Mike Shinoda is a musician best known as the rapper, principal songwriter, keyboardist, vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Linkin Park. Shinoda is also a solo rapper in his side-project, Fort Minor. What you may not know about him is he is providing the score to one of the best action films coming out of Asia in some time, The Raid (it even ranked #1 on our best films of 2011 list)! Helmed by Linkin Park frontman Mike Shinoda and film composer Joseph Trapanese, who linked up with Daft Punk to complete the music to “Tron: Legacy” last year, Shinoda is a third generation Japanese American, with a love of the arts and music. It was inevitable that he someday combine his love of the two and create an original, masterful score to a film. I had the chance to sit down and discuss the entire scoring process and what his favorite Asian films are! Read below for the full interview…
Was your mantra of ‘less is more’, zeroing in on a few things that you like best, applied while approaching the score for ‘The Raid’? What was the chicken & egg scenario and the process in terms of tracks for specific scenes?
Mike: At the start of a project like this, I try to zero-in on some ideas of what might work, and what might not. Think of it as a painter’s palette: you choose what colors to use, and what to avoid. It gives the piece a tone. In this case, I think some of the standout sounds–the breakbeats and the heavy synths and samples–were an early decision that helped define the score’s direction. And I decided to avoid guitars, which I thought made things feel brutish, if that makes sense. The distorted electro sounds set up the right aesthetic.
The Raid is a good example of minimalism, as it has a straight-forward narrative. Is that what initially drew you to the project, as there’s this certain minimalist approach?
Mike: I like the story. It’s not about a deep narrative, it’s about keeping things going so the action makes sense, and you feel like things have motivation. When the folks from Sony first reached out to me, rather than saying, “We want a Linkin Park score,” they cited other things–my remixes, my Fort Minor project–which all were really fun songs to make–the remixes were things that I did in my spare time. They were fun and easy to do. So I thought, “if that’s the type of thing they want, maybe this will be fun and easy.“
This is the first movie you’ve ever scored in its entirety. Are you happy with the result?
Mike: It was as fun as I had hoped. It was a fresh project, and the director (Gareth Evans) gave me a ton of creative space. I’m grateful for that. It made room for Joe (Trapanese) and I to make some bold decisions, like the dubstep stuff in one of the early SWAT team scenes, and the reoccurring keyboard arpeggio from “RAZORS.OUT.” which is the song at the end.
How was the creative process on this film different from your studio albums? Sometimes a movie score needs to take a backseat to the scenes that are on film. How were you able to accomplish this?
Mike: On a song, you are expressing your own emotions and telling your own story. You’re making something which is the center of focus for that experience. A score is mostly about supporting someone else’s story, and often about playing a supporting role. I tend to naturally make things that are very up-front and attention grabbing with Linkin Park, so I have to switch gears for a score.
Many composers start putting music together before the movie is finished. How challenging was it to re-score a film that was already completed?
Mike: It was actually not a challenge–it probably made things easier. Joe and I knew we could write to what was there, that the director wasn’t going to change the scene length under us.
A lot of the score reminded me a bit of ‘Session’ that appeared on ‘Meteora’. Did you pull any past musical sounds or techniques from your Linkin Park/Fort Minor productions to create the 50+ minutes of score?
Mike: I don’t usually set out to reference my own material, if it sounds like something else, it’s probably just because the same person is behind it!
Usually, action films such as Die Hard, XXX, or Rambo, aren’t particularly known for their score. Did you have any reservations having your first movie score being an action film?
Mike: That’s a great point. I did have a few reservations about it. But I think this film was asking for a score I could do pretty naturally, so I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time figuring out the right sound, and I could just do my thing and learn the workflow a little better.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Mike: I suppose if you want to go way back, I would say “Ran” or “Seven Samurai.” But if you consider it “Asian,” I also love the original “Karate Kid,” [laughs]!
What is it about iconic composers such as Hans Zimmer and John Williams that inspire you?
Mike: I just like what I like. I guess I like the boldness, and the many different themes that have become so iconic. I realize, of course, that there are big teams of people helping to create that work, and I can also appreciate the sheer amount of manpower that goes into some of the music they create together.
Lastly, can we expect to see more scores from you in the future? Is this something that you would enjoy doing throughout the years, granted the right projects come along?
Mike: Absolutely. I simply enjoy doing it, and I have every intention of stepping it up with each project. The Raid called for certain types of sounds, and I feel capable of taking on a variety of different styles, many more than would fit in this film. With The Raid behind me, I feel prepared to score something different next time–I would have a lot of fun taking on something more epic and emotionally complex with my next project.
The Raid will be in theaters Spring 2012
A new Linkin Park album is being prepared for release in Summer 2012
Mike can be found at: