Tag: Steve Strange (Page 1 of 2)

TEC’s 25 SONGS OF THE BLITZ CLUB

The soundtrack of The Blitz Club was provided by its resident DJ Rusty Egan and its story is more than well documented.

This vibrant post-punk scene, whose flamboyant clientele were dubbed ‘Blitz Kids’ and ‘New Romantics’, became the catalyst for several bands including VISAGE, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB, as well as assorted fashion designers, visual artists and writers.

Rusty Egan told The Electricity Club: “I just played as much as I could fit in, it was not all disco. It was a bar and opened after work. I’d arrive 8.30–9.00pm and played all my faves till it was packed, then I got them dancing and at the end, I slowed down”.

The dancing style at The Blitz Club often involved the swaying of arms at a distance from the face like slow motion maraca shaking so as not to spoil any carefully hairsprayed styles. Meanwhile, feet movements were often impossible as the small dancefloor was often overcrowded!

With Steve Strange as doorman and fashion gatekeeper, the concept for what was initially a “Bowie Night” came together at Billy’s nightclub in Soho in Autumn 1978 in an effort to find something new and colourful to escape the oncoming drabness in the Winter Of Discontent. After a disagreement with the owners of Billy’s, the pair moved their venture to The Blitz Club.

Although Rusty Egan had been a soul boy and an active participant in punk through a stint rehearsing with THE CLASH and then as a member of THE RICH KIDS with Midge Ure, the two friends became fascinated with electronic dance music though the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ album which had been a surprise favourite in New York discos and whose title track referenced David Bowie.

“There was a couple of years of punk which Midge Ure and myself weren’t too impressed with in terms of the clubs and the environment in Thatcherite Britain, it was horrible in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool!” recalled Egan, “So we were just trying basically to grasp the good in life, trying to be positive in a very negative time.”

Although Egan curated an eclectic playlist of available synth works supplemented with soundtracks and relatable art rock tunes, tracks were comparatively scarce in this new innovative electronic form.

So with studio time available following the split of THE RICH KIDS, Ure and Egan hit upon the idea of making their own electronic dance music for The Blitz Club, fronted by Steve Strange.

Ure came up with the name VISAGE for the project and presented the demo to his then employers at EMI Records, but it was rejected! Undeterred, the pair recruited Billy Currie from a then-in hiatus ULTRAVOX plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson to record the first VISAGE album at the-then newly constructed Genetic Studios of Martin Rushent.

When Billy Currie toured with Gary Numan in 1979, he and fellow keyboardist Chris Payne composed what was to become ‘Fade To Grey’; it was included on the eventual ‘Visage’ album released by Polydor Records in 1980 and the rest is history, reaching No1 in West Germany!

VISAGE was the beauty of the synthesizer played with symphonic classical overtones fused to the electronic dance beat of Neu Europa and visually styled like a cross between the Edwardian dandies and Weimar Cabaret. Midge Ure remembered “it was a major part of my life and Steve was a major part of that period”.

The meeting of Ure and Currie in VISAGE led to the diminutive Glaswegian joining a relaunched ULTRAVOX who released the iconic ‘Vienna’ album in 1980. Co-produced by Conny Plank, the German always thought in terms of sound and on the title song, he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years.

And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered. It was to become a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the New Romantic movement when it was released as a single, stalling at No2 despite being one of the best selling singles of 1981, gracing the UK charts at the same time as ‘Fade To Grey’.

Having started as a “Bowie Night”, the man himself became fascinated by this emergent cult with no name that he had inspired. In 1980, Jacqueline Bucknell, an assistant from his label RCA who was also a Blitz Kid, had taken Bowie down to The Blitz Club to cast extras to appear in a video for his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’; among the chosen ones was Steve Strange.

Utilising Roland guitar synths and an ARP string machine with a final burst of ARP Odyssey, David Bowie saw ‘Ashes To Ashes’ as an epitaph for his artistic past as he lyrically revisited the Major Tom character from ‘Space Oddity’ over a decade on.

