Josh Wink needs little introduction. The Philadelphia force has been making monumental music for over twenty years, releasing on the globes most important imprints, steering some trailblazing releases on his home label Ovum. Josh Wink makes music from the heart, never following trends, staying true to his roots and to himself. Shortly to release his optimistically titled ‘Half Full EP’ on UK cornerstone label, Freerange Records. We catch up with this warm and charming individual for a little talk.
WWD: Hey Josh. How is the view from your window today?
Sunshine, blue skies, budding trees, plants, flowers, birds, bees, and a cat sleeping under a tree. Pretty good view.
WWD: You are a born and bred Philly native. Have you ever lived anywhere else?
Yes, born in Philly. I’ve lived in Ibiza for 2 months out of the year for many summers. But otherwise, no.
I’ve thought in the early 2000’s to move to Rotterdam, Holland. As I really enjoy the city and a bunch of my good friends live there. But then again, I thought about it at the time and would miss the Sunshine, blue skies, budding trees, plants, flowers, birds, bees, and a cat sleeping under a tree view I get in Philly, as it’s usually grey and raining.
But my wife and I think about moving a lot over the past two years. Going to a warmer climate and being closer to nature and the sea. Even though I have a nice backyard, I still live in a concrete city! There is an unspoken feeling you get when you’re from this city. It’s something you understand and feel when you live here. It’s a good feeling, a sense of being home. But I’m looking into having this feeling somewhere else now.
WWD: Such a rich musical history in Philadelphia. Who are the icons of Philly for you?
First of all, the local night club DJs I listened to growing up. They influenced me A LOT! But otherwise. DJ Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Schoolly D, Butcher Brothers, Gamble and Huff, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Daryl Hall and John Oats, Grover Washington Jr., David Lynch, Stan Getz to name a few.
With a career in music that has spanned several years, you would have seen a lot of changes. Do you think that what it takes to be a valued and competent artist in ‘23 is different, or do you feel that fundamentally what it takes to ‘make it’ remains the same?
No. It has changed a LOT! Social Media and the internet have changed things immensely! Before I felt that you needed to have some fundamental talent and skills in making music. Now, it seems that if you’re savvy with a smartphone and a computer and post a lot on social media you can be successful. Before social media you had the opportunity to use the internet to distribute your music more openly and freely, connecting with more people (potential fans). And now it’s not only the internet but social media, which has complicated and acted as more as a Pandora’s box situation.
WWD: I guess ‘making it’ depends on the individual. When you first started out in the beginning what was your aim? Did you have an aim even?
I just wanted to live and breathe music. Making it and performing. I didn’t know there would be a career in my style of music, I just wanted to do it ALL OF THE TIME. I still do, but it’s different now as what people see is very skewed and more people now want to do it because of an image, and what you can get monetarily from it. I was/ am fortunate to be an artist and make a living out of my artisan craft coming out of my strict desires to be creative from the heart.
WWD: If you could rewind to the beginning of your journey, what would you tell a young Josh about a life in music, what advice would you give him today?
Get a good, trustworthy lawyer.
WWD: Social media is ‘perceived’ to be part of the game. Does it affect you/ impact you in any way positive or negative. Does it irritate you or does it not move you at all?
Kind of answered above. But I realize that it’s a needed tool. But it’s a shame what kind of monster it’s become. Where a lot of promoters are booking artists solely on meta data, likes and content rather than artistry and talent. I get told a lot by management that I need to do more social media. It’s defiantly a love hate relationship I have with it.
WWD: Take me back to the days when we were young! You were pretty young when you started to DJ. Where did you play? What kind of vibe were you playing?
I started as a mobile DJ apprentice, and I was solely there to entertain, not artistically create. So, I grew to understand the needs of both when it came to DJing.
Later, I started collecting music of all genres and blending and mixing all styles of music when I played about. I played at small local clubs and started doing warehouse rave/parties in 1989 with a local DJ friend. Philly always had a mixed bag of music appreciation. So, we all mixed it up.
WWD: You were hanging around the West Phily DJ Battles. Who was in the battles at the time? Who were your heroes?
I was young, wet behind the ears, a teenager just wanting to see, absorb and learn new things. So, seeing this was great! I didn’t know many people there, but was happy to have been there.
As stated above, Dj Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money were big influencers not only to me but for a worldwide movement. Local club DJs too! Bobby Startup, Ricky Lee, Chip Dish, David Wildman, Phillip Dickerson, Jett, Robbie Tronco, and Gigi were a bunch of the local DJs that I loved listening to!
WWD: Josh Wink’s style of Djing and the sounds of Ovum cannot be put inside a box. To what do you attribute your broad tastes and range, does is harken back to those early days?
