August is a musical month – crickets chirping, waves crashing, ice cubes clinking, children squealing. The long, hot, sonic days of summer are well and truly upon us and what better way to commemorate them than by celebrating the summer music festivals, concerts and rocking outdoor bbq’s via album & concert reviews, interviews with musicians, managers, muses, sound engineers, cinematographers and more….cool, right?
Oh, did I mention that we’re giving away a virtual tour bus load of autographed memorabilia?!
To kick off our tribute with a sonic boom, we’re offering a two-part look at a couple of exceptional memoirs by two living music legends: Soul Mining by Daniel Lanois [Grammy-winning super-producer of U2, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, etc. & celebrated solo artist] and The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx [Founder & bad-boy bassist of hard rock bands Mötley Crüe & Sixx:A.M. and host of XM radio show Sixx Sense].
In today’s Part One, we’ll focus on Daniel Lanois and his tome…
The Amazing Spiderman?
In the event you don’t know who Dan Lanois is, let me give you a really schlocky analogy – he’s kind of like Peter Parker/Spiderman.
Within the music industry, “Danny” Lanois is Spiderman – a superhero producer who can swoop into a floundering recording session and rescue it – leading musicians to produce the best of what they didn’t even know they had inside them – resulting in hit records, Grammy awards and mega-careers. [By the way, he also works mostly under cover of darkness and has freakishly long spidey-fingers, so the analogy seems super-fitting.]
The Peter Parker side is how I classify his public persona – he’s not incredibly well known to the public at large – he’s more of an under cover guy who’s not in the music business for fame and fortune – he simply MUST make music – great music. Music lives inside Danny, and he experiences life in a musical way – he resonates on sonic frequencies that the majority of humans will never understand – but, luckily for us, he not only produces great music for other artists, he also writes and records his own music. One of the most beautiful records I’ve ever heard is Dan’s instrumental solo effort, the triple CD compilation “The Omni Series.” [It’s remarkably not available on iTunes – perhaps we should give away some autographed copies? Stay tuned… ] If you’re so inclined, I’ve created an iTunes playlist called “6 Degrees of Daniel Lanois” that is like a mini-library of Dan’s production and solo work. You can find it here.
I’m very fortunate to say that I know Dan personally, and am constantly in awe of his generosity of spirit (and super-soft sweaters). He is one of Different Is Cool’s founding Patrons of Cool and last October, he graced DisC’s inaugural fundraising event “Gateway to Bohemia 2011″ with a very rare, intimate performance for our guests. I had the pleasure of introducing him to the crowd on that night, and here’s a transcript of my introduction:
“One of our dreams at Different Is Cool is for everyone to value ingenuity, critical thinking, hard work & individuality above celebrity, acclaim & notoriety.
Tonight’s musical guest personifies Different Is Cool’s core values.
His award winning projects are too numerous to mention, but he is known as the most sought-after producer in contemporary music and has created albums for: U2, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Rocco deLuca, Ron Sexsmith, Sinead O’Connor, Dashboard Confessional, Brandon Flowers, Ne-Yo and more…he has won two fistfuls of Grammy’s in his own name and has won dozens of others for the artists he has worked with…
Rolling Stone magazine called him “The most important record producer to emerge in the 80′s”.
He has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, is a Canadian Music Hall of Fame Inductee, an author (his memoir “Soul Mining” is a masterclass in contemporary sonics), a filmmaker [“Here Is What Is”], a soundtrack writer (he scored the Oscar-winning film Slingblade & wrote the theme for David Lynch’s “Dune”) and on and on.
His success comes from his obsessive desire to explore the world in his own way and to translate his findings into sonic experiences, that he shares with the world.
With all of that acclaim, you might forgive Dan to have a slight ego. But Dan is genuinely one of the kindest, most generous people we know. He also has super-cool hats and one of the finest collection of things that go “vroom” and “boom” you’ll find.
But above all this, what is most pronounced about Dan, (to borrow one of his own phrases), is that “Dan is made of good.”
We couldn’t be more full of joy to have the Grand Wizard of Sound here with us tonight – Ladies & Gentlemen, all the way from across the Hall: Mr. Daniel Lanois.”
Now, about that memoir he wrote…..[you kind of want to read it now, don’t you? ]
Soul Mining A Musical Master Class
Soul Mining is a different kind of narrative – it reads like a how-to master class in making popular music – he explains his sonic processes and favoured equipment throughout the book and anyone interested in music will lap it up. It’s nothing short of awe-inducing to get a glimpse behind the wizard’s curtain during the production of his myriad of Grammy winning records with the likes of U2, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Brandon Flowers & Ne-Yo. Lanois’ books spans decades, from his early life in Canada, to recent times producing at his home in Los Angeles.
Lanois was raised by his mother, his father was absent and he makes note of it in his memoir, as something that shaped him and his relationships with others who have acted as father figures. He takes the reader on his remarkable journey – from his youth playing with bands in booze cans to adulthood producing some of the greatest rock albums of our time. Dan’s obviously incredibly driven and focused – and he lets us know that even when his troubles are many, he has the ability to keep moving forward and can rely on his considerable creativity and work ethic to catch his fall.
Lanois’ Soul Mining alludes to worries at various times in his life without laying them bare – much like his music, his book is ambient, meandering and dreamlike. This memoir is less confessional and more music manual and that’s when it’s at its best – the many moments of musical lucidity that only a gifted musician can provide make it a page turner for contemporary music fans.
The very best parts of the book are those in which Lanois gives insight as to how he helped create some of the most identifiable signature sounds in popular music, as in Chapter 9 titled “Beautiful Day” about the making of the U2 song of the same name: “… [Brian] Eno and I historically have turned up at the U2 studio in the early morning before the band’s arrival. Not too many words get said, he and I plug in and get our sounds going. Eno had been frustrated by the lack of progress with the engine room versions, and so he dialed up a beat-box rhythm and played a piano and string part over top as I laid on a Telecaster part that related harmonically to the Edge’s chord sequence. The Telecaster part played the third above the Edge’s root, providing a choral quality, like harmony singing. The beat box gave the song a feeling of speed and travel. …”
It’s obvious Lanois and Eno are musical geniuses, but neither of them given that title any credence, which is why DisC adores them – as I’ve mentioned, they personify our core values of hard work, passion and finding one’s own way. As Eno says in Soul Mining about the process of music creation: “Master your simple tools and make your music – low baggage, high mileage – passion before commerce – intelligence before waste.”
In this clip from Lanois’ 2007 documentary film “Here Is What Is” he and Eno muse on creativity and how “it comes from shit.”:
Enough of my yammering on – stay tuned to be inspired by our featured artists in the coming weeks, and definitely check in here, on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed for news on our autographed giveaways! So, go get your copy of Soul Mining, grab a spot under a leafy tree and enjoy they lazy, hazy, sonic days of summer….
UPDATE August 8th: POST YOUR QUESTIONS FOR DANIEL LANOIS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS ARTICLE & YOU COULD WIN AUTOGRAPHED MERCHANDISE!