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[Artist Direct Interview] Mike Shinoda Talks Fort Minor, Modern Rap, and Linkin Park

Posted by Zara on July 3rd, 2015 • No Comments »

Artist Direct spoke to Mike about Fort Minor’s comeback and other things, read the interview below;

Shinoda opens up about what he’s learned since The Rising Tied, the future of Fort Minor, new hip-hop he digs, and so much more.

Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda uncovered the first Fort Minor track in a decade last week, “Welcome.” The song stands out as a display of his cinematic, snappy rhyming and impeccable songwriting. It also illuminates a palpable progression since Fort Minor’s phenomenal 2005 debut, The Rising Tied. He’s taken all of this new wisdom accrued over the years and further carved out his own lane in rap music, bringing together big melodies, intriguing instrumentation, and spirited bars. Welcome to the next phase for Shinoda. He spoke to us in this exclusive interview about “Welcome,” the future of Fort Minor, new hip-hop he’s loving, and so much more.

“Welcome” picks up where you left off with The Rising Tied, but it also feels like you’re treading different territory too.
I feel like I’ve learned a lot of ways to make a song since then. My toolkit is a lot bigger now than it was when I did the first Fort Minor record. There’s even just the fact I feel like I can sing a little bit now. Back then, I was really uncomfortable singing. I could probably have done it, but I didn’t have as much practice as I do now. Even in the studio—if you think back to the Fort Minor album—we had just come off of Hybrid Theory and Meteora. I was thinking of everything in those terms. I was wondering if I had made a song outside of Hybrid Theory and Meteora—if that would even be acceptable to the fans, to myself, and what to do with it. A lot has changed.

Do you write all of your lyrics out, or do you tend to freestyle in the booth more?
I do a little bit of a mix. Everything is written. A lot of times though, as I go, I may let the track run and record. I call it, “traintracking it.” You lay a couple of traintracks out, and then you do those again. Mayne you try and get to the next one, and then you try to get two, three, or four more bars on it. I learned that actually watching Jay-Z. There are a lot of artists that do it. Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco all do it that way. It works pretty well for me. I do that a little bit, but for my style, I definitely go back in, tweak words, and write everything out to make sure there’s that level of scrutiny that I put on the vocals.

What’s the story behind “Welcome”?
At the time, I was a little frustrated. It’s clearly an outsider song, feeling like I didn’t belong or whatever. I think back to what was going on. The band was at a point where not a lot was happening, which is relative, because everything is always crazy with the band. We were sort of in-between projects, and I don’t know exactly what the time period was. I was reflecting on how I ended up where I’m at. The more I looked at it, the more I felt like, “Being an outsider doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to feel bad about it.” There’s a sense of coming to terms with it on my own in the song. It’s funny because it was organic and fluid. It all popped out at once. That’s unusual for me. The song was done before I even knew it. I listened to it and went, “Oh my God, this is not a Linkin Park song.”

Releasing it as a surprise after being dormant for so long made “Welcome” really special.
This song had to be a certain type of song in order for it to be the first one in ten years. It couldn’t be just any song. I’ve made things before and gone, “I don’t know if this is Linkin Park.” Even if it was a Fort Minor song, I might think, “Do I really want to come back with this sort of niche thing after this much time?” It would be a weird way to come back. Some of those ideas ended up being different things. I had one where the music ended up being an interlude and stuff like that. When “Welcome” came together, it was done so fast. I knew if I had run it through the Linkin Park process, it would change a lot. I didn’t want it to change. Even if it didn’t change, just the idea of playing some version of this song on stage with all six of the guys in the band standing up there felt like it would send a different message. Imagine the difference between me doing this up there by myself and me doing it with Chester [Bennington]. It would be totally different.

You’ve carved out a singular identity for Fort Minor.
I know I’ve alluded to the things I’ve learned since Collision Course or Meteora, which is the time period that I made the first Fort Minor album. Think of Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns, LIVING THINGS, the albums we did with Rick Rubin, The Hunting Party, which we did on our own, there were all of these writing techniques and creative approaches. The way we think and the way I think about getting into a song is much different than it used to be. For example, when we’re writing a song with Linkin Park, one exercise we’ll do is to think about what band the song we’re making sounds like and then what are those bands not capable of doing that we can do.

If we’re writing a song that sounds like U2, what can’t they do? Okay, they don’t really get into samples that much, they don’t get into rapping, and they won’t go heavy above a certain level. If we’re making a song that sounds like Radiohead, the same things might apply. They can do the electronic stuff, but no rapping. They’ll never get into hip-hop and so on. When I was doing “Welcome,” I was like, “Okay, what can I do on a rap song that just feels natural?” That’s when the singing parts and more melodic aspects came in. With the chord progressions and the way I put the music together, it felt very different from what I might usually do with Linkin Park. Once I got to the bridge, I realized, “Now, I’ve got a pretty solid hip-hop song. Let’s go left.” That’s when this big prog rock keyboard solo and live drums starting popping in.

What was the biggest lesson you took from Collision Course?
At that point, without realizing it, I was pointing all of the rap stuff I was doing at a certain type of listener. I was definitely writing from the heart. Sometimes, when you write, you imagine a certain type of audience or person listening to it. It’s the same thought process that goes on when people want to write a song and play it live to see what the crowd reaction is. That was different then from what happened in Collision Course and what came after, because a hardcore hip-hop head, like the sort of people I would’ve hung out with in high school, weren’t there. They weren’t at that show. They weren’t in that studio mindset. Once I brought that in and I said, “What would Mike from high school say about this verse?” all of a sudden, it went from “Nobody’s Listening” on Meteora to “Bleed It Out” and “Hands Held High” on Minutes To Midnight, which was the next album. Those verses were much more complex and true to the kind of hip-hop I listened to growing up.

