Musicians Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, left, and Mike Shinoda of Linkin...

Musicians Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, left, and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park perform at the Staples Center. (March 4, 2008) Credit: Getty Images

With Chester Bennington shrieking his discontent to roaring guitars and Mike Shinoda's angry raps, Linkin Park opened the past decade with an intense debut album that fit right in on hard-rock radio. "Hybrid Theory" sold 10 million copies, but as the band has grown more experimental, working with super-producer Rick Rubin in recent years, its sound has become less commercial. Last year's "A Thousand Suns," with softer instrumentation and more soothing background vocals, sold just 619,000. To Shinoda, who spoke by phone from a Chicago tour stop, creative fulfillment trumps sales. The band plays Madison Square Garden Friday.

Is it fair to say "A Thousand Suns" is a kinder, gentler Linkin Park record? I'm thinking of the repeated gospel-type chorus on "The Catalyst" that goes, "God bless us everyone."

I don't know . . . "we're a broken people living under loaded gun"? Conceptually, it isn't more or less heavy than anything else we've done. I have read a couple things that call the record "gentler" or "lighter" - the only thing that I can assume that those people are referring to is there aren't as many heavy guitars.

Sure, the lyrical content is still intense, but it seems like Chester isn't doing his sort of signature scream as much as he once did - you can only hear that on one song, really.

To some degree there are definitely fewer super-heavy moments on this record. . . . The first two records we were establishing kind of a signature style. We wanted to get people's attention and make our mark with a certain sound. Then we really stepped away from that with "Minutes to Midnight," our last record, and experimented with some new sounds. Over the course of the last two years since we began making that record I feel like we've gotten really comfortable experimenting and writing a song that doesn't sound like anything else that we've done.

I've read your approach was totally different this time.

With "A Thousand Suns," the first demos were more jam-oriented structurally than anything we had done before. If you know how our band records, you know that we don't jam in the studio together. At the beginning, we made all these demos under kind of my watch, and the band loved them. They knew it was a fresh sound for us. It was really interesting and exciting and challenging.

WHO Linkin Park

WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Friday, Madison Square Garden

INFO $58-$88.75; 800-745-3000,

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