Broken Records Magazine was lucky enough to have Sal Spurge, in addition to other journalists from various publications, on a conference call with Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Brandon Boyd of Incubus. The pair spoke for about an hour and provided in depth answers for everyone’s questions, and discussed the Honda Civic Tour, which will be the first tour these music legends have done together. The following is the highlights of the interview.
Chester Bennington: I think the most special thing about this tour is the fact that you have two headlining bands singing together on one bill, which typically can be kind of hard to do because usually when you’re in a position to headline a tour of this kind, you know, there’s only room for one headlining band usually. So the fact that Incubus gets to come out and perform a full headlining set and Soul Production and Linkin Park gets to come out and perform our full headlining set with personal production and everything is kind of special.
Brandon Boyd: I just think it’s a good moment and a great opportunity to have kind of just a, you know, two big giant rock and roll bands sharing a stage, I just think that’s going to be better than either of us would do in our own show. So it’s almost like a mini-festival, which is amazing. I think the listeners and friends and fans and family who came out to those shows had a really great experience, too. So I know that we as a band are really looking forward to doing it again this year. And personally, this will be the end of our touring cycle for our newest record, and so we’re looking forward to just making some music and I’m very much looking forward to seeing Linkin Park with my own eyes for the first time since… over 10 years ago.
You guys are committed to green energy on the Honda Civic tour. Do either of you wear your political affiliations on your sleeve, especially in this pivotal presidential election year?
Chester Bennington: Well, I know that within Linkin Park I’ve honestly never heard anyone talk about who they want to vote for. So we definitely don’t really kind of brag about who we’re going to vote for, but we do talk about the things that are important to us. And the things that are very important to us at this point are really making sure that our tours are as environmentally friendly as possible, and also giving back to our local community as well as the world community that has been so good to us. So those are the things that matter to us.
And in terms of the green movement and other things, if we can counterbalance some things or offset some things that we’re doing just naturally through the way that we do things on a daily basis, if we can make that more efficient and less wasteful, then we can provide families with renewable energy sources, so they don’t have to burn garbage, they don’t have to burn dung. Those things actually go a really long way in terms of helping with the recovery process of a natural disaster. So if we can encourage people to use the solar-powered light-bulbs, for example, that we’re giving out, via Power the World, instead of chopping down trees, when [a] hurricane does hit, it’s amazing how roots hold the soil together. [laughs] If we, you know, could help people have clean water and have access to renewable energy sources then they can focus on agriculture and they can focus on getting jobs and stuff and making money as opposed to hunting down water. Or moving a village because it’s been destroyed and there’s mudslides and all sorts of stuff happening. So hopefully that answers your question.
Brandon Boyd: Chester makes a lot of wonderful points, you know, and, I think that any type of meaningful movement and/or meaningful change that’s going to occur if you were to measure it based on who people were voting for and/or who even gets elected, it’s like watching water boil. It’s infuriating to try and hang anything worthwhile or legitimate upon that process even though it is a valuable process and an essential one. My point is, I truly believe that most of the meaningful change if not all, is going to come from the ground. And I think it’s wonderful that Linkin Park has the Music for Relief Foundation, and is able to make waves and make moves on the ground there. We’ve been trying very hard and very joyfully with the Make Yourself Foundation for many years to do the same thing, both with environmental causes, but also with humanitarian efforts, to inspire people as opposed to, hang our hat on a politician or, you know, stuff like that. It’s a, like I said it’s an infuriating, fascinating but infuriating process. So I think that we’re just in a very blessed position to be able to have even, you know, a remote influence on the ground here. I think that’s where the most meaningful change is coming from.
Can you guys talk about why you wanted to team up for this tour, what you hope having Linkin Park fans seeing Incubus and having Incubus fans seeing Linkin Park, what that can kind of do for your own fans?
Brandon Boyd: I personally think it’s an occasion that’s kind of long overdue. We have a lot of mutual listeners, of our bands, and I think that it’s one of those things that once the idea was floated, and we really kind of caught onto it, that it seemed like, ‘Why haven’t we done this yet?,’ type of a thing. Linkin Park has a considerably larger reach than Incubus has had, and I think it’s going to be wonderful for us as a band to play in front of more people. [laughs] So we definitely appreciate the opportunity there. But we’ve never done something like this before. So as far as the feedback is concerned from people around the world-—Incubus has been on tour for the past year—once this tour was announced it’s been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. So I’m really excited for it to get started.
