Why Mike Shinoda is one of rock’s true good guys
It’s Mike Shinoda’s 44th birthday today, and we wish him all the best as he’s a hell of a dude. The Linkin Park, uh, everything – rapper, singer, producer, songwriter, engineer, mixer, remixer, visual artist and graphic designer – has had a difficult few years following the tragic death of his bandmate and friend Chester Bennington, and has graciously opened his healing process up to the world with soul-baring solo work and heartfelt, emotional interviews.
Have a great birthday, Mike, you deserve it. Here’s why…
He’s done everything
Mike Shinoda has to be one of the only people in the world who has worked with both Sir Paul McCartney and Steve Aoki. He has scored video games and signed hardcore bands, designed album covers and remixed rap legends.
He has the best walk ever
Watching older Linkin Park videos is a bittersweet experience these days, as it’s hard not to feel sad seeing Chester, but it would be remiss not to give a shout-out to Mike’s magnificently goofy “rap walk”, 30 seconds or so into the In The End video. A brilliantly imitable bit of bouncy-knee‑d strutting.
He’s given back
Along with the rest of Linkin Park, Mike founded Music For Relief in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Over the years it has been involved in over 30 massive disaster relief efforts as well as planting over a million trees and donating a dollar from every Linkin Park ticket sold to reforestation efforts.
He’s knocked down genre walls
Before nu-metal (although Linkin Park themselves reject that label), there were much more solidly defined lines as to what people listened to. Two bands from different genres might sometimes collaborate, but there was way less crossover between the worlds of metal and hip-hop within bands. A metal band openly embracing hip-hop, with one vocalist rapping over another’s wails, seemed a lot more out-there at the time than it does now, a testament to the success of such things. Projects like Collision Course, the GRAMMY-winning, Mike-led Linkin Park/Jay‑Z mash-up album would have once been unthinkable. Throughout Linkin Park’s genre-straddling career, he has been massively responsible for bringing in influences from electronica and trip-hop, leading to the situation we have today where artists happily skip between genres – something like Bring Me The Horizon’s amo could be seen as a direct result of Linkin Park’s genre-mashing.
Mike Shinoda is obviously a man with his finger on the pulse of wherever technology and music meet, but he’s a practical thinker around such things as well. When the band changed their name from Hybrid Theory to Linkin Park, they initially wanted to go with what Mike calls “the Presidential spelling”. The dot-com wasn’t available, so he vetoed the name in favour of one they could buy the domain name of. That might not seem like that big a deal, but in 1998 that was the kind of forward-thinking that separated the bands that made it from the bands that didn’t. “There wasn’t really a Google yet,” he said.
During the 2012 election, Mike was the U.S. political correspondent for the Big Issue. That’s pretty impressive, but he opened his first column in a characteristically self-effacing style: “Writing a column would be an easy way to get myself in trouble, because a) there are plenty of people who devote a lot more time to politics and b) as a member of Linkin Park, I have a lot to lose by diving into a commentary on political events. Since I am drawn to terrible ideas and obvious risk, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Mike was also (under the name White Pegacorn) behind Barack Your World, a very rude, very silly political anthem he did with Mark Wakefield, original vocalist for Xero (who later became Hybrid Theory, who later became Linkin Park). The fact that Mark and he are still friends, and Mark isn’t consumed with bitterness that the band he was in went on to such stratospheric success, surely demonstrates Mike’s nice-dudeness and all.
He scored The Raid, damn it
Have you seen the 2011 Indonesian action movie The Raid? If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to see it – it’s an extraordinarily violent movie filled with incredibly done fight scenes. It’s also scored – in its international version, anyway – by Mike Shinoda (with Joseph Trapanese).
Mike also worked on the score of the 2012 video game Medal Of Honor: Warfighter (with Game Of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi).
He’s painted on the Berlin Wall
He’s done loads of art, in fact, doing everything for Linkin Park from cover art to backdrops, exhibiting work, painting on the Berlin Wall and collaborating with brands like DC Shoes. The ideas behind Mike’s solo project Fort Minor’s debut album began as a series of paintings he did first. He’s even set up a scholarship in his name at his alma mater, LA’s Art Center College Of Design, to help up-and-coming illustrators and graphic designers who aren’t in a financial position to pay for their education.
He casually influenced one of the 21st century’s most successful songs
When the late EDM artist Avicii was putting a project together, Mike casually mentioned that vocalist Aloe Blacc might do a good job on one of the tracks. That ended up being Wake Me Up, which got to Number One in 22 countries.
He’s sharing his grief
The work Mike has done in the wake of Chester’s death is raw and emotional, both in a bid to express his own feelings and to help fans through it. “I felt like I had a little bit of a responsibility just to show up,” he explained. “I didn’t want all of their effort or emotions to disappear into a black hole. I wanted them to know that I was here and listening.” In working on the material that became Post Traumatic, Mike would sing straight into his phone as though he was Skyping or FaceTimeing directly with his audience. It’s incredibly affecting, and will absolutely have helped a huge amount of fans through traumatic times.
He won’t cash-in on Chester’s legacy
Some other bands that have lost members seem determined to wring every dollar they can out of fans’ grief and desire to see their favourite acts intact, to the point of even resurrecting their former comrades in holographic form. Mike is not going to be doing that, reacting extremely unambiguously when the idea was floated in an Instagram chat. “Can we not do a holographic Chester? I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of a holographic Chester. I’ve actually heard other people outside the band suggest that, and there’s absolutely no way. I cannot fuck with that.”
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