Interview With Midge Ure
At the start of 1981, Ultravox were laying their claim to be one of the defining acts of the 80s following the global success of hit ‘Vienna’.
Heading back into the studio the same year invigorated, they recorded their second album with Ure as frontman, Rage in Eden, which hit the Top 5 in the UK album charts.
Quartet, their third album with Ure, came in quick succession in 1982 with production from legendary Beatles producer George Martin.
Continuing the band’s impressive chart run, it became their third Top 10 album, featuring four Top 20 singles including the anthem ‘Hymn’.
What is the Voices and Visions Tour all about next year?
It will be 40 years since the Rage in Eden and Quartet albums, I haven’t played these songs for all that time so it will be good for the band and I as well as the fans to revisit the albums.
The tour starts in York have you been there before?
Many times, I do like the Grand Opera House where the tour starts, it’s a beautiful theatre and the audiences there. I remember that we got this strange smell from the stage door but now when I hear about how the theatre gets flooded with water I can understand the smell.
Do you think synthesisers made a big difference to music in the early 80’s?
It certainly changed how people created music. Prior to 1979 a synthesiser would cost the price of a small house and you had to be a boffin to operate it, then the Japanese manufacturers brought out these cheaper versions. When synthesisers became affordable you were able to record a track in your bedroom with just a synthesiser and a tape machine. Acts like The Human League were doing things like that.
People thought that synthesisers were just a passing phase but you can still hear them on songs made today, they really changed everything - sometimes not always for the better.
Wasn’t Vienna held off the Number 1 slot by a comedy record?
There were two songs actually - there was the Joe Dolce comedy record but also John Lennon too who had been murdered the year before. Vienna was actually Number 2 for 4 weeks. It was such an un-radio friendly track - it speeds up, slows down and there is a violin solo in there too. It wasn’t an instant commercial success, it started to climb the charts and we then got on Top of the Pops and people then connected with the song. The band hadn’t changed but people discovered who we were after that appearance.
You have had such a varied career. In 1976 you had a Number 1 with the band Slik and Forever and Ever, what was that like?
The track was written by the same production team who did the Bay City Roller’s songs - Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. When we turned up at the studio from Glasgow with all our musical equipment we discovered that the backing track had already been recorded! We had been playing the Scottish circuit for 4 years so we thought that we would play on the record.
The song got to Number 1, I remember the record label asking me if felt excited about it but I felt numb as although I sang the vocal on the track, we didn’t play on the track, so we didn’t feel we owned it. Rather than feeling excited I felt numb.
After that you formed The Rich Kids with Glen Matlock from The Sex Pistols, that was a huge change.
It was, in 1977 I moved from Glasgow to London, Glenn had been ousted from The Pistols, he wasn’t a punk really, he wanted to write good songs that had inspired him by groups such as the Small Faces.
As a group we had a good run for a while until I bought a synthesiser and wanted the band to use it, but apart from Rusty Egan in the band, everyone else was against it so the band split with Rusty and I going on to form Visage.
For a while you were in Thin Lizzy, how did that happen?
Some of the things that happened in my life you couldn’t really write it if you tried, such as in 6 months you will be doing this, then in another 6 months you will be doing something else, these things just unfolded.
I knew Phil Lynott but even before that I was a big fan of the group, I saw them when they were a 3 piece in Glasgow.
I was doing the Visage stuff when I got a call asking me to go over to America as the band were half way through an American tour and Gary Moore, one of the guitarists in the band had left them. The band couldn’t do the show anymore as a 3 piece so the next thing I know is that I’m flying out on Concorde and the night before the first gig I’m in a hotel room with Scott Gotham learning the guitar harmonies the band were famous for.
Do you have any favourite venues?
Glasgow, my home town is always good. We used to see bands play at the Apollo in Glasgow. 4,000 people jumping around to the music was always a good one but the theatre was demolished. We are playing the Barrowlands on the tour which is always a good show to play.
Do you enjoy doing these 80’s festivals?
I do but to be honest I fought against doing them for many years. People said to me “look, there will be 20,000 people there who want to hear your songs, why don’t you give the people what they want?”
I did the first one then another one and the more I did it I became more relaxed about it and saw it was great fun. It also reminded people I was still here making music. If you are not on the TV people think you have fallen off the planet. Though some people expect me to look the same as I did in the Vienna video, you know moustache, big overcoat etc, but at the end of the day people are there to enjoy the music.
Where were you when the first lockdown came in?
We were in New Zealand when we heard about Covid and we were due to fly to Australia. We tried to do as many shows as we could there but really you couldn’t be any further away from home than Australia.
Everything went after that, the festival’s, the tour of Europe being pushed back to 2022. I think it is reasonably realistic that it will happen - everyone has been starved of live entertainment.
There are a lot of businesses connected with touring that are on the brink of going under. Really though I can’t wait to get back on tour again and playing to audiences. First nights can be a bit different but York should be a good one.
Midge Ure & Band Electronica 2022 - Dates In The North
22nd February - York Grand Opera House
23rd February - Nottingham Rock City
24th February - Hull Bonus Arena
2nd March - Blackburn King Georges Hall
4th March - Manchester Albert Hall
20th March - Newcastle O2 City Hall
22nd March - Sheffield City Hall
2nd April - Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Tickets from midgeure.gigantic.com
and venue box offices.