Meet Prodücer D.J. Salingér: The Man Bringing Existential Music Production to Toronto By Harry Myles
Updated: May 11, 2020
For my Corn Puff debut, I interviewed Second Hand Hand Pillow, Toronto's newest Dream-Pop Grunge Duo. Their tracks are produced by Prodücer D.J. Salingér, a “very well-read” man who studied Musicology at the University of King’s College with the members of Second Hand Hand Pillow.
Prodücer D.J. Salingér is an eccentric Montreal-born but Toronto-based producer that recently moved from Halifax. Since the world is still in quarantine, I spoke with Prodücer D.J. Salingér via video chat and we discussed his family history, his various influences, and the importance of existentialism in his work.
As mentioned, D.J. Salingér, a.k.a Dejauhn Jon Jean, is originally from Montreal. His mother is “classic, rural” Quebecoise and his father is German-Jewish, producing a very interesting genealogical mix. Salingér explained that this family history has led him to have a mixed bag of languages. He speaks some English, learned while attending school in Halifax, a little German, and “broken-French.” As a result, during our conversation, he lapsed into French periodically while using Anglo pronunciations. This may explain why he included a French accent aigu (é) on an English name (Salinger).
Salingér studied music at the University of King’s College with a concentration in Musicology, and after finishing school, decided to move to Toronto and enter the independent music scene.
He had some help getting started since his classmates, Kirk Fontaine and Alexandria Legend, decided to form Second Hand Hand Pillow and likewise moved to Toronto. They recruited Salingér to produce their first single “Doh-Doh Island” and he has since connected with a list of other independent local musicians.
Currently, he is in the process of producing work for Cozy Elevator, Local Lavender Farm, and Al Gore Rhythms. Although all of these bands are in the indie scene, Salingér did not classify himself as an “indie” specialist. Instead, he prefers to work with “independent” musicians regardless of the genre.
I asked why he chose Toronto as his destination of choice and he explained that in Halifax, he faced discrimination against the French, while in Quebec he found “the pretension...a bit, une petite, large” as in people were a bit too pretentious for his liking. In Toronto, however, people read the same literature, listen to the same music, and are generally interested in the same things as himself. Now what might these interests be? Prodücer D.J. Salingér, as you may have guessed from his name, is interested in literature, namely J.D. Salinger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. Besides taking after his name, Salingér has also modeled himself after Mr. Salinger and lives life as a recluse by working online and rarely leaving the house. Additionally, Salingér is interested in existentialism and lives nearly “every aspect” of his life according to this philosophy.
What is existentialism? Well, according to Salingér “le world is meaningless [and] we must make meaning for ourselves from this lack of meaning.” In essence, existentialism is making your own meaning from life. For Salingér, he is an artist and his meaning is derived from art and producing music. When he is producing tracks, he applies existentialism and thinks to himself “Is there meaning to music? Is there meaning to life? Is there meaning to existence?
If I were Albert Camus and I were to produce this track, how would I produce this track?” Prodücer D.J. Salingér sees himself as Sisyphus, the character from Greek mythology condemned to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity only to have it roll back down once it nears the top. Based on his explanation, I believe he means that he is always attempting to understand life through music (i.e. rolling the rock up the hill) and will continue to do so until he finds meaning (reaching the top of the hill). I’ll be honest with you. Prodücer D.J. Salingér is a strange guy. If you found it difficult to decipher his philosophy, you’re not alone. I was a little lost myself. During our interview he wore a neon green, pink, and purple tracksuit with a thick mustache, a beanie, and wire-rimmed glasses. He had a collection of books on the table in front of him and would hold up a Salinger or Camus work every time he mentioned the authors.
Musically, he claimed to not have any influences, yet later expressed admiration for the minimalist composer Philip Glass and experimental duo The Books. When asked who he would love to produce if he could work with anyone, he said Paul McCartney. Rather than praise the extensive legacy of McCartney, Salingér explained that he is a fan of the former Beatles’s recent work “Egyptian Station” (Egypt Station). I will remind you that Egypt Station has such
raunchy tracks as “Fuh You” and was given a 5.8/10 by Pitchfork. In fact, Salingér did not know Paul McCartney had other musical projects and unbelievably, had never heard of the Beatles or Wings. Yet at the same time, Salingér said he would love to work with Rick Rubin given his work on Weezer’s “Le Rouge Album” (The Red Album), which received a 4.7/10 by Pitchfork and a “D” grade by The A.V. Club, and Weezer’s Make Believe, a stunner with a 0.4/10 by Pitchfork and 5/10 from NME. To say the least, Prodücer D.J. Salingér has an interesting, if contradictory, music taste.
In summary, I’m not quite sure what to make of Prodücer D.J. Salingér. On the surface, I would classify him as a pretentious 20-something who took an Intro to Philosophy class in university and now views himself as the second-coming of Albert Camus. That being said, he has a mystifying presence about him that draws you in and you can’t help but remain fascinated by his persona. Existential music production? Who knows what that is but perhaps Prodücer D.J. Salingér is on the cusp of some type of revolutionary experimental style of music. Or maybe he’s just a pretentious 20-something. Who knows, only time will tell.
Today, Prodücer D.J. Salingér releases his first single, "Duck & Cover," with his DIY label, L'existéntial Récörds.