Josh Wink: From Digital to Vinyl at Electric Zoo [Interview]
This past weekend, legendary house DJ Josh Wink was to perform two full sets — one digital, one vinyl — at Electric Zoo. Though his Sunday set never came into being, his Saturday set at the Sunday School Grove stage was epic and brought festivalgoers to their feet. A set pregnant with tension and builds, the entire hour and a half truly built up to a musical high. The Sunday School Grove stage was actually an indoor-style venue with an old time carnival-esque feel. Wink’s set was just during sunset, from 6:30-8, a perfect time as it transitioned from gold beams coming through the small stained glass windows to darkness, somewhat reflecting the more mellow intro to the set that culminated in dark and exciting midnight beats. It’s no wonder why Wink was slotted between house legends Pete Tong and Sasha, and his set proved that 20+ years of experience has made him a seamless DJ and producer.
This summer has also marked an exciting time for Wink as his label, Ovum, celebrated its 20th anniversary. Wink also has a new EP coming out this fall, “Talking to You,” which was dropped by Carl Cox at his birthday bash (see above). With all these exciting events, we just had to talk to Josh before he took the stage at Electric Zoo:
Interview With Josh Wink
Ovum is celebrating 20 years this summer. What have you been doing to celebrate the occasion?
Josh Wink: Over the summer we’ve been doing festivals, events, and club gigs showcasing artists from the label, and other ways to bring it to people’s attention, to let people know that 20 years of a label is a long time to be around. Musically speaking [for my Ovum celebration sets], I base myself on going 20 more years back with my music selection; it doesn’t necessarily mean everything I did [during the set] was on Ovum. I actually did select a lot of stuff that was available on the label. We’ve curated stages, we’ve done events, we’ve done clubs, and I can’t believe it’s almost the end of the year.
What is the significance of reaching 20 years to you personally?
Josh Wink: It kind of gives it a little bit of validity. It’s nice to know that it doesn’t happen to many people. It gives it some credibility to what we do, that we’ve been around for so long. I would still do it if it’s less amount of time or more amount of time — it’s just what I do, a year is just a marker. We’ve been around for 20 years and we’re going to be around for much longer. It’s a different beast, the music industry, than it used to be and it’s difficult to survive, but we’re still releasing good quality music that’s full of our integrity — music that’s not necessarily following the trend. We do our thing and people come to it and that’s important to us, in terms of how long we do what we do. I don’t need it [validity] but it’s nice to have it. People say, “Oh wow, 20 years! So long!” Some of the people going out to clubs and parties aren’t even that old, so it’s kind of funny when I hear it like that. Its just what I do and I don’t know how to do it any other way: put records out and make music. And to be able to do it for a brand that I’ve created.
Considering how much change there has been in the music industry in the last 20 years, how have you adapted your brand to maintain its success?
Josh Wink: That’s probably one of the keys to our success is that we don’t seem to adapt. We just do what we do. This integrity thing that I often say is very, very hard in my core. It’s the only thing I know what to do. I guess it’s an easier thing to do, to sign artists that sound like the big thing going on, to get sales and become trendy. But I don’t think we adapt. We adapt to the technology side of things, but we still put out vinyl. We just do what we do and things kind of mold around us rather that us molding around other things.
Do you have much opportunity like at Electric Zoo and Mysteryland to play all-vinyl sets?
Josh Wink: I don’t but I could. I’ve been playing since the 80s, so I have 14,000 records in my choice record collection, and it’s hard to travel with heavy things now. I still travel with a computer and CDs that I use to DJ with, which is easy because I can show up at a gig with a backpack… Mysteryland was cold, it was dark, there was no place to put records. I was DJing with frozen hands, but there was something about it I really liked… I heard the next day was a better day. It would have been a great way to adapt during the day, a sunshine thing where people could see it’s not about performers with their hands in the air jumping up and down. Now a days all the DJs are doing the stereotypical hands in the air. If you do that when you’re playing with vinyl the record skips. I enjoy it, maybe I’ll do some more in Philidelphia.
Was Mysteryland one of the first times in a while that you’ve been able to do an all-vinyl set? How do you prepare for a set like that?
Josh Wink: That’s correct. The first time in a LONG time that I’ve been able to do that.
I was telling people, I did more planning for this gig at Mysteryland than I have for any other gig because it’s been so long and I’ve moved my record collection and things were everywhere and I had to choose. I had to start going through my record collection a good month and a half before my set. And then when I got it down to certain ones that I wanted to do, then I put all those records I wanted to play in a record box and they didn’t all fit in. And then I had to bring another one and it was too much. So then I had to edit once again. It was so much time and energy and I ended up only playing 37 records, which was mixing every 3 records. I was doing a lot of mixing and trying to fit in records, and I was trying to do it without a light and it was raining on me. A lot of time and preparation went into that and I like that.
Some of your music is from the early 90s — before many of your fans were even born. How does it feel having your music span generations and countries?
Josh Wink: Musically it’s kind of cool, it’s like getting a tattoo, it’s with you for life. The thing is tattoos you can get removed, but music you can’t. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. You can have surgery and have your tattoo removed, but you can’t take records of music off the internet or off someone’s record shelf after they bought it. It’s nice to know that I did a whole cataloge of music from the 90s that people still dig and have memories to and it marks their time in their life of what they were doing. It’s like a smell. You have a smell and it brings to you back to something unique and special. And it’s nice to have made tracks back then that are still relevant now but also still make tracks [now] that are relevant now. When someone in the industry that I respect can tell me a memory of their first time hearing this or what they were doing. It’s brings people back to a certain time. They know exactly where they were.
Tell us about your new EP coming out this fall.
Josh Wink: We were hoping for it to come out in September but now I think we’re moving it to October. The track’s called “Talking to You,” and it’s the follow up to the track I did called “Balls,” which is the track I did 2 years ago. I’m excited to be able to put something out. For the past couple of, I guess 7 weeks or so, I’ve leaked it out to a couple of people who have been playing it and the hypemachine comes out and starts rolling on its own.
How is Electric Zoo special or different to you?
Josh Wink: I’m happy to be part of this event and festival. It’s harder for the underground people. I consider myself “underground” considering all the stuff that’s going on nowadays. I’m a firm believer in that I want the right people to know me not the quantity of people that know me.
You’ll be performing two sets this weekend. How do the sets differ?
Josh Wink: One is vinyl only, and one is all digital. There’s a spontanaity that I get with digital that I don’t get with vinyl because with the computer I am not necessarily limited with what I choose from. With the record box, I’m limited to what is inside that container. I have an idea of what I’m going to play and I shove those ideas into a box, and I hope that the vibe, the connection, the crowd will work out great. With DJing digitally, I don’t necessarily plan in advance unless it’s a festival, where there is festival-style music — I play differently at a festival than I would at a club, because people have expectations. In a club, something more intimate, I can tell a story. It’s easy to come into a festival and play big room music and have people jump up and down. I just don’t like that. It’s easy to play the big records and the party records and get people pogoing and fist pumping. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to go out and party and make people go nuts. But for me there’s also something a bit more than just putting on a big record or something that sounds big. That’s what I love, and that’s where my strife, my confusion is in where I am as an artist, because so much of it is about just getting people to fist pump. And if you don’t, then the next DJ after you will and everyone is like, “Did you hear this set?!” I just want to present, I want to tell a story, I want to get people to close their eyes and forget all of their problems and just be there. Like an hour and a half, two hours of just therapy, of just getting lost in my music, without having to keep your eyes open and fist pump — but it’s difficult at festivals. I know what I have to do, I’ve been doing it too long. If I sense I’m going too deep or too this way, then I can go the other way. I need a connection with the crowd. For me, over the years I’ve realized that I have a responsibility as a DJ to entertain as well as educate, so I try to do both and I squirm the line. But it’s difficult because I just went to the mainstage and it’s all about the crowd and the DJ pogoing and jumping up and down. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just, that’s that. And other tents are about how crazy you can make people go. How about how hard [fans] can close their eyes and just get lost. And that’s what I have a hard problem with. More of an artistic aspect. Not that what they’re doing is not art, it’s just I like a bit more of a journey rather than… kind of like in a sex way: you have foreplay and you start off slowly, or you can be the guy that spits on his hand and just puts it in — BAM! There’s needs to be something more of an organic process of going through it that’s important and I get lost a lot of the times at festivals because it’s easy just to play big records. That’s my plight.
Checking out legends like Josh Wink is a musical privilege, and though one of his sets was prevented from happening that Sunday, Wink’s digital set was legendary. Having the opportunity to speak with him was a great honor that we are thankful for! Many thanks to him and his team for setting this up and we look forward to catching him at his next all-vinyl set soon!
Check out our other latest EZoo interview with Hook N Sling here!