Linkin Park Return to Heavy Roots on New Album
The American rock band’s bassist Dave ‘Phoenix’ Farrell talks
about their sixth full-length album ‘The Hunting Party’ and how
they turned to more guitar-heavy sounds
If it wasn’t for playing bass guitar with rock band Linkin Park, Dave ‘Phoenix’ Farrell might have just been training for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Farrell had posted a photo from his weightlifting workout, which was doctored by a fan to include many more plates of weight and the Olympic rings. Farrell reposted the photo, but jokes that he feels insulted when people think it’s a fake shot. Says Farrell over the phone from Los Angeles, “A lot of people got the joke right away but some people take it seriously. I’m not a very big guy.”
Olympic athlete potential aside, Farrell probably needs the training to play bass for Linkin Park’s heavy new album, The Hunting Party [releasing on June 13th worldwide]. The band described the sound of the album to be closer to Nineties hard alternative rock, inspired by alt rock band Helmet and post-hardcore band At the Drive- In, among others. In the context of what Linkin Park has released earlier, rapper and producer Mike Shinoda said the album is closer to the sound of their debut, Hybrid Theory. Although Farrell says that writing for The Hunting Party put them back in the same headspace when they were making Hybrid Theory in 2000 and later Meteora in 2003, the new album is not in any way a companion to their early work, which put them in the same bracket as nu-metal and rap metal bands like Limp Bizkit and KoRn. Says Farrell, “It’s just that we were looking back and having conversations like, ‘What was the type of stuff that got us excited when we were playing guitar?’ We asked Brad [Delson, guitarist], ‘When you were 15 years old, what was that song that made you want to play guitar?’”
In an interview with ROLLING STONE India, Farrell talks about The Hunting Party and collaborating with the likes of metal band System of a Down’s guitarist Daron Malakian, rapper Rakim [as heard on their angsty single “Guilty All The Same”], funk metal band Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello and Helmet guitarist Page Hamilton.
RS: What has driven the band for The Hunting Party? Why is it much more guitar-driven and much less driven by electro-samples?
Dave Farrell: That’s a great question. The feel of the record is in heavy… it is more guitar-driven, in that you can hear a lot more guitar being played. There’s a lot more technicality with what’s going on, both with the guitar and the drumming. It’s definitely intended to be a live record. The songs are all crafted in a way that would make them all fun or as good as possible in a live setting. So for us to be in that mindset, that really put us almost back in the headspace [when we were] writing Hybrid Theory or Meteora. It’s where you’re mentally engaging with the space where, ‘what would be a lot of fun thing to play right here, how can I be challenging with it,’ or doing something at a point that’s unexpected or keeping us on our toes. It’s not a limitation or a scaling back of electronics so much as it is bringing to the forefront more of that driving kind of rawness, a visceral sound that we used to touch on more.
Mike said how it might be LP’s loudest record yet, but that would make a lot of fans think about your nu-metal days with Hybrid Theory and Meteora. What was it like going back to heavier stuff, but not making it nu-metal?
We’ve never been really concerned with different labeling of things. I think different artists react to that in different ways. Our way of reacting is to not be happy with whatever label you put on it, so yeah – it is what it is. This record, some people have got to it thinking it almost might be like a companion piece to Hybrid Theory. It’s definitely not that. It’s just that we were looking back and having conversations like, ‘What was the type of stuff that got us excited when we were playing guitar?’ We asked Brad, ‘When you were 15 years old, what was that song that made you want to play guitar?’ Stuff that was going on in Helmet tracks or whatever. What was it about that which made you excited about playing guitars — get that passion again. Get in that headspace and write. Don’t write as a 15-year-old, don’t write as a 20-year-old. Let’s write as grown men with kids, but from the same place that has the passion also. Re-attract that — what does that look like musically? What does that look like lyrically? That’s kinda how the record came about.
Brad and Mike were both producing this album, something that’s a first for the band. What was it like having them steer the band?
Mike has kinda always been an in-band producer for us. He’s always done a great job creatively. He always makes sure we’re on the same page and getting ideas out and making things cohesive in that sense. Mike got producer credits for the last two or three albums. This time we just got to a stage in our writing where maybe traditionally, we’ve taken it this far, let’s bring a producer in now to get an outside ear to see what they think, what their opinion is and be prepared. When we got to that point on this record, we really felt like, ‘Let’s just do this ourselves. We like where it’s going. We like where we’ve gotten.’ This is kinda our baby. Let’s see where this goes without any outside input and it always just felt normal, natural and comfortable for us to put out this record. Brad stepped up a ton in the studio — not just in playing, but also in producing the record and helping to organize the process as well.
