Bob Lanois Snake Road Documentary

In the fall of 2021, I learned of a seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods in Burlington Ontario and after finding out that it and its owner are a major part of local and Canadian music history, I decided to dig deeper and get the whole story.

This story inspired me to shoot and produce my first full length feature documentary film and to tell the story of Bob Lanois, what led him to move into this small remote cabin, and the amazing music, art and creativity that came from it.

Bob Lanois: Snake Road - The Complete Documentary

About Snake Road

In Southern Ontario Canada, near the Niagara Escarpment is one of the most scenic roads in the area, Snake Road.

It was here, along Snake Road that Bob Lanois planted his roots in 1988.  With his own hands and inventiveness, Bob designed and built his own cabin, “The Shack” as he called it.

Bob wanted to be close to nature and he kept the land as natural as possible. It was important to Bob to be away from noise, clutter and distraction and to have a place where he could be himself, where he could work and be creative. 

About Bob Lanois

I asked Canadian Musicologist, Music Historian, Radio and Television Host, Podcaster and overall really smart guy Alan Cross to help me tell the story of Bob Lanois, as only he can and with a voice that everyone knows!

Robert Jacques Lanois, known to most as Bob Lanois was born in Gatineau, Quebec on April 4th 1948.  His parents were Jill and Guy Lanois. 

Bob was the eldest of 4 siblings, Daniel, Ronald and Jocelyne 

In 1961, when their parents’ marriage ended, Bob, Daniel, Ronald and Jocelyne moved to Hamilton, Ontario with their mother.  Bob being the oldest child at 13 years old took on a father role in the family, helping to provide by working jobs at local stores and delivering newspapers at night. 

The Lanois Family settled in a family home on Robina Road in Ancaster, Ontario

The Complete Bob Lanois Interviews

Daniel Lanois
Bob's Brother

While Bob Lanois had many good friends and loved ones, it was his brother Daniel Lanois who I thought was best to help me tell this story.  Daniel was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to speak with me, at great length about his brother.

Bob Doidge
Grant Avenue Studio

I had heard buzz over the years about Grant Avenue Studio and through speaking with friends of Bob and the praise Daniel gives to Bob for building this studio, I had to see it for myself.  In-fact, I recorded my narration for this video at Grant Avenue Studio, with Bob Doidge at the controls.

Edgar Breau
Simply Saucer

The story of one album recorded by Bob Lanois really got my attention. Cyborgs Revisited by Hamilton, Ontario act – Simply Saucer. 

Cyborgs Revisited came to be regarded as a lost classic of Canadian music, frequently being named one of the greatest Canadian albums of all time.

It ranked 48th in Chart magazine’s 1996 reader poll of the greatest Canadian albums, and 36th in a 2007 book titled The Top 100 Canadian Albums

Paul Langlois
The Tragically Hip

In researching this documentary and familiarizing myself with the work of the Lanois brothers, I noticed a theme of collaboration on several projects from artists such as Emmylou Harris, on her 18th studio album, Wrecking Ball

Bobs name appears on the liner notes for U2’s The Joshua Tree, the 1987 Grammy Album of the Year, produced by Daniel, as well as work with The Tragically Hip who had worked with Daniel as well.

Bob Lanois shot and directed two videos for The Tragically Hip, Grace Too and Greasy Jungle.

Bob also created the stage projection graphics for the Day for Night Tour and he was very good friends with the late Gord Downie.

Rachel Heart
Friend & Musician

Many bands and artists recorded in the shack over the years, one of them was a close friend of Bob’s named Rachel Heart.

Rachel and Bob worked together to record her album “Warrior” at the Shack studio.

Rachel Heart met me at the shack to tell me about that experience.

Tom Wilson
Canadian Musician & Artist

When I started the process of getting approvals and doing research for this documentary, Tom Wilson was instrumental in making it happen.

