As the singer for hard rockers Linkin Park, Chester Bennington has become one of the most recognized faces and voices in modern rock. Yet while he has experienced massive success with one of the few rock bands left in the world that can still sell albums, he has had other things on his mind. His side project Dead By Sunrise — which also features Anthony “Fu” Valcic, Julien-K’s Brandon Belsky and Elias Andra and Orgy’s Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck — allows him to express a wide range of musical and lyrical ideas that he cannot get out in his main group. Their debut CD Out Of Ashes is one of the year’s best albums.
This album has been a long time in the making.
It has, it has. It seems like it’s been forever, but really when I look at it the album actually didn’t take very long to make, it was the three years that Minutes To Midnight sucked up [in] between working on the album.
You’ve known a lot of your band members a lot longer, haven’t you?
I’ve known Ryan [Shuck] and Amir [Derakh] for 10 years, maybe more. I met them when they were working on Vapor Transmissions with Orgy and Linkin Park was still making Hybrid Theory.
A lot of people create side projects that sound like their main bands, but this one really crosses over a lot of different genres and styles.
Yeah, it does. It’s kind of grungy and it’s kind of got some punk elements to it as well, but at the same time it’s really poppy. It’s also got this alternative electronic sensibility to it. The album sounds like a whole album — it doesn’t feel too scattered — but it’s definitely diverse, and that was my goal, to make something that was more rock and just the kind of music I make, in addition to the kind of stuff that we write with Linkin Park.
“Crawl Back In” was used for a promo for TNA Wrestling. It seems like that dark tune would be appropriate for the dour world of the film The Wrestler rather than the larger-than-life atmosphere of pro wrestling. It makes me think of how many rock and metal fans don’t always know the lyrics to songs they like. Have you found that often with Linkin Park’s music, that some people don’t actually know what your songs are about or perhaps misinterpret them?
I do that actually. I’ve been listening to bands for 20 years of my life and probably couldn’t tell you the correct words to any of their songs, with the exception of a few. When I listen to music I just listen and just like the melody. Sometimes I get so lost in the melody and the music that when I sing along I’m just going “da-na-na-na” to the melody and don’t even know what the fuck they’re saying. Some people love to pay attention to that stuff. Some people love to sit down and listen to it and read the lyrics. Some people don’t care about any of it because they just want to listen to the guitar parts. It’s such a unique experience for everybody. I’m sure there are many people whose favorite song is “In The End” but they don’t know the words.
This album is allowing you to express a lot of other ideas that you don’t get to share through Linkin Park. Was it important for you to expand musically in as many different directions as possible?
It was almost like an accident because my intention was to write songs for Linkin Park and only Linkin Park. I have no desire to go and start another band. These songs are so different from Linkin Park in some very obvious ways and in some very subtle ways. I knew that but still felt they were good songs, even though I knew that LP would be like, “It’s a good song but it’s not really our thing.” In the beginning I took that as they were being nice and telling me they didn’t like the songs in a very nice way, but as I kept playing the songs for people — whether they were hanging out backstage and I had a guitar or if I was having at a party at my house and was playing around a campfire — people really seemed to be drawn to the songs I was writing and liked them. So I felt like I should give these a shot.
Is it true that you originally wrote a lot of these songs on acoustic guitar?
That’s my studio. I write everything on acoustic guitar. Every single one of these songs was written on my acoustic at home, and then I brought them in [to the studio]. My theory is if I can sit down with an acoustic guitar and sing a song and people love the song, then the work is done. Now it’s just a matter of going out — you’ve made the cake, and now you can put whatever icing you want on it.
You’re remarried, so I’m assuming that the romantic “Give Me Your Name” was written for your second wife?
It was not written for my first wife. Actually, I look back at my previous marriage and don’t know how I remained married. It was so turbulent and so unhealthy. We both deserve happiness and both deserve to find the best people we can, and the two of us were like oil and water. We just couldn’t mix correctly, but luckily for me I did find the right person. I met my wife Talinda, fell in love with her quickly, and we had an amazing romance. We got married and had a beautiful child together. She’s an amazing step mother to my other children, and my family has become even closer. It’s amazing what the right person will do for you if you find them.
While tumultuous relationships can be exciting at times, they can also be emotionally draining.
That’s a good way of putting it. [laughs] Even in the worse moments people can find something good in it, and I think that’s one of the reasons why people try to stick through bad relationships because sometimes there’s something worth fighting for. But how long are you going to fight for it? Eventually the fighting stops, and usually that means you need to split. That’s what happened [with me], and because of it life has gotten a lot better.
How much touring are you going to do besides these three initial shows? Are you also going to record more music in the future?
I would like to tour as much as I can. It’s definitely something that rests upon the ability and availability to tour. Obviously I’m not going to stop doing Linkin Park [in terms of] writing or business because I’m doing Dead By Sunrise. The timing here is perfect, which is why we’re putting out the record now. But I do want to do as much touring as I can squeeze in. We’re all taking this project very seriously, and we really are a band who plans on making more records. I’ve already started writing stuff for what will be the next Dead By Sunrise album. We’re in the process of making the next Linkin Park record. This is what I do. I love making music, and I’m going to keep making music as long as much and as often as possible. Performing it is obviously the ultimate goal — when you write music, you want to get out and play it for people.