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In 1996, rapper Mike Shinoda co-founded the rap-rock band Linkin Park. Although the group found immediate success with the release of their debut studio album, “Hybrid Theory,” it was 2003’s “Meteora” that truly cemented Shinoda’s — and the band’s — fame. 20 years later, Shinoda is now a jack of all trades, adding titles such as acclaimed songwriter, label co-founder, and award-winning producer to his portfolio. Following the March release of his latest single, “In My Head,” Shinoda sat down with The Harvard Crimson to discuss the anniversary of “Meteora,” as well as his recent release.
“In terms of the shape of the music, it’s stood up,” Shinoda said, referring to the 20th anniversary edition of “Meteora.”
For many fans, the anniversary album offered an opportunity for new experiences, such as listening to “Lost” in its entirety for the first time, along with other unreleased demos and never before seen live performances. For Shinoda, listening to “Meteora” all these years later meant unearthing emotional memories about how the songs came together in the first place.
“It’s a different experience actually listening to the demos,” Shinoda said. “To hear the most embarrassing one to me — which is the reason that it’s on there — is my singing demo of ‘Breaking The Habit.’”
Shinoda recalled how the “unpolished” skeleton track came together in a matter of hours. “There’s no autotune, no compression, no EQ — it’s just me and a really bad mic, just getting my ideas down. There’s a bit of exposure — I’m really exposed putting that out in the world.”
The thought process behind putting together the “Meteora|20” package isn’t something that was “Lost” on Shinoda. There was intentionality in not remastering, but preserving the original sound and expanding on it instead.
“The ‘Lost Demos’ album is in the ‘Meteora|20’ package,” Shinoda said, referring to the CD grouping of B-Sides that are sprinkled throughout the anniversary album. The musician recalled thinking that those would eventually get released. “And then it just never happened. And then by the time we got to the next studio album, we weren't looking backwards at any of our old demos.”
In retrospect, tracks like “Fighting Myself,” “More The Victim,” and “Massive” are some of Shinoda’s favorite additions to the anniversary album, along with “Lost.”
“Finding [‘Lost’] was awesome — obviously surprising — and really teleported me back to that time,” Shinoda said. “It’s the stuff that, to me, is most interesting.”
When it comes to his solo projects, Shinoda employs a variety of artistic approaches.
“Sometimes a song will happen lyrics-first, melody-first,” Shinoda said. “‘In My Head’ started track-first.”
“In My Head” is one of Shinoda’s two contributions to the “Scream VI” movie soundtrack, along with Demi Lovato’s track, “Still Alive,” which he co-wrote and produced for the end credits. When discussing his creative process while producing the song, Shinoda emphasized the parallels between the storyline and the lyrics.
“One of the characters is having these intrusive thoughts. They’re having worries they’re turning into someone they don’t wanna be,” Shinoda said. “And I just felt like that felt so relatable to me. I felt like there've been times when I felt that way. I just felt like it made a good song.”
“In My Head” is far from Shinoda’s first solo endeavor. Since producing The X-Ecutioners’s “It’s Goin’ Down” in 2001, Shinoda has made chart-topping remixes, co-written Grammy Award winning tracks, founded collaborative hip-hop projects on the side, and most recently, released the solo studio album "Post Traumatic." However, 2023’s “In My Head” might be one of his most vulnerable releases to date.
“It felt so relatable to me. There have been times when I felt that way,” Shinoda said.
Shinoda added that the more introspective and emotional elements in songwriting came together rather quickly and naturally. “Sometimes it's all about the different elements of the song coalescing all together. There's just a magic that’s happening and I felt like this song had that.”
Shinoda’s recent work features lots of dynamic moments and sonic contrasts — putting a novel spin on his already innovative approach to musical elements — that hadn’t been explored in previous works. However, the musician stays humble, and pays attention to the inherently human experience of music making.
“What I've always looked for in music is connecting with somebody. Whether I'm making it and they're listening or they're making it and I'm listening, that's a connection. That's a human connection,” Shinoda concluded.
—Staff writer Alisa S. Regassa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @alisaregassa.
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