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Remembering Chester Bennington with Photographer Jim Louvau and KROQ-FM DJ Ted Stryker

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Photographer/musician Jim Louvau recently held a special photo exhibit in Burbank, California, honoring his friend and frequent photo subject, Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington, with proceeds benefiting 320 Changes Direction.

For two sold-out private shows, fans of the dynamic late rock singer flocked to the Black Sheep Gallery in Burbank to view some of Louvau’s incredible snapshots of Bennington. On Thursday night, the second of the two showings, Louvau and KROQ 106.7 FM DJ Ted Stryker shared some thoughts and reflections on Bennington, as both shared special bonds and had many warm encounters with him over the years.

Rock Cellar: Ted. You have a unique perspective, having worked for KROQ as a DJ among your many jobs over the years. Did that give you opportunities to get close with Chester and Linkin Park throughout their heyday?

Ted Stryker: 100 percent. I remember seeing them before the world knew who they were. I don’t know much, but I know that when I saw them, I felt connected immediately. I could see that the people there to see them had a fantastic connection with them, too.

Rock Cellar: And you’re here at Jim’s photo exhibit honoring Chester, which really conveys who Chester was both as a person and as a performer. As dynamic as he was on stage as a singer, he also made for a very dynamic photo subject.

Jim Louvau: I feel like Stryker knows it as much as anybody — he’s another person who saw Chester off the stage, as I did. When you see these images, you can see how we connected as humans together, as friends. There’s a little bit of everything going on here, being on stage, visiting children at the hospital, all that.

The smiling Chester? That’s the Chester that we all know, those of us who knew him really well.

Photo: Julius Aguilar

Photo: Julius Aguilar

Ted Stryker: I think the fans have really started to know, if they didn’t know before, that this guy was an incredible rock star but he also had a huge heart. He could smile and he could laugh and he could crack jokes and he could be laid back, but also when it was time to work — and this was why he was so successful — he could be incredibly serious about the job. I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but I thought it was awesome. There was a charity show in Phoenix, and we were at a pumpkin patch the night before. It was very windy. And Chester said, “I don’t know how long I can stay here, because there’s just so much dust and I want to do a great job tomorrow,” and I was thinking, “Wow, there’s 200 people there, it’s a very small charity event,” but he was just so incredibly serious and dedicated to doing a good job that he knew he had to go home and get a good night’s sleep ahead of the show.

Rock Cellar: I had the fan perspective in the beginning, too, as I listened to Hybrid Theory sight unseen after seeing a street team post for it in a Limp Bizkit Yahoo! fan group, and that then led to my dad taking me to see them open for (Hed) PE and Papa Roach in Sacramento in 2000. Even that show, where they played early to a half-empty place, you could tell something special was going on.

Ted Stryker: It’s not by accident that they got so big, it’s because of talent and hard work. There are some people in life, who maybe got lucky or something, but Linkin Park weren’t lucky. They were good. Chester was great, like Hall of Fame status. Mike Shinoda, the other guys, Hall of Fame status. It’s not a mistake they were so big.

Jim Louvau: When Chester first tried out for the Linkin Park job, even after he got the gig he was sleeping in his car. That’s a real thing, that showed his dedication to his craft. He was willing to do anything to get to where he wanted to go as a musician, and he went light years beyond his expectations and, I think, most anyone’s.

Ted Stryker: I agree, and one thing I want to tell Jim is when I look at the photos, they unfortunately make me very sad, because you can see life in the guy. Not the opposite. Even when he’s not smiling, he looks like … I want to go talk to him right now, you know? He’s right there. That’s how good the photos are, but that’s also how much Chester could radiate life, even if he was just sitting there in a tank top.

Jim Louvau: You’re also someone who saw plenty of times how when Chester walked into a room, that room lit up. That smile, that energy, he could walk into any room and all of a sudden this huge, warm personality, anyone on the planet feels they can connect with him. He’d talk to anybody. And someone who was as successful as he was, that doesn’t happen very often.

He was always someone who was available to people around him, and that’s such a rarity. That’s one of the biggest takeaways of how I remember him. All these photos have specific memories, whether we’re standing in an alley that smells like piss, in our first photo shoot, or we’re doing Stars of the Season with Stone Temple Pilots. I could share stories about Chester regarding all of these photos around the room. I’m so thankful to Chester for our friendship, and that we were able to make this art together. I’m doing this to honor him and to share this with people who loved him as much as his friends and family.

Rock Cellar: Part of that energy, that spirit that Chester had was, I assume, a big part of making this event happen and specifically getting involved with Change Direction — because it’s such an important conversation to have.

Jim Louvau: I don’t think it’s ever been as important as it is now. We all know people suffering from depression, mental health issues. Those people appear to be the happiest, they smile a lot. You wouldn’t know there was anything going on that was any different from somebody else. It’s all about being able to identify certain aspects of personalities that are a little off, and I feel like the more awareness we raise to that, the more people we can keep around.

All it takes is for someone having a really bad day, month, or whatever, to reach out to somebody and have a conversation. A lot of it is people realizing they’re not alone, and with the music Chester created, if you go back and listen to it now, it resonated so strongly with people because he’s talking about all of these things that were really heavy to him, but that’s what makes people relate to him.

They realize they weren’t alone in those feelings. That’s what this is all about.

For more, and to view Louvau’s other work, visit his website.

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