Last fall, when Linkin Park released Reanimation, a remix album in which a variety of guest producers and performers created radically new versions of songs from the band's 2000 mega-hit, Hybrid Theory, it created some apprehension among longtime fans.
"I think a lot people had a lot of confusion when we did Reanimation, thinking we were way into the hip-hop realm," says Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon.
With the new album, Meteora, it's clear those fears were largely unwarranted.
"Reanimation was really just kind of a fun album we did with a lot of musicians that we really respect, a lot of hip-hop artists that we really wanted to have a chance to work with," Bourdon says. "I think Meteora as a whole definitely continues the same kind of Linkin Park sound that we had on Hybrid Theory. It's just evolved a little bit."
It makes sense that Linkin Park -- which plays the Spokane Arena with Mudvayne and Xzibit on Wednesday -- wouldn't want to alter to any significant degree their signature mix of hard rock, hip-hop and electronica. After all, Hybrid Theory sold 14 million units worldwide, making the Los Angeles-based band one of the most successful debut acts in history. As the top-selling album of 2001, it spawned three No. 1 singles, including "Crawling" (a song that won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance), and earned a pile of favorable reviews.
Formed in 1996 under the original name of Xero by Bourdon, guitarist Brad Delson and MC/vocalist Mike Shinoda, the group started off on the right foot by landing a songwriting deal with Zomba Music after their very first gig. But a record deal would not come so soon for the group, which soon added sampler/scratcher Joe Hahn and bassist David Farrell (a.k.a. Phoenix) before completing the lineup in 1999 with singer Chester Bennington.
Prior to Warner Bros. signing the group in 1999, Linkin Park had played more than 40 showcases for labels and was turned down every time. Even Warner Bros. passed on the band twice before eventually signing it.
"We definitely struggled a lot to get our deal, and people had their reasons," says Bourdon. "They would say, like, 'Oh yeah, we think you're good, but your style of music is already happening. It's going to be over with by the time you get an album out. It's not going to be the in thing anymore.' "
But the band remained undeterred even as the rejections continued, working tirelessly on songs and refining the sound that would eventually emerge on Hybrid Theory.
"I think if you listen back to our old, old demos, you can really hear where the rock is and where the hip-hop is and where the electronica is," Bourdon explains. "You can really hear the boundaries and the lines between them. And what we've really worked on is trying to make it seamless. I think we've continued to do that throughout our career."
Bourdon claims the second- guessing didn't stop even after the group entered the studio to record Hybrid Theory with producer Don Gilmore, whose credits also include Lit and Good Charlotte.
"We went in there and the label [Warner Bros.] was kind of in there with us and watching over our shoulders, and we really had to push and fight to see our vision through," he says. "It was more like pulling teeth in some sense, though we knew what we wanted to do. On the new record, they were kind of like 'Okay, here's the studio. Go in and we'll come back when you're done and listen.' So there was definitely a lot of freedom this time. That kind of gave us the creative control to try out new things and try out some new sounds."
Meteora, while retaining much of the rap-rock sound of Hybrid Theory, does find Linkin Park branching out on several tracks. On "Break the Habit," for instance, a 10-piece orchestra was brought in to sweeten the brisk, electronica-tinged sound.
"It's layered a bunch of times so it sounds like it's actually a 40-piece orchestra," Bourdon says.
"Lying from You" gets a twist from a sample of fractured strings laced within the song's driving rock sound. Other songs, such as "Nobody's Listening" and "Somewhere I Belong" (the hard-rocking lead single which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's modern rock chart), also feature some nifty sonic treats.
"'Nobody's Listening' has a Japanese pan flute in it that we kind of cut up and moved around," reveals Bourdon. "One of the sounds from 'Somewhere I Belong,' is actually an acoustic guitar that Chester played and Mike cut up into a bunch of different pieces and flipped it around and effected it to create that sweeping sound you hear in the beginning."
While still described by the band as "dark," Meteora includes lyrical moments that impart a sense of optimism missing from the first album.
"They're in a different state of mind, and writing from a different perspective," says Bourdon of band lyricists Shinoda and Bennington. "They're more experienced, and we have a little more under our belts now. You can definitely hear more confidence, I think, in the lyrics."
The phenomenal sales of their debut album has, of course, forced Linkin Park to confront the specter of sophomore slump and the heightened expectations surrounding Meteora.
Bourdon, though, said the band's early success might have actually provided a de-pressurizing effect.
"There were different pressures making the first album," he concedes. "You know, if you don't make a great first album, you're done. There is a lot less pressure [with Meteora] in that sense that we have a music career now. We know because of the success of Hybrid Theory we're going to have a shot to make more records."
El Mysterioso -- Leon Redbone is one weird cat. Like a phantom on the fringe of the popular music continuum, he spends most of his time on the periphery of our existence, materializing front and center at seemingly random intervals to once again remind us of his presence -- a presence shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Most of us recognize the name and the visage, but who among us can claim to know who he is -- or even exactly what he is? Spokane audiences will have a chance to ponder this and other weighty existential questions this Saturday night as Redbone performs a Debut for the Arts concert in the Davenport Hotel's Pennington Ballroom.
TV audiences were thinking just that when he started making regular appearances on Saturday Night Live in the late '70s. With his trademark fedora, dark glasses, bushy mustache, gravelly, mumbling baritone, guitar accompaniment and neo-vaudeville song style, Redbone seemed not so much a throwback as a genuine enigma. The notoriety helped boost the sales of his second album, Double Time, and made him (almost) a household name.
Yet the mystery remained. To this day, Redbone refuses to divulge any facts about his background or his personal life, thus maintaining a level of privacy many performers would covet.
He first emerged on the Toronto music scene during the '70s -- contributing to the belief that he is Canadian -- with a sound and a performing style that recalled pre-WWII ragtime, jazz and blues informed by the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, Bing Crosby and blackface star Emmett Miller.
Though his recorded output during the next two decades could be best described as sporadic, his television appearances (including the Tonight Show) continued as his list of collaborators and admirers grew to include Merle Haggard, Ringo Starr, Dr. John and Bob Dylan (not too bad for one so mysterious).
In addition to performing, Redbone's other current gig is as a regular feature on the PBS children's show, Between the Lions. -- Mike Corrigan
Heavy Beast -- Got Soulfly? You soon will. Dig this: After three months of spanning the globe and bringing the citizens of Earth up to speed on their signature brand of socially aware world metal, Soulfly returned last week to the States to re-establish its dominance on these shores. Sign up for the revolution this Friday night at Fat Tuesday's with opening acts E-Town Concrete and Sword Enemy.
Fronted by ex-Sepultura guitarist and vocalist, Max Cavalera, Soulfly traffics in heaviness and infuses its ferocious metal mayhem with socio-political commentary and primal rhythms inspired by the Latin beats of Cavalera's native Brazil. Its a bracing speed metal/nu-metal/world metal amalgam that is substantially more probing and gratifying than the sum of its parts.
The band's three-month European tour included stops in the UK, Russia, Austria, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Poland, France, Finland, Germany, Italy and Scandinavia -- 18 countries in all -- with sold-out gigs in countries where most international bands fear to tread. And now it's coming for you. -- Mike Corrigan