Mike Shinoda returns to Linkin Park’s endless winter
On the new episode of The FADER Interview podcast, the Linkin Park co-leader discusses grief, family, and finding lost things.
Mike Shinoda returns to Linkin Park’s endless winter Frank Maddocks

In 2001, Linkin Park were under pressure. Their debut LP, Hybrid Theory, was breaking record after record, well on its way to selling nearly 5 million copies in a single year and becoming one of the most commercially successful albums of all time. But, partly as a result, they were on a grueling world tour, constantly getting sick as they chased winter around the world, and an unfounded rumor had started to swirl that the band was a manufactured plant — a nu-metal, rap-rock boyband. As they crammed into the claustrophobic writing and recording space on their tour bus to work on Hybrid Theory’s follow-up, they not only had to live up to their staggeringly successful debut; they had to prove that they were authentic.

The result was 2003’s Meteora, a more sample-based, less guitar-heavy record that included some of the band’s greatest hits: “Numb,” “Faint,” “Somewhere I Belong.” It helped to establish Linkin Park as one of the most impactful rock groups of all time — confident enough to sweep into U2’s sonic territory, popular enough to sell out stadiums on their own, ubiquitous and idiosyncratic enough that everyone you know either loved them or hated them.

That all ended in 2017, with the tragic death by suicide of their lead singer, Chester Bennington. Linkin Park have been on hiatus ever since. Their emcee and co-frontman, Mike Shinoda, released an emotionally raw solo album, Post Traumatic, in 2018, confronting Bennington’s passing and its after-effects head on. And a comprehensive 20th anniversary reissue of Hybrid Theory gave fans an intimate look at the band’s early days. But there’s been no new music from Linkin Park since.

Now, for the first time since the release of Linkin Park’s last studio album, One More Light, we have Bennington’s voice on a fully-formed and never-before-heard song. Diving back into the archives for the 20th anniversary reissue of Meteora, Shinoda stumbled on “Lost,” a track cut from the album at the last minute and thought to exist only in the form of an instrumental. Recently, I spoke to Shinoda about how he unearthed “Lost” with its dual vocals, how Meteora came to life two decades ago, and why Linkin Park’s music keeps finding new life today.


This Q&A is taken from the latest episode of The FADER Interview podcast. To hear this week’s show in full, and to access the podcast’s archive, click here.


You found “Lost” pretty much whole, right? Where did you find it? Was it on a CD or a hard drive?

Mike Shinoda: We put out a 20th anniversary [edition] of Hybrid Theory, and it did really well. We didn’t have a plan to do 20th anniversaries of anything else. [But] we were like, “Okay, people want this,” so we started looking through the band’s hard drives and going to friends, like, “If you’ve got anything from this era, send it over.” The highlights of the excavation were “Lost,” a couple other songs with vocals, a bunch of other demos that didn’t ever get finished, a whole documentary of our touring at the time and what it was like to be on the road with us, and then multiple shows that had been professionally filmed but hadn’t been fully released. It’s a lot. If you’re a Linkin Park fan and you like this album, it goes so deep, but you also get this wonderful time-warp snapshot of how young and naive and childish the band was at the time.

We were 25, but we were acting like teenagers. We’d gone from playing clubs for 300 people to headlining festivals in a year. This radio show for a station here in L.A. — one year we were the first band on the lineup and the very same show one year later, we were the headliners. We didn’t even grasp what had happened. We were just head down, going through what we knew. Get to the next step. Get to the second album. Here are our challenges. Here’s what we expect of ourselves. Here’s what other people expect. Gotta make the best record that we can. You can hear it in all of the material on this 20th anniversary package.

In the DVD that came out with Meteora, you get a real sense of the work you guys were putting in. It sounds like, by the end of that process, there was a lot of pressure. Chester gets sick for five weeks when he’s still got to track vocals.

I don’t know what was wrong with us, but we got sick so much. There was a point at the end of the Hybrid Theory tour leading into that Meteora recording where we called it the “Endless Winter Tour”; we followed winter around the planet for five months. It was cold and rainy everywhere we went. At the three-month point, we’re like, “Why is it still raining?!” Every day is rainy. We’re always sick. We’re doing a show and go to the side of the stage and throw up in a bucket and come back on and finish the song. We were a mess, just pushing as hard as we could every single night.

I remember sleeping on the tour bus, bundled up with the chills and a fever. I played a show, got in my second layer of clothes, went into the bunk, slept, woke up, ate, slept, woke up, ate, slept, got on stage to play another show. This was life for us at that point. And when it wasn’t that, it was us being wildly just childish. It was the best ride, a dream come true, so we were enjoying every minute of it.

“We were 25, but we were acting like teenagers. We’d gone from playing clubs for 300 people to headlining festivals in a year.”


Was it internal pressure or external pressure? Was it because like, “Hey, we’ve gotta tour, the label set us up,” or were you pushing yourself because you’re 25 and that’s what you do?

As we went along, we’d get updates about the performance of the album and the tour, and every email was, “You guys, we broke another record. This song did better than your last song. We’ve gotta go bigger on the headline tour. We should probably think about making our own festival.” By the end of [the tour], we got an email from the label saying Hybrid Theory was the biggest album on planet Earth that year. It took us weeks to even process that information because we were so used to hearing good news, as stupid as that sounds; everything was bigger, bigger, bigger. We almost just filed it under more good news, and then we realized, “This is not the same good news. This is life-changing good news and life-changing pressure as we go into this next record.”

