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"A Thousand Suns" Turns 10

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On September 14, 2020, "A Thousand Suns" celebrated its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, Mike listened to the album on his stream on September 10 and then on September 14 (the release date in the USA), took a lot of questions about the album.

 

Here's what he had to say:

 

What inspired Linkin Park to go from making a normal album to making a concept album: “It’s funny because it’s a little bit like the current climate. We were writing songs for… we thought we were going to be doing a video game. And then that fell through, it got to the point where things were getting designed and it all fell apart and it didn’t work. We had all this music. The concept of the video game was not about apocalyptic things, it was more about… there was this patient who was stuck in a mental institution for some reason, and he was being unjustly kept there and punished. And they did things to his brain and he developed powers to control things. He could move things with his mind at one point but I think he could like, at one point, shoot electricity and fire and stuff like that. And the concept was still loose, it wasn’t an awesome concept but it was getting there.


Right now if you think of the state of America, it’s so fractured culturally. At the time of A Thousand Suns, we were coming out the George W. Bush presidency and troops were still in Iraq. The idea that, “Oh, we’re just going to all blow each other up” was at the very top of the mind. So that influenced the lyrics a lot, that’s why we used the Oppenheimer quote and the Savio quotes about the machine, the pieces of the machine, all of that stuff was ambitious… some people thought it was too ambitious, or thought we were in over our heads. That’s fine, but we were making what we were really feeling at the time. So that’s the reason for the concept album kind of thing.”

 

What Mike was listening to in 2008, 2009, and 2010 when making A Thousand Suns: "I was listening to a lot of Radiohead, everything from MGMT to Pink Floyd. I think there was some Nine Inch Nails and Tool in there. We a bunch of remixes with other people that were based on some of the things I was listening to at the time. But I wasn’t listening to new Nine Inch Nails at the time - it was old Nine Inch Nails, like Broken and Fragile. The first four proper studio albums by Nine Inch Nails are my favorite ones. Also weird instrumental music, I was listening to like Gonjasufi and this group called Fuckbuttons. Those are super crazy, by the way… Flying Lotus too… some really out there stuff which I loved and I still love. Tarot Sport was the album; “Rough Steez”, that was a track. So dope. Gang Gang Dance was another artist I was into that I was listening to a lot. Holy Fuck was another band. O+S, Caribou, Peter Bjorn and John, Naked & Famous. So I was listening to a lot of wild stuff and those influenced it. Those songs are awesome, some of them are super duper sick. Death Grips.”

 

The playing field for artists making an album like ATS in 2010 versus now in 2020: “I feel like the playing field for art and commerce, the distance between “Hey I’m making a jingle that’s supposed to be a pop song” and on the other side, “I’m making an art project that’s so obscure and abstract and wild, nobody’s going to fucking listen to it, I don’t fucking care. It’s not about people listening to it.” Back then, I feel like there were two points of the spectrum and a relatively even scattering of artists who lived in between. We lived in between, a lot of artists lived in between. It’s like, “I want to make art, AND I want to sell records. And some of my songs lean one way or another.” But I don’t think any of our stuff goes all the way to one side or the other. I think now because of how the social media algorithms work and how streaming algorithms work, and YouTube, Spotify, TikTok… now everybody’s either on one side or another and they’ve cleared out the middle. It’s a lot of… either most of them are making shit to sell and then some people are making shit that’s art. And it’s really out there art. Look at like Thundercat; to me the reason he’s so interesting is he can live in the middle. Kendrick can live in the middle. Charlie XCX can live in the middle. But I think even if some of the most poppy artists tried to do something that is more artistic, people would be like, “Why are you doing that?” People would back away from it, the label would be scared to put it out in the first place. The label would be like, “No no no, you need to go back in… we don’t hear a single. So what are we going to promote?””

"Jornada Del Muerto": “I remember making this part and texting and emailing a bunch of people, like, to make sure that I got the words right. Because it’s supposed to be, I wanted it to be “Lift me up, let me go”, but in Japanese. We were doing a bunch of different stuff in different languages on the album.”

 

“The Catalyst”: "The Catalyst" came surprisingly easily. That one was like, “Oh wow! That one is a song, that one is defining part of the record.”"

