Mike Shinoda Addresses ’Toxic Masculinity’ of Nu Metal and Why No One Wanted to Sign Linkin Park Early On

Linkin Park guitarist and co-lead vocalist Mike Shinoda recently recalled the band’s early days and the difficulties getting signed. Speaking to Metal Hammer, Shinoda explained how the band, in its earliest days, stood out from the rest of the crowd on the so-called “nu metal” scene of the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

According to the musician, their approach to making music and their overall image just didn’t fit the desired standards of the era. Ultimately, it made it almost impossible for them to get signed. Reflecting on the band’s earliest days, way back when they were called Xero and worked with vocalist Mark Wakefield, Shinoda said:

“We had met with every label and most of the indies and got turned down by everybody. Then we got Chester [Bennington], and we were like, ‘Now we’re going to get signed.’ We went and met with everybody again, showcased for everybody, and they all turned us down again.”

Of course, this wasn’t an easy thing to accept for a young band back in the 1990s. And as Shinoda explains, this was due to their combination of influences which was pretty unconventional for the labels at the time who didn’t feel like going against the grain and mostly went with the trends that were popular. He continued:

“Here’s what I assume they thought. Our thing, the combination of elements, was too esoteric.”

As he discussed the issue further, Shinoda pointed out how the scene at the time was aggressive and “very frat rock.” And that’s exactly what made the situation complicated for young Linkin Park, especially back when they were known as Xero and Hybrid Theory. Reflecting on their “introspective” sound from back in the day, Shinoda said:

“What we didn’t like about what was going on in the scene was that it was very frat rock. It was toxic masculinity. We didn’t know the term yet. We just didn’t like how everything was about tough-guy shit, and we didn’t identify with tough-guy shit. So nobody wanted to sign us because we didn’t fit. They couldn’t see us onstage.”

Xero - Fiends (Mike Shinoda / Linkin Park)

What’s more, as Shinoda claims, the scene would potentially be incredibly hostile towards a band like Linkin Park if they ever ended up sharing a bill with the likes of Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock. He added:

“Somebody said to me, ‘If you guys were to open up a show with Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit, you’d get beat up.’ It was a joke, right? But probably true, at least for me. I would’ve gotten beat up. Chester wouldn’t have gotten beat up. He’d fuck somebody up, too.”

Linkin Park - Los Angeles, The Roxy Theatre 2000 (Full Show)

Funnily enough, Linkin Park would end up making a huge breakthrough with their first few albums, ultimately becoming much bigger than both Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Unfortunately, all that would come to an end in 2017 after Chester Bennington’s tragic passing.

Many fans speculated whether the band could continue without Chester. However, not much has been going on in the Linkin Park cam for the past few years or so. In another interview published earlier this month, Shinoda was asked whether he thinks that they could do a tour with Chester Bennington’s hologram. He said:

“Those are creepy. Even if we weren’t talking about us, if we weren’t talking about Chester, which is… that’s a very sensitive subject, and we would have our feelings about how we would represent that… For me, that’s a clear no; I’m not into that.

Live In Texas (Full) [HD UPGRADE] - Linkin Park

“But even as a viewer of, like, just a fan of another band — like I heard ABBA, for example, they’re doing a hologram show, and they’re still alive. Then you get to have an opinion about it based on, like… They’re all still here, and yet they wanna do it this way because they wanna transport you back to that moment in time where those songs were new and it was whatever era it was.

“I get that; I see that. I’m not positive, even under those circumstances, I’m not positive I personally would buy a ticket to the show. But [other people] would. That’s fine.”

He also added:

“The problem with the Internet now is that everybody thinks that everything is for everybody. And what I mean is everyone feels like they need to chime in, like, ‘Well, here’s my opinion.

Linkin Park - CHESTERS LAST SHOW (Full Concert) Birmingham 2017

“This is what I have to say. And if it’s not for me, like if I don’t like it, then nobody should like it.’ That’s not the way the world works. If you like a thing and I don’t like the thing, then you go see the thing; you go buy the thing.”

For now, Linkin Park is mostly inactive. Nonetheless, they still managed to release some of the previously unheard old material that was recorded back in the day with Chester Bennington on vocals. In February, they shared “Lost” which was recorded during the sessions for their sophomore album “Meteora.”

Lost [Official Music Video] - Linkin Park

Earlier this year, during his visit to the Howard Stern show, Shinoda’s touched upon “In the End,” one of the band’s biggest songs that was released on their debut record “Hybrid Theory.” Recalling how it came to be, Shinoda said:

“My lyrics on the first version were different. But by the end of that night I had written the words to the chorus. The next day I played it for our drummer [Rob Bourdon]… and he was like, ‘Dude, this is the song that we’ve been waiting for, this is the best song we’ve got.‘”

“It didn’t feel big to me, it didn’t feel like a hit song. I wouldn’t know what a hit song felt like, I was too young. I was feeling despondent, like, we’re doing all this stuff, we’re trying to realize some kind of identity or some kind of meaning, and it’s not working.”

In The End [Official HD Music Video] - Linkin Park

When Howard Stern reminded him of the stories of how Chester supposedly didn’t like the song, Shinoda replied:

“He didn’t hate it. No, no, no, no. That’s actually a misconception. Some people think that he hated the song. He liked the song, he just loved really heavy stuff, and so when people were like, ‘This should be a single’, he was like, [shrugs], ‘Ah, whatever!’ It’s not the one that he would have chosen. He was born for this.”

Photo: Stefan Brending (Linkin Park-Rock im Park 2014- by 2eight 3SC0602)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.