- 14 Apr 03
Pioneering ambient artist, film-scorer, and producer of choice for everyone from Willie Nelson to U2, Daniel Lanois has assembled one of the most impressive CVs in modern rock. And with his new album, Shine, having just hit the racks, he’s far from done yet, as he tells Peter Murphy
And you shall know him by the trail of record sleeves – as a solo artist, as a film scorer and above all, as the producer of landmark recordings by U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson and The Neville Brothers among others. Daniel Lanois has journeyed from his origins as a Canuck studio-rat, Brian Eno collaborator and roots-ambient wizard to take a place at a mythical intersection of 20th and 21st century cosmic American music. Bob Dylan loves him because he’s capable of capturing the clattery one-take spirit of the ’50s; U2 have returned to him again and again because, among other things, he can spot the elusive germ of a great song and preserve it through endless musical mutations and permutations.
To coincide with the release of his third solo album Shine, Lanois was recently given the opportunity to expound his sonic philosophies in a keynote speech at the South By Southwest symposium in Austin, Texas, and by all accounts it was one of the highlights of the event.
“That was great, I wrote a Beat poem and just invented this term called ‘soul mining’,” he explains, on the phone from Los Angeles. “It was almost like the reverse of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Tower Of Song’ where we were going down the mine shaft, with coal dust in our eyes, operating at the back end of 50 years of rock ’n’ roll. And going down the mining shaft I meet, oh, I meet all kinds of characters: Dr Dre is working with Leonard Cohen, and Porter Wagner asks me why TV shows sounded better in the 60s than they do now and so on. It was a lot of fun; I played a little steel guitar, sang a song and did an impromptu question-and-answer, I just jumped down into the audience with a radio microphone.”