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Five Questions With Josh Wink

September 9, 1998

On an average weekend, Josh Wink might work as a disc jockey for thousands at an outdoor festival in England one afternoon, play to a packed nightclub in Berlin the next night and then fly to Tokyo for a record store appearance.

His 1995 single ``Higher States of Consciousness″ hit the British and European top 10 charts. His resume boasts DJ gigs worldwide. But like many talented American DJs and producers, his minimal, repetitive dance floor techno has yet to reach the same level of acceptance in the United States.

Back home in Philadelphia, Wink is mostly known as a hero of the East Coast rave world _ an underground network of promoters, DJs, record stores and thousands of youthful partygoers.

And that suits Wink, 28, who was born Josh Winkelman, just fine.

``I’m an artist, and I’m still going to be doing my artwork whether people like it or not, and it’s been that way for the last 10 years,″ he says. But Wink has been getting a fair amount of attention with the release of his first full-length album of original material, ``HereHear.″

Released on his own label Ovum in conjunction with Columbia Records, the LP is an expansive collection of tracks, highlighting Wink’s nightclub expertise and a more experimental side as well. The idea was to combine organic compositions, based around vocalists and live instruments, with the inorganic machine sounds, he says.

``I wanted to balance the album, because the first half of it is a little more thought-provoking, a little more home listening,″ Wink explains. ``But the second half is more techno and house-based, more for the dance floor.″

Some of the standout tracks are Wink’s collaborations. He provides a thumping stomp for fellow Philadelphian Ursula Ruckers’ spoken word narration on ``6th Sense.″ He also provides a lush, slow-tempo soundscape for former This Mortal Coil vocalist Caroline Crawley on ``I’m on Fire.″

He intentionally set out to confound some of his fans by departing from his usual groovy techno sound, Wink says. The biggest departure is ``Black Box,″ an angry industrial screamer heightened by a blistering vocal track by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The song runs more than 8 minutes, so listening to it is certainly not a moment of rhythmic bliss.

1. What is the strangest place you have worked as a DJ?

Wink: One was in 1992 in Amsterdam. It was on a submarine boat and it was in the back of Central Station. It opened at 3 a.m. and went until 10 a.m., and at that time, stuff was so fresh over there. You had to go down a pier and you had to cross a boat and then open up this latch and all this fog would come up. It was freezing cold, and it was so hot inside, all this water was dripping everywhere. That’s just one of many.

2. How important was it for you to start your own label?

Wink: It’s been the biggest thrill in my life. I hadn’t really realized what my next goal was in life after I had obtained so many beautiful things, and then I realized that I was able to be in a position where I could help people out and I wanted to do so through a record label.

3. Do you think techno will ever break big in America?

Wink: It’s bigger than it’s ever been, however, what do people mean by big? That’s something I can’t control and I don’t really concern myself with it. The thing I can do is focus on putting out good quality music from my label and that’s what makes me happy. If we can put out good quality stuff, people will want to buy more of it, and to me, that’s acting more responsibly about the whole thing.

4. Does your album sound like your DJ sets?

Wink: It’s diverse. I’ve always played different music. I grew up being able to DJ all different types of music, from hip-hop to funk to acid house to whatever. And I think that’s the way it should be. My CD sounds like me as a DJ. It’s like a mixed CD of my own music that I happen to be segueing as a continuous mix.

5. Do you draw any particular inspiration from Philadelphia?

Wink: It’s a pretty cool area and it’s not as crazy and hectic as New York is. There is a lot of musical history here in Philadelphia, which I appreciate now. But I never really appreciated the whole disco sound because when I was of that age, it was not the cool thing to like. But now I appreciate it for what it is. There’s a lot of music coming out of here but there really hasn’t been dance music since the ’70s.

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