February 26, 2021: After many years of working with RAM and BMG, Wilkinson is set to start a new chapter in his high-profile career with the launch of his own label Sleepless Music.
Moved and motivated by the current times and how the industry has been turned on its head during the last 11 months of COVID-19, Wilkinson explains how he wants Sleepless Music to provide a platform that helps artists create tools, resources and revenue streams to survive outside the previously-standard industry model where everything relies on live performance.
Inspired by wanting to create a better A&R process with much more feedback and mentoring, Wilkinson explains how he’s seen artists held back by labels and wants to create something that puts the music makers first and foremost. The artists you’ll be hearing about first and foremost on Sleepless Music include New Zealand rising talent Montell2099, who’ll be dropping a massive remix of Wilko’s hit Take You Higher in March on the label, and Krakota, who’ll be landing on the label in April with the big summer-slapping Take Me There.
But first, the label launches with Frontline. A huge tune for Wilkinson and others lucky to have it on dub, the track has been in demand since long before lockdown and it marks the start of the Sleepless star’s third solo album! Get to know.
How are you after 2020? I think you defied the curse of the year adeptly with releases and your album with Sub Focus. How was it from your point of view?
Ahh what a year it was?! I think in terms of my personal life, like the majority of people it was hard being locked down, not seeing family and friends and witnessing the pandemic unravelling on the news. From an artistic perspective I feel like I really needed the break from touring and the chance to focus on music and get back in the zone. I don’t think me and Nick would have been able to finish Portals in 2020 with the touring schedules we both had.
When I look back on it I’m actually amazed at what I packed in to the first two months of the year. I came back from touring New Zealand to a bunch of European shows, flew back over to Australia for a weekend of festivals between rehearsals for my Brixton show and then sold out Brixton and finished off in Prague.
Wow. That just seems impossible now So how about any silver linings of 2020… What were yours?
As soon the lockdown was announced, me and Nick agreed it was time to finish the album which we managed to get done in a few months. Releasing the album, selling out Brixton Academy and getting the chance to live stream from Corfe Castle left me pretty content with how the year went considering everything being stacked against us.
Personally I’ve been working on my mental and physical health and catching up on all the changes that have happened in my life throughout my career. It’s been nice to take a breath, get out on my bike and re connect to the less stimulating side of life.
Nice… And set-up a label, too! Tell us about Sleepless Music!
Sleepless Music has been in the making for a long time. It started off as events across the UK and Europe but I’ve always wanted to build it into something more and always had the vision of it becoming a record label and family of artists. I’ve always wanted to have my own record label. Not only to release my own music through, but also sign other artists and give them a fair transparent deal and the foundations to explore their artistry and creativity in the most authentic way.
Me and my team are taking a more hands-on approach to the label. I feel like there’s a need now more than ever for a solid A&R process, not just a yes or no answer in regards to signing records. I want to help artists develop their production, songwriting capabilities and confidence when it comes to working with top liners and singers (if that’s what they want to do). I see a lot of labels holding artists back in terms of the label coming before the artist, I want to do the complete opposite with Sleepless. I want it to be a foundation for artists to develop their own identity and unique fan base with support and knowledge me and my team have acquired over the years through various successes and mistakes.
Oh nice. So putting the artists first! I’m sure the last year of world events and the current state of the industry has inspired this, too?
It’s definitely made me aware of the importance of artist friendly deals. The live industry makes up the majority of income for artists and I feel like the importance of monetisation of music and the growth of the artists’ brand independent of the label is really important. With Sleepless we want to support that growth and the development of the artists’ fanbase so that there’s a revenue there for the artists when the live income isn’t. We want to release quality over quantity and make sure the music is reaching as many people as it possibly can.
With less reliance on the dancefloor, and artists thinking about their music differently while they’re temporarily off the DJ merry-go-round, what impact and influence do you think that will have on D&B moving forward? I’m personally looking forward to lots of interesting experiments that aren’t just made strictly for DJing.
I’m really excited by artists exploring different styles of D&B and pushing themselves musically into other areas. The one thing that drew me to D&B in the first place was the diversity of style within the genre, that’s one thing me and Sub Focus wanted to explore on our Portals album. I think given the current situation this is stronger than ever and I think when we go back to doing shows the range of music people play within their sets will be really exciting.
You ran CYN Music with Jon Cyantific waaaaay back in the day and presented Dimension to the world. Have you always had plans to run a label yourself?
Those were good times! Yeah I’ve always got a buzz from finding new artists and new tunes. I’ve always planned to have my own label but only when I felt the time was right and I had enough knowledge of the industry. The music industry is a crazy place to navigate your way around but I’ve been fortunate to have been taught and supported by an amazing team and I now feel confident I can do right by the music and artists we sign.
Can you tell us more about the artists coming up on the label, what we can expect and how you’ll be working with them?
Aside from my own single, first up we’ve got a remix of Take You Higher by an amazing New Zealand artist called Montell2099. He’s flipped the track on its head and it’s been doing the rounds for quite a while. It only felt right for it be one of the first releases on Sleepless Music.
Following that we’ve got music coming from Krakota. Seb’s been a mate for years and I’ve been watching him progress for a long time. He was a staple DJ for the Sleepless Music UK tour in 2019. He sent me a bunch of tracks at the beginning of 2020 that we’ve been developing throughout the year. His production levels have gone through the roof and his first single on Sleepless, Take Me There, oozes summer festival vibes.
Tell us about Frontline – it’s been in your dub armory for a while now hasn’t it?
I know I’ve been getting messages demanding I release this track for a long time but I wanted to wait and get the Portals album released first. I started the track in LA and wrote most of it on tour, it’s been going down really well in my DJ sets and getting a lot of support from others. I’m really excited to finally get it out there and it marks the start of a new journey for me!
Frontline is the first single from your third album, too! Is there anything you can tell us about the album or is it just a bit too soon to say?
Just that I feel like this album is going to be my best yet. I’m feeling really confident in my new studio and haven’t had this creative flow since I wrote my first album. I’ve got an amazing team that are full of energy and fresh ideas and I’m really stepping this one up.
What else does the world need to know about Sleepless Music right about now?
Just watch this space!
Wilkinson – Frontline is out February 26 on Sleepless Music