In light of Chester Bennington’s suicide, I feel I need to write this. To process. To vent. But also to tell anyone reading of my story with this band that I hold so close to my chest. I apologize in advance if this is sloppily written but I’m still processing everything.
For most people, they’ll be remembered as that nu-metal band that made 2 albums that they liked and then sold out and made a bunch of garbage. I say that because I heard it parroted a thousand times. I also know a lot of the tributes that are made for Chester will be in honor of those two albums. I respect that. For me, though, they were an integral part of my life.
I never bought music growing up. Although you could find wee infant Ethan dancing like a maniac to Madonna and Ace of Base (my parents allowed it because it tuckered me out enough to fall asleep).
I heard ‘In The End’ for the first time on the radio on the way home from church confirmation. I was sort of embarrassed at how much I loved it. Never before had I felt that kind of connection to music — not just the lyrics, but the sounds… it felt like butterflies in my stomach.
They were the first band I really got into. And I mean REALLY into.
I hunted down every one of their CDs that was out. At first Hybrid Theory, then Reanimation (which I still think is one of the greatest remix albums of all time), then Meteora.
And it wasn’t just me. They dominated the charts. They were #1 everywhere. Hybrid Theory became Diamond and is still the #1 debut album of the 21st century. Meteora went 6x platinum and every single was #1 on the Modern Rock charts, practically unheard of. I knew they were big when one day I looked out the bus window and I saw a woman in her car putting ‘Meteora’ into her disc player and every CD in her case held Linkin Park albums.
But this is the story of any person who got into Linkin Park. I’ve heard this story over and over again. Just recently, I was talking to my roommate, Will, drunk at the bar, and we reminisced about how intense our love was for those albums growing up.
But that wasn’t it for me. I hunted down DVDs of their behind the scenes. One particular one I loved was Frat Party at the Pancake Festival. It has extensive footage of the band goofing off on tour and the making of their albums. I sort of fell in love with the guys. They were anybodies. They were goofballs. They were dorks. They were me. I watched that DVD with my dad. And I didn’t have to force him. We both genuinely had love for this band.
Minutes to Midnight came out and I have a memory I’ll never forget… my grandfather was staying at our house. Now, as every generation knows, we can never agree on music. This was the case with me and my grandfather. He thought everything I listened to was too loud, too heavy, too angry. One day, I had Minutes to Midnight on in my room. It got to ‘What I’ve Done’ — I had it on pretty soft. Everyone else was asleep. My grandfather knocked on my bedroom door. He leaned in and he smiled at me, “Now this… this is good music. I like this.” He shut the door. We never spoke of it again.
On their tour, I got tickets to go see them with my dad, and my friends Shelby, Tim, and Alex (if none of you wish to be named in this, please let me know and I’ll take your names out of this post). I was a member of the Linkin Park Underground and entered for a chance to get tickets to meet them backstage. I won.
Me and my dad received a notice that we were to meet in the lavatories. We stood out there for awhile and Chiodos went out to play. We laughed. The whole thing seemed kind of bizarre, standing around, waiting to meet your heroes while everyone around you shit and farted. Eventually a man came out to greet us and I got to go meet them.
My dad took this picture against what security told us. That’s how much he knew they meant to me. I got my special edition Minutes to Midnight booklet signed by them. I shook each one of their hands. I didn’t know what to say except, “Thank you so much.” Chester was wearing gloves and giggled and said he was a bit of a germaphobe. More than anything, I remember their smiles — how happy they were. They thanked us for our support and the fact that we were coming out to the shows. These people had had immense success and they never let it get to them. They appreciated all of us.
The show was unlike anything I had ever seen. I’m not just saying that in light of recent events. They were so involved, so high energy. Chester and Mike both came out into the crowd for a number of songs. I don’t mean just giving high fives to the people at the front. They had security pick them up and carry them out the middle of the crowd and they’d perform in the center of the crowd. Below is a video of me near them at the Xcel Energy Center in 2008.
I have another memory of going to the equivalent of our Sadie Hawkins dance with my friends Shelby and Rachel. After the dance, we went to Shelby’s house and,being the exhausted teens we were who had just danced our butts off, we fell asleep, me cuddling Rachel, watching one of their live performances on DVD.
Another memory is of my best friend Aaron going to see them when they did a run of screenings of their concerts at AMCs. After the screening, Aaron and I got into his car and he said to me, “Man, I always forget how good they are.” It was always vindicating to me to hear people say that.
Yet all of this is not why I love Linkin Park so much or why I’m crying so hard at the loss of Chester. Those first 2 albums are not why I remember them with such fondness.
This is a bit painful to share but one of my birthday presents my first year of college was a trip back home to see my family and go to a Linkin Park show with my father and my friend Alex. I remembered how much fun I had in the pit at the last show and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I was barred from entering the pit since we had bought seats.
