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Hard work, patience pay off for Linkin Park

Which is the hardest working new band in rock 'n' roll? That would have to be Linkin Park, the hip-hop/metal sextet from Southern California whose recently launched arena tour with P.O.D., Hoobastank and Story of the Year comes to The Palace on Tuesday.

LP has sold more than 8 million records since the release of its first CD, "Hybrid Theory," the best-selling CD of 2000. Since then, the group has released a live DVD, "Frat Party at the Pankake Festival," an ambitious remix version of "Hybrid Theory" called "Reanimation," a second studio album, last year's "Meteora" and "Live in Texas," a live DVD/CD combo culled from the band's Lone Star State performances opening for Metallica's "Summer Sanitarium" tour last year. Whew!

Bassist Phoenix said at one point the band played 320 concerts in 365 days and still found time to work on songs for "Meteora" on a tour bus equipped with recording gear.

"We write slowly and we wanted to get as much time as possible to do the (Meteora') album," he said in a recent interview before the launch of the group's new tour. It took about six months to gather enough rudimentary ideas for a new album.

"It took another year to finish writing and recording. In all, it took us about 18 months of working on it, but in retrospect, it worked out great," Phoenix, a classically trained violinist, noted. "A lot of bands come off the road and have a two- to three-month period to write an album. Some bands can pull it off. That's just how they work, which is great.

"But we really felt that the first six months we wrote a crap second album and kind of trashed it, but we had to have some bad stuff coming before we could find some stuff we could use."

Their hard work, and patience, have paid off. The road has been littered recently with hot-selling young bands that suddenly go cold (Limp Bizkit, Alien Ant Farm), but the men of Linkin Park - singer Chester Bennington, guitarist Brad Delson, DJ Joe Hahn, MC Mike Shinoda (the band's resident visual artist), drummer Rob Bourdon and Phoenix - seem determined and destined to stay on top of their game for some time.

Phoenix admits that the sudden success of "Hybrid Theory," with its blustery blend of metal and rap, caught everyone in the band off guard.

"It was ridiculous. It was crazy. From the first week Hybrid' came out, it continued to surprise us," he said, recalling that the band members were hoping to sell a few thousand copies the week it debuted. "It did 46,000 units, which just completely floored us," said the bassist, who had left to honor a commitment with a punk band called the Snacks shortly before the CD was recorded and rejoined in time for 2002's "Reanimation," on which he played cello and violin.

The L.A. band's mix of rap and metal evolved quickly during the 18 months Phoenix was out of the band. He was struck by how much more sophisticated the band's sound had become in his absence.

"When we started writing the first or second year in college, when we were 18 or 19, we were just combining the different styles we liked," he remembered. "By the time I came back, there was a lot of growth and development, and they were making that transition more seamless, bridging the different styles more smoothly."

"Meteora" still was selling strong when "Live in Texas" (Warner Bros.) was released, but Phoenix said the band wasn't concerned about competing with itself. "Our concern, more than competing with ourselves, is we don't want to become common, we don't want to oversaturate with MTV and all these other vehicles to get your name out there," he said.

One thing they don't want to do is burn out, but Phoenix is confident the group has the right attitude and work ethic to survive in a here-today, gone-tomorrow music world.

"One thing that's good for us is the six of us have all known each other quite a while, and we do have strong friendships. It gives us a good family feeling," he said.

"When we're out on tour, we keep things pretty straight as far as maintaining a positive work environment. To us, music is why we started doing this. ... We have enjoyed doing music together and that tradition has continued even up to this point."

The Flint Journal - January 26, 2004



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