Utah Jazz

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This month we catch up with Luke Wilson, AKA Utah Jazz ahead of his mini Australian tour. With a new album ‘Groove Therapy’, Utah Jazz is one busy guy. We find out just what Utah Jazz has been up to and why he’s named after an NBA team…

Travel to Western Australia

Hi Luke, how are you today?

Very well thanks. The sun is shining here in London so can’t say fairer than that!

What have you been up to this week?

I’ve just got back from a cool weekend of gigs in Austria and Germany. Most of my weekends are taken up with DJ touring and then during the week I’m usually catching up with email stuff and trying to get some studio work done. Obviously with the album at the moment there’s a fair bit of promo stuff to get done each day too.

When we typed you into Google a few days to have a snoop around for questions, we discovered that Utah Jazz is actually a basketball team in Salt Lake City…is that who you’re named after? Does it cause confusion?

Yes a little bit! I started using the name ‘Utah Jazz’ back in school around 1994 as a name on Mix tapes. It was really because of the word ‘Jazz’ in the title as I was looking for a catchy ‘stage name’ for my Jazzy D&B sets (I thought Luke Wilson was far too boring).

I saw the name in a sports magazine and it sounded cool… Obviously I never expected at that stage that I’d be here doing all of this now!

Some people do find it strange (especially in America) but most people don’t even think about it or even know it’s a sports team. Also, many people are surprised that it is just me as they expect / assume it to be some kind of group of artists together rather than a solo act.

Continuing on our internet snoop, we also discovered that the rest of your family are more on the art & design side of things, how is it that you chose to be a musician? Has this made you the black sheep of the family?

Ha ha! Yes that’s right – I’ve come from a family of artists and designers and I think music’s really just an extension of that. I think my parents were just confused when I started out so many years ago as they didn’t know exactly what I was trying to achieve or how / if it would become a career, but they were amazingly supportive none the less and thankfully things turned out ok.

Are you also a good artist?

Definitely not. All my artwork is done by my brother www.studiooscar.com – he’s not bad for a beginner! ha ha.

We digress, back to the music…so how is everything going with the new record label ‘Vintage’?

Very well thanks. I’ve spent years working for many other D&B labels + doing remixes and I just felt it was the right time to get my music out how I want and when I want. I’m pretty proactive in getting things done (either making tunes or running the label side of things) so it made sense to do everything myself in house.

I never expected the 2nd album (Vintage) to do so well as it wasn’t being pushed by a ‘big label’ like my first LP so when it did, it gave me the confidence to just push on and get a whole other project finished.

You’ve been working with some interesting people on it, from the Ragga Twins to Chelonis R Jones…tell us about it?

Yes, on the last album there were some interesting collabs. I tend to prefer to just work with vocalists these days on the whole, rather than other producers as I can get the tracks sounding exactly how I want them before the vocals are added. That said, I’m starting a new project with an old producer friend of mine later this year too and am looking forward to that.

We were pumping ‘Groove Therapy’ in the office yesterday, what were your influences on it?

I think just my usual funk & soul interests – finding strange samples and trying to incorporate them into a D&B format. Since it’s a full album, I was also attempting to cover a wider range of D&B styles throughout the CD (reggae / deeper / half speed / old skool / atmospheric etc) rather than just simply doing 14 of my traditional soulful liquid tracks. Whether that actually came across is not for me to decide!

‘Circa 96′ is a tune, and has that unmistakable piano riff synonymous with 90s dance, what was behind this throw back influence?

Yes – Leon Ware! I remember hearing the original in one of my brother’s old funk & soul mixtapes, and when I came across the samples I had to do something with them. Luckily the break was nice and clean at the beginning!

Tracks like ‘Conrad Funk’ have a more chilled out vibe, whilst ‘Fair Play’ is certainly more serious, there’s a lot of variety on ‘Groove Therapy’ what were you mostly looking to achieve with this release?

That’s definitely it – variety. I’m aware that I have a certain sound which although is a good thing, I’m also always keen to branch out and chuck a few surprises in there through the listening experience. I think the order of the tracks on an album is very important too and I spend a lot of time trying to get it right.

You’re heading out to Australia to play at Chinese Laundry this July, how do you find the crowds out there?

Amazing! It’s one of my favourite clubs in the world to play and Australia as a whole has been nothing but supportive to me over the years in terms of gigs and appreciating the music. I’m also playing in Canberra the night before and then hoping to be back over for Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne again later in the year as they weren’t possible this time around.

Are you going to get to do much whilst you’re in Australia other than play? What would you like to get up to activity/sightseeing wise?

Unfortunately probably not. I’ve got quite a tight schedule with 4 long haul flights in as many days so it’s a short trip this time around. However, if I get a larger tour over 2 weekends then it thankfully gives time during the week to take a look around. Much of the touring involves travelling during the day, followed by staying up all night in the clubs, so it’s nice to sometimes get a day here and there to take in the atmosphere.

What’s the plan for the summer? Are you playing any festivals?

I’m touring through the summer, but it’s usually the autumn season between September and December that gets crazy busy. I’m doing a smaller festival in Belgium next week and then I’m also very much looking forward to the Sun & Bass festival in Sardinia where I play every year. Can’t wait!

Is there anyone in particular that you’re listening to at the moment that we should check out?

I’m currently listening to James O’Brien on LBC (London talk radio!). As well as pirate stations, I grew up listening to late night chat shows and ironically, spend far more time listening to phone-ins than I do music these days!

Catch Utah Jazz at Sydney’s Chinese Laundry on 15th July alongside Vice Versa, Inna Riddim Sound System, Spenda C and Bruxism. Surely a night not to miss!

By Hannah Shakir

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