Lanois started his production career when he was 17, working in his own studio with his brother Bob Lanois in the basement of their mother's Ancaster, Ontario home, recording local artists including Simply Saucer. Later Daniel started Grant Avenue Studios in an old house he purchased in Hamilton, Ontario. He worked with a number of local bands, including Martha and the Muffins (for whom his sister Jocelyne played bass), Ray Materick, as well as the Canadian children's singer Raffi.
Lanois' early work with U2 led to him being hired to produce albums for other top-selling artists. Bono recommended Lanois to Bob Dylan in the late 1980s; in 1989 Lanois produced Dylan's Oh Mercy. Eight years later Dylan and Lanois worked together on Time Out of Mind which won another Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1997. In his autobiographical Chronicles, Vol. 1, Dylan describes in depth the contentious but rewarding working relationship he developed with Lanois.
Lanois was working on Neil Young's record Le Noise in June 2010 when he was hospitalized after suffering multiple injuries in a motorcycle crash in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. He has since recovered.
Lanois' production is recognizable and notable for its 'big' and 'live' drum sound, atmospheric guitars and ambient reverb.Rolling Stone called Lanois the "most important record producer to emerge in the Eighties."
As recording artist
Daniel Lanois plays with Black Dub in 2011
As well as being a producer, Lanois is also a songwriter, musician and recording artist. He has released several solo albums and film scores. A number of Lanois' songs have been covered by other artists, including Dave Matthews, Jerry Garcia Band, Willie Nelson, Tea Party, Anna Beljin and Emmylou Harris, and his albums have had some success, particularly in Canada. Lanois plays the guitar, pedal steel, and drums. "Belladonna", an instrumental album released in 2005, was nominated for a Grammy. Lanois also provided an instrumental score for LOUDquietLOUD, a documentary about the Pixies. He contributed lead guitar on two songs of Bob Wiseman's 1995 Accidentally Acquired Beliefs.
Lanois premiered a documentary entitled Here Is What Is at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9, 2007. The film chronicles the recording of his album of the same name, and includes footage of the actual recording. The album Here Is What Is was released, first by download, then in compact disc, in late 2007 and early 2008. Soon after, Lanois released a three-disc recording called Omni.
engineered/mixed by Alvaro Villagra, Andy Grassi, Anton Pukshansky, Benny Faccone, Chris Theis, Commissioner Gordon, David Frazer, David Thoener, Glenn Kolotkin, Jeff Poe, Jim Gaines, Jim Scott, John Gamble, John Karpowich, John Seymour, Matty Spindel, Mike Couzzi, Steve Farrone, Steve Fontano, T-Ray, Tom Lord-Alge, Tony Prendatt & Warren Riker; produced by Alex Gonzales, Art Hodge, Charles Goodan, Clive Davis, Dante Ross, Dust Brothers, Fher Olvera, Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis, K. C. Porter, Lauryn Hill, Matt Serletic, Stephen M. Harris & Wyclef Jean
engineered/mixed by Brian Paturalski, Chris Carmouche, Darrell Thorp, Dexter Simmons, John Frye, Kevin Davis, Matt Still, Moka Nagatani, Neal H. Pogue, Padraic Kernin, Pete Novak, Reggie Dozier, Robert Hannon, Terrence Cash & Vincent Alexander; master engineered by Bernie Grundman & Brian Gardner; produced by André 3000, Big Boi & Carl Mo
engineered/mixed by Al Schmitt, Ed Thacker, Joel W. Moss, John Harris, Mark Fleming, Pete Karam, Robert Fernandez, Seth Presant & Terry Howard; master engineered by Doug Sax & Robert Hadley; produced by Don Mizell, Herbert Waltl, John R. Burk, Phil Ramone & Terry Howard