Vancouver house DJ/producer Jay Tripwire will have to put any plans he may have had to conquer America on hold for now. He was recently slapped with a five-year ban from entering the U.S. after being caught trying to drive to a gig in Seattle without a work visa.
Too bad. The buzz around him was just picking up real steam. His DJ sets move through deep house to dubby West Coast tribal house to acid house-influenced weirdness, and he's been playing regularly at many of the top UK clubs, including the prestigious Fabric. He's also getting his tracks playlisted by some of the biggest DJs, including H-Foundation and Seb Fontaine.
But Tripwire doesn't see his border skirmish as a major setback.
"Europe is a much bigger market. I hate to say it, but America's underground dance music scene has really taken a nose-dive," Tripwire explains from his Vancouver home. "The visa problem is just with America. I can get a work permit, no problem, for any European Union country, and for DJs coming into Canada it's just as easy as long as you don't have a criminal record. In America, you have to get this crazy three-year visa that costs thousands of dollars, and you have to have most of your gigs plotted out when you apply for the visa, with letters from all the bookers. Then, if you want to add a gig, you have to apply, and they can still say no. Very few artists can actually get one, but it's usually pretty easy to blag your way in. Unfortunately, I've been going there way too much lately."
Getting caught with records on the way to a gig was just the beginning of his problem at the border. After admitting that he was going to play a gig, he tried to convince them that he was doing it for free. But the guards called to confirm this with the American promoter, who didn't understand the situation and insisted he would be paying Tripwire.
While the banning certainly wasn't something Tripwire was anticipating, it may not have as negative an effect as you would think. Canadian techno icon Richie Hawtin went through a similar situation years back that forced him to concentrate more on Europe and on producing. Even though house and techno came out of inner-city America, the market for the music is so much bigger in Europe. One of Tripwire's high points lately has been playing the main room of Fabric, the UK dance club frequently cited by big-name DJs as their favourite.
"It's the best club on earth. There's nowhere in Canada like it. For one thing, the club is the most pristine thing you've ever seen. There's no attention to detail spared -- even the railings have the Fabric logo etched on them, plus a beautiful wood floor, really nice furniture.
"And then there's the sound system, which I don't think any club's can compare to. It's disgusting how good the sound is -- they have a body-sonic dance floor, which means that underneath the dance floor is tons of bass. Fabric gets the prototypes for all the new stuff, so it's always just getting better and better. Plus the crowd is really into it, not like a lot of places in North America where people just wander in off the street. These people are really enthused about the music, and are all there because they want to be."
JAY TRIPWIRE with BEN MURKO, MAT LUNNEN and DJ REDD Friday (December 6), at Sugar (57 Duncan). $10. 416-597-0202.