Me and Daniel Lanois at the Juno Awards
This story happened to me back in the day around the time when I was learning Recording Engineering at Harris Institute for the Arts. It’s a story about my Daniel Lanois connection. But first I have to tell the back story, because it’s important to the years and moments leading up to my Dan Lanois “encounter”.
This story begins back in my hometown of Geraldton, Ontario. It was high school and just getting set to go to Thunder Bay to be an Electronic Engineer. A few words on that later, because my abandonment of that aspiration may have changed the path that led me to this point in my life. Also, important to note, I had just begun starting produce my original song in a little studio I had built fashioned out of an old vegetable truck container. [Read more here} So as the story goes, let us begin by my introduction of a good friend in Geraldton named Mike Daigle. We were best of friends throughout high school. Anyways, Mike would often rave about his older musician brother Gilles who was a touring musician and recording engineer. I always thought that that was cool and perhaps maybe I might be able to maybe Gilles someday. Well it wasn’t too long, because lo and behold Gilles and his band were hired to do a gig in Geraldton during a Canada Day celebration in the basement of the Catholic Church. The day came and I was excited to meet this luminary of musicianship of whom Mike spoke so highly of. It was the evening of the gig and Mike and I sat in the audience as the band launched into some Beatles and Fleetwood Mac if memory serves me correctly? He and his band were astounding and the musicianship of all in the band was everything that Mike raved about. Gilles, it turns out, was the finest of Bass players I’d ever seen. Later, when the evening had endee, it was my pleasure to be able to speak to Gilles because apparently Mike had volunteered us for tear-down of gear. Moreover, I got to meet the rest of the band. The one I was most impressed to meet was the lead guitarist. He pulled off one of rocks most difficult of solos on the Eagle’s Hotel California with ease and grace. I was to learn that this fine guitarist name was Daniel L’Heureux. Now remember that name because it’s is central to this story.
Fast forward a year or two? I was now in Thunder Bay attending my Electronic Engineering course at Confederation College. It was also convenient at this time that Mike – who was attending the Film Program – and I room together with another Geraldton school chum. Also, it was about this time that Gilles had moved back from Quebec to settle in Thunder Bay. He was married now – with a child on the way – and was in the process of getting a 24-track Recording Studio up and running. Sadly though, I was to learn that his former band had folded most members therein were back to their respective provinces of Quebec and Ontario – including Daniel L’Heureux! Remember I said remember that name? In any event, I got work through Mike to help Gilles set up his Recording Studio from scratch. My first job was to sweep the dirt and sawdust from the floors left there by the former tenants prior to moving all the recording gear in. Thereafter, Gilles put my rudimentary carpentry skill to work as we erected walls of the gutted warehouse. Following that, I was then employed to help wire the recording console late at night after school was done at the College. In a few weeks, the Studio was up and running and taking in clients. I remember, in a short time BPI Studio was recording jingles and had set to record one of its first “real” recording artist. The musicians name? Roger McGraw – no relation to Tim – hailed from the small town of Caramat, Ontario. Caramat, incidentally, was just a few short miles down the road from Geraldton. “Hmm?” I thought to myself, “Maybe I too could do this someday?” This all too soon becomes relevant.
Now fast forward – paying no regard to my now long forgotten Electronic Engineering career – I had now moved on to Toronto to pursue a Recording Engineer career. I first took an 8 month course at a now defunct private Institute called the Audio Visual Institute of Canada. Despite the school’s short -lived status, I was able to visit many of Toronto’s prominent Recording Studios as part of curriculum and placements. Number 9 comes to mind, but there were plenty others. As a matter of fact, it was at Number 9 that our class elected to utilize one of my original songs as a working “project”. It was eventually all recorded professional like, but sadly at the time the school was in financial turmoil and had “forgotten” to pay its bills, As a consequence, Number 9 withheld the 24-track tape and I never got hold of that recording. Where it is now? Don’t know, however, I still have it in a notebook somewhere? Perhaps to revisit that one? I remember it not being half-bad, even in comparison of my current standards. Why is this all important? Well, as part of my Recording Engineering education, this one name kept popping up. Daniel Lanois. Who was he? I inquired to fellow students and apparently this Lanois fella had a Recording Studio in Hamilton called Grant Studios. “Oh, okay. Another guy with a home recording studio. Good luck fella!” I thought.
This is someone’s home-made video based on Ray Materick’s song Linda Put the Coffee On. Produced by Daniel Lanios at Grant Studio back in the day. In fact, that’s Dan on Lead Guitar.
Fast forward another year or two? By this time I had moved on to surviving. I still had my home recording setup at home and continued to write. I also did recording with alumni at their studios too! However, I felt compelled to move on to taking up Radio Production and Broadcast Marketing at Ryerson part-time. In the interim whilst studying I took on various Production Assistant gigs with various TV and Radio production companies in between working part-time at a place called Roblan Distributors. Roblan, incidentally, was the distribution arm of Sam the Record Man. And yes, I saw Sam on a daily basis as his office was on the top floor of the building formerly located at the corner of Dundas and Church. Fine memories and good times. Loved that guy! Anyway’s that’s another story for another time. But, it was relevant being ppart of the Sam the Record Man’s marketing department, because I was handling “new releases’ by all the popular artist of the day. I always took time to read all the liner notes on the “albums” as I prepared them for shipping to all the Sams across the country. Central to the story, I remember glancing at releases by U2. U2 and Bono were not yet household names. Hang on to that thought.
