The Leader-Post MARCH 11, 2009 - by Brad Frenette


Daniel Lanois and U2 have been working together for two decades.

Along with Brian Eno, the Canadian Lanois has co-produced some of the band's most lauded work, including The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. For their twelfth studio album, No Line On The Horizon, U2 invited Lanois and Eno to contribute as co-writers on several tracks. Brad Frenette spoke to Lanois from his home/studio in Los Angeles for a track-by-track assessment of the album.

Let's start with the album's title track, No Line On The Horizon.

Larry Mullen was... just trying out a few beats on the drums. And Brian Eno sampled him. Eno's station was right next to Larry's - we have little stations in the studio, so at any point, Brian could record what Larry was doing, and manipulate it and sample it, and so on. He did that, and it started out as a little Bo Diddley sample beat... and the vocal happened very early on... The vocal delivery, the vibe was there right from Day One. I was very proud of Bono.

Is that something that might not usually happen with the band? That Bono doesn't come up with his vocal melody right off the bat?

He's great. There'll always be something there. Usually he'll fool you into thinking there is something there.

Okay, let's talk about Magnificent.

That was born in Fez. We wanted to have something euphoric, and Bono came up with that little melody. And he loved that melody, and stuck with it - almost like a fanfare. And then I was involved in the lyrical process on that, because we wanted to talk about sacrifice that one makes for one's medium or one's art.

Tell me about another of your co-compositions, Moment Of Surrender.

That was an ensemble composition. It had that great Eno/Mullen thing from the get-go, a kind of rolling hand drum. And the original sketch had me in charge of the chorus. Bono would point to me: "OK, Lanois, you sing the chorus." It's very much a Canadian sound there, a tribute to The Band. We call it the "Simcoe Sound".

How about Unknown Caller?

Similar to Moment Of Surrender, early days. The guitar solo at the end was right from the backing track. There was no monkey business; it pretty much had its personality intact from Day One.

The next track is I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight.

That started out as an Eno contribution. It was called Diorama.

That's a very Eno-esque title.

Yeah. It always had a great vibe to it. In our absence, the U2 lads reworked the song and it became what you are hearing now.

Let's move on to the first single, Get On Your Boots.

Edge came up with that at home... He had a pretty solid demo of that.

Let's talk about another rocker, Stand Up Comedy.

That song went through a lot of changes; that song was about six different songs. It's a study in itself. It would be a cool full-length CD.

Getting back to Fez, that's the title of this next song: Fez - Being Born. It's quite lovely.

The Edge had a kind of symphonic guitar moment that was free time. And I always liked the sound of it, so I took that and chopped it into a tempo and presented that back to the band. I used one of Eno's beats and I kind of created an arrangement out of what was a free wheel, but it always had a great sound.

Tell me about another one of your co-compositions, White As Snow.

After my conversation with Bono about (making) future hymns or future spirituals, I did a little studying - in fact, with a friend in Toronto, Lori Anna Reid. She's a great singer from Toronto and she's quite an expert on spirituals. I asked her to fish a few out for me, and we had a listening session and that one stood out to me. It's an old church hymn called O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It's not identical, but it's inspired by that, an old public-domain melody.

Okay, next track is Breathe.

That's another one that came from The Edge's corner. He had that pretty intact without our involvement.

And the album concludes with Cedars Of Lebanon.

Cedars Of Lebanon is something that I took a special interest in. I built that arrangement through my editing process, similar to Fez. In the early '80s, Eno and I worked with a great artist named Harold Budd. We made an ambient record called The Pearl. I always loved this particular track on The Pearl, so I based the mood of Cedars on kind of an excerpt from The Pearl... I'm proud of it, it's a nice revisit to that work. I didn't think I would ever push the ambient gas pedal any more, but there it is.