You know the voice. With Linkin Park, that voice has shared stages with Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Alice In Chains, the Doors, Perry Farrell. It’s won four American Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, and two Grammy’s, and headlined stadiums around the world. Right now it is the driving musical force behind the theme song to the biggest movie of the year, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And it is a voice that is loved and revered by fans around the world. Yeah, you know the voice of Chester Bennington.
And now, stepping outside of Linkin Park on Out Of Ashes, the first album from his new project, Dead By Sunrise – Bennington, Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh, formerly of Orgy and current Julien-K members, Brandon Belsky, Elias Andra, and Anthony “FU” Valcic -- Bennington gives fans a revealing look at the man behind the voice. “ It was just me writing the lyrics this time around, so I was very straight to the point, very forward, and very personal with the lyrics for this record,” Bennington says of his first endeavor outside Linkin Park. “I got to the point where I thought, ‘Okay, it’s time to be real.’”
Just how real surprised even Bennington. “‘Let Down’ was about the experience of getting divorced,” he says. “I know who I am, that I’m a romantic person, and that I like being in love. I don’t want to repeat the same things that happened to me in my previous relationship in the next one.”
In fact, both the band and album’s moniker came from Bennington’s unbridled honesty on the project. “It came out of wondering, literally, whether I was going to make it to tomorrow,” Bennington says about the band’s name. “There have been moments where I wasn’t so sure, but thankfully I have. The album title, Out Of Ashes, is another literal statement, like I burnt down that house and I’ve rebuilt a new one.”
Feeling freed by being able to write about his real problems and real life, Bennington holds nothing back in exposing his demons. His pain is documented on songs like “Let Down” and the hard-hitting “Inside Of Me,” where he confesses, “What the hell is wrong with me/This isn´t who I´m supposed to be.”
But nowhere is that torment more apparent than on the explosive lead single, “Crawl Back In,” where Bennington shares his doubts and his struggles with addiction. “It’s a song about feeling as if I don’t have my own identity and, at the same time, feeling like you wish you were never born,” he says. “That song came out of the despair you feel being addicted to something.”
Bennington delves deeper into his addiction in “My Suffering,” in which he sings, “I’ve seen the devil in a smile/I’ve found salvation in a vile/My happy ending exists only in my dreams.”
Unlike many artists, Bennington has no problems sharing the demons and struggles he’s gone through. “I don’t have a problem with people knowing that I had a drinking problem,” he says. “This is just who I am, this is what I write about, this is what I do. Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve gone through in one way or another. My life was falling apart, so I wrote about getting divorced, and diving very hard into alcohol and drugs throughout the process.”
That can be felt musically as well. Throughout the 12-song collection, DBS move skillfully between the kind of explosive rockers Bennington is known for, such as the opening “Fire” and the frenetic energy of “My Suffering,” and some surprisingly tender moments, like the beautifully melodic, mid-tempo “Let Down” and the rhythmically hypnotic “Walking In Circles.”
As he says, a new house was built. And out of his pain, Bennington found new love, which is celebrated on both “Give Me Your Name,” a song he wrote about asking his wife to marry him, and “Into The Darkness,” which he describes as “about the act of making love with someone you feel deep love for.”
Those insights into Bennington the romantic are what you usually hear in his work with Linkin Park. “I think the sexiness and real open frankness of those songs are a departure from Linkin Park would’ve done,” he says.
While Bennington is very proud of Out Of Ashes, he wants the millions of LP fans around the world to understand Dead By Sunrise is just another vehicle for Bennington, not a replacement. “Everyone in Linkin Park is supportive of me on this,” he says. “We’re all very close and honest with each other. If those guys had any concerns about whether this was going to hurt the band or keep us from making a great record, they would’ve told me and this record wouldn’t be coming out. Even if the record was finished I’d wait until the right time to do it.”
That is not just talk. This project actually began as a Bennington solo album in 2005 while LP was on hiatus. After a short break though, LP went right into the studio to record the chart-topping Minutes To Midnight, putting Dead By Sunrise on hiatus for three years -- 18 months of recording and 18 months of touring. Out Of Ashes has been four years in the making on and off, a lengthy journey that has left room for plenty of twists and turns, the first of which came in the morphing from a solo album into a band.
Bennington explains how Dead by Sunrise was born. “I’m really good friends with both Ryan and Amir,” he says. “Orgy had just separated, so I asked them to help me produce these songs I had written. We started working on them and one night, those guys called me up and said, ‘Hey, would you mind if of messed around with one of these tracks and see what we can do cause we have some ideas and we think it’d be really cool?’ I said, ‘I give you guys free reign to do whatever you want with tracks; bring it.’ In doing so they started playing back some stuff and the style of the songs and twists and turns they’d taken on the music really blew me away.”
The next step in the evolution of Out of Ashes came three years later, when Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, P.O.D., Papa Roach), was brought in to produce the album. “It felt as if we had been working on it for so long, even though the actual time on the record was eight or nine months,” Bennington says. “Howard brought a new enthusiasm and energy to the process that we had kind of lost because it was hard to get back the momentum sometimes.”
Benson also brought a sense of daring to DBS. “Once we started working on the vocals it was a whole new ballgame. It was like, ‘We’re gonna show people what you can do with your voice,’” Bennington recalls.
While it may have been a long time in the making, the winding path proved to be worth the trek, both for fans who get new insight into one of rock’s top voices, and Bennington himself. “I feel a real sense of achievement,” he says of Dead by Sunrise. “because something original, meaningful, and viable has sprouted out of this experience. And it’s not just a side project. I feel like I’ve created a band with a new sound. That is a huge accomplishment and I’m really proud of it.”