Mike at 1Live Studios, 2010
Mike was born Michael Kenji Shinoda on the 11th February 1977 to Muto and Donna Shinoda. A few years later had another son, Jason, whom Mike calls Jay, they were raised in Agoura Hills, California.
From very early on Mike developed his artistic skills, when the family went out for dinner and Mike would finish his meal early he would be given napkins to draw on to keep him quiet rather than disrupt the other diners. His mother also arranged piano lessons for Mike when he was three/four years old, he started with classical music for the first 12 or so years and then moved onto hip hop, learning loops and hooks. After the 12 years of tuition there was nothing else he could learn from his tutor and she advised him to go experiment on his own.
I started piano lessons when I was really young, around aged four. And I played piano for about 12 years, and then I got into keyboards and samplers, then guitar. I learned bass a little bit.I can play tunes on most string and wind instruments. I could probably strap instruments to each of my limbs and put on a show as a one man band!
During high school Mike’s father would take him on work camp trips in the summer to help out on Native American reservations, Mike has taken on this charitable ethic and also helped Brad and his family out by volunteering at soup kitchens over the holiday season.
Mike has mentioned that he felt awkward at school and found it difficult to fit in with his ethnicity being half Japanese, half American, he has joked that kids often thought he was Latino. Whilst junior school he met Brad Delson, the pair became friends and Brad taught Mike how to play the guitar. They went on to form a band named Xero, (later to be renamed Xero 818, Hybrid Theory and finally Linkin Park).
“When I discovered groups like U2, Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, and discovered similar themes of alienation, I realised that what I was really drawn to were the emotions in the lyrics. I think everyone goes through the same emotions, on different levels and through different experiences. The best lyrics are the ones that describe those emotions in ways you always wanted to say but could never find the words.”
After graduating high school Mike went to the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to study design and illustration, Joe Hahn also attended the college and joined Xero, Mikes roommate was Corey Sandelius who Mike remains close friends with. Despite the stresses of having to take his finals the same weekend as Hybrid Theory were performing a showcase for 6 record labels, Mike graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in Design and Illustration, he was the youngest in his class to graduate aged 21.
Mike got a job as a graphic designer straight out of college and thought he was going design CD covers for a living. In 1997 he designed the cover for Styles of Beyonds 2000 Fold album and he also produced the track Marco Polo for the band.
As Mike worked as a graphic designer the band continue to write and record music, their signer Mark Wakefield left and the band found Chester Bennington to replace him, the band was renamed Hybrid Theory, then eventually the Hybrid Theory EP was released in May 1999, again Mike did the cover art for the EP. After another name change to Linkin Park and with the help of Jeff Blue, Warner Bros finally offered them a recording contract (after previously passing on the band three times).
Mike with Hybrid Theory award plaque
Hybrid Theory was released in October of 2000, Mike did the artwork for this album also, the solider has since become a favourite for fans to get tattooed on them. The band toured extensively in support of Hybrid Theory, in 2001 they won a Grammy for Hard Rock Performance for Crawling, and so Mike accomplished a goal he had set within the band. Hybrid Theory went on to be the biggest selling album of 2001.
In 2002 Mike and Joe wrote and performed the single It’s goin’ down with the X-Ecutioners, and Mike produced the single. Mike also produced his first Linkin Park album, Reanimation, and he also did the artwork cover. This album also allowed Mike to work with his friends such as Cheapshot, and people he had met during the Hybrid Theory touring cycle, such as Aaron Lewis.
Mike on the Summer Sanitarium tour in support of Meteora
The second Linkin Park album Meteora was released in March 2003 and again the band toured extensively.
On May 10th 2003 Mike married long time girlfriend, Anna who is now a children’s author (website).
In 2004, Mike reinterpreted Depeche Mode’s single Enjoy The Silence, for their remix album entitled Remixes 81-04 and it was chosen to be released as a single in October. The following month Linkin Park teamed up with Jay Z to do a mash up album for MTV and a small show. Mike was honoured to be working with Jay Z as he was a huge fan of his work. Mike also produced, mixed and engineered the EP. The single from the EP, Numb/Encore went on to win Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2006 Grammy Awards, the band also performed the song with Jay Z and were also joined by Paul McCartney, and The Beatle’s song Yesterday was also incorporated into the mash up.
During this year Mike also founded the Michael K. Shinoda Endowed Scholarship, offering scholarships for Art College Centre of Design from the proceeds of his artwork, Mike has also donated to the Japanese American Museum.
Fort Minor Promo
After the touring cycle had finished, the band decided to take a break, Mike took this time to experiment on a hip hop side project, Fort Minor. The album gave him the opportunity for him to work with his friends, including Styles Of Beyond, Common, and Jonah Matranga. He released a Fort Minor mixtape entitled Fort Minor: We Major, the album The Rising Tied was released in November 2005. Mike enlisted Jay Z as executive producer and Brad gave advice on the album track list too; but Mike produced and mixed the album himself, as well as performing almost every instrument on it and painting the album cover.
“Jay-Z is the executive producer, but he didn’t write anything. He helped me pick the songs and mould the direction of the album. Black Thought, Common, John Legend, Styles of Beyond, Holly Brook, Kenna, Jonah Matranga, Mr. Hahn, and Eric Bobo are some of the people on the actual album. I limited the guests to people I already knew. I think the only person I cold-called about the project was John Legend, simply because I really like his voice. I figure I could have probably gotten bigger names on the record, but I wanted to do the album with friends instead.”
