Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda: I was making personal music because I felt like I had to
Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda talks to Kerri-Ann Roper about his new album Post Traumatic and reflects on the year that has followed the death of his band mate and close friend Chester Bennington
In the dictionary, the word trauma has two meanings. One of them being "a deeply distressing or disturbing experience". And while musician Mike Shinoda (41) has endured a year that could at the very least be described as traumatic, his new album title Post Traumatic suggests there is light in the period after such an event.
This month it will be a year, on July 20 specifically, to the day that his long-time friend and former Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington (41) took his own life.
In April last year, just a few months before Bennington's death, I met with him and Shinoda at a recording studio in Kensington, west London, to discuss Linkin Park's seventh album One More Light.
Outwardly Bennington had all the aesthetic markings - tattoos, black nail polish, piercings - of the quintessential rock star. But inwardly, he had long battled personal demons, many of which he spoke about publicly in the years before his death.
Today Shinoda and I meet in a hotel in central London ahead of the release of his solo record.
"Beginning about a year ago, I was not leaving the house for probably a couple of weeks," he says, explaining how this 16-track album came about.
"I went over to our (Linkin Park's) bass player Dave's house with a couple of the guys and we were talking... He said, 'Have you guys listened to our music yet?'. I said no, and he said, 'Yeah, it's like ripping a band aid off, you gotta just do it, because if you don't, you're going to be anxious about how it's going to feel. So on the way home, I listened to some of our music and that was tough and interesting..."
Taking the next step and getting into his home recording studio was no easy task though - given it was the same place he and Bennington had made music so many times.
"I'm in here (the studio), where I've written stuff for our band forever and where Chester used to stand right there and he would sing, I would play him songs I was writing, we would tweak the words. It was in that room so... I eventually just started to jam and doodle around on instruments and eventually words started to show up and I was making songs."
This isn't his first solo venture, he has previously performed as part of a side act he launched called Fort Minor. But this album is infinitely more personal. In fact, after listening to it, you get the sense it's almost like a diary and symbolic of the emotional journey he went through in the aftermath of losing Bennington.
The album opens with a track called Place To Start, which features excerpts of voice messages of support left for Shinoda following Bennington's death. The rest of the album is a perfect mix of his musical talents combined with a searing honesty, making the final product poignant and extremely powerful.
Why release it as Shinoda and not Fort Minor?
"It was a logical decision for me, it was less emotional," he says emphatically.
"The emotional part was that I knew I was making personal music because I felt like I had to. I felt like it was, if I was going to write a song, it would be stupid to write about something else and I also felt like it was helping me get things out and helping me sort through things I needed to sort through.
"Also it was helping fans understand where I was and where I might be going. With all of that said, it's a very personal process and in choosing between Fort Minor and my own name, I feel like the more accurate thing is to use my name."
Then there's the title.
"It's post traumatic, not traumatic. So, what do you do after something like that happens?
"The experience of going through all of this stuff, it felt so unique in the sense that, the part of it that is not unique is people lose someone, you know, that happens. But when you do it in a public way, when you lose someone who is, like, one of the pillars of the thing you've built for many years, you know I was defining myself as a founder of Linkin Park - this is what I do and who I am. When people think of Linkin Park they think of me and vice versa.
"And so if I'm asking myself do I, are we going to play music anymore, then I'm asking myself - do I have an identity anymore in a sense or if that's not the identity, what is my identity?
"So these are the types of questions that were happening in the beginning and obviously as I went I was finding answers to certain ones or at least narrowing it down. And where I ended up today, it's not all clear, it's not like I have answers to all of those things, but I definitely have more of a sense of it all than I had a few months ago."
In August he will take to the stage at Reading and Leeds festival.
"I'm going to add some people to the stage, not anybody that you know, it's not like an all-star (line-up) and I'm not bringing Linkin Park out, but I'll add a couple of layers just to round up the experience and make it a little more live," he teases.
The music aside, he's also a talented artist. He explains with passion the process of looking at an artwork from afar, to provide perspective, and how that can also be applied to music.
"You have somebody else come into the room and listen to it with you, and you will hear it through their ears. I don't even need their opinion, I will be hyper critical when another human being comes into the room.
"It doesn't matter if it is a six-year-old with no idea, it could be one of my kids and they could love everything I do, but the second I play it with them in the room, I will hear the song differently and I will find something wrong with it."
For this album though, that might prove a near-impossible task.
Post Traumatic is out now