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He started making records as a teenager in his mother’s basement in Ontario, mostly working with local acts (including notorious children’s singer Raffi).
In the early 1980s he worked with Brian Eno on a series of ambient and pop records, most notably U2’s pair of breakout albums, “The Unforgettable Fire” in 1984 and “The Joshua Tree” in 1987.
When Salon spoke with Lanois recently, he was eager to talk about the visual components of “Flesh and Machine,” which he hopes will be “the headphone-listening, drug-taking record of the decade.” Tell me about the visual component to this album. We sent some filmmakers some of the tracks from the new record, and they provided some films to run in tandem with the songs. We’re rolling with that right now and having some fun with it. He filmed his daughter dancing in the forest to a piece of mine called “Iceland.” What’s fun about this is that we have invited some known and professional filmmakers, but we’ve also posted some tracks for amateurs to build films around. We’ve already gotten a couple of amateur ones that stand up nicely.
There’s something sweet about the resourcefulness of all this — just to celebrate somebody who might not be known might be good for everybody.
There’s something very endearing about them, like early Disney animation. That’s one of the things we’ve been showing, and people just love it. Are you thinking visually when you’re writing or recording?All of it, however, is inventive and nuanced: ambient music at its most ambitious and innovative.From the gauzy nostalgia of “My First Love” to the runaway patter of “Opera,” “Flesh and Machine” is one of the most immersive albums of the year — the kind you can crawl into for a few days. For 30 years Lanois has been one of those people who lurks just behind the scenes of popular music.But “Flesh and Machine” is his most wide-ranging album to date, and also his most beautifully nuanced.On tour recently, he unveiled a series of new short films created to illustrate these 11 new songs, which illuminate some of the trippier elements of the music.