Josh Wink has dominated one of the more deliciously weird realms of dance music, acid house, nearly since the genre’s inception.
Born in Philadelphia, Wink started playing out as a teenager, with his coming of age coinciding with the release of the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer, the instrument that would help him forge the acid sound that’s become a key part of Wink’s output during his more-than-34-year career. Taking deep inspiration from the Chicago house pioneers and also working in techno, D&B and house and beyond, Wink is a scene mainstay who’s played virtually every major club and electronic festival around the globe.
In 1994, Wink founded Ovum Recordings, the label through which he’s released most of his work — including his 1995 all-time classic “Higher State Of Consciousness” — along with the output of artists including KiNK, Nic Fanciulli, David Squillace and more. Wink’s latest is “Let Go,” a collaboration with rising Los Angeles based producer Truncate with whom Wink first partnered lsat year.
Out tomorrow (August 26) via Ovum, the new production is a simmer of fuzzy percussion and a bouncy synth over which Wink repeats “let go, let it go” like a meditation — which for those who unleash to it on the dancefloor, it arguably is.
Here, we chat with Wink while in transit to discuss acid house, what makes a festival special and the importance of having a good lawyer.
1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
I’m currently at LAX Airport. It’s 7:00 a.m. on a gray and overcast morning, and typical airport morning vibes and surroundings.
2. What’s the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Funny that I remember. It was a 45 vinyl record, by Canadian singer Terry Jacks called “Seasons In The Sun” on Bell Records. It was 1975, and I was five years old.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do or did they think of what you do for a living now?
My father was a neuro-ophthalmologist, and my mother was in school studying to be a psychotherapist… They were always happy and proud of me and my artistic profession. They saw I was happy, and showed responsibility at a young age to stay out late and DJ when I was a teenager. They were both hobby artists as well. Painting, drawing and ceramics.
4. What’s the first non-gear thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?
I can’t remember as it was such a long time ago. I was never really one who would go and spend money on myself unfortunately. I saved and invested a lot in my late teens and twenties. But, I was a heavy biker — so I may have gotten a new suspension mountain bike for trails outside of Philly.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance music, what would you give them?
Lots to chose from, But I’d go with Kraftwerk’s 1981 LP Computer World. Very, very influential to me, and I imagine, countless others. This helped pave the way for my journey into the world of electronic music.
6. What’s the last song you listened to?
I love how music can help calm and transform the stressful nature of travel to a pleasant audio atmosphere. So, I listen to a lot of ambient/illbient/neo-classical artists while in transit, helping ease my demeanor from travel woes. I am with headphones now and was just listening to British Piano composer Tom Ashbrook’s track “All Clear” off his 2021 LP Solitudes.
7. Your latest track is “Let Go” with Truncate. What do you hope listeners will let go of? What are you personally trying to let go of?
I’m so happy with the collaboration setting that Truncate and I did together. This is the follow up to the successful 2021 hit “Be Aware.” I guess I was thinking of “ego” when I came up with the simple lyrical sample of my voice. I’m trying to “Let Go” of the ego as well.
8. What was better about the club scene when you were getting your start in the ’90s?
I don’t want to seem like an old man, but things have changed in over 30 years! It’s solely because I’m in my 50s — its simply that things in life change, and 30 years is a long time. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, you had to know or know someone in the “scene” to find the clubs. It was a young, new community with a brand new genre of music being exposed to the world, in its inception. It wasn’t something you found out on the information highway and social media, it was a grass roots movement known by the right people. It’s a magical experience being exposed to something you never experienced. Fresh, exciting, & new, along with a community that was open to diversity and creativity!
9. What’s better about it now?
I like [this question], as it keeps things positive, rather than asking how is it worse today. It’s better as so much good music is more easily available to people, and this is a great tool for learning and going deeper into sounds you truly love. Before, the only way to hear this style of music was to go to the clubs or record shops that specialize in specific genres. as it was rarely played on radio or anywhere else. Now with a computer or smart phone and some sort of internet connection, you can instantly have your musical needs met and even go deeper and get submerged into music, along with finding out new music with that intention or oversight.
10. You’re an acid house expert. Give us the key elements of a proper acid track — and can you choose your all-time favorite song from the genre?
It’s hard for me to really say what make something “proper,” as I believe it’s a subjective feeling, where not one personal opinion dictates what makes a track a track. Yet, there are elements or attributes of a song that may help categorize [it]. For acid house, it’s based on the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer. So, in my humble opinion, a track would have this instrument in its composition for it to be called “acid house.”
