Linkin Park released their seventh studio album, “One More Light,” on May 19, notching their sixth No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. For a band that’s been together since 1996, “One More Light” finds members Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Rob Bourdon, Joe Hahn, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson stretching out sonically, collaborating with Pusha T, Stormzy, and Kiiara on tracks as well as writing with pop hitmakers Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, Ross Golan, and Eg White.
“That’s our kind of spiritual imperative as artists, to always push the envelope and try to grow and there’s no looking back,” says Delson, who co-produced the album with Shinoda. The band is set to tour starting June 9 in Paris, but before they hit the road, Delson and Shinoda sat down with Variety.
Did you approach songwriting differently on this album?
Brad Delson: For us, the barometer was the song. And that’s how we approached it. I didn’t come into the studio and say, “Hey, I’ve got a guitar riff.” I came in and said, “This is what’s going on in my life, I’m having this problem with a close friend, I have to get it off my chest.” And that’s what we’d write about. … We were in a really honest place with each other when we were making this record so we had to kind of [have] total trust to be as vulnerable as we needed to be to make these kinds of songs together. So when we actually finished the album and looked at it a little more from a distance it was really eye opening, like, “Wow, there are some themes.” And we kind of didn’t even know what they were in the middle of the process, we were just working our way through it. It was pretty apparent that the songs were kind of ahead of our consciousness.
What was a theme that emerged that surprised you?
Delson: There’s a theme of fragility of life and that what we love can be taken away from us in an instant. I think when faced with those kinds of really scary or existential challenges, it puts everything in perspective and into place — what it is we love and don’t want to lose.
Do you agree, Mike?
Mike Shinoda: This album is about how little control we actually have over what happens to us in life, and how we react to things when they don’t go the way we want them to. It’s about being human, being fragile, no matter what kind of “tough” façade we try to put on. It’s also about family, and having the perspective of being a parent or being “relied on.” … We worked on this album for over a year — think about how many things happen to you in a year. We lost loved ones, we fought with friends and each other. We raised kids, and watched those kids do things we don’t want them to do. There was no shortage of “life” to sing about.
Having toured as much as you guys have, is it still something to look forward to?
Delson: I’m looking forward to touring for a lot of reasons. Hopefully, sleep will be one of them. And it’s really awesome that we’re gonna be able to play some of these songs, some of the new songs, for people for the first time. We retooled our whole show, so I’m just excited to bring it out there.
Your fans have grown up with you, to what do you credit their continued devotion?
Shinoda: We have challenged the fans over and over, and they have consistently been up for the challenge, which is extraordinary that so many people have stood by us for the journey, into different sounds and territories. I’m grateful that we are allowed to make music for a living, and grateful for all the people who have been fans of the band, old and new.
Kendrick Lamar collaborated with U2 on DAMN, a reminder of your work with Jay Z on 2004’s “Collision Course.” Would you do that again with Jay or another rapper? And if so, who would be on your wish list?
Shinoda: I could never nail down a proper list. But I can tell you what I’m listening to right now: I like Kendrick, Joey Bada$$, K.Flay, Fall Out Boy, Logic, Well$, Jessie Reyes, Gorillaz, Sylvan Esso, and Blackbear. … As a kid, two of my favorite artists were Snoop and Wu-Tang. We’re doing shows with both on this U.S. tour. They’re legends, and we’re ecstatic to have them.
The Blinkin Park concept — a coheadlining tour with Blink-182 — is sure to inspire a jam or two. Which song of theirs would you want to play?
I have no idea. And that’s the fun part of getting together with other artists, isn’t it? To figure out what weird combinations of things might work? It would be amazing to hear Chester sing “All The Small Things”… or maybe it would sound terrible! We’ll only know if we try it.