Track by Track with Mike Shinoda
01 – “Foreword” (Intro)
“Foreword” is just an intro. If you know what Foley work is, it’s my first attempt at Foley work. Basically, it’s noises I made in the studio breaking things. We have this CD player and CD burner attached to my computer, which basically just ate shit during the writing process. It gave Chester and I such a hard time! Burning CDs which should have taken a minute were taking 20 minutes, 30 minutes, to an hour. I just got so frustrated with the thing, I put it to the side knowing that I was going to beat it with a baseball bat and that’s what I did. I smashed it with a baseball bat on metal table.
02 – “Don’t Stay”
That song started off as almost a Spanish or reggae style sound with the guitar. The first time I heard it, I almost thought it sounded like some kind of Latin dancing thing. And it was funny because it didn’t sound that way. It just gave me that idea in my head so Brad and I worked on it. Brad ended up coming up with the final thing, which is what you hear there. The nice thing about the song is that it’s written really heavy. It’s got an interesting bounce to it and that Spanish guitar thing is gone now. Because it came from that place, it has a different vibe to the rhythm of it. I think it’s a really fun song. It’s going to be a really fun song to play live. It’s really energetic.
03 – “Somewhere I Belong”
“Somewhere I Belong” is the single. It started out with an interesting sample. Actually, the first thing you hear in the song is a sample. Now, the sample sounds like keyboards but what it is really, is a guitar progression Chester played. And this is just to give you an idea. It just shows the evolution of parts. The guitar part that Chester played had a cool progression to it but the sound of it was too acoustic guitar. So what we did was, we flipped it backwards. We effected it. I cut it up into four pieces and instead of arranging it 1-2-3-4, I arranged it 4-3-2-1 because it had been reversed. So it evolved into this thing with the different manipulations in the computer. It evolved into this thing that it is now. In fact, you can hear an early version of that on our “Party At The Pancake Festival” DVD. That’s the DVD that came out over a year ago. There’s a version of that towards the end of the DVD that’s playing. You kind of get an idea of what it sounded like in the second stage of it’s lifetime and now it’s at it’s third when we finished it. So that song is cool for that reason.
Another cool thing about it is that it’s really the first time you hear some optimistic views, some optimistic lyrics from us. I think that lyrically this album is a little older, a little more mature hopefully. When we were writing a lot of songs for the first album, we’re talking about writing as 18 and 19 year olds. Being 25 now, I feel like I just look at things a tiny bit differently. It doesn’t really have much to do with where we’re at with the success of the first album and it has everything to do with having seen some of the world and just being a little bit older. So, that’s where that comes from. But you’ll see overall on the album that it’s still the same heavy and melodic and dynamic sound that is kind of our signature thing just with some new evolution added.
04 – “Lying From You”
That song will be impossible for any cover bands to play! Chester just sings too damn hard. I think it’s great. I think he did some great stuff on that song. We all are really proud of that song. It’s another song with a great keyboard thing that we made, this kind of sample sound at the beginning. It’s going to be a really fun song to play live. I could say the same thing for the song that comes after that.
“Lying From You” is about pushing someone away. The title means, making up lies to make another person angry so that they don’t want to be around you; which is something that some people do subconsciously in relationship. That’s not what my part of the song is about but I know that in a broader sense, when people start feeling negative feelings toward somebody else, just naturally they start doing things to make that person not want to be around them. It’s a subliminal reaction. That works with friends. That works with relationships – either way, people do that.
05 – “Hit The Floor”
“Hit The Floor” is interesting because it’s got this hip-hop style beat. For all the technical musicians out there, there is one thing that you’ll notice right off the bat in the song. When you’re writing a big rock chorus, you come in on the one count, on the downbeat, and you’re just blaring music. The interesting thing about this song is that it comes on the “and” after the one. It’s a syncopated start almost. For the technical musicians out there, you’ll notice that it was definitely a chance that we took, that ended up working out. It was a difficult thing to make work and I think we feel pretty proud of it.
