After receiving a tremendous amount of feedback on his “5 Tunes That Changed My Life” selections, Kmag steps back into the lab for a closer look at the past, present, and future of Ram Records’ ace in the hole.
Take us back to those early years and tell us what led up to your parents first buying you a drum kit.
I made my first drum kit out of pringle pots and various kitchen utensils. After a few months my parents realised I was really into it and bought me a drum kit for Christmas. I guess that was the start of it all really. I was about 9 years old at the time! From that moment I joined a load of bands with my mates and started playing at local fairs and small concerts. It was my first real insight into performing and making music and I loved it.
You're 14 years old, you discover dance music and it turns your world upside down. What happened? Did you go to a rave? Did someone slip you a mixtape?
It was a mixture of things. My musical taste developed a lot in my early teens, from The Offspring to Jurassic 5 to The Prodigy. It wasn’t until my brother gave me a mix tape that I got hooked on drum & bass. It just seemed so diverse. I remember thinking at the time that drum & bass was all about jump up, shell suits and loud MCs but I spent a day trolling though tunes and mixes and I loved it!
How did this love of music transform into production?
I was already playing around with music software since I was about 12 years old. I just never knew what I wanted to write. My best mate’s brother was Cyantific’s best mate so they started getting us into raves when we were 16. I think seeing the performing side of the music really got me working in the studio. After going to my first raves I just knew I wanted to be a producer and tour around playing out my own music. That’s been my focus for the last 7 years.
At a certain point you moved into a proper studio - how were you paying the bills in this era?
When I left college I became a gardener and started to save money. I just worked 6 days a week and made tunes after work. After a couple of years and a small amount of savings I quit my job and started making links with people, doing a bit of studio/tv work here and there. Eventually I met The Herbaliser who, funnily enough, had a studio a minute’s walk from my house. They were moving out of it and passed it on to me. There are two rooms so Cyantific has the other room.
Speaking of which, your first major tunes to break through were for Hospital and from what I understand Cyantific played a huge role in that process…
Cyantific has definitely been a massive help. He’s a good mate and has always given me advice, I’ve been offered some shitty contracts and offers and without him being there at the start of my career I would have made some terrible mistakes!
From there, you fired off some tunes to Ram and none other than Andy C rings you up to set up a meeting at the Ram HQ. What was that first meeting like? We imagine you sat around, drank some tea, listened to beats and talked music - sort of like a heavy-duty job interview - is that the way it went down?
It was exactly like that! I’ve never released any of the music I played them at that meeting. They had a lot of faith in my music from the beginning and signing that contract gave me the confidence to write Moonwalker – I started writing that the day after the meeting!
So at this point, you've nailed your production process and the quality is consistently high as you start churning out/releasing beat after beat from ‘Moonwalker’ on through to ‘Overdose.’ This is late 2010; can you remember what it was like to go from zero to a hundred in the span of a month?
It was great! I felt so satisfying to finally be earning money from my passion. Things really started to kick off from the beginning of 2011 really. I’ve had an amazing agent from the start and that’s helped out a lot!
Everyone from Skream to Fabio to High Contrast are fans of your which is a reflection of your diverse sound and philosophy towards music. What is it about a Wilkinson tune that carries through genre and tempo boundaries?
I just write what I want, which is predominantly drum & bass, If I want to write something else then I will. And if Ram are feeling it then it will get a release. I try and keep my production values consistent and I think I’ve definitely found a style of melodies and harmonies that I always seem to go back to and explore.
The response to your latest single for Ram has been huge. Am especially loving the old-school influences in Automatic…
Automatic is definitely inspired by The Prodigy. From the start I wanted to make a big dancefloor tune but keep it simple. I always try and keep my tunes simple so they are easier to remember. I find it easier to make a tune when I have a concept in my head, I knew how I wanted it to drop before I’d even made the drums. It took me a day or two to find the right vocal, I knew exactly what I wanted but it took so long to find!
I hear the story behind Hands Up is a great one as well.
Well I’d been on a turbo tour in New Zealand, at least one show a night and flying up and down the country. So by the end of it I was quite a mess! This and a 27-hour flight back to the UK and a few valium made ‘Hands Up’. Got to thank Qantus for the studio space I guess!
I understand that even though the tune was written at half the speed you normally write at, you don't consider it dubstep, why not? What should the heads on the streets be calling it?
Dubstep is a half time beat at 140bpm. This is a half time beat at 174 bpm so it’s called cow step.
Is there any truth to this rumor about you working on a debut LP for Ram? If so, when should we be expecting this one to see the light of day?
My LP for Ram is set to drop in April/May I think. I’m just finishing it off at the moment. I’m really excited about it. I’ve had the honor of collaborating with a lot of great artists on it and I’m excited to get it out there!
What else do you have cooking that we should keep our eyes and ears out for?
I’m working on a lot of music for other artists outside of the drum & bass scene and I’ve also got another single dropping in November on Ram.
Wilkinson will spin back to back with Cyantific at Idiosynphonic's 2nd Birthday on Friday 7th September at Cable. More info here.
Keep it locked: www.wilkinson-music.com
WORDS: CHRIS MUNIZ
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