Josh Wink has mastered the balance between DJing and a healthy lifestyle.
The Philly acid master breaks down his secrets to surviving almost three decades of constant touring.
Josh Wink is a master of precision. For almost three decades he’s been perfecting his skills as a DJ. Discharging the right track at the right moment. Slipping between house and techno seamlessly and ebbing and flowing energy on huge sound systems, like a martial artist transitioning through movements.
He has survived the fickle industry of DJing through healthy living and a succession of careful moves. His signature acid sound has pervaded his career, right from his early productions up until the present day, without ever sounding tired or over-exerted. He has toured for the majority of his adult life by adhering to the adage of treating your body like a temple and is well known on the circuit for maintaining a rigorously health lifestyle. One of the first times Ibiza Voice met him in the early 2000s after playing Pacha, while the rest of the DJs partied hard at the promoter’s villa later that morning, he opted to go for a run. As dance music culture continues to discuss the excesses of touring in the wake of Avicii’s death, he is an example of how to maintain a long career by respecting both your body and mind.
Ibiza Voice: the psychological challenges of DJing are a popular area of discussion in dance music right now, can you describe the ways in which you find the DJing game challenging and how do you deal with them?
Josh Wink: I love my job, I dislike my work. When I’m DJing, I am happy as can be. In the moment playing and making music that makes me and others happy! This is my job! Yet, my work, which I don’t like, is the challenge! Planes, taxis, immigration, jet lag, no sleep, cancelled flights, traffic jams, missed connections, hotels, middle seats, no food, ears ringing, long lines, metal detectors, smoke, etc. These are some of the hardships of my work. I used to say. I DJ for free, but I get paid to come and go from the event!
A good diet, a healthy mindset and balance are the keys for me to counter the work. And it’s very important! Treating my body and mind like a temple is good motto, which I try and live by. But balance is paramount!
Am I right in saying you're a teetotal DJ? What lead you to taking this path?
It’s always been my way in life. I have never really had a desire to be out of control and this has helped me in this excess Bacchanalian culture. However, to address your question, I have never abstained from alcohol. I like the taste of certain drinks. However, I just choose not to get drunk. And to me, this is the key. Moderation is requisite for me. Regardless of Oscar Wilde’s saying “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess”. Temptation and addictive personality traits can make it extremely difficult to live in the hedonistic DJ lifestyle. Luckily for me, I find and live in the right equilibrium.
Sustaining a career DJing and producing demands impeccable time management skills. How do you balance production with DJIng?
Ebbs and flows. I need both to be able to do what I do. However, after traveling for over 25 years, I am choosing to slow down from the traveling. Production has given me the ability to travel the world and DJ. So I need to be able to make time to get into the studio. When I don’t make music, I get anxious to be creative again. And when I am not traveling as much, I get anxious to get on the road again. So, it’s a constant balance. But I love both.
How do you prepare for a set?
Nowadays with thousands of tracks in my digital collection, planning a set is easier than years before. Kind of. There is a lot more music to sort through, but most of it’s there. Sometimes I plan to play special tracks at a gig, if there is some significance to playing special songs. Otherwise, I usually chose my workflow to happen organically on the fly, live. I usually get the venue an hour or more before and get the vibe and feeling set by the prior DJ’s and then just build from the energy existing. To me this is very important. But I love the spontaneity of DJ-ing and how things simply happen as they are meant to.
Can you describe your current set up and discuss any features of this that you feel set you apart from other DJs?
I balance my keep DJ setup between my old school ways and new school with technology. I use Traktor and two CD-J’s to control my tracks, (like I used to with turntables) along with an X1 controller for looping, effects and song selection. I like to kind of re-edit tracks live on the go with effects, looping and sampling while the tracks are playing, feeding of the energy of the people and atmosphere. It’s kind of making music out of existing music on the fly.
How do you organise your music in preparation for the gig?
I organize by artists, songs, genre and comments about feelings I get from the song. I use a computer to store my record collection and Traktor allows me to add comments to help me find songs. Tag words like deep, acid, festival, sexy, groove, chicago, disco, techno, eyes, first song, peak time, etc. These adjectives help in my choice selection process, as it’s difficult to sometimes find “THAT SONG” in a collection of 10,000 tracks.
I also use Rekordbox for a back up, in case I am having technical issues. My setup for descriptive tag words is also used in Rekordbox as my preferences from Traktor copy over. But I find it’s easier to find things using a keyboard and Traktor then with a CD-J.
Hypothetical situation: you've just got to your hotel after a long flight with lots of travel complications, you have to go straight to your set, you haven't slept properly for 24 hours but you have a big gig tonight in a new country and you're travelling on your own. How do you psych yourself up to play in these situations?
This happens. Life happens. My problems are ticket holder problems. So, I do my best to clear my mind and realize how fortunate I am to have a job that I love. Usually once I start playing music, my thoughts turn to being creative and everything else in my life gets put on hold and I am instantly in the present where nothing else is a concern to me. It’s magical how it happens. But it’s true. I love the music. It becomes my therapy!
What lessons have you learned over time that have made you a better DJ?
Years of practice and experience has nurtured a feeling of confidence which make my job fun. So, my lessons are still happening. Every gig, every day. But mostly life experience has helped me learn to adapt to my situation, whether it’s a positive or a negative one.
Do you obsess over what is and isn't your sound?
I am confident and comfortable in what I play as a DJ and what I create as an artist. I make and play diverse electronic music. Be it, house, techno and things in between. It’s sometime difficult making the ‘right’ choices, but in the end I have to live with me and my decisions. So, I am clear and confident in my options and happy with the outcome, even if it’s complex.
Would you describe yourself as quite a confident DJ who plays in the moment, or are you often perfectionising every detail of a set?
I am confident. I am aware of what I do in the moment and own it. Yet, sometimes I get the energetic feelings that my workflow is simply happening without my thinking. Where my creative output just happens. It’s a cool feeling when it takes place.
If you find yourself booked to play the wrong kind of crowd, are you happy to go down in flames playing music you believe in or are you open to the idea of compromise to keep a crowd happy?
I realised from a young age, when I was a 13 year old mobile DJ, that DJing is a mixture of entertaining and education. And I believe that I have that intention when I perform. If I get booked to play a venue that’s not right for me, I will try and do my best, without compromising my integrity. I find that it’s easier for me to have fun and create rather than get angry and take things personally.
How do you handle negative comments from promoters/crowd/trolls or indeed journalists?
I’ve learned that it’s impossible for everybody to love you. So, I’ve focused my energy and time in creating things that I can control and be happy with. I can’t control people’s thoughts, opinions and beliefs. It’s impossible! So, as long as I’m happy with my output (the things I control), I feel great knowing it’s the best I can do. And if others don’t like it. It’s cool, as it’s their opinion. One I can’t control. Kind of like getting a tattoo. You feel it’s the best and you want to live with it. There maybe some people who love it, or other who don’t. In the end you are happy with the tattoo, you created it and live with knowing it’s what you love. Others don’t have to have love it and have it on their skin for life.
As a touring artist whose career has spanned a few decades, where do you draw inspiration from as a DJ?
I really get my inspiration from life and all in it. Especially with being able to travel the world after all these years. Yet, still today, after 25 plus years, I am able to find passion and happiness in making and playing music and this has been very strong for me and has kept my desire to still be in this industry alive. Every now and then music or a DJ brings me joy and these moments are welcomed and fills me with exhilaration which I desire more and more. Being inspired by others and being Inspiring to others has been a mantra to me, driving me to be a teacher and a student in my life, and this fuels my passion and makes what I do as an artist so much easier.
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