MTV articleLinkin Park bassist Phoenix might never top the birthday he had Wednesday. Not only did he get a Grammy, he got to perform with the most famous bass player of all time.
"I was trying to figure out what it felt like, and it was like in seventh grade asking a girl to a dance. You know, when you're excited and you're super-nervous about it and you feel uncomfortable in your own skin," Phoenix recalled backstage of Linkin Park's onstage collaboration with former Beatle Paul McCartney.
"You have a seventh-grade crush on Paul McCartney?" singer Chester Bennington interrupted, ruining the moment.
"I actually just turned 13," Phoenix jokingly replied. "I'm waiting for them to play 'Lady in Red.' "
Now that would be a mash-up. Until then, though, Linkin Park are thrilled with how their "Numb/Encore" with Jay-Z meshed with McCartney's "Yesterday" during the big show.
"The Grammys asked us to perform with Jay-Z since we were nominated for the mash-up, but since we already played together on some really high-profile stages with our MTV special and with Live 8, we wanted to do something really special that showcased the power of the mash-up," explained guitarist Brad Delson, who orchestrated the performance. "So we had this idea to do something with Paul, and when I went to Mike [Shinoda]'s house and we were listening to some of the older Beatles songs to see what would work best, 'Yesterday' really popped its head up."
"This is getting into technicalities, but Jay's verse is like a weird measure, like 18 bars, and the fact that 'Yesterday' works with that weird number, we just looked at each other like, 'How did that happen?' " Shinoda added.
"The Da Vinci Code was cracked," Bennington joked.
Once Delson and Shinoda had the mash-up on tape, they took it to the rest of Linkin Park and eventually McCartney and Jay.
"I thought it sounded great, but at the same time I said, 'I think I am going to puke,' because you can't mess it up," Bennington said. "Either you go out and you nail it or you quit the business, pack up and move to some strange country where no one knows who you are. It was really that much pressure, but what was really interesting was that once I met Sir Paul McCartney, all of that went away and ... he brought everything down to a level that made it more real rather than surreal. And that was very helpful because in my mind he is one of the greatest legends of rock and roll."
Working with legends, though, is starting to become commonplace for Linkin Park. First was Jay-Z with Collision Course, and now Rick Rubin is producing the band's follow-up.
It was actually hearing Rubin's production of Jay's "99 Problems" that gave LP the idea to approach him.
"He has produced so many of our favorite records, of everybody's favorite records, he is just so versatile," Shinoda said. "Anybody who can work with the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Slayer, System of a Down, Dixie Chicks and Neil Diamond, for us, that is what our sound is based upon. We like to mix different things together in a seamless way and we think Rick is a guy who understands that."
Linkin Park are writing the album right now and have had several meetings with Rubin.
"He's already given us some really great tips on new things just to get us excited about writing another record," Shinoda said. "One of the things he told of right off the bat is, 'Don't think of yourselves as this is what Linkin Park is supposed to be, you can be whatever you want to be. Write anything that comes to your mind that you like.' So I think the next record is really going to break outside the box. You will recognize it as a Linkin Park record, but something that takes it up a notch."
With the band eager to release the record sometime in 2006, Bennington has decided to delay his solo album until 2007 or later.
"It was a natural decision," the singer said. "My record can wait. A good record should still sound good two years from now."
Shinoda, meanwhile, will balance recording with Linkin Park and promoting his Fort Minor album. He's touring off and on through the spring and just shot a video for the third single, "Where'd You Go."
"A lot of people write about being on the road and I wanted to write a song about that from a different perspective, from the perspective of the people who get left behind," Shinoda said of the track. "And I have a really great guest on that song, her name is Holly Brooke, she is a new artist signed to our label [Machine Shop], but she doesn't sound anything like our label. She's a singer/songwriter like Joni Mitchell, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and she just added her flavor to it. We are really excited about the song and the video."