Here’s part two of our interview with legendary Philadelphia producer Josh Wink, as part of 909originals’ ORIGINALS interview series. Part one can be found by clicking here.
Q. Your career is inexorably linked back to Higher State of Consciousness, which came out in 1995. But before that, a downtempo version was released on a Strictly Rhythm compilation, The Deep And Slow (A Collection Of 12 Chill Out Tracks). How did that happen?
It was on Deep and Slow, and then the label wanted me to follow up with a club version. That’s how the single came about.
1995 was a pretty crazy year for me, I had Higher State, Don’t Laugh and I’m Ready, which all came out in pretty much the same year.
Q. Did you have any idea of how big Higher States of Consciousness was going to be?
No, I never thought it would be that big. I suppose one of the positive things it had going for it was that it came out on Strictly Rhythm, which was a very popular label at the time. It was pretty wild when people like DJ Rap, Sven Vath, Marusha and Carl Cox started getting into it… it was like a ‘perfect storm’ kind of situation.
I got to go to the Love Parade a couple of times, in 1995, 1996, and hearing Higher State, Don’t Laugh and I’m Ready played all the time was a pretty amazing experience.
Q. That was an interesting time for dance music, things started to get a bit more genre-based after that?
There is a sense that when electronic dance music started, it was comparable with the disco movement in the 1970s and 1980s; all these styles coming together, and the people all dancing to different types of rhythms, all together under one roof.
And then, as you stated, it became about genres. You had these ‘genre police’; if you were playing techno, it had to be in a techno club, and if you were playing drum and bass, it had to be in a drum and bass club. It became very opinionated… that sense of open-mindedness got lost at some point in time.
Q. Fast forward to the present day, and dance music has turned into a massive, EDM-led industry. Is that something you could have seen anticipated when you started out?
I could never have foreseen it being of this magnitude… even when you watch a McDonald’s ad these days, it has EDM music in the background.
It’s got to this sort of level now that you need to be proactive, and get out there and look for the stuff that makes you happy, the stuff that keeps you going in the direction you want to go.
Q. Do you think that the EDM scene is in need of a ‘punk’ movement, a sort of ‘back to basics’ approach?
To be honest, I don’t know what that would look like. There are enough artists out there that are playing non-conformist music; everyone is pushing their own style. There’s an underground scene, and an overground scene, and it’s been that way for a while.
Of course, when we were starting out, there was a beauty in it, because the people that were involved had to be really passionate about it. You had to be part of a community, you needed to go to the record stores, and invest time and money. Nowadays, it’s based more on technology, and it’s instantaneous.
The culture has grown and grown, and the arrival of social media has turned it into this sort of wild beast. There’s beauty in that, but there’s the opposite as well.
— josh wink (@joshwink1) April 19, 2018
Q. It’s also easier to make dance music now than it ever was; do you still use your old equipment, or are you producing mainly through your computer these days?
I do a mixture of both. I’m a firm believer in doing my own thing, I’m not going to go one way because someone tells me I should.
You can give a person a pencil, and everybody will do something different with it – someone might write a poem, someone might draw a picture, someone might snap it in two. Everybody is different, and that’s the beauty of art. Regardless of what style it is, everybody does something different.
The challenge today is, there’s just so much music out there. You have to really pay attention to determine what you don’t like and what you do like – use your filters – and define who you are through music.
In terms of making music, there’s no set formula. There are lots of kids out there making music that have no idea about music notation or theory, and they’ve come up with something amazing.
It’s the same with being a writer. You don’t have to know the classics to be able to express yourself through writing. Of course, it helps to know where you are and where you came from – the whole ‘knowledge is power’ kind of thing – but you should be also able to do things uniquely and differently, without always having the pressure to feel like you need to know everything.
The further you go on the journey, the more you become a more well rounded individual. I’ve grown up with different kinds of music, and that’s helped shape the way I am. But someone might have no idea about acid house or the early years of dance music, and come up with something incredible. It’s all subjective.
Q. Things are cyclical as well, music that came out years ago can suddenly sound fresh.
We found that with 20 to 20 actually [Josh Wink album originally released in 2002], when we re-released it this year.
When people heard it this year, they were saying it sounds a lot like much of the contemporary techno music that’s out there at the moment. It’s pretty cool to have an album that still sound so fresh and invigorating after 17 years.
Q. Lastly, the 300th release on Ovum is just about to be released, Aries in Mars. But for me, release number 303 is more important! Any ideas for that one?
Oh shit, yeah! Thanks for bringing that to my attention. It’s going to have to be awesome.