Bob Dylan? U2? Peter Gabriel? Emmylou Harris?
Daniel Lanois won't be taking your calls for a while--at least not if you want him to produce albums for you. Lanois, who worked as producer on such acclaimed albums as Dylan's "Time Out of Mind," U2's "The Joshua Tree," Harris' "Wrecking Ball" and Gabriel's "So," is taking a hiatus to concentrate on his own music.
He's set up in a Spanish-style Los Angeles house from the 1910s to finish songs for what will be his first solo album since 1993's "For the Beauty of Wynona" with the still-unfinished material bearing the emotional intimacy and sonic otherworldliness associated with his production work. He's also recording an album of hymn-like pedal-steel guitar instrumentals.
So callers seeking a producer may get a busy signal--but if someone wants to talk about releasing his music, he's all ears. "I'm accepting all phone calls [for that]," says Lanois, 49, sitting outside his temporary headquarters. "I'm working on my records and want to find a business partner. I'm not angling for money or advice. I'm paying for my record myself, and I've got friends who I can call when I need advice and who steer me right."
Lanois has begun discussions with companies he believes have the right sense of aesthetics. He has a long relationship with DreamWorks heads Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker (both "Wynona" and his 1989 solo debut, "Acadie," were released by Warner Bros. Records when the pair ran that company). He also expresses admiration for Nonesuch (a Warner Music Group subsidiary that has recently signed such respected artists as Harris, Sam Phillips and T Bone Burnett), and ATO (the BMG-distributed label owned by Dave Matthews and his manager that has had a phenomenal success with David Gray's "White Ladder").
Lanois is also not asking for a label to run the way other star producers, such as Glen Ballard and Rick Rubin, have done. He's interested in helping develop other projects such as soundtracks (he did the haunting score for "Sling Blade")--as well as perhaps helping bring in new talent. But he says he has no desire to be a record company executive.
"I've had my time in the 24th-floor offices," he says. "I like living closer to the guitar player in me."
Lanois had intended to make a solo album more than two years ago but instead agreed to team with frequent collaborator Brian Eno to produce U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" in Ireland--a project that was originally expected to take just a few months but actually lasted a year and a half. The success of that album, though, gave him the determination and freedom to focus on his own work for the time being.
"U2 was the last one I'll do for a while," he says. "I'm a fattened calf as a result of that."
FAB FILM: On the heels of the phenomenal success of the Beatles' "1" hits collection, a long-awaited DVD project revolving around the band's first film, "A Hard Day's Night," is underway.
Los Angeles-based Beatles historian Martin Lewis has been hired to produce the project, which will be released by Miramax and Buena Vista Films but has no release date yet. He says plans call for multiple audio tracks (a 5.1 surround version, a digital restoration of the original mono, plus commentaries from cast and crew) as well as original trailers and promo clips.
Lewis says that to devote his time to the venture, he will be withdrawing from consideration as host of "Breakfast With the Beatles" on radio station KLSX-FM (97.1). He had been one of five rotating hosts on the air since the January death of show originator Deirdre O'Donoghue. The station announced recently that it was asking listeners to vote for the permanent anchor via a poll being held through August on its Web site, http://\o7 www.fmtalki.com\f7 .
Lewis is also the author of a piece appearing on Salon.com investigating a British tabloid's purported quotes from Beatles producer George Martin that suggested George Harrison was near death.
The tabloid story was picked up by press around the world and caused great angst for the former Beatle.
SULLY-ED LABEL: Godsmack frontman Sully Erna is all for bands being frugal in their careers.
"Godsmack did our first album for $2,600," he says. "On our second record, after we had success, we had a million to spend in the studio, but we chose to go record in a dump and did it cheap again."
It's a philosophy he expects to apply from the other side of the business now. Erna's just been given his own label. It will be distributed by Universal Music's Republic Records, which releases Godsmack's albums.
With the label expected to be named Spiral Records, Erna has signed fellow Boston group Powderburnt, which plans on having Erna produce its album after the conclusion of his band's fall tour.
Erna says he wants to build a wide-ranging roster and "help bands that maybe aren't getting a break." But part of that, he says, is teaching fiscal responsibility.
"It's not about the money for me," he says.