Daniel Lanois life and biography

Daniel Lanois picture, image, poster

Daniel Lanois biography

Date of birth : 1951-09-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Hull, Quebec, Canada
Nationality : Canadian
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-12-08
Credited as : record producer, guitarist, Songwriter

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Daniel Lanois is a Canadian record producer, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. He has released a number of albums of his own work and has produced albums for a wide variety of artists, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, and Ron Sexsmith. Lanois is best known for his work with Brian Eno, producing a number of platinum albums for U2, including The Joshua Tree. Three albums produced or co-produced by Lanois have won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and four others received nominations.

"I want to leave something behind that means something," Daniel Lanois told Rolling Stone' s James Henke, explaining his singular approach to life and record making. "Am I going to follow my own ideas and philosophies, or am I just going to fall in the rut of doing rubbish for the sake of making a living?" Lanois's decision to follow a more meaningful approach led him from recording groups in a homemade studio in the 1970s to forging a partnership with avant-garde producer Brian Eno in the early 1980s to producing some of the best-known--even legendary--acts in popular music, including U2, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, the Neville Brothers, and Bob Dylan.

Lanois's record-producing capabilities are virtually unassailable: all productions have been hailed. Although Nicholas Jennings, writing for Maclean's, credited Lanois's success as a producer to his "reputation for a lighter touch and for bringing out the artist's best," it is perhaps Lanois's spiritual conviction to capture an artistic moment that has gone the furthest in reaching listeners. "I'm passionate about music," he emphasized to Richard Flohil in Canadian Composer. "I want to get committed, passionate music on a record, so that other people can understand the passion and the message."

Lanois began his recording career in 1970 in a small studio he and his brother Robert built in their mother's basement. "From the beginning," Flohil recounted, "the studio's reputation was strong; there was a nice atmosphere and a relaxed feeling; [the brothers] were good engineers and were able to help many artists sharpen their material in the studio." They recorded dozens of artists from the surrounding area throughout the 1970s. In 1980, because of increased demand, the Lanois brothers were forced to open the larger Grant Avenue Studio in nearby Hamilton, Ontario. Here Lanois's producing talents gained notice through work with such groups as Martha & the Muffins and the Parachute Club. With the arrival of rock experimenter Brian Eno to the Grant Avenue Studio in the early 1980s, however, Lanois's recording direction changed.

Looking for a studio out of the mainstream, Eno came to Lanois's to begin his self-termed "ambient music" series of records. The first of these experimental recordings, which were to become highly influential in the music industry, Lanois simply thought of as "badly recorded piano tapes," he admitted to Rob Tannenbaum in Canadian Composer. But after working on these carefully composed and recorded works, Lanois found he "just got into that pace. Really quiet and atmospheric music that paints a very strong picture with slow detail--almost like musical landscapes," he explained to Henke. The artistic view Eno opened up for Lanois was accompanied by an expanded technological understanding as well. "The challenge of evoking a strong emotion on an instrumental record without the benefit of lyrics forced Lanois to experiment with outboard effects, playing the studio as he would a guitar," Tannenbaum wrote.

The techniques and philosophies Lanois drew from Eno in their early partnership continued to evolve on their later collaborations and on Lanois's solo journeys during the 1980s. Although he learned to use the technology available in the studio to its maximum benefit, Lanois never let it overwhelm his tender approach to the artist. He explained to Henke that a producer's most important function is "keeping track of the big picture. Understanding the intentions of the artist from the beginning and carrying that through to the end. Obeying the ground rules.... Then I suppose another function--the most important, really--is drawing a performance."

Lanois's ability to do this, a talent considered his forte, is achieved in part by eschewing the conventional distance between a producer and artist. "I don't spend much time in the control room," he told Jennings. "I try to get out there, listen to the songs and get to the bottom of the arrangements--and get involved. If you're standing right next to someone, a lift of an eyebrow will convey a message that would be lost behind a piece of glass." Lanois also began recording outside of the controlled studio environment, capturing the spontaneity, acoustic warmth, and human element of performances in such informal and comfortable settings as castles, dairy barns, and homes. He sold the Grant Avenue Studio in 1985 and since prefers to simply set up a portable studio where a performance is to be recorded.

"With an approach that emphasizes tranquility and ingenuity over technology ... Lanois contradicts the modern notion of a producer as a flesh-bound instruction guide," Tannenbaum observed. Indeed, Lanois approaches the musicians with whom he works as part artists, part mystics, and always human beings. He never leads them, but instead lets them explore, often bringing to light the artistic achievement that is already contained within them. Peter Gabriel, who worked with Lanois on the film soundtrack Birdy and his album So, told Stephanie Ortenzi of Maclean's that "Dan worked best in maximizing my performance. He has a reverence for the magic of the moment." This intuitive insight, an attention to the possibilities of what might already exist or could be, is also what collaborator Brian Eno values in Lanois. "Dan listens to feel, to the skeleton of the songs, and draws attention to the things everybody else has stopped noticing," Eno wrote in Rolling Stone.

