Jay Tripwire is a renowned Vancouver-based DJ, music producer, and promoter who has been an integral part of the electronic dance music scene since the early 90s. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, he has gained a reputation for his innovative and genre-defying productions that blur the lines between deep house, techno, and minimal.
He has released over 400 records on esteemed labels such as Poker Flat, Mosaic, and his own imprint Witching Hour, and has played at some of the world’s most iconic clubs and festivals. In this interview, Jay Tripwire shares his insights on the evolution of the club scene in Vancouver during the 90s and discusses his experiences as a DJ and producer.
EG: Hi Jay! Welcome to EG. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. How are you? Where are you based right now?
Jay Tripwire: Vancouver Canada, lol… A city where everyone cool is leaving, a place with a severe lack of venues, and prices as high as NYC without the NYC life. A place where crackheads roam the streets freely and normal people can barely afford to survive.
EG: And what was the club scene like in Vancouver when you started?
Jay Tripwire: It used to be world-class. We would have parties every day of the week. It was a diverse crowd as well, the gay community, the arts and fashion community, freaks, leftovers from the industrial scene (Skinny Puppy are from here), and ravers/90s club kids. It was so new and the people who had the right kind of mindset and oneness all came together for the sake of this new music and mind-altering substances. It was hedonistic and all-inclusive, we were all counterculture or marginalized people doing something highly illegal. It was a statement. Fuck the establishment.
EG: And how has it changed? What does it look and feel like now?
Jay Tripwire: Some of the original ideas have evolved, and I like it, but in other ways, social media has made things a bit hollow and empty. Part of the ethos is to be underground, and that a DJ just plays music and the dancers are the real stars. Now the DJ is like a celebrity, it goes against everything the scene was built on. Parties are sposed to be a safe all-inclusive space, we fought for that and today it’s kind of lost in 75% of the events.
EG: Can you talk about the impact of the AIDS crisis and the demonization of raves by the media back then? How did that affect the club scene in Vancouver? Is there something you miss now?
Jay Tripwire: AIDS killed off so many of my friends, neighbors, and club colleagues. It spread like wildfire and left the scene here devastated. Some of the integral people who made these parties fun and unique, just got sick, then dead and gone, one by one.
The media used this and drugs to crack down on us, cops watched us, they shut down parties, and they tried to crush it. They were doing this all over the world. We had to fight for what you enjoy today.
EG: You were also promoting events at the time, right? How did your involvement with DOSE productions influence the rave scene in Vancouver?
Jay Tripwire: We changed a lot of things, focus on sound, solid production, and a more rave-style environment. We were DOSE Vancouver, and Toronto had DOSE as well, for a while-we ran shit in Canada and set the bar. It was also a T-shirt company, my partner Chris came from a background in skating and snowboarding, worked with some solid brands, and took what he knew and brought it to the ravers.
“I just made records that I wanted to play, and kinda geared them towards doing long mixes, being DJ-friendly, and rocking a party. I made them to be able to go with everything and I think that’s why I ended up being so in demand at the time. I don’t think, I just make shit, and it’s just how it goes.”
EG: How has that sort of experience changed over the years? What would promoters keep in mind that they don’t know?
Jay Tripwire: I think the best parties follow the ethos of the 90s, it laid the template. It’s also important to make the parties have an identity, a sound, and DJs that are both local and international that you push as part of the overall vision. As a promoter it’s your job to sell the party and experience and music to the people, it’s not the DJ’s job to sell fucking tickets. It’s the DJ’s job to play music, they should be focused on that. Also as a promoter, expect to pay the DJs for their time, their music collection, their skill, and everything else that goes into being a real DJ. Some promoters out there aren’t promoters, I want a promoter who can sell salt to the ocean.
EG: What was it about the 90s? What did you have back then that we don’t have now?
Jay Tripwire: Mostly working turntables, Djs who had to invest in vinyl if they wanted to be a DJ, the world was less expensive and there was far more work as a DJ. In the 90s it was new, and the playing field was wide open. Now anyone can pretend they are a DJ, invest nothing into it, and if they can trick people into follows and likes they take work away from legit artists.