 

"Blackout": “I think “Blackout” was tough and eluded us for a little bit. The hardest part about “Blackout” was the vocal was a scat vocal that sounded like what the vocal sounds like now. Here’s what we were doing at the time. We were still doing a lot of songs where the lead vocal was a scat lead vocal with no words, a lot of “da da da” and “na na na.” On the original vocal, I kept pushing Chester to get weirder and weirder. We both did this but it was easier for me to go in the booth to do that, but I think it was because he was doing it and I was recording it, he felt self-conscious a little bit. So he’d always fall back into “na na na” and “la la la.” I was like, “No dude, really really pretend you’re making words.” So what we tried to do is the screaming thing with that and he really had to let loose. But once he got there, that whole song… imagine someone singing that whole song in gibberish. And then when it was time to make it into lyrics, it always felt like you were going from something so dope and so visceral, every time we tried to write words to it, it got too logical. And we wanted it to be illogical. So then we started listening to the gibberish and saying, “What words sound like those words?” And that’s why the lyrics on that song are so fucking weird, they are super weird just because that’s what the grunts and gibberish sounded like to us. We were just trying to make sense of the gibberish. That’s a writing technique that Rick Rubin has used on everyone from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Neil Young and Tom Petty. He wasn’t the pioneer of that thing, he was just the one who taught us how to do it.”


“When They Come For Me”: ""When They Come For Me" was tough and eluded us for a little bit."


"Waiting For The End": "“Waiting For The End” has its issues too… I knew that it was good, and I was intimidated by diving into it and I didn’t want to screw it up. I remember having the beat and most of the sounds and rapping over that, which became the bridge. I kept waiting for certain things, something to pop up that I could stick in the song and jump off of that point. And then Chester brought in the “waiting for the end” vocal line and then I was like, “Yo, now that is the song.” But it wasn’t pulling our hair out trying to get it right, that was really being patient for the right pieces to come together."

 

 

 

 

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Wow, we got a great commentary about A Thousand Suns, you can really tell how much Mike loves it!

It's a shame we didn't get the game but we got the band's best work, interesting concept tho.
 

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Yeah agreed Peppe, this is actually a case where the end result was better than the hypothetical. They could have made a video game collection of songs and music in 2009, then released a heavy studio album in 2010 from those heavy demos. I think ATS in the end was perfect, it's their best work for sure.

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Amazing record, can’t wait for the 20th anniversary (lol). Anyway, you see the passion and you see that Mike loves this album especially. To me the astonishing thing is that the record doesn’t get old, because it hasn’t a sound you can tie into a specific period of time (nu Metal, post grunge, modern pop...), but it has its own sound... you can really say that ATS sounds like... ATS. It’s art and it’s genre less (I mean you get Blackout, The Messenger and WTCFM on the same record). 
Oh and what about The Catalyst, it’s a genere on its own, sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard in my entire life 

Edited by PurpleFlinstoneVitamins92

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Love hearing him talk about ATS. Also, Naked and Famous are great and I'm glad to hear him acknowledge them! Their album In Rolling Waves has always reminded me of ATS. 

 

I hope we get more ATS-era demos some day, there's no era where I'm more interested in their demos than that lol. 

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30 minutes ago, YRQRM0 said:

Love hearing him talk about ATS. Also, Naked and Famous are great and I'm glad to hear him acknowledge them! Their album In Rolling Waves has always reminded me of ATS. 

 

I hope we get more ATS-era demos some day, there's no era where I'm more interested in their demos than that lol. 

Imagine them dropping a scrapped song off ATS 😍😍😍

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5 hours ago, PurpleFlinstoneVitamins92 said:

Imagine them dropping a scrapped song off ATS 😍😍😍

 

At least we have Symphonies of Light Reprise from LPU 16. ATS could turn out to be the band's Sgt Peppers after all if the reprise made to the cut.

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It kind of already is their Sgt. Pepper’s.

 

Both albums have recurring motifs that create a sense of flow and cohesion throughout. Both albums were huge departures, stylistically, from the bands’ previous and future works. Both albums have been seen more and more favorably by critics and casual music fans with the passing of time.

