A year ago, Linkin Park founder Mike Shinoda was struggling to make sense of the tragedy that blindsided his band, finding no easy answers.
On May 26, 2017, charismatic group vocalist Chester Bennington sang a touching version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Hollywood Forever Cemetery as their mutual friend Chris Cornell was laid to rest after an apparent suicide. Two months later, on July 20, 2017, Bennington unexpectedly hung himself.
Shinoda couldn’t contemplate Linkin Park’s future, his side project Fort Minor or any of his painting, production or graphic design work that usually kept him busy. All he could do was privately grieve, summarizing his feelings the only way he knew how, through music.
The result is his first official solo release, the aptly-dubbed “Post Traumatic,” which started as an EP, then expanded to a full album under the same name when the deeply personal material kept flowing. Accompanied by two backing musicians, he debuts the disc in San Francisco this week under his own name.
It’s a cathartic torrent, beginning softly with “Place to Start,” then roiling with loss on the hip-hop-inflected “Over Again” and a sweeping power ballad “Watching As I Fall.”
Along the way, good friends chime in to help Shinoda overcome his depression. K. Flay is on the swampy “Make It Up As I Go” and Chino Moreno supplies the keyboard maelstrom on “Lift Off.”
Shinoda had to put Linkin Park’s recent seventh effort “One More Light” on hold to pay heartfelt respects to his late bandmate; there was no other way.
“When I was sitting down to write this stuff, it didn’t start off as an album at all,” says the guitarist, 41, who often shared lead vocals with Bennington. “I was just dealing with life and some really horrible things that had happened.”
Initially, he was too uncomfortable to even enter his home studio, where they’d often recorded together. “But within a few weeks, I came in and just started noodling, jamming on piano and guitar. And those jams turned into songs, and those songs became an album.”
The taking of one’s life isn’t an easy lyrical subject. But he sought to treat it with the same reverence as his buddy D.J. Nash, who created the new TV series “A Million Little Things,” which examines a suicide’s aftereffects on a group of acquaintances.
“The most important thing to me was, did I tell the truth?” Shinoda says. “And you can hear it in the songs — the journey from that really dark place filled with anxiety and apprehension to hope and confidence by the end of the record.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 6
Tickets: $39 to $59