Early years (1996–2000)
The founding of Linkin Park began with three high school friends; Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson. After graduating from high school, the three began to take their musical interests more seriously, recruiting Joe Hahn, Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, and Mark Wakefield to perform in their band, Xero. Though limited in resources, the band began recording and producing songs within Shinoda’s makeshift bedroom studio in 1996, resulting in a 4-track demo tape. Tensions and frustration within the band grew however after they failed to land a record deal. The lack of success and stalemate in progress prompted Wakefield, at that time the band's vocalist, to leave the band in search of other projects. Farrell also left to tour with Tasty Snax and other bands.
After spending a considerable time searching for Wakefield's replacement, Xero recruited Arizona vocalist, Chester Bennington, who was recommended by Jeff Blue, the vice president of Zomba Music in March 1999. Bennington, formerly of a post-grunge band by the name of Grey Daze, became a standout among applicants because of the dynamic in his singing style. The band then agreed on changing its name from Xero to Hybrid Theory; the newborn vocal chemistry between Shinoda and Bennington helped revive the band, inciting them to work on new material. In 1999 they released an extended play named after the group, which they plugged into internet chat-rooms and developed an informal 'street team' from the on-line community to spread the music. The band’s renaissance culminated with a change in name; from Hybrid Theory, the band once again changed its name, this time to Linkin Park, a play on and homage to Santa Monica’s Lincoln Park. However, despite these changes, the band still struggled to sign a record deal. After facing numerous rejections from several major record labels, Linkin Park turned to Jeff Blue for additional help. After failing to catch Warner Bros. Records on three previous reviews, Jeff Blue, now the vice president of Warner Bros. Records, helped the band sign a deal with the company in 1999. The band released its breakthrough album, Hybrid Theory, the following year.
Hybrid Theory (2000–2002)
Linkin Park released Hybrid Theory on October 24, 2000. The album, which represented half a decade’s worth of the band’s work, was edited by Don Gilmore. Hybrid Theory was a massive commercial success; it sold more than 4.8 million copies during its debut year, earning it the status of best-selling album of 2001, while singles such as "Crawling" and "One Step Closer" established themselves as staples among alternative rock radio play lists during the year. Additionally, other singles from the album were featured in films such as Dracula 2000, Little Nicky, and Valentine. Hybrid Theory won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for the song "Crawling" and was nominated for two other Grammy Awards: Best New Artist and Best Rock Album. MTV awarded the band their Best Rock Video and Best Direction awards for "In the End". Through the winning of the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, Hybrid Theory’s overall success had catapulted the band into mainstream success.
During this time, Linkin Park received many invitations to perform on many high-profile tours and concerts including Ozzfest, Family Values Tour and KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. The band also formed its own tour, Projekt Revolution, which featured other notable artists such as Cypress Hill, Adema, and Snoop Dogg. Within a year’s stretch, Linkin Park had performed at over 320 concerts. The experiences and performances of the precocious band were documented in its first DVD, Frat Party at the Pankake Festival, which debuted in November 2001. Now reunited with former bassist Phoenix, the band began work on a remix album, dubbed Reanimation, which would include works from Hybrid Theory and non-album tracks also. Reanimation debuted on July 30, 2002, featuring the likes of Black Thought, Jonathan Davis, Aaron Lewis, and many others. Reanimation claimed the second spot on the Billboard 200, and sold nearly 270,000 copies during its debut week. Hybrid Theory is also in the RIAA's Top 100 Albums.
Following the success of Hybrid Theory and Reanimation, Linkin Park spent a significant amount of time touring around the United States. The band members began to work on new material amidst its saturated schedule, spending a sliver of their free time in their tour bus' studio. The band officially announced the production of a new studio album in December 2002, revealing its new work was inspired by the rocky region of Meteora in Greece, where numerous monasteries have been built on top of the rocks. Meteora features a mixture of the band's previous nu metal and rapcore styles with newer innovative effects, including the induction of a shakuhachi (a Japanese flute made of bamboo) and other instruments. Linkin Park's second album debuted on March 25, 2003 and instantly earned worldwide recognition, going to No.1 in the US and UK, and No.2 in Australia.
