WEB-EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: CHESTER BENNINGTON ON DIVORCE, DRUGS, AND DEAD BY SUNRISE
In Revolver’s December issue, we interview Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington on new project Dead by Sunrise’s debut album Out of Ashes (WEA/Reprise), which trails the extremes of his emotions from divorce and alcoholism to the joy of marrying again. For those of you who didn’t get enough (or are too cheap to buy the magazine), here’s the best of the rest of our wide-ranging chat.
REVOLVER The hiatus in 2005 was the first time Linkin Park has taken a break in 10 years…
CHESTER BENNINGTON Meteora and Hybrid Theory both had 24-month touring cycles, so we were on the road for a really long time. We weren’t really happy with how Warner Bros. had treated us at that point. It was a pretty frustrating time. It was like, “Here we are, we sold 20 million albums” and they’re still telling us, “You’re a fluke.” We sold 10 million records, how much do we have to prove?
In the print interview, you talk about your divorce. Is this when you started losing your shit?
I just completely lost my mind. Over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, I was just a trainwreck.
Did it start on one day or was a crescendo?
The day it started was the day I knew I was gonna move out.
In our interview you talk about partying hard. What do you mean by that?
It could have meant going to a strip club and having a few drinks. It could have meant staying at home and watching the waves break and drinking Jack and Cokes all day. Or it could have turned into a four- or five-day drug-and-alcohol binge, pushing yourself to the limits of your mind. I think the one common denominator in all that stuff is no matter what I was doing, there was always alcohol…and there was a lot of it. I would sit there with my guitar all day and write songs and get drunk. And when you’re drunk, if somebody said, “Hey let’s go do this particular drug, or that particular drug, or a combination of all of them,” you’re like, “OK.”
And in the middle of this you had to go play Live 8? What was that like?
Live 8 felt like this thing that was way bigger than me. It was important and getting a message out. But at the same time my brain was firing all kinds of electrical signals into the wrong places. Another thing I had to do because it was important and bigger than me [was a Music for Relief show]… I had no idea what my money situation was like. I was living in this little apartment. And it was like, “Hey, we need you to go to Thailand to go for Music For Relief to talk about all the stuff that’s going on over there with the tsunamis.” You guys can’t think of a-fuckin’-nother person that might be better suited for this right now? I don’t have any fucking clothes! All my stuff’s at my ex-wife’s house! She’s not letting me in! You want me to go? I don’t have a couch! … Life doesn’t fucking stop going because you decided you’re having a bad day—or a bad year.
Unless you’ve had it happen to you, it’s kind of difficult to grasp. They started prescribing me Klonopin for anxiety. Taking that and drinking as much as I was drinking, it’s a combination of the two things that will kill you if you stop doing them suddenly.
My left arm would start to bounce, and then my head would start to twitch. I was embarrassed by it. There was only a few people who had seen me like that. Talinda [Bentley, Bennington’s current wife] would have to come in and comfort me and talk me out of it, and I would have to get something to drink to bring myself down. It was crazy. I got hospitalized a couple times. Finally I sat down with her and a couple of my friends in Dead by Sunrise and said, “I need to go into treatment.” On the way to treatment the night before, I was like, “Let’s get fucking hammered! This is my last time.” No one else got hammered with me. They just sat in a room and watched me. It was pretty pathetic. Went into treatment, was there for 30 days, got out. Three weeks later I was drinking again. I drank more. That was when my wife pretty much had a complete nervous breakdown over it, called everybody in Linkin Park. Couple hours later they were all at my house. Told me how much they loved me. I got on the plane and went back to treatment again.
It was a real intervention?
Yeah! I was sitting there going, Fuck… If I had just not picked up that first drink again. Went back to treatment. Came out in a much better place. Stayed sober for about a year. Relapsed. Went right back into hitting the program hard. Seven months later relapsed. That’s been the case for me.
You had demoed much of the Dead by Sunrise album in 2005. But when you re-recorded the vocals in 2008, were any of the songs hard to record?
“Let Down,” for example. That was in the middle of the divorce and that’s what that song was about. When I wrote the demo, it was really fucking good. That was harder to redo in the studio when I’m happily married and got a lot of success and I’ve got stuff again. It was hard for me to go back to that place because I didn’t feel that way; I didn’t feel that desperation. It was harder for me to do the final recording for that song because it was hard for me to tap into those emotions.
When you listen to the record now, do you feel like a different person?
I know I talk a lot about it, but the reality is, I came out on the other side. I made a great record with Linkin Park, made a good record with Dead by Sunrise. I’m good dad, I’m a good husband, I have a lot of friends. The bad thing would had been if I had died or continued to do that to myself. And ended up somewhere in the shithole. The good story is that didn’t happen. I get to keep making music.
Interview by Christopher R. Weingarten