A little more than a decade ago, Chester Bennington was flipping burgers at Burger King and was so poor that a skateboard was his primary means of transportation. Then he joined nu-metal band Linkin Park, and in 2001 their debut album, Hybrid Theory, a radio-friendly blend of hip-hop and heavy metal, shot to the top of the charts, where they have remained ever since. Their three studio albums, Hybrid Theory, Meteora (2003) and Minutes to Midnight (2007) have all been No. 1 on the Billboard Charts in the US, and have sold more than a total of 250,000 copies in Taiwan, where they first performed in 2007 in front of 40,000 fans at Taipei’s Zhongshan Football Stadium (中山足球場), in what organizers touted as the country’s highest-selling foreign concert since Michael Jackson.
Staff Reporter Ron Brownlow recently spoke via phone with Bennington, Linkin Park’s lead singer, ahead of his band’s return visit to Taiwan as part of next month’s 2009 Summer Rock Summit (夏日搖滾高峰會).
Taipei Times: In the late-1990s, after listening to a demo, you quit your job and moved your family to California to join Lincoln Park. What made you do that?
Chester Bennington: A little man that lives inside my head [pauses for effect]. I’m a very emotional person, I’m a very gut kind of guy. I would say that in a lot of ways if you looked at how [Linkin Park’s other frontman] Mike Shinoda looks at things and how I look at things, we probably look at things in two different ways but we somehow come to the same conclusion. So I didn’t analyze it very much. I find that when I just go with my gut and I just go with the whisper that’s in my heart, in my head, it generally tells me the right choice to make. When I over-analyze I find myself in trouble. So when I heard the demo I was like, “I’ll go out there.” When I heard the music I knew right away that it was nothing like anything I had ever heard before. That sometimes can be really bad [laughs]. In this case it was really good, and right when I heard the music all sorts of really great melodies started popping into my head and I was like, “This is a sign. I need to go, I need to do this. I need to go out there. This is the real deal.”
And when I moved out there I did see that it was the real deal. From the very first day of practices we were already a kick-ass bad. I was like, “This is a no-brainer. This is my chance. I’m only going to get one opportunity to do this. I want to do this with my life and if I don’t take chances to make it happen then it’s not going to happen.” So I quit my job, moved out, moved to Mike Shinoda’s couch, lived in the back of my car, in a really shitty apartment that had the roof cave in on it. And while doing that pretty much made a record that changed six guys from various parts of southern California and one guy from Arizona’s life completely for the rest of their existence [laughs]. It could have very easily turned out to be nothing at the same time. It could have been a fine experience and I could tell my grandkids, “Yeah, at one time I moved out to California to try to be in this band.” It could have been one of those things too. But I knew somewhere inside, something told me, “This is the one, you need to go.”
TT: That demo, is this something we’ve heard before?
CB: There’s got to be some versions of the song out there. The demo was part of an EP they had already made as a band. They sold it at shows and passed copies around. The songs that I heard were on there. The difference was that the copy they sent me on one side had just music, and the other side had music with their old singer on it. When I listened to the music the first time, I listened to it without the vocals. One song ended up being on Hybrid Theory but we changed all the melodies to it.