Wilkinson: Life Before Lazers
Unless you’ve been on a non-stop sleep flex since Outlook, Wilkinson has been unavoidable recently…
Daytime airwaves love him. Night time dancehalls can’t get enough of him. The top 10 smashing Afterglow is currently running amok on all channels and everything is geared up towards his forthcoming debut album Lazers Not Included finally lands.
With one week to go until he releases his debut, we called him up to find out where he’s at. And why he’s not giving away any lazers…
We spoke at the start of the year and you said you were hoping for a summer album release… What’s the hold up?
I thought I had a little bit extra in me. I wanted to write a few more tunes and make it really special. Especially when I knew Virgin EMI wanted to take the album on. It was ready at the start of the summer but it took a bit longer because I kept writing more tracks!
I wrote Half Light after signing with Virgin EMI and I’d only just finished Afterglow at the time. That turned out to be a really big record for me. They’ve pushed it so hard for me and the video is sick. I’m so happy with how everything’s worked out. Ram and EMI have worked so well together on this on all sides. We’re pushing the record as far as it can go…
But not far enough to give any lazers away free with the album. What’s that all about?
Ha! There are a few reasons behind the album title. The main one is that it’s about the music. More music and less screech…
If we look into it deeply you’re making a satirical comment about EDM and all its high-end screechiness?
If you look into it deeply then yeah I guess! I’m not knocking anyone but I’ve become very tired of that sound. I’ve always loved the musical side of drum & bass and that’s what I’ve tried to achieve on the album. Plus it’s club music… So you have to go out and hear it directly through the venue’s soundsystem to experience the lazers!
Nice. There’s a huge scope covered across the album. For me the transition between the fairly poppy Need You and the absolute badman riddim Redemption sums up your broad sound…
Yeah that’s the idea. I’ve always done that; have an A-side that’s very musical then a B-side that’s heavier, and darker and made strictly for the club. It’s hard to tell that type of story on an album, I played with the tracklist for a long time; trying to balance the heavier stuff with the chilled out tracks. I want to tell a story and not go dwell on one single vibe for too long. It’s all about the dynamics.
Always. Give me an album challenge. A moment when the chips are down…
I was in a bit of confused place when I put out Automatic and Hands Up. It was following up Tonight, which was really big for me, but it didn’t do quite as well as I’d hoped. I felt I’d lost my direction a little so I went back into the studio and wrote Need To Know and Heartbeat. You’re only as good as your last record. I kept writing and writing and from that release I wrote the majority of my album. It was a low moment but I needed that to kick me into shape.
Madness. Automatic was sick!
It is! But Tonight was so big that it didn’t live up to my own personal expectations. I used to sit down and wonder ‘what am I? What tunes do I make?’ It’s a complex thing to ask yourself and I eventually I came up with the answer… I’ll make what the fuck I like! Things have been a lot easier when I had that realisation. The album reps that better than anything I’ve done before; this is me, this is what I do.
I was going to ask for an album highlight but the challenge was also a highlight, right?
Yeah that’s it. Another highlight is the fact my diary is a shitstorm! I’ve got six gigs in one weekend at one point. That’s such a good feeling; knowing I’ve got so many opportunities to play my new stuff to people who want to hear it. Also being signed to a major label is a special highlight. I’m in the EMI office now, people are making me coffees and all sorts.
What type of coffee? None of that instant crap I hope…
I’ve just been given a really nice latte man.
Living the dream! So how’s your summer been anyway?
It’s been incredible, I’ve played at some amazing festivals and got to go to some mad places around the world. It’s such an honour getting to go to all these places and have fun. If I describe my job to people I say ‘I’m paid to have fun’… I love it.
Ha! So are you thinking about stuff beyond the album right now or is everything just focused on this release?
No I think way ahead in advance but the label has pulled me back to concentrate on the album and making sure it does as well it can. Ahead of that we’re looking at how I perform live which will be a long process… I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but we’ll see. It’s all really exciting! Actually I’ve got a really cool album launch in Brixton Academy on November 1 where Becky Hill and P Money will both be performing live with me.
Speaking of vocalists, the blurb says “you’re blessed with an A&R ear” for vocalists…
Haha, does it?! I’m very fortunate have a great management team and they introduce me to people. I’ve met so many talented people as a result. I had a session with a songwriter the other day and he introduced me to other vocalists who introduce you to other vocalists. Before you know it you’ve done five sessions with some of the most talented young vocalists possible. It’s really inspiring.
Has working with vocalists changed your style as a producer?
Kind of. Working with vocalists gives you the chance to create something completely new. I’d much rather that than use a sample that I might get sued for down the line. I have a lot of input into the vocals and how they’re recorded and how they’re delivered. Vocalists mean there are no restrictions. Now when I write a tune I get the idea of the type of vocal I want in my head… And I’m lucky enough to know enough talented vocalists to nail what I originally had in my head. That’s a very satisfying feeling.
That’s the dream for all producers… Creating what’s inside your head.
Definitely. Having the contacts and facilities to do that is all part of the process. I love it; meeting people and getting inspired by them and hopefully inspiring them, too.
Lazers Not Included is out 28.10.13 on Ram / Virgin EMI. Afterglow is out now. Listen and download.