Chester Bennington: Typically I’ve been pretty, even in my loosest form, I’ve been involved in figuring out who we tour with for a long time. And so, I swear, it feels like I’ve probably tried to figure out a way to get Linkin Park and Incubus on the road together at least once per cycle since probably Meteora. It just goes to show how difficult it can be to actually get two headlining groups together. Kind of going back to that first question, you know, it was surprising to me that we haven’t actually done more touring with Incubus than we have in the last 15 years. Fourteen years. So for the fact that like we do share such a big, I think, group of fans that kind of listen to both bands, I still feel like there’s a large number of people that, are Incubus fans that never really got into Linkin Park, or kind of vice-versa. But I think that there’s a common interest there. And so I feel like that’s one of the things that’s been so positive, overwhelmingly positive, about everyone’s response to our bands going on tour together is that I think it gives both of our fans something that they’ve wanted for a long time, which is to see Incubus and go see Linkin Park, because I think they’ve had to choose a lot of times on which band they’re going to go see because we’ve both been on tour. Is it accurate that you have an affinity for open-wheel racing and can you maybe tell me about your impressions of the 500-mile race?
Brandon first, you mentioned as this being the end of the Incubus cycle. What’s next? You made us wait awhile for this last album. What are you guys planning?
Brandon Boyd: Ummm… as far as that’s concerned, we have no plans, to tell you the truth at the moment. We are, for the first time since 1996, free agents again. We’re without a record label. So what we’re kind of doing is trying to get our bearings as to what we should do next, just as a band but also as a band that is kind of off in new territory again. So I have been tinkering around potentially with a second solo record. That’s probably the most likely scenario. But as far as Incubus right now, we’ll probably take another break. Hopefully it won’t be as long. But what we like to do is arrive with the best of intentions and try and create music from a sense of urgency as well as purity and not necessarily based on a schedule. I know that that can be a little bit frustrating for our listeners and stuff. But I think that we’ll make better music as a result. So the plan is to have no plan.
Has there been discussion about what you might do in terms of a new deal or Incubus records label or anything?
Brandon Boyd: Right. We definitely got a taste of what it’s going to be like without a record label on this latest album cycle with, If Not Now, When? Though we were still signed to Epic Records there was a lot of sort of changing of the guards going on with LA Reid being the new president and he wasn’t quite there yet, even though he was technically the guy on the TV show and there was a real lack of direction and leadership when we kind of needed it the most. [laughs] So it was hard and it was frustrating but it was also very telling for us and perhaps educational. Because what we were forced to do was we were forced into ingenuity. And so we came up with this idea to set up shop in this art gallery in Los Angeles and do the Incubus HQ and fly listeners in from different corners of the world and do these live broadcasts on the Internet. And so we started getting these ideas about subscription-based live concerts online and it ended up being a really scary and stressful project, but the fruits of it are still kind of revealing themselves. We have this HQ box set that we’re putting out and the DVD set comes out I think August 14. So I’m personally very excited about being in complete control, of being able to be a total control freak. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t sign with another record label at some point but it would definitely have to be very, very specific. [laughs] Not get into just a good old-fashioned record deal again, if they even exist. So…
Chester, as you referenced earlier too, this is the very beginning of the ‘Living Things’ cycle, what’s going to happen on the horizon after the Honda Civic tour, and, you guys do have a habit of the next album tends to start when you’re on the road so I’m wondering if that process has started already, too.
Chester Bennington: Usually in the beginning of the touring cycle we kind of focus on what we’re going to be doing with the new music. You know, touring at this point, for us, is pretty awesome because, you know at the same time it works against you to a certain degree. Because I realized the other day, I was thinking about it, why is it more difficult to get, casual fans into new music? I think it’s because when we started touring it was just Hybrid Theory and Hybrid Theory was like 36 minutes long. So basically you know when you’re headlining a tour, we started out opening shows which was great because we played for 15 minutes and then leave, 25 minutes and leave. So when we got to the point where people fell in love with what we were doing and were listening to us and we were the headlining band, we were forced to play our entire record, like, every single night. And so people were I think falling in love with the record in a different way.
