Fort Minor: Remember The Name
"Originally, No," Mike begins emphatically, while explaining his initial response when asked if and when he'd ever record as a soloist. "But as far as making a hip-hop album, it's safe to say Ive been moving in this direction for a while. Its obviously safer to just stick with the band, but I havent done straight-up hip-hop in so long -- the Fort Minor songs kept popping into my head."
After last year's ground-breaking Linkin Park/Jay Z mash-up collaboration, Collision Course, it only seemed like the next logical evolutionary step in an already illustrious musical career. "Jay and I have kept in touch since then," Mike offers. Passionately adding, "I asked him to be executive producer on this album because of the value of his vision. A lot of people think just having his name on the record would be enough, but the truth is that you would be selling it short. His name is worth what it is because hes got a great vision for records. As soon as I finished each song, Jay helped me decide whether it should stay on the record or go, or if it needed more work. And at the same time, he respected my vision."
Before the diehards start heavily fretting about a proposed break-up scenario of one of their top-selling favorite groups, Mike assures that's there's nothing to even worry about. "Now why would I do something stupid like that?" he laughs. "Actually, we have so many fans out there that tell us regularly that the band has touched them in some way. I would feel horrible leaving them hanging. I just hope that this record moves them in some similar kind of way, in the meantime."
How then would a Fort Minor record measure up to one of those great rock anthems that Linkin Park is so famously known for?? The front-man answers immediately without even a hint of hesitation in his voice, "I know people will see differences and similarities. There is a common sound to a certain degree, just because Im the one writing. My style comes out in everything I do. But certain things will stand out as differences right off the bat; there is cursing on the Fort Minor record, for example. The song topics feel different, too." Further elaborating, "Most hip-hop these days is so keyboard-driven. In contrast, I would say Fort Minor is organic hip-hop. Since I played most of the instruments by hand, the sound feels more like its a sample rather than a keyboard. But keep in mind that my goal with the record was to write and play every note, and I came damn close to doing that."
If in fact this project is being hailed a Mike Shinoda solo record, why in the world the moniker Fort Minor? "Giving it my name felt so mainstream, too pop," the musical ingnue believes wholeheartedly. "Im not trying to go out there and get more attention for myself. I felt like naming the project put the attention more on the music. The name comes from this dynamic I like; 'Fort' represents the strong side of what I do; 'Minor' represents the smaller and darker side."
"The album has a lot of really great artists on it. The title is a play on words-this 'Tied' group of people is coming up together," Mike says, while expounding on the derivation of the album's unique title. The Rising Tied features stellar appearances from industry peers including; Common, Black Thought (of The Roots), John Legend, Kenna, and Machine Shop Recordings' first two signings, underground favorites, Styles of Beyond & Holly Brook. The set is being introduced worldwide by its' seismic sounding lead single, Believe Me, and in the U.S. alone a video for the hard-hitting, Petrified, has already found a home at outlets all across the nation. Elsewhere on the disc, there's the piano-driven, High Road, Back Home, and ode to Los Angeles, the heartfelt, Where'd You Go, and Right Now, whose inspiration was drawn from the Robert Altman film, Short Cuts.
One of the most important tracks on the disc could very well be a song appropriately named Kenji, featuring the voices of Shinoda's aunt and father. "I usually write about every day life," Mike confesses. Continuing with compassion, "Weird stuff strikes me, from sitting on the freeway to talking on the phone with someone. But there are certain exceptions. I have a song on the record called Kenji, which is about Japanese internment during World War II. That song is based on my familys true story. A lot of people dont know that the Japanese-Americans were pulled out of their homes and forced into camps here in the U.S. during the forties. I went to the Japanese-American National Museum in L.A. last year, and it reminded me of all the stories my family had told me, how they were put into internment camps here in the U.S., not because they had done anything wrong, but simply because they fit a profile. They did it to every Japanese person on the west coast at that time! "
On a less somber note, Mike Shinoda, who also possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration, re-traces the history of his complete back-story, "My mom made me take piano lessons. After a while, I hated them because playing piano simply wasnt 'cool.' I couldnt impress my friends with Beethoven. But, once I started learning Public Enemy and Dr. Dre loops on piano, my friends started paying attention. Thats when I started getting into production. I got a cheap keyboard, and got started there." Also recalling, "Ive known the guys from Styles of Beyond since about eight years ago. When I first wanted to buy a sampler, Skully from S.O.B. told me that he had been using an Akai S-900 and he loved it, so I decided to get one. It was a 12-bit sampler, and I had to buy a separate controller to trigger the sounds, but it got me started. A couple of years later, we started Linkin Park."
Mike, who cites the show, YO! MTV Raps, and living legends; Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Juice Crew, Ice-T, and N.W.A., as his strongest musical influences, has only a few real beefs with the music business in general. "I like things and I hate things. I dont love that a person will complain about an $18 CD price and then go buy a $150 shoe, when my understanding is that they cost virtually the same to make. I dont love the fact that a song that is a blatant rip off of another will get play, simply because that sound is 'familiar.' I do love the variety in music right now, with all the different styles and sounds. I also like the people who are out there getting those new sounds to the masses. All of those things are some of the reasons we started a label-we wanted to do things from the artists perspective." Continuing, "Weve been in the process of starting it [Machine Shop Recordings] up for a while, but this is the first major release on it. Were hoping to get two more records out next year: a singer-songwriter named Holly Brook, and hip hop group Styles Of Beyond. S.O.B. is on about half of The Rising Tied, and Holly is on one song, plus one of the Special Edition tracks as well."
In closing, Mike Shinoda reflects on his two biggest accomplishments, to date, with a great deal of excitement, "It would have to be a toss-up between the Live 8 concert and my Grammy. The Grammy was just something I have always wanted. And as far as Live 8, Bono called me at home to invite us to play, and when we did, it was in front of nearly one million people on the grounds. It was unbelievable!!" Concluding, "I just try to make music that I want to listen to. Some people make music that caters down to an audience, as if people are stupid. I dont underestimate the intelligence of a listener. I know that once they listen to a song a few times, they need to (know) that the song has substance in order for them to still respect it. I try to keep it mostly about the music actually. I am a songwriter and producer, first and foremost, so I try not to get too deep into my personal stuff. The songs on The Rising Tied should let you know a lot about who I am."