Mike Shinoda Says Linkin Park Didn’t Identify With ‘Tough Guy Sh*t’ in Nu-Metal
Though Linkin Park were considered leaders in the nu-metal scene at the turn of the century, there are elements of what was associated with that kind of music that they weren't cool with. During an interview with Vulture, Mike Shinoda reflects on their beginnings and shares how the band was not copacetic with what he calls the "tough-guy shit" associated with some of the music from that era.
Shinoda reveals that he always felt the band came from a different place than some of their peers.
"We were more introspective," says Shinoda. "What we didn’t like about what was going on in the scene was that it was very frat rock. It was toxic masculinity. We didn’t know the term yet. We just didn’t like how everything was about tough-guy shit, and we didn’t identify with tough-guy shit. So nobody wanted to sign us because we didn’t fit. They couldn’t see us onstage."
Shinoda recalls, "Somebody said to me, 'If you guys were to open up a show with Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit, you’d get beat up.' It was a joke, right? But probably true, at least for me. I would’ve gotten beat up. Chester wouldn’t have gotten beat up. He’d fuck somebody up, too."
But while the band came out of the gate with the very aggro and in-your-face single "One Step Closer," there was an element of the lyrics that delved into the frustration and anxiety of many of its listeners.
"I think that was the point. It was always the point," says Shinoda. "While I loved and I grew up on very macho hip-hop, I was also, at that phase in my life, finishing college, more in tune with a more complex palette of subject matter in what I was listening to. I wanted to put that into my songs, like bands like Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails did. I was listening to a lot of U2. None of those are, like, 'Hey, I’m going to kick your ass' songs. Those are all, “Oh, I got ass my kicked. This isn’t fair or this feels bad or maybe it’s my fault.'"
He adds, "We weren’t hearing those emotions as much in music that was out there. And when we did hear it, I liked what I was hearing. I should give groups like Deftones and Korn more credit. They were doing that. I liked how Jonathan Davis was just an open book putting all of his most fucked-up stuff right out there in the lyrics."
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That said, Shinoda has spoke in the past of nu-metal's journey. In 2021, while speaking with Kerrang Radio!, he reflected on the genre that the band is most often associated with. "Honestly, I've lived through I don't even know how many irritations of, 'This thing being dead, and that thing being corny. That comes back around. Nu-metal went from the biggest thing on the planet to the corniest thing on the planet to the coolest thing again," Shinoda explained.
But Shinoda had some praise for a "new generation of artists, not just rappers, but artists in general who are infusing lots of rock and other styles into their music. It's exciting — I don't hate them for that. From Iann [Dior] to 24KGoldn and Kid Laroi and even Post Malone! Post is a rockstar, Post is a singer, guitar player and people think of him as a rapper because he presents himself that way sometimes, but music is just music."
These days, Linkin Park are back in the spotlight, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their sophomore set, Meteora. The 20th anniversary box set will arrive this Friday (April 7). Pre-orders are available here.