Josh Wink interview: A Higher State Of Consciousness
Josh Wink spoke with Marko Kutlesa about the changes within the dance music industry, responsibilities, upcoming projects and much more.
Last updated: 10th Jul 2017. Originally published: 3rd Jul 2017
Having served a long apprenticeship in his chosen career as DJ, Josh Wink's watershed year was undoubtedly 1995. Despite having already released several productions, some in conjunction with fellow Philadelphia DJ King Britt (with whom he would later found the Ovum label), it was in 1995 that Wink released a stunning three back to back hits.
The acid breakbeat of 'Higher State Of Consciousness', the build up and breakdown of 'I Am Ready' and the sinister, acidic 'Don't Laugh', either in original or remix form, were played at dancefloors across the globe and each bothered the top of the UK pop and US Dance charts.
In the years since, Josh Wink has proved himself an individual and highly capable DJ, skirting the edges of house and techno in much the same way his varied label Ovum does. He has produced 4 albums of original music, recorded countless mixes (not least his own 'Profound Sounds' series) and been a permanent fixture in the billing of Europe's clubs and festivals since.
Deep thinker, socially conscious vegan Josh Wink returns to Manchester soon, playing alongside Jon Dasilva at an event for the city's much loved Micron. It's a party which, since the attack at Manchester Arena, has changed its focus in order to raise funds for those affected. Josh Wink is also contributing towards that effort.
Prior to doing so, Marko Kutlesa caught up with Josh Wink on Ibiza to ask about his recent thoughts, movements and productions.
Hi Josh! Where are you?
Hi! I am seated on a cold, tile, Spanish, rustic floor looking at Es Vedrà in Ibiza.
Nice. When was your last gig there?
This morning. I played at Cocoon at Amnesia. It was fun, I had a good time. Sven and Acid Pauli played on the terrace and then me, Konstantin and Ilario Alicante played in the main room.
Do you have a residency out there this summer? Or more gigs?
I never had. I had a small residency at one time. Erick Morillo, an old friend of mine, in the early 2000s asked me to be part of his Subliminal nights at Pacha, before techno was cool on Ibiza and I was his techno guy. I did like one party a month all season. But I like being the guy who wears different hats, that's not affected by the political schemes of the island. So, I get to jump around without having to make a commitment. I can play at Sankeys or Amnesia, DC10 or wherever. It's up in the air and easy going.
DJing and dance music has become such a huge industry since you first started. Are all of the sounds happening at the most high profile end of the industry, such as on Ibiza, as 'profound' as yours?
Ah, got ya. Interesting way of putting it. There's always something for people to choose on the island and in general. You can go to Manchester and there's one place to go to hear pop music, another place to go and hear grime, some place for techno, another for dubstep. Whatever.
It's very prominent here on the island, the places to find things. It's whether you want to change your mind to believe the music is as profound as it is. Because it's profound for some and it's not for others. It's a little part of the society that we live in. As I used to say, underground is a state of mind.
It's something that we choose to be in when we want and it's subjective, like it is in most forms of art. It's unique to the beholder who gets to experience it. For some it's underground, for some it's mainstream. But, it's a big industry, for sure. On all kinds of levels. Even the underground is a big industry.
Your most recent single is called 'Resist'. In a socio/politico sense, just what do you think we should be resisting?
The resist movement, in terms of our cultural development as human beings, has always been around. We've been resisting as a human culture for years and years and years. It's gotten to a point now where it's just a peaceful way to express your political views, when the organisation who's running the political scheme is not doing something you like.
So, you use your inalienable rights to peacefully protest and resist what may be happening rather than just taking the teaspoon of sugar with the medicine just to make it go down, become complacent, “things are just the way they are, I can't do anything about it”. So, I think it's important.
I first got involved in the resist movement when I was around 18, when the R&R movement came our of New York. R&R stood for refuse a resist. There were a group of activists in New York City who were concerned about the American government, the president was Ronald Reagan at the time, who was a right wing political advocate. This movement came about because a lot of people were concerned this far right, hardcore guy's political views were not the views of the people. I found out about it as a teenager, just getting involved in politics, just being able to vote and so I voted in that election.
I also found out about the movement through the art. Keith Haring drew and gave a logo and symbol to the R&R movement. It basically went against police brutality, standing up for political prisoners, against the death penalty, censorship, it was an opposition to war, the opposition of the restriction of people's reproductive rights, their sexuality and what they choose to call their gender and dealing with immigration issues. A lot of people were feeling that they needed to do something. If you don't, you're just becoming complacent and numb to everything.
Usually my music is based on escaping the world, its problems and issues, your personal problems and issues. You just want to go out to a club and listen to an artist you really like and be taken away, kind of like going to the movies. You pay your money and for two hours you can veg out and not think about anything.
I like to think my DJing and music can be like an aural therapy, where people can go out and get lost. Usually that's what I like to provide, a way to let loose. But, for me, 'Resist' was a way to do that but also to bring awareness to people about their rights, their voice, their beliefs, their thoughts. They matter. So, resist the complacency, resist the fact you think you don't make a difference. If some people are in charge of your country and you don't like it, we can do something about it.
