Josh Wink cut his teeth on the Philadelphia music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s when crowds of eager dancers filled warehouses, entertained by deejays mixing tracks at parties that lasted into the early morning. Wink was an East Coast phenomenon until 1995 when three consecutive European hits launched him into the international spotlight, and he began spinning for dancers from London to Tokyo. Chris Mugan of London’s Evening Standard said “Wink builds up and releases almost unbearable tension as he effortlessly moves from minimal house to tribal techno.”
Born Joshua Winkelman in 1970 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wink was influenced by a range of musical styles, including early punk rock, rappers like Run-D.M.C., and the synthesized pop of Depeche Mode. When he was 13, Wink started working for a mobile deejay service. While playing music for parties around Philadelphia he met up with another Philadelphia deejay, King Britt. Mixing and recording on Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) equipment in their bedroom studios, the two released a single called “Tribal Confusion” under the name E-Culture in 1990. The track established their careers on the dance music scene.
For a while, Wink worked as a bike courier by day and a deejay by night, spinning music in warehouses and other dance venues along the East Coast. A talented visual artist as well as a swimmer and soccer player, he hoped to earn a college scholarship for either art or sports, but as raves (all-night dance parties fueled by deejays, music, and drugs) became popular across the United States, he began to make a name for himself on the underground techno music scene. Unlike most on the rave scene, however, Wink is vehemently opposed to drug use. He is also a vegan (a kind of strict vegetarian) teetotaler who doesn’t own a car.
In 1994, Wink launched Ovum Recordings with Britt, telling James Doolittle of the Allentown, Pennsylvania Morning Call, “I’m game for education in any form, and I see [the label] as a form of musical education.” Through Ovum, Wink has become a producer for other deejays and has also remixed recordings for electronica stars like Moby.
In 1994 Wink recorded “Liquid Summer” with Britt, a single that became a cult classic on the dance scene. The following year, he recorded three singles that became huge hits in England and launched his career in Europe: “Don’t Laugh,” “Higher State of Consciousness,” and “I’m Ready.” Wink began to tour Europe extensively, garnering both a devoted following and continued chart hits. His success in Europe, he believes, stems partly from a larger teen following that exists because they can attend shows at clubs. Another reason is that techno music gets more radio airplay in Europe.
Born Joshua Winkelman in April of 1970 in Philadelphia, PA.
Mobile deejay, c. 1983; with King Britt, collaborated as E-Culture on underground hit “Tribal Confusion,” 1990; began touring United States extensively, c. 1991; formed Ovum Recordings with King Britt, 1994; recorded “Liquid Summer” (with King Britt), “Don’t Laugh” (under the name Winx), “I’m Ready” (under the name Size 9), “Higher State of Consciousness” (under the name Winks), and began touring Europe extensively, 1995; released independently produced debut album Left Above the Clouds (under the name Winx), 1996; signed distribution contract with Ruffhouse/Columbia Records, 1997; released Herehear, 1998; released mix albums Profound Sounds Vol. 1, 1999; Profound Sounds Vol. 2, 2003.
Wink released the full-length album Left Above the Clouds in 1996 on the independent XL Recordings label. The Wax Records website biography of Wink described the album as “an artful melange of pumping club tracks [and] poetry woven together with outright experimental passages.” Wink continued his musical experimentation with Herehear in 1998, collaborating with singer Caroline Crawley of This Mortal Coil, Philadelphia poet Ursula Rucker, and Trent Reznor, the creator of the 1990s industrial rock group Nine Inch Nails.
In 1997 Ovum Recordings signed a distribution contract with Ruffhouse/Columbia Records, a sign to some members of the underground music scene that Wink had sold out. Wink maintains, however, that his artistic vision remains intact and that his goal in signing the deal was to get Ovum Recordings’ music to the widest possible audience.
While creating hit singles for the European market, running a record company, and recording groundbreaking albums, Wink also took deejay gigs at clubs around the world. In Philadelphia, his mixing at the club Fluid created an international stir, as Doolittle noted, for his “varied rotation of hip hop, jazz, salsa and jungle.” Around the same time, Wink was cited in Entertainment Weekly as a hot up-and-comer. The listing brought Wink mainstream attention and easy recognition because of his blond dreadlocks.
In 1999 Wink release his third full-length album, Profound Sounds Vol. 1. Despite public expectation, Wink maintained his artistic integrity, refusing to become an electronica superstar in the same vein as Moby or the Chemical Brothers. Instead, he created an eclectic mix that Hobey Echlin of Remix magazine described as “a hard-to-pin-down tech-house mix that reverberated with the hazy 4 a.m. logic of a late-night party.”
Wink continues to deejay at venues across the United States and around the world. He plays in famous nightclubs like Viper Room in Los Angeles, an experience he rated as one of his tops. Explaining in an interview published on About.com, “I take pride in being able to see people and have them come up to me . I was right up on stage, I got to play all different types of music people were dying to come up on stage, there were 250 people there. It was really really fun.”
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Wink took a hiatus from album-length recording, releasing, among others, the follow-up mix CD Profound Sounds Vol. 2 in 2003. Unlike a conventional mix CD that combines previously recorded songs using turntables and CD players, Wink manipulated these tracks using computer software, a process he found artistically challenging.
Wink continues to stand out as a popular and independent figure in dance music. Unwilling to compromise his artistic vision, he caters to the exotic and eclectic while realizing that his duty as a deejay is to keep people dancing. He explained to David Proffitt of the Arizona Republic, “As an artist and as a deejay, I like to make music out of music . But I notice that there’s a crowd down there, and if I see I’ve played too many drum ‘n’ bass songs I’ll move into something else. That’s the way it should be.”
Dont Laugh (EP), Sorted, 1995.
Left Above the Clouds, XL Recordings, 1996.
Herehear, Sony, 1998.
Profound Sounds Vol. 1, Ovum, 1999.
Strong Song (EP), Happy, 2000.
Profound Sounds Vol. 2, Ovum, 2003.
Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ), June 3, 1999, p. 35.
Evening Standard (London, England), October 12, 2001.
Morning Call (Allentown, PA), July 4, 1998, p. A29.
“Josh Wink,” Remix,http://remixmag.com/ar/remix_josh_wink/ (June 13, 2003).
“Josh Wink,” Wax Records, http://www.waxrecords.com/events/guest_djs/josh_wink/ (June 13, 2003).
“Josh Wink Interview,” About.com, http://dancemusic.about.com/library/weekly/aa082898.htm (June 11, 2003).
“No Mercy: The Emergence of the DJ as Artist,” MTV.com, http://dancemusic.about.com/library/weekly/aa082898.htm (June 11, 2003).
—Eve M. B. Hermann
"Wink, Josh." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wink-josh
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