Lead singer Chester Bennington wrote this to express the anger he felt growing up. He didn't fit in well and got beat up a lot.
Bennington wanted kids who hate themselves at times to know that he went through the same thing. He did not intend it as an excuse for self-pity or anger.
This was Linkin Park's debut single, which allowed the band to hear themselves on the radio for the first time. Guitarist Brad Delson told Kerrang he remembered they were driving through Arizona on their first tour bus and the song came on a local station that Bennington, a Phoenix native, used to listen to as a kid.
This song was made after the band had frustrations making "Runaway," another song on the album.
William - Indiana, IN
Hybrid Theory was the original name of the band. They used it as the name of the album, which was the best-selling album of 2001 in America with nearly 5 million copies sold.
Linkin Park performed this on the 2001 MTV Video Music awards with turntable group The X-ecutioners.
A version featuring Staind lead singer Aaron Lewis appears on the album Family Values Tour 2001.
On their 2002 album Reanimation, this was remixed by The Humble Brothers with vocals by Korn lead singer Jonathan Davis. The title was changed to "1Stp Klosr."
After 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams killed two people and wounded 13 in a shooting spree at his school in Santee, California, the NBC show Dateline interviewed one of his friends, who claimed that Linkin Park's music inspired Williams to kill. This song was cited as one that encouraged Williams, with the lyrics, "Everything you say takes me one step closer to the edge and I'm about to break."
The vocals to "One Step Closer" were recorded in Mike Shinoda's flat one night while an angry neighbor hammered on the wall. He couldn't hear the actual music, just Chester Bennington screaming into the microphone.
Mike Shinoda in Kerrang! magazine January 26, 2008: "This was written in my apartment. The music came together quickly but the lyrics took a few tries. I wrote 'Shut Up' as a rough example for Chester to scream and we kept that lyric. I remember thinking that was a great calling-card song. It said, 'Hello, we are going to crush you.'"
Chester Bennington recalled to Kerrang! January 29, 2011 how the band were forced to fight for this song during the recording sessions for Hybrid Theory: "When we were recording it, (producer) Don Gilmore was really drilling me and Mike (Shinoda) about lyrics, and it had gotten to the point where we had rewritten some songs 30 times! I remember walking into the control room, handing Don the lyrics and he grabbed them, passed them in front of his face without even looking, handed them back to me, and told me to do it again. I lost my f---ing mind, thinking, 'This guy's a f---ing maniac!' But that kind of inspired the lyrics - 'I cannot take this anymore/I'm saying everything I've said before/ All these words make no sense,' and the chorus, 'Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge.' - it all came from that frustration. So I guess in the end he inspired me the way he wanted to."
The concept for the music video was thought up by the band's Joe Hahn. Originally it was going to be a live performance of the song with fans getting carried away. Instead, Linkin Park ended up filming the visual 63 feet underground in an abandoned subway tunnel in Los Angeles. The clip costars a locally famous artist, Tony Acosta, who goes by the moniker "TonyMech."
Delson was so used to the live version of the song that he forgot what the studio version sounded like and was pleasantly surprised when he revisited it. "I think about this song as being so heavy because it has so much power live," he told Kerrang in 2020. "And what I love about the actual song, the recording on Hybrid Theory, is it's not just heavy. It's electronic, it's super melodic sounding, there's an alternative quality to the vocal performance. It's just a beautiful song, and that riff is certainly, it's probably the riff that I love the most that I've kind of just channeled. And while it's the intro of the song, it really serves as the backbone of that song, that very syncopated riff."
Delson says even well-known professional guitarists have trouble replicated the riff, not because it's technically hard to play but because "it's all feel."