lights dif­fer­ent ar­eas of their cre­ativ­ity. It’s a com­pelling al­bum for its own rea­sons, and it gives gui­tarist Brad Del­son a lot of lee­way to push his play­ing in new di­rec­tions. Wher­ever Linkin Park de­cides to go after this par­tic­u­lar al­bum cy­cle, it’ll be in­trigu­ing to see how this record feeds into it.

Many gui­tarists would love the chal­lenge of do­ing some­thing so dif­fer­ent. How did you ap­proach this record as a gui­tarist?

I’ll start by say­ing that I’m re­ally ex­cited about th­ese songs. We nor­mally write the mu­sic first and the vo­cals tend to fol­low that; the mu­sic for us typ­i­cally in­spires the vo­cal. When we started work­ing with Rick Ru­bin a while back, he chal­lenged us to do things dif­fer­ently and to start with the melody. He told us it was a great idea, and then we ba­si­cally ig­nored it [ laughs]. We ig­nored it for about three al­bums, and for what­ever rea­son, we kind of woke up on the precipice of this op­por­tu­nity and said to each other, “Hey, re­mem­ber that idea of writ­ing songs? What if we tried that?” And it sounded ridicu­lous, be­cause of course they’re all songs, but it’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent cre­ative chal­lenge to start with words or melodies. Not only is it some­thing we’d never re­ally been com­fort­able with, it’s some­thing we’d never even re­ally tried in earnest. So we dove head­first into that chal­lenge, and it wound up be­ing in­cred­i­bly rich, cre­atively. We took a process

that was so fa­mil­iar to us and tilted it on its head. It gave us the op­por­tu­nity to al­most feel like we were do­ing some­thing for the first time. And it wound up in­spir­ing a pro­lific out­pour­ing of about 70 songs. We were writ­ing two or three songs a day! It was a very bare-bones process: we’d get the words done, then the melodies and struc­ture. Then we picked our favourite 20 songs or so, and whit­tled them down to about ten. That gave us the chal­lenge of work­ing in an­other di­rec­tion to com­plete the thought, be­cause we had the song, but didn’t know what the ar­range­ment or the style would be for each song.

And that’s where it got re­ally fun as a gui­tarist. That gave us the pos­si­bil­ity to try to find the kind of nat­u­ral essence, stylis­ti­cally, of each song. And it was a tonne of fun to do that.

I read a quote some­where that there was a bit of a Cure in­flu­ence to the or­ches­tra­tion.

It wasn’t me who said that, but I will tell you that The Cure are one of my all-time favourite bands. What strikes me about The Cure is how deeply emo­tional and hon­est their songs are. It’s some­thing you can’t fake, and in a sim­i­lar way, th­ese ten songs grew out of a deeply per­sonal and emo­tional place, re­ally need­ing to talk about and ex­press the sto­ries that were go­ing on in our lives when we made this record. We’ve all had things hap­pen in our lives that we can cel­e­brate – and things that were tragic or chal­leng­ing – and we have an op­por­tu­nity as artists to chan­nel that into our mu­sic.

A theme that jumps out to me mu­si­cally with this is ‘trust’. There has to be trust within your­self that you can come up with some­thing out­side of the way you’ve al­ways done it. There has to be trust within the band that you’ll sup­port each other’s choices, and there has to be trust that the fans will ac­cept it.

I think you’re right. I think that part of it is trust and part of it is the im­per­a­tive as an artist to strive for the high­est in­spi­ra­tion. And of­ten times, that jour­ney takes us in all di­rec­tions. You’re right, you have to have a trust and an in­ner con­fi­dence, not an outer con­fi­dence. That’s the jour­ney that we need to go on, and if we’re re­ally lis­ten­ing to our cre­ative in­stincts, then ir­re­spec­tive of all the things we can never con­trol in our lives, we’re mak­ing some­thing that we can be proud of.

Some­one was ask­ing me about the gui­tar work on this al­bum, and whether this sounds sur­pris­ing or not, the gui­tar work was as rich and re­ward­ing for me on this al­bum as it was when we made The Hunt­ing Party. That could be sur­pris­ing be­cause the gui­tar on The Hunt­ing Party was cer­tainly a dom­i­nant el­e­ment. It was re­ally ag­gres­sive and right up in your face. The gui­tar on this al­bum played an es­sen­tial role as well, it just un­folded in a much more tender and sub­tle way, to com­ple­ment and sup­port the vo­cal. As a gui­tarist, that was such a fun process, to re­ally ex­per­i­ment with tones and lay­er­ing. We wanted ev­ery­thing to feel hand-crafted, and even though the gui­tar isn’t loud and in your face, it played a re­ally es­sen­tial role in help­ing th­ese songs come to life.

So what gear did you use?

What was cool was that for ev­ery song and ev­ery layer, we had some go-to gear to give it a lit­tle bit of con­sis­tency. But in say­ing that, we also wanted ev­ery tone to feel be­spoke for that mo­ment, so we ex­per­i­mented a lot. We used Strats, Te­les and a Jazzmas­ter. I used a gui­tar that be­longs to our en­gi­neer dur­ing the writ­ing of the songs, and a lot of that stuck on the fi­nal ar­range­ments. In terms of amps, we used some Or­ange boxes, a lot of vintage amps, and some hand­made ped­als that you’ll never see. Our en­gi­neer and I would of­ten talk about what kind of tone we wanted to get; he would go and grab three or four ped­als from his col­lec­tion, and we would just ex­per­i­ment, one at a time, with any com­bi­na­tion of gui­tars and amps. We tend to write and record in the same space, so while the ar­range­ments hap­pen later in the process, once we find some­thing we love, it goes right into the song. And that can be a can­did mo­ment cap­tured early on.

How are you go­ing to pull this off live?

That’s a great ques­tion. Re­hearsals are al­ways a big chal­lenge, be­cause we try to be to­tally un­en­cum­bered while we’re cre­at­ing. That then leads to us hav­ing to solve prob­lems and fig­ure out how to trans­late ev­ery­thing faith­fully when it comes to the live show. So re­hears­ing is re­ally a process of trans­la­tion for us. For­tu­nately, we’ve al­ready done that: we’ve put in weeks and weeks, if not months, of re­hearsals to learn most of the new songs. We’ve also been or­gan­is­ing our new show to en­sure that the old and new ma­te­ri­als flow smoothly to­gether. It’s def­i­nitely a fair task, how­ever we’re re­ally ex­cited by how our show changes form. We’re per­form­ing the first shows of the One More Light tour in South Amer­ica. And we love our fans in Aus­tralia, so we’ll be back there soon. I’m re­ally ex­cited for ev­ery­one in Aus­tralia to hear th­ese songs.

“THE GUI­TAR ON THIS AL­BUM PLAYED AN ES­SEN­TIAL ROLE. IT JUST UN­FOLDED IN A MUCH MORE TENDER AND SUB­TLE WAY, TO COM­PLE­MENT AND SUP­PORT THE VO­CAL.”

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