When it comes to music producers, they don’t come a whole lot bigger than Hull, Quebec native Daniel Lanois.
Performing as the Saturday evening headliner for the third edition of the Mud City Meltdown festival, Lanois has left his sonic imprint on artists as diverse as U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, and Neil Young over the course of his career.
And although he might be best known as a producer, Lanois has also managed to cultivate an impressive catalogue of solo recordings over the last 28 years, starting with his folk-tinged solo debut, Acadie, in 1989. Since then, Lanois has marched to the beat of his own drummer, delivering the critically lauded album For The Beauty Of Winona in 1993, and the haunting Sling Blade soundtrack in 1996.
After a seven-year break from releasing his own music, Lanois re-emerged in 2003 with Shine. It marked the start of a relatively prolific period for the musician. In the last 14 years, he has released five studio records, including his most recent effort, 2016’s instrumental masterpiece Goodbye To Language.
Like the album that came before it – 2014’s Flesh & Machine – Lanois emphasizes musical minimalism with his latest work, a collaborative effort with American musician Rocco DeLuca.
“Rocco is this great slide guitar player with whom I had worked on records in the past,” Lanois says from down the line in his Toronto-area home. “We had come off a string of dates in Europe. We were playing really well and having a lot of fun playing slide guitars together. He was tuned to a lower register to sustain that rich bottom end, which gave me the opportunity to fill in the upper registers.”
While the bulk of artists enter the recording studio with fully realized ideas, Lanois says what he enjoyed most about the making of Goodbye To Language was the distinct lack of a clear path at the outset of the project.
“That’s really what I found most thrilling about the making of this record, is that we didn’t have any kind of pre-conceived notions about what the music should be. We went into improvisation mode, and whenever we happened upon something that struck our fancy, we would set off in that direction,” he says.
“It pushed us into fairly new territory. In the case of one song on the record – ‘Satie’ – it boasts a bit of a different time signature, which necessitated us recording to a beatbox in order to keep some semblance of measured time. We took the beatbox out of the mix, however, which resulted in the final version of the song having these lovely suspended sections where you have the listener waiting for what comes next. It is those magical moments that make up the basis of this album.”
Asked if Goodbye To Language was intended to serve as a companion piece to the equally ambient Flesh & Machine, Lanois notes they are only companion albums by virtue of the time period in which they were recorded.
“It’s inevitable that records end up becoming companion pieces to one another, if only because of when they were recorded. I was fortunate enough to have made a number of records with Brian Eno back in the day, and they were all done in a concentrated amount of time. You look back on those things as just one chapter in the bigger book of your work, so I think that you’re right in that Goodbye To Language is connected to Flesh & Machine, which is connected to [Lanois’ 2005 release] Belladonna. Ultimately, I feel no one has direct control over these various chapters we write; you can just hope they turn out the way you hope they would.”
It’s been just under three years since Lanois last performed in Moncton, when he played the Capitol Theatre. Remarking the venue and city both had an incredible vibe, memories of which have remained with him to this day, he is anxiously anticipating his return to the Hub City.
Accompanying Lanois for his show will be drummer Kyle Crane and bassist Jim Wilson.
“I’ve always enjoyed the power of working within a triangle,” Lanois says, referring to the trio format of the show. “We will be bringing the studio to the stage and will be giving the audience a rhythmically driven, high octane performance of psychedelic experiments. We just came from performances in Vancouver and Winnipeg, both of which went excptionally well, so that is the template we will be using for our show in Moncton. We are very excited to return.”
What: Daniel Lanois with Les Paiens
When: Saturday July 28, 7 p.m.
Where: Riverfront Park, Assomption Blvd., Moncton
Tickets are $40 plus service fee. Advance tickets are available online at www.mudcitymeltdown.ca