In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Mike Shinoda talks creating the music for The Raid: Redemption, the next Linkin Park album, horror movies, and the new effort Music for Relief is focused on.
The Raid: Redemption: hits theaters Friday March 23, 2012. You can get the soundtrack here!
You strike a balance between the organic piano and string sounds and the electronic elements. Was that integral to the score for The Raid: Redemption?
As evidenced by the stuff we’ve done with Linkin Park over the years, that’s just been something I have a personal obsession with. Even on the first Linkin Park record, Hybrid Theory, that’s what the soldier with the dragonfly wings on the cover was all about. It’s about the hardness with the softness. Although we have our moments where we want to play something that’s just brutally loud and Chester’s screaming his brains out, we’re the same band that’s going to write “My December” or sing something softer. Both come naturally to us, and we love to do both. Some people get turned off by one or the other, and we’re okay with that. It’s kind of unapologetic in that sense. When they first contacted me about this movie, they cited a few things that I do like Fort Minor and the remixes. I knew they wanted to do stuff I like to make for fun. When I talked to Gareth Evans [Director] about it, I said, “For this movie, I really want to do something that’s fun for me. I don’t do film scores, but I want to get into them more. I’m interested in them. I want to go a little bit more traditional.” He loved what I wanted to do. Some of that required creating musical themes that represented different characters and creating sonic things that represented certain characters. The piano in the earlier part of the movie is usually attached to Rama’s wife. The main bad guy in the movie, Tama, doesn’t have a theme. He’s got a sound. It’s this one weird distorted sample that echoes out. That’s all you need. You get that in a moment, and you know it’s him. We tried to play back and forth with those elements because, in our minds, they had to really represent the characters we were portraying.
The music has definitive emotional resonances.
Yeah, that was fun to do. When you’re making a song or an album, then you’re telling your own story. It’s hard. You start with a blank page, and you’re like, “What do I write about?” You’ve got to come up with everything. It’s about you at the end of the day. The story is already there with the movie though. I’ve got this great platform to build on and support. Gareth made an incredible film, and I was happy to play a supporting role.
What are the best musical tools to create tension?
I like darker movies. I’m not a very dark person. I’m not a very depressed, angry person or anything, but the kinds of movies I love tend to be action, horror, or stuff like that. I think I drew from those a little bit. Maybe I pulled from horror a little more than action at a number of points in the movie because there are a few moments where we went really minimalist. Gareth called them the “John Carpenter moments.” We had more of a droning, pulsing, tense thing going on. It really made me people cringe. It makes your stomach turn. Take the scene when the two guys are stuck inside the wall and the machete starts poking through. If you were to turn the screen off and just listen during that scene, you’d think you were in a horror movie.
The electronic sounds do have an organic feel too.
Part of that is a function of the gear we used. I think everybody is so used to being inside the computer these days. They’re making music to a click and writing on midi. Rather than playing by hand, I ran some of these elements out to analog equipment. There’s this one tape echo I love. It echoes by looping tape. Inherently, that makes it uneven and more organic. Even if you run the most rigid beat through that thing, it’s a cassette. It’s spinning tape and turning the sound into something uneven. I thought that was really useful. There are moments in the film where that gave a different dimension to the music.
Do you have a favorite horror movie?
Growing up, I loved all the big ones. I loved Poltergeist. It’s really funny. The first two R-rated movies I saw where Aliens and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It scared the shit out of me [Laughs]. I had nightmares for a week, but I loved them. I was always more of A Nightmare on Elm Street fan than a Friday the 13th fan. If you’re a little kid, you could get over the gore quicker because Freddy Krueger is such a character. I was definitely a big Halloween fan. I loved the Michael Myers character, and I loved the music so much. It didn’t hurt that there were rap songs that incorporated and sampled horror movie music. At the time, I remember hearing DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “Nightmare on My Street” and thinking it was so cool [Laughs]. As a kid, that’s what I was into.
Did scoring the movie influence the direction of the new Linkin Park music?
I don’t know. This next album is a little more of a compact, “firecracker record,” as I like to call it. As opposed to the long landscapes we were creating with A Thousand Suns, this is not a concept record in that style. This is a song-based record. Also, as we were writing The Raid: Redemption, I remember getting three-quarters of the way finished, looking back, and going, “We got really far, really fast and I love a lot of the stuff we did. How did we do that? What can I learn from that?” It occurred to me that we didn’t check in as often. That was one of the things that happened. We got a chance to really go down the rabbit hole with the music and let ideas snowball. I came back to the band that week. We have these weekly meetings, and we meet every Monday to check in about the songs regardless of the progress. Sometimes, we do more than one check-in a week, occasionally. I said, “Let’s try something different and not check-in so often. Let’s just write and see where we go.” For me, if I work on something more days in a row without checking in, I feel like I get more consumed by it. I’m inside it. I don’t have any point of reference, and I’m in this crazy place with the song where I know every little nook and cranny. I think that’s benefited this new record a lot. We stepped back from the criticism and stepped into making it.
What’s going on with Music for Relief?
We’re working with the United Nations Foundation on a great effort. The United Nations Secretary-General calls it, “The year of sustainable energy for all.” We found out that an overwhelming number of people, one-out-of-five in the world, don’t have access to clean energy. Many of them are doing things like burning nasty fuels and dung in their homes with their children. They’re getting respiratory disease. It’s horrible stuff. It’s because of lack of access and money. We’re trying to systematically attack this problem. In our case, we’ve taken on Haiti. We want to go in and provide people with solar lamps and streetlights. You can find ways to donate and spread the word at powertheworld.org. Check out some of the videos on the site too. It’s really moving stuff.