With this, The Blitz Club had now become a mainstream phenomenon as the BBC’s Nationwide programme sent an investigative team in, signalling a changing of the guard in popular culture with parallel scenes going on at The Rum Runner in Birmingham, The Warehouse in Leeds and Crocs in Rayleigh from which DURAN DURAN, SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE were to respectively gain their fledgling followings.

The perceived elitist exclusivity of The Blitz Club had partly become legend as a result of Steve Strange refusing entry to Mick Jagger for his sporting of blue jeans. Playing on this and adopting its electronic aesthetic to attract attention, five lads from Islington formed SPANDAU BALLET and initially only performed at special events which were by invitation only. Essentially becoming The Blitz Club’s house band, the quintet later scored worldwide success with a less radical sanitised pop soul sound.

Singer Tony Hadley said to The Electricity Club: “Our first album The ‘Journeys To Glory’ will always be one of my favourite Spandau albums, we were just young excited lads trying to make our mark on the world. There’s a rawness and energy on that album that is impossible to recreate. I love synthpop and still one of my favourite songs is SPANDAU BALLET’s first release ‘ To Cut A Long Story Short’.”

Not all enjoyed their visits to The Blitz Club; Billy MacKenzie notably highlighted the vapid nature of the scene in ASSOCIATES’ second hit single ‘Club Country’. But buoyed by its success, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan eventually vacated The Blitz Club and took over The Music Machine in 1982 and relaunched it as The Camden Palace, making it one of the UK’s first modern superclubs.

But the spirit of The Blitz Club still lives on and recently, there came the surprise announcement that Zaine Griff was to join Rusty Egan and ‘Fade To Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne to perform the songs of VISAGE in an audio-visual presentation at a number of events across Europe including W-Festival in Belgium.

Using Dave Rimmer’s 2003 book ‘New Romantics: The Look’ as an initial reference point and calling on the memories of Rusty Egan himself to verify whether he had actually played these songs in his DJ sets, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Songs Of The Blitz Club to celebrate the flamboyant legacy of that Blitz Spirit.


ROXY MUSIC Both Ends Burning (1975)

Following-up the hit single ‘Love In The Drug’, ‘Both Ends Burning’ was ROXY MUSIC’s second ‘Siren’ call. With Bryan Ferry’s stylised but anguished vocals, it was a track which laid down the sophisticated art pop trail that JAPAN and DURAN DURAN would later be pursuing. Featuring a prominent coating of ARP Solina string machine sweetened by hypnotic bass and squawky sax, ‘Both Ends Burning’ is probably the most under rated single in the Roxy canon.

Available on the ROXY MUSIC album ‘The Best Of’ via Virgin Records

https://www.roxymusic.co.uk/


BRIAN ENO Kings Lead Hat (1977)

With a title that was an anagram of TALKING HEADS, the New York art school combo were the inspiration for the frantic metallic romp of ‘Kings Lead Hat’ which became a favourite at The Blitz Club. Brian Eno aped David Byrne in his vocal delivery, while he was later to produce three of the band’s albums as he moved further away from art rock as a solo artist. The song was later covered by ULTRAVOX in their live sets during the early phase their Midge Ure-fronted incarnation.

Available on the BRIAN ENO album ‘Before & After Science’ via Virgin Records

https://brian-eno.net/


KRAFTWERK Showroom Dummies (1977)

KRAFTWERK reacted as they generally did to negative criticism by writing a song. A response to a review that said their motionless persona at live performances was like ‘Showroom Dummies’, the sparse eerie atmosphere was punctuated by a tight and rigid electronic drum sound that was completely new and alien, something Rusty Egan was looking to emulate. Incidentally, the count-in of “eins zwei drei vier” was a deadpan Germanic parody of THE RAMONES!

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


IGGY POP Nightclubbing (1977)

An Iggy Pop collaboration with David Bowie, the Vampiric glam of ‘Nightclubbing’ was the former James Osterberg’s commentary on what it was like hanging out with him every night. Utilising a simple piano melody and a cold Schaffel rhythm via the mechanical precision of a Roland drum machine, legend has it that Iggy insisted on keeping it, saying “it kicks ass, it’s better than a drummer”. Alongside ‘Lust For Life’, ‘Nightclubbing’ also featured in the soundtrack of ‘Trainspotting’.

