As the Bassrush family recovers from three days of absolute madness and mayhem at this year’s EDC LV, we touch down with one of our absolute favorite artists who brought his untouchable style of drum & bass to bassPOD. From his smooth and sexy rollers on through to straight up dancefloor smashers, no other artist seems to be able to span the breadth and width of drum & bass as a genre, and as Wilkinson himself will tell you: he’s just getting started.
This year is looking to be a crazy one gig-wise. I see everything from Dubai, Brazil, and Ibiza on the docket.
Actually this trip to Vegas is literally the start of a completely mad next few months. I think I’ll only be at my flat at home for three days! All I can think about is how I’m going to do my washing [Laughs]. Real life problems. But really, I can’t complain, it’s the summer and it’s amazing.
I imagine it’s kind of hard to get work done while you’re on the road!
That’s the thing man, I’ve done most of my second album and when I’m at home I use that time to record vocals and meet up with writers and when I’m on the road it’s more production in my headphones and getting some ideas down so that way when I get back in the studio, I can mix it down and try and finish stuff. I see it as a good challenge that’s a good battle to have. I love what I do—I always have—and the last few years have been amazing.
I’ve been making tunes for 10 years. Five years ago I signed to RAM, and then it really all kicked off when I put out “Afterglow” and my album [Lazers Not Included in 2013]. Since then I’ve been touring religiously, working in the studio and putting out music—I haven’t had a break. We worked out that I put nine singles out the last few years; that’s like a single every three months. If I’m not touring then I’m doing promo, if I’m not doing promo, I’m in the studio.
What would you be doing if the music didn’t work out?
Probably gardening and making furniture. I used to be a gardener, I like doing that. Gardening was my thing, man. I can do that all day—two very different lifestyles, right? If I were to visit Vegas as a gardener I’d be out here doing someone else’s garden and I actually wouldn’t be staying in this hotel that I’m in. [Laughs]
Your most recent release, “Hopelessly Coping,” was a huge hit. What else do you have lined up for us?
I’m actually going to put out a single very soon with Shannon Saunders called “Breathe.” I put together my live show at the beginning of this year which has really been amazing as it’s a different way of performing the tracks and all the tracks sound very different sonically. We’ve got two guitarists, live drums, everything’s a bit looser, it’s wicked. “Breathe” is one of those tunes that we’ve been performing so we’re going to put it out, but we’re going to put it out quickly. We’re not going to wait three months and have a release date in December, we’re just going to go with it.
I’m looking forward to getting that out and then working on some harder tunes as well—you know, the kind of thing that obliterates the dancefloor really, getting back to that. Sometimes I’m in the studio and I’m like, I want to make a nice summery vocal tune that you can listen to by the pool and then sometimes I go in like, I want to write a tune that’s going to turn the club into a brawl. That’s kind of what I do.
Should we be expecting some live elements in the new album? Even if not, do you see the band shaping the direction the album is headed thematically or otherwise?
I don’t want to change my sound at all so I’m not going to make an album around the band. I’m just going to make the album and then work out how we’re going to play it with the band. I really like the way that process works—how can we replicate this element with the guitar or the drums? It’s really fun, it’s creative, and it also breathes new life into the tunes when you perform them. I’m playing tunes I’ve written three or four years ago but they feel brand new because we worked out new ways of playing them.
Sometimes I’m in the studio and I want to make a nice summery vocal tune that you can listen to by the pool. Then sometimes I go in like, 'I want to write a tune that’s going to turn the club into a brawl.' That’s kind of what I do.
You’ve also been working with a number of artists like Professor Green, Katy B and Wretch outside D&B as well.
I’m a writer as well as a producer for other people. That’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do. When I’m in my 50s and 60s and I can’t get on an airplane and fly to Vegas and do a gig, I want to be sitting in my studio and making music for people—with people—so they can go out and earn their money and play around the world. Writing stuff for yourself all the time can get a bit repetitive, so it’s nice to break things up and work with someone else and try and write something that’s their style. I love it.
I imagine this influences your own songwriting process in a positive way as well.
It does, especially the way in that you attack a tune. It’s actually helped me a lot, really. I used to just sit there and spend so much time looking through samples and trying to come up with ideas, but now I can just get a vocalist in and I write some chords and they come up with a vocal melody. It also saves me from sampling other people’s records for vocals and also getting sued by other people for using their vocals on my record, which has happened a few times. [Laughs] But I’ve been writing things a lot, putting things together and I can finish a tune quicker now. I know the processes that are kind of pointless and the processes that are really necessary and the fastest way to do that.
This is no doubt reflected in your approach to your current album you’re working on.
The second album can be quite daunting because a lot of people can’t repeat the success of their first album. So really I’m trying to keep the same format as the first album but just trying of do something with new sounds. So there’s a lot of vocalists on there but also some interesting instrumental tracks. Drum & bass is basically 174bpm, but I wanted to play around with some different rhythms within the tempo so there’s a couple of tracks that are four-to-the-floor but at 174bpm that take influence from other genres and that’s the main thing I want it to be.
I want it to be influenced from within the D&B scene, I want it to be influenced by other genres, and I want take that and make it into something different. I feel like if you do just take influence from the drum & bass scene and what’s already there, you kind of don’t come up with anything new, you don’t stumble across anything new. I think how you push the music forward is by constantly trying to do new things.
Do you have a working title for the album?
I’ve had this conversation with my manager, man. I have no idea what I’m going to call it. I might be open to suggestions actually so if anybody’s got any suggestions send them my way.
You had the crowd bubbling so hard during your set at the bassPOD on Sunday! For those who weren’t there, give us a taste of what kind of heat you were bringing and where you’re off to next.
I love EDC; I’ve done it two years in a row and the production is always getting bigger and bigger and bigger. As for my set, I always come with the high energy. I dipped into the old school a little bit, some vocal rollers but still just smashed it out and play some massive bassline tunes. The energy of the crowd was unreal. Next, I’m off to Ibiza and then Glastonbury and it’s just going to carry on really…