In an interview for Beat magazine, Delson told me the band started writing Living Things during a break between tour legs for 2010's A Thousand Suns, so by the time they'd finished the previous album cycle they had a wealth of ideas to work from. "I think sonically or maybe in terms of song approach this album is very different from A Thousand Suns, and part of that was the inspiration of doing something in contrast to what we'd just done," Delson said. "That's what makes the studio so fun. There are no rules."
Delson said producer Rick Rubin suggested one particular change in the band's working methods that had a profound difference on the outcome. "One thing that Rick would encourage us to do is to put vocals on it right away. That helps us to know if the content is good. Is this song in its barebones form a good song? Whereas our method of working on our first two albums was almost entirely music-focused first, and then the vocals would go last. People say, 'Is there a message in the album?' and it's like, 'I don't know! We don't even know what we just said! We don't even know what we just played!' In fact, we make the songs in such a postmodern way that when it's time to prepare for our tours we literally have to learn how to perform the songs for the first time."