Meanwhile, a rumor had started. I think it was the U.K. rock press where they were really snarky and there was no quality control back then, fucking children writing on blogs and submitting it to editors that would print it in a magazine. They were so bad. And somebody made up a story about us being a manufactured boy band, the Backstreet Boys of rock, an industry plant. “Somebody hired these guys that didn’t know each other. Somebody else wrote the songs. Blah, blah, blah.” Every word of it was bullshit, but what do you do?

At the time, there was nothing we could do to prove them wrong. We’re like, “No, we have photos! We’ve known each other!” But there’s no YouTube, there’s no cell phones with pictures. It’s just your word against theirs. So going into Meteora, we said, “Not only do we have to write an album that proves we can do it again, but we have to show them that we’re the ones writing it. We have to show them how we do it and how hard we’re working to get to where we’re at.” That was part of the challenge put on us by other people but also part of the challenge we put on ourselves: to prove that we earned it and to make sure we advanced the conversation, that we weren’t gonna just do Hybrid Theory Part Two, that we set ourselves up to be more than just the band they found out about on the first record, that there were songs on the record that proved we could change our musical “approach.”

I was gonna say “genre,” but we never wanted to be part of a genre. We wanted to change the approach, and the idea of genre as a concept. We wrote this song called “Breaking the Habit.” We made the label promise we could release it as a single. We were like, “Guys, this is so important for the band to have a song out that has no heavy guitars, no screaming, no metal at all.” It’s mostly sampled — programmed drum beats and strings [are] the meat and potatoes of the track — to let people know that we don’t subscribe to this idea of what the band is supposed to sound like.


Mike Shinoda returns to Linkin Park’s endless winter Frank Maddocks

Seeing footage of you guys back then, you’re kids living out your dream. But you’re still grappling with some really difficult things on Meteora — just as much as you were, if not more, than on Hybrid Theory. You can see that happen across the history of rock; Nirvana were breaking records, but at least for Cobain, that was actively pissing him off at the same time. This tension that exists within the band, between the music you’re putting out and the experience you’re having, seems quite heated.

Yeah, it’s not unique to us. Every musician, every band, everybody has their own version, right? For us, the dynamic was that I was becoming the primary writer of the tracks and the lyrics. Sometimes I was writing things from my perspective, and other times I was writing for [Chester]: “I know this story about you, and I wrote a song about it.” And then other times, I was writing something that was both of us, a little vague, maybe, or designed to address the way we felt about a thing.

On those records, the lyrical approach was abstracted storytelling. I don’t know that we had the words or the balls to tell our very specific stories at the time. We also wanted to let fans interpret the way they wanted to. I could write a song about a thing, and you could hear it and think it’s about a different thing. And as far as I’m concerned, your thing is more important when you hear it. I don’t wanna ruin that.

Hybrid Theory had a huge impact on many millions of people, partly because of the sort of difficult topics that you and Chester were addressing about addiction and abuse. You’re trying to connect with people. You want people to interpret it in their own ways. When you realize that’s happening, do you feel like you have to go back to that same well of darkness?

I met Chester in the late ’90s, and I’d always hear new stories. He’d tell me about things that went on in the past, and I’d be like, “Oh man, your life is like a movie.” It was very dramatic. He’s talked about all that childhood stuff. It’s not a story for me to tell. But those stories were new to me, so it was like, “Here’s how I relate to that, my version. That’s the song.”

“Numb” was more of a backwards looking song: “This is how I felt in a relationship, and over time. it’s become this way.” Whereas with “Faint,” there’s an urgency. I think most people go through a version of it when they’re growing up: “I’m not being heard. Why doesn’t anybody hear me? Why doesn’t anybody see me?” At that time, what we were feeling more than anything was, “I keep telling people my story and how sincere I feel about this thing, and they don’t hear me.


“It was so fun to hear where we were at — what we were doing, what we were about, why people were showing up in the first place.”

Hearing you speak so vividly about that time two decades ago, you seem to be really in touch with it. I wonder if that’s partly because you’ve revisited these archives. What was it like going back into this and hearing “Lost” for the first time in God knows how long?

When we were looking for material for this thing, I wasn’t looking for that song. There was another song that I knew was somewhere in a hard drive called “Fighting Myself.” We found the session of that song, which I didn’t know they’d kept a version of. That raised the question [whether I should] rewrite and rerecord my verses. I talked to the guys, and we decided that it would be more pure and true to the intention of Meteora 20 to not do any new recording, so we kept everything as it was.

In the process, I heard “Lost.” We’d been writing Meteora and we had 40 demos or something, and you narrow down: “These ones don’t have any vocals yet. They’re not gonna be contenders. Get rid of them. These ones have vocals. They’re close. Keep working on them. These ones are keepers.” Eventually, you get to the point where it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna make an album of about 12 songs out of these.” I remember that we did get to the point where we almost put “Lost” on Meteora. We realized that tonally, it was the same kind of emotion and energy as “Numb,” and “Numb” was arguably a better song. We liked it better at the time. So we were like, “Well, we can’t have two ’Numb’s.”

We didn’t know what we were going to do with it, so we just shelved it and forgot about it. Finding it was like, “Oh my God, the song got all the way to the finish line.” Fans are gonna love to hear this. It was so fun to hear where we were at — what we were doing, what we were about, why people were showing up in the first place.

I’m trying to think what it would feel like to unexpectedly hear Chester’s voice again singing like that while you’re trying to uncover stuff.

That would happen back in 2017, 2018. I’d go into a store and “In the End” would play, and I’d have to leave. That was tough. But yeah, I’m not there anymore. I have kids. My kid’s friends will find out, and they’ll send my kids a message, like, “Your dad is in Linkin Park? Dude!” It’s cool that they like it. The fact that it’s still meaningful to anybody is… I mean, you know.


Mike Shinoda returns to Linkin Park’s endless winter