What new hip-hop has been inspiring you?
I love what’s going on hip-hop right now. It’s one of the most exciting times for hip-hop lately, because it’s got so much variety. There are so many different artists approaching things differently. You’ve got what’s going on with Kendrick Lamar and the Top Dog Entertainment crew. Then, there’s A$AP Rocky and A$AP Mob. A$AP Ferg is dope too. Then, you’ve got Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$. I really think Drake’s new mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is great. That really got me into him. There’s all kinds of different stuff going on. Chance the Rapper is really cool. All of their styles and approaches stand out. To me, that’s exciting. When “Welcome” came out, a lot of fans were like, “This reminds me of Kid Cudi.” I think Kid Cudi is dope. I don’t feel like my song sounds like him, but maybe a little bit, especially because he’s so musical. There are a lot of newer artists killing it.

What’s your vision for Fort Minor now?
I’m playing it by ear. I’m barely scheduling any appearances or shows. We’ve got a Linkin Park tour in China and another tour in Europe. In between, I’m probably going to take a little bit of time off like a week just to regroup and recharge. Once we get into the swing of things with the band, it’s a lot of work. We’re busy. I’ll see how things go with Fort Minor. With that said, I’m always writing music, and there are times when I write something and I think it’s really great. However, it might not be for the other guys in the band. Now, that door’s open, I feel like I wouldn’t have a problem offering something up to the fans just because it’s there, it’s done, and it feels good. The songs don’t have to be singles and be big things all the time. For me, it’s turning into more of a passion or underground project.

—Rick Florino

Latest Video

Tour Dates

Jun 27 Mack, CO – Loudwire Music Festival
Jun 29 Los Angeles, CA – [FORT MINOR]
Jun 30 Milwaukee, WI – Summerfest

Jul 17 Nanjing, China
Jul 19 Shenzhen, China
Jul 22 Shanghai, China
Jul 24 Chongqing, China

Featured Quote

When I was little I was a brat.

— Mike Shinoda

Linkin Park Live in San Antonio, TX – River City Rockfest [Pictures, Videos & Setlist]

Posted by Zara on June 30th, 2015

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 24:  Vocalist Chester Bennington (L) and Dave Farrell of Linkin Park perform onstage during River City Rockfest at the AT&T Center on May 24, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)

Linkin Park headlined River City Rockfest at the AT&T Center Grounds, San Antonio, Texas, USA on May 24th. We have the setlist, video links and a preview of the pictures in our gallery in this post. Setlist 01. Papercut 02. Rebellion 03. Given Up 04. One Step Closer 05. A Line In The Sand 06. […]
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[Audio Interview] Mike Shinoda Talks Fort Minor To Adam Carolla & Product Hunt AMA

Posted by Zara on June 30th, 2015


Mike was on the Adam Carolla show, he talked about his friend Jensen Karp, the stories he’s heard from his family about the internment of the Japanese Americans. He talked about feeling like he couldn’t do hip hop with Linkin Park in the early days of the band, being in shock when he heard Stryker […]
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Posted by Zara on June 30th, 2015


A new LPTV episode has just been uploaded, this one covers Mike painting the Welcome single covers and shooting the video:

[Video] Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park, Fort Minor) – Ask Us Anything ETC Podcast

Posted by Zara on June 28th, 2015


Mike answered a bunch of questions and talked about Linkin Park and Fort Minor in the ETC podcast, watch below: A few notes: – Mike brought out Welcome as a Fort Minor song, because it doesn’t sound like a Linkin Park song and he didn’t want it to get changed. – He talked about 360 […]
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Mike Shinoda Discusses Fort Minor, Welcome & One-Man Shows [Interview]

Posted by Ana on June 25th, 2015

fort minor mike shinoda 2015

Mike Shinoda was interviewed by Billboard the day after Fort Minor’s performance on Conan, in this interview he discusses Fort Minor, the reason why FM came to be and the hiatus, how FM has changed from 2005 to 2015, and the most interesting part of the interview is where he talks about the LIVE shows […]
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Noisey Reviews Whatever Fans Sent with the Help of Mike Shinoda

Posted by Ana on June 25th, 2015

Mike Shinoda Noisey Review

So a few days ago, Fort Minor / Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda was at the Noisey HQ in New York and was interviewed AND also reviewed songs that were sent to Noisey. It’s been published and you read an excerpt below the full review here. SMASH MOUTH – ALL STAR Mike: I don’t know if […]
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How Street Art Fuels Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda [Video Interview]

Posted by Ana on June 25th, 2015

mike shinoda laura ling seeker interview

Laura Ling has interviewed Mike Shinoda recently regarding his art, Fort Minor, his WELCOME mural, and how he has to be creative otherwise he’ll go insane! Watch the interview below:

What Happened When Linkin Park Asked Harvard for Help with Its Business Model [Article]

Posted by Ana on June 25th, 2015

Linkin Park Machine Shop Business model

An article on Harvard Business Review has mentioned Linkin Park and Machine Shop it explained a lot of the changes that occurred this past year with Linkin Park investing in tech startups and leaving their management agency. An interesting read where Executive Vice President of Machine Shop, Kiel Berry, mentions that Harvard students and professor […]
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[Official Music Video] Steve Aoki feat. Linkin Park – Darker Than Blood

Posted by Ana on June 25th, 2015

darker than blood music video linkin park steve aoki

It’s finally out! After waiting months for it, DARKER THAN BLOOD music video has been released! Rolling Stone posted a short article about the music video with words by Steve: “This time we brought more of the emotional side to our music with dark lyrics and soaring vocals from the Linkin Park camp and an […]
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