Record producer, rapper, songwriter, keyboardist, backing vocalist, and rhythm guitarist Mike Shinoda, recently spoke to Waves from the studio where Linkin Park is now recording their long-awaited new album.
THE RIGHT SOUND
What projects have you been working on recently?
We’re in the studio working on a new Linkin Park record right now. People have been asking what it sounds like, and all I can tell you is that we like to keep our fans on their toes.
What are your favorite Waves tools?
Please tell us briefly how you incorporate Waves into your work.
Whether a sound is a final idea or just a sketch, you’re always trying to find the right sound. For me, having a comprehensive catalog of reliable, interesting plugins is a necessity. From EQ and compression to more unique effects, Waves plugins help us discover some great sounds.
Tell us about your recording methods.
I haven’t spent much time recording to tape. I think our first demo with the band was on tape, but everything after that was digital. When our band received our first big check, we spent it on gear…which included recording software and Waves plugins. For me, writing and recording are the same thing, not two parts of a process. Working digitally is a major part of that working style. I always write straight into the computer, and pretty often the first thing I play ends up being the exact sound file that ends up on the album. The right plugins can help you focus in on the final sound quickly and easily.
GOING TO WORK
Describe the tracking process—how much gets done in the studio, how much elsewhere?
It depends on the song. Any instrument, played anywhere, can be the beginning of a song, from a hi-hat loop to a piano melody. Sometimes you get a great idea at 3 A.M., and put it down at home; sometimes it takes “going to work” at a studio to make it feel like it’s time to get some serious writing done. We did most of “Bleed It Out” in the studio, but a large portion of “What I’ve Done” was recorded at my house, for example.
Do you have any advice you can offer our readers who are new to audio?
Learn to be fast on the computer. Get familiar with quick keys. I can’t work with an engineer who is slower than me on a computer, so that eliminates a lot of them. Quick keys save you time here and there, which adds up over the course of a career of recording. Keeping the momentum going is a big part of having fun in the studio and getting great work done.
What kind of problems do Waves tools solve for you?
A couple years ago, we decided to start recording our live shows and releasing them to the fans. That meant that, firstly, the band had the pressure to play well every night and keep the shows interesting from week to week; and secondly, we needed some kind of safety net on the mix end to ensure that the sound quality of the shows was going to sound good once it ended up on someone’s iPod. Our live mixer, Ken (or “Pooch” as he’s known on the road), and I set up a template of tracks with plugins, which helped. But the key to making them sound consistent was the plugin chain on the master channel. We set up a chain that ended in Waves C4 compressor and L2 Ultramaximizer that helped make all the mixes sound good.
Digital or analog?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to respect the analog methods of recording more and more. I think that I’ll experiment with analog more as time goes on, but I doubt I’ll ever do a record entirely sans-digital. My band mates and I learned to write and record more like a hip-hop production team than a band. I think it’s that writing and recording style that makes our records sound the way they do.
Ken Van Druten sometimes mixes the band live and is a Waves artist. Does Linkin Park record any of their live tracks and take them back to the studio?
Just today, I had an idea regarding the use of our live tracks for one of our songs. There are so many cool atmospheric samples that the crowd mics catch, I was thinking of listening through some of the files and seeing if I found anything I liked. The only problem is: we record all our shows. There are hundreds of files to choose from!
Does Linkin Park use any prerecorded materials onstage?
In the studio, we layer a ton of tracks into our songs—more than we could possibly play on stage—but we make every effort to keep our live performance honest and “live.” We don’t use backing tracks for any of the major song parts, like vocals, guitars, drums, or bass. One place where we try to bring the effected studio elements to life on stage is in Joe’s DJ rig and Rob’s drum triggers. If we create a really interesting sample in the studio, we try to have one of those guys play it in on stage.
Have you experienced GTR3? What do you think of the amp / cab / stomp sounds?
I understand it sounds great on guitars, but to be honest, I’m using the effects more on my beats and keyboards than anything else!
Tell us about mikeshinoda.com.
One of the things that I’m currently excited about is the community that is growing on mikeshinoda.com. Besides obvious updates about my albums and art, I try to give insight and advice on the art and business of music. It’s open to any level of experience or style, and I try to promote regular discussions about the future of recording, releasing, promoting, and playing music. I talk directly to people who comment on the site, answering questions about anything from marketing a band to deciding on a band name. I don’t know where it’s headed, but I like where it’s going.