If you’ve only stuck with mainstream EDM, Wilkinson is the best-selling producer you’ve never heard of. Of course, drum-and-bass listeners already know him. Along with last year’s Radio 1-played “I Need,” he’s sold over 1.3 million records, including the platinum-selling “Afterglow” and top-10 “Dirty Love.”
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Originally from Southwest London, Wilkinson got into music around age 9, and his interest led him to play in a few bands. Yet, by the age of 14, his tastes shifted over to dance music, and as a college student, he tried his hand at production. As a novice bedroom producer, he started sending his tracks around, eventually landing a spot on Hospital Records’ Sick Music 2 compilation. Not long after, reaching out to Ram Records led to a deal with Virgin EMI.
Among a genre of artists averse to making full-length albums, Wilkinson has two to his name. Lazers Not Included, out in 2013, peaked at No. 1 on the iTunes Dance Chart in 10 countries. Four years later, he dropped Hypnotic; the release turned into the year’s most successful drum-and-bass album, reaching the top six on 20 countries’ iTunes Album Charts. Between these efforts, he’s amassed a decent amount of successful singles, including “Hopelessly Coping,” which cracked the U.K. Top 40. “Afterglow,” as well, has sold 500,000 copies to date and earned 65 million Youtube views.
Further cementing his reputation, Wilkinson has proved he’s not “just a DJ”: he’s known to bring a live band on stage for his performances. So, as new track “All for You” drops and he gears up for 35 summer festival performances, we had a chance to talk about his impressive career thus far:
New single “All for You” came out in April. How did you go about creating this track?
I actually started working on this record over two years ago and co-wrote it with Celeste, who is amazing. I played it out for a while a year or so ago during my sets, and since then, I’ve had constant messages requesting we release the record. So back in Jan. of this year, I asked Karen Harding to jump on the record, and here we are. I’m overwhelmed with the feedback to the track and so happy its actually out there now!
In terms of evolution, how has your sound progressed from your early singles to this track?
I just always try and push my production values and songwriting and only ever release music I truly believe in. I have to stay true to my craft and back what I release. As long as I like it…I’m cool
How would you describe your sound?
That’s for other people to say. I don’t like putting labels on my music. I just make music for people to dance to.
Your musical background started on the drums. How did that influence your approach to production?
Yeah, I started messing about playing drums in bands, and I’ve been obsessed with drums and the sound of my drums ever since. This is DRUM and bass, so if the drums don’t sound right – the rest is irrelevant! It needs to bang!
You’ve done several collaborations, including with Ed Sheeran, Katy B, and Chase & Status. Who would you like to collaborate with or remix in the future?
That list sounds good when you read it out! I love working with different artists from Wretch 32 to people like Rag N Bone Man. My wish list is too long, but people like London Grammar or Bonobo would be amazing.
You’ve put out a couple of albums already. Can we expect any full-length releases in the near future?
Yes. I’ll dealing with a few singles at the moment, but there’re a couple of album projects and collabs in the pipeline. I’m still a firm believer that albums are important and bookmark an artist’s career. Albums also give artists a license to try different shit. Express and experiment. That’s important for the soul.
Gig wise, you’ve got an extensive summer ahead of you. How do you plan to tackle it all?
I’m not sure! It’s intense and can take its toll, but at the same time, I consider myself very lucky to do what I do and to be able to travel the world. Festivals are like the reward for all the hard graft in the studio through the winter months. So, come Sept., I will be tired but grateful.
From Ibiza and Creamfields to smaller clubs, how do you put together your sets?
In the smaller clubs, I can play harder and try different things, which is exciting. Big festival stages mean big tunes, big drops, high intensity. I don’t really plan sets – that’s dead to me. You have to just read the crowd and go with it. That’s the fun bit.
Sometimes, you have live musicians on stage. What’s different between performing by yourself and working with other musicians?
DJ sets are just me and my MC Ad-apt. When I do the big live shows, it’s seven of us on stage and the production and technical crew of 10 people working really hard behind the scenes. We’ve become a little family over the last five years of touring, and nothing beats playing live! But, both performances live and DJ are different and amazing, and being able to switch between the two keeps it interesting and fresh.
For packing, what are your must-bring items, whether for music, grooming, or anything else important?
Ear plugs and eye mask are the essentials. When we travel, we have to be able to sleep where possible, so I’m screwed without those!