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28th Aug 2018

Mike Shinoda reveals how he got through Chester Bennington tragedy

Will Lavin

The passing of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington hit us all, but not as much as it hit Mike Shinoda

The music world was rocked with tragedy when on July 20th 2017 it was announced that Chester Bennington, lead singer of rap rock outfit Linkin Park, had died. Ruled a suicide by hanging, the news of his passing was confirmed by friend and bandmate Mike Shinoda via Twitter.

It’s been a little over a year since Bennington’s death and Shinoda is back out on the road performing not only songs by Linkin Park but music from his new album Post Traumatic, a project he says was like a form of therapy helping him get through the pain caused by his friend’s death.

Talking to us backstage at this year’s Reading Festival, Shinoda told us what it really took to come out of the other side of the tragedy.

“I think part of it was spending a lot of time with friends, and I was grateful at the fact that they usually came to me,” he explained. “A lot of friends from all over the place were just checking in. I felt like that was the main thing I needed.

“There were a couple of conversations in particular. I think a week after Chester passed I had a sit down with Rick Rubin. He’s always been wise, like a mentor. The thing is he’s seen a lot and he has a great perspective on things so we chatted on some things.

“Other than that it was conversations with the other guys, my family, with my close friends and then just a lot of art and painting, drawing, and of course the album. I channeled it all into that stuff.”

Often when someone dies the friends and family of the deceased start learning new things and discovering new stories and anecdotes about their loved one from other friends and acquaintances. According to Shinoda, this wasn’t the case this time around:

“When you get together with family and friends there are usually people who have a gem of a story that will make everybody else feel great, those things all come out.

“However, in the big picture, all the people who were super close to Chester, I feel like we knew him really, really well and those stories, those peripheral stories, were exactly that, peripheral stories.

“And more often than not I have found it’s usually the band telling the stories and people going like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know that.’ And it’s nothing that would be of any particular interest, I think, to other people as they’d need way too much context.”

Admitting that he doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for Linkin Park as a band but that he and the rest of the guys talk regularly, Shinoda did touch upon the tribute show the band put on for Chester back in October of last year with the help of some very talented friends, and just how much of a toll it took on him.

“That show was hard,” he admitted. “The longest show we had done up until then was 90 minutes and that one was over three hours.

“When we finished it there was almost this postpartum depression of like, ‘Okay, that’s over. Now what?’ And I think I was already starting to make a couple of songs in the wake of all that. We did that for the fans. I mean we had a funeral but that [show] was for the fans to feel some closure and have an event.

“After that was over I really dove into making Post Traumatic and doing the art that accompanies it. When I listen to the first few songs on the record it’s almost bizarre to me how different I feel now than those songs. Those songs feel like 1000 years ago, and I include some of those bits in the show just for reference because in my head it’s nice to know that I’ve come really far since writing those other words.”

The show he’s referencing is his current live show that he performed at both Reading and Leeds Festival this past weekend. At one point during his set he paid tribute to Chester Bennington by telling the fans how much they’ve helped him conquer his fear of getting back on stage since the tragedy and then telling the crowd, “I want you guys to sing it so loud that Chester can hear you,” before then performing Linkin Park’s “In the End” and having those in attendance sing Bennington’s part.

The full transcript of Mike Shinoda’s tribute to Chester Bennington and the fans at Reading Festival 2018:

“Listen guys, doing this tour I have to tell you we just came from Asia and played a couple weeks of shows out there and getting up here and doing this for me is in once sense really fulfilling and it’s an accomplishment to get over my own anxiety about doing it again. I have to be honest I’m really indebted to you guys for helping me get here as I don’t think I’d be able to come out here and do this so thank you so much.

“In doing the shows, you know, since forever ago, I think they said the last time we played [at Reading] was in 2003 and I can honestly say this feels like the first time I’ve ever played and since that time, since the beginning of the band, we’ve always done meet and greets with the fans and seen fans before the shows and one thing that’s been consistent about all of the meet and greets is in the meet and greets people tell me stories and how they relate to a song or something we did and how it intersected with their life.

“Something I’ve been hearing quite a bit is how some of you guys are going through some things and how the connection to the music helps you get through it. With that said I know there’s some people that wanna come to a show or come to a festival and have a great time and there are other people who are still hurting and they’ve got some stuff going on and I want you guys to know if that’s you don’t be ashamed of that, you have no reason to be ashamed of that.

“Even if it’s as simple as you really liked or loved Chester’s singing or loved the band’s music or you’re just dealing with your own stuff that has nothing to do with us and it just pushes a button that makes you feel, I don’t know, sometimes in trouble. Hopefully by coming to these shows and enjoying the music and engaging in this type of thing it makes some of that bad feeling go away.

“What I’ve always asked the crowd to do on this song for years and years is to singalong with Chester and that’s what I want you guys to do right now. Are you ready to do that? I don’t know if you’re quite ready. I want you guys to sing it so loud that Chester can hear you. Are you ready to do that? Hell yeah. Okay, from front to back, side to side, we’re going to do it like this…”

Mike Shinoda’s Post Traumatic is out now.