Growing up as a young boy from a small town in South Africa I never in my wildest dreams thought that music – and more specifically, a musician – could affect my journey in such a totally creative and unpredictable way. I met Chester Bennington in small “dorpie”, Bethlehem in the Free State. It was the year 1999 – I was 12 years old – and it was the time of Blink182, Offspring and Red Hot Chillipeppers fame.
I had started playing guitar the year before and I totally immersed myself in all things music. I eventually found myself rocking out with a bunch of other guys who loved music just as much as I did. I know, I sound as if it happened 27 years ago – but I promise, I’m not that old.
My best friend, Brian Campbell, and I spent most of our time watching MTV, hoping for a sneak of the newest videos. I’m sure I had given him a VHS cassette to record some jams for me. Yep, the struggle was real back then… no Apple Music, no PVR and no Youtube. (How did we even function?!)
Brians brother, Shaun, was an insane guitarist and we found ourselves jamming it out regularly. We eventually started a band (baby) after recruiting a crazy skater boy on bass and a Cranberries (meets Afrikaaner meets Alanis Morisette) chick on drums.
Our extremely limited resources (I did say it was a “dorpie”) often lead us to Wally’s house. He was the only guy in town with an internet connection (maybe analogue, maybe ISDN, but definitely ancient by today’s standards).
On the day that I met Chester, I remember thinking it to be just another day. I needed new music from Wally and went down to the store to buy a blank CD. (Yes, I’m sorry, I don’t pirate music anymore!) Wally was about to hook me up with the latest Creed album and I was pretty excited about it.
When I got to his place, he popped the disc into the CD Writer and said, “Chris, before I burn this CD I need you to listen to this band man.”
He ran his music through Winamp (yeah, it was 1999, as I mentioned). I remember him clicking Track 05 … and my whole world changed…
Dim Tuhm tuhm tim tim tim tim
I heard sounds crazier than anything I’ve ever heard before! It literally got under my skin! And then a voice sang: “There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface. Consuming, confusing. This lack of self-control I fear is never ending. Controlling, I can’t seem… to find myself again, my walls are closing in. Without a sense of confidence I’m convinced that there’s just too much pressure to take”
And that’s the moment that I was introduced to Chester, his co-front man, Mike Shinoda and the Linkin Park family. Before the chorus hit I was sold. I told Walter to forget about Creed, I wanted more Linkin Park!
Chester Bennington’s voice caught my musical brains attention from that very first afternoon. I was in awe of the way he sang – melodious switching over to hardcore metal screeching and then back to sweet melody. It was crazy!
He never failed to deliver on each and every album. Yes the rest of the band is brilliant I could go on for days about Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson, Mr Hahn, Phoenix and Rob. But there was something special and powerful in Chester’s vocal and it was something worth celebrating.
I did not get the chance to see them perform live in South Africa but I attribute my musical style back to them. My guitar skill grew as I learnt every single Linkin Park track (dropped C# for those who know) and I will always look back on those days with fondness.
RIP Chester Bennington. Thank you for the music.