A heavier, rock-oriented record also means there’s major emphasis on guitars, drums and bass. What, if anything, did you change around for The Hunting Party?
I think for me, it’s just a different style of playing. There are six guys in the band, so there’s always a lot going on in a soundscape. If you look at it as a spectrum of what you’re hearing, you got all these different tellers coming through. With me playing bass, I always look at it as where there’s space. I need to bridge what’s going on rhythmically with Rob [Bourdon] on the drums and sometimes rhythmically with what Joe [Hahn, samples] is doing. I need to kind of bridge that in that landscape — what’s going on melodically, what’s going on with the vocals, Brad, and Mike on the keyboards etc.
So for this record, the rhythmic stuff is kinda packed and heavy and the guitars are as well. In the other records, the bass stuff I’m doing is a little more obvious, in this [The Hunting Party] it’s a bit more aggressive and it’s still got a lower end in a very different way. It’s hard to describe. But it’s basically like putting the real deep, or the growl into what you’re doing with the tracks. With bass, it might accompany a part that’s dance-y or something that’s kind of pretty, soft or elegant. The bass can make sure it’s got a swing to it so that it’s dance-y, and make sure it’s got a groove. That’s where the bass comes in — to make sure it’s got a depth to it that makes sure it hits you in the gut.
Another thing completely new to this album are the collaborations. First there was Rakim but now we know there’s Daron Malakian, Tom Morello and Page Hamilton. What was it like working with them?
This is the first studio record we’ve done that has guests on it. We’ve obviously done tons of collaborations on different projects like [2002 remixes album] Reanimation. But for this, as we were writing different things, Page made a great example. We’d gotten “All For Nothing” as a track to a point where we thought, ‘Wow, you can hear the influence of Helmet on this.’ So we were wrestling with the sound, if it sounded too much like that. A third one of us went, ‘What if we were to reach out to Page and get his insight on it?’ We got him in and played him the track and he said, ‘What if I played some guitars on it? What if I sing?’ We were doing all these different things and suddenly it was awesome. It’s different than where it was at. It was so much fun. We got that opportunity on a couple of different tracks, tried to experiment in different ways. We got different guys to jump in — see their approaches to songwriting in the studio. It was to have these guys and jam those songs out and see if it works and those songs that you find on the record, those are tracks we felt really came together well with those different guys.
Listen to Linkin Park ft Rakim – “Guilty All The Same”
You guys will be playing Hybrid Theory in its entirety at Download Festival in June. Is it going to be a bit weird that you’re playing your first album when you’ve just had a new album out?
It’s been fun. Definitely there’s been — some of the songs off Hybrid Theory are ones we’ve been playing for the last 15 years, ones that we’ll continue playing. And then there are some songs we haven’t even touched for 12-15 years at this point. It’s good to go back and relook at those songs and re-address them. Obviously, when we play Hybrid Theory, we’re going to play other stuff as well. We’ll play the songs front-to-back, as we’d presented it on the album. It’ll be really cool to see how that goes. I think it’s a fun way to do something with a record that’s at this point, maybe almost 14 years old. At the same time, that’s going to take 35 minutes and then we’re going to play probably another half hour or an hour of other material, which will be fun as well.
With every time that the band’s sound has changed, is there ever a concern that you’ll be alienating certain fans?
If I’m a 100 percent honest, there’s always a concern that you don’t want to alienate the people. At the same time, I really feel for us — we work really hard, especially [since we are] six guys in the band with different opinions — we had to learn to figure out how to make something that we were excited about first. What’s something that all six of us can sign off on and what we’re passionate about, that we’re excited about and we really love? We’ve got to hail that part first and then you just have to hit it off and hope that other people like it too. At the end of the day, we don’t really have any control over how people are hearing things or there’s some magic way to figure out what everybody wants. And even if we could, if it didn’t align with something we wanted to do creatively, then that certainly isn’t fun for us for anymore and then it’s like, now you’ve got the most fun job in the world and you’re not having any fun doing it? That sucks, you know. Hopefully, we’re not only writing music for ourselves. If we were only writing stuff that we like, then we wouldn’t release it out to the world for anybody else. Once we love it, we hope you’ll love it.
This article appeared in the June 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India