I was upset. Now, I’m not sure how much I believe in providence, but I now believe I was supposed to enjoy the show standing next to my dad that day.
Oh man, the rush when that opening transitioned into Papercut and they came out on stage! I loved every second of it.
Two days later, before my trip home, my parents announced their separation.
It was a bit of a shell shock for me. I went home not feeling much and not knowing how to feel. Their album A Thousand Suns defines that period of my life for me, and the healing process it took.
“You say the weight of the world
Has kept you from letting go
And you think compassion’s a flaw
And you’ll never let it show
And you’re sure you’ve hurt in a way
That no one will ever know
But someday the weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go”
That summer I had to come home and prepare my old house, the house I grew up in, to be sold. I had to repaint over old hand prints I had made on my bedroom wall when I was a child. One evening, I was driving my mother home from a movie and we were talking about the divorce and ‘The Messenger’ was on. It played while my mother and I held each other and cried.
“When you suffered it all
And your spirit is breaking
You’re growing desperate from the fight
Remember your love
And you always will be
This melody will always bring
You right back home
When life leaves us blind
Love, keeps us kind
When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind”
My mother and I sat in the car and cried to that song holding each other. I can’t think of any better song.
From the same album, my mom later got a tattoo on her wrist that said, ‘Let it Go’ — specifically inspired by their song Iridescent, which she still considers her go to song when battling despair.
“When you were standing in the wake of devastation
When you were waiting on the edge of the unknown
And with the cataclysm raining down, insides crying save me now
You were there impossibly alone.
Do you feel cold and lost in desperation
You build up hope but failure’s all you’ve known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go, let it go.”
This album meant everything to me. People ridicule me for my affection for them — but this album was there when I was alone, battling depression. I know it’s not the album everyone remembers them for but it will be the one I remember them for. It’ll be the album I want to pick up when I want to remember Chester’s angelic voice. I hoped that one day I’d get to go backstage again and have them sign this record for me. And I could tell Chester what it did for me.
They released so much behind the scenes stuff, that I followed Chesters struggles. I listened to Mike talk about writing Breaking the Habit for Chester as he dealt with heroin addiction. I listened to Chester talk about dealing with child abuse. But most importantly, I listened and watched them rise above it and give back — using their pain to help others deal.
Nothing could beat this bands passion for wanting to have listeners connect to their music and achieve some sort of a catharsis. No matter what you think of their later records, their goal was always genuine and sincere. Chester talked about battling mental illness even in this last record… so much of their last record is about struggling with mental illness, even processing death.
I’m not trying to get anyone to change their minds on the band. I was often ridiculed for liking them as much as I do. It became a point of disbelief for a lot of people, “You still like that band?” I hope, through writing this, some people might see why they meant so much to me. They weren’t just there for me through my teen angst, they were there for me through my depression, and still are.
I loved this band. I LOVED this band. They felt like family to me. I got so excited when I heard Brad’s voice chime in on ‘Until it Breaks’ — I loved their evolution of wanting to grow and just try different sounds and stretch themselves creatively.
They introduced me to Depeche Mode. DEPECHE MODE (if you know me, you know how big of a deal that is). The first Depeche Mode song I ever heard was Mike’s remix of Enjoy the Silence. I went out the next day and bought Violator. They opened me to hip hop. My entire music taste is in debt to them.
At this point, this post is turning into word vomit, and I’m not sure of what else to say. My good friend Roston called me to tell me the news. He said he’d rather I hear it from somebody than from the internet. I said, “You’re joking.” I looked up “Linkin Park” and nothing came up. I got back on the phone. “No, it didn’t happen. There’s no news.” I could hear the hesitation in his voice. “It was reported.” I looked up Chester Bennington’s name.
I didn’t know what I expected but it felt like the word shrunk away from me. Like someone turned off a light. Exacerbated by the circumstances. All I can do is cry at the moment.
This man was and is one of my heroes.
Mike, Brad, Phoenix, Rob, Joe — my heart is with you guys. I wish I could be the arm on all of your shoulders that you’ve been for me through the years.
Chester — I wish you were here, man. You didn’t know me but you felt like family to me. I wish you could know how loved you were and how much you helped my life.
“Waiting for the end to come
Wishing I had strength to stand
This is not what I had planned
It’s out of my control
Flying at the speed of light
Thoughts we’re spinning in my head
So many things were left unsaid
It’s hard to let you go”
“When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest”
Please, if you are every depressed, suicidal, or just need someone to talk to, do not hesitate to reach out. 1-800-273-8255 — National Suicide Prevention Line. Or if you don’t feel comfortable calling a stranger, and you have my number, call me. No matter how distant our connection. Your life is so precious.
RIP Chester Bennington
I miss you already man
The greatest gift you’ve given the world is helping all your family, friends, and fans cope with the demons you yourself battled