The Role of the Producer Part 4 – Linkin Park

The role of the producer within an album’s creation is often overlooked. Apart from performing their technical roles, producers are also an important source of guidance that can help a band achieve the sound they are aiming for. However, sometimes bands choose to self-produce their record, which, whilst an impressive display of talent, can lead to a reduction in quality control, as I aim to explore in today’s blog; the fourth installment of this five part series investigating the role of the producer.

After the success of Linkin Park’s first two records, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, they opted to change their nu metal sound and brought in Rick Rubin to oversee this transition. This decision propelled the five-piece towards mainstream rock success and saw the band evolve their sound through hard rock into electronica over three album cycles; Minutes to Midnight, A Thousand Suns and Living Things.

For their sixth studio album, The Hunting Party, the band chose to change musical direction by reverting to their metal routes and dropped Rubin to favour self-production, with the main duties falling to Mike Shinoda and Brad Delson. Unfortunately, this change didn’t prove to be successful, as production issues permeate the whole record. Whilst there are small technical faults, such as the guitars being overpowering, the main problem from self-production is the overall lack of quality control. Rick Rubin wouldn’t have allowed Bennington’s weak, often frail vocals to make it to the record. Likewise, Delson’s bedroom guitarist, wah-drenched leads that shout mediocrity wouldn’t have made the cut. The album also suffers from a lack of creativity; tracks like War and All For Nothing should have been scraped or saved for b-sides, rejected simply because they aren’t good enough for a band of Linkin Park’s caliber.

However, this is not just an attack on a record I don’t like. In the last part of this blog I briefly mentioned how Disturbed turned towards self-production for their fourth and fifth records, ditching producer Johnny K who led the band towards two consecutive number one albums. Their fourth effort  Indestructible was a brilliant record, seemingly showing the band were capable without an external producer. However, its successor, Asylum, was less successful as it suffered from quality control issues, which probably arose because unlike Indestructible, Johnny K’s guidance was no longer ringing in their ears.

Ultimately the shift from a producer to self-production is a massive risk. An external body present in the recording process is a tried and tested method, that allows the band to focus on the music, whilst the producer takes care of everything else, offering their input and encouraging the band to create the perfect record. Losing this crucial piece in the puzzle often leaves an album sounding unfocussed, uninspired and lacking the creativity and cohesiveness that a producer can provide.

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