Just as a side note, and this leads us into the next song, is what I think makes great writing. It’s like being a great athlete. It’s when you can do something that’s very difficult in a way that seems easy or even natural. You notice a great athlete, doing something that is just impossible for the average person to do but they make it seem so easy. And in that song, that’s one element of it. In “Hit The Floor”, that’s one thing that is really working in that song.
“Hit The Floor” is kind of about people who look down on other people. It’s basically about people stepping on other people to get to the top and acting like they’re invincible when everybody knows that you can’t be that person forever. You can’t step on other people to get to wherever you want to get to. It just ends up coming back and biting you. And even in that song there is definitely more to it than that.
06 – “Easier To Run”
In the next song, “Easier To Run”, Rob is just killing the drums. It’s my favorite song that he’s done. You listen to the song and you enjoy the song or whatever but if you listen back and just listen to the drums, he’s playing some very complex stuff. A drummer who’s only got a couple of years under their belt is not going to be able to play that song. I’m really happy for Rob on that song. I think he really pulled it off.
Lyrically, it’s kind of about escapism in a way. I think that’s a really familiar topic for myself and for a lot of people in the world. If that weren’t the case, then movie ticket sales wouldn’t be so high. People go out and do things to get away from their life. That’s what the song is about, it’s easier to run away from your problems then to face them. We elaborate on that theme in the song. I think that one came together pretty quickly as far as lyrics go, which is nice. For us, it feels like magic when the lyrics to a song just come together in a couple of days. It’s really a special kind of feeling.
It’s just tough because for a lot of these songs, Chester and I in general, because we don’t have the same life, we are talking about different things a little bit but when they come together in the song, it becomes one story. Sometimes I worry if I’m telling too much of my side of it because it is open to interpretation, even from the two of us a little bit, not much, but a little bit.
07 – “Faint”
“Faint” is a fun song. Brad actually brought that guitar part in originally thinking that it would be 70 beats per minute or somewhere in that vicinity I think. I’m not sure about the exact number. He played it to a click during Ozzfest and he came back. He and I had done the drum tracks to 140 beats per minute. First he argued with me and told me that it wasn’t supposed to be that then I told him, “I know what you intended but I think this works.” He listened to it and he totally changed his mind. I just heard something different when I first heard the part so that’s how this came about. We’re going to skip the lyrics on that one. “Faint” was just a working title that we wanted to keep. I don’t know what the actual title would have been but it wasn’t that. That word doesn’t even appear in the song.
08 – “Figure.09″
“Figure .09″ is another song that will be a lot of fun to play live. It’s a really loud song. The first sound you hear sounds like little conga drums or something. It’s actually Joe tapping on his turntables with a distortion pedal. So the distortion creates this drum type sound when he hits his needle and his vinyl. So he made this little beat just tapping on his records, which is really interesting. I think it’s stuff like that that shows where Joe’s going. He’s doing some really creative things with his turntables. He’s not limiting himself to just scratching and rubbing them back and forth and playing samples. He did some interesting stuff.
09 – “Breaking The Habit”
“Breaking The Habit” is a really interesting song. It will stand out to a lot of people as a different sound for us. It’s very obviously Linkin Park but there are live strings and there is live piano. The guitar doesn’t ever hit 11. Basically, the way the song started was as an interlude. It was going to be an instrumental track that was ten minutes long. The guys convinced me to turn it into a full song with verses and choruses and whatnot and add some lyrics. Well, five year ago or something I tried to write this other song that never came together. I had tried it 20 different times and it never worked because it was always cheesy or it was too dark or it was too melodramatic or something and I always ended up scrapping it. When I tried it out on this song and the lyrics were finished in two hour, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, this is a song I had been trying to write for five years and it just came together in two hours. It was amazing. It finally came together and I’m really happy about that. I’m proud of that song in a lot of ways. I put a lot of work into it. From the beat, to the strings, to the piano, to the vocals, I put a lot of work in and the guys were really supportive. I had a lot if great suggestions and helpful criticism and that’s why the song came out really well for me. It’s easy for me to say that I love the song because I wrote so much of it. I just think it’s a really powerful song. Chester’s performance on it is one of his best.
