In the spirit of SRS Haiti, check The People’s Movement. Their story is above. Thanks to Aaron Levant for the heads up.
This week, I had a short visit with a new friend, Michael Huynh of Publish Brand Apparel. He’s a smart and intense dude who built a company from the ground up. His dad was a shoe cobbler with some experience in clothing, and never wanted his son to be in the apparel business, since he saw it as tough, low-paying, and service-based. Michael’s dad wanted him to be a lawyer or doctor. So Michael hid the idea of Publish from his dad.
The idea of Michael’s company came from his infatuation with a specific moment in the creative process: the moment when something becomes “real.” For many, like myself, the buildup of time and energy behind a creative passion can be all-consuming to the maker, but there is often a sense of disconnection. When you’re making something creative–an album, a book, or a clothing line, for example–countless hours may go into a project, over a long span of time. During that time, it’s hard for other people to understand or appreciate the sweat and stress of making it work, the frustration of hitting dead ends and getting it wrong, and the overwhelming joy of getting it right. Your parents and friends will ask, “how is it going?” but there’s really no answer you can give them that will help them understand.
Really, you’re working toward the moment when you get “published”–the moment when you finally get to show everyone what you’ve been up to. Only then can they truly feel the effort that went into it, and begin to understand.
That feeling is one that I understand intimately, and it’s the feeling that Michael’s company was built on. He told me a great story about it: when Michael finally got his own space, his own office and warehouse, he didn’t even invite his dad to his opening party, for fear that his Dad would be disappointed in the small office. Then, in the middle of the party, he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder…his father had crashed the party to see what his son was up to.
Michael was embarrassed and anxious as he showed his dad around the place. But in the end, his dad gave him some of his most important encouragement. And today, Michael is in the middle of a breakthrough in “publishing” his brand right now, finally turning heads with his creations. In particular, their hats are kinda blowing up.
Unfortunately, as we were hanging out and talking, I didn’t think to take any photos. But if I had, I would have taken a picture of the craziest thing I found at their warehouse: the guy hand-making Publish’s popular hats is Michael’s own dad.
In a day and age where everything is computerized and streamlined, it’s often easy for fans to forget or question that there’s a human being on the creation side of the equation. So sometimes it’s the human touch that makes the biggest difference.
As Michael says, “Today for Tomorrow.”
Today, Linkin Park won Rock The Earth’s “Planet Defender Award” (Wall Street Journal Article here). For some reason I was reminded of this great TED video.
Is it wrong for a charity to make money? Do the smartest people avoid working for charities? Is it bad for a charity to advertise? Is there a climate of risk-aversion in the non-profit world? Why do we have no problem with companies putting trillions in their personal pockets from selling throwaway toys, clothes, sneakers, trashy movies, violent video games, cigarettes, alcohol, and so many other things…but it’s somehow not acceptable for a charity to make money?
If we’re talking about protecting the planet, or healing and educating people, I would prefer the job go to a team based on talent and great ideas, not based on lowest cost. Watch the video, and I think you’ll find a new perspective on the important task of making the world better.
I just heard that Deftones bassist Chi Cheng just passed away, and wanted to share a short story with you. In the early 2000s, we went out on a European tour opening for Deftones which we jokingly called the “Endless Winter Tour” because we followed cold weather around the globe for what seemed like forever. Spirits were a bit down, because it was always freezing and we kept getting sick.
One afternoon, we had a cover photo shoot for some rock magazine, and Chester was late. We were just starting to be discovered by fans in Europe, and the photographer wasn’t familiar with our band.
As we were waiting for Chester, Chi was walking by, and in his typical warm, friendly style, stopped by to hang out and mess around with us. The photographer, seeing the new person there, and watching us together, assumed the guy must be in the band. “Okay, is everyone here?” I remember him saying.
We looked at each other, laughing, and told the photographer: “yep, this is our singer, Chester.”
We proceeded to do an entire cover photo shoot for the magazine with Chi from Deftones standing way out in front, pretending to be the singer of Linkin Park. Chi was hamming it up, doing exaggerated rock star poses. It was hysterical.
My love and deepest condolences go out to the Deftones family, and hope that fond memories like these can stick in our minds during this tough time.
We’re looking for artists, illustrators, painters, and designers. Send us your artwork inspired by the music and/or lyrics from our song “CASTLE OF GLASS.” The winner chosen by us will get a cash prize of $1000, and we’ll also print our favorite design on a t-shirt and sell it on tour and in our official merchandise store, plus send you a signed copy of the t-shirt you designed. The winner of the popular vote will get $500 and signed 1-off print of their design.
Go HERE for details. Can’t wait to see the submissions.
Joe and I just got back from Germany, where we went to the Echo Awards (the German Grammys), and did a bunch of press for our upcoming Facebook video game, called RECHARGE. Good to see our friends and team out there, and great to hang with the awesome Til Schweiger, who has been a great supporter of LP.
I tried a little German on stage, which was fun. I don’t actually speak German, but people tell me that, for those who speak English, German is one of the “easier” languages to learn because there are a lot of similarities in sentence structure, etc. I’m not so sure about that…I had to practice the hell out of that speech in order to make it sound anything like German.
For those interested in our upcoming game, it’s called RECHARGE. It’s still in development, and we’re making improvements all the time. But we hope to have it ready by the middle of the year, maybe late summer. It all depends on how the testing goes, and how long it takes to handle all the challenges and changes presented in testing. A big thank you to everyone who is testing the game and telling us what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s not working.