Even with Meteora, like, um, once we had that record it was like, OK, we basically have enough music to fill a proper headlining set. And so we’ve essentially played both records all the way through for our entire first five years, six years of touring. And so once you get to that point where you have a bunch of songs that people have heard on the radio, and it becomes more, you know, less about playing everything you have and more about playing the songs that people are familiar with.
Adding in new material becomes something that is a little bit more difficult for us over the last few records because most of the songs that are really great are like, mid-tempo songs. And Linkin Park isn’t the band that you go to see, you know, chairs on the floor in the arena. That’s, no one wants to come to a Linkin Park show and stand there and look at the band and listen to beautiful music. People want that but they also want to be kicked in the face and they want to, you know, run into each other and they want to jump up and down and sing and have a really great, high-energy time. And so being able to incorporate a lot of new material into our set just felt like it was bringing too much of the energy down. So I think what we’re doing on this tour is like with the new record, the new record has so much energy that we feel like we could add a bunch of new music to the set and people will be stoked about it. Right now at this point we’re focused on making sure the new material is up to speed and that we’re familiar with it enough to go and play it live. And then at that point, you know, once that kind of calms down that’s usually when the creative process starts to kick in. Because now we’re not creating a show and we’re working on learning new music. Because that’s something we don’t do, we don’t sit and jam, we don’t hang out as a band and write music together. That’s just not what we do. So a lot of our connection time and what you would think would be stereotypical band moment time really comes from when we’re learning these new songs and rehearsing and going out and playing these new songs as a set for the first time.
But I think of both bands as new bands and as you’ve both pointed out, you’ve been around for more than a decade, 14-15 years, and obviously the whole environment in the late 90s when CDs were setting record sales and people were touring and there was tour support, versus today with the economy and the Internet and everything else is a completely different thing. How have you navigated it?
Brandon Boyd: That’s a really interesting notion actually. It’s something that I talk about with friends and people in different industries and everything, but it’s been really interesting to be, I’m sure it’s been interesting from Linkin Park’s perspective as well, because they as well were kind of, Linkin Park and Incubus were two of the very few bands who kind of like got a gust of wind out of the old paradigm of the music industry. So it’s been frightening to watch something that you for a very brief moment almost learned to rely on, because we learned the ins and outs of how the industry worked, you know you poured your heart out into making an album and then the label puts the record out and you go out on tour in support of the album, and we even started doing it in the van and trailer. We’d make a record and get in the van with our gear and the trailer and we’d drive ourselves around the country and sell albums and T-shirts out of the back of the trailer. That was sort of our education and then once things started going really well, thankfully, we got a sense of what it looks like when all of the, when the engine is nicely greased and things are working the way they’re supposed to. And then it’s like the millennium turns and the technology changed. And all of that became old. It became an antiquated model. And it was frightening at first but I actually have come to appreciate it. I’m going to actually use the pun, a living thing. It’s a living system.
Our technologies are a living system just like we are and our communities as human beings, and for us to expect them to remain constant is really just quite foolish. I mean anybody that’s going to come to rely on the way that our music consumption is looking now is going to have the same hard lesson in less time than you think. I think that the technology is going to shift probably sooner than any of us really realize. And that’s a really cool thing, because it keeps everyone on their toes. It levels the playing field, too. It’s allowing for a really wonderful democratization of the music writing process and the music presenting and performing process. So what it’s doing is it’s making us try harder and it’s making us expect the best of ourselves and the people that we work with. You know, do more with less.
As you each grow older and wiser, how do you both stay loyal to and inspired to produce the style of music on both the record and in concert that your most loyal and long-term fans both love and expect?
