World-renowned DJ Jay Tripwire first got into spinning records in his late teens, after “hearing the call from the Dark Lord”. Sure, that might sound like a pretty risky excuse for the budding performer to stop going to high school and start spending all his money on vinyl. But the Dark Lord clearly had a plan.
Now with more than 20 years’ experience behind the decks, the DJ has established himself as one of the major players in house and techno. A familiar face in London, Berlin, and the United States’ premier venues, the born-and-bred Vancouverite is one of the city’s greatest unsung exports.
Famed for a musical stamina that puts even Bruce Springsteen to shame, the DJ is known to play extended sets that can last eight hours or more. Couple that with the impossible task of holding a millennial’s attention for more than three-and-a-half minutes, and you’ll get an idea of just how good Tripwire is at mixing records.
Not just a gifted DJ, the local boy is also celebrated throughout the world as a first-class producer, with more than 200 releases to his name, including four full-length albums and 18 EPs. Tripwire’s unrivalled productivity has led to much critical recognition. Now embarking on his 8 Channels project—an endeavour to write tracks with (you guessed it) just eight channels—Tripwire continues to innovate in both his composition and his performances.
Top track right now
There’s an old record called “Ultrasong” by Rob Rives [under his Floppy Sounds alias] and François K. It’s always my favourite track. Part of the appeal is that because it’s an obscure, underground song, no one knows it. There’ll always be that one old guy who’s like, “Oh my God, you played that ‘Ultrasong’ record from back in the day: that’s so cool,” and everyone else is saying “Wow, this track is totally new!”
Best gig ever
That’s like asking if you prefer oranges or apples. It depends how warm the apple is, or how rotten the orange is. If I had to choose? I’d probably say [London, England club] fabric. That place is always really good, every single show. It’s really sad that the City of London is threatening to shut it down—we need to bust out the pitchforks and the torches. But, as I keep telling people, at least fabric had a chance to open and do its thing. In Vancouver, that venue couldn’t even exist.
A song that cleared the dance floor
Definitely one of my own unfinished, horrible tracks that really needed fixing. But that’s the thing with DJing—you’re always testing out your own new stuff. You think it’s ready, and when you play it, you’re like, “Oh my God, this is not working.” Then again, music is always context-based. One thing that falls flat in front of a bunch of people will totally destroy it somewhere else.
Favourite Vancouver producer
Mathew Jonson. He’s probably one of the biggest things to ever come out of Vancouver. True, he doesn’t live here anymore—he moved to Berlin a really long time ago. But he’s unbelievable. Mathew makes so much great shit. He’s basically the Jim Morrison of techno.
What’s up with DJing without a laptop?
I don’t trust laptops. If you think about the way laptops are designed, they don’t work well around large magnets. Now, what’s a speaker? It’s a large magnet. I remember the very first time I saw a friend playing off a laptop in fabric, and the thing went completely dead. And he took that laptop and literally wiped the booth with it. He smashed it, stepped on it, and chucked it. And then he had to play music in a physical format. While that was going on, I’m thinking to myself that it’s pretty obvious why that happened. Big magnetic fields can do bad things to hard drives. Plus, honestly, I can’t even get my emails to work. How can I expect shows to go well with a laptop?
Oddest request you’ve ever received
One time in Vancouver I was playing a boat party, and all these North Van kids kept asking if I’d put on some hip-hop. And, of course, I said no—that’s not the style of music I play. In response, some people went up to the barbecue on the top deck, came down with some smoked wieners, and threw them at me. One guy even had a whole carrot. All this food was bonking past me, and it knocked the needles off the turntables. I turned the music off, and we did the rest of the cruise with no music. To be frank, I’m grateful they only threw wieners at me, instead of showing me their own. It could have been a lot worse.
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays