Question: You've been doing the festival since 2002. How has it evolved as the years have passed?
Answer: We started out in arenas with a few bands and we'd bring in some break-dancing crews, some emcees (whom) people hadn't heard of. It gradually grew, and we brought it out into the amphitheater world, where we could actually have 10 or 12 bands. We try to keep it with as many bands of different styles and different levels of success as possible.
Q: It appears one of your main goals has been that wide variety of acts.
A: A lot of touring festivals are very one-sided - it's a metal tour or an alternative tour or a hip-hop tour. We try to mix that up and bring a little bit of all that stuff out here.
Q: The band was out of the studio for a while before Minutes to Midnight came out. What were you up to?
A: We really didn't take much of a break. After the release of (2003's) Meteora, we were on tour for almost two years. . . . We took about seven months off. When we started recording Minutes to Midnight . . . we were in the studio for 18 months. We weren't expecting that.
Q: Do you write much on the road or prefer to be at home for that?
A: I like to write on the road sometimes. When I hear something in my head, I try to write it down or pick up my guitar and play something. But when we're in the studio mode is when I do my best work. I can sit down and spend a lot of quality time on things.
Q: What does the amphitheater setting allow the band to do, as opposed to arenas?
A: Outdoors is great for a number of reasons and not so great for a number of reasons. The good things are we can get a lot of bands out. We can set up two stages. We have a lot of stuff for people to do, like the batting cages . . . video games. The things that are kind of a drawback are, one, people are standing outside all day, which kind of turns people off a little bit. Most of the bands are playing in daylight, which limits their production.
Q: You've played for some massive crowds, including Live 8 and overseas festivals. Do you ever get intimidated?
A: I wouldn't say we're intimidated by them because we usually get pretty pumped up when the crowd is really big. It's like, "OK, we are here to kill. Let's go do it." But we're still like, "Holy crap. I can't believe there are 100,000 people here." It's impressive when you show up to a place like China and you play a stadium for your first show.
Q: Recent reviews say your onstage interaction with Mike has gotten more intense and theatrical. Could you talk about your performing relationship?
A: It's interesting that you say that because I've been feeling that I almost neglect Mike a little bit. We're so in a pocket, we don't even come across each other. The whole band is moving fluidly, we've been playing so many shows that we are kind of like a machine up there. . . . On this tour we broke the production down. It's (simply) a backdrop and lights. It's all about the band.
Q: You got a little political on Minutes to Midnight with songs like No More Sorrow. Any reason for that decision at this time?
A: We had stayed away from politics because we didn't feel we were educated enough to really speak about it. It's very difficult to talk about political or social things without having an agenda, without expressing your opinions on people. It's kind of like the idea of freedom of religion: It's OK to believe what you believe, but it's not OK to force what you believe on other people. The same rules apply to lyrics, in our opinion.
We're mature enough now to understand what we're talking about and do it right. . . . Some people believe that No More Sorrow is a direct "point your finger at George Bush," and maybe that's so. (But) there's a lot of people that song could be about, on all sides.
When you're talking about crusades and trading money for lives . . . you could name a number of governments and organizations and companies that the finger could be pointed at.
Q: You still have ties in Arizona with Club Tattoo (tattoo studios), friends and family. How much do you get back?
A: I'm out in Phoenix all the time, but I live in Southern California. That's where my band lives, where my kids (four sons) have grown up. I'm a West Coast guy, I'm never going to leave.
Q: What's on the horizon for another album?
A: We're done touring after the summer, we're going back to China for a week and a half. Then we'll go back in the studio to work on the next Linkin Park record and I'm going to finish my solo project, called Dead By Sunrise. Hopefully, those will both be out next year.
Q: What does your solo album sound like?
A: I think the surprising thing is how much it doesn't sound like Linkin Park. It's rock and roll.