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For Linkin Park, Sales Outweigh Hype

Last summer, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington suffered sudden stomach and back pains that sent him to the hospital and put his band's tour on hold. Was it an anxiety .attack? A tropical virus? Mad cow disease?

"They have no idea -- a total mystery," says Bennington, speaking by phone from his home in Redondo Beach, Calif. Now that he's fully recovered, he can even joke about it: "They're naming it Chester's Disease."

Linkin Park has survived worse. The band was initially rejected by nearly every label in the industry, including Warner Bros., before releasing its hit debut, "Hybrid Theory," in 2000. During the following year's Ozzfest tour, Bennington was bitten by a spider and became semi-delusional -- but the band refused to stop touring.

Critics have bitten the band, too: Before its latest album, "Meteora" (Warner Bros.), was released last year, many predicted the death of rap-metal, the genre that Linkin Park helped pioneer. As it happened, "Meteora" sold 3.4 million copies, becoming the year's third-best-selling album.

"There's stuff people rave about, that's on the cover of every magazine -- who's the coolest, who's dating who -- but they're not selling any records," says Bennington. "And I think that speaks volumes about the rock-and- roll scene." By contrast, "hip-hop is .actually something innovative that's crossing over to rock-and-roll stations. I'd love to hear one of our songs cross over to an urban station."

Meanwhile, Linkin Park is getting recognition from other parts of the music industry: In 2001, the band won a Grammy for best rock performance for "Crawling," a track from "Hybrid Theory." This year, the song "Session" was nominated for another, albeit more obscure Grammy: best rock .instrumental performance.

"I have mixed feelings about it," .Bennington says. The band is certainly proud of the track, which was used to open its live shows last year. At the same time, Bennington admits he had hoped the song "Breaking the Habit" -- an uncharacteristically slow-paced, thoughtful number -- would be .nominated.
Though Bennington fronts one of rock's most aggressive and hard-hitting bands, he has a reputation for being mild-mannered and career- oriented. In some ways, the 26- year-old singer almost sounds like an old man: He's married, has a son and suffers from a hernia. By his own admission, Bennington would rather work on new songs than go on an after-concert bender.

Maybe that's the reason Linkin Park is teaming up on this tour with Christian rockers P.O.D.
"We probably party about the same," Bennington says, laughing. "We like to have a good time and kick back with a few beers once in a while. It's not part of what we sell ourselves as, a crazy party band. We leave that up to the other 99.9 percent of bands out there."

Newsday - January 15, 2004



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