Being a triple threat is every artist’s dream and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park/ Fort Minor fame definitely qualifies. From fronting two hugely successful rock/rap bands to exhibiting his art all around the globe (whether it be on canvas, album sleeves or apparel), Mike can now add another notch to his belt, this time as a sneaker designer. Having hooked up with DC through a chance encounter, Mike laced the brand with his Clientele Remix sneakers which lay the foundation for an epic relationship that would also produce the MSDC Xander and MSDC Pride. We couldn’t believe our luck when man of the moment, Mike Shinoda, took a few minutes to discuss his collaboration with us.
Hey Mike, thanks for taking time out to talk to us. July has been a hectic month for you with the release of your new DC Shoe and your Glorious Excess Exhibition. How has it all been received?
Thanks! The show was an incredible success. The opening was packed, the art got great reviews, people love the shoe, and we made a bunch of money for charity—for my scholarship and JANM. We’ve already started to put together a second show, slated for January.
It has worked out perfect that the two complement each other, and showcase a side of you that may not be so well known to people outside of the Linkin Park/Fort Minor fan base.
Absolutely. I’ve really been trying to step up my art game in the past year, and hope to continue to be able to do so. I put more care into this show, on both a conceptual and technical level, than any paintings I’ve done to date. ‘Glorious Excess’ explores society’s obsession with celebrity culture; the exhibition follows a central character who is filthy rich, slightly violent, morally vacant, and famous for simply being famous. He has no talent, except for his ability to stay famous. I have never felt totally comfortable with the whole ‘celebrity’ thing; I feel like an outsider on the inside of ‘the club’ and that fact plays a big part in this series.
What comes first for you, the art or the music?
Depends what day you ask me! Today, it’s music…because I’m out on tour with Linkin Park and our Projekt Revolution summer tour, ha!
Where did you study and how did the music side of things fall into your schedule as an artist?
I started learning drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Piano came only a few years later. I had always wanted to be a painter or designer; I eventually studied and received my B.A. for Illustration at Art Center in Pasadena. My music was always a hobby I did in my spare time, but it really took off during my senior year of college. The month I graduated, I had to decide if I should turn my focus to the music or stay on course with the art. The band was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I decided to take my chances with that. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep my art a constant, whether in the album packaging process, merchandise, promo designs, or simply painting in my free time.
How did your relationship with DC shoes come about?
I met Pam Zam from DC while we were out on tour. We’ve become great friends, and she introduced me to a ton of people at the company and some of their amazing athletes, who I admire a great deal. I try to keep in touch with Danny Way, Travis Pastrana, Rob Dyrdek, Colin McKay, Jason Ellis, Chad Kagy, Ken Block, and a few other folks—they try to come see me perform, and I try to go see them perform. Pam, Chad, and Dyrdek have all bought paintings at my art shows. Ellis just comes to give me a hard time and crack jokes at my expense, a favor which I gladly return, ha!
What did you take from working on your first collab with DC, and how did this manifest in the MSDC Xander and the MSDC Pride that has just dropped?
The first one was fun. I considered it a bit of an experiment. I designed the packaging and the insole, and remixed the colors. I look at it like a prelude to this shoe. The fans seemed to really like them, so we took what we learned from that one, and upped the ante on the new Remix.
It seems brands are now looking towards artists to collaborate on shoes with, rather than ‘celebrities’ who will just pick and chose a colour scheme and be done with it. How much freedom does DC give you on your designs and did you come across any restrictions?
We definitely approached this as more of an artist shoe than a celebrity remix. In fact, DC has an ‘artist series,’ and we contemplated calling this an ‘artist’ shoe rather than a ‘remix.’ In my case, the line is definitely blurred. At any rate, they gave me a ton of creative control—the only thing that held us back was when doing something to the shoe was either not physically possible, or when it would make the shoe cost way too much for people to afford!
Tell us about some of the features on the MSDC Xander and the MSDC Pride that reflect who Mike Shinoda is and represent you as an artist and a person.
I’ve got a decent sneaker collection, nothing like some of the guys you hear about, but I have probably around a hundred pairs. I wanted to make something that looked unique, meshed with my art in a new and cohesive way, and felt good to wear. This remix is a little slimmer than most of DC’s skate shoes; the Xander feels almost like the skate shoes I grew up wearing in the late 80s. But the art brings it up to date—my work is laser-etched into the panels on the side of the shoe, and the sole is a clear gum sole with a koi fish pattern, and four-color artwork beneath. That way, when you’re walking, and your foot lifts up, it’s a little surprise under there. We also took the time to add extra padding and a satin inner lining to make it as comfortable as possible. They come with three pairs of lightly waxed laces instead of two, because I like to flip up the look sometimes. Each pair also comes with a booklet of my art.
DC lucked out working with you on their first campaign as you actually designed all the packaging along with the print advertising. Did you take the reigns again on the new drop?
So far, I’m helping art direct it a little bit, but they’re doing the promo. I spent more time on the shoe and the booklet this time.
Tell us about the Michael K. Shinoda Endowed Scholarship you have set up?
The Michael K. Shinoda endowed scholarship is available to illustration and graphics students at Art Center, based on financial need and merit. I met our first scholarship recipient for the first time this year, and it was so dope. I’m happy to see this scholarship come to life, and look forward to building it. Portions of the proceeds of my shoe and my art shows go to the scholarship, so when you buy a pair of sneakers, a book, or a print, you’re helping out.
You’re still very young, and already achieved so much within both of your loves. Where do you see your music and art going in the future, and can one exist without the other?
I don’t think they can exist without the other, and I don’t know where they’re going. That’s part of the fun: seeing where the ride takes us.
Photos and merchandise from the event are available on mikeshinoda.com. Limited Edition books, skate decks, and prints of the pieces are available in the online store.
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