Chester Bennington: I kind of wonder, you know people ask me questions like, you see the Rolling Stones or guys who have been doing this for 50 years, do you see yourself doing this at their age? And in my mind I know that however long I live until the day I die I’m probably going to feel mentally immature. And physically old. [Laughter] But my brain’s not going to be calculating, “Oh, I’m 70 years old.” It’s like, “What do you mean I’m almost done? Aagh! I just got started.” And so I think that it will become a bit more difficult for me to perform a few songs on a roster that I did so easily through my twenties and thirties. You know? When I’m 70 I don’t know if I’ll be, screaming “Victimized” at anybody. Hopefully that will be the case, but I doubt it. That’s one of the things that’s so interesting about our business anyways. None of us are guaranteed that anyone can come to one of our shows or care about the last record we put out. I personally throughout my own career, every record that we go into, I look at like, this is our very first album and this is the best representation of what we are. And either people are going to love it or they’re going to hate it. Or not care. And so you know, that’s what happens. We take the creative gamble and we write music that we feel passionate about and that we feel is important.
Brandon Boyd: You made me think of something though when you were saying like, will you be screaming some of your most demanding lyrics when you’re 70. You can’t really imagine yourself doing that. I agree with you, we have so many songs that we wrote when we were in our young twenties. Some of them we wrote when we were teenagers and we still perform some of them. It occurs to me now at 36, damn, what was I thinking? This is hard! I have to really concentrate and sit still in order to do it. Two things occur to me. One was that somehow the guys in the Stones still look really cool doing it. And I think that really is a testament to number one, their talent, as well as their tenacity. If you write good songs and if you write songs that have a potentially timeless quality, yeah I think that you’ll be able to sing them long into your sunset years. I think that’s really one of our intentions as a band. I know for me as a lyricist and as a singer, my deepest intention beyond just trying to express myself with a sense of purity is to hopefully achieve a sense of timelessness. You want to touch on subjects that are potentially universal. And that don’t really need to be tied to the 90s. Or the 2000s. Or the 2030s. You want to essentially be able to make music that will essentially transcend time. The other thing that occurred to me when you said that, Chester, and imagining, knowing myself from experience as well, there are certain songs that get harder as you get older.
So how does the quality of your life as you grow older still, you know, how do you connect that to the style of music that is as you just both sort of admitted, is very rooted in a much younger Chester and Brandon?
Brandon Boyd: Well you know, actually, it’s been a real struggle, challenge, I don’t know what the right exact word is. But being so identified with a particular style and a particular time, I know that there are certain parts of the world where certain journalism music reviewers will literally have not looked beyond Incubus’s very first album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., which we wrote and recorded when we were just freshly out of high school. And it came out in 1997, and we toured a lot on that record, we toured for a little over two years. And we were on tour with bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit and we ended up doing a lot of touring, which was amazing, with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath and Pantera and all these great tours but what’s wild to me is that it’s been that long and there are still these holdouts that are like so, like, ‘How’s it going, being a nu-metal band?’ And that’s been a real challenge, not to make music that has transcended a genre, because I do believe that we’ve accomplished that and we continue to accomplish that, if I could be so bold, but to sort of shift people’s perceptions and get people to take a second glance at an established artist. That’s really the most challenging thing. Once people feel like they have you categorized on the… they’ve put the milk on the milk shelf in the refrigerator, it’s almost like it can never live anywhere else in the refrigerator.
I personally am interested in music. I’m not interested in making a kind of music. And I think that’s why Incubus records have changed sometimes dramatically over the years. Our newest record, If Not Now, When? is really a good example of that. It’s different, it’s more different than any of our records than we’ve ever done before. And I personally am really inspired by that. I’m proud of that. I want to make music that continues to evolve and challenge people and surprise people. But getting people to let go of a predetermined notion of what you are and what you’re supposed to be is really probably the largest challenge. What I’ve had to do is really let go of perceptions altogether, and just make music. Because it’s really impossible.
Chester Bennington: I agree with Brandon. I think for us, we’ve kind of had the advantage to cross a bunch of different styles of music and bring them together, and we worked very hard from Minutes to Midnight on to change what we felt was the perception of what Linkin Park is. And by people outside of the band. I think that Incubus and Linkin Park share a lot of similarities in terms of when we became popular. In a time when selling tons of records was what people did, and the Internet wasn’t really a strong force in the world. And then transitioning into a time where no one’s buying records. And yet people are spending more money on music base than any time before. So I think that going through all that and transitioning and getting older and having all these experiences definitely shapes the way you think about how you do business. But the things that inspire are all the same kind of things that inspired me when I was 15. I think that age brings wisdom and age brings experience. But the things that inspire me are the same, those are the moments that you kind of catch in your web as you go through life. You kind of grab the tastier parts of life and we get to write songs about them, we get to write music about those experiences and then go perform them for people just as often.
