Linkin Park have delivered the news their Aussie fans have been waiting for by confirming their spot on the Soundwave 2013 line-up. Frontman Chester Bennington reveals what will be on the band's setlist at the festival, as well as what goes through his mind when he's performing and why he's not worried about losing fans due to Linkin Park's ever-evolving sound.
What made you say yes to Soundwave?
We're looking for any excuse to get to Australia, honestly [laughs]. We're so excited to get back there and to be part of a great festival. I know Soundwave is kind of a newer festival, so we're excited to hopefully build a legacy there like some other great bands. We'll at least give people something special while we're there.
What have you heard about Soundwave?
In all honestly I don't really know much about the history of the festival. I do know it's a young festival but outside of that I really have no idea. I've gotten to a point where I don't even really know my name. I'm working on the Ozzy Osbourne level of thinking.
Maybe there will be a "Chesterfest" one day and bands will just come to you.
[Laughs] Exactly. That would be awesome.
Will we hear much from your new album Living Things at Soundwave?
We're working in 'Burn It Down', 'Lost In The Echo', 'In My Remains', 'Victimized', 'Lies Greed Misery' - they'll all be part of our set going forward and touring. At that point, maybe 'Powerless' will be getting worked in there, so a lot of the new record is going to be incorporated into our new set, as well as a lot of the songs that people really want to hear. And also some songs that we've put on the backburner for a while, so hopefully a lot of a our fans that came to our last show will get something that they didn't really get before.
How do you prepare for a festival audience?
If it's a Linkin Park show, people are there to see Linkin Park. But when we're at a festival we're not guaranteed that everybody's going to be stoked that we're headlining the show, or even on the bill. It's completely different. There could be a large number of people there that are going to be experiencing our band for the first time and may not even know any of our stuff, so it's always really exciting to be able have a chance to go out and get some new fans and really perform our music for people who haven't been familiar with the band.
Is there a song you wouldn't dare leave out of a festival set?
'One Step Closer'. I would not leave 'One Step Closer' off of a festival setlist. No matter how many times we play that song or how old that song is, there's something that happens when that song starts getting played. 'In The End' is the same. Each record has a song that needs to be played. 'One Step Closer' is top of the list.
How are the new songs feeling in a live setting?
We've been rehearsing for the last week and a half or so and the set's coming along really well. The music from the new record, honestly, feels like we've been playing it forever. The songs just fit with the band. It feels like Linkin Park. It's come together pretty easily, in some ways. I know the guys have been putting a lot of work into getting their chords right and doing what they need to do. But for me it hasn't been any trouble.
Your lyrics are very personal. Do you find yourself going back to the emotional place you're singing about when you're on stage?
You know, It's interesting, when I'm performing I'm just focusing on making sure I try to hit the notes right [laughs]. Or hitting that scream. A lot of times when we're performing live all I care about is making sure I hit the notes and the screams in the proper way so that I can go back and do it the next day. Really, the key for playing live is to not think about anything at all. For me at least, the more I think while I'm on stage the worse I am. If you're ever in the audience and I'm making a lot of mistakes or I'm not singing on key, it's probably because I'm thinking about what I'm doing on stage or something's going on, like I'm thinking "have I forgotten the words?" or "is something not playing in my ears?". If there's something going on where I actually have to think about the song then I completely screw it up. It's when everything's second nature and I don't have to think about it, and I don't need to put any effort into what I'm doing on stage, that I have the best performance.
Linkin Park's sound is always evolving and you've incorporated more electronic elements into your latest album. Do you ever worry that these changes may alienate fans?
We definitely know that every time we put a song out we're going to alienate some people. I don't know if "alienate" is the proper term, "piss off" is probably a better way of looking at it! There's definitely a number of fans out there that would prefer if we just stuck to the one thing that they like best about the band. They may not be that excited about the slower songs, they may not be that excited about the tracks we did for Transformers, they may not be that excited about the electronic stuff. We know we're going to lose fans every time we put a new song out. But we're going to gain fans as well as lose fans. It's really easy to get caught up in that, like, "oh we must be doing something wrong because this person gave us a one-star review on iTunes and said 'what happened to this band? I hate Linkin Park now'". It's like, okay, you're entitled to your opinion and honestly I kinda don't care [laughs]. I'm trying to make music that I like, that I get excited to play, and that I feel is different and is offering something creatively that hasn't been done before.
To go back in the studio and make a song that sounds just like a song I've already made seems like a ridiculous exercise. I want to go in the studio and do something I haven't done before. That sounds like a challenge. Once we were in the studio and made 'Minute to Midnight' we knew at that point, like, this could kill our career. This could either keep us going and people are going to get it, or our fans are going to be pissed and they're just gonna not be stoked about it. To our amazement and to our biggest honour, the majority of our fans have stuck by us, and we've gotten new fans throughout the years. Even the people that are pissed about the new music, they can still come to the show and see all the songs they like. It's not like we don't play those anymore [laughs]. It's still part of who we are and those songs still exist. If you love Hybrid Theory, then listen to it. If you don't like A Thousand Suns, don't listen to it. It's your choice, really. I think we've made really great records, we've got some great songs, and each record has something special to offer. Being in Linkin Park, I'm really proud of what we've done.
Do you have any plans for the next single from Living Things?
I don't really participate in picking singles. I learnt that after making Hybrid Theory. I was never a fan of 'In The End' and I didn't even want it to be on the record, honestly. How wrong could I have possibly been? I basically decided at that point I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, so I leave that to other people who are actually talented at somehow picking songs that people are going to like the most. It also gave me a good lesson, as an artist, that I don't necessarily have to only make music, in my band, that I want to listen to. More often than not, something that I like, very few other people like, and something that those people like is something that I kind of like, or don't like at all. And that's cool, it gives me a new appreciation for the songs. But, you know, now I love 'In The End' and I think it's such a great song. I actually see how good of a song it is, it was just hard for me to see it at the time. So I remove myself from the process but I can tell you that there are songs we've made videos for that are coming up, I just don't know what order they're going to be released in. We just made a video for 'Lost In The Echo' and we're going to be shooting a video for 'Powerless'.
Any final words to your Aussie fans?
I just want to say to all our fans in Australia we appreciate, one: the fact that you've been so patient, because we don't get down there very often. And two: just the support over our career. We have a lot of creative freedom because of the support of our fans. We're able to create the music we make and be in a position to go out to Australia, and it's a tribute to our fans. The fact that we've been around so long and the fact we've been able to make five records and keep going and be relevant is because of how dedicated our fans are. We feel really honoured. Thank you, guys.