The critical consensus of Lanois's work has been extremely favorable: he has helped musicians, especially the Neville Brothers and Bob Dylan, create some of their most acclaimed work. Of the Neville Brothers's Yellow Moon recording, David Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone that "their native brand of dance-floor fiyo is stroked by producer Daniel Lanois with a cool voodoo intensity. The result is like Mardi Gras meets [U2's] The Joshua Tree: French Quarter magic infused with spiritual urgency." For Dylan, Lanois "fashioned evocative, atmospheric soundscapes that elicit every nuance of meaning from Dylan's songs while never overwhelming them," Anthony DeCurtis declared in Rolling Stone. "Dylan's lyric style on Oh Mercy --a plain-spoken directness with rich folkloric and Biblical shadings--finds an ideal setting in the dark, open textures of Lanois's sonic weave."

The artistic vision Lanois extends when producing other musicians was evident on his own recorded work, Acadie. "Lanois's own album resonates with the kind of textual subtleties and artful treatments that don't present themselves on casual listening.... Acadie is an album with the muted glow of a reverie-at-dawn, the tail end of a long night's journey into day," Down Beat' s Josef Woodard maintained. Lanois's commitment to provide the most passionate vehicle for the message was also carried over from his previous productions to his own work. Flohil pointed out that "while ? Acadie ? may not sell the millions of copies racked up by his clients, it has a similar warmth, a similar integrity, a similar sense of care and concern."

Lanois's desire to create "'soul music,' born out of passion and commitment and need," as he conceded to Tannenbaum, is evidenced by the similarity that weaves through his various productions and his solo recording. Lanois explained to Henke that what binds his works together is "an undercurrent of tension that is created by various treatments and atmospheres that were applied.... You're presented with one angle, and then that is contrasted or undermined by something ominous, something that you feel more than you hear." That is his artistic predilection, an idea he further elucidated to Henke: "I gravitate toward a lyric that says something, that carries some kind of weight or substance and that a listener will be able to draw a positive meaning from.... I gravitate more toward the melancholy and serious. Darkness with optimism.... And if I can incorporate what I feel in my work, then that's my first choice."

Production credits:
- Demo – Simply Saucer, 1974 (not released commercially until 1989, on the album Cyborgs Revisited)
-Blues and Sentimental – Jackie Washington, 1976 (As "Dan Lanois")
-More Singable Songs – Raffi, 1977 (Recording credit as "Dan Lanois")
-Can't Wait For Summer – Ron Neilson, 1978
-Choice Cuts – Crackers, 1978 (As "Dan Lanois")
-This is the Ice Age – Martha and the Muffins, 1981
-Dream Away – Bernie LaBarge, 1981
-Mama Quilla, KKK, Angry Young Woman – 3-song 12" Album- 1982, Mama Quilla II
-Dance After Curfew – Nash the Slash, 1982
-Danseparc – Martha and the Muffins, 1982
-Ambient 4/On Land – Brian Eno, 1982
-Parachute Club – Parachute Club, 1983
-Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks – Brian Eno, 1983
-The Pearl – Harold Budd and Brian Eno, 1984
-Mystery Walk – M + M, 1984
-The Unforgettable Fire – U2, 1984
-Secrets and Sins – Luba, 1984
-Thursday Afternoon – Brian Eno, 1985
-Hybrid – Michael Brook, 1985
-Birdy – Peter Gabriel, 1985
-Voices – Roger Eno, 1985
-Power Spot – Jon Hassell, 1986
-So – Peter Gabriel, 1986
-The Joshua Tree – U2, 1987
-Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson, 1987
-Acadie – Daniel Lanois, 1989
-Oh Mercy – Bob Dylan, 1989
-Yellow Moon – Neville Brothers, 1989
-Home – Hothouse Flowers, 1990
-Achtung Baby – U2, 1991
-Flash of the Spirit – Jon Hassell and Farafina, 1992
-Us – Peter Gabriel, 1992
-The Last of the Mohicans – movie soundtrack, 1992
-For the Beauty of Wynona – Daniel Lanois, 1993
-Ron Sexsmith – Ron Sexsmith, 1994
-Wrecking Ball – Emmylou Harris, 1995
-Night to Night – Geoffrey Oryema, 1996
-Fever In Fever Out – Luscious Jackson, 1996
-Time Out of Mind – Bob Dylan, 1997
-Brian Blade Fellowship – Brian Blade, 1998
-12 Bar Blues – Scott Weiland, 1998
-Teatro – Willie Nelson, 1998
-The Million Dollar Hotel – movie soundtrack, 2000
-All That You Can't Leave Behind – U2, 2000
-La Belle Vista - Harold Budd, 2003 (secretly recorded in Lanois Los Angeles living room)
-How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb – U2, 2004 (track "Love and Peace or Else")
-Dusk & Summer – Dashboard Confessional, 2006 (also produced by Don Gilmore)
loudQUIETloud, A film about the pixies – movie soundtrack, 2006
-Back Where You Belong – Sinéad O'Connor, 2007.
-Snake Road – Bob Lanois
-No Line on the Horizon – U2, 2009 (plus songwriting credits).
-"Mind Games" & "Night Nurse" – Sinéad O'Connor, 2009.
-Mercy – Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, 2009.
-Flamingo – Brandon Flowers, 2010 (also produced by Stuart Price, Brendan O'Brien)
-Le Noise – Neil Young, 2010.

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