Name: Jeff Stinco
Band: Simple Plan
Simple Plan has been around for almost two decades and in that time had platinum-selling albums, toured the world and received numerous awards. If you had to pick a few career highlights, what would they be? With the crazy ride you’ve been on, what’s still on your personal (and possibly collective) bucket list?
Believe it or not, we still have many items to cross off our bucket list. For instance, there are many countries where we haven’t been to where we absolutely want to play in, like Croatia, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Iceland… There are also a few countries that we’ve been to once where we’d love to reconnect with our fanbase, such as India, South Africa, Colombia and Ireland. Our goal, in a near future, is to get a few bands from our scene to tour together across the US. With other genres, it happens all the time but it has been difficult to get bands that started around the same time as we did to tour together outside Warped Tour. We had a very successful run with Good Charlotte a while ago and our/their fans loved it. We also had a few young bands open for us who ended up blowing up, so it’d be cool to reconnect with them for a tour. It shouldn’t be too hard to put an amazing ticket together.
You’re a father of three. How do you balance being in a touring band and also being a dad?
Being a dad/touring musician definitely has its fair share of challenges. For one, it’s often a case of missing my family when I’m on the road and missing touring when the kids drive me insane at home! It often feels like I’m somewhere when I should be elsewhere. Yet, I make the most out of both situations. When I’m on the road, I play as much music as possible, I write, I practice and I visit the cities we are touring in. When I’m at home, I make sure to spend as much quality time with my kids and my loved ones. In my family, we accepted the fact that birthdays, certain holidays and anniversaries can and will be celebrated at different dates depending on my touring schedule. We don’t make a big fuss out of it but we make sure to throw a good party when I get back. I once heard Mick Jagger say: “My kids actually don’t think I’m cool at all.” It made me realize that I stand no chance of having any status in the eye of my offspring. So, I settle for being as good a dad as I can be and be present for them. Luckily, my bandmates have kids too so they can relate. They are pretty flexible when certain things come up. We all rather tour very intensively over the course of a few weeks so we can come back home for a couple weeks in between tours. We make it work. It’s pretty obvious that we don’t want to be playing +300 shows a year like we used to. Yet, our fans are very important to us and we want to make sure we go to every place where people want to see us play.
You have worked with new producers for pretty much every record you have put out. Is that daunting or is it refreshing?
We had the chance to work with amazing producers on all of our records. We haven’t worked twice with the same producer mostly because we want to try different things every time we get into recording mode. We try not to repeat ourselves even if the genre of music we play has a certain set of rules. Our fan base expects certain things and, over the years, we realized that we can not stray too far out from the path we took when we released our first record. Yet, within certain parameters, we can inject new influences, challenge ourselves as songwriters, try new instrumentations, try new arrangement ideas, try new songwriting approaches… It’s important to stay motivated so we challenge each other musically. Arnold Lanni, our first producer, was one of the most musical persons I had the chance to work with in my career. He helped shape my vision of what a great song should be and how to arrange every single part so it has a purpose. That guy pushed my limits when I worked with him. I was fresh out of music school when I met him and I thought I was the king of the hill… Let’s just say that he taught me humility. It was a tough lesson, but an amazing one. Bob Rock, Dave Fortman, Brian Howes, Howard Benson and all the other producers we worked with were instrumental in our musical development. I believe we succeeded at growing as musician on every record. I would definitely collaborate again with any one of those producers if the timing was right.
For one record, you worked with Bob Rock – someone whom we at Toontrack also had the pleasure of working with recently. Tell us about your experience working with one of rock’s biggest names in production!
Bob is the consummate producer. After our first record, my bandmates wanted to collaborate with producers that were making hit records in our genre. I wasn’t opposed to it but I knew that the position we were in after having such a successful first record afforded us the opportunity to pick from the short list of the best producers in the rock world. Needless to say, I was (still am) a huge Metallica fan, so I harassed the other guys in the band until they said yes. Timing was right because Bob had just finished an American Hi-Fi record that we all loved. Truth be told, Bob kicked my ass on that record. He used Pro Tools more like a tape machine than an editing tool. He went for feel and didn’t allow us to do endless takes like we did on our first record. When I’d argue I could do better, he’d make me repeat the parts until I would admit that my first take(s) was/were everything they needed to be. He injected passion, energy and great tones in our record. To this day, I never heard anybody get such amazing tones while tracking. He has a golden ear. Seeing him dial guitar tones blew my mind. I soaked in as much as I could.
As for songwriting, how do you usually get songs together for each release? Is it a collaborative effort?
It has been a bit different with every record but nowadays, my drummer and my singer bring song ideas to the band and then we arrange them together. That being said, I’m allowed a lot of creative freedom with parts. The guys in my band are solid musicians and play multiple instruments so when I get in the studio, I make sure I do my homework: I chart all the songs and I come prepared with multiple ideas. We tend to argue a lot during the process, but best idea always wins. Making a record is a long process for us. We tend to challenge every idea and we have high standards that drive all of us insane. The pressure is high and it comes mostly from within the band.
You’re a Superior Drummer 3 user. How do you personally utilize the software in your creative process and how does it help?
The whole band uses Superior Drummer to make demos and sometimes on record. Personally, I arrange parts, make loops, I demo ideas and use the software to trigger new ideas. It’s so easy to use and it makes my home recordings sound like a million bucks. We have used Superior Drummer on our records. It’s a lot easier to manipulate tones within softwares than manipulating real drum tones…at least, for me it is. There are a few intros and breakdowns on our records that are full on software drums effected to the bone.
Quick home studio rundown!
I’m very fortunate to have a sweet studio setup at home. I can work late at night when everybody is sleeping without waking up the neighbors. I have all my amps set up and ready to go. I run a UAD Apollo x8p with a couple of Brent Averill Neve clones straight into a Mac. I used to have an isolation box for my amps but now, I only use the UAD OX Amp Top Box cabinet simulator. It’s the simplest solution for rock guitar tones. For vocals and acoustic instruments, I use Neumann microphones that I collected over the years. My studio monitors are Neumann(s) as well. I don’t even bother recording real drums anymore, I use Superior Drummer 3. I also use a lot of other Toontrack products. I love the democratization of recording: you can totally make a professionally sounding record from home now. The only limit is your imagination…and your discipline 😉