Daniel Lanois is one of my favourite producers. Most talk about his work with Bob Dylan, the landmark Peter Gabriel album ‘So’ and of course his career with U2, but his solo work – dominated by his lap steel guitar playing, or lately with his band Black Dub featuring Trixie Whitley and his ringing delay ridden Les Paul, is equally beautiful. He brilliantly combines atmosphere and a sense of time and space with rhythmic pulses and deep bass lines.

He recently spoke with Pharrel Williams on Reserve Channel about his approaches to production and finding unique moments in music. Annoyingly you’ll have to look past the naked girl that walks in halfway through the conversation, but here are some things that stood out:

1 Look for interesting spaces From recording in the old castle space for U2’s The Unforgettable Fire to working in grand old New Orleans mansions with Neil Young, his belief in capturing a vibe and space on record is instructive. I often record in a kitchen – a space that is comfortable and intimate… a trick I learned a long time ago on my first four track recordings with Nic Danta and Andrew Collis, and it’s great to hear him waxing lyrical about household spaces…

Unusual rooms will often have a great sound… if you’ve got a nice vibe in the kitchen – well you can record in the kitchen…

 2 Use the space to discover something new Not only can spaces make artists more comfortable or re-configure their expectations, but sometimes they give rise to a totally new way of hearing the music.

And we found that tall skinny hallways are really good for guitar amps. If you put a guitar amp at the end of the hallway and you mic it further back, the hallway amplifies the sound of the amplifier so the whole thing becomes like a speaker cabinet. That was a big part of the sound we got on the Edge’s guitar… he went as far as measuring that hallway so he could replicate it wherever he went…

 3 Signal your commitment By choosing inspiring and unusual places to record, you can likewise inspire the artist and the project:

One good thing about choosing an unusual location for the making of a record – there’s a commitment that is felt by the artist if you are setting something up special for them, and that commitment is contagious – so if one is seen to be very devoted to the record, other people are gonna feel it – you’ll get a snowball effect.

4 Sample & delay yourself Lanois pioneered feedback delay / reverb techniques with Eno in the 80s – using an AMS sampler and Lexicon Primetime – a sampling / pitch shifting delay. These shimmer sounds defined the breakthrough U2 sound. On Neil Young’s solo lp Le Noise you can hear him take elements from vocals or guitars into feedback loops to reintroduce in the track. The tilt here is the sample has a broken, distant relationship with the original – expanding what is there.

5 Find the ‘moment of strike’ In a world of songwriters making constant edits, rewrites and endlessly reworking tracks – it’s refreshing to hear him talk about marshalling forces to achieve synergy through the right take, right vibe, right moment:

The forces come to one point and hopefully that becomes the moment of strike, the moment you record. There’s an awful lot that leads to that point of strike… but that’s what I love about records, when they reach me, and they raise the spirit the hair comes up on my arms, I know they’ve got the moment of strike right.

6 Find the new sound The guy who helped U2 develop their distinctive sound suggests it’s not simply about finding another breakbeat.

Finding new sounds is a big priority for me… and it’s not easy… because it’s much easier to just reference old records do what they did in the seventies or maybe there’s a great drum sample to be had from back in the day… and I like that technology ok, but…when I look at the man in the mirror, if we can say – we actually invented something, that makes me very happy…

7 Recognise that beautiful things ‘grow out of shit’ Lanois and Eno talk about taking something unimportant and turning it into something special –  not ‘getting it right’ but paying attention to the uniqueness of the moment. Eno talks about it eloquently here – how beautiful things ‘grow out of shit….’ I love how he connects it to how we live – if something amazing can come from unlikely beginnings, our lives – though humble and overlooked, can become something beautiful.

Many times the by-product that came my way will be the thing that I pursue and it ends up being more interesting than what I set out to do.

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Feature portrait (top) by Graeme Roy