James Iranzad Shares His Definitive Records

Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to scour their sonic-led memories to pull out the three albums anchoring their musical tastes.

We know James Iranzad, co-owner of Gooseneck Hospitality (see Lucky Taco, Bells & Whistles, Bufala, and Wildebeest), to be a man of very diverse musical tastes, so we we’re unsurprised to see his picks run a fascinating gamut..

Paris | The Devil Made Me Do It

I was never really into so-called ‘conscious’ hiphop. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in love with rap music more than any other single genre and it’s where home is for me to this day. With that came sporadic enjoyment of the likes of 90’s and 00’s favourites such as Tribe, Common, Talib Kweli, etc but such expressions of rap, while admirable, were a compromise that I couldn’t indulge too much (and still can’t, to be honest). Hip hop was born out of a need for social commentary and resistance, and was more content-driven than form-driven in its genesis – young, angry, eloquent witnesses to poverty, disenfranchisement, police brutality, and systemic racism, backed purely with an 808 and minimal sampling, struck a chord then and always will for me. The early work of NWA, Public Enemy, and 2Pac were devastating to me and – particularly pre-internet – this music was the gateway for me to get to social issues I was insatiably curious about, and my friends and I would skip school to drive down to Bellingham to buy music on release dates.

I almost went with Ice Cube’s sophomore solo LP ‘Death Certificate’ (1992) to encapsulate this first third of an impossible project of detailing my three foundational records. I’ve listened to that album thousands of times and it’s a lyrical masterpiece I’ll love till I die. There’s an amazing range of race-related issues covered, Swiftian satire, and prophecies of Rodney King, all while dealing with the fallout of NWA.

But a little later in high school I discovered Ice Cube’s friend Paris at 16 and fell hard. Here was a pissed off 22 year-old with an absolute mountain of intellect and poetic ability, not afraid to use it. Listening to these albums gave me confidence (the quiet kind, not the Office Space in traffic sort), permission to begin to be who I wanted, and helped me manage the big feelings of growing up a displaced, brown only-child of recent immigrants. I also had a huge crush on Sinead O’Connor at the time, which only grew bigger once I found out ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ was her favourite album that year. The sophomore album for Paris was ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’ and 30 years later it’s, sadly, just as relevant. Tracks like ‘Coffee, Donuts, and Death’ are hard to listen to but if you’re still putting your head in the sand then you’re probably who he’s been speaking to through his music.

Tom Waits | Beautiful Maladies

I found Tom Waits in my mid-twenties around 2003 shortly after seeing The White Stripes do a week-long residency on Conan that I recorded and watched over and over again. Those performances were pure Vaudevillian magic and a friend helped me make the transition with the gift of Beautiful Maladies and I was hooked. Over the course of the next year or so I was unbelievably fortunate to see Tom Waits perform back to back nights at The Commodore and The Orpheum, as well as The White Stripes for both their shows at The Orpheum in the same year.

The album is a compilation and has many of my favourite Waits songs, full of love and magical storytelling, but the concerts were particularly revelatory for me and inspired me to a path of showmanship and made a profound influence on my career as a restaurateur: the passion for performance; love for well-aged spaces; the use of surprise, text, and layering; and the romance of room-filling music, a neglected craft, and good bourbon lead me to a friendship with Josh and helped conceive Wildebeest.

Tracy Chapman | Matters Of The Heart

The mid to late 90’s were often a really sad time in my life and somewhere along the way then I came across this album and listening to it calmed me as much as anything could that didn’t involve numbing myself. I’ve come back to it at times in my life when I’ve needed it, like a beloved movie or novel that grounds me without distracting me from feeling what I’m going through. The month that followed March 15th this year was the hardest of my professional life with almost unbearable grief and stress being a constant presence in my chest as I worked feverishly to make sure our company and industry survived this awful unknown COVID mess, all while trying to remain a brave and engaged father, partner, employer, and human. This album came through for me again and got me through some truly awful moments.

Honourable mention to Shintaro Sakamoto ‘Lets Dance Raw’ for helping me lighten up when I needed to this year. It’ll get you dancing naked in your living room. My friends Jonny and Darren also make sweet Spotify playlists that kept things bearable in the early COVID days and I’ve made them public on my Spotify profile for anyone to check out. Start with the CERP (Covid Emergency Response Playlist) and go from there…

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