The Minimal Master

Josh Wink finally returns to Las Vegas with techno and house in tow

Josh Wink could be considered a DJ’s DJ. But he should also be considered one of the scene’s most respected DJ/producers—if he isn’t already. Or, at the very least, Wink should have a card-catalog entry in your mental library of electronic-music masters. The Philadelphia-born-and-based artist has been in the booth for almost 30 years, and he’ll finally give Las Vegas another taste of what’s made him such a key figure in the scene when he spins at Body English on March 30.

Is 2013 the year America embraces techno?

I am not one who is really good at predicting things that I really have no control over. It’s always kind of gone up and down in this country. Originally when electronic music came here in the mid-to-late ’80s, it wasn’t as popular here as it was overseas. A big thing to do with that is the drinking laws here in America where people have to be 21 years of age to get into a club—that really limited things. But with the Internet, people are able to get their hands on all different kinds of music. Being that “electronic dance music,” as it’s called now, is becoming a bit more like the pop-music scene—people like Usher starting to do dance records and Kelly Rowland and Akon working with dance people—it helped open it up to the mainstream. Every market
in America has its little underground scene.

How well do your feel your Profound Sound show on Sirius XM’s Electric Area does being sandwiched between a bunch of EDM and trance?

I, and a handful of others—Adam Beyer, Digweed, Carl Cox—tend to be the ones that stand out from a pretty full-on EDM/trance station. But I look at it like someone who may not know of me or may not know of them, they’re listening to their A State of Trance mix show, they leave their car radio on, and all of a sudden my show comes on and I get to play an alternative style of music to what they know and they can find out about Jeff Mills and Amon Tobin. So I’m looking at it as a way for people to understand that there are all different kinds of music. Not just what you hear in the pop side of things. So, one person at a time.

You haven’t played Las Vegas in about seven years. What research did you do to prepare?

I was very picky on what to do there again. Everything else for me was kind of like work. I don’t want my job to seem like work. If I just seem like a jukebox or people don’t know who I am, then I don’t necessarily want to come and do what I do. I started out as a mobile DJ, so I know what it’s like to be a jukebox. I’m just at a different stage in my life, that’s really all. I don’t want to simply think about it as a paycheck, I want to think about it as a way to create as an artist, entertain and educate. Some friends of mine, like Doc Martin [also playing March 30] who is an old colleague and extremely talented music selector, he said, “It’s great” [playing
at Body English.] And Sneak just called and told me he played out there and it was really good. So I felt comfortable making the commitment.

A friend of mine from the old club-scene days in Boston, Andy Masi, is one of the owners of the Light Group, and I used to go out there and play solely just for him and his industry night. Mike Fuller has also been championing that underground sound for years before the big electronic dance music [boom] and [venues] offering DJs contracts like they would Celine Dion.

Any idea what kind of musical mood you’ll bring this time?

If people know who I am, they know to expect a little bit of everything. Sometimes I get in a techno mood, sometimes I get in a deep-house mood, sometimes I tend to go into a classic mood. I may be disappointed that the crowd doesn’t understand it and just want what they only know. At the same time, I’m still willing to be able to understand, “Hey, I’m being paid to entertain. So is there a way to do this in a symbiotic manner where I can entertain and educate while still keeping my integrity as an artist?” So I use that in my mind along with just the ability to be extremely, extremely spontaneous.

What is the key to your longevity in an industry that can sometimes be really fickle?

I attribute it to the fact that I’ve just been here for song long that the integrity I have towards myself of just—and it’s personal, the sense of integrity is personal to everybody and for me it’s remained just doing what I do, turning down certain things and doing certain things, and a lot if it is just luck and relevance. I’m fortunate enough to make music after releasing my first record in 1989 or 1990 that it is still played now and I’m still making music that a mixture of DJs are playing, from house DJs to techno DJs, they still play the music that I released of my own, they still buy music that comes out on Ovum Recordings, the label that has been running for 17 years now.

What’s coming out next on your Ovum Recordings label?

We just had a release by Ian Pooley and Spencer Parker called the Thirty Six EP. That came out with Radio Slave remixes and it’s really doing well. It’s a typical example of who we are as a label, signing underground, established, cool house artists and making relevant music, rather than following the trends. Our next release is by a New Yorker who lives in L.A. named Alix Alvarez, a really, really amazing EP. He’s just a gem. He used to be an engineer for the Masters at Work guys and he’s now going to be releasing some music with us.

You hadn’t released any new material for quite awhile. Why is that?

I started working on original music for the first time in four years and [I’m] just trying to get my head around being a new father of 16 months, to get in the studio, and try to understand the concept of time and being a father. I never know what I’m gonna make when I go in there. Something that came out of it is this track called “Balls,” and it’s a pretty interesting track. It’s 126 beats-per-minute, so it’s not super slow or super fast. I sent it to a friend of mine, Sven Väth, to play out, and his label manager for Cocoon Recordings sent an email saying, “This track’s amazing. It’s contemporary yet old-school, and the production sounds like it did back then but tight and crisp—is this a demo for Cocoon? Because we would like it.” I said, “No, it’s just something I thought he’d like to play out.” So it’s cool to be able to still release something and someone wants it for their label, but we’re releasing it on Ovum. We sent it to a couple of people; Digweed’s been playing it a lot and blogging about it, and Richie Hawtin sent me a text saying, “What label is it released on? When is it coming out? I’d love to get a .wav version of it to play out.” It’s nice to know that it’s still music that people know it’s me, it’s Josh Wink-style. It’s obviously got some relevance if that caliber of people is championing it.