March 7, 2008 / 11:54 PM / 10 years ago

Q&A: Film, U2 album keep Daniel Lanois on the go

NEW YORK (Billboard) - In between jet-setting around the globe with Brian Eno to write and record with U2, Daniel Lanois is still finding time to work on his own music.

A documentary about his recent experiences in the studio, “Here Is What Is,” will have its U.S. premiere March 9 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and Lanois will play a host of shows in the following days during the music portion of the Austin, Texas, conference. The artist also has launched his own digital download store at, offering a deluxe CD/DVD of “Here Is What Is,” his solo albums and a wealth of unreleased material. Just before leaving for Dublin to finish U2’s new album, Lanois spoke to Billboard about his myriad projects.

Q: Your “Omni Series” will offer six albums’ worth of unreleased music online. What inspired the idea?

Daniel Lanois: “Well, we can be fast and furious. I can record something at midnight and have it available at breakfast, and the money is in PayPal by 5. ‘Omni’ will accommodate my spontaneous offerings. We’re going to put out a steel guitar record in May or June. Then, there’s ‘Midnight,’ which is spooky, late-night stuff; a little more psychedelic and whacked-out. Another one I really love — about a year ago, I did the music for a Pixies documentary. That little body of work has a nice feeling to it. So I called up all the members of the Pixies and asked if they minded if I could put it out, and they said sure. Finally I have my corner store. I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a little kid.”

Q: You’re selling the music as high-quality WAV files. Is there an added cost to you to do this?

Lanois: “No, we offer full fidelity for the same price. We’re proud of that. We dedicate ourselves to quality. Part of the deterrent is the receiving end — you need a high-grade Internet hookup. If you’re in the boonies, it might be confusing. And it takes longer to download. It’s not as quick and easy — not quite the TV dinner.”

Q: You were able to regain the digital rights to your solo albums. Any advice for acts trying to accomplish that?

Lanois: “If somebody wants to own your master, that’s fine, but not for more than four years. That way, everybody has their party and everybody makes their money. I don’t think it’s necessary for artists to give up master rights forever, because then you become a catalog feather in the cap for a company that just wants to sell its content. It’s unfair. I don’t think record companies should automatically own your masters for good simply because they’ve helped you with a campaign. Those days are gone.”

Q: Will you be playing any shows in support of “Here Is What Is?”

Lanois: “Our L.A. premiere will be at the Vista (Theatre) on March 27, and Brian Blade and I will play a half-hour set afterward. I don’t know that I’ll have the time to tour the world this way, but we’ll certainly give it a try here in Silver Lake (a section of Los Angeles).”

Q: Besides U2, have you found time for other producing?

Lanois: “I’ve been avoiding it, but I’ve been helping out (alternative rock artist) Rocco DeLuca. He’s just around the corner. We’re coming out with one track a night, so there’s practically an entire album done. He has a beautiful falsetto. It’s strikingly pure. I’ve just never heard anything like it.”

Q: U2 — we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask how it was going.

Lanois: “We’re going to try and break new sonic ground and deliver a masterpiece. The sleeves are rolled up. Bono is all charged up with a lyrical angle. There’s so much material. When you get Eno and I and those guys in the room, before lunch there’s like eight things. We’ve had some exciting beginnings via jam sessions. Now we will pick our favorite beginnings and say, ‘OK, that’s a lovely springboard. Now what are we trying to say?’ The springboards are sometimes melodic, sometimes riff-based, but I can assure you they are exciting.”


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