Lyrically, it’s kind of just about getting away from the parts of you that you do not like. It goes into great deal about that type of situation. The things about our lyrics in general is that we spend so much time on them that there is no way I can tell you in conversation any better than the actual lyrics. If I sit here and think up something, that’s an off-the-top-of-my-head summary of what those lyrics are about whereas those lyrics took five years to do. So those lyrics are the most accurate depiction of what that’s about, not what I can tell you.
10 – “From The Inside”
“From The Inside” started with an idea that Phoenix had on guitar. For the musicians out there, our songs are all in 4-4 time. That goes for the songs that we’ve released in the past anyway. I’ve tried a few things in 3-4, 6-8 or 7-8 before. Phoenix wanted to do a song in 6-8 really badly and he put it together in a way that was obviously going to work for us. We heard it and we knew that it was going to work. He felt like there was something missing. What’s interesting is that Brad came in. We’re all really open to other people helping us with our parts, like re-writing parts and whatever. It’s not something that happens all the time but if somebody does have an idea, we’re open to listening. Phoenix said, “Here Brad. Take this guitar part and make this work because it’s almost there. It’s just not quite right.” Brad all of the sudden added this almost 4-4 style thing over top of the 6-8 verse which totally pulled the song together and makes it feel like a Linkin Park song. Finally, when it came to writing the lyrics, Chester had no problem throwing some stuff in the verses. I, on the other hand, had no reference point for 6-8 time signature rapping. There are probably only three or four songs I can think of where people have rapped in 3-4 or 6-8 time and I didn’t like how they did it. I’d heard them and I wanted to do my own thing. Again, as simple as it sounds on the record, you try out ten to two different things to realize what is working and what’s not. It takes a lot of time to get there. Needless to say, I’ve figured out what I like and don’t like to do over 6-8 time. Now, the next challenge is going to be 7-8. I don’t know, like a Tool or Mudvayne song. Lyrically, I am going to defer again to the person reading the lyrics because that song especially might be open to a little bit of interpretation.
11 – “Nobody’s Listening”
“Nobody’s Listening” is a more hip-hop style track. Beats and samples are the backbone of the song and of course, as always, we make our own stuff. When I use the word “sample”, I don’t mean that we’re lifting it off somebody else’s thing. We always create our own thing and loop that because to me it just feels more genuine. I can have more pride in a part that I wrote than a part that I lifted off of somebody else’s thing. We made this interesting thing off of a Japanese flute with different Japanese flute sounds. It was actually keyboard and some other breathy sounds that we used, some piano and some drum stuff but it was most keyboard. It’s like a real deal hip-hop track. The challenge in making that fit with the album was in the sonics and the vocals. At a certain point, we realized the song is like an island. It’s detached from the mainland, the rest of the album. We realized that our bridge would be a little bit of guitar played a little differently. Brad does this muted guitar part in the chorus. Chester and I kind of play off each other’s vocals. When we finished the vocals, we figured that it probably worked.
12 – “Session”
“Session”, is an instrumental track. I did all the beats. Joe did all the scratching. Brad and I manipulated Joe’s scratching on the computer. We used digital effects on it that basically make it impossible to play! It starts out as just this piano and this beat and then beat starts kind of disintegrate then the piano starts disintegrating then the guitar comes in. It’s just this nice evolution of digital simplicity to complete chaos and two and a half minutes later, you’ve been thrown off a cliff.
13 – “Numb”
The last song is called “Numb” which starts with a nice keyboard hook. I thinks it was a nice way to end the album because it kind of sums up the record. It’s very recognizable as our sound. It sounds like a Linkin Park song but it does have some mood that Meteora has if that makes any sense. Maybe I can say that better. When you hear it, you can easily recognize it as a Linkin Park song but it obviously belongs on Meteora. It obviously belongs in this new group of songs just because of the way the tone of the song is and the lyrics are. It’s kind of about those times when you’ve got no feeling left or you just don’t care. It’s almost like exhaustion or something which funny enough is how we felt after touring last year.