Co-producer and vocalist Mike Shinoda, whose first ever gig featured the rap veterans and Anthrax on the same bill, told NME that he wanted his band’s fourth LP to be “three-dimensional” like his rap heroes.
“I reference them in the song ‘Wretches And Kings’, there is a homage to [lead rapper] Chuck D on there,” he said. “It’s probably the most hip-hop song on the record and one of the most aggressive, but it feels like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
“Public Enemy were very three-dimensional with their records because although they seemed political, there was a whole lot of other stuff going on in there too. It made me think how three-dimensional I wanted our record to be without imitating them of course, and show where we were at creatively.”
Like their rap heroes, Linkin Park also subtly dropped in their own political message on that track and elsewhere, through various samples.
“(On that song) we used a sample of Mario Savio, who was a workers’ rights activist that spoke out for people who were oppressed by their employers in the ’60s,” he said.
He added: “There’s also one of Robert Oppenheimer who was ‘the father of the atomic bomb’ during the second world war, on the track ‘Burning In The Skies’, and a speech by Martin Luther King Jr on ‘Iridescent’, where he talks about the connection between his feelings on Vietnam and the African-American civil rights movement.
“I just felt in all three cases, those speeches when you hear them now, resonate in a way very differently from when they were first delivered. But they apply to things that are going on today.”
The record also saw the band reunite with legendary producer Rick Rubin, which sees them toning down their aggressive roots.
“These songs are not kicking you in the teeth,” Shinoda argued. “Whenever we made something that sounded like stuff we’d done before we felt lazy and ended up ditching it. In the end we wanted to do something that explored a different space for us. Hopefully it will surprise people.”
The singer also revealed one of the key elements in their experimentation came courtesy of Rubin, who urged them to indulge in “automatic writing”.
“We were having a ton of trouble with the vocal and lyrics on the song ‘Blackout’, so we asked Rick for his advice,” Shinoda explained.
He added: “He suggested this technique he used with Johnny Cash and Neil Young, which basically means you get up on the mic and let the words flow. Going in there and actually doing it was terrifying at first but then the words just started coming out of nowhere, it was really surreal. It added a certain soul to the record and without that, I think it would have been really rigid and digital.”
‘A Thousand Suns’ is out in the UK next Monday (September 13).