Daniel Lanois and his long-time engineer Mark Howard avoid the industry standard DAW Pro Tools

By Stephen Pate – Daniel Lanois has three Grammy Awards as producer for album of the year. He also likes to avoid Pro Tools and other software based audio recording software.

“I don’t like the sound of Pro Tools, and I also don’t think it’s a reliable platform: it crashes too often,” Lanois’ engineer Mark Howard told Sound on Sound (Feb 2011).

That statement is heresy in the world of music recording where Pro Tools is the creme de la creme of digital audio workstation software.

Neil Young, Dave Howard and Daniel Lanois recording LeNoise at Silverlake Studio, LA (picture Sound on Sound)

Lanois has been known for unconventional thinking in music production. His last two albums were Neil Young’s LeNoise and Black Dub.

Neil Young won the 2011 Grammy for Best Rock Song for Angry World off Le Noise. Lanois must be doing something right.

Lanois and Howard use the iZ Radar digital recording workstation for both sound quality and stability. The iZ Radar is a hard drive based DAW some consider out of date these days.

“You also end up doing things inside of it (ProTools) with plug‑ins, and you end up dealing with the issue of latency,”  Howard told Sound on Sound magazine. “Plus people using Pro Tools are listening with their eyes instead of their ears.”

“I like the Radar because I grew up using tape recorders, and it is like using a tape recorder. You record something, you play it back. You don’t have to think about anything else, or spend hours studying how to use the software or get something to work again when it crashes or doesn’t open. With the Radar, you can spend these hours on dealing with the music.”

“Recording with Radar is much quicker than with tape or Pro Tools. Rewind and playback is instantaneous, and you don’t have to constantly wait for things to load, unlike with Pro Tools. It’s such a frustrating tool for me. If I ever have to use it, I get a guy to do it for me, so I don’t have to look at it.” Sound on Sound Feb 2011 issue

Daniel Lanois‘ impressive credentials include producing U2 since The Joshua Tree, Bob Dylan on Oh Mercy and Time out of Mind, Willie Nelson, The Neville Brothers, Peter Gabriel, Ron Sexsmith and Emmylou Harris. Lanois is also a songwriter, singer and guitar player with a devoted following for his CDs like Shine and Acadie.

Dave Howard has worked with an equally impressive roster on recording projects including Lanois’ Acadie. “While having engineered Lanois‑produced albums by Gabriel, Dylan, Nelson, The Neville Brothers and so on, the British‑born Canadian has also gone on to make a big name for himself as an independent engineer, mixer, and producer, having worked in the latter capacity with Lucinda Williams, Marianne Faithful, Chris Whitley, and many more. Le Noise and Black Dub mark the first time Lanois and Howard have worked together again since U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000).” (SOS)

Lanois is currently touring with his new group Black Dub.

For a review of the iZ Radar, see Mix Magazine. It costs a cool $20K so it won’t be on my shopping list.  For the full story on recording LeNoise and Black Dub, check out the February 2011 issue of Sound on Sound, available at magazine and book stores or online.