Available on the IGGY POP album ‘The Idiot’ via Virgin Records

https://iggypop.com/


ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

Utilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was John Foxx moving ULTRAVOX! into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the self-titled first album and the punky interim single ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had initially been premiered as a far spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’. Incidentally, the ‘CC’ credited on saxophone is not Chris Cross, but a member of the art collective GLORIA MUNDI.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


LA DÜSSELDORF Viva (1978)

LA DÜSSELDORF’s second long player ‘Viva’ was their most successful album and the title track was a regular staple at The Blitz Club. An oddball slice of cosmic space rock sung in French and German by Klaus Dinger, proceedings were aided by the dual motorik thud of Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger. Performed with the same group of musicians, ‘E-Musik’ by Dinger’s previous band NEU! had also been a favourite at The Blitz Club, influencing the intro of the ULTRAVOX B-side ‘Face To Face’.

Available on the LA DÜSSELDORF boxed set ‘Triple Album Collection’ via WEA Records

https://www.dingerland.de/


GIORGIO MORODER Chase (1978)

Commissioned by Alan Parker for the graphic prison drama ‘Midnight Express’, the noted director wanted some electronic accompaniment to the crucial chase scene of the film in the style of ‘I Feel Love’. The bassline from Giorgio Moroder’s own 1976 cover of ‘Knights In White Satin’ was reappropriated. The fruit of their labours was this Oscar winning Hi-NRG romp bursting with VANGELIS-like keyboard melodies, driven by an intense slamming and syncopated by popping pulses.

Available on the GIORGIO MORODER album ‘Midnight Express’ via Casablanca Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Already a fan of German music and ‘Autobahn’ by KRAFTWERK in particular, Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s synthesizer. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded the stark JG Ballard influenced ‘Warm Leatherette’ as an independent single release on his own Mute Records. Meanwhile, The Blitz Kids came up with their own bizarre twisting and turning dance entering a human arch to accompany it…

Available on THE NORMAL single ‘Warm Leatherette’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/category/the-normal


RIECHMANN Wunderbar (1978)

The late Wolfgang Riechmann is the forgotten man in the Düsseldorf axis having been in SPIRITS OF SOUND with Michael Rother and Wolfgang Flür; had his life not been tragically cut short, he certainly had the potential to become a revered and respected cult musical figure. The opening title track of his only album chimed like a Cold War spy drama before the beautifully almost oriental melodic piece imagined PINK FLOYD meeting CLUSTER over a delicate Schaffel beat.

Available on RIECHMANN album ‘Wunderbar’ via Bureau B

http://www.bureau-b.com/infotexte/Riechmann.Wunderbar.Bio.engl.pdf


VISAGE In The Year 2525 (1978 – released 1983)

ZAGER & EVANS’ pessimistic ditty was perfect fodder for the first VISAGE demo. Steered by Midge Ure using his freshly acquired Yamaha synths and punctuated by Rusty Egan’s incessant Roland drum machine and synthetic percussion, ‘In The Year 2525’ was perfectly resigned aural dystopia from its vocodered intro onwards. Steve Strange’s deadpan fronted the sombre tone perfectly but Ure’s vocal backing and counterpoints added that extra slice of musicality.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Face’ via Universal Records

http://www.visage.cc/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Firecracker (1978)

One of first Japanese bands to have a Top 20 hit single in the UK was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA in 1980. ‘Firecracker’ was a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny but actually released as ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’. Recorded in 1978, the parent self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. The result was a clean, exotic pop sound that was unusual, even in the synthpop heartland of Europe.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


GINA X PERFORMANCE No GDM (1979)

Produced by Zeus B Held, ‘No GDM’ was written by androgynous art history student Gina Kikoine in honour of the “great dark man” Quentin Crisp and featured an array of ARP and Moog synths to signal the birth of a new European Underground. Unsurprisingly, the song gained heavy rotation at The Blitz Club. The nonchalant, detached vocal influence of GINA X PERFORMANCE went on to be heard in the music of LADYTRON, CLIENT and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Nice Mover’ via LTM Recordings

