(gentle guitar music) – Daniel Lanois, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Dweezil Zappa. Thank you for being here. – Yeah, my brother. – Now, is this the
instrument you started on? Is this what made you
become interested in music? Walk me through the beginning. – It’s a humble beginning. (laughs) I started playing just a penny whistle. – Okay. – My mom used to give me a dollar a week to go to the movies. And then on this one Saturday, I walked by the music store and I saw a little plastic penny
whistle in the window. It was a dollar, so I bought it, and I didn’t go to the movies that day, and that was the turning point to music. But then, later I moved into guitar. This was the days of
door-to-door canvassing, and someone knocked on my mom’s door and said, “We’re giving music classes. “You have any kids that like music?” She said, “Yeah, this one likes music.” The guy said, “Okay, we teach
slide guitar and accordion. “Which one would you like?” (laughs) – Slide guitar and accordion. That’s a strange combination
to go door-to-door with, right? (laughing) – At the time, we didn’t have any choice. I said, “Okay, I’ll take slide guitar.” – Was it like a lap style, or– – Just a regular acoustic guitar with a high action,
like a Hawaiian guitar. – But did you play it sitting on the lap?
– On the lap, yeah. – Is this one of your
favorite pieces of equipment? Like, how long have you
had this particular guitar? – This one I’ve had since I was a kid, so it’s my first pedal steel guitar. – The very first one?
– Yeah. – That’s so cool. And could you remember
one of the first melodies that you learned that stuck with you and said yes? – They were American classics. Red River Valley and Little Brown Jug and things like that, you know. – Is it something that you
could play like a tiny bit of? – I might be able to
sorta come close to it. (gentle strumming) I’ve kinda gone into one
of my own compositions, but they were hymns, really.
– Yeah. (gentle strumming) – Things like that, you know.
– That’s great. Now, I definitely haven’t seen a lot of pedal steel players up close to notice all their techniques, but I’m noticing a few
things that you’re doing where you’re doing either string muting or something with one of your hands. Is that a normal part of the style? Or is that something more that you do? – We all use similar equipment, you know. The pitch bending happens with the foot, as you can hear. (gentle strumming) So all those, that melody
change happened with the foot, nothing to do with the left hand. I use a kind of Jimi Hendrix technique where I turn up quite loud, but I play lightly. It gives me access to– (powerful chord playing) – So when you ride your
right hand across the string, what’s happening there? (strings squeak) – Sometimes I’ll do sound effects. – Yeah.
(gentle strumming) So that kind of motion, is that a normal motion for pedal steel? Or is that just like,
something that you’ve developed for your own personal style? – I think it’s more
something that I’ve developed because as a young player, I
was a more conventional player. I played in country bands. – Yeah. – And I gravitated to more playing hymns more than fast picking. – Yeah. – And this allowed me to find things– (gentle guitar music) But it’s that technique
of having quite a bit of volume and letting
the harmonics take a roll in the sound. So by playing lightly but
with the volume pedal down, the harmonics come up and meet the melody. – So they’re blooming, in a way.
– Blooming. And they’re companions,
rather than something you keep in the back room. You can think of it as inviting harmony singers to join in in the melody.
– Yeah. – At the moment, I’m
muting all the strings here except for the melody. (guitar strumming) You hear how pure that is?
– Yeah. (guitar strumming) – Now I’ll bring in
the support characters. – Yeah.
(guitar strumming) – I found my voice within this approach, and as musicians, we all hope to get to that place where we find something unique. – That is for sure the challenge. And that’s also one of the things, that as a producer,
that you have been able to bring out in people. Maybe you could speak a
little bit about that process. – Yes, I can speak about that. A great producer’s a great friend. And the voice of reason, and someone who can help with choosing material. Some producers may not be musical, but they would be, be able to stand back and say, “You’ve got enough slow songs, “and we’re gonna need some fast ones.” – Yeah. – Those are important comments as well. But in my case, because I’m musical, I try and make suggestions
regarding arrangements and harmonies, and ways of maximizing the potential of the song. I was just on the phone with
Neil Young before we started. We made a record together a
few years ago called Le Noise. Very emotional record,
very powerful record. I recognized that in
Neil at that time that it’s what I liked about the
songs that he brought in. They had a lot of emotion and
they were saying something, and I wanted to make sure
that I was a good friend to Neil so that those qualities in the songs were brought to the forefront. – Now, to create the impact that you want the listener to experience, what’s the process? – A lot of it is preparation. To talk about Neil one more time. We spend a lot of time
designing an acoustic sound for him so that when he walked in, I already had a sound for him. And he was very excited about that. He heard it, he didn’t even
take his Martin out of the case. He said, “Wow, let’s use this.” So usually the first stage
of a project will reveal the sounds that it wants to have. With Bob Dylan, I had to make sure that Bob could overdub some vocal lines if he wanted to, because he was constantly
making amendments with his lyrics. So if I’ve got all vocal
leakage on the acoustic guitar, I can’t do that. So, out of necessity I came up with this little idea of putting pickups in acoustic instruments and then just have a tiny little amp, like around the corner,
maybe pillows around it. – Yeah. – And so the guitar sounds
were a little duller than they would be otherwise. But then that left more room for the vocal to be occupying center of the picture. – Yeah. You had certain things
that you got excited about, techniques and a sound. But did you ever, sort of, outgrow something and then it evolved into something else? – A given chapter will segue
into the next song I play, to a degree. I got tired of my
recording studio in Canada. The old library had vacated
in Hamilton, Ontario. A beautiful old building. And I knew some of the folks at City Hall, so they gave me the
key to the old library, and that’s where I started
experimenting with sounds. You know, an amp down the hall, mic up this way, maybe
up in the mezzanine, and bathroom sounds exciting, and so I made some ambient records with Brian Eno. It’s those records that allowed me to be noticed internationally. It was not the pop records that I was working on in Canada. It was the more, the more unusual, experimental, sonic records–
– The textural stuff. – And then there was a call to go and work in Ireland with U2. The fellas from U2 were excited to know what we had been up to, and they said, “Oh, let’s apply these sounds
to what we’re working on.” It’s a record called Unforgettable Fire. It was done in a castle. – So you went from the
library to the castle. – Yeah, but the castle
had a library in it. – Oh, well there ya go. (laughs) – The library, of course, was lined with books, floor to ceiling. And books offer a lot
of density for sound. – They’re great sound diffusers. – Really, really great. Old encyclopedias will do.
– Yep. – Romance novels would be all right. Just line ’em all up.
– Yeah, maybe, maybe something with a picture of Fabio. – Yes, exactly, there
you go, there you go. – That’s actually really cool.
– Yeah, that’s where I got the idea from, the library in the castle on that first U2 record. – It’s a nice piece of history. – Yeah, I mean, the kid
can sing, so that helps. (both laughing) – Maybe we should try to
play a little bit more, or– – Yes.
– If you feel like it. (guitar strums)
– I’ll play the chords, and you go to the melody. – Okay, let’s see what happens. (gentle guitar music) – Dweezil and Danny? (laughing)
– Yes! Why not? That’s very nice. Ladies and gentlemen,
this is Daniel Lanois. That was fun, I enjoyed it. – Thank you, brother. – Thank you very much.