Cee Lo, Marsh, Marroquin interview extras
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Cee Lo Green Interview Extras
By Tony Ware
The January issue of EQ profiles Cee Lo Green’s The Lady Killer. Here, Cee Lo and engineers Graham Marsh and Manny Marroquin elaborate on everything from studio sessions to Serge Sainsbourg.
Cee Lo, on his influences…
My relationship with women, I had never really spoke on in any expounded way. The few times I dealt with women were things inspired by or directed toward my now ex-wife, a singular approach of being in love with this one person. But now that I'm single, I get a chance to generalize it a bit. On The Lady Killer, I'm the lover of, and torn between, so many. The Lady Killer is a representation of being smooth and rough, streetwise and sophisticated at the same time, and how a balance of them both is always a comfortable place to be. I find this in many who inspired me—definitely Barry White, and I'm very fond of my French teacher, Serge Gainsbourg.
On the evolution of his studio…
I still have my home studio, Inner Space, at the ranch, but it's now more a sentiment than somewhere I work regularly. At the time I put it together, it was practical, as I was a newlywed, a father, and I wanted all these ducks in a row where they were convenient and nothing would suffer. I used to work with the [Korg] Trinity and [Akai] MPC when I was doing post-production there, because I don't need much to be an idealist. But now Logic and all these things aid us quite a bit, and Graham has a vast amount of sounds, samples and nuances to work with. So I like to be in a studio where we can pull anything up and flesh it out. Sometimes we'd have a plan of attack, and sometimes we'd have no plan at all, which gave space for something magical and improvisational to happen. Other times, I'd take things home, write on them, then I'd go down a checklist in the studio.
Graham Marsh on Lady Killer’s musical references…
This record has an old-school soul vibe, but did not want it to sound "old." We wanted to take soul into the future, not rehash what has been done. So yes, there are some things we referenced—Barry White, definitely, Sly Stone, The Dynamic Superiors, The Ohio Players, Black Sabbath, the Allman Brothers—but sonically, we wanted to make sure that this album was recorded in 2010. We also referenced MGMT, the low end on Lil Jon records, The Gorillaz.
On tracking Tommy Lee and Robin Finck, who appear on "The Lady Killer Theme (Outro)"…
I used a pretty minimal drum/mic setup with Tommy, which was atypical for him. But Tommy was so great to work with, and was up for anything. We used a five-piece kit—421s on the toms, josephson E22 on snare top, 57 on snare bottom, FET 47 on the kick, U47 and 251 in the room, mono overheads. We were going for a "vintage" sound. But it all starts with the person behind the drums. When you have a great drummer, playing great drums, my job becomes pretty easy. We tracked on a SSL 9000 J, with TONS of outboard. We tracked at Tommy's home studio, The Atrium. It was such a privilege to work with him there. He's just the best.
Robin is a tone freak! He brought his guitar tech, guitars, pedal board, a Fender twin, and Gallien-Krueger cab. He dialed in the tone he wanted (which was absolutely amazing), and I threw up a 57 and a 421 and let him go to town. Again, it starts with the player. I'm not going to tell Robin Finck shit! I'm going to let Robin be Robin! My job in these situations is of course to get great sounds, but really be able to manage the flow in the studio and capture the magic when it happens. And watching those two play together was magic!
Manny Marroquin on mixing for mastering…
The problem is now we can get it as hot as we want without distorting it, where before we didn’t have those tools. So it’s not that we’re trying to master it, but in the tape days there would be more hiss than actual level of the music; the signal-to-noise ratio was so high, so they’d master it and it would be a million times better when it’s cranked with a limiter. It seemed like new life; there was this perception of level. But now we can get it that hot, so everyone makes it all to sound “better”—producers, everyone. Everyone thinks louder is better, so we have to compete. You can have a really good rough that’s super hot, so you’re as good as your rough. But what was great with the Cee Lo album was, it wasn't just taking roughs and making them "better." He said, "Go with what you feel." It was a green light to push it, though you couldn't just go left. You had to hold the integrity of the song. I wasn't meant to completely remix it into my own vision. We're the interior designers, not the builders.
On his studio set-up…
I've been in the same room for 12 years. I mix on NS10s, Yamahas, and I have Augspurgers with TAD components for my mains, so my ears are accustomed to a set-up and that adds continuity to the sonics. Then I have a little iPod docking station that I kind of reference mixes on, since I know people will hear songs on laptop speakers. Between those three, I’m pretty much covered.