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/gina_x.html


JAPAN Life In Tokyo (1979)

Working with Giorgio Moroder, David Sylvian submitted ‘European Son’ for the session in Los Angeles but it was rejected by the producer. Instead, the Italian offered several of his demos, of which, Sylvian picked the one he considered to be the worst so that he could stamp more of his own vision for the developing synthesized sound of JAPAN. Considered to be too avant-garde at its inception but ahead of its time, unbeknown to Moroder and Sylvian, they had just conceived DURAN DURAN!

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Assemblage’ via Sony BMG Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THOMAS LEER & ROBERT RENTAL Day Breaks Night Heals (1979)

Originally released on THROBBING GRISTLE’s Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ album saw Scottish duo Thomas Leer and Robert Rental trading vocal and instrumental duties. With an air of FAD GADGET, ‘Day Breaks Night Heals’ showcased some of Leer’s pop sensibility that was later apparent in his Arista solo period and in ACT with Claudia Brücken, while Rental maintained a dark experimental presence in this slice of artful electronic blues. Robert Rental sadly passed away in 2000.

Available on the album ‘The Bridge’ via The Grey Area

http://mute.com/category/thomas-leer-and-robert-rental


SIMPLE MINDS Changeling (1979)

Manipulating their influences like SPARKS and MAGAZINE with a very European austere, Glasgow’s SIMPLE MINDS were “underground, pulsating through” thanks to the rhythmic interplay of Derek Forbes’ bass with Mick McNeil’s synths. Charlie Burchill was now thinking beyond the sound of a conventional electric guitar while the precision of under rated drummer Brian McGee locked the glue. That just left Jim Kerr to throw his bizarre shapes and pontificate over this dark avant disco.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.org.uk/


SPARKS Beat The Clock (1979)

Having graced the UK Top 20 again with the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’, SPARKS continued their Giorgio Moroder produced rejuvenation and had an even bigger hit with ‘Beat The Clock’. Percussively augmented by Keith Forsey who was later to produce Billy Idol, Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto more than suited the electronic disco sound while the programmed backing meant that Ron Mael could stoically maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Lil Beethoven Records

https://allsparks.com/


TELEX Moscow Diskow (1979)

Belgian trio TELEX comprised of Marc Moulin, Dan Lacksman and Michel Moers, with the intention of “making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. Opening their debut album ‘Looking for Saint Tropez’ which also contained their funeral robotic cover of ‘Rock Around The Clock’, ‘Moscow Diskow’ took the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow, adding a funkier groove compared with KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ excursion for what was to become a cult international club favourite.

Available on the TELEX album ‘‘Looking For San-Tropez’ via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/TELEX-312492439327342/


THROBBING GRISTLE Hot On The Heels Of Love (1979)

From their third album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’, the uncompromising THROBBING GRISTLE led by the late Genesis P-Orridge were neither jazzy or funky! Gloriously sequenced by Chris Carter via a Roland System-100M modular, ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ was mutant dystopian disco lento with a hypnotic rhythm punctuated by a synthetic whip-crack for that S&M twist as Cosey Fanni Tutti’s whispered vocals competed with pentatonic melodies and electronic drill noises!

Available on the THROBBING GRISTLE album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’ via Industrial / Mute Records

https://twitter.com/ThrobbingGrstle


ZAINE GRIFF Ashes & Diamonds (1980)

Zaine Griff had a Bowie-esque poise was tailor made for The Blitz Club and Tony Visconti saw enough in him to produce his debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. Featuring Hans Zimmer on synths, the title song was sitting just outside the Top 40 and earned a performance on Top Of The Pops but the episode was pulled thanks to a Musicians Union strike. Demonstrating the song’s longevity despite it not being a major hit, it was recently covered live by American alternative rockers MGMT.

