A conversation with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda

A founding member of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda is also active in his new hip hop project, Fort Minor. "We use A-T mics on stage with Fort Minor and Linkin Park. They’ve always been reliable for sound quality and durability. In the studio, I used the 40 Series mics for some of the more unique vocal tones and some of the percussion sounds on the Fort Minor album."


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An exclusive A-T web interview

A founding member of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda is also active in his new hip hop project, Fort Minor. He performed with both bands at Summer Sonic 2006.

A-T: Why did you start Fort Minor?

Mike Shinoda: Fort Minor began as a hobby, basically—on tour with Linkin Park, I was thinking about the type of music I used to make before the band started. I started making these songs to get back to my early roots. Over time, my friends kept telling me they thought I should put it out.

I was very struck by Kenji—an incredibly moving story of your family’s past, and a window on a dark chapter in history. Did you grow up hearing stories about their experience in the internment camps, or did you learn about it later? Are those your family’s voices—your father, your aunt—the on the track?
My Dad and my Aunt are the other voices on the song. During WWII, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government racially profiled the Japanese Americans living on the U.S. west coast, and stuck them in prison camps for the duration of the war. My family was interned during that time. I grew up hearing the stories of what they went through, and wanted to make a song about it. I thought it would make a really unique rap song.

Do you have family in Japan?
Yes and no—the only family I have there is pretty far removed from my immediate family. My dad was one of 13 kids, and most of them have kids and grandkids by now, so you can imagine how big our family is. It’s around 150 people on my Dad’s side.

You must have a relentless schedule, traveling worldwide in two very successful bands. How do you manage it? When you have time to focus on songwriting?
I just don’t sleep!

Is there a lot of pressure being in such a wildly successful band—Linkin Park?
I think there was an issue in the beginning about Fort Minor being as successful as Linkin Park, that some people kept comparing the two. The fact that I named the project instead of just calling the album “Mike Shinoda” was really hard to grasp for some people. They were like, “Are you changing your name to ‘Fort Minor?’ Is it a group?” The answer is pretty simple. I didn’t want to play off the success of LP, I just wanted Fort Minor to grow and become its own thing. I think the music is so unique and I wanted the album to live on its own without being paired with my band.

What part does Audio-Technica play in getting your sound across?
We use A-T mics on stage with Fort Minor and Linkin Park. They’ve always been reliable for sound quality and durability. In the studio, I used the 40 Series mics for some of the more unique vocal tones and some of the percussion sounds on the Fort Minor album.

Do you prefer working in the studio or live performance? Why?
I like both—I think when I’m in the studio, there comes a time when I’d rather be performing, and there are definitely times out on tour when I’d rather be at home in the studio!

What got you started in the music business?
I grew up playing classical piano, and I taught myself guitar and some other instruments. I began “producing” at a pretty young age, if I can call it that. I would record my friends’ songs at my house when I was about 16 or 17, on a cassette four-track recorder. I remember sending our first Linkin Park demo to an A&R guy. We were called Xero at the time. He called us back and met with us, and asked us where we recorded it, because he liked the sound. I told him it was a cassette four-track recorder, and he stared at me in disbelief for what seemed like a full minute. He asked us if we were playing around town, and we told him we hadn’t put the whole band together yet. He told us to get the band together and start playing shows…we did. Those old Xero demos are still floating around online. Just ask the fans on our LP and FM websites—they’ll point you in the right direction.

What musicians have influenced and inspired you?
I grew up on hip hop like Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Rakim, NWA, and Boogie Down Productions. Later, I got into Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Parliament / Funkadelic, because those were the bands my favorite rap groups were sampling.

Being in two bands performing back-to-back at Summer Sonic, were you able to enjoy the experience? Did the schedule take a toll on you?
The schedule was ridiculous! I don’t know if I’ll ever do that again! But I managed to pull it off without losing my voice, which was good. I had to play two shows a day for two days in a row—that’s four shows in about 30 hours. I thought my voice might go out, so I just made sure I didn’t talk much in between. It all worked out fine, and those turned out to be some really amazing shows.

Do you have an advice for musicians looking to get started?
I always tell people to be as self-sufficient as they can be. If you can produce your own songs, and get them to fans via the internet or hand-to-hand, do it. I believe good music will draw fans to it on its own merit—it doesn't take big marketing plans and a lot of money. It may take time, and you may have to push through some slow or dark points, but if you stay consistent, the fans will find you. We’re all looking for good music, and when we find it, we tell our friends. If you’re an artist, make the kind of music that people want to tell their friends about.

A-T microphones on tour with Linkin Park
Guitars:
5000 Series UHF Wireless Systems

Voice:
5000 Series with AEW-T6100 handheld microphone/transmitters

Drums and instrument amps:
AE5100 cardioid condenser instrument microphone
AT4047 cardioid condenser instrument microphone
ATM650 hypercardioid dynamic instrument microphone