“I want to be in the driving seat… I want to be an artist again”: Mike Shinoda on new music, Fort Minor, the power of nostalgia and what’s coming next

There’s a perceived truth, when comparing hip-hop and rock music, that fans of alternative music are more obsessed with looking back, while rap fans care about what’s happening right now. Look at the big business festivals like When We Were Young and Sick New World are doing, and there’s certainly an argument to be made, but Mike is quick to assert that this year’s 50 Years Of Hip-Hop celebration was a much bigger, cultural retrospective commemorated across the world. Although, he does understand the allure of When We Were Young.

“The nostalgia about those things, I wonder sometimes if some of that stuff is based on how fragmented things are on social media. Things are so ripped apart and thin, and you’re getting constant confetti of information. Little tiny pieces of objects that you’re looking at. Before you would have a TV show or radio show that everyone listened to or watched, you’d show up the next day and everyone you knew had watched it or listened to it. Think about the days of Elvis or The Beatles or something, everyone was excited about the same thing, but these days it’s too hard to be excited about the same thing because nobody’s tuned in to the same stuff. But when you can rally around something that’s common, it feels like it’s that much more impactful. One could make an argument that the older things are gonna be the ones where more people paid more attention to just one thing.”

It’s true that the MySpace/emo scene was probably the last time there was a distinct tribe on a mass scale in alternative music – “You were wearing a uniform. You were fully subscribed” – but Mike doesn’t necessarily miss that aspect of music when considering what it leads to artistically.

“I’m not a huge fan of rules about [music]. I’ll listen to a little bit of templatised music. Like the blues is very templatised music, country too, a lot of rap these days is very templatised – you use the same sounds, you talk about the same things, you make them the same way and they all sound similar. The blues, again, if you didn’t use the same chords in a certain way then it wasn’t the blues. Country does the same. It’s more interesting to me to speak about something new like Teezo Touchdown. He’s on his own planet, doing his own shit, and I like that about him – he stands out as somebody that I want to listen to because he’s doing something so strange and singular.

“That said, it’s not going to be for everybody, so the draw around that little bit of culture is going to be so specific. But maybe, what I like about it is that it is specific, that tribe is tight, and when you meet people that are a part of it you feel a stronger connection to them – and that’s always been the case. ‘Oh you like the Misfits, you like S.O.D…’ these groups that most people won’t know, but when you hit that one person who does, you have everything to talk about.”