I can’t pinpoint one favorite song. However, I can say, for me, 808 State’s Newbuild LP is the best album that encompasses the raw and powerful spirit of the acid house movement that was born out of Chicago.
11. What’s your favorite club or festival to play, and why?
I am blessed to have played countless clubs and festivals around the globe in my 34 years of DJing. I like both. I enjoy the intimate setting of night clubs, along with the powerful feelings and awe I get when performing in front of 25,000 people at a festival in some unique setting somewhere the world. I love and understand the purpose of each. I can have the best time in my life DJing at a house party for 30 people, yet if you take 30 people and put them in a huge stadium, it could be the worst experience ever.
I really enjoyed playing in the past in Tokyo at the legendary Womb club. Such great memories and experiences there over 30 years. Festivals, many have come and gone, and it’s not always the biggest ones that make it the best. I like ones that offer unique experiences, like having seminars, areas to explore — like bodywork and health — places to be be entertained with hands-on experiences from experts, ethical, moral, and relevant societal symposiums where you can learn about things related to music or not. Camping in nature, great food options, unique vendors, friendly, helpful staff, diverse musical choices and good weather are all a must for me in my view about what makes a festival a favorite of mine.
12. You’re a longtime vegan. Why do you eat this way, and how do you maintain the lifestyle while on the road?
I started at 13 years old, removing red meat from my diet, due to influence of my brother and mother. This is where I embarked in a “conscious” journey with food and its role for me in health, politics and ethics. I eat this way to feel better in my body and mind, and it’s important to for me to eat what works for me, as your body is your temple and you are what you eat.
It’s a difficult life being on the road for 30 years, so a great place to begin is knowing what fuels and sustains a healthier you, especially under the duress of vigorous travel. I’ve made it an importance in my life to be prepared, and care for myself by bringing snacks, having riders with food I am comfortable with, and finding places to eat that promote my style of living.
13. Your track “How’s Your Evening Far” hit No. 3 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Songs chart in 2000. Did that accomplishment hold any special significance for you then? Does it now?
I didn’t know that. Pretty cool! I knew that my track as Size 9 “I Am Ready” went No. 1, and “Don’t Laugh” was top five, I believe. I make music to be creative and have an outlet for me to express and share this special part of me to the world. I do this because I love being an artist, and it brings me great happiness to convey my art, have it bring joy and positively influence peoples’ lives. I never got into doing what I do for the accolades of awards, titles or honors.
So, it’s exciting and fun to have them appear in my life. But the biggest accomplishment is that I am still here, making relevant music, DJing, making a living from my art, and continuing to do what I love at 52 years old.
14. The most exciting thing currently happening in dance music is?
How artists are embracing and using new technology to their benefit. Pushing boundaries of what once was difficult, to now, what is easy and possible — in live performances and studio recordings.
15. The most annoying thing currently happening in dance music is?
How artists are using new technology and the nonsense of social media and metadata’s importance in being booked. It seems that “likes” now sell tickets, not necessarily talent. (Not just [in] dance music.) Along with people going to clubs and festivals, being on the dance floor, and more interested in their phones — taking selfies, movies and checking social media — it’s apps and how they look rather than being lost in the music.
16. If you could time travel back to any era of dance music history, to when would you go and why?
I would say the disco era. I was in my single digits, age-wise, back then — and not able to get into discos, along with not having an appreciation for this style of music yet. But it was an exciting time. Free love, openness, experimentation, carefree living, 12” extended vinyl records, the birth of club DJs as artists, and being the pinnacle moment — transitioning from live musicians making club disco music to the birth of drum machines, synthesizers and electronics, in its early connection to dance music production.
17. Every DJ has a nightmare flight story. Tell us yours.
There are many. I’ll make it short as I don’t like the recollection. But the most memorable and scary moment was a flight from Thessaloniki to Athens in Greece. It was a small commuter plane, and there was really inclement weather. Well, the plane was struck by lightning, it dropped like 300 feet in a second, people without seatbelts were violently thrown out of their seats, children and adults screaming, vomiting and straight up scared of dying. Obviously I am still alive from this event, but you can conjure up the feelings and experiences we all went through.
18. What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
Got rid of a certain lawyer.
19. Who was your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?
I was 13 and met a guy named Chuck. He sparked my interest in wanting to be a disc jockey — radio DJ at first, and then a mobile DJ. Everything else — club DJing, music production — happened naturally on its own in my later teenage years, but the seed was planted with Chuck. He loved music and what he did, and this was the best example for me to grow up with. Enjoy what you do!
20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Hire a responsible, kind, empathetic, trustworthy, truthful and forthright lawyer to look out for your best interest. Also I’d say be kind to myself and really experience life.