On the tour will you be playing in any of each others sets? Will there be any guest appearances by either of you or any members of the band? Or do you have anything like that planned?
Brandon Boyd: At the moment there’s nothing planned in the traditional sense but it really only takes a couple of days of making music and being on tour with new friends to become inspired by each other and each others mutual distinctions and idiosyncrasies and stuff and then for that desire to share a little moments to arise so I have a sneaking suspicion that some of us will be sneaking onstage in each others sets and I hope that you guys are cool with that. [Laughing] We have a tendency to sneak onstage with our friends’ events once in awhile.
With ['Living Things'] debuting at No. 1 it actually set a record for you guys having more No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 than any other band this century. So, I’m just wondering from a personal standpoint and given the ever-changing landscape of music throughout your career, what does a milestone like that mean to you personally?
Chester Bennington: It’s cool, you know. It’s something that I never would have thought of, that statistic being one that’s attached to Linkin Park. I’ve always felt that we just made the best record that we could make at the time. So for people, for our fans, it’s really more of a testament to our fans than to us. It really is a testament to how enthusiastic our fan base is about what we do in the studio. And I think that the true test of what we’ve done is good or not is obviously how well the songs hold up over time. But to hit like a No. 1 is really something you just kind of hope for when you’re making a record. You know, that people respond to it well. It’s not really a goal that we set out for as a band. I think that we kind of look at a lot of other things, being forced into a different style as a business. I think we pay attention to so much stuff that’s going on, we kind of forget about goals like reaching No. 1 on the charts. You’re focused more on putting the live show together and where you’re going to be in six months, which videos to make and which ones not to make and all that good stuff. It was kind of a cool little moment for us to take a break and go ‘Oh, hey, this is what all our hard work is doing.’ There’s a lot of bands nowadays who are switching members, losing members. But throughout the years you guys have essentially kept the core members. So how do you all stand each other after such a long time, because it’s got to be kind of tough.
Brandon Boyd: Being in a band is hard. You are essentially traveling in very small steel tubes, confined steel tubes with family members for extended periods of time. Kind of like inhuman periods of time. You love your mom, but how much flight time do you want to spend with her? You know, how long do you want to sit in the car with your dad and your mom and your brothers, you know what I mean? There’s that, but there’s also the understanding that it’s family, and it’s very much a familial thing. That even though there are times when they hurt your feelings or they might get on your nerves, essentially the majority of your experience with them is rooted in love. So as long as we can hold on to that sort of transcendent notion, everything usually is OK. And it’s OK to be angry at your family members sometime, and it’s OK for them to get on your nerves. The best thing to do, I think, is just to remember who you are. And understand the difference between a need to express frustrations and the difference between that and potentially your own ego, and little moments when your ego flares up for usually ridiculous reasons. Which usually, I know for men, I speak for myself and for the guys in my band, them being my family, most of the times we ever have problems are when someone has under-slept or underfed. So as long as we have enough sleep and enough to eat, everyone’s usually hunky-dory. And that’s the honest-to-God truth. Just get enough food and enough to eat, or enough sleep, and you’ll be fine. What do you think, Chester?
Chester Bennington: We all have similar aspects of our personality that we share with each other. We all are very driven. We all like to work really hard. We all like to do whatever it takes and be involved in every aspect of what we do. But it takes all of us. And I think that when we learned very early on, like there’s a few guys in the studio working on every song, so it’s a whole record, when you look at the business side of things, or you look at like the marketing side of things, the artistic side of things, and what each member brings collectively to the whole, is worth far more than each of us is as an individual.