Meteora sold more than 800,000 copies during its first week, and it ranked as the best selling album on the Billboard charts at the time. The album's singles, including "Somewhere I Belong", "Breaking the Habit", "Faint", and "Numb", received significant radio attention. By October 2003, Meteora sold nearly three million copies. The album's success allowed Linkin Park to form another Projekt Revolution, which featured other bands and artists including Mudvayne, Blindside, and Xzibit. Additionally, Metallica invited Linkin Park to play at the Summer Sanitarium Tour 2003, which included well-known acts such as Limp Bizkit, Mudvayne and Deftones. The band released an album and DVD, entitled Live in Texas, which consisted of audio and video tracks of some of the band's performances in Texas during the tour. In early 2004, Linkin Park started a world tour titled the Meteora World Tour. Supporting bands on the tour included Hoobastank, P.O.D., Story of the Year and Pia.
Meteora earned the band multiple awards and honors. The band won the MTV awards for Best Rock Video for "Somewhere I Belong" and the Viewer's Choice Award for "Breaking the Habit". Linkin Park also received significant recognition during the 2004 Radio Music Awards, winning the Artist of the Year and Song of the Year ("Numb") awards. Although Meteora was not nearly as successful as Hybrid Theory, it was the third best selling album in the United States during 2003. The band spent the first few months of 2004 touring around the world, first with the third Projekt Revolution tour, and later several European concerts.At the same time, the band's relationship with Warner Bros. Records was deteriorating rapidly on account of several trust and financial issues. After months of feuding, the band finally negotiated a deal in December 2005.
Hiatus and side projects (2004–2006)
Following Meteora's success, the band postponed working on a new studio album for the next few years, instead, working on many side projects. Bennington appeared on DJ Lethal’s "State of the Art" and other work with Dead by Sunrise, while Shinoda did work with Depeche Mode. In 2004, the band began to work with Jay-Z to produce another remix album, entitled Collision Course. The album, which featured intermixed lyrics and background tracks from both artists' previous albums, debuted in November 2004. Shinoda also formed a new band, Fort Minor, as a side project. With the aid of Jay-Z, Fort Minor released its debut album, The Rising Tied, to critical acclaim.
Minutes to Midnight (2006–2008)
Linkin Park returned to the recording studios in 2006 to work on new material. To produce the album, the band chose producer Rick Rubin. Despite initially stating the album would debut sometime in 2006, the album was delayed until 2007. The band had recorded thirty to fifty songs in August 2006, when Shinoda stated the album was halfway completed. Bennington later added that the new album would stray away from its previous nu metal sound. Warner Bros. Records officially announced that the band’s third studio album, entitled Minutes to Midnight, would be released on May 15, 2007 in the United States. After spending fourteen months working on the album, the band members opted to further refine their album by removing five of the original seventeen tracks. The album’s title, a reference to the Doomsday Clock, foreshadowed the band's new lyrical themes. Minutes to Midnight sold over 625,000 copies in its first week, making it one of the most successful debut week albums in recent years. The album also took the top spot on the Billboard Charts.
The album's first single, "What I've Done", was released on April 2, and premiered on MTV and Fuse within the same week. The single was acclaimed by listeners, becoming the top-ranked song on the Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. The song is also used in soundtrack for the 2007 action film, Transformers. Mike Shinoda was also featured on the Styles of Beyond song "Second to None" which was also included in the film. Later in the year, the band won the "Favorite Alternative Artist" in the American Music Awards. The band also saw success with the rest of the albums singles, "Bleed It Out", "Shadow of the Day", "Given Up", and "Leave Out All the Rest", which were released throughout 2007 and early 2008. The band also collaborated with Busta Rhymes on his single "We Made It", which was released on April 29.
Linkin Park's touring and live shows have, among other things, included a performance at Live Earth Japan on July 7, 2007. and headlining Download Festival in Donington Park, England and Edgefest in Downsview Park, Toronto, Canada. The band completed touring on its fourth Projekt Revolution tour before taking up an Arena tour around the United Kingdom, visiting Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester, before finishing on a double night at the O2 arena in London. Bennington stated that Linkin Park plans to release a follow-up album to Minutes to Midnight. However, he stated the band will first embark on a United States tour to gather inspiration for the album. Mike Shinoda announced a live CD/DVD entitled Road to Revolution: Live at Milton Keynes, which is a live video recording from the Projekt Revolution gig at the Milton Keynes Bowl on June 29, 2008, which was officially released on November 24, 2008.
A Thousand Suns (2008–2011)
In May 2009, Linkin Park announced they were working on a fourth studio album, which was planned to be released in 2010. Shinoda told IGN that the new album would be 'genre-busting,' while building off of elements in Minutes to Midnight. He also mentioned that the album would be more experimental and "hopefully more cutting-edge." Bennington also addressed the media to confirm that Rick Rubin would return to produce the new album. The band later revealed the album would be called A Thousand Suns.
