Just days after our interview about his upcoming Jazz Fest show, Daniel Lanois was in a serious motorcycle accident in Los Angeles. Thankfully he’s okay and recovering in the hospital, but has understandably had to cancel most of his summer tour, including his stop in Montreal. I had such a great chat with him that we decided we should still run the interview…
Over the more than 10 years I’ve been writing about music, I’ve spoken to a surprisingly large number of young musicians, often with only one album to their name, with large, underserved chips on their shoulders. I’ve also spoken to some similarly-inclined musical legends, but when it comes to them, I’ll happily take the attitude. Daniel Lanois has the resume to be one of the latter. The Quebec-born Lanois is a producer, guitarist and singer-songwriter who, on top of creating his own music, has worked with some of the biggest names in music: names like Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, and of course, U2. His latest outfit, Black Dub, the one he was bringing to Montreal’s Jazz Fest, is a collaboration with bassist Daryl Johnson, the incredible drummer Brian Blade and the young powerhouse vocalist Trixie Whitley.
As I said, Lanois has the chops to be a jerk and get away with it. Instead, he was humble, funny, engaged and entirely personable. At the end of our phone call, he thanked me for taking the time out of my day to talk to him. I’m pretty sure I just stammered and tried to squeeze a dozen compliments into my goodbye.
Brendan Murphy: What are you up to this afternoon?
Daniel Lanois: “After we’re done talking, well, we’re making a new Neil Young record so I’m mixing some songs for Neil today. It’s nice to see two Canadian exports collaborating!”
BM: Given all the people you’ve worked with over the years, do you ever get anything approaching “star-struck” when it comes to collaborators?
DL: “We all got into rock and roll because we admired someone who preceded us and I hope that aspect never goes away. Because of the amount of experience I’ve had, what you’re talking about goes away pretty quickly. What’s actually fascinating is how mysterious the process of making a record can be, where it can go. It lives beyond our preconceptions and expectations. That’s the part that keeps everyone going.”
BM: Where do you record these days?
DL: “I have studios in Los Angeles, Toronto and another one in the woods somewhere that my brother runs. We’re constantly moving the studio- we keep our studio in cases now and can roll in the cases, pop open the lids and in 30 minutes we’re ready to go. The one in Toronto is an old Buddhist temple and I think we’re going to start doing more work there.”
BM: So tell me about Black Dub- is the album finished yet?
DL: “We’re in the process of listening and fine tuning the record. Actually, got a nice compliment from the kid at the mastering place the other day, one of the assistants. He said it was the most imaginative high fidelity work he’s heard this year. And he hears everything! Not to take anything away from us old dogs, but I always look to idealistic young music listeners, they’ve good opinions and advice,. I like the candidness of youth and try to have it in my entourage and I have it in my Black Dub. Like Trixie, up front singing, she’s a force.”
BM: I saw her last year at the Jazz Fest- what a voice! You ok with her stealing some of the attention away from you?
DL: (Laughs) “As long as they’re male I’m ok, but I’d be happy if the female eyes were still on me. Black Dub is an opportunity to do something unexpected and (laughs) for me to step up and be the blazing guitar player! I’ll be on my knees, like Hendrix lighting the guitar light on fire! (Laughs again, clearly enjoying this idea) But don’t worry I’ll be wearing a fireproof suit made of space-age materials which will double as a nice set of underwear.”
I think I can speak for everyone, Daniel, when I say I can’t wait to see that and wish you a speedy recovery.