Young seeks out Lanois for Le Noise
Last Updated: Friday, September 24, 2010 | 5:43 PM ET
Neil Young and Daniel Lanois together in San Francisco. They worked on the album Le Noise. .(CBC)Canadian producer Daniel Lanois was in Las Vegas working with Brandon Flowers from The Killers when he got the call from Neil Young.
Young had seen some of the videos Lanois had done with his band Black Dub and wanted the Hamilton, Ont., native to help him out with recording Le Noise, his latest studio album.
"They've got a vibe these little films because we've got a rule where we film the actual musical moments, so hopefully the magic musical moment is what the lens captures," Lanois said in an interview with Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC's Q cultural affairs show.
Both singer-songwriter Young and musician-producer Lanois are multiple Grammy and Juno winners, but they've never made a record together.
Lanois admits he was "awestruck" at the idea of working with Young.
"I thought I imagined like this massive production, and then Neil said, 'OK, just put me on a stool, we'll do 10 acoustic songs and you film me.' And, I said 'OK, we'll start with that,'" he said.
Ghomeshi met with Lanois and Young together, at a San Francisco restaurant. Young described his concept for Le Noise as "solo acoustic record" done in one or two takes without overdubs —something that sounded live.
Neil Young appears in the Winter Olympic closing ceremonies in Vancouver. He said he prefers a live sound, even in a studio album. (Canadian Press)"Maybe some people think they get better when they do something over, and over and over, but they get technically better and spiritually farther from the source," Young said.
"So, I feel much better being closer to the source of the vibe of the song and I don't care about the technical part of it."
Young said he prefers to write as spontaneously as he records, because the best lyrics don't result from thinking about them.
"Those are the worst songs I ever wrote like that. I can't even put them out. I got a few of them hidden, carefully hidden, no one will ever find them. They're awful," Young said.
His best songs just happen, said the writer of Harvest Moon and Helpless.
"It's like Schubert said, 'I don't make up my music, I remember it. I remember what I'm doing.' … From where? Who knows? Who cares? He's got it and suddenly there it is," Young said.
"And the only responsibility is to take care of it, make sure you're in good enough shape to deliver it and make sure that you know what you're doing enough to care about the moment that you're doing it."
The technical end of it is Lanois's forte. He was so excited at working with a rock icon, he spent three weeks thinking of ways to enhance the acoustic sound Young wanted.
Daniel Lanois mixes in his studio in Toronto on Tuesday. He found ways to enhance Young's live sound. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)"Prior to his arrival, Mark Harwood and I built Neil this acoustic sound," he recalled. "I had this old Guild, mahogany Guild [a brand of guitar], I bought years ago in New York. It's a sweetheart of a guitar and I found just the right pick up for it and we had my AKCG microphone, which is two microphones in one … so you automatically get two acoustic sounds."
He also talked Young into an electric guitar on the track called Hitchhiker, an autobiographical song that Young wrote years ago and only finished recently.
But the major hurdle he had to overcome was completely unexpected. In June, Lanois had a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles that broke six ribs and almost killed him.
"I was laying on the ground looking up thinking I was going to die and there were people looking at my helmet telling me it was going to be OK," Lanois recalled.
"And, then the medics came and threw me into the ambulance, put tubes in me. And, all I kept thinking was, 'Oh, I have to cancel my tour and what about Neil?'"
Young was so worried, he sent a doctor friend to check on the condition of Lanois.
"I started feeling better right away because I knew he was going to make it," Young said.
He called Lanois's production work "genius."
"Every sound was driven from the performance. Every extra sound was performance extracted, manipulated and put back like a delicate piece of work. You know, it's a genius piece of work," Young said.
Le Noise will be released next week.
CBC's The National will air the interview with Lanois and Young on Friday. It will also be available online at the Q website.
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