Interview: Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington

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ONCE UPON A TIME, CHESTER BENNINGTON WAS BEST KNOWN AS THE LEAD SINGER OF LINKIN PARK AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF RENOWNED INK SHOP CLUB TATTOO. NO LONGER, AS HE STEPS INTO THE FASHION ARENA WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF A NEW LINE OF ETNIES SNEAKERS INSPIRED BY HIS LOVE FOR MUSIC, SKATEBOARDING AND TATTOOS. I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHAT WITH CHESTER ABOUT HIS LATEST VENTURE, HIS OWN TATS AND THE SOUNDTRACK TO HIS LIFE. 

JG: How many tattoos do you have? Do you have a favorite? Any particularly memorable stories about getting tattooed?

CB: I think I have about 18 tattoos right now. I guess my favorite right now would be my back piece, because it takes up my entire back and is made up of multiple tattoos and images. By the time I’m done with it, I will have put in close to 100 hours of tattooing on it. It’s been an undertaking because the back is the most painful place to get tattooed for me. So what usually happens is every time I go to get work done on it, I end up not working on it because I don’t want to deal with the pain. So I end up getting another tattoo someplace else instead! I’ve gotten a few tattoos while on the road on tour, so it’s great to be able to hook up with different tattoo artists in different parts of the world. It’s always fun to start the tattoo before the show, go play the show and then finish it afterwards. Every tattoo has a different story, location and memories behind it.

JG: What led you to make a connection between music, skateboarding, tattoos and, in particular, sneakers? In other words, what do tats have to do with sneakers? What do sneakers have to do with music?

CB: If you think about it, music, art and tattoos have always gone together, and similarly with skateboarding. Skateboarding has always been a place where a lot of bands can get exposure early on. Old school skate videos always had cool music on them. . .they’ve always had the best soundtracks, the coolest new bands that you may have never heard of before, everything from punk to hip-hop. They all just went together with the lifestyle. With skateboarding, the shoe is the most important thing after the board itself. We use them all together, so it was just a natural progression. With Club Tattoo going into clothing as well as tattooing, being able to offer a great sneaker for our customers was key. Our fans skate, motocross, snowboard – the whole bit. Plus it’s a huge part of the lifestyle. If you can incorporate all of that stuff together, it makes sense, which is what I think we’ve done really well here.

JG: What was your role in the actual design process?

CB: We have about 14 tattoo artists working for us at any given time and we have a lot of talent there, so we approached the artists and told them to come up with ideas, things that they thought would be cool for tattoos, and what would work well on a shoe. My partner Sean Dowdell and I then went through them and tried them all out on the shoes, moved the designs around, mixed and matched them, then we picked out final designs and sent them to Etnies for their team to give their input on, and that’s how we ended up with the final designs. All of the designs on the shoes came from the tattoo artists themselves that work at Club Tattoo.

JG: If your new kicks (and/or your tats) had their own soundtrack, what songs might be on it?

CB: That’s difficult. I like too many kinds of music to be able to pinpoint what I would use to represent mysef…. The shoes might be everything from the Descendants to David Bowie, and the tats would be everything from Motorhead to Zeppelin…that’s a tough one though!

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