A banana was just a banana when Josh Wink (website, facebook, twitter) came on the scene in the late 1980s: one could drop Acid, Detroit Tracks, German Techno and Chicago House and obsess less about musical genres than about music. That was the credo of his 2008 album, and again with When a Banana Was Just a Banana: Remixed and Peeled, the new remix album featuring diverse edits from producers ranging from Jimpster, Radio Slave, Benny Rodrigues, Nic Fanciulli and Martin Buttrich.
It would be impossible to overstate the impact of Josh Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness”, “Liquid Summer” and (of course) “Don’t Laugh” on the rise of dance music in the 1990s. Profiles in Rolling Stone and probably the heaviest rotation on MTV of underground dance music followed; journalists used to covering rock came up with the rather awkward term “electronica” to cover a diverse and (to them) unexplored field of music.
Today, the music’s more likely to be heard in a club (or home computer) than a teeming rave – and despite more music being released than at any time in history, there’s far less variety on the average nightclub bill than ever before. Rebelling against the trend, Wink released When a Banana Was Just a Banana in 2009.
“In a nutshell, it speaks really of the loss of innocence of music,” he says. “Music was just music when I was growing up. Nobody was ridiculed or had views of ‘I only listen to this one kind of music’ – I grew up listening to everything! Today, so many people tend only listen to one style of music with a strong opinion of why… I miss the innocence of how it was… Like when you were younger: ‘A Banana Was Just A Banana.'”
First, let’s talk about the original album. I’m sure you’re done to death answering the same questions about the concept behind it, so let me ask instead: Do you feel that the message that you posed with “When A Banana Was Just A Banana” was received? Do you believe things have changed in the way in the way promoters put line-ups together, fans dip their toe outside of their favorite style, or artists stretching themselves on a new release?
Lots of questions here… I never can tell whether people will understand or comprehend the concept of an LP. I sure hope people understood where I was coming from. If not, I think people just enjoyed the diverse music.
Promoters, I feel, want to have diverse line-ups, but find it hard not to have big names to draw the people. It’s always the situation… I sure hope that people and promoters like having underdogs perform. And I hope that people/promoters can continue to have an open mind to different music – not always the music that’s in fashion.
It seems obvious that the message behind the first album was carried over to Remixed and Peeled. Tell me a little about the first spark that launched this project and how it evolved.
Artists and friends told me that they liked the tracks on the LP and were interested in remixing a track they were inspired by. I also asked artists whose music I appreciate. And then there were artists who owed me a remix from previous swaps. Strike while the iron is hot! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to release a remix package with such great artists on it.
Out of all the labels on my old rave flyers, Ovum is the only one that I can think of that’s still releasing new music. It’s been 15+ years and close to 200 releases! How do you explain the longevity?
I feel lucky and fortunate to still be following my bliss by making music, DJing, traveling and having a record label after all these years. We have stayed true to our vision and our integrity and have never compromised, and I believe because we follow our heart, it shines through and kept our longevity!
You’ve given a lot of cats looking to establish themselves a leg up (I’m thinking in particular of Aaron Carl, who I first discovered on 2000’s “My House” on Ovum and has particularly hit his stride in the last couple of years.) Is this part of your A&R style, or do you just listen first and check the name on the label later?
Music speaks for itself. We have been happy to work with known and unknown artists, and have helped get music out there for up-and-coming artists. We have been very successful releasing music from artists like Loco Dice, Steve Bug, and Shlomi Aber (to name a few) who have moved on to become big names in the electronic industry. We continue to listen to the music – not the names.
How do you feel about the re-issues on Nervous of music from the Left Above the Clouds phase of your career?
I don’t have the rights to most of my older music. My lawyer Kevon Glickman wasn’t the best in looking out for my interests. I have learned a lot of things in my career, and they haven’t always been the easiest lessons. But I move on… I don’t have control over remixes or videos of any of my older music, which really saddens me. However, I believe true fans realize this.
I can’t imagine you’re still using the same 303 as when you made “Higher State”. I ask because you’re known for that sound, from your biggest tracks back in that era to your more recent “516 Acid”. Are you using a real Roland TB-303, a soft-synth…?
I try and use a mixture of software and hardware with my production. I have both of my original 303s and break them out every now and then. However, the software synths that emulate the 303 which are out on the market are pretty good. But nothing beats the original.
Tell me about what new stuff you have coming up now that the remix album is out?
Ovum tents and parties this festival season in Europe in celebration of our 15 years, and to continue support to promote our new Ovum releases.