Even before his graduation from Pasadena Art College of Design as an illustrator and graphic artist, it was pretty clear his band, Linkin Park, was onto something big. In fact, as the story goes, Mike was doing his eighth term finals on the same weekend the band was playing a showcase for six record labels.
Visuals and music go hand in hand for Shinoda. He helped design the cover art for the band's debut album "Hybrid Theory," as well as booklet art and several other touches for "Meteora," their sophomore release, all the while cranking out lyrics, beats and guitar parts that help define the Linkin Park sound.
Despite his growing renown in the hip-hop world, Shinoda's background is in piano and production. "I listen to everything," he explains, "and I try to experiment with as many types of music as I can. I try hard to stay versatile."
According to Mike, a good part of the band's material is written in his home studio or on the tour bus. "We always like to get the basic shell of a song together before taking it into a studio--it's less stressful that way, plus you're not paying for a big studio while you're screwing around with unrealized ideas."
Ask him what his criteria for choosing gear for his studio, and he quips, "Shiny exterior and lots of lights and buttons," though he's quick to add, "and it has to sound good too." Shinoda records to a Mac-based ProTools setup, both at home and on the road, with an arsenal of plugins and a small collection of keyboards.
His interface with the computer is the new Mackie Onyx 1220 mixer, which is small enough to take on the road. "We do a lot of writing and recording on the tour bus, so the rig is really important. You need gear that sounds great in the space you're in, can travel around the country, and is compact enough to fit in a limited space. The preamps on the Onyx have a really good sound, and the EQ feels just right to me. I run most of my keyboard modules through it. It's also built really solid - I can take it from the studio to the bus, and it's tough enough to get knocked around and still sound great."
Shinoda is also a big fan of Mackie monitors. "I use HR824's in my home studio as my main go-to monitors, and I used HR624's on the bus during the Projekt Revolution tour. They've got a really tight low end and a sound that seems to translate consistently no matter what kind of environment I'm in."
"I do a lot of different types of music - I just finished a remix for Depeche Mode, and I produced our new CD "Collision Course," a project which features Linkin Park and Jay-Z. I try to keep moving and not get pinned into one style. So for me it's important to work with equipment that's going to allow me to maintain my own sound. The Mackie stuff works for me because it sounds like whatever I put into it, and doesn't add any color of its own."