Tom swiftly responded to my random email and quickly got the idea in front of Daniel Lanois and Bob’s partner Margot.  Having been close friends and collaborators for over 30 years, Tom has been a wealth of knowledge and great help to me in this process.

 

In 2005, Bob and Tom recorded “The Shack Recordings – Volume 1” a fantastic collection of songs performed by Tom and Bob, all recorded and produced by Bob. 

Tom and I met at the shack to discuss the recording of that album and many other things.

John Angus MacDonald & Jack Syperek: The Trews

Bob Lanois was a friend and collaborator with the members of The Trews.  In 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Trews filmed a video titled “I Wanna Play”, a take on how musicians were coping with the restrictions.

Bob Lanois was cast in this video as “The Janitor”, the final project of Bob’s life before he passed away.

Glen Marshall
Friend & Sound Engineer

Glen Marshall and Bob Lanois were lifelong friends, they met when Bob was running Grant Avenue Studio.  

The younger Glen, eager to get his band seen and heard by Bob, convinced him to come out and see his band play live.  

This was the start of a lifelong friendship and partnership ultimately resulting in the two partnering on a business venture at The Bunker and The Mule Spinner at The Cotton Factory in Hamilton, Ontario.

Stephen Sahlin of Big is Less: Tribute to Bob Lanois

Between 2007 and 2009 Bob made three trips to Gothenburg Sweden to play and tour with his friends in the band “Big is Less”, including a one week trip to play nightly shows at a club on the island of Bequia.

Here is Stephen Sahlin of Big is Less, from Sweden with a beautiful tribute to Bob:

The Shack

Bob bought the Shack property in 1988, but had been looking at it since 1986. There was already a tiny shed there, but he built onto it and turned it into a much larger place.  

He designed it himself and built it with his own hands, with the help of friends.

Bob lived in the shack almost full-time from 1990 onwards, he wanted to be close to nature and keep the land as natural as possible. 

Bob Lanois was a curious and inquisitive person, always questioning and searching for new and alternative approaches to things.

He was self-educated and conventional school did not interest him. When something was not working for him he would learn how to modify it. 

At some point, Bob decided to turn his shack in the woods into his very own recording studio where he could invent new recording technology, invite singers and bands to record and make music with Bob at the controls.

Bob ended up with a fully operational recording studio in the Shack, installing lots of power outlets throughout, and put large pieces of equipment up in the rafters under the roof.

In 2004 he had a whole 8 piece band from Peterborough called The Silver Hearts at the shack recording their album “Our Precious City”.  The whole 8-member group stayed there for a week. Bob rented camper trailers and port-a-potties, and they managed to get a great record done under ridiculously cramped conditions.  

Bob sat in on harmonica with them occasionally when they performed live.

Motorcycle Accident

On the night of Thursday August 4th, 2011 tragedy struck when Bob struck a deer with his motorcycle on highway 6 near Hagersville, Ontario.

Bob left the Port Dover area at 7pm, riding along at regular speed, a deer suddenly ran across the road without stopping, it made an attempt to jump over the bike but failed, and the deer hit Bob in the face at full impact. 

Bob believed that he killed the deer with his head. He was wearing only a half helmet and sunglasses, no visor. He instinctively dropped the bike and slid onto the roadside gravel strip. 

Bob was air-lifted by helicopter to the Hamilton General Hospital, where he arrived around 9:30 pm.  

Bob suffered extensive facial injuries and the impact caused a traumatic brain injury. 

 

He spent 18 days in the hospital from August 4 – 22, 2011, including 10 days in Intensive Care and 8 days in the Burn &  Trauma Unit. 

His surgery lasted 12 hours on August 9, and one of the two surgeons later said it was one of the most difficult he has ever had to do. 

Most of the bones in Bob’s face were broken including his nose and lower jaw, he lost all of his upper teeth, and the bones around his eye sockets were broken. He had a breathing tube in for days, heavily sedated, unable to speak.  

