Daniel Lanois has had a career most artists or musicians can only dream of. An acclaimed producer whose name can be found on some of the most essential records of the last century, including U2’s The Joshua Tree, Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris and Peter Gabriel’s So, Lanois is also an acclaimed songwriter.
Lanois’ collection of solo albums has mirrored the diversity that he has embraced as a producer. From his folk-tinged 1989 solo debut Acadie through his upcoming record Flesh and Machine(due for release on Oct. 28), Lanois has consistently coloured outside of the lines. His musical integrity intact, Lanois’ refusal to conform to an expected sound has endeared him to his fans with each new studio record.
Originally conceived as an ambient record, the palette that Flesh and Machine draws from is varied. The electro-based album overflows with a multitude of sounds including steel guitar, electric guitar, piano and the human voice.
While his albums have drawn much critical acclaim, there is little denying that Lanois has built his name on his production talents.
“I started as many kids do, playing in bands,” he says. “I started a recording studio and before long, people were asking for my help. The better I became at what I did in the studio, the more I was being asked to help people with their records. It was something that I just happened to get really good at, and then it seemed to really blow up all of a sudden.”
Despite an enviable record of production credits and helping some of the biggest bands in the world achieve their vision, Lanois says he sees himself as a guitarist first and foremost. He feels that distinction is ultimately what helped bring acts to his doorstep seeking his production talents.
“I feel that playing guitar and having musical skills is what maybe separated me from other producers and engineers in the early part of my career,” Lanois says. “I could speak their language and had an understanding of where they were coming from. That musicality is ultimately what allowed me to collaborate with the people I was working with.”
Lanois says that the occasionally complex, ambient textures that hold court on Flesh and Machine represent his desire to bring the recording studio to the concert stage. Typically, the recording process can render songs stagnant by the time the “perfect” take is captured, whereas the concert stage affords musicians the opportunity to improvise and expand upon ideas heard on record.
“The biggest challenge in the studio, whether you are making instrumental music or not, is that I often hear records that have too much in the way of production around them,” he says. “I don’t want to get to the point where I am covering up the centre or focus point of the song, be it the melody or a central character. It is critical to pay respect to that central character, whatever that might be.
“Flesh and Machine represents my attempt at creating a modern-day symphony for music. If you bring a cookie-cutter mentality to the stage, it doesn’t afford the chance of straying from the original arrangement of the song.
“A lot of rock shows these days are driven by a time code so that every aspect of the performance is completely synchronized. It can be extravagant and amazing, but it can also make the performers feel as though they have a noose around their neck.
“With my live show, we are striving to do exactly the opposite. I enjoy bringing a degree of improvisation to the stage. If one particular song is going especially well, we can choose to extend the arrangement a little bit. It keeps things interesting for the audience as well as the band.”
While he looks forward to presenting the material on Flesh and Machine in the live environment, Lanois’ performance on Thursday night will be a complete career overview to date that will build towards the dynamic material featured on his new album. Joining Lanois on stage will be drummer Steve Nistor and bassist Jim Wilson.
“The opening portion of the set will be a set of French-Canadian songs before we move into songs from (1993’s) For The Beauty of Wynona,” Lanois says. “We move into pretty psychedelic territory, playing to the night before we introduce the electro part of the show where we feature material from Flesh and Machine.
“No two shows we perform are the same. That part means a lot to me.”
What: Daniel Lanois
When: Thursday, Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $52.50 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca.