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Jeremy Greenspan on Junior Boys and Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously

The Hamilton native looks back on ten years production, flaking on the Junos, and learning to love your own work.

by Lizzy Sermol
16 October 2014, 9:30pm

Three years ago, Junior Boys came out with their acclaimed fourth studio album, It's All True, which won over new listeners and delighted old fans alike, even winding up with a Juno nomination. Now after a stint of solo releases and Jeremy Greenspan's production of Canadian singer-songwriter Jessy Lanza's debut album, the boys are back together and hard at work on a new Junior Boys album. We caught up with Jeremy Greenspan ahead prior to theirthree hour DJ set this weekend at the Breakandenter party at Club 120, to hear about not showing up to awards shows and learning to love your own work.

THUMP: How is this new album different from previous ones that you have put out under Junior Boys?
Jeremy Greenspan: Well it's been a long time since we've worked on a Junior Boys track, in part because I've been busy with other stuff. I've done a lot of solo releases, some of which came out on Dan Snaith's label, and then I did the Jessy Lanza album. I think working with Jessy and doing those solo sort-of-techno records are kind of the jumping off point for this new Junior Boys record. The new record has more in common with those two projects than I think it does with our previous records.

You've mentioned previously that when you approach new projects, you think more in terms of what equipment you are going to use rather than a particular direction you want to take the sound inhow did that work on this new album?
[Laughing] Well not so much, because I've been so broke I couldn't buy anything, you know! I haven't changed much recently, although I use a modular synthesizer a lot. That's an old style—new synthesizer, but an old style, where you use cables to connect individual modules which each have different sounds. The modular synthesizer is always changing because you're always trying out these new combinations, that can end up directing the way a track is going to sound. But essentially I've been a bit static with the equipment I've been using, for the last couple of years anyway.

If you had had an unlimited budget for this album, what piece of equipment would you have bought?
If I had an unlimited budget, I would probably buy a really fancy mixing console. Because a lot of the time when I'm working I'm really trying to get things to sound less noisey, to basically make what is not a great studio sound like a really fantastic studio. So if you have a fantastic studio, you don't need to worry about that. But I don't.

How did your working relationship with Dan Snaith (Caribou) begin?
With Dan, firstly we're both from the same town, Hamilton, Ontario, but I didn't really get to know him that well until he had left Hamilton, I really got to know him when he was at school in Toronto, and he's sort of always been one step ahead of me, you know. He had an album out before I got an album deal, and he was doing his first headlining tour when we were opening for his headlining tour, and he's always been one album ahead. He just put out his sixth album I think, and we're about to put out our fifth. So I've known him for a very long time. I have a couple of friends in music who I'm very close to and who are successful musicians, and I look up to as mentors. One of them is Dan, one is Morgan Geist, then Steve Goodman (Kode9), and now more recently, David Psutka (Egyptrixx). Those four guys are the ones I communicate with the most in terms of showing them new material, asking their advice, getting feedback from them, listening to what they're doing to generate new ideas for what I should be doing, that kind of thing. Dan so great with that, he gives me like full detailed notes about each track.

You were nominated for a Juno for your album It's All True in 2012how important is that kind of recognition to you?
I couldn't say that I took the Juno nomination too seriously, as I didn't go, and in fact the Junos got in touch with me a while back and asked if I wanted to pay to be nominated for Jessy Lanza's record, which I put out in Canada. I phoned Jessy and we talked about it and ultimately decided that we didn't really want to pay the couple of hundred bucks or whatever it was. I have kind of have a strict rule with awards, I go to award ceremonies if there is a chance that I will make money off of them. For example, we were nominated for a Grammy award, we didn't go to that, just because it's so expensive to pay to go to some awards ceremony in a different country that ultimately you know you're gonna lose. I don't know, the only draw of going to the Juno Awards for me is... maybe meeting Geddy Lee in the bathroom or something like that. But no, I really don't care. I don't care if the Canadian music industry is recognizing me or not.

June was the 10 year anniversary of Last Exitwhat's it like looking back over your career to that point?
Last Exit, as our first record—I think our second record was more successful, but that first record is more special to a smaller group of people. And it's hard to say I'm proud of the record, because I cringe when I listen to it, but I am sort of proud of it in the sense that it was a big accomplishment and a really important thing for me to do. If I was hard pressed I'd probably say that I would listen to that record more than the others to be honest.

What can we look forward to on Friday?
Well, Matt is a really good DJ, probably a better DJ than I am. And it's just way more fun to play together. Now I've done all these solo tracks it's great because he plays them out and I get to hear how they work or if they do. I have some newer tracks that I've been working on, so there'll be some unreleased stuff in there somewhere. I'll be doing a bit of vinyl, a bit of CDJs, and Matt will be fresh off the boat from Berlin. It's going to be a long one.