Linkin Park love to mix things up. Their two albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, consistently and seamlessly blend different styles of music together, melding rap and rock with just enough electronic flourish to keep the ears burning and turning that blend into a digestible, accessible pop formula for millions of hungry fans to eat up.
In the last three years the band have sold several million albums worldwide, sold out arenas around the globe, toured with Metallica and progressed further than all their long-since-disappeared rap-rock contemporaries. They are (as our May 2003 issue featuring ’em on them cover declares) the biggest rock band in the world.
So, taking all of that into consideration, doing a collaborative mash-up album with the biggest rapper in the world seems like the next logical step for the band. MTV clearly thought so too, as they teamed Linkin Park up with the Jigga-Man himself, Jay-Z, for the new TV show, MTV’s Ultimate Mash-Ups.
The result is Collision Course, a six-song EP featuring hits from both LP and Jay-Z, mashed up and gelling better than one would expect. ChartAttack recently spoke with LP bassist Phoenix to find out just how this extraordinary pairing came about.
“MTV asked Jay who he would like to do a collaboration with us and he said he’d like to work with us,” says Phoenix, still surprised by the news. “We were all really excited about that because, having six guys in a band, we all have pretty diverse tastes, but Jay’s one of the artists that we all like and admire, so we jumped at the opportunity.”
Things were, apparently, very easy right from the start and though Hova can seem a bit cocky on record, Phoenix insists that he’s quite the working man in real life.
“There was no ego with him,” he says. “It was a very comfortable atmosphere, he’s extremely down-to-earth and extremely easy to work with and he’s got a great sense of humour. I don’t know if we just had a good chemistry or not, but everything clicked very easily. Almost too easily.”
Though the collaboration was only supposed to be a one-time thing, band vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Mike Shinoda had a big hand in making the effort more than what it was supposed to be.
“Originally, we were just supposed to mash-up a couple of songs, film the process for the MTV show and then play the show at the Roxy [Theatre in Los Angeles] and that was supposed to be that. Mike really took the reins and believed that the project could be more than it was, so he was constantly sending demos to Jay back and forth,” Phoenix says. “Mike deserves a lot of credit for hand-picking each song and working so hard on them to make them fit with one another the way they do.”
And they do fit. Quite well, in fact. Songs like the hard-as-hell “Lying From You” mesh unbelievably with more chilled out, head-nodding tracks like “Dirt Off Your Shoulders.”
Fans hoping for a Meteora remix album should listen closely to Collision Course as that is as close as they’re going to get to another Reanimation-type project.
“The mash-up project kind of served the same purpose as Reanimation did, in that you could take a step away from work you’ve done and work with different artists to put new life into old songs,” Phoenix says.
Phoenix is quick to add that they’re already moving forward from this project.
“We had a lot of fun doing Collision Course, but we want to focus more on writing our third album,” he says excitedly. Even though fans of the band may be excited with that news, they should know better than to expect new material to surface any time soon. “We’re notoriously slow when we make albums, so even saying that new material will see the light of day by the end of 2005 is ambitious.”
In a time where the rap-rock fad has long passed and emo is the new craze, the band remain true to the credo that they do what they like, regardless of the musical climate.
“The main focus for us is to keep being inspired and keep investigating new places to go, musically and creatively,” Phoenix says firmly. “The business side of it focuses on whether or not people will like it, and we don’t really have a hand in that. All we can do is make songs that we like and we hope other people will like it too.”