Docu reveals Lanois’ recording studio strategy

By Jonathan Cohen

NEW YORK (Billboard) – Daniel Lanois has helped the biggest of the big translate their music to the masses (Bob Dylan, U2, Willie Nelson), but now he’s turning the spotlight on himself.

After years of being asked by friends, fans and media outlets to reveal his studio methods, the Canadian producer/artist did exactly that with the self-financed film “Here Is What Is.”

The movie, which Lanois co-directed with Adam Samuels and Adam Vollick, premieres September 9 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“At first, I thought we could at least make an educational film that would be useful to somebody interested in this line of work — just to see how the interactions happen between people in the studio,” Lanois said, noting that the film is not structured like a standard documentary. “But Vollick captured some actual performances on camera, and it’s even interesting to me as he walks around and shows the cables, the wires and the equipment.”

“Here Is What Is” also includes reflections from fellow U2 collaborator Brian Eno and a glimpse at studio sessions for Lanois’ next album, which will feature the Band’s Garth Hudson on four songs. The goal, Lanois said, is for the film to be picked up by a distributor and hit theaters early next year, in tandem with live performances in select cities and the release of the aforementioned album.

Lanois is a “free agent,” having most recently recorded for the label Anti-. But he’s open to working with that label again for the new project. “I may ask (Anti- head) Andy (Kaulkin) if he’s interested in putting out one more record,” he said. “But I’ll finish the record first. Whoever is excited about being onboard, it will be an interesting journey.”

In the midst of finishing “Here Is What Is,” Lanois has been writing songs for the next U2 album with Eno and the band in France and Morocco, a process documented in the film. Although the two producers have worked separately with U2 for years, this is the first time both men are collaborating with the band at the same time.

“It feels like the ‘Achtung Baby’ period, when everybody was really hungry to do something fresh,” Lanois said of the material so far. “They have everything, and they’ve done everything. But the thing they should never assume they still own is the ability to be original and invent something that’s never been heard before.

“I’m not coming in with new flavors of the month or waving a magic wand,” he continued. “I don’t have an abbreviated name. But my eyes are burning a hole through their hearts, and I’m inviting them to come to where I come from.”


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