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Daniel Lanois: I Look for Commitment and a Lot of Heart and Soul

Nenad Georgievski By

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AAJ: You've previously mentioned that you want to take the recording studio to the stage with this record. Can you elaborate on that?

DL: Quite specifically, I'm taking the multi-track machine on the stage and I have my sampling and dubbing equipment, so I have my echoes ready before the show. So every melody or a track is obviously a set of prepared tracks. What I do on top is brand new. And I have a tour coming with Brian Blade on drums. So it's me and Brian, and he plays on top. We're inventing new sounds, new dubs, new performances that belong to the night of the show. I'm very excited about it as I've never done this before. I have done it in the studio but people don't see what I do when in the studio. So this will be a chance to bring out that part of my craft.

AAJ: The new record brings together distinct features from two recent records of yours, like Belladonna and Black Dub (Jive Music, 2011). Somehow I think it combines the melodicity, the textures and dub effects of both records. Can you please compare and contrast Flesh and Machine with Belladonna and Black Dub?

DL: Thank you for noticing. What you say is true, that this is a philosophical continuation with the two records you referenced, especially when Brian Blade is playing the drums on a good few songs. Regarding Belladona, it was also a sonically adventurous record, so you could see that I still carry the torch of those values. But even beyond that, I think the references go back to the Brian Eno chapter of my life when in the '80s I made ambient records with Brian. I really appreciate the values we all offered then, and Brian is very devoted to ambient music. We all rolled up our sleeves and worked, guided by his vision. These aren't specifically the same sounds but the philosophy is very similar.

AAJ: To my ears, Flesh and Machine does not recycle the past with Eno, but it is mining for the future. This is a step forward rather than looking backwards.

DL: I wake up every morning with sonic ideas in my head, and I'm interested in the symphonic sounds that were provided to this record. I like the idea of a button push of symphony without the orchestral sounds of the instruments. So I'm very proud that the sounds are brand new. For example, there is a title on the record "Two Bushes." It's very symphonic but there is no understanding what the instruments are. Those are brand new sounds that allow the listener to be taken to a journey. And those are my responsibilities. My job is to take the listener on a sonic journey and I hope I achieved it (laughing).

AAJ: On this record, you team up with Robert Milazzo of the Modern School of Film to present a series of videos for the instrumentals. Could you tell us something about that, please?

DL: It's an idea we had early on, that would be a nice compliment from filmmakers if they were inspired by the music and made short films for the songs. I got very nice submissions. J. MckKay made a beautiful film of his daughter dancing on the porch to the song "Iceland." Then, Atom Agoyan provided me with a beautiful set of images. I'm very grateful and very surprised that these filmmakers would take time out of their schedules to provide me with something so beautiful. And I'm secretly hoping that when we get them all coming in we can have a show in Toronto. I have a temple in Toronto ( I call my shop "The Temple") and I would like to do an installation there where I will show the films by these wonderful contributors and have my music be experienced by surround sound—a 16 speaker installation. It was a very unexpected result and this will be the beginning of something that will keep evolving. I keep inviting filmmakers to provide films, we even have repeats, you know. We have three nice films for one song. We'll show one for a while, then switch to the other. It's really a nice way of not only showing films by established filmmakers, but amateurs as well, because we have invited unknown filmmakers to send in their stuff. We got some nice surprises. I think in these times it is nice to spot any kind of rising talent.

AAJ: You have a habit of videotaping all of the sessions you do. Here Is What Is, shot by Adam Vollick and the recently re-released Building Wrecking Ball (the making of Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball)are the prime examples of that. What has made you want to invite audiences behind the scenes during the "Making of" the process?

DL: I wish I could film everything, but I don't (laughs). Some of the most inventive things I do happen spontaneously and usually there is no camera around. We've been filming live, and that has been very interesting because of the new electro angle of the live show, there is a lot to be seen, about mixing and dubbing. We are taking a camera on the road now. Adam Volick will be traveling with us for a couple of weeks, and Brian Blade will be on the drums, and we will have a new way of looking at this body of work. It's nice to see how things are made. I'm not that much interested in making rock videos, but I am interested in exposing how things are done.

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