Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys’ listening diary: ‘I’ve played Steely Dan once a day since I was 12’

The Canadian electronic musician shares his week’s listening, which includes a Jewish cantor, a China Crisis demo and recent tracks by Actress, Lady Lykez and Oren Ambarchi

20 October

I’ve listened to Kid Charlemagne by Steely Dan about once a day, every day since I was 12. But in keeping track of my listening, I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I do listen to a fair amount of new music. I had been thinking that I had gotten into those years where all I do is listen to old Steely Dan records.

I’m Jewish and today was Yom Kippur so while at home I put on a cantor. It’s the equivalent of it being Christmastime and you putting on Jerusalem – I was just in the headspace. Yossele Rosenblatt is considered the greatest cantor of all time and this recording of Home is from around 1920. This traditional music is deeply moving to me. I started playing it when my father was sick in bed and couldn’t go to services any more, and after he passed away I inherited a large amount of his religious recordings. One is a record of Jewish music by Perry Como, which is doubly weird because Perry Como was not Jewish.

21 October

I don’t really DJ any more, and my interest in dance music has definitely waned over the years because I was identifying with a lot less of it. I try to keep up with new dance music but often I’m pretty disappointed, so when I find something I like or find interesting or clever, I take note of it. Today I put on a playlist by a guy I know who stays pretty current and of the 10 to 15 new songs I noted the two that I liked the most: Honey Badger by Rhyw, which I listen to at home, and then Marixylo by Scratcha DVA in the car. I know Scratcha DVA a little bit – we’ve both released music on Hyperdub. I listen to both tracks again a few times later that day. That’s how I get to know a track: I will always play it on repeat. One of my favourite bands of all time is Prefab Sprout and I have a distinct memory of getting the record and listening to a few songs for literally six hours in a row, gorging on it.

22 October

My wife was having a wedding shower for her cousin at our house, and they put on a playlist. I think it’s one of mine that the label just posted called Junior Boys 1000. That would make you think that it has 1,000 songs, but it actually doesn’t – the idea is I will eventually get to 1,000 songs. But it does have music to put on when you don’t know what else to play. As I’m walking around the house, I notice Vert by Harmonium playing. They are a funny band: French Canadian psychedelic folk from the mid-1970s. I’ve always loved them. My mum had the records, which was unusual because my mum wasn’t really into rock music. They have a pastoral thing going on, and it’s all in French.

23 October

Pumpkin harvest season in Stardew Valley.
Pumpkin harvest season in Stardew Valley. Photograph: Chucklefish

For the past few months I have been playing a Nintendo Switch game called Stardew Valley. You have your own farm, and you plant crops, harvest them and go to the little town to sell them. It has taken over my mind in a weird way. Today I thought: “I have this interview, I have to go to the grocery store, and then I have a bunch of pumpkins I have to harvest.”

I don’t know if I enjoy it, it’s just a part of my life now – but it does have a remarkably good soundtrack. Different parts of the farm have different styles of music, as do the seasons. Some have a country twang, others are a little electronic. The music for fall is particularly good: I looked up the song and it is called Fall – (Raven’s Descent). I would say it is like pleasant library music from the 1970s. I think there is an oboe or a clarinet solo in one? The hours I have put into this stupid game are shocking.

24 October

Because I don’t do a lot of acoustic recording we spent almost all of the budget for the studio on the mixing room, so it’s a better listening room than anybody in my tax bracket should ever be able to have. Today I put on Oren Ambarchi’s Shebang. Everyone I know had been talking about this record online, saying it was the album of the year, and so I gave it a go. It is indeed a really good album. Is it my album of the year? It’s definitely up there. Oren Ambarchi is an experimental guitarist and the album is five tracks that seamlessly flow into each other so that it feels like one piece of music. It feels not unlike a record by a krautrock band, although the production is much more contemporary.

Oren Ambarchi: II – video

Then I put on 5th Day by Debit. This was prompted by somebody on Twitter saying they were still loving the Debit record. I’d heard it in the past and remembered it as something very different. I feel like there is so much new music coming out these days, sometimes you can listen to a record then have it just fall through the cracks. People don’t talk about records that came out one or two months ago, they just disappear. As a musician, releasing an album myself, I try to make a point of making sure that I don’t fall into that trap of spending no time with a record once its “cycle” is over.

My phone tells me that a demo version of China Crisis’s Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling has just been released on Spotify. I made a good joke once that China Crisis were the biggest band from Liverpool. Then I see that Scratcha DVA has produced a new song, Killa Bee, for this artist Lady Lykez on Hyperdub, so I watch the video. I don’t make a point of keeping up with videos but this one is hilariously crazy. There are a swarm of bees, and a woman who is a bee.

25 October

In the studio I listen to Dream by Actress, a British dance music producer who I think is pretty exciting; I will always be interested in what he’s up to. It’s really good. I grew up in an industrial city in Ontario, not far from Detroit, so anything that has that authentic Detroit techno sound is up my street. It makes me feel pretty nostalgic.

26 October

Iron Maiden are playing at the stadium near my house so I suggest to my buddy that we go. I loved them when I was 12 and I don’t necessarily want to die having never seen them – but I also don’t want to pay full price. I wouldn’t ordinarily say that but they own their own 747, they’re going to be all right. We go to the stadium but there are no scalper tickets to be found. Then I am told that a friend’s boyfriend has extra tickets, so I text this guy, and he says he doesn’t have tickets but he can tell us how to sneak in. He sends me and my friend on a wild goose chase, trying all these doors, faking a stamp on our hands. We don’t get in but we both agree that the story of being in our 40s, trying to sneak into Iron Maiden and failing is maybe just as good. And I think I heard them playing The Trooper.

• Junior Boys’ new album Waiting Game is out now on City Slang Records


As told to Elle Hunt

The GuardianTramp

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