Leeds-based duo Jez Willis and Tim Garbutt formed Utah Saints in 1991. Once described by Bill Drummond of The KLF as “the first true stadium house band”, their hits include Something Good and What Can You Do For Me. Ahead of their appearance at Duke Studios in Leeds on November 25, they spoke to the YEP.
How did you guys first meet, where and when, and why work together?
We both met in 1990 in Leeds as I (Tim) met Jez when he was DJ-ing at The Gallery in Leeds (on Merrion Street). This was a legendary venue which hosted some of the biggest nights in Leeds.
I had also started a night in a club in Harrogate which I ran a Saturday night and I got Jez to come over and DJ on a Friday night. Through this we both found that we had a common ground in music, had both had tracks out before and decided to work together on some tunes. Our first track was What Can You Do For Me which ended up going top 10 in August ’91.
How much have you changed in taste, style, technique and aims since you first got together?
Our taste and style has not changed a lot in terms of what music we like as we always loved electronic muisc. When we started Utah Saints there was no master plan and no hidden agenda. It was an exciting time for music as it was at the start of a massive movement that would change many peoples lives for ever. We have always tried to think outside the box in what ever we do and that still applies now. When we started it was before the internet so things have changed loads!
Who does what, do you each have certain skills that you bring to the project or do you both do everything?
Well if one of us decided to go away all or was unwell say for three weeks and something came in such as DJ-ing, a music brief or anything else then either of us could pick it up as have the skills. But saying that, both of us are better in certain areas than the other which is what makes it special when we work together on any kind of project as Utah Saints and that wouldn’t happen if there was just one of us.
Are you working on any new music you can tell us about right now? What decides when you do or don’t get in there studio?
We are always working on new music or music related projects as that never stops as this is still both our full time job. Making music is like spinning plates as you always have lots of unfinished music on the go. Anybody who makes music will tell you this and that the challange and hardest part is to finish the tracks. Production techniques now mean that tracks can be made to a good standard on a laptop where ever you are (which is great for sketching out ideas) so for us getting into the studio together would normally be determined by a deadline and needing to deliver a track on a certain date.
Having had chart hits and underground success – how do the two compare?
This is a hard one as our first track was underground for six weeks and then it went top 10 but it was a good six weeks…lol
After that then people expect you to do as well or if not better than your last track so for us if we made an ‘underground’ track then people would maybe say your last track was a flop…
We never set out to have hits but our tracks just became popular so there is no different mind set between the two for us. We never really felt comfortable with the trappings of chart success which is why we always hid behind our logo and just let the music do the talking.
Did you set out to hit the charts or did it just happened? Did it change things, did you get big offers?
No, as said in the previous question, it just went that way for us. It did change things for the better as it meant that we could both do this as a full-time job which is very hard in this industry and even harder these days. We did get some big gig offers though, such as supporting U2 in stadiums, which was insane.
What are you most exciting about/have you got coming up in the near future?
We definitely think that we have got one more Utahs album in us and really want to get that done. We have many projects on the go as always and just need to focus on this and set ourselves some deadlines. Music is in a great place at the moment and we feel that we still have something to contribute to this.
You play Leeds soon – what’s it like to play back in West Yorkshire, does it feel like a special home town gig?
It’s always great to play in Leeds. Our last gig that we did in the summer was one of our favourite of the year as we played outside the 212 Bar back in June at the Waterfront Festival and it was just one of those gigs that just went really well for us. Leeds is a special city and we have and always will do our very best to support it. The guys at Duke Studios are doing cool things right now as well and it is a great event space down there so this will be a good night. Also JFB who is an incredible DJ with next level turntable skills will be playing alongside the Shaka Loves you guys doing an Audio Visual set and unsung hero Mooqee.
What should people spect from you, where are you at musically right now?
We are just on the way back from playing a three-hour set at Ministry of Sound in London which was so much fun to get to play a longer set. I guess that the common thread through all our sets is that we always mix old with new and like to keep the energy levels high and keep it entertaining so that it is not just like a Spotify playlist and also not to stick on one specific genre/style.
Utah Saints play Bombstrike event on November 25. https://www.facebook.com/events/127474884517101