For the rest of his life Bob suffered pain, and he was never able to use his hands the same way again.  

Bob’s brain injury caused him unrelenting problems in his everyday life.

Despite that, Bob still managed to do studio work and be creative, and also still have some fun and he kept his sense of humour.  

Bob Lanois' Death

The last 10 years of Bob’s life were very difficult. Following his motorcycle accident in 2011, his own health declined rapidly. 

In 2012 and 2014, Bob’s long time partner Margot was dealing with serious health issues. Despite his own health problems, he cared for Margot during this time, getting her to and from appointments, treatment sessions and more – all while continuing to work. 

Around 2016, Bob’s mother Jill started to develop dementia, and Bob was there for her and helped to look after her until she could no longer live at home. Bob and his mother were very close and it was devastating to him to watch his mother fade away to this disease.

Jill Lanois passed away in October of 2020 during terrible COVID 19 pandemic restrictions. 

In addition, Bob’s mother’s partner of 50 years, Nick Monti, had also passed away in 2012, and Bob lost several of his very good friends as well as the family dog Niki during this time. 

 

In Bob`s final years, in declining health, he could no longer stay at the Shack, and he worked on his music in a small studio he set up in his home near Hamilton, Ontario.

One of Bob’s favourite lines – right up to the end – was “I’m just getting started”.  He was excited about things he wanted to do, including modifying his BL99 preamp to improve it.

Bob Lanois did not expect to die. 

After suffering from several ailments and serious conditions for many years, Bob’s body could no longer keep up with him. On Wednesday evening, April 14th Bob collapsed suddenly in great pain on the floor of his home. 

He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph`s Hospital Emergency in Hamilton, Ontario, where he suddenly slipped into a coma, and never came out of it. 

Bob Lanois passed away on Monday evening, April 19th, 2021, two weeks after his 73rd birthday.

Bob is remembered as a natural teacher who loved to pass his knowledge on to others.  He is also remembered as a very intense man who felt things deeply and passionately.  He lived in a spur of the moment way, often saying things like “Let’s just see what happens”, and “Let’s just wing it”

A curious and inquisitive person, Bob questioned everything and always searched for new and alternative approaches to things.

Bob loved people, conversations and discussions, and was in his element at social events. Bob had a big loud laugh that came from the heart, and he loved to make people laugh.

Robert (Bob) Jacques Lanois: April 4th, 1948 - April 19th, 2021

About Bob Lanois: Snake Road 

In Southern Ontario Canada, near the Niagara Escarpment is one of the most scenic roads in the area, Snake Road.

It was here, along Snake Road that Bob Lanois planted his roots in 1988.  With his own hands and inventiveness, Bob designed and built his own cabin, “The Shack” as he called it.

Bob Lanois’ extraordinary life is told through stories, photos and video footage and interviews by some of Bob’s closest friends and collaborators.

  • Alan Cross
  • Daniel Lanois
  • Edgar Breau of Simply Saucer
  • Bob Doidge of Grant Avenue Studio
  • Paul Langlois of The Tragically Hip
  • Rachel Heart
  • Tom Wilson
  • John-Angus MacDonald & Jack Syperek of The Trews
  • Glen Marshall
  • And a musical tribute from Sweden by Stephen Sahlin of Big Is Less
  • From his upbringing as a young boy in Quebec to his family’s move to Hamilton and then Ancaster Ontario, Bob Lanois had music in his life from the very beginning.  

Starting with the creation of Master Sound Recordings with his brother Daniel in the basement of their mothers home, to the legendary Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton and then The Bunker and Mule Spinner at Hamilton’s Cotton Factory and his very own Shack Studio, Bob Lanois: Snake Road tells the story of a life well lived, by a man who was loved by so many.  

Working on projects with everyone from Emmylou Harris to U2, The Tragically Hip and so many more, Bob Lanois always became a major part of the family of any given project that he was involved in.