Available on the ZAINE GRIFF album ‘Ashes & Diamonds / Figvres’ via MIG Music

https://www.zainegriff.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled (1980)

‘Being Boiled’ was the first song Philip Oakey wrote with Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh for THE HUMAN LEAGUE, his bizarre lyrics being the result of a confusion between Buddhism and Hinduism while highlighting the plight of silk worms. Intended to reimagine FUNKADELIC’s funky overtones as synthetic horns, this brassier re-recorded version with fatter electronic beats was included on the ‘Holiday 80’ EP and the ‘Travelogue’ album, becoming a dance staple of The Blitz Club.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


SPACE Tender Force (1980)

Didier Marouani wrote the worldwide hit ‘Magic Fly’ but having left the band, Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top continued as SPACE. The rousing thrust of ‘Tender Force’ was, like ‘Magic Fly’, produced by Jean-Philippe Iliesco who later invited Rusty Egan to contribute a timbale heavy remix of this synth disco tune ; he was later to begin an ill-fated business relationship with Iliesco who was named by Midge Ure in his ‘If I Was’ autobiography as responsible for putting a wedge between him and Egan in VISAGE…

Available on the SPACE album ‘The Best Of’ via Nang Records

http://www.space.tm.fr


YELLO Bostich (1980)

Although now known as a duo, eccentric Swiss pioneers YELLO actually began as a trio of Dieter Meier, Boris Blank and Carlos Peron. Later remixed and extended, the military drum tattoo at the start of ‘Bostich’ was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in. This was perfect avant garde disco for The Blitz Club with a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier while the track also included a style of speedy European rap later that was repeated on their only major UK hit ‘The Race’ in 1988.

Available on the YELLO album ‘Essential’ via Mercury Records

https://www.yello.com/


LANDSCAPE Einstein A Go-Go (1981)

Electronic pop music was often seen as pretentious, LANDSCAPE had their tongues firmly in their cheeks as evidenced by ‘Einstein A Go-Go’. “The song is a cautionary tale about the apocalyptic possibilities of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists.” said the band’s Richard Burgess, “We talked about the track conceptually before we wrote it and our objective was to make a very simple, cartoon-like track with a strong hook that would belie the meaning of the lyrics!”

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Sony Music

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SHOCK R.E.R.B. (1981)

Written as a B-side instrumental for The Blitz Club’s resident dance troupe SHOCK to work a routine to, ‘R.E.R.B.’ was constructed by Rusty Egan and Richard Burgess, hence the title. Burgess had been doing the linking interludes with a Fairlight on the first VISAGE album and brought in Roland System 700 modular driven by the Micro-composer while Egan triggered the brain of the synthesized drum system that Burgess had been working on with Dave Simmons for its punchy drum fills.

Available on the SHOCK single ‘R.E.R.B.’ via Blitz Club Records

https://twitter.com/DJRustyEgan


SOFT CELL Memorabilia (1981)

Produced by Daniel Miller, one of the first SOFT CELL recordings on signing to Phonogram was the seminal ‘Memorabilia’. While not a hit, it was critically acclaimed and become a favourite at The Blitz Club. Dave Ball’s deep Roland Synthe-Bass and klanky Korg Rhythm KR55 provided a distinctive danceable backbone to accompany Marc Almond’s souvenir collecting metaphors about sexual promiscuity. After this, SOFT CELL were signed by Rusty Egan to Metropolis Music for publishing.

Available on SOFT CELL album ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The Singles’ via Universal Music

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


Approved by Rusty Egan, The Electricity Club presents the ‘Blitz Spirit’ playlist capturing the era plus a few tracks from just after at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0y4GXXotg4BFPZ6qMklwdx


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Rusty Egan
13th April 2020

RUSTY EGAN Interview

Photo by Adam Szigeti

The one thing that Rusty Egan is not short of is something to say…

It makes him the most ideal guest for talk events and ‘An Audience with Rusty Egan’ returns to London this June for a fun couple of hours in the animated company of The Blitz Club DJ and VISAGE drummer.

Loud and frank, not always subtle and occasionally angry, but always interesting and lively, his anecdotes combine laughter, tears and a vivid eye-witness account of his role as a catalyst in popular culture over the past four decades.

