This month, Ultravox singer Midge Ure released a new solo record, Fragile; currently, he is part of the RetroFutura tour along with the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey and Howard Jones. Here’s an interview I did with him last year around the time of Ultravox’s reunion record Brilliant.
Originally published in Spinner, January 25, 2013
Midge Ure, the singer and guitarist for the synthpop group Ultravox, had a very eventful 2012 — a year marked by the British quartet’s first new album in 25 years — featuring Ure, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Warren Cann — and a European tour. Yet Ure isn’t exactly taking a break after completing those Ultravox concerts. This month, he’s in the midst of a solo tour of the States, where he hadn’t performed for more than 10 years. But that’s a relatively short hiatus given that Ultravox hadn’t played together in America for over two decades.
“It was always a bit of a bone of contention with Ultravox,” Ure tells Spinner, “that we used to tour quite regularly in America. And because of technical limitations, we used to have to do five-hour sound checks because the equipment at the time was incredibly basic — basic synthesizers, basic electronics. So we could never open up for another band, we could never do a package tour with other artists, which would have been the natural next step for Ultravox. We got a bit frustrated that we never really kind of pursued the American market the way we would like to have.”
In comparing the U.S. audiences to the ones in Europe, Ure recalls a time when he and Ultravox toured the States in the early years. “So when we were in Texas, we thought we were going to be hung, drawn and quartered,” he says, “when the curtains would pull back and there were these four guys standing behind a bank of synthesizers, singing these kind of mid-European songs in front of a sea of Stetsons. We thought we were going to be killed. It wasn’t like that — it was fantastic. People in America seemed to appreciate whether you were good or not, not necessarily if you were cool or trendy or not.”
Ure has played an integral role in the history of early ’80s British pop music, particularly during the New Romantic movement — which also included Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet — first with Visage, who had hit with “Fade to Grey.” Around that period, Ure became Ultravox’s new lead singer, and the band had mammoth success with hits such as “Vienna,” “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes,” “Reap the Wild Wind.” (He also co-wrote the Band Aid single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984). But the later departures of Ure, Cann and Cross in the mid and late ’80s ended Ultravox’s golden era, until all four band members reunited in 2009.
“I’ve been documented saying many many times that Ultravox was never ever gonna get back together again,” says Ure. “But maybe you learn eventually to never to say never. And weirdly enough, all four of us were really interested in the idea of going back and revisiting what we had done. That was the extent that it was going to go — it was never going to go further than that. Of course, it does–it ended up with the album and the subsequent tour.”
On their 2012 post-reunion record Brilliant, which came out last year, Ultravox effortlessly recaptured the spark of the band’s 1980 album Vienna. “Because we write them together,” says Ure, “we create these things together in each other’s company with each other’s influences gluing it all together — it instantly sounds like Ultravox. We couldn’t have tried to make that sound if we were asked to do it, so it’s just a natural osmosis really.”
In addition to his current activities with Ultravox and his own tour, Ure is re-releasing his memoir If I Was as an eBook and working on a new solo record. “The problem is when Ultravox reared its head again three years ago,” he says, “and when we got together and did the touring to celebrate the body of work we’ve written, and that morphed into writing and recording and making a new album, it put everything else on the back burner. So I may have to re-look at that next year, maybe rework some of the songs or just kind of freshen them up a little bit.”
Although Ultravox have not yet toured the U.S. in quite a while, Ure offers the possibility that it might happen, something the band members are hoping for. “It’s really down to how interested people are in the fact that I’m coming over — is that going to translate to people who went to see Ultravox 25 years ago? These days, all that stuff that stopped us from doing that before doing it with other artists, the technology allow us to eliminate the five-hour sound check. So yes, the view is if we can, we certainly will.”