Just three days before his death of an apparent suicide on Thursday (July 20), Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington sent a text to radio veteran Matt Pinfield, host of the national radio show “2 Hours with Matt Pinfield,” asking to get together.
That day never came, and 24 hours after news broke of Bennington’s death, Pinfield is still trying to process why.
“I was devastated,” Pinfield tells Variety. “When I went into treatment in January, he was one of the first people to call me. Chester was a lovely, positive guy. He cared about people, and all the success never went to his head. He was great to his fans. It is an incredible loss.”
Pinfield, who had gotten to know Bennington through stints at MTV, New York’s WXRK, and SiriusXM, says many in the industry saw no clues that anything was amiss. “He was Facetiming with friends and seemed to be doing great. It was a shock to every single one of us.”
Ever since Linkin Park released its debut album, “Hybrid Theory,” in 2000, the band has left an indelible mark on rock radio, with an arsenal of hit singles – “In the End,” “One Step Closer,” “What I’ve Done,” “Shadow of the Day,” “Numb,” “Crawling,” “Breaking the Habit,” “Waiting for the End,” and more — still in regular rotation. The group’s latest album, “One More Light,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
On the day of Bennington’s death, the group released a new video, “Talking to Myself.” They also had tour dates on deck, as well as an appearance on “Carpool Karaoke” confirmed (previously taped, it airs in October). On the surface, everything looked normal. So, what happened?
“People who deal with depression like that, these decisions are made on the fly,” offers Pinfield, a recovering addict.
The clues, he adds, were there in the songs, and especially the lyrics, through which Bennington was able to confront his demons. “You listen to the songs in a different way now because of the way he died,” he says. “You realize how real these lyrics were — when he was talking about being ‘Numb’ and ‘Crawling.’ These things are not for show. … People who suffer from depression, some tend to self-medicate, others write it in their music.”
Pinfield says that creative types like Chris Cornell and Scott Weiland suffer in the end, trying to find a way to fill whatever pains them, and it’s not a comfort that the fortunes of fame can bring. “People can find financial success at their vocation, but depression can inflame it,” he says. “It doesn’t fill the hole created by depression. It is still there and it must be treated. Sometimes it can make things worse.”
What Bennington leaves behind, Pinfield says, is a body of work that will impact generations of musicians to come. On the day Bennington died, Pinfield already recorded a show honoring Cornell for his birthday. Shortly after Bennington’s death was confirmed, he went back in the studio to add in music by Linkin Park, and discuss the loss of all three musicians—Bennington, Weiland (who Bennington subbed for as singer of Stone Temple Pilots) and Cornell.
“We have lost so many great people,” he says. “All three of them were my friends. They left an incredible legacy of music. They had so much more to do, and it breaks my heart.”