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Performing Drum & Bass Live
Published January 2019
By Geoff Smith

WilkinsonPhoto: Justin De Souza

Drum & bass phenomenon Wilkinson tells us how his live show evolved from a simple DJ setup to a seven-piece band.

Hailing from the leafy suburbs of South-West London, Wilkinson is an underground drum & bass producer who has crossed into the commercial charts and Radio One playlists, thanks to his ability to pair compelling songs with flawless production. His first insight into making music came at just nine years old, when he began drumming in a band with his present-day guitarist Tom Varrell. At 14, Wilkinson's aspirations to be in a band ended when he discovered his passion for dance music. After fine-tuning his now legendary production skills, Wilkinson sent a folder of tunes to RAM Records, whereupon label founder and drum & bass legend Andy C signed him in 2010. It was through RAM/Virgin EMI that he put out his 2013 debut album Lazers Not Included, which went to number 1 on the iTunes Dance Chart in 10 countries, followed shortly afterwards by his breakout track 'Afterglow', which became a top five hit in the UK, selling 500,000 copies and attracting 65 million YouTube views. His schedule exploded.

"I was put in the position where I was being asked to play Radio 1 Big Weekend and big festival bookings, and I was playing between bands," says Wilkinson. "From watching the other bands and seeing all of the effort that went into the live process I knew I wanted to be a part of that, and take on that challenge." In April 2017, Wilkinson released his follow-up album Hypnotic, which became the most successful drum & bass album of the year and was in the top 20 iTunes albums across six countries.

Transforming a dance music album into a successful live show, one that integrates technology with a band of live musicians, is a considerable challenge. There are successful bands like the Prodigy, Pendulum and Chase & Status who have done this before, but due to the pace at which technology and production styles change, there are still significant challenges, and many different ideas about how it should be done. With few forerunners in the drum & bass genre to learn from, Wilkinson had to work out a successful formula for his live show from the ground up. Wilkinson explains how the live show links to his last album Hypnotic: "The thing I was aiming for with my second album is to demonstrate a chapter of where my...

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Published January 2019