 

Personally, I would call both albums the magnum opus of both bands by a mile.

 

Both bands have a GREAT catalogue, obviously. I mean it’s The Beatles and Linkin Park. Two amazing bands, but Sgt. Pepper’s and ATS are just on a different level. 

Edited by Justin

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55 minutes ago, Justin said:

It kind of already is their Sgt. Pepper’s.

 

Both albums have recurring motifs that create a sense of flow and cohesion throughout. Both albums were huge departures, stylistically, from the bands’ previous and future works. Both albums have been seen more and more favorably by critics and casual music fans with the passing of time.

 

Personally, I would call both albums the magnum opus of both bands by a mile.

 

Both bands have a GREAT catalogue, obviously. I mean it’s The Beatles and Linkin Park. Two amazing bands, but Sgt. Pepper’s and ATS are just on a different level. 

Agree on this. It’s the only LP album that I’ve seen even non fans of the band (like some friends of mine) being like “not a fan of LP but ATS is good“. 
It’s undeniably their most complex record and the most artsy they got, I hope that if they carry on as a 5 piece they go wild and create something similar in the future, not in style but in terms of “spirit”. 

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Is interesting to hear the metal demos from '08 '09 and then listen to the album, the change is so drastic. Makes me wonder if some of those demos were made with the idea of the game in mind.

Is also crazy to think that HT and ATS are only 10 years a part, that really was a journey

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1 hour ago, Diaux said:

Is interesting to hear the metal demos from '08 '09 and then listen to the album, the change is so drastic. Makes me wonder if some of those demos were made with the idea of the game in mind.

Is also crazy to think that HT and ATS are only 10 years a part, that really was a journey

Yeah incredible, I remember the homage to HT in The Catalyst video. LP journey has always been crazy like HT-ATS, then you get THP-OML 3 years apart 

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8 hours ago, Justin said:

It kind of already is their Sgt. Pepper’s.

 

Both albums have recurring motifs that create a sense of flow and cohesion throughout. Both albums were huge departures, stylistically, from the bands’ previous and future works. Both albums have been seen more and more favorably by critics and casual music fans with the passing of time.

 

Personally, I would call both albums the magnum opus of both bands by a mile.

 

Both bands have a GREAT catalogue, obviously. I mean it’s The Beatles and Linkin Park. Two amazing bands, but Sgt. Pepper’s and ATS are just on a different level. 

 

And to add on that, I would even consider Viva la Vida from Coldplay as their magnus opus as well. 

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I remember when it first came out, how up in arms the fanbase was over the music. Like it was bad. This site was split right down the middle over it. Luckily, as the album aged, the reaction got better. It's just funny how it's so beloved now considering how controversial it was in the day. Personally, I enjoyed it. I didn't even consider it as "they sold out" "bring back the metal!", I just saw it as a solid, amazing album. It was also the first album I ever pre-ordered and got the big bundle for. I still have the vinyl/artbook bundle. I consider the art for this era to be among the best in the band's history. 

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This was the first album that I waited for the launch of. When I was a kid I just had the Meteora cassette that I listened to. I properly got into listening to music after MTM was released. All the puzzles and hype for this album were amazing. I still remember waiting for The Catalyst to debut on BBC radio, and being just amazed by it. Each song of this album is perfect, except for The Messenger, I just cannot get into that song. I think it doesn't belong on the album anyways, they just put it there because Brad loved it so much.

 

17 hours ago, rsw2010 said:

I remember when it first came out, how up in arms the fanbase was over the music. Like it was bad. This site was split right down the middle over it. Luckily, as the album aged, the reaction got better. It's just funny how it's so beloved now considering how controversial it was in the day. Personally, I enjoyed it. I didn't even consider it as "they sold out" "bring back the metal!", I just saw it as a solid, amazing album. It was also the first album I ever pre-ordered and got the big bundle for. I still have the vinyl/artbook bundle. I consider the art for this era to be among the best in the band's history. 

I think the reaction to this album was way worse than that of OML. People just hated it for some reason. Maybe it got worse reactions because by the time OML released, a lot of people had just given up on the idea of Linkin Park making a HT/Meteora type album.

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