'A good healing experience': Warner Bros boss Tom Corson on the 'cathartic' return of Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda

Mike Shinoda

Mike Shinoda’s debut solo album under his own name was always going to be an emotional business.

The album – appropriately named Post Traumatic – arrives on June 15, 11 months after the tragic death of his Linkin Park co-frontman, Chester Bennington. Bennington was found dead at home in California, and a coroner later ruled he took his own life.

In the new issue of Music Week, Shinoda talks frankly about the making of the record and how the album developed from a need to document “what was happening in my life as often and as accurately as I could”.

Supporting him in that mission was Tom Corson, freshly installed as co-chairman and COO of Warner Bros US, the label that had steered Linkin Park to global megastardom and was now itself trying to cope with Bennington’s loss.

So Music Week sat down with Corson to talk about the recording and healing processes… 

This record came out of a terrible situation…

“Initially, it was solely a cathartic process for Mike and he documented it both musically and on his iPhone, making some videos. I became aware of it in January when I started at Warner Bros. I think he was pretty unclear [at first] what sort of path he would take, whether it would be a few songs or a short-form project or an actual album but it’s morphed into a really wonderful record.”

What kind of support can a label give in those circumstances?

“Well, it was a process. I don’t want to get too heavy but obviously it’s a heavy topic. It was part of his grieving – he was moving through that process, and so was the label. Everyone at the label was very affected by what happened with Chester so this was a good healing experience for everybody and continues to be. From our standpoint it was really taking Mike’s lead and trying to amplify things in the most respectful way and I hope we’ve set the right tone. The reaction has been really gratifying from the fans and media. He’s made a great record musically. The subject matter is a little tough at times but, as you listen through the album, it’s definitely a journey he’s taking you on. It’s his journey and it’s very personal and having seen one of his first shows a couple of weeks ago it was amazing to see the fans engage and to see him really embrace the experience. It feels like they’re all pulling together and the effect that he’s having on his audience and music is certainly welcome, given the circumstances. It’s really been helpful to everyone grieving for Chester and for the band.”

There’s a lot of grief on the album, but there are also other moods…

“Even [after] he played the record for us he continued to write songs and rework the record. It’s a slightly different record to where it was four or five months ago. And there’s also hope, hopefully there’s closure on the record for him and for [other] people. He’s really been buoyed by the fanbase and the reaction from the media and our gatekeepers and the fact he’s getting such great feedback. And rightfully so. It’s a little tough at times and, on the other hand, it’s fun to listen to and, because it’s so excellent, it ticks a lot of boxes for people.”

Who will this record appeal to?

Linkin Park is a very successful band and he’s not trying to do Linkin Park, but he was and remains a huge part of that band’s sound and vibe so I do believe that it will appeal to Linkin Park fans. But hopefully there is also a new audience out there that can discover him because he’s well worthy of that.”

He’s done side projects before, but never under his own name. Does that make a difference?

“I think so. It’s one thing doing Fort Minor, calling yourself a band name and it’s a whole another thing saying, ‘This is me, this is my project’. It’s a statement from him: ‘I’m putting my name on these emotions’.”

The first audience for this record will be the Linkin Park audience and they seem to be finding the record

Tom Corson, Warner Bros

How will you handle his promotional schedule?

“It’s his journey, it’s his lead and we’ll just react to ideas and things that we think might work. But it’s completely his call. That’s true with many artists in many situations, but this situation more than most.”

What are the label’s expectations for the album?

“I think it’ll do well. I can’t tell you whether it’s going to explode, it’s too early, but we’re working it up the charts and we’re getting good reactions at streaming and live so I’m encouraged by it and we’ll see how it goes. It’s certainly going to find its level in a meaningful way.”

Linkin Park are one of the few rock bands to have gained some traction on streaming. Will that help with this record?

“Linkin Park’s success should help because that’s where we think the audience is. The first audience for this record will be the Linkin Park audience and they seem to be finding the record.”

The future for Linkin Park remains uncertain. How do you feel about being entrusted with their legacy?

“It’s quite a responsibility but also an honour to make sure we do right by them. That’s a daily conversation and it will be down the line depending on how they want to re-engage. We’ll see how it goes, but we’re certainly honoured to be part of it.”

* To read the full Mike Shinoda feature, including an interview with the man himself, see this week’s print edition of Music Week or click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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