While working on the new album, Linkin Park worked with successful film composer Hans Zimmer to produce the score for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The band released a single for the movie, entitled "New Divide". Joe Hahn created a music video for the song, which featured clips from the film. On June 22, Linkin Park played a short set in Westwood Village after the premier of the movie. After completing work for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the band returned to the studio to finalize their album.
On April 26, the band released an app for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, a game called 8-Bit Rebellion! It featured the band as playable characters, and a new song called "Blackbirds" which was unlockable by beating the game. The song was also later released as an iTunes bonus track on A Thousand Suns.
A Thousand Suns was released on September 14. The album’s first single, "The Catalyst", was released on August 2. The band promoted their new album by launching a concert tour, which started in Los Angeles on September 7. Linkin Park also relied on MySpace to promote their album, releasing two additional songs, "Waiting for the End" and "Blackout" on September 8. Furthermore, a documentary about the album's production, entitled Meeting of A Thousand Suns, was available for streaming on the band's MySpace page. On August 31, 2010, it was announced that the band would perform the single live for the first time at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010. The venue of the debut live performance of the single was Griffith Observatory, an iconic location used in Hollywood movies. "Waiting for the End" was released as the second single of A Thousand Suns.
Linkin Park reached No.8 in Billboard Social 50, a chart of the most active artists on the world's leading social networking sites. In other Billboard Year-End charts, the band reached No.92 in the "Top Artists" chart, as well as A Thousand Suns reaching No.53 in the Year-End chart of the Billboard Top 200 albums and No.7 in the 2010 Year-End Rock Albums, and "The Catalyst" reaching No.40 in the Year-End Rock Songs chart.
On April 13, 2011, Shinoda confirmed that the album's fourth single will be "Iridescent". He also confirmed that there will be a new, slightly shorter version of the song, which will be part of the soundtrack of the upcoming film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, continuing the streak of Linkin Park songs being the theme songs of the Transformers films (after "What I've Done" and "New Divide"), as well as the fact that a music video will be shot for the single. The video was directed by Joe Hahn, who directed the videos for both of the previous songs.
The band was nominated for six Billboard Awards in 2011 for Top Duo or Group, Best Rock Album for A Thousand Suns, Top Rock Artist, Top Alternative Artist, Top Alternative Song for "Waiting for the End" and Top Alternative Album for A Thousand Suns, but did not win any award.
The band charted in numerous Billboard Year-End charts in 2011. The band was No.39 in the Top Artists Chart, No.84 in the Billboard 200 Artists chart, No.11 in the Social 50 Chart, No.6 in the Top Rock Artists Chart, No.9 in the Rock Songs Artists Chart, No.16 in the Rock Albums Chart, No.4 in the Hard Rock Albums Chart, and No.7 in the Alternative Songs Chart.
Living Things (2011–present)
In July 2011, Bennington told Rolling Stone that Linkin Park aims to produce a new album every eighteen months, and that he would be shocked if a new album did not come out in 2012. He later revealed in another interview in September 2011 that the band was still in the beginning phases of the next album, saying "We just kind of began. We like to keep the creative juices flowing, so we try to keep that going all the time...we like the direction that we're going in."
In an interview featured in the March 21, 2012 issue of Kerrang! magazine, Bennington stated that the band has returned to more 'familiar' territory on their new record, saying "with this [new] album, we've incorporated a lot of guitar work with big choruses and the heavier electronic stuff to give it that really big wall of sound feeling without getting too metal. This will be more familiar to people than 'A Thousand Suns' was, where we were like 'Fuck it, we're just going to go bonkers." Bennington also said that the new album's lyrics would be personal and avoid being political, adding "We've been writing a lot about relationships."
On March 28, 2012, Shinoda confirmed that the band is filming a music video for "Burn It Down", which will be the album's first single to be released for radio-play on April 16. Joe Hahn directed the video. Shinoda spoke to Co.Create about the album's art, saying that it will "blow them [the fans] away...the average person is not going to be able to look at it and go, I understand that that's completely new, like not just the image but the way they made the image is totally new. So there's going to be that."