In other news, how dope is that new Schoolboy Q song?
I would like to congratulate BarnabySaints, Gentleman HALL and Phillip Mangus Hartley for being the first Center Stage winners, a program started by The GRAMMYs® to connect aspiring musicians to Grammy-winning musicians. I was honored to be the first mentor in the Center Stage program and help select these artists. Find out more about the program at http://www.grammyamplifier.com/.
Many of you who visit mikeshinoda.com often know I’m passionate about helping new artists succeed. So it’s no surprise that I’m a part of two Grammy® programs right now, to do just that.
Leading up to award show tomorrow, I have been one of the curators of a program designed by The Grammys® to spread the word about fresh new talent. The other curators include RZA, Kelly Clarkson, Ozzy Osbourne, Jim James, Kaskade, and Snoop. Today, I’ll be tweeting links to some of the artists I think are great, as part of that program, so make sure to follow me on Twitter (@mikeshinoda) to hear some great new music today.
The “Amplifier” program has been a hit with the Grammy folks, and as such, they’ve decided to do more than just shout out the artists. So we just announced a new campaign called CenterStage.
Whereas with “Amplifier,” the prize was a tweet by a popular artist to their fanbase, “CenterStage” aims to prove a dream experience for an emerging artist, including things like studio time with Grammy® producers and engineers, an opening slot on a tour or festival, and a music video. The Grammy network of artists and talent is as deep as it gets, so it’s clear that the people the winners will be paired up with will be spectacular.
Sign up, encourage your friends, spread the word. CenterStage is an incredible opportunity for a brand new talent to get their big break. Go to hyundaicenterstage.com to sign up and vote.
I’ve been keeping a secret.
My secret is not something shocking, it’s not about music, and it’s not anything that would make an exciting gossip column. And the people who are impacted by this secret–the people who benefit from what I’m about to tell you–may never really know how it happened, because they do not have internet, may not have electricity, and almost certainly have never heard of Linkin Park.
I have a childhood friend from California named Andrew, who works for a non-profit, doing things like getting medical supplies to refugees after natural disasters. He had been going back and forth regularly between the US and Haiti. A little over a year ago, during one of his stops at home, I had him over for dinner. We talked about what was going on, and as he recounted the complex and troubling scenario he saw on his trips, he revealed an unexpected idea. He was considering starting a business in Haiti.
Andrew told me how, on every visit to the country, he was shocked at the mountains of plastic trash piling up in streets, waterways, and beaches. He showed me pictures. It was everywhere. He told me that they didn’t have a recycling program to clean it up. So he wanted to start one.
At first, we imagined it as a non-profit. But if it was set up that way, the donation money might get tight or run out, and the program would have to stop. So I suggested that, if it was set up for-profit, it could not only be more sustainable, but could also create a sense of pride for the workers. Andrew had been thinking the same. By the end of the conversation, I decided I was willing to take the risk with him. After all, even if the business failed and the money we put in was lost, at least we would have cleaned a bunch of plastic off the streets.
The company we created is called Sustainable Recycling Solutions, or SRS. It is not a charity. SRS is a business based in Haiti, run and operated by Haitian workers. One of the co-owners of SRS is a Haitian gentleman named Pino, who also sells cheap, clean water all over Haiti in little plastic packets. He expressed his concern that his plastic product is creating a lot of waste, and he wanted to do something to offset it. So he joined us.
At this point, one might ask, “with all the other problems facing Haiti, why focus on recycling?” Their cholera outbreak that began after the earthquake has now been upgraded to “endemic” status, which is one level away from “as bad as it gets.” More than half the country can’t read. The earthquake has left people displaced in tent camps all over Port Au Prince and surrounding areas. And most shocking of all, Haiti has a 75% unemployment rate. How will recycling fix anything that really matters?
To answer that, let me first say: I have not spoken publicly about SRS for a number of reasons. First, because in the beginning, SRS was absolutely nothing but a dirt lot, with no electricity or water. Second, because Linkin Park is relatively unknown in Haiti, so there would be no substantial benefit from a public endorsement of mine in the early stages. And third, because there was a seemingly substantial chance it would fail.
SRS has been operating for over a year now. And as it turns out, collecting plastic fights all the problems listed above. SRS is paying people for cleaning up their neighborhoods and not littering. The streets are starting to visibly change. With enough trash removal, the water will be cleaner, promoting better hygiene and fighting cholera. The people are learning the social and environmental benefits of recycling and sustainability. And most importantly, people who can’t read and limited job experience now have a new opportunity to make money and provide for their families.
This week, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and on the three-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I’m happy to tell you that SRS has cleaned over 3.5 million pounds of plastic (PET and HDPE) off the streets in Port Au Prince and surrounding cities. We employ 30 people and do business with roughly 4000 regular collectors. Savvy plastic collectors have even banded together on their own–separate from SRS–and created mini businesses underneath ours, driving collection routes and bringing plastic from cities further away. And we have created a sustainable, profitable solution that will clean up the streets, help fight disease, and put people to work in a country where this help is most in need, and very well-deserved. Most important of all, I have seen the powerful character of the people there–people who work hard and share a wonderful entrepreneurial spirit.
I look forward to occasionally sharing my experiences with SRS here. If you feel inspired to leave a positive message for the folks in Haiti, feel free to do so in the comments section below.