EQ Web Exclusive:
Le Castle Vania on remixing Cee Lo’s “Fuck You”
By Tony Ware
The January issue of EQ profiles Cee Lo Green’s The Lady Killer. Here, collaborator Le Castle Vania talks about how he remixed the smash hit single “Fuck You,” and shares some great production tips.
How did this commission come about?
Cee-Lo and I are both from the same city (Atlanta), and just kind of ended up getting linked up together by some mutual friends and music connections here. We have actually worked together on a few other little projects prior to this remix, but none of those projects ever actually made it out of the studio. So when Cee-Lo decided to have a remix for this song done, I guess I was a natural first choice, given our recent history working together.
What/where is your primary production/monitoring rig?
While writing, I like to use my laptop (17-inch Macbook Pro), MIDI controller (Novation Remote49SL compact), and I crank my KRKV88s for monitoring; however, my final mixdowns are always done on the ADAM A7s.
How did you receive the stems?
I'm pretty sure I went and picked them up at the studio. I have gotten so many parts to songs from Cee-Lo's camp so many different ways, it's hard to recall. [laughs]
Once you received the stems, how did you analyze/process them?
The first thing I like to do is just listen to the original song all the way through to come up with an idea of the direction I want to go in for the remix. Next, I import all of the stems or parts from the original song and then scan through them individually to see what I have to work with and to come up with more ideas of what I can do with them. On this remix, I ended up not keeping too much of the original music...I chose a few key elements, which were not processed much other than a bit of EQing. I did however keep all of the lead vocals. The background vocals, I chopped and repeated in some sections to make them work with the new bass line that I wrote for my version. I also kept some of the drum and percussion elements such as a drum break from the original, which was then EQed and thinned out then stacked in with my own drums.
How did you define the vibe of the original track, and how did you determine where you wanted to take it?
I think the original was very soulful and almost gospel-ish, despite the lyrical content [laughs]; for my version, I wanted to keep that soulful feel but I wanted to go for a more disco/dance floor vibe...I just felt like that was the best direction to go in to keep it still working with some of the classic elements of the original song.
What were your primary composition/programming tools?
The majority of my production is done in Apple Logic Pro with various AU plug-ins. Some of the stand out plug-ins used in this particular remix would be:
Soft Synths: Spectrasonics Trillian (bass), Native Instruments Battery 3 (drums), IK Multimedia Philharmonic (strings), Native Instruments Kontakt (additional strings and all other sampling);
Processing: D16 Fazortan, D16 Decimort, Fabfilter Simplon, Sugar Bites WOW filter, Sonalksis TBK3 Compressor, Sonalksis Stereo tools, and of course tons of all the standard plug-ins that come with Logic, which are actually really great at getting the job done. I especially love that its channel EQ has a built-in graphic analyzer; it's great for helping you quickly spot trouble areas in your audio.
EQ loves a good tip/trick, so if there's a technique you could share—whether it's how you like to stack/phrase drums, reamp/phase a bass tone, side chain/warp a softsynth, etc.—that would be great.
I'm always on tour and flying around from city to city, so in order to keep up productivity, I had to get used to doing the majority of my production "in the box" on my laptop. Otrick that I like to do is once I return home to my studio, I have a patchbay set up between my Apogee Ensemble and my various outboard processing gear, which makes it really easy for me to run soft synths and other sounds in my laptop out and through analog hardware...I've found that doing this really helps to make sure my sounds don't sound too "soft synth-y" or "preset-y"...also, bass tones always sound great when run through my Avalon 737sp preamp!
How did you return the track?
I uploaded the final masters in a zip file to a private location the web and emailed a link to Cee-Lo's management.
Who handled final mixing duties on the track?
I always like to do my final mixdowns with a friend that I can trust. I think it is always good to work on the final mix along side a partner, because they will hear the song with fresh ears and as a complete song. As producers, we all tend to hear our songs as the individual sounds that we wrote and produced; however, someone who didn't write or produce on the track will be more able to just hear it as a song. Lately, I have been doing all of my mixing with my good friend Filip Nikolic; he has a great ear and is one of the most knowledgeable audio engineers I have met in the industry!
What concessions do you take when premastering, in order to balance both the club and the loudness wars?
I usually do all of the mastering and mixing in the same session, because of how the mastering affects some of the sidechaining and those sorts of effects. We will lay some basic mastering tools in place while writing and then tweak and dial in the mastering at the end as a final step after dialing in the mix. As far as the loudness wars go, I really don't think too much about it; I just usually check my songs against other songs that are a similar style or vibe...as long as they sounds close or equally as loud and I feel like they would work in a DJ set together, then I am happy.