Jeremy Greenspan

Aquascapes, best mates and horror films of a certain age – Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan reveals his foremost influences

Illustration: Joel Benjamin


“The Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario is more than just gardens. It’s a conservation authority that manages a huge amount of natural land in the area where I live. I use the gardens almost daily. I also live very close to the Bruce Trail which runs along the Niagara Escapement. The hiking trails and gardens in Hamilton are an essential part of why I live here. My mom is an avid gardener and nature enthusiast, and it was a big part of my life growing up, but during Covid it really became essential to my creativity.

“I draw a lot of inspiration from my city – from its industrial core, and more and more from the natural beauty of its protected green spaces. There’s a place called Cootes Paradise where I learned how to kayak – it has inlets and little streams that run near old roads, so as you penetrate further into the area it starts looking post-apocalyptic because of the disused bridges and concrete overgrown with vegetation. I sometimes feel like I’m in Ballard’s amazing novel ‘The Drowned World’. I can’t imagine life anywhere else.”


“I first got a DX7 many years ago, but it was a bit perplexing. I had a lot of experience programming subtractive synthesisers – the subtractive process is a bit like sculpting, where an artist has a piece of stone and removes elements to bring out the form. The DX7, however, is an additive synthesiser, where each frequency modulates another.

“I started getting into FM synthesis with analogue synths because I loved the metallic clanging sounds they made. The DX7 was a daunting synth to tackle – there are a lot of moving parts, and it’s much harder to predict what actions are going to produce the result you want. But as I became more comfortable with it, the sounds began to resonate with me, and it has become my most used instrument. I sometimes record it coming out of a guitar amplifier now. The direct input of the DX7 is often so clean and stark that it can be jarring, but when it’s amplified it becomes something totally different.”


“The ‘gentlemen of horror’… I’m talking about Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. I love Hammer Horror, but in my mind I see that and the Vincent Price/Roger Corman stuff as being part of the same thing. I love the deep colours and the moody sets, the totally vague European settings and their strange opulent exoticism. Any time I see Peter Cushing on the screen I get transported.

“My favourite is the 1959 movie, ‘The Hound Of The Baskervilles’ because it combines so many of my favourite things – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, the director Terence Fisher and Sherlock Holmes. I’m a mild Sherlockian – Jeremy Brett is my favourite on-screen Sherlock, and I’ve read most of the books. Some of the later ones are pretty forgettable, but I’ve read ‘The Hound Of The Baskervilles’ probably more times than any other novel.”


“During the pandemic, I liked watching ‘slow television’ – things like train rides or construction projects, such as people making dioramas. I love the idea of making fully realised artificial worlds in miniature.

“I got very enthusiastic about natural aquascapes – underwater gardens in a bowl – based on Diana Walstad’s book, ‘Ecology Of The Planted Aquarium’. I’m not very good at making the aquariums because I don’t have great patience or dexterity, but it’s really rewarding because you’re building a living ecosystem. There are YouTube and TikTok channels run by really talented aquascapers that are fun to watch and can teach folks how to do it.”


“My two closest friends in the music biz are Dan Snaith and Morgan Geist. I’ve known Dan [Caribou, Daphni] since we were college age, but we became very close when we first toured together in the early 2000s. Dan is my most trusted musical guidance counsellor. I sent him all of the demos of the latest Junior Boys album, as I didn’t really know if there was an album there. It was his encouragement and help in choosing the best songs and mixes that turned a kind of stabbing in the dark into a record that I was pleased with.

“Morgan was someone who I initially met as a fan. When I heard the debut Metro Area album, a light really went on for me. The second Junior Boys album was very much inspired by that – it was the first time I’d heard something that had a lot of that early dance music and disco spirit without sounding derivative or pastiche. I’m very close to Morgan now. We share a real love of old TV shows and comedies. I still think he’s an untouchable producer and I was super-excited to play a little guitar for his latest project, Au Suisse.”


“Norman McLaren was a filmmaker, animator and musician. He was the driving force behind the National Film Board of Canada’s animation studio, and he made dozens of experimental short films. The third Junior Boys album, ‘Begone Dull Care’, was named after one of his most famous, which he made by painting directly onto celluloid.

“For me, McLaren was the ideal artist. He was motivated by a spirit of play and innovation, and he made art because it was there to be made, not to service his ego. Inspired by technological advances, he created his own techniques as opposed to allowing technical advisers to dictate the terms.

“He was a musician as well as a filmmaker – many of his scores were produced by drawing directly into the audio track of his films, and he made elaborate programmable cards, to allow him to craft synthesised soundtracks that aligned perfectly with the visuals. His films are deeply moving – ‘Pas De Deux’ is perhaps the most beautiful motion picture ever made.

Junior Boys’ latest album, ‘Waiting Game’, is out on City Slang

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