Wilkinson - Interview
Interview with Wilkinson September 2013
Ram Records signed Drum and Bass producer Wilkinson has received notable success with his first two singles 'Need To Know' and 'Heartbeat' (and no doubt will with 'Afterglow', due for release October 13th) before the release of his debut album 'Lazers Not Included' on the 28th October, attracting successful guest vocalists such as P Money, Becky Hill and Arlissa.
Touring endlessly and developing his own unique sound, Wilkinson talks to us about his debut album, working with guest vocalists and how he found his passion for Drum and Bass.
CM: Is it fair to say you've received pretty instantaneous success with this project?
Wilkinson: Yeah, I mean, I've been signed to Ram Records (Andy C) for about three years and this is my debut album which is being picked up by Virgin EMI. They're taking it very seriously and pushing it out to wider audiences.
CM: Were you expecting the success you received with 'Need To Know'?
Wilkinson: It was a surprise. It was something I was always working towards - to get some radio support before my album - but I didn't expect it to happen that soon. That single was more a realigning of my sound but it did a lot, lot more! It was great. It pushed things forward for me and brought my sound to a successful, major label like Virgin EMI.
CM: Was releasing material after Radio One playlisted debut single 'Need To Know' an exciting or daunting prospect?
Wilkinson: It changed things a lot! That single actually came out in December and although it did well at the time, about two weeks after, Radio One said they wanted to play it, so things really took off in January this year. I obviously had other tunes written so we just decided to stick to the original plan by finishing the album. It just gave me more confidence and I wrote a couple more songs. I actually wrote 'Afterglow' in May, so I guess there was some influence from the taste of success.
CM: Your latest single 'Heartbeat' was released on 4th August 2013, what was the reception like?
Wilkinson: That was something slightly different and it was great. The reaction was really good and it wasn't straight down the line Drum and Bass which is something I've always done, and I think there's obviously a few people like my core Drum and Bass fans who were like, ' What are you doing?' but most people appreciated it and were glad I was trying something different. I had some great remixes as well from the likes of Calyx and Teebee to Mind Vortex, so within the package, there's enough Drum and Bass to keep people happy.
We've decided to do another single before the album which is 'Afterglow' which has just had a crazy response across radio and we've done a really cool video for it and that's had 700,000 views now and it's only been out for like, four days which is pretty crazy! It's just the perfect single before the album. You want your last single to be the single that draws everybody in and makes the statement that 'I've got an album coming, if you like this, buy the album'. All the singles have done really cool things for me in different ways; either I'm showing a different side to my music or I can adapt my music for radio. It's pretty mad.
CM: You just mentioned 'Afterglow' hitting 700,000 views on YouTube, the video itself is extremely intriguing. Can you explain where the initial idea came from?
Wilkinson: It was actually the commissioner at Virgin EMI. He sent over a load of really cool directors and I loved all of Remmy's previous work, it's amazing. He did a really different treatment and when I read it, it made me smile. It's different and we could have had a video that was very visual, and when I think of 'Afterglow' I think of summer and the sun, but you really want to do something different because everybody does that. He came with this treatment which was so different and made me smile so we had to go for that. It had the desired effect.
CM: Are your three singles a fair reflection of your album? Will you be trying new things out other than just Drum and Bass?
Wilkinson: It's mostly Drum and Bass and that's really what I wanted to do with it. There are a couple of other genres on there but for me it's a statement of intent. I've got quite a few featuring vocalists on there and I just thought it was important to have an album which people could listen to in their kitchen or in the car on their way to work rather than having something you can only listen to in the club when you've had a few drinks. So that's my idea behind it and I want it to stay on people's iPods and be part of their lives for a few months. There's enough variety of music to keep it interesting and that was the main idea.
CM: Your debut album is due out October 28th 2013, what is the album about?
Wilkinson: The album's coming out on Ram Records and Virgin EMI. There are thirteen tracks on it and it has taken three years to get here since I started releasing music and working on ideas. The majority of it has developed over the past year.
For me, it's one piece of music; it's a record where there was so much music which I didn't put on there because I feel like if you listen to it, it sums me up and what I do without getting you bored.
CM: In terms of recording and producing the music and beats, are there any specific software programmes that you use?
Wilkinson: I record on Logic by Apple and I've got a lot of native instrument plugins. I've been using Logic for ten years and I've got a little studio in South West London which is thirty seconds from my house in an oil refinery - which is pretty cool. I record a lot of live stuff as well. More recently I've been using live pianos and live drums. I can record and play my music 24 hours a day, as loud as I want which you don't really get in many places so that's definitely helped me write the album.
CM: When did you realise your passion for Drum and Bass and creating music?
Wilkinson: I got into music production. It's quite funny; they had a course for the 'gifted and talented' for the higher achieving students at my school - which I definitely wasn't. I managed to blag myself a session doing Music Production and got hooked on it instantly. As soon as I was fourteen I was just producing nonsense, making things like Breakbeat - not that Breakbeat is nonsense but I was making anything. When I was sixteen I got really into Drum and Bass after my brother gave me a mix CD. That sold it to me and I was hooked. I went in and discovered a few artists and was completely hooked on Drum and Bass so started making it. Five years later I got a record deal. Eventually it paid off.
