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Simple Plan’s Jeff Stinco: Recording on the Run

Simple Plan’s Jeff Stinco: Recording on the Run
Stinco relates how the Black Box and Pro Tools M-Powered played a critical role when writing the band’s forthcoming album

As one of the founding members of the multi-platinum-selling pop punk outfit Simple Plan, Jeff Stinco isn’t allowed to sit still for long. With a seemingly endless touring schedule, a new album in the works and a side gig as a producer in his own right, Stinco is the picture of today’s multitasked musician who keeps his hands in all aspects of the business. Armed with the Black Box, Fast Track Pro, ProjectMix I/O and Pro Tools M-Powered, M-Audio technology plays a pivotal role in helping Stinco deliver his best performances onstage as well as capture inspiration wherever it happens to strike. Simple Plan’s portable Pro Tools rigs allow Stinco and his bandmates to collaborate and exchange ideas months in advance of the formal production period, giving them the freedom to flesh out ideas and explore sounds without the clock ticking the background.

You’re known for being very particular about your guitar sounds and the amps that you use. What is your impression of the Black Box, and where do you find it the most useful?
What’s really cool about the Black Box is the range of tones that you can get and how quickly you can get them. Overall, I was really impressed with the sound, and I own a lot of amps. The sounds are so close to the real thing that when I’m doing demos or working out ideas, it’s not worth the hassle of taking out all these amps and miking them up. It’s so simple to just use the Black Box to record my demos—it gives me a huge range of tones ready to go.

It’s cool to practice with also. When I’m on the road and I practice, it’s very convenient to have a metronome, a tuner and an amp all in one unit. And when I’m backstage and I’m about to head out, it’s really cool to have the same kind of reaction out of the amps in the Black Box that I get out of the real thing. A lot of those other guitar processors just don’t sound like a real guitar amp. But with the Black Box, I get a sound that’s really close to my live setup. So when I hit the stage, there’s not a big difference in what I’m hearing. Overall, using the Black Box makes my warm-up a lot more efficient, and it’s just a smarter approach.

I also bring a Fast Track Pro and the Black Box into my hotel room pretty much every night. I have it on the bus also, and as soon as I have an idea, I just plug it in. With that, my laptop and Pro Tools M-Powered, I’m always ready to go and record. And that’s very convenient for me.

Have there been any instances where the guitar tracks you’ve demoed on the road have actually made the final cut of an album?
When we did the last record, my whole band was writing and bringing in almost finished songs that were demoed out on our Pro Tools rigs. Those demos were very close to the recorded versions and sometimes we would actually use some of the stuff directly from the demo recordings. I remember a song that Pierre and Chuck wrote, which was called “Perfect World,” where we actually just took the demo version of the main riff and put it right there on the record. And that was recorded with a very minimal setup. We go very deep with the demos because when you’re in the studio and you have a red light telling you it’s time to record, it’s really difficult to mimic the energy that you had when it was 4:00 in the morning and you just demoed something in your house.

How important is it for you to a be able to move session files between Pro Tools M-Powered and the HD rigs that you use in the larger studios?
We just released a live record not too long ago, which was recorded on Pro Tools HD. Some of the tracks were sent to me while I was on the road, and it was really convenient to be able to preview how it was being edited together and offer input to our producer. There were also some instances where we’ve done radio or TV spots, and I can do a lot of those editing chores from my rig at home with Pro Tools M-Powered. Again, it’s very convenient to have a setup that allows you to do all that stuff.

Also, when I was rehearsing to get back on the road, we barely had any time. So I took all the drum and bass tracks from the original Pro Tools session and just rehearsed the whole show on my own. And those were the album sessions that I basically brought back to my computer and started working with.

In your home studio, how are you making use of the ProjectMix I/O?
Obviously, I demo my own stuff, but I produce tracks with other bands as well. I really like to record live drums, which I do with the ProjectMix. It’s got plenty of ins and outs to do all that stuff. At home I really like to have everything set up and ready to go. I keep all my microphones set up, and basically when I want to record, I just raise whatever channel I need. It’s obviously recallable, which is pretty amazing. I don’t need to memorize or make notes or anything. And the less time I spend on the technical stuff, the more creative I am.

So what are the most important things that this gear has helped you do that you couldn’t do five or six years ago?
There’s no way I could have recorded the quality of demos that I’m recording right now with the gear that was available to me five or six years ago. There is so much more available to musicians now. And that, for me, is really important. It’s important for me to know that young musicians have the chance to record their own ideas without spending thousands on studio time. You can have a really, really amazing setup for two grand now, computer included. And I think it will probably allow people to be more creative, release their music quicker, and not have to rely on huge corporations to release their music. I think that’s pretty amazing. And the quality of the demos that I’m making at home and the speed that I’m making them at is incredible. I don’t spend time on technology anymore. I don’t think that I’ve even read any of the manuals. All of this stuff is pretty much plug and play.

To learn more about Jeff Stinco and Simple Plan, log on to www.simpleplan.com.