The Electricity Club had originally met up Rusty Egan for what was intended to be a 10 minute chat to obtain quotes for a mooted Beginner’s Guide listings article but one hour later, the interview ended and only because he had a soundcheck to do for a DJ slot at Blow Up.

The resultant career spanning conversation over several cups of tea was far too enthusiastic, amusing and informative not to make public, so this is Rusty talking, with only a few edits to stop him from going to jail…

How did VISAGE come together in 1978?

Midge Ure and I had some demo time left over after THE RICH KIDS’ demise and EMI let us have Manchester Square Studios.

We got Barry Adamson and Dave Formula from MAGAZINE, Midge and me in, during that time we did ‎’If You Want Me To Stay’, ‘In The Year 2525’, ‘The Dancer’ and ‘Eve Of Destruction’, I can’t remember much about that last one as I wasn’t a fan, it was something Steve Strange wanted.

Photo by Sheila Rock

So ‘In The Year 2525’ and ‘The Dancer’ were among the first VISAGE recordings?

We did ‘In The Year 2525’ in half a day, but it was an example of the future sound of London you could call it, it was an example of what we wanted to do, as was ‘The Dancer’; these were demos for what became VISAGE but were turned down by EMI! ‘In The Year 2525’ was just me and Midge with him doing vocals and vocoder.

We were keeping it simple and all that but it was heavily influenced by KRAFTWERK. I had my CR78 Compurhythm and drum triggering while there was that Morse codey type intro. I loved it and I think still sounds great today, although some people hate it!

‘The Dancer’ was obviously influenced by NEU! as you can hear from my drums and a little bit of ‘One Of These Days’ by PINK FLOYD, we wanted that “sccchhiiiing!” and that was one of our trademarks. As Midge was doing guitar and John McGeoch played the sax.

How come ‘‎If You Want Me To Stay’ was made during those early VISAGE sessions with Ronny singing it?

I met Ronny in Paris, she was very androgynous and she had a low voice so people were going “is it a boy, is it a girl?”. I had this song in mind, Barry Adamson absolutely loved Sly Stone and at the time, we were being VISAGE. We knocked out as much as we could, as fast as we could.

I adored that record and we had an instrumental flipside. It had a lounge type concept like ‘Cracked Actor’; we literally played it live, got it going and pressed record. I bought the Swan Vestas to have the sound of the cigarette match burning.

Ronny later met Warren Cann who then introduced her to Hans Zimmer who he was working with in HELDEN at the time. Then through them, she met Vangelis and then Peter Godwin, so her whole creative life opened up. We remained friends and I’d often see her in clubs but as far as recording went, she was doing her own thing.

You spent a period playing drums with THE SKIDS in 1979?

There’s a hell of a lot of intricate drumming on THE SKIDS, when you talk about the NEU! drumming, I was trying to be a Motorik drummer. So on ‘Charade’, I got this CR78 drum machine banging away and the producer Bill Nelson, who did a great track called ‘Living In My Limousine’, he loved working with them.

So you influenced Bill Nelson’s later use of drum machines in his work?

Yes, I worked quite closely with him on the production of ‘Days In Europa’ at Rockfield Studios in Wales.

DALEK I LOVE YOU were in the next studio, I lent them my drum machine. Funnily enough at the same time, SIMPLE MINDS were in the rehearsal room there! So I’m stuck in Wales and going “Who’s here? Oh SIMPLE MINDS in the farmhouse!”, so we all got to hang out with each other as there was nothing else to do on a farm.

Want to know why the album is called ‘Days In Europa’? THE SKIDS had a hit in Germany and we were on a TV show called ‘Scene 79’ in Munich… it always happens to me but they only had one drum kit in the studio! It’s a live mimed show, MOTORHEAD were on before us and Philthy Animal Taylor wanted ALL the drums.

So I’m waiting for the kit to be moved from MOTORHEAD’s stage and the announcer goes “Und jetzt DER SKIDS!”… I’ve not even got my f***ing drum kit and I’m standing there like “great!”, the track’s already started and the roadies are bringing me the kit but it’s a live show! *laughs*

You got involved with the New Romantic mime troupe SHOCK and recorded a cover of ‘Angel Face’ backed with ‘R.E.R.B.’ for their first single in 1980?

