We Moved! WE MOVED

The Situation Interview, 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005

As a member of Linkin’ Park, Mike Shinoda has sold over 35 million records worldwide. As he prepares to drop his debut with Fort Minor, The Situation spoke to the rapper/producer to see what he has in store for the remainder of 2005.

Hip hop and rock have always had separate identities, and whilst several artists have tried to combine the two musical elements together over the years, no one has done it quite as well as 2004’s ‘Collision Course’, a joint project by Jay-Z and Linkin’ Park.

Not since Run DMC and Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’ has the hip hop world embraced the idea of rock meeting rap quite so openly. But now, nearly 20 years after that groundbreaking collaboration, there is a new crop of artists who are willing to experiment extensively with the different music genres. Step forward Mike Shinoda and Fort Minor.

As one half of the vocal talent of the multi-platinum and Grammy-winning Linkin’ Park, Mike Shinoda has a lot to live up to. Having decided to release his own side project later this year, entitled ‘The Rising Tied’, Shinoda is flipping the script, delivering an album that reflects his musical roots more than any other Linkin’ Park record has ever done before. Talking about his new album, Shinoda said: “There were song styles and song topics that I wanted to attack that I felt I couldn’t really do with Linkin’ Park. This was a great way to see those ideas through.”

Discussing the reasons behind the pseudonym, Shinoda said: “I wanted to send out the message that I’m not doing this just to get more attention to myself as a person. It’s more about the music than me, and I thought by putting another name on it, it would keep the attention on the music.” He continued, “The name Fort Minor represents the dynamic between the big sound of the record, the ‘Fort’ part, and the smaller, darker side, the ‘Minor’ part.”

Having started out in the music industry as a hip hop producer, whilst working toward his B.A. in Illustration from the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California, Shinoda has always had an interest in rap music, but decided not to pursue this as a career when the opportunity to start Linkin’ Park arose. “At that time, the band was called Xero - with Brad [Delson] and a friend of ours,” he explained. “It was very exciting, and I put my production skills to use in a different way. There was so much to experiment with, and so much to learn. Now, with all the experiences we’ve had, I get to come back to hip hop and apply all those things.”

Executive produced by Jay-Z, ‘The Rising Tied’ is produced and mixed entirely by Shinoda, who wrote every track, played nearly every instrument and “slaved over every detail.” The result? Tracks like ‘Petrified’, ‘Remember The Name’, and the first single ‘Believe Me’, with its fusion of hip hop, classic rock and Latin percussion. When asked if he’s usually that much of a perfectionist, Shinoda is realistic in his response. “Perfectionism isn’t really ideal, because you can’t achieve it. But I do my best to double check everything, from the big picture to the smallest detail.” With so much work involved for one person alone, just how long did it take to finish all the recording for a project of this size and magnitude? “Although I’ve been working on this album for two years, the majority of it was probably done in the span of six months”, he told. “During that time is when I got Jay-Z and Brad Delson involved to go over the songs with me and pick which ones to keep, which ones to toss out, and which ones to keep working on.”

The inclusion of Jay-Z in the making of this record may not come as much of a surprise after the success of ‘Collision Course’. However, as Mike revealed, an album like ‘The Rising Tied’ has always been on his agenda, even before the Jay-Z/Linkin’ Park project took off. “I actually don’t know which came first; the first Fort Minor song or the first ‘Collision Course’ song. But since they both started at around the same time, I obviously had no idea how successful the mash-ups with Jay would be. I mean, I assumed, but I think it was received better than I had imagined.”

Although Shinoda listens to current rap music, for his production, he looks up to more old school hip hop artists for influences. “I think my production style is more in the spirit of old B.D.P. [Boogie Down Productions], Public Enemy, N.W.A., and Juice Crew,” he likened.

Choosing an executive producer to overlook the whole ‘Rising Tied’ project was a decision that was relatively easy to make for the multi-talented Shinoda. Yet, whilst Jay-Z was the most likely choice considering their other collaborations together, Shinoda could easily have asked to have Dr Dre, The Neptunes or Jermaine Dupri at the helm of his Fort Minor debut. So, why not? “Those other guys are producers, and on this album, I was the producer. The executive producer is a creative person who looks at the big picture - looking over the producer’s shoulder to make sure they’re on track, helping them contact any other artists they want to get at, and just simply being an extra pair of ears to help make decisions.”

With guest appearances from the likes of Common and Black Thought of The Roots, ‘The Rising Tied’ is set to be one of the most original and unadulterated hip hop albums of the year. Shinoda described the decision-making process behind all the guest spots on the project: “I wanted to create a consistent identity for the album. From Styles Of Beyond to Common, I picked people who I thought ‘got it’, and people that I see eye-to-eye with.” When Shinoda/Kravitz or Shinoda/Andre 3000 collaborations are suggested, the Fort Minor front man chuckles, before admitting his interest in such couplings. “Both are good ideas,” he laughed. “I ran into Lenny at a hotel once, and we stopped to talk; he seems nice. I don’t really know Andre though.”

The talk of dream collabos aside, ‘The Rising Tied’ tackles a wide range of topics and subject matters lyrically, revealing a more sensitive side to Shinoda. One particular track, ‘Kenji’, stands out the most, as a highly personal and reflective piece of songwriting. “I’m half Japanese,” he explained, before going on to describe the rap-flavoured recollection of the U.S. internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. “After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government put all the Japanese Americans from the west coast into ‘internment camps’. My Dad’s family was one of the families interned. For the duration of World War II, our family was imprisoned. This song is about that.” The track features the voices of Shinoda’s aunt and father, and paints a bleak picture of those who lost everything after being thrown into what were known then, euphemistically, as “relocation camps.” Shinoda continued: “I went to the Japanese-American National Museum in L.A. last year, and it reminded me of all the stories my family had told me, how they were put into internment camps here in the U.S., not because they had done anything wrong, but simply because they fit a profile. I had to write a song about it.”

Working outside of Linkin’ Park has definitely been a valuable experience for Shinoda, one which has allowed him to express different emotions and feelings in his own way. However, he’s not forgotten his bandmates, (Chester Bennington, Brad Delson, Joseph Hann, Rob Bourdon, and Phoenix) and still looks to them for support. “I wouldn’t have done this record if I didn’t have their support. They’ve said some really great things about it - the music, the videos, and the art,” he beamed. “Brad thinks the album artwork is ‘an A++.’”
With a new album to promote, Mike Shinoda has a busy schedule ahead of him. Yet, he assured fans that he and the rest of Fort Minor, (Vin Skully, Tak, Ryu, and Cheapshot), will be touring with ‘The Rising Tied’ the best they can. “I am touring worldwide,” he admitted. “But my attitude is ‘quality over quantity’. I probably won’t be doing a lot of shows, so if I’m playing in your area, you should probably come see it, because I might not come back any time soon!”

As for the future of Linkin’ Park, Shinoda put to rest rumours of a split. “With Linkin’ Park, we’re writing right now, hoping to get a record out next year. At the moment, I’m just looking forward to November 21 and 22, when ‘The Rising Tied’ comes out. It comes out on the 21st outside the U.S., 22nd inside the U.S.,” he plugged. “I’ve worked so hard on the album; I can’t wait until everyone finally gets a chance to hear it.”