CM: I'm sure they're saying you're very gifted and talented now.
Wilkinson: (Laughs) Hopefully. I think I got an E in Music so that's quite a funny thing.
CM: You mentioned working with guest vocalists, do you dictate the creative process or do you share the creative control?
Wilkinson: You share it. I started writing 'Heartbeat' about two years ago and everything happened at different moments. It was a long tune to finish because we wanted different sounds on certain vocals and there were so many ideas for it! It finally came together at Rinse FM with P Money who completely annihilated the vocals on it. Arlissa did something from her studio and it all fell together. It was the same for 'Afterglow'.
I work with artists because I like what they write and I like their ideas and I think, if you're going to dictate somebody by telling them what to sing, it's pretty pointless. You come out with something different if you let someone else put their edge on the record and that's what I like to do.
Becky Hill and two other writers came up with the vocals for the tune and I just loved it. As soon as I heard it I started writing around it. That's when it comes together - when someone else gives you inspiration for the record you can come up with something really nice.
CM: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would that be?
Wilkinson: Oooh, there's so many! On a hip hop basis, I'd love to work with Kendrick Lamar or A$AP Rocky - they're wicked guys, I love their music. I get enough inspiration from the club side of things so when I'm listening to music I don't really listen to Drum and Bass, I just sort of listen to relaxing music but Kendrick Lamar is just sick, he's my favourite artist at the moment.
CM: There are some enticing videos of you performing at Bestival. What was that like?
Wilkinson: I've been there twice as a punter and I just love that festival! So when I got a booking I was like, 'This is going to be amazing!' I went there with my girlfriend and with my mates where we set up a tent - it was just perfect.
We went to this tent called the Temple Island stage which was quite far away and when I turned up there was like two people in the tent and I thought, 'This is just going to be the worst' because I had an entourage of fifteen people so I thought it was going to be the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to me! They were playing House music and I could see a lot of Drum and Bass people starting to turn up and as soon as I put my first tune on it just filled out with like 800 people. They had to stop people coming into the tent to ensure it didn't go over capacity. It was mental. I took a few videos and there were people throwing me their hats. I had a pirate hat on at one point, I had a jellyfish on my head - it was pretty crazy man. That was probably the best show I've done this year.
CM: On your website it states you're playing three different venues on the 28th September.?
Wilkinson: I'm actually doing six shows that weekend.
CM: How do you find the energy to perform so persistently?
Wilkinson: It is fun! I love being a DJ and as soon as I'm on the decks, I'm having fun. I'll go to one show, I'll do my set, I'll really enjoy it! I've got a driver that night who's making it all possible. I have a festival in the day in Brighton, and then I get in the car and look forward to the next gig. That's what happens, man! The only time you start to feel tired is on your way home at the end of the night. It is just fun regardless of how far you travel. You meet new people all the time and meeting people who love your music. You can't really get anything better than that! It's inspiring.
CM: Crazy! In terms of the guest vocalists featured on the album, are they going to perform with you live?
Wilkinson: I'm actually performing at Brixton Academy which will be the first time I've played there and it's sort of the launch party for my album. I've got P Money on my list, so they're going to perform and Becky Hill is going to perform as well. It's going to be the first time for me doing the PA sort of thing. I've got an MC who I take everywhere with me called Visionobi who hypes the crowd for me and he's a really talented artist in his own right. That's going to be pretty crazy doing a live PA/DJ set but I'm so excited for it because I think about 4,500 people fit in Brixton Academy so it should be pretty mental.
CM: In terms of producers, they often work behind the scenes. What made you move to the forefront and become the face of your own album?
Wilkinson: I don't know. It's one of these things. It has changed; DJs are now considered like rock stars, for example Skrillex. In America, DJs are like Gods out there and I think that has helped people realise you can be a producer without vocals where you're the artist. It has changed massively and something I'm still getting used to, sometimes getting noticed if I'm on the underground - it's quite funny, I don't really think about it.
If people are going to buy your music, they're buying into you, so to do interviews and have press pictures I think is important. The internet allows people to look at your face via writing a couple of letters, times are changing.
CM: You mentioned DJs being treated like God's in America, how have you found performing there?
Wilkinson: There have been some great shows in Vegas at Electric Daisy Carnival. Insomniac events run something called EDC where they go around all these states and cities doing this electronic festival. They do one in Vegas which I've done the last two years which is the most messy, ridiculous thing! It's great man! It's crazy to go that far doing something you enjoy is pretty mental.
CM: You've managed to build a notable reputation and success with limited musical material, what advice would you give to somebody hoping to make their way into the music industry?
Wilkinson: It's about trying to find your sound and be confident in the music you make. You have to keep at it and find unique ideas that make you stand out from the other people. There are a lot of people making music and you have to find yourself. It's about standing out from the crowd that people like. It's difficult, but stick at it and find new things!
CM: Thanks for speaking with us and best of luck with the new album. It sounds like you're embracing everything really well!
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