Josh Wink Talks Undying Musical Passion, WMC, and His Ovum Label

After 20 years, DJ-producer Josh Wink still hasn't lost sight of what originally got him started in the EDM game -- his passion for the music itself.

It's taken him from stints in the early '90s as a rave DJ, through his "Higher State of Consciousness" chart-crushing heyday, and now all the way to the top as chief of the world-renowned Ovum label.

And in a way, Wink's respect for music runs counter to the obsession with fame and fortune that drives so many new artists today.

Like most of his old-school peers, Wink preferred the early days of EDM when divisive classifications like "house" and "techno" didn't exist yet, and it was all just "music." He expressed that sentiment on 2009's When A Banana Was Just A Banana, a genre-bending stew of acid house, techno, electro, dub, and everything in between.  

We caught up with Josh Wink ahead of his Friday performance at Grand Central, a rare treat outside of his usually exclusive WMC dates.

New Times: What can you tell about taking part the early '90s American rave scene?

Josh Wink: I don't really know, except for the fact that it was a really exciting time for music. It was something I just did, as I loved music, and I decided to focus a lot on the USA instead of taking the offers to head out of the USA. But, it was a special 'innocent' time for music in this country.

Do you think American rave culture (as opposed to club culture) is dead, or could it make a comeback?

I'm not really an expert on this, as I haven't been focusing on traveling in the USA over the past 5 years. I've lost touch a bit with the American electronic market. However, I think that there is a scene in each city across the USA, which caters to different genres of electronic music and is still very popular. But, it's hard in this country, as electronic music is usually played in nightclubs where one has to be at least 21 years old to enter, and this is an issue. Electronic music is more appreciated and popular outside of America, and I think the above reason is why.

You're still based in Philadelphia after all these years, despite many of your peers relocating to major EDM capitals. What keeps you rooted to that city and how has living there shaped your work and artistic development?

We all are products of our environment. So I guess that means Philadelphia has shaped me, which I do believe it has, as the city is very diverse musically with it's history. As I was born here I feel an affinity with the city and choose to keep it my home base for the time being, however, Florida is desirable for tax reasons compared to Philly, PA!

You and King Britt have enjoyed a very fruitful professional relationship despite gravitating towards very different personal styles. How did you first hook up and what makes your partnership so special?

We met by a mutual friend in the '80s. We shared a lot of the same ideas and values with life and music, and decided to take some of our ideas and express it musically. We have split as musical partners a long time ago, however we remain friends and still produce diverse music with the same values and feelings as when we started in 1989.

You've been musically active for a good three decades and still remain very much relevant in the international EDM community. What do you think is the secret to professional longevity in a scene where young new artists are emerging all the time?

When I first started DJing and making music, I didn't look at this passion I had with an idea of money, fame or future. It was something that I just did all the time as it was my passion and life. The money, fame and future came as a byproduct. I still feel this same passion as when I began. But, today, there is a hope and desire for fame and fortune with a career in electronic music, and people know this and want this. There is nothing wrong with it, but it's just different from when we began.

You juggle the multiple roles of DJ, producer, and label and A&R work. When push comes to shove, which is the most rewarding of these roles for you personally?

Hard question. They all are rewarding. However, knowing that I get to create and make a living, along with creating happiness for people -- knowing this, makes my job rewarding.

How do you view the music industry shifts and record sales decline in the last decade because of digital distribution? As a label owner, what necessary adjustments do you foresee in the future?

Piracy is the issue, not digital distribution. A failed realization that file sharing isn't wrong. This is what has killed the music industry. People need to know that music is cheap to download and still available to buy as a physical product. This will help jump-start the industry.

Your 2009 album
When A Banana Was Just A Banana addressed the idea of music being free of the divisive definitions and classifications we impose on it. Where do you see EDM going in the new decade? Is the hybridization and declassification of genres the way of the future?

Electronic music has always been appealing to me (banana joke reference, by the way) as it has few stigmas and lacked in conformity. I hate it when people have to label and conform to ideals and conventions. This is always the future of music! Any music. But, it takes strong artists to do this.

Are there any plans for a follow-up album?

Hope so! February I will work on getting my studio up and running. Been focusing on traveling to support Ovum recordings' 15 years and the roster of releases for the label.

Ovum's yearly WMC party has always been a big highlight. Have you decided to keep the original dates and what do you have planned for this installment?

We have to keep the original date. As for myself and a lot of other artists, we figured that WMC would be the usual last week in March, so I took bookings the first two weeks of March. So, we're ironing out the date. However it will be the end of March at Shine, and I believe people are still going to be interested in coming to our soiree!

What's in store for the label in 2011? Any forthcoming new artists and releases?

We're very fortunate to still be getting great demos from established artists along with unknown producers so, we always have quality things coming out. We have a remix LP from Shlomi Aber's debut Chicago Days, Detroit Nights release along with a debut LP from Bulgaria's KiNK, and German underground tech-house artist Agaric. Yes, a busy year!

What can Miami expect during your performance at Grand Central?

I never know. I really feed off of people's energy and that's the beauty of DJing for me. It's that its 100% spontaneous and that there are no rules. I am fortunate that crowds with open minds for dance music and enthusiasm come to support the events, and when they do, the night can be magical!

Josh Wink. With Dsan Powell and Mario Liberti. 11 p.m., Friday, December 17. Grand Central. 697 N Miami Ave., Miami. Tiockets $15 in advance from 305-377-2277.

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Sean Levisman