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Mike Shinoda, the multi-talented musician and co-founder of Linkin Park, recently opened up in a new op-ed for The Guardian about their unexpected rise to fame, revealing that being in the spotlight was never the band’s main goal.

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Remember that angsty anthem “In the End?” The one that screamed teenage angst and resonated with a generation? It turns out, Linkin Park didn’t plan to become the voice of a disillusioned youth. Fame just happened.

Their journey from high school buddies in Xero to topping the charts with Hybrid Theory and later on with Meteora, was indeed… meteoric. But instead of relishing the red carpets and celebrity treatment, Shinoda found it “odd” and “unnatural.”

Their iconic group photos, where everyone squeezed in, were a deliberate move, a rebellion against the typical “star” treatment. Linkin Park was a collective, and they damn well wanted the world to know it.

“Fame was never a priority. But it happened. In the early days, we would pile the whole group into the photos. If the photographer had it their way, it would just be Chester, or me, and Chester, but we wanted people to know that this band was all of us, not just the singers at the front. Linkin Park being well known or well regarded was a blessing, but would I have wanted the band to be successful without being recognizable? Probably.” Shinoda remembers.

“The fame aspect of my career always felt odd – to the extent that I did an art series in 2008 and 2009 called Glorious Excess, where I painted about celebrity culture, reality TV, Michael Jackson and Diana, Princess of Wales. At the time I was standing on red carpets a lot with celebrities and thinking, ‘Wow, this is so weird. What a strange phenomenon.’ It felt fascinating and unnatural to be treated in a certain way because our music was popular.” he added.

Sure, Shinoda admits feeling “vindicated” by proving the naysayers wrong, especially with the incredible connection they built with their fans. But the band’s core focus always remained the music and the people behind it.

“That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the success of something that a lot of people had told us was not going to work. We felt vindicated, especially by the connection we had with our fans.” Shinoda reveals. “As we got further into our career, everybody in the band adapted in different ways, but we always tried to look after each other. Each member of Linkin Park is very intelligent academically – but emotionally smart, too, which was fundamental at times.”

As their career took off, the constant touring took its toll. It was their quiet, intelligent bandmates who suggested a break, reminding everyone of the responsibility fame brought. In that moment, Linkin Park, the accidental superstars, found the wisdom to slow down and keep their roots intact.

“We toured non-stop for the first two records, and kudos to Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, and Rob Bourdon, who took stock of how our lives had changed and suggested we had a break. They would say things like, ‘Aren’t we lucky to have done this? But don’t we also have a lot of responsibility now?’ That subtle approach to communicating was very powerful and led us to the decision to slow down for a minute.”

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