When your first album sells 8 million copies in the U.S. alone, creating a follow-up can be a daunting task. So it's understandable that Linkin Park were feeling pretty stressed out when working on their upcoming LP, Meteora.
"We felt a ton of pressure," guitarist Brad Delson admitted. "But only because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We're definitely our toughest critics."
Just a few weeks ago, tempers were running hot as the bandmembers scrambled to put the finishing touches on the disc, due March 25, but now Linkin Park are all smiles because they're confident that anyone who liked Hybrid Theory will also dig Meteora. The group has grown musically and culturally, and the changes they've been through have colored their new album.
"The biggest difference is in our perspective," vocalist Chester Bennington said. "Co-vocalist Mike [Shinoda] and I are in a different place now. We've experienced a lot of highs and lows. There's been great success in our career but there's also been a lot of time on the road, which brings a lot of different emotions, like loneliness. Also, we've gotten to travel all over the world and play with a bunch of great artists and learn a lot of new things, so everything's different than it was when we started out."
For many bands, releasing a remix album is a great way to bide time between studio discs. But for Linkin Park, issuing Reanimation last year allowed them to stretch their boundaries and learn from artists with different approaches.
"It was great because we were able to bring together all our musical heroes and actually work in a fashion that they were used to working in," Delson explained. "So we got to see a lot of different styles of writing that we ordinarily wouldn't have explored, and I think that really helped to evolve our writing process on Meteora — both in the focus of the live and electronic beats and then also on Mike's experimentation with live piano."
Drummer Rob Bourdon said Meteora is still loud and heavy, and sports what he considers to be the best song the band has ever written, "Breaking the Habit," which features a 10-piece mini-orchestra. And while the album is still far from sunny, he stressed that it isn't as lyrically bleak as Hybrid Theory.
"I think there's a bit of optimism in there, and there wasn't really any on Hybrid Theory, he said. "When we started out, we were traveling around in an RV struggling to do this for a living. We didn't know if we were going to be able to sell two copies or 10,000 copies. So, things have changed."
Linkin Park named the album Meteora after a Greek city where a series of monasteries sit atop a jagged mountain peak. They'd never actually been there, but it looked pretty cool in a magazine.
"It's really this spiritual, mythical place," Delson said. "Just looking at those pictures was inspirational to us in terms of how epic it felt. I think some of the guys hadn't even seen the pictures when they heard the name Meteora,, and they just really responded to the energy of the name. We think that suitably matches the spirit we tried to create with the record" (see "Linkin Park Discuss Meteora, Plan Surreal Video").