Your forthcoming appearance at Micron in Manchester has altered in status to becoming a fundraiser for those affected in the Manchester attack. Thank you for your contribution towards that effort. As a largely instrumental form of music, does dance music have a responsibility to hold ethics or a socio/politic message given that this form of music originates from marginalised elements of society?
I don't think anything has the responsibility unless it wants to have the responsibility. There are a lot of people who complain about musicians who get on their soapbox, espousing their political or world views. They say, just sing songs, just get on with it, I don't need to know about the trees in Brazil or the dying kids in Africa. It really is up to the individual what they want to do.
I tend to get my message across because people tend to know I'm a certain way. I don't tend to preach about it, but I tell people if they ask me. “Why are you vegan?” People can look up to artists. Some choose to accept that responsibility, others don't.
As an entertainer I feel I have the responsibility to do the best craft I can do. And that is to know the bounds between education and entertainment. When I get too far down one I can bring myself back to the other. I took a little bit more responsibility with 'Resist', to talk about issues in the press.
But dance music is originally a way for people to go out. It's been part of our culture, part of our religion. We used drugs, songs and dance in religion from our earliest existence as humans. It's mutated into what we have now and it's become a way to balance our hectic lifestyles. Sometimes I use that platform, other times I let the music speak for itself, let it be subjective.
There are some terrible things happening in the world in terms of terrorism and fear and what happens is becoming a reality, in the UK, in France and it's maybe going to spread. Again, you have the choice, do something about it or don't do something about it.
You and your former music and label partner, King Britt, had different musical areas where you chose to focus your attentions in the 90s when you set up Ovum. Yet you combined on several efforts that contributed to making both your names. I can't see that much further distance has been placed between you musically in the time since, yet your collaborative studio work has not been repeated. Why is that?
We're still boys, we're old friends. King just got to the point where he wanted a separation and wanted to delve into wherever he wanted to go. He didn't think Ovum was the best way and we had a time where we felt estranged, but we've always respected each other and we're brothers.
It's just like family, you love each other but sometimes you go through a time when you don't see eye to eye. I'm so proud of him and what he's done, what he continues to do, the boundaries he pushes. We both went our own ways but we both live in Philadelphia around a mile away from each other. We still see each other.
We DJ'd together at this Mixmag Lab thing in Philadelphia after not doing anything for 12 years which was fun. We've been talking for years about getting together to do something, he's been trying to get me to go to his studio and check out what he's doing, but we're both super busy. He was a dad at a younger age and I'm a dad now, so we're at different places. But I couldn't be happier about where he's going musically and spiritually. I dig that. I only want the best for friends and family.
What is he up to musically at the moment?
He has a side project called Fhloston Paradigm. He had an album and some EPs come out on Hyperdub and he just released something on his own label using the same moniker. It's a really introspective, deep, musical, abstract piece of music. I really love it. It's not dancey, it's modular, it's analog, it's really cool.
He always produces too. He's been producing some bands. His daughter's in her 20s now, so he doesn't have that aspect to being a dad, he can focus again solely on travelling and making music, whereas I have a 5 year old and I have to balance that between travelling and running a label. But you should definitely check out Fhloston Paradigm, it's really awesome.
Is 'Resist' the precursor to an album or is it only singles and EPs on your immediate horizon?
I have an album's worth of material but we're just figuring out the correct way of doing it. It's hard with all the travelling now. Some people are DJs now who once were producers, And some of them sound like they are producers rather than DJs. And a lot of people forget how they got there, which is via music production.
It's difficult to stay on top of it because nowadays you don't pay your bills and rent by making records, unless you're a pop artist. You produce records for free, really as a promotional tool so you can go tour and DJ, you get your money through ticket sales. Online streaming is a hard way to make a living, run an office, to pay for mastering, artwork, distribution etc.
We all have to remember where we came from and get back in the studio. But sometimes there's so little time, you have to be creative on demand. I've been producing tracks sporadically over the last couple of years so I am thinking of doing an album. I had an idea of a theme called 'One Smart Fellow, He Felt Smart'. We're not sure what we're going to do, but we want to get some music out there. I still love being creative in that way.
What immediate plans do you have forthcoming for Ovum?
We have a great body of music that's already come out and I couldn't be happier. Someone asked me the other day how Ovum was doing and I said that sometimes talent doesn't sell tickets. And good music doesn't always sell records. We're not necessarily releasing the stuff that's trendy and hip right now. We always had this diverse sound from house to techno, deep, acid and it's great that we're so open. We get demos from people we don't know, we get demos from revered artists. So, it's something that I really cherish.
But we have a lot of stuff coming. We have this Reset Robot track coming out. He's done a lot of stuff. He's an engineer, he works with people like Alan Fitzpatrick. He has an EP coming called 'Bark Orders'. We have a new acid house track coming from a Portuguese producer called Frank Maurel.
We have a sophomore track from a Canadian artist called Sean Miller, it has remixes from Italian legend Claudio Coccoluto and Art Department's Kenny Glasgow. Pete Moss, an old guy from our label, we just had a record out from him. Michel De Hey, the legend from the Netherlands, just put out a record with us. We have a DJ Sneak record coming out which he co-produced with the Russian Tripmastaz, which is like a retro acid track. We got our hands on so many fun things, we're blessed to be able to put stuff out there and have people like it.