When VISAGE was recording demos etc, I found out Midge had a professional relationship with some 70s pop writers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter who were involved with SLIK, the bottom line is this led him to know John Hudson who worked with THE GLITTER BAND and owned Mayfair Studios. I thought “Brilliant, I don’t have to go to Wales”

We sat in the control room talking, I loved THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s cover of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and said I wanted a sound like that clap, so John went round the back and got these two floorboards with some door handles and clapped them together, that’s how they the claps did those records! I said I’d like to do this sound but with computers and triggered drums.

I said I could make a track with this trademark sound but without physically playing anything. So I told him I knew this bloke called Richard Burgess who had been doing the linking interludes on the VISAGE album and had that massive Roland System 700 modular with the Micro-composer. Richard had a Fairlight as well, he seemed to be able to get access to all this stuff via the tech companies.

Basically Richard was my tech guy, he’d got hold of Dave Simmons and got me a deal on only the brain of the synthesized drum system they were working on, cos they hadn’t got the pads as they hadn’t been made yet. He said I could trigger them which is how I got the drum fills on ‘R.E.R.B.’

So basically, doing ‘Angel Face’ was the catalyst for ‘R.E.R.B.’?

We programmed the whole thing to do a cover of ‘Angel Face’ first at Mayfair and John Hudson said “You know I can get hold of Gerry Shephard who wrote the song”, so he came along and helped us with the backing vocals… and the lead vocals! *laughs*

Meanwhile, Robert Pereno from SHOCK did ‘Top Of The Pops’ as a member of TIGHT FIT for that ‘Back To The 60s’ medley before ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’!

You know that Tim Friese-Greene produced ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and it was when Mark Hollis heard that, he got him to work with TALK TALK?

REALLY? Well, the sound of that was amazing! Anyway I haven’t finished!! *laughs*

So we’re talking about SHOCK, and “R.E.” Rusty Egan and “R.B.” Richard Burgess… so we had this 7 inch and 12 inch record of ‘Angel Face’ done, John went to RCA and said they loved it and would put it out, but we needed a B-side. So I quickly threw up ‘Angel Face’ and took off all the vocals and things, me and Richard sat at the piano to do that “da-da-dah” theme. I wanted to call it ‘The Red Bridge’ because it was in Luxembourg and has the most beautiful view, I had been there with Brigitte who was the girl’s voice on ‘Fade To Grey’, I wanted to get this feeling of European grandeur but we ran out of time to do any words. So ‘R.E.R.B.’ came out of ‘Angel Face’.

Now if you go back to THE SKIDS, on the album track ‘Animation’, the closing track of ‘Days Of Europa’ is ‘Animation’ backwards, but with the drums put forwards while Stuart Adamson and Richard Jobson wrote another song over it, but it was the basically same backing track. So I had this idea that you could do music over another one, so that’s what we did on ‘R.E.R.B’ with a new melody and those signature drums.

Your first remix was ‘ Burundi Black’…

It was 1980 and I’m DJing in a club. I knew Marco Pirroni from ADAM & THE ANTS and they dropped this record ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ and I knew it was the Burundi drums. So I said to my then partner Jean-Philippe Iliesco who produced SPACE about wanting to get hold of it and he said he knew Eddie Barclay of Barclay Records who had released it; so he called him and got the multi-tracks for me. I just wanted the drums on their own with the tribe and no music, then I added a drum machine and some playing, I wanted this tribal feel and the future together.

I don’t believe I did a great job on that to be honest… it’s funny but recently Mark Reeder released an album ‘Mauerstadt’ and as I was listening to it, I noticed one track ‘Giant Mushrooms’ was like that, I heard the Burundi sample and loved it. I mentioned it to Mark and said “Oh, you sampled Burundi” but he replied he’d sampled someone who’d sampled Burundi! *laughs*

And that’s the world of sampling now! I might come back to that you know, I’ve got an idea based on what you can do today.