Rewind a bit here now. Remember Daniel L’Heureux? Good! In between my school year in Toronto I would return to Thunder Bay to work in a grocery warehouse. During this one particular summer, I bumped into Mike and he gave me all the updates from Mike, my former roommate. He had informed me that Dan was now in Toronto and was in a band called BULLY and apparently that had a Recording deal. I contacted Mike’s brother Gilles and he supplied me with a contact for Dan. So, upon my return to school in Toronto, I looked Dan up. Turns out BULLY was actively performing around Toronto. I took a few opportunities to see them on occasion. Now this is where thing got interesting because it led to the “encounter”. Dan and I had become pretty good friends and somewhat of a mentor. He was about 10 year my senior with many music industry contact. He was always supportive of my endeavours as both an aspiring Songwriter with Recording Engineer inklings. At this time Dan was living with his sister – who I remember being quite cute – so, I started to go visit Dan a little more frequently. 😉 Actually, Dan, his sister and another gal were in the midst of putting a band together. Given, I was always welcome there at their apartment, I’d just t show up on Jam nights to horn in, oggle…err…I mean watch and maybe learn something? Press “Pause”.
The Unforgettable Jam
No fast forward required here. I remember it was now Juno Awards time of year and soon came the day of. I hod gone over on that day for for a late-afternoon Jam. This was an anomaly because Jam time had always been in the evening. But, given the Juno Awards were on that evening, I thought nothing of it. Well the Jam went right on into the broadcast of the Awards that eventing. Between songs and sipping beverages we chatted music stuff, all the while horning in on what was taking place at the awards on TV. Well it was on occasion of this one particular break, the time had come for the Producer of the Year Award was to be presented. I don’t recall as to all the nominees were, but there was that name again. Daniel Lanois. I still didn’t know exactly who he was1 Anyways, the presenters at the Junos were at the podium preparing to announce the winner. A hush took over the room as they opened the envelope. The audience at the Gala too was silenced. The Winnier? Of course! Who else, but this Dan Lanois fella for Producer, along with his cohort Brian Eno for U2’s Unforgettalbe Fire. From that moment on, I would never again forget that name. Not because Daniel Lanois had produced one of Rock’s most iconic albums, but because of what was to transpire next. Here’s the kicker! Dan – the L’Heureux one not the Lanois one – exalted in the win, breaking the subdued silence of the Jam room. “YES!” he proclaimed. “Way to go Danny!” “Err? Danny?’ I thought to myself, “Like he’s good buddies with him or something” I thought to myself. Then it occurred to me to ask aloud “Come on Dan. DANNY? Really? Like you know him personally or something?” To my surprise, Dan replied “Yeah, known the dude for years. “ Dan went on to tell me how whenever it was he was out Clubbing or Gigging or simply walking downtown, people would a stop him thinking he was Daniel Lanois. This was substantiated by his sister and other band member. To further, substantiate this, close to an hour had passed since the Daniel Lanois win and the Juno Awards had concluded. Dan then went to his black book and retrieved a number. I a few short moments he was on the phone talking to Daniel Lanois. I remember him chatting up and congratulating Daniel Lanois. The conversation lasted for about 3 to 5 minutes when he turned the phone handset to “us”. “Wait a minute Dan! ” OUR Dan asked Lanois Dan “ I have my sis, [forget her name] and Clarence – you don’t know Clarence – but they have something to say.” With that we were prompted to collectively shouted in unison “Congratulation Dan!” And that my friends it my story of my nearest encounter to Daniel Lanois…thus far.
Thanks for the visit people for letting me share that fine story with you! I kid a lot, and it is April Fool’s today as I write this, but that is the God honest truth. I swear!
P.S. Regarding my abandoned Electronic Engineering career? Well as part of Semester One, I found my heart wasn’t in it and started to spend more time hanging out at Gilles’ Studio. Probably a better education there than at College. Moreover – as a side note – as part of Semester One, we were required to build an LED Clock Radio. Uhmm..never finished it. However, I still have it in a trunk in my basement stored along with other memorabilia. In the event, if this Songwriting/ Broadcasting thing don’t take off again soon I may have to go back to school and start over again. Press “Rewind”. Hmmm..what haven’t I tried yet?
The Unforgettable Fire is the fourth studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was released in October 1984. The band wanted a different musical direction following the harder-hitting rock of their 1983 album War. They employed Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce and assist them experiment with a more ambient and abstract sound. The resulting change in direction was at the time the band’s most dramatic. There rest of the story here!
You can also view the making of The Unforgettable Fire on YouTube if you are so inclined.
P.S.S. If you’d like another Juno story by me, check out the time I had to make the trek from the northern outposts of Northwestern Ontario to Toronto to cover the Junos as a journalist. It’s just as funny as Trains, Planes and Automobiles – but TRUE! Read on Clarence Goes to the Junos. Oh there’s a little story of my “encounter” with then little known Sarah MacLachlan. Click here!