Mike Shinoda Shares Unreleased Linkin Park Tracks, Memories of Chester Bennington, and a Story About Pranking Metallica

"To hear it and be teleported back there, that’s a gift," Shinoda says of discovering old Linkin Park music

February 15, 2023

There must be quite a few music executives still kicking themselves for not signing Linkin Park when they had the chance. The band’s co-founder and frontman Mike Shinoda stopped by the Stern Show on Tuesday and recounted playing 40-plus performances for label reps without one of them offering Linkin Park a record contract.

“I love a success story,” Howard told his guest while talking about the band’s early rejections. Success is putting it mildly — after finally getting signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1999, the band released their debut album “Hybrid Theory” the following year. It went on to become best-selling album of 2001 and is now the best-selling debut album of the 21st century.

While much of “Hybrid Theory’s” prosperity was thanks to the fourth and final single “In the End,” Shinoda remembers the song for its very humble beginnings.

“One thing that is like hard to wrap your head around is that …. I wrote that piano line, the chords to the chorus, I wrote some raps, I did all of the programming for all the beats sitting in a rehearsal space on Hollywood and Vine overnight,” he told Howard of their home base in Los Angeles. “Outside it was like, you know, junkies and prostitutes … it was bad. We locked the doors to the whole unit because we didn’t want anybody getting in.”

While “doodling” on the keys, the song’s prominent piano intro came to Mike followed by some other key elements of the track. “I knew I wanted to do the back and forth,” he explained of trading off lines with co-frontman Chester Bennington. “Like he would sing a line and then I would rap [but] my lyrics in the first version were different.” By the end of that night, the musician had figured out the song’s chorus – which was a game changer for drummer Rob Bourdon when he heard it the next day. “[He] was like, ‘Dude, this is the song that we’ve been waiting for – like, this is best song we’ve got,” Shinoda remembered.

That’s not to say he knew what he had at the time. “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,” he admitted.

Though it’s been rumored Chester didn’t care for the song, Mike insists that’s a misconception. “He didn’t hate it,” Shinoda told Howard. “He liked the song, he just loved really heavy stuff and so when … people were like ‘This should be a single’ …it’s not the one he would have chosen.”

For Whom the Prank Tolls

With the hit status from “Hybrid Theory” came big opportunities for Linkin Park including the opportunity to open for Metallica on their Summer Sanitarium Tour. “I mean, dream come true,” Mike admitted of the honor.

At some point during the tour, Linkin Park decided to go for another achievement – being the first band to prank Metallica onstage. In doing so, Shinoda and company decided to go in the opposite direction of their hosts’ metal reputation. “Everything was like tough and dark, and so we were like, ‘What would be the least tough, least dark thing to do?’” Mike remembered. “We ended up going out with a picnic basket and like little sandwiches and drinks, and Chester had a skateboard and he skated out on stage … We got the go-ahead from their head of security to do it – he promised he wouldn’t like take us out.”

Despite Metallica’s hard image, they couldn’t have been better sports about the episode. “They were playing ‘Master of Puppets’ but turning around laughing at us,” Mike noted. “We knew them just well enough to know that James [Hetfield] wasn’t going to knock my teeth out.”


When Chester Bennington died by suicide in 2017, it was a dark time for Shinoda that found him going through several emotions including anger. “There were points where I felt that way … and that’s natural,” he acknowledged.

And while the rapper knew his bandmate struggled with depression, he didn’t know to what extent. “Nobody knew the depths of it,” Shinoda explained before detailing his and Chester’s different experiences as outsiders. “I felt like I was an outsider because I was like a mixed-race kid that didn’t have a community to belong to … He was outside because he was scrawny, he was like picked on, he was bullied all the time.”

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, Chester struggled with addiction. At times, it presented a challenge to the band especially in the early days of grinding on the road. “It was hard, and in the midst of all that … he’d just go missing and come back obliterated, like you couldn’t even talk to him,” Mike remembered. “There was an element of Chester that was very fun sometimes when he was that way and then usually the next day it would be like so dark. He’s super hungover, he’s angry at everybody, yelling at everybody.”

With Chester’s death, Shinoda’s career as a musician was put into question. “For me, it just felt like too much,” he told Howard. “To get back on it and try to do some version of music and also be seen through the lens of what had happened … it was like being a member of a club that I didn’t want to join.”

But when Shinoda remembers his late friend in his element musically, he looks back fondly. “He was born for this,” he noted of Bennington with a big smile. “I feel like him singing vocals on albums and on stage was as happy as it got. Like, that was as good as it fucking got, so I always feel good about that.”

‘Lost’ Tracks Uncovered

To honor the 20th anniversary of the band’s “Meteora,” Linkin Park will be releasing a boxed set edition later this year featuring several unearthed tracks. In addition to “Lost,” [above] Shinoda debuted the songs “More the Victim,” and “Fighting Myself” exclusively for Howard. “This was one that I knew was in the batch somewhere,” he said of the latter before explaining that until someone from management sent him a note, he had no idea Chester’s vocals existed for the track. “He’s like, ‘Dude, I think I have something you’re going to want to hear’ and he sent me a version with this vocal on it.”

Putting the project together appears to have been healing for the musician. “It’s like an old photo,” he said. “It can be bittersweet but to have forgotten that it existed and then to hear it and be teleported back there, that’s a gift.”

“Meteora 20th Anniversary Edition” is available for pre-order now and out on April 7.