I was granted the opportunity to “speak” (via email) with the men behind the music of the very popular and highly praised (visual proof later) viral comedy sketch TOO MANY COOKS, Shawn Coleman and Michael Kohler. Shawn provided the majority of the information, but Kohler provided one tidbit. I came up with the best questions I could and Shawn took them and went flying providing some awesome tidbits and further insight into what and how this monumental project came together.
What was the composing process? Did Casper have a full sketch for you to work off of in creating the song or was it a collaborative process where you’d come up with musical cues that fit and then got added? How many versions of the song exist?
Shawn Coleman: Casper gave me the first 4 minutes or so and I did 2 or 3 demos for the main sitcom theme. I think Michael did the same. Michael’s ended up working best, so I took that and re-recorded it and started arranging it against picture.
Then we just kind of inched along with all of the genre shifts, I’d go from main theme into cop show, is this good? OK, little change here, change there… cop show into GI Joe, how’s this? We lurched along like that for a while, then we took a break so he could go off and shoot Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell and when we got back together he and Paul Painter had completely re-edited the whole thing and changed the timings, length of sections, everything. Usually when you write music to picture, the picture is “locked” and doesn’t change. I wrote them a long email about how much I liked it better before, but I learned I was beholden to the music and not to the overall quality of the thing as a whole. Once I ditched that mentality (and much of the stuff I’d already done) I was a lot happier.
Some sections actually worked perfect the first time, like the Snarf crawl.
Michael Kohler: When Chris (ed note: Chris is Casper’s real name) first approached me about doing this track, he said he wanted an 80s sitcom style piece, and his reference was the theme from the show Facts Of Life. He gave me a basic description of what the visuals were going to be, part of a rough edit he and Paul Painter started to put together, and some lyrics that he wanted to incorporate. I think the first time I read the line ‘Too Many Cooks”, I sang it the way it is now. It was just one of those things that happens once in a blue moon, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The verse melody ideas literally, and I’m not kidding about this, popped in my head while in the shower, and I sang them into my iPhone so I would’t forget them. They are still in there.
After we played with that initial demo, Shawn morphed it into the different versions you hear throughout the short.
Is it ONE full composition or various bits edited together?
It is absolutely various bits edited together. I think it was 9 different Pro Tools sessions for the different sections that I bounced down to assemble in a master session. Keeping organized was a pretty major element.
How far in advance did you know you’d be credited via a G.I. Joe sequence?
SC: I found out about a week before it aired! I was initially the Cobra guy but Paul Painter wanted to be bad and he’s in charge of pictures, so he’s bad and I’m good.
How much research was involved and how much did you know off the top of your head how to recreate the feel of a sound? The Falcon’s Crest, Law & Order and Wonder Woman cues were just perfect so I’d love more about working those up were like.
SC: When I do parody stuff I try to work off of my memory of things without going back to the source and copping exact elements of it. That way I’m already sort of one generation removed from the real thing. I can also sort of mash two memories together– you liked Bell Biv Devoe “Poison” and you liked “Baby Got Back”, what if I stole a feeling from both of those? Puts you right back in Zubaz pants.
This goes into the development process above but I know the lyrics were written by Casper but did he actually state how many times to repeat Too Many Cooks and when the transitions needed to take place or was that a lot of back and forth to get the timing just right? He said in the reddit he worked intuitively, but was that process for the entire thing?
SC: It was pretty intuitive. He had the main verses in mind, and he knew we wanted to go for that repetitive-annoying transitioning to repetitive-funny thing. Initially he pitched it to me as the same song repeating throughout the whole thing, but we decided that couldn’t keep the viewer engaged– plus some of the genres just didn’t jibe with the original sitcom theme.
A ton of the actors happen to actually be really good singers as well, was there ever a thought of using them on the track (maybe they are, I have no clue who the girl voices are) or or are working with any of them in your studio now since most are locals?
SC: I got a great composer/singer named Cheryl Rogers to sing the female part. She used to have an office at Doppler Studios where I work. I sang the male part, not because I’m this awesome singer but because it’s a lot easier to revise and experiment when all I have to do is stand up and sing a new line. I played all the instruments (except the sax during the Roseanne round-the-table bit). Michael Magno and Patty Mack are credited on there too; they sang on Kohler’s original demo, which is what you hear over the closing credits.
We recorded a few other crazy ideas that didn’t make it in– one was to have the singers sound scared, like the killer was in the vocal booth with them! Unfortunately it didn’t quite read.
I also had Cheryl sing the main “Too Many Cooks” line, flipped it backwards, had her learn to sing it backwards, then flipped it back forwards. You can hear one of those buried in the “mixed-up” section before the characters and their chyrons* swap.
Did you work the sound effects as well in terms of the footsteps and sword strikes?
SC: Yep, I did all that stuff. I do all of the sound design for [Adult Swim]’s Squidbillies and I’ve done a good amount of advert work so that world is pretty familiar to me. This was made on a shoestring budget between actual “paying” jobs. I actually got an advertising producer I was in session with to hop in the booth and breath/run along to the Katie Adkins escape scene while we were waiting for approval on our TV spot.
*Chyron – Any predominantly text-based video graphic as used mainly by television news broadcasts
Shawn Coleman operates out of Doppler Studios and is the main sound and music guy on Squidbillies as well as much more.
Michael Kohler runs his work out of Bluetube and has done music and sound for Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, Archer and many more.
This is a tribute I made to the excellent music, choosing another concept of Too Many Cooks.