EG: In your career, you’ve amassed over 400 physical releases as an artist. Can you tell us about the journey of your music production and how you got into releasing physical records?
Jay Tripwire: I’m so old that you only released records if you wanted ‘em played-period. Your DJ mixes were on cassette tape and that’s how it was. The record shop I was at and my boy, one of the OGs- DJ Czech put out my first records. We had contact with all the distributors all over the world, and I had played alongside so many DJs from around the world, I could call them on an actual telephone and get them to do remixes. We had to mail DAT tapes and shit. From that it just happened, back then Vancouver was a hub for these kinds of sounds. The number of serious artists we had in British Columbia was pretty serious. I just made records that I wanted to play, and kinda geared them towards doing long mixes, being DJ-friendly, and rocking a party. I made them to be able to go with everything and I think that’s why I ended up being so in demand at the time. I don’t think, I just make shit, and it’s just how it goes.
EG: Can you share some of the highlights of your career as a DJ and producer? Is there anything left that you’d personally like to achieve or experience?
Jay Tripwire: Being embraced by the UK people at the time was big for me, playing at parties like Wiggle, moving on to playing for Mr. C and Layos club “The End and AKA” then moving on to Fabric, playing for Digweed, doing all these things I never thought were possible. As a producer- having the whole world ask you for your art, and having the support of people who are your heroes when you are coming up- Evil Eddie Richards, MR. C, Terry Francis and Nathan Coles (RIP), Swag, Mark Ambrose, Pure Science, and my hometown heroes – Tyler Stadius, Czech, and Lace. These days I am happy I have found a crew with a lot of the “minimal”( to me it’s just an evolution of the original underground House/Techno hybrid we all championed) labels and DJs. I have been working in the studio with a bunch of them now and cross-pollinating our sounds.
EG: What do you consider to be some of your definitive records and why are they significant to you? How would you describe the Jay Tripwire sound?
Jay Tripwire: It’s groove-based, the whole idea is it’s fun to mix, carries a groove and the bassline is the hook. These days I do a lot of evolving in the track so it’s not stagnant. I like to incorporate a lot of tripped-out elements, I embrace it – I make music for people on drugs.
EG: Speaking about drugs…How have things changed surrounding their usage? Have we learned anything in your opinion?
Jay Tripwire: Drugs and music go hand in hand. Always have, always will, this scene is based on LSD and XTC, so yeah it’s kind of integrated. Just now you watch yo ass and get shit that ain’t got fentanyl in it. Safe supply is what people gotta find, tired of losing good people to bad drugs.
“People’s false internet-curated moments are manipulative, and it’s empty. But it’s nothing new, it’s just that all these self-absorbed people have an outlet for showing off what they ate for dinner and how big their poops are.”
EG: What is it that inspires you to stay motivated to continue making music and performing as a DJ after all these decades?
Jay Tripwire: This is my life, it’s my discipline, making music is my lifes work. Djing is how I express what I think a rave should sound like in my way. I have kinda struggled with normal neurotypical communication so making music is how I talk to people. I love this music and it excites me as much as it did 30 years ago.
EG: How do you feel about the role of social media in today’s music industry? Does it dictate too much of what is produced and consumed in terms of music?
Jay Tripwire: I try not to pay attention, I just do what excites me, play music I love, and hope others like it too. Social media is a good tool, but social media can also be poison. People’s false internet-curated moments are manipulative, and it’s empty. But it’s nothing new, it’s just that all these self-absorbed people have an outlet for showing off what they ate for dinner and how big their poops are.
EG: Can you tell us something about yourself that very few people know about?
Jay Tripwire: I eat cereal with a fork.
EG: Haha, and what’s next for Jay Tripwire? What particular milestones are you looking forwards to now? Where can your fans catch you next?
Jay Tripwire: Vinyl release number 500, next gig is March 24th at Village Studios in Vancouver with Âme.
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