On April 15, 2012, Shinoda announced via his website that Living Things would be the title of Linkin Park's fifth album, with the pre-release sale to start on the April 16. Mike Shinoda stated that they chose the title Living Things because the album is more about people, personal interactions, and it's far more personal than their previous albums. The band will promote the album on the 2012 edition of the Honda Civic Tour, with co headliners Incubus. The band performed "Burn It Down" at 2012 Billboard Music Awards. On May 24, the band released the music video for "Burn It Down" and debuted "Lies Greed Misery", another song from Living Things, on BBC Radio 1. "Powerless", the twelfth and closing track of the album, will be featured in the closing credits to the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Most of the material from the album will have a live debut on the Honda Civic Tour in the Summer of 2012.
In July 2012, it was confirmed by Big Concerts and Warner Bros. Records that Linkin Park would perform two dates in South Africa for their Living Things Tour.
Linkin Park also participated in numerous charitable events, most notably raised money to benefit victims of Hurricane Charley in 2004 and later Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The band donated $75,000 to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation in March 2004. They also helped relief efforts for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami victims by staging several charity concerts and setting up an additional fund called Music for Relief. Most notably, however, the band participated at Live 8, a series of charitable benefit concerts set up to raise global awareness. Alongside Jay-Z, the band performed on Live 8's stage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a global audience. The band would later be reunited with Jay-Z at the Grammy Award Ceremony 2006, during which they performed "Numb/Encore", en route to winning a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. They were joined on stage by Paul McCartney who added verses from the song "Yesterday". They would later go on to play at the 2006 Summer Sonic music festival, which was hosted by Metallica in Japan.
On January 19, 2010, Linkin Park released a new song entitled "Not Alone" as part of a compilation from Music for Relief called Download to Donate for Haiti in support of the Haiti Earthquake crisis. On February 10, 2010, Linkin Park released the official music video for the song on their homepage.
On January 11, 2011, an updated version of Download to Donate for Haiti was launched, called Download to Donate for Haiti V2.0, with more songs to download. For the updated compilation, the band released Keaton Hashimoto's remix of "The Catalyst" from the "Linkin Park featuring YOU" contest. "Burning in the Skies" was released as the third official single of A Thousand Suns on March 21, 2011.
Shinoda designed two t-shirts, in which the proceeds will go to Music For Relief to help the victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami disasters. Music For Relief released Download to Donate: Tsunami Relief Japan, another compilation of songs, in which the proceeds will go to Save the Children.
Musical style and influences
Both Hybrid Theory and Meteora combine the alternative metal, nu metal, and rap rock sound with influences and elements from hip-hop, alternative rock, and electronica, utilizing programming and synthesizers. William Ruhlmann from Allmusic regarded it as "a Johnny-come-lately to an already overdone musical style," whereas Rolling Stone described their song "Breaking the Habit" as "risky, beautiful art".
In Minutes to Midnight the band experimented with their established sound and drew influences from a wider and more varied range of genres and styles, a process Los Angeles Times compares to a stage in U2's work. In it, only two of the songs feature rapping, and the majority of the album can be considered alternative rock. NME magazine's Dan Silver criticized the band's approach, calling it the "sound of a band trying and failing to forge a new identity", and referring to the song "Hands Held High", a song about terrorist attacks and war, as "far and away the funniest thing you will hear all year".
The vocal interplay between Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda plays as a major part within Linkin Park's music, with Bennington being the lead vocalist and Shinoda as the rapping vocalist. On Linkin Park's third album, Minutes to Midnight, Shinoda sings lead vocals on "In Between", "Hands Held High", and on the B-side "No Roads Left". On numerous songs from band's fourth album, A Thousand Suns, such as the album's four singles, both Shinoda and Bennington sing. On most of the record's tracks, the band notably used electronic drumbeats along with outro drumbeats. The album has been regarded as a turning point in the band's musical career by notable critics, some noting the band utilizing the electronic rock genre. James Montgomery, of MTV, compared the record to Radiohead's Kid A, while Jordy Kasko of Review, Rinse, Repeat likened the album to both Kid A and Pink Floyd's landmark album The Dark Side of the Moon. Shinoda stated that he and the other band members were deeply influenced by Chuck D and Public Enemy. He elaborated: "Public Enemy were very three-dimensional with their records because although they seemed political, there was a whole lot of other stuff going on in there too. It made me think how three-dimensional I wanted our record to be without imitating them of course, and show where we were at creatively". One of the record's political elements is its samples of notable speeches by American political figures.
Linkin Park became the first rock band to achieve more than one billion YouTube hits.