Reading Festival 2018: Interview with Mike Shinoda for NME

Mike shares his memories of playing Reading Festival and talks about the differences when playing as a solo artist

📅 August 2018


📖 5 min read

NME: Hello, you are watching NME. We are here with Mike Shinoda at Reading Festival, who’s about to play a show on the main stage. How you doing, Mike?

Mike: I’m doing well, thank you. 

NME: Excellent. Is this the first time you’ve been here since 2003, or have you popped in since?

Mike: I thought that I had been here since then, but the Internets didn’t have record of it, so… [smiles]

NME: What does Reading Festival mean to you? 

Mike: Well, I always think of the first time we came to Europe, and we were playing these little club shows back in... gosh, it was probably like 2001, and the fans kept asking, “Mike, Chester, will you be playing Reading and Leeds?!” and we were like, “We don’t have a song called Reading and Leeds, what is that?” And then finally, within 24-48 hours, somebody informed us that it was this big festival. And, you know, festivals to us were a one day affair. We didn’t have weekend long festivals in the States at the time, so it was an experience, for sure.

NME: I mean, within two years of that you were headlining the thing.

Mike: Yeah, I think so.

NME: Any memories of 2003?

Mike: Back then my approach for a show was very much rooted and it came from playing really rowdy club shows, so it was just like super aggressive and screaming the whole time. It’s much different now, but… You know, with my solo set I try to approach it like, “what would I want to hear if I was the one in the crowd?” and I try to play different things - I play Linkin Park stuff, Fort Minor stuff and, of course, the new solo stuff.

NME: And what can we expect from the show? Is it just you solo, full band or?

Mike: It used to be. For the first couple of months after I released the record, I did shows completely by myself and it was a really stripped down, personal kind of thing. And there were a couple of reasons why I did that. Number one: because the music is so personal. And number two: because I wanted to see what I needed on stage, and just build it from nothing up, as opposed to just assuming, “well, I should do it this way” and putting a bunch of people on stage or whatever. And as it turns out I did a bunch of shows that way. And I just finished two weeks in Asia with a drummer and a kind of multi-instrumentalist and that feels great to me. I’m really happy with presentation right now.

NME: Is it kind of odd, obviously to be out on the road without the band?

Mike: It can be. At this point I’m really wearing a nice rhythm and it feels good. And I keep in touch with the guys. We’ve been kind of texting and emailing back and forth. No plans, but… In fact, that thing I said about the fans saying, “Will you be playing Reading and Leeds?” Joe Hahn texted me this morning, I woke up and looked at my phone and he had texted, “Will you be playing Reading and Leeds?!” [laughs]

NME: [laughs] Amazing! Was it kind of tough to step up?

Mike: There are a lot of elements of putting out the music, getting on stage, doing certain songs... Some things are harder than others, you know? And I always make at least one moment during the set to kind of pay tribute to Chester, and to give the fans, who were so touched by our songs with him, that moment of celebration. I never want my show to be a sad thing at all, but it feels totally appropriate and healthy to have that moment, and I think some fans really need that. 

NME: It’s fascinating, I mean, this is obviously a transition, or maybe a transitional period, we don’t really know what’s gonna happen in the future, but this EP - is this something of a tribute to Chester? 

Mike: Well, the album Post Traumatic is 16 songs, and basically they’re kind of arranged in chronological order. The first batch of them was really in the aftermath, within the first couple months, and they’re the ones I released as an EP. And those are the darkest ones, looking backwards and very confused. And as the album goes on, you find that it starts to look towards the future, become more hopeful and a couple songs are more playful. I think for some fans there is still a little bit of apprehension about listening to it and getting into it, because it deals with a really heavy subject. It’s a diary, it’s an autobiography in a sense. But for those fans, I mean, if anything, I think from track 9 through 16 it really turns a corner and starts looking forward, and that’s consistent with how things have been in life. After I put out the album and started playing some shows and seeing the fans in person... like I said before, the tone is much more celebratory. And, you know, this is not the hand that any of us would have wanted to be dealt, but if this is what I’m dealing with, then I’m gonna make the most of it. I love to play music, I love to write music, so I’m of course going to pursue that.

NME: How have the fans been taking to it?

Mike: Great! Especially at the shows, I think. For some people there’s an element of the needing closure and other people, they just love the band and maybe they didn’t get to see the band with Chester, and other people saw us - I just got a fan mail, a letter from somebody at the meet-and-greet yesterday, and they had listed every show, they’ve been to 20 Linkin Park shows. So, both sides, all over the spectrum different people are coming in different ways, and generally it is a celebratory thing. And there are definitely songs that have nothing to do with any of that as well, a few Fort Minor songs. Like, I played “Kenji” yesterday, which is about Japanese internment in the US in World War II. It has nothing to do with any of that, so there’s a variety of subjects and emotions going on.

NME: And I guess sort of the million dollar question, and maybe you don’t even know but what are your future plans? What could happen next? What will happen?

Mike: It’s really just a journey for me. Rather than making goals like that, I’m enjoying where it goes and keeping my eyes open to the different things that can be out there and are possible. With that said, I might be releasing more solo music, I might get together with the guys in Linkin Park, I might go write or produce for some other bands, play more shows, I do art shows, I don’t know. [smiles] I love to do all those things and I’m just kind of taking it as it goes.

NME: Okay, fantastic! Mike, thanks very much for your time.

Mike: Thank you!

NME: And stay tuned to for more interviews and videos.