I think that that’s something we learned about our band very early. It’s not just about one guy or two guys or whatever, three guys. It’s about all six of us. And so, having six creative people who are totally different personality-wise around each other all the time, we have to be very realistic about what we expect from each other. And it is a family thing. And once you cross that line of being a friend and then it turns into, ‘Well, now we’re family,’ I mean, life gets real, really fast. You know? I mean you’re now exposing yourself. I mean there’s the dating phase, which is like, ‘Oh, you’re so awesome,’ and everybody is so great, and then when you move in together it’s like, ‘Oh shit. Who am I actually, like, getting myself involved with?’ You know, it’s like you get to see all the dirty parts and you get to be around all the unsavory things about each others personalities and so we just basically treat each other with respect. We give each other the space that we need. And I think that being in my band is an example of the most functional relationship I’ve ever had in my life. But I’ve been in band scenarios where it’s just chaos. There’s no leadership and there’s too much ego and there’s too much pride and there’s too much opinion. All those things are very important, so I think what makes it work for my band, for Linkin Park is that, you know, we focus on things that are important for the band. And we don’t really focus on what’s the most important thing for me. It’s really about what’s the most important thing for us. And I think that’s something that we carry not only in our professional world but we try to carry into our personal lives as well. We share both of those things together.
You guys are known for your live performances, and the lights and the huge stage productions, what can fans expect from the Honda Civic tour? Is it going to be kind of that large production effect that we’re used to from you guys?
Chester Bennington: Every tour is kind of different. Even throughout our world tour, the whole touring cycle for the entire album, the tour kind of changes, production-wise. It depends on where it’s at. The productions in the U.S. are typically our biggest because we can afford to have them. It’s hard to shift really big productions all over the world so the show in Australia is probably going to be pretty stripped-down. But at the same time, I think that what we try to do is incorporate what we’re doing at the most present moment into our live set. So I’m really interested in seeing, I haven’t even seen it personally yet, but I’m interested in seeing what our team at Ghost Town has put together for our show this summer. I think it’s going to be really beautiful. So I’m excited about that.
Brandon Boyd: I think it’ll be, I’m excited to see what Linkin Park does as well. I’ve seen the videos of their full-scale production and it looks pretty amazing. So I think it’s going to be exciting. I know our production is very much in the same capacity. In the States we are able to have a full-scale production because we can just afford to it, and when we travel overseas, depending on how far it is, logistically how far it is, you’ll see different variants of the production. But we always try and bring as exciting and big of a show as we can given the circumstances. But on the Honda Civic tour you’re going to see, I know from the Incubus point of view it’s going to be an amalgamation of three or four different productions and ideas that we’ve been utilizing throughout this touring cycle. It’s going to be like kind of the best of all worlds that people have seen thus far.
Chester, to jump back a little bit and drill down into the songs on the new album, you’d mentioned “Victimized,” which is a wonderful non-mid-tempo song. I think you said it best, the song makes you feel kicked in the face. What was the inspiration behind the songwriting with this song?
Chester Bennington: Well, each song is so different. One of us could be inspired by the sound of a popping engine of a car that goes by. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome,’ and you try to create that sound in the studio. And all of a sudden that creates a beat, and next thing you know Mike is rapping over it, and the melody popped in my head. Creativity in the studio is such a weird substance. It’s a weird sticky thing that grows when it feels like it. And so, it’s very cool when it happens. And this is one of these songs that Mike came in with this kick-ass beat and I loved it. The way it felt,z really heavy, it felt in your face, it felt like metal but it didn’t feel predictable. It was so cool. And we looked at each other and we know exactly what the song needs. And so I think I started yelling something like ‘F***’ or something over it, and we were sort of laughing about how funny it would be if that was like the chorus, and then I think it was Mike or maybe Brad, but someone in the band was like, ‘Just pick like one word, that could be like one really good word,’ and I think someone threw out ‘victimized’ and I was like, ‘That’s great.’ And I just ran in the studio and just kind of screamed ‘victimized’ over it. And then kind of the most obvious line to come after screaming victimized is ‘never again.’ And then that was it. It was pretty much that simple. I mean that song kind of was done at that point in terms of what I needed to contribute to the song. And I think the verses are some of Mike’s best. I think the rapping on this record for Mike is the best that he’s ever done. I mean, there’s a swagger to his whole vibe and a confidence that I don’t think I’ve seen from him before. So I think that also adds to the heaviness of the song, too, the vibe that Mike is sending out. And so, but it’s a pretty complex track, and I really like it, it’s one of my favorites.