Summer is almost upon us and with it comes yet another festival-worthy tune from the ever-impressive mind of Wilkinson.
Having recently launched his Sleepless Music imprint, the burgeoning label has already cemented its place in the drum and bass scene as an essential label for those who eager to get back out on the dancefloor and rejoice in the almighty power of the bassline.
While the northern half of the planet is essentially still weeks, if not months, away from proper festival vibes, our brothers and sisters in New Zealand are about to soak in the Wilkinson vibes live as he wraps up a mandated tw0-week quarantine ahead of his massive six-night, five-city tour. Jealousy doesn’t begin to describe our feelings as Wilkinson as his latest release, “Keep Dancing”, is almost begging for release on a massive sound system.
Along the lines of his previous chart-toppers, “Keep Dancing” proves that Wilkinson is still at the top of his game. From the subtle melancholia that hovers around the cinematic sweep of the intro, the vocals of Amber Van Day bring on the goosebumps before Wilkinson hits the switch and thrusts us into a high energy dancefloor groove sure to have you up and moving.
The insistent “keep dancing” vocal hook rides the dirty groove while Amber’s vocals elevate the energy and a sweeping chord comes in about half way through to give it just the right touch of hands-in-the-air energy that we so desperately need.
To find out more about the label, his latest release, and the newfound inspiration Wilkinson has found after a year in lockdown, we decided to sit down with the legend for an in-depth chat that has us more than ready to get lost in the powerful energy that Wilkinson brings to each tune and each live appearance.
“Keep Dancing” is out now via Sleepless Music so lock yours in here and check the full Q&A below.
Usually when we catch up like this we start with something like, “You’re coming off a massive year!” Instead, it feels like we’ve all been in a holding pattern. Give us a glimpse into how you’ve been holding up, how you’ve been spending your (non-dnb) time, and what its felt like to have your feet on the ground for so long.
Haha, yes, it’s definitely been a very strange year for everyone! It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster watching the news, seeing how it’s affected us all in different ways, but I’ve just tried to stay calm and productive and more importantly get some balance back into my life. I’ve been touring constantly for the last 10 years, so to be able to spend weekends with family, focus on well-being, diet and rest has been a breath of fresh air.
I guess the biggest win for me during this time was getting uninterrupted studio time. I made the Portals album with Sub Focus and am now very deep into my third solo studio album. I’ve got so much music backed up now it’s really exciting to be in this place!
Judging by the likes of your recent Mixmag Live stream, you’ve still got what it takes on the DJ front as well! Tell us about how that mix came together, the vibe for those who don’t know, and the challenges of recording something like that without the instant feedback of a live audience in the room.
Yes, I really enjoyed that stream. It did actually feel rather strange to be back behind the decks but it’s a bit like riding a bike. Couple tunes in, and I’m back at it. Myself and my team put a lot of work into that stream, getting the aesthetic and look right and trying to deliver a stream which had thought, production and mood to it. I was really pleased with how it all turned out!
It’s obvious you’ve been staying busy in the studio as well, and your latest pair of singles, “Frontline” and now “Keep Dancing” definitely has us aching to get out on the dancefloor. Has it been a challenge making music and not getting that energy and feel from playing it out live?
Ah glad you liked them! I actually started making “Frontline” about a year before, perhaps longer and had tested it out at some big shows before lockdown. I’d received a constant stream of messages from supporters asking me to release it. So when it came to launching my new label Sleepless and stepping out to signal the start of my third album campaign it just felt right to go with ‘Frontline’. It’s got a rockier feel to some of my records and I came up as a drummer in bands, so it’s nice to have a record that channels some of that energy.
Yes, we can’t forget to mention that these bits are part of the launch of your new label as well! How long have you been considering starting your own label.
Well it’s been on the cards for a few years now. I used to have my own label with Cyantific called CYN Music and we actually signed Dimension and put out his first few singles many years ago. So I guess the label thing has always been in my blood.
What’s your vision for the imprint moving forward?
We want to have a quality over quantity approach. Really invest in the artists we work with, with fair deals whilst passing on some of the knowledge me and my team have acquired over the last decade. It’s about giving artists a real A&R process and service. Not just ‘make the bassline warmer’ type thing. It’s about getting in the studio with them and giving them the time and focus they deserve.
You can definitely get a feel for that in the releases that have dropped so far.
Absolutely. We started with ‘Frontline’ and then dropped the Montell2099 remix of my track ‘Take You Higher’ which has blown up down in New Zealand. Then came a tune from Krakota and we’ve got a lot more lined up. More from Krakota plus we’ve signed some other great artists and records out of the U.S., New Zealand, France, and the U.K. I’m not going to spoil the surprises!
“Keep Dancing” is a great way to launch us into the summer season of 2021 for sure. The vibes are thick, you’ve got a new label, and we imagine a newfound energy and focus. Looking ahead, what’s the upcoming year looking like for you?
I feel very positive at the moment and I’m just about to complete my two-week quarantine and kick off my Arena tour in New Zealand. Basically some of the biggest DJ shows of my life, so it’s going to be a real privilege to perform again. After that I’m back to the UK to release more music, work on the label and I really hope the UK and European festival season can happen. That’s what we all really want.
Before we go, any last thoughts or shout-outs? Any words of encouragement for your fans waiting to see you live in the coming year?
Shout out to everyone who supports me and my music and who helps to support our scene. I really hope we can all see each other again soon on the dancefloor. Until then… Stay safe! Keep dancing!