In the Fall of 2021, Dave Conlon: Canadian Photographer, Film Maker and owner of the website Freaktography.com learned of a vacant cabin in the woods near Burlington, Ontario.  

Upon learning that this cabin was owned and formerly lived in by Canadian artist, musician and sound engineer Bob Lanois, Dave decided to dig in and produce his first ever feature documentary film and to tell the story of Bob Lanois.

THANK YOU TO:

Thank-You to Margot Peters and Daniel Lanois for allowing me to tell Bob’s Story.

https://www.daniellanois.com/

Thank You to Tom Wilson for helping me get this off the ground.

https://tomwilsononline.com/

Bob Doidge: https://grantavenuestudio.com/home

Edgar Breau: https://edgarbreau.com/

Rachel Heart: https://www.facebook.com/rachelheartwarrior/

Paul Langlois: https://thehip.com/

John-Angus MacDonald, Jack Syperek: http://www.thetrewsmusic.com/

Glen Marshall: https://www.facebook.com/theMuleSpinner/

Stephen Sahlin: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjtCnm1Ed9YYgZQe_YoEXxA/videos

Alan Cross: https://www.ajournalofmusicalthings.com/

Other Thanks to:

Chris Maynard for planting the seed for this project

Sam DeRosa for your harmonica playing on the Rachel Heart song

Bob Doidge & Amy King for having me in to record at Grant Avenue Studio: https://grantavenuestudio.com/home

Erin Carrol and Zane Warman/Cadence Music Group for getting The Trews on board: https://www.cadencemusicgroup.com/

Jake Gold for bringing in The Tragically Hip: https://mgmtrust.ca/

Darren Jones or your help with audio: https://20sixhundred.bandcamp.com/

Sam Sutherland for providing some tips and advice at the beginning: http://samsutherland.co/

Margaret Marissen for getting me time with Daniel Lanois

Ryan Ruskay for Colourizing the video: https://www.instagram.com/ruskaycolour

Music, Video and Photography Credits

Bob Lanois 

Margot Peters

September Seventh Entertainment Ltd., courtesy of Jean-Paul Gauthier

Kyle Weir, photographer for Hamilton Music Awards, for Jean-Paul Gauthier: https://kyleweir.zenfolio.com/

Roy Timm, photographer for Hamilton Music Awards, for Jean-Paul Gauthier: https://caroleroytimmphoto.com/

Oiseau, The Vampire and The Shack Sessions Videos Directed by Ryan Furlong: https://www.fenianfilms.com

Photography by Ryan Furlong

Cordova Bay Records, Victoria, BC: http://www.cordovabay.com/

Ken Whitely/The Original Sloth Band: https://www.kenwhiteley.com/biography/the-original-sloth-band/

Nathan McCrory

Robert Ciolfi: http://www.quietlifephotography.ca/

John Rennison: https://www.instagram.com/jlrenn/

Adam CK Vollick: https://vimeo.com/667485556/8f8ae664d0

Simply Saucer: https://www.simplysaucer.com/

The Hamilton Spectator: https://www.thespec.com/life/local-history/spec175/2021/09/04/hamilton-grant-avenue-studio.html?rf

Brian Patti

Mohawk College Mediafest 2009

Marcel Preston: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marcel-preston-a7210b97/?originalSubdomain=ca

Barry Devlin/Island Records: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0222757/

1 thought on “Bob Lanois Snake Road Documentary”

  1. Enjoyed your wonderful tribute to Bob. We worked in Grant avenue in thr early days mainly with Dan but invariably bob would drop in and provide some input, sometimes showing one of the guys a different lick that genuinely benefited the project. As one gets older it’s art like this that helps reopen synapses that shut down a long time ago. I now will have to shake my head to see if I can recall which artists I worked in there with. Graeme Card ex of Humphrey and the Dumptrucks and Quarrington Worthy are two that I recall.
    Thanks again for making this

    Allen Shechtman

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