When you’re as iconic a figure as Josh Wink, it’s not so easy to sum up a career in a few words—but there are a couple of terms that might serve to get a handle on the seminal electronic-music producer’s lifework. One of the most apt, certainly, would be longevity. A brief scan of Wink’s mammoth résumé reveals the following: Early-’80 days as an underage mobile DJ; a major role in fostering his native Philadelphia’s burgeoning warehouse scene during the house-music explosion later that decade; name-making ’90s club hits like “Don’t Laugh,” “Higher State of Consciousness” and “I’m Ready”; a label, Ovum Recordings, that’s undisputedly one of the most essential dance-music imprints; and his current position, after all these years, as one of the scene’s most vibrant and creative DJs and producers (witness the critical success of his 2009 long-player When A Banana Was Just A Banana).
Another word one could use to encapsulate Wink’s oeuvre is versatility. From the twisting, acidic breakbeat of the aforementioned “Higher States” to the organ-groove deepness of 2008’s “Stay Out All Night,” and from the pulsating ambience of 1996’s “Horizontal Dancing” to the streamline liquid techno of his recent remix of Agaric’s “Who Made Up the Rules”—with side trips along the way for drum ’n’ bass beats and hip-hop rhythms (Wink was a regular at West Philly DJ battles as a kid)—his sound ranges as far and wide as anyone’s. The same could be said for Ovum as well, which over the 16 years has released music from such varied artists as dream-vibe drum ’n’ bass specialist Jamie Myerson, Wild Pitch originator DJ Pierre and jack-track master DJ Sneak, to mention but a few. As with Wink’s own material, it’s timeless music—you could play a cut like David Alvarado’s swirling, percussion-drenched “Klugh” at a techno hoedown today, and it would sound as fresh as it did upon its late-’90s release; as with most of Ovum’s catalog, it’s music that’s not defined by time or trends.
Which brings us to our final term: integrity. It’s a trait that Wink possesses by the crateful, one that’s carried him through the vagaries of dance music’s endless cycles. Some who hit big when Wink did are content to live off past successes; others chase trends in an effort to stay relevant. But Wink has always been happy—determined, really, to do his own thing and follow his own path—if the music sells and the gigs keep coming, that’s great, but that’s not why he’s still in the game. “I got into this because it was something that I lived and ate and breathed,” Wink says. “There was so much passion for the music, there was nothing else for me. Whatever notoriety and success had come from this, it’s kind of a mistake, a byproduct, and I never planned for that. I never knew I could make a living from doing what I loved when I was a teenager; my parents thought it was a fad, actually.” And what do his folks think now over 25 years later? “Oh,” he says with a chuckle,” they love it.”
Hi Josh, many thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat. So with the summer totally wound down, what have been the highlights so far for summer 2014?
Just really good parties! Festivals and clubs alike. It was a busy and good summer!
Are there any particular annual events or parties that you always have yourself down to play at?
I’m very happy to be able to be a part of really great festivals and parties all about the world! So, I’m not really sure which ones I’m missing out on..
Looking in, it seems you have done it all, but obviously this is not the case or you would have retired by now. What keeps you motivated to continue to work and travel?
I love what I do. The passion continues and I can’ t imagine doing anything else. I have taken less gigs so I can be a father and a family man. So, no I haven’t retired yet… But happy to have made the decision to slow down a bit. But the passion for music keeps me going.
You have lived in Philly your whole life. Must have been difficult back then when you trying to make a name for yourself. What was the initial breakthrough that started on your journey?
Making my own music was the breaking point. It got me to stem and blossom out of my hometown. Otherwise I would’ve simply been a local dj
Comparing the scene in Philly back then to now, what has changed and could you tell us what the nightlife is like there right now?
It’s a different state of mind. It’s more accessible now. Everything about it. Music and clubbing. Back in the day you really needed to know about the scene and the music to be able to go and get the music you wanted. Right now. I don’t know about the state of clubbing. However, I figure it’s similar to the above. It’s over accessible.
When you talk to people who haven’t been there, how would you describe the city and what it has to offer for someone who has never been there?
It was a smaller and more personal scene where people knew each other and shared a lot in common. You had to know the music played at the club to go there. Now, you just go to a club because the club is trendy rather than knowing the music that is played there.
A lot of artists from the states seem to make a break for Europe, to develop their careers and be closer to the hub of the scene. Did you ever entertain the thought to cross the pond? If not why so?
I travelled there, however I didn’t move there to live. But, I’d be interested in moving the family there in the near future.
Ovum has its 20th anniversary this year which is an amazing achievement. Not many labels can last that long and still be at the forefront of the industry. With massive parties at Space an ADE, what do you reckon are the core fundamentals that have helped stay on top of the game?
Staying true to our integrity. Signing music that we really like. Not necessarily music that may be a big seller or trendy, but music that we liked with our hearts. Music that will stand the test of time. And I believe that this is a big reason why we’re still a credible label that is still around.
When doing the A&R for future releases, is there a specific mindset for type of music you want or is carte blanche given to the artist?
We sometimes give our opinions and views to the artists about the direction of the music. But, mostly we tell the artist “if you could have any release you ever wanted to have” what would it be? And why not have it be the one on Ovum…
When managing a label. What is your perspective on it going forward? Do you plan ahead say 6 months or a year in keeping with your vision?
We try and set out a schedule of releases to plan and map out the year. But, we have to have the music. It’s difficult as we’re choosy about what we sign. So, a lot of conscious efforts go into it. And Ovum’s label manager Matty B does a great job.
I wanted to ask you a question about Higher State of Consciousness. Has it ever crossed your mind to do a remix compilation with a select few artists?
Yes, we are entertaining the possibilities for next year. As It will be 20 years of HSOC. Crazy, right!
What has been your greatest life lesson or experience (good or bad) that the industry has thrown at you over the years?
To get a good lawyer who you can really trust.
Your Talking To You release on Ovum is out now, How has it been received so far, good reactions?
Amazing! Very excited about the power of this new track! Lots of different producers and artists are highly enjoying it, which makes me happy.
You are a regular guest at John Digweeds Events. In October you were back in London for Bedrocks 16TH Birthday. Can you tell us more about how this close relationship formed with John?
We have been friends of a long time, and it’s great to be able to have a relationship with a person in the industry for such a prolonged period of time who you respect and regard…
Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us!
Here is Josh latest release on his Label Ovum – http://www.beatport.com/track/talking-to-you-original-mix/5839596