Daniel Lanois Recalls Working With Bob Dylan On A ‘Kitchen Hip-Hop Record’

During a recent interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Daniel Lanois remembered the times he and Bob Dylan worked on ‘Oh Mercy.’

Daniel Lanois undertook the production of and played on the albums of many well-known names, including U2, Neil Young, and Peter Gabriel. He contributed to these collaborations with his sonic explorations and atmospheric sound, which captures a different tone each time and gives the albums their character. It is also known that he likes to experiment with instruments and use the studio as a sonic component.

However, he not only produces but also creates music and has released more than ten solo albums. His last album, ‘Player, Piano,’ found its place on the shelves in the last week of September. This record seems to occupy a special place in its creator’s heart since it looks like Lanois’s memories from his previous collaborations overflew into this album in terms of style, background, and tune.

In his last conversation with Ultimate Guitar Rock, Lanois recalled one of these collaborations and shared his memory about the production phase of their album with Bob Dylan. ‘Oh Mercy’ hit the shelves in 1989, and it has one thing in common with ‘Player, Piano’; Roland 808. He said that 808 helped them with timing while they were producing the songs and allowed them to operate at a fixed time.

Stating that this fixed time provided a base for him to establish his echoes, the musician explained that this can be heard especially in ‘Most of the Time.’ He said that Bob Dylan didn’t comment much on the 808, but it provided them with a good range of movement in terms of the lyrics and the instrumentation. He also remembered that while producing the album, they sat on chairs facing each other and played guitar as if they were in a kitchen. That’s why he described their album as a ‘kitchen hip-hop record.’

Here is how Lanois recalled the production of ‘Oh Mercy’:

“Dylan didn’t have much to say about the Roland 808. We sat in two chairs as if we were sitting in the kitchen playing guitars. Bob played my guitars. I had already set them up in such a way that if it was acoustic, I used a pickup on the acoustic. I went to a little amp around the corner, isolated from the singing – because I wanted to make sure that if Bob changed some lyric lines, it would be viable that we could replace a line without having the old lyric bleeding through.

The Roland 808 allowed us to be operating at a fixed time, which meant that ultimately, I could then apply my echo treatment to the songs. The track on that record that displays what I’m talking about is called ‘Most of the Time.’ So all of the echoes are perfect because we’re dealing with metronomic time. It allowed Willie Green to overdub the drums and so on. The production or the angle had the advantage of fixed time.

I think Bob appreciated that we didn’t have to have a lot of people around. It was just an approach that I decided would be a good idea for the making of that record, because I wanted Bob’s vocal to be dominant. So we just had the 808 coming through a stage P.A. wedge at our feet. I was there, right by his side making sure that the grooves were locked. That was it. It became almost – I think of it as a kitchen hip-hop record.

You can listen to ‘Oh Mercy’ on Spotify below.