Yes, as mentioned, Philly has always mixed it up musically. Soul, Rock, Disco. And this influenced me and the city to present this style when DJing. Ovum’s start was similar, signing different styles of music, but the common thread being electronic.
WWD: You’ve made some records that are monumental. When you are making a record like ‘Higher State’, can you feel that it’s going to be big?
No, I didn’t have any thought that it would become the tune it is and was. It’s a great feeling to make music that influences, inspires, and create happiness for people. That’s an amazing feeling.
WWD: Ovum has been around since ‘94. When you started out with the label what was your mission? Did you have a mission even? What was the first release on the label?
I wanted to put out my own music (along with others) with my own control, as I have had some shaky experiences working with certain other labels. But the motto was to release ‘life music’. The first release was my Liquid Summer track.
WWD: Like many of the labels you have released on like Nervous, Strictly Rhythm, R&S, Bedrock, Cocoon, Ellum Audio and PokerFlat, Ovum is a buy-on-site label. What do you think it takes to get an imprint to that level?
All I can say is that we’ve been around a while! And we follow our hearts not overthinking things, and I feel that this is instrumental to our ethos. People trust and appreciate this. We release music we believe in with our hearts and not always playing it safe and following trends.
WWD: Do you think in ‘23 there are many new labels achieving the same level of loyalty or is the fact we are in a fast paces and disposable era diluting that possibility?
Not sure about others. But I can tell you this, as you and others probably know. There is a LOT of music available, and it’s very difficult and time-consuming to find and listen to it all! So, I’m happy we’ve become a trusted source and place to go to hear good music.
WWD: On this particular point, what tips or direction would you give to a young, DJ/producer/ label, to build and grow.
Simply follow your heart. Do what you want to do, truly because you love it, and it makes you feel good. Don’t think about making money or having fame. Just do it because it’s a part of you and it comes from deep inside of you, regardless if there is anything else to come out of it.
WWD: Is it too broad a question to ask you your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?
It is. It’s a different beast than it used to be. But all things change. But let’s just say it’s not solely about music anymore, regardless of what people say.
WWD: You have had a long love affair with the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer. When did you first get one, do you still have the same one, what is it you love about this master synth and its sounds.
I bought both of my 303’s in a pawn shop for 75$ a piece in 1990 & 1992. Yes, I still have both, which I made all my acid tunes with, including some of the tracks I’ve made over the years. It’s simply a sexy box of analog bass sine waves. It’s just an infectious sound.
WWD: In 2009 you released ‘When A Banana Was a Banana’. Love to know what the title referenced.
Basically, it refers to a time in music and life where things were innocent. When you were younger a banana was a banana. When you get older and more influenced and matured to life, a banana has other associations, which change you view on things in life.
WWD: Jimpster did a remix on this album right?
The original LP had a follow-up release that was solely remixes on every track. Jimpster did one of them. He remixed “Jus’ Right”. The project was called “When A Banana Was Just a Banana Remixed & Peeled”.
WWD: Have you and Jimpster ever played on the same lineup? Have you crossed paths many times over the years?
No. I don’t think we’ve ever played together. Yet, we have crossed paths and I have become friends and colleagues with Jamie.
WWD: I know that Freerange Records are made up to have you. Freerange is like Ovum in many ways. Steadfast, quality assured, a label with integrity. Have you been a fan of the label over the years?
I am a big fan of Freerange Records. That’s one of the reasons I sent Jamie the tracks for an EP on his label. I don’t record for many other labels besides Ovum. So, this was a special group of songs for Freerange, and I am happy it’s finally coming out!
WWD: Congrats on this killer three-tracker. Did you make the Half Full EP with the label in mind?
Two of the tracks I initially composed in 2017. They were favorites of mine that I never released. Last year I revisited them and touched them up. And thought, maybe I should send to Freerange as I feel they are special Josh Wink versions of deep electronic house music, and that Jamie would like. And BAM! He did.
He was helpful with his visions, and suggestions how to add to the tracks. I took his advice and applied my interpretation of his vision, and it was great advice. I am always up for learning and growing, and as a producer I respect and trust his thoughts and views.
WWD: What do you do when you’re not traveling or in the studio? What else fills your life?
Being a father and exercise.
WWD: You have spent your entire adult life making music. If you didn’t follow this path, what else do you think you may have ended up doing out of interest?
Not sure! I imagine something artistic. My father was a doctor so maybe I would’ve gone down that route. But perhaps that was my direction in my wink multiverse I’m not aware of.
WWD: Thank you for your valuable time, Josh Wink. It’s been a pleasure.
You’re welcome and thanks for the good questions.