-Mike, Fixins interview, 2005.
The album was well received by critics and fans and was supported by a short tour, including supporting 50 Cent in Malaysia. The album, in particular the themes in the lyrics are much more personal to Mike, Where’d You Go was written for his wife, and considers what his family goes through whilst he is away on tour for great amounts of time. During interviews regarding Fort Minor Mike revealed that his family were held in internment camps during world war II, the song deals with the tension around that time through the character Kenji who is interned into a camp, and it is Mikes father and aunty who can be heard on the track who were both interned.
“My family was interned and I learned that some of my relatives were taken to the Santa Anita racetrack to live in horse stalls before they were taken to the camp” in California . “It was the story of your typical Japanese-American family during that time, but a lot of people don’t know about it. I had a hard time getting the story out of my family because they don’t like to talk about it. But when I heard it, I knew I had to put that story out there.”
Mike also wrote and produced the score for the 2005 VMAs with Lil’ Jon,
“The challenge was that they needed variety. I did 10 tracks, a couple of them a lot of Linkin Park fans will recognise the sound, while others are different, all the way down to some really stripped-down hip-hop sounds. And within each piece, there are different parts.”
The concept of the Fort Minor artwork was around 10 pieces of art including the album cover, Mike displayed the art at his first art gallery opening held at Gallery 1988, the show entitled Diamonds Spades Hearts Clubs featured a mixture of items including animals, robots and incorportaing diamond, heart, spade and club icons throughout the pieces. Through Mike’s website an art book was sold as well as skatedecks, tshirts and a few replica art pieces.
In May 2007 the third Linkin Park album, Minutes to Midnight was released, this album has less of Mike’s vocals than previous albums but Mike had still worked on it as much as the previous albums, citing that when he wrote stuff, they ended up being singing parts, and he got a co-producer credit alongside Rick Rubin.
Linkin Park teamed up with Busta Rhymes on the single We Made it, with Mike having his own verse and Chester singing the chorus.
Mike at the Glorious Excess (Dies) opening
As the band toured the world in support of Minutes to Midnight, Mike also started work on another art show, entitled Glorious Excess, he released a film Sirens and Silence via www.mikeshinoda.com, put together from footage he had filmed himself and other foootage he aquired. The art show was split in two parts (Born) and (Dies) and deals with celebrity excess.
(Born) opened at the Japanese American National Museum on July 11, 2008; and (Dies) opened August 29, 2009. The shows saw a celebrity skeleton character at the height of his fame as he idulges in his celebrity status and his demise.
Mike and Mark Wakefield collaborated again in 2008 as they wrote, performed and made the video for Barack Your World under the band name White Pegacorn, the track shows their support for Barack Obama in the presidential race. They also made a video for the song using rock star puppets.
In early 2009 Anna and Mike had their first child, Otis Shinoda.
In June 2009, the Rob Drydek film Street Dreams opened which Mike worked on the score for.
Mike receiving his doctorate
Also Mike was asked to speak at the graduation ceremony at the Art Center College of Design, he was also awarded an honorary degree, a Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Most of 2010 was spent on working on the next Linkin Park album, Linkin Park released a game for iPod, iPhone and iPad early in the year, on which Mike worked a lot on the characters in the game and the 8bit versions of Linkin Park songs that were used as the soundtrack to the game.
Mike also produced and sang on a Cypress Hill song, Carry Me Away which features on their album Rise Up. In addition to this he also contributed a chapter to the book On Gratitude, which is a collection of chapters written by celebrities on the theme of gratitude.
Mike receiving his award at the East West Players 44th Anniversary Visionary Awards
In 2010 Mike was also honored at the East West Players 44th Anniversary Visionary Awards for his work in the arts and performing arts.
“I don’t concentrate on raising awareness of Asian Americans, it’s just what I do, it’s simply me”
- Mike at the East West Players 44th Anniversary Visionary Awards
The fourth Linkin Park album, A Thousand Suns was released on the 14th September 2010, and again the band toured the album worldwide.
In December Mike took part in an art show celebrating 50 years of Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, his piece was entitled ‘Hello Vishnu’. Mike also designed a vinyl toy for the MINDStyles Madhatter project to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Alice In Wonderland, the model of Alice and the White Rabbit was entitled ‘Alice’ and was sculpted by Dave Cortes from Inu Studios, the design was reminiscent of his Oykadon piece featured in his Glorious Excess (Dies) art show.
Mike with T shirts designed for Japan relief, 2011
In March 2011, Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami, in response Music For Relief released Download To Donate Japan, including the new Linkin Park track, Issho Ni. Mike also designed two t-shirts to be sold with the proceeds going to Music For Relief, one with an origami butterfly, representing rebirth, the other with a Not Alone/Japan flag logo. Mike also appeared on local news stations KTLA, KNBC, and CNN to promote Music For Relief’s efforts towards Japan aid.
Mike took part in the Tiny Trifecta art show in April, with a piece entitled ‘Overnight’, sized 4′x6′ and was made completely out of paint- no canvas. All the pieces from Tiny Trifecta were sold for $100, including Mike’s.
In May, Mike along with Rob Bourdon also appeared at the PTTOW! Youth Media Summit, to talk about youth media and marketing, other guests included musicians, sports personalities and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.