“I used to be simply fortunate to be in the suitable place on the proper time,” Patrick Watson mentioned.
The singer-songwriter is one in every of a number of Montrealers who contributed to Leonard Cohen’s new posthumous album Thanks for the Dance, produced by Cohen’s son Adam.
Watson has the album’s sole co-production credit score, for the spooky standout The Hills. The chance arose out of a 2016 collaboration between Watson, Montreal engineer/producer Howard Bilerman and Adam Cohen on a few of the latter’s personal materials.
“He mentioned, ‘I’m having bother with this monitor by my dad. You wanna give it a attempt?’ ” Watson recalled. “It wasn’t a tough reply.”
Watson stripped the monitor all the way down to Cohen’s voice, then allowed himself to mess around.
“I made a decision to experiment,” he mentioned, “so I dived into the phrases and the sound, and went actually visceral.”
The tune is haunting and spare at first, as Cohen imagines his dying, then rebirth, and the sombre groove erupts right into a redemptive refrain.
“The most important takeaway for me was his voice alone,” Watson mentioned. “It was doing a lot work. It was a giant lesson on intention.”
Bilerman recalled him and Watson bringing in “a few of our favorite native musicians,” together with drummer Jamie Thompson, Watson’s bassist Mishka Stein, horn participant Pietro Amato, saxophonist Jason Sharp and singers Erika Angell and Molly Sweeney.
Initially slated to be a part of You Need It Darker (launched simply earlier than Cohen’s dying in 2016), the tune wasn’t prepared in time, however Adam Cohen promised Bilerman it might “discover a house sometime.”
Bilerman first heard it publicly at Cohen’s memorial in Los Angeles, in December 2016, and once more in November 2017 throughout the Tower of Song tribute at the Bell Centre, accompanying a video homage to Cohen.
“It was clearly an enormous honour,” he mentioned, “if not a bit of surreal.”
Bilerman has produced albums by seemingly each Montreal indie band, together with Arcade Fire’s Funeral. He admires Adam Cohen’s “unwavering dedication to tie up all of the free ends in Leonard’s inventive output.”
In August 2018, he and Adam Cohen had been in Berlin for the Folks Pageant, the place Bilerman launched Cohen to Arcade Fireplace’s Richard Reed Parry.
“Forty-five minutes later, (Parry) was enjoying bass on a tune, and giving manufacturing notes,” Bilerman recalled.
“It was so informal, in probably the most lovely method,” Parry mentioned. “They had been engaged on (the album) and open to drop-in collaborations. It wasn’t like, ‘I’m engaged on a Leonard Cohen file’; it was like being in music movement.”
Parry’s suspenseful bass line underpins the steamy ballad The Night time of Santiago. He, too, was struck by Cohen’s acquainted rasp.
“It was so unusual to wander into a spot the place there’s music occurring and this voice you already know and love and revere, on a tune you’ve by no means heard.”
Bilerman was additionally manning the controls when Daniel Lanois dropped by his hotel2tango studio to assist.
“I’ve recognized Adam for a very long time,” mentioned the legendary Canadian producer and singer-songwriter, who has labored with everybody from U2 to Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel.
“He known as me — I’d say he was midway by — and mentioned, might I lend an ear by enjoying, singing, mixing, something that could possibly be helpful.”
Lanois jumped on the likelihood.
“Clearly, talking for myself, Leonard is a Canadian hero, from the technology forward of me. I all the time felt he was one of many trailblazers.”
He hopped on a airplane from Toronto to Montreal, they usually bought began.
“I work quick,” he mentioned, “so something that got here to me as an concept was put into motion.”
Lanois got here up with the gently cascading piano theme on Occurs to the Coronary heart, which he likes as a result of “so simple as it’s, that little half sounds prefer it was all the time there; these are sometimes the most effective.”
And he used his trademark dubbing course of on numerous tracks, placing totally different sonic components by his equipment to govern the sounds.
“They’re particulars, however good particulars,” Lanois mentioned, “and really uncommon. If I can discover one thing uncommon to enhance Leonard and provides him a greater home, I’m joyful.”
Lanois believes his expertise making albums with so many alternative folks through the years gave him a hen’s-eye view of the recording course of.
“I used to be capable of shortly provide you with balances I imagine impressed Adam as a result of I used to be not emotionally connected to any of his substances, which he clearly poured plenty of labour into,” he mentioned. “I used to be capable of undergo and determine on the most effective flower preparations.”
It was a return engagement for Westmount’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim choir, which sang on You Need It Darker (in a session recorded by Bilerman) and seems right here on the Holocaust-referencing Puppets alongside Berlin’s Cantus Domus choir.
“The tune may be very Cohenian in its social commentary,” noticed Shaar Hashomayim cantor Gideon Zelermyer. “The phrases led to the idea Adam had, to have this German choir and us — the intersection of those two star-crossed associations, of Germans and Jews, coming collectively to make music.”
Zelermyer was a bystander for the session, which required no soloist, and so he noticed from the opposite facet of the studio glass, sitting with Adam Cohen.
“It’s simply superb to have been witness to this little footnote, and to have the ability to add to Leonard’s superb creative output,” he mentioned. “It’s very, very particular.”
AT A GLANCE
Leonard Cohen’s Thanks for the Dance is launched on Friday, Nov. 22.