Let’s talk about ‘Yellow Pearl’…

If I’m not mistaken, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a track that Midge was working on for the VISAGE album but hadn’t got past the drum machine stage. But I had done the break in a rehearsal room somewhere with him that lodged in his head.

After Midge did the THIN LIZZY tour, Phil Lynott came to The Blitz Club and heard the sounds there so when he was doing his solo album, he said he wanted me in on the drums. I did a few songs like ‘Kathleen’ which were very normal. Then I got this call back from Midge that Phil wanted me to do ‘Yellow Pearl’ and use that break. So I said “yeah”, turned up and I did that. Then Midge’s manager showed up with a single piece of paper and asked me to sign my life away so I did, then it got on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as the theme and I was a bit p*ssed off because I’d signed my life away!

SPACE are most famous for ‘Magic Fly’ and you did a remix of a later single ‘Tender Force’…

When I get a remix, I don’t necessarily want to put Rusty all over it, I just like something a lot and I feel that I can shine a light on it.

If you get a song which you like that didn’t make it, sometimes a remix can bring people’s attention to the original and people go “I heard this version by Rusty which I didn’t like, but then I found the original”. So I did timbale drumming cos when you’re a drummer, why don’t you do some drums?

SPACE introduced me to Didier Marouani and Jannick Top who were exceptional musicians, I thought these guys were amazing. Through them, I got on really well with Roland Romanelli and I programmed everything on his solo album ‘Connecting Flight’ which was very pioneering.

So what was ‘Do What Ya Wanna Do’ by THE CAGE featuring Nona Hendryx ‎all about?

I’d got myself a TR808 by now, I had this beat and sequence to make people dance so I’m playing around with it and thought “why don’t I do T-CONNECTION but totally electro?”, it could sound like ‘I Feel Love’. I called up Gary Barnacle who played with SOFT CELL, he brought his bass playing brother Steve and we had this little Casio out for the break, there’s this 64 bar build with the percussion before I smash a light bulb, it was literally hitting fire extinguishers, bashing everything. It was great, I was grabbing everything in the studio, bits of wood…

Through my trips to New York, I’d known Nona Hendryx was session singing having been in LABELLE who did ‘Lady Marmalade’. So Vicki Wickham who managed Dusty Springfield and Nona suggested having her on the track. It was this time that I met producer John Luongo who had remixed THE JACKSONS, so it was all about dance music for me as The Camden Palace was about to open and had the biggest sound system in the world.

The final classic VISAGE track ‘I’m Still Searching’ was moody but still very New York…

It was actually just me and Steve, mostly me although I did credit the other members of VISAGE because at the time, I didn’t believe we had split up, the fact that they weren’t there was irrelevant. VISAGE was always about a group of people where some show up and some can’t like John McGeoch, but he was still a member. So we had to do a B-side…

It’s unusual in that it was a VISAGE B-side that had a vocal…

Yeah, it was just one finger on the synth…

It sounded a bit like PET SHOP BOYS…

I’d never heard of PET SHOP BOYS back then in 1982…

Well that’s cos they didn’t exist at the time! *laughs*

HA HA!

Ok, so what’s the story about your UK remix of MADONNA’s ‘Everybody’?

I’ve been recently linking and tweeting over the years about how upset I am about this, but the reason I’m upset is based on my knowledge of Blockchain and how in the future, musicians will ALL be paid, there will be none of this not paying people and all the b*llocks that the music industry loves…

So the bottom line is we did a verbal agreement in New York that I would remix the track for Warner Bros that needed a British introduction. Basically at the time, you could make it easier in England than you could in America.

Was this a thing you sorted with Seymour Stein of Sire Records who were part of the Warners set-up?

Yes, I did a lot with Seymour, I gave him SOFT CELL whose publishing I looked after, B-MOVIE, the ‘Batcave: Young Limbs And Numb Hymns’ compilation album, we did a lot.

Everything was agreed and we put her on at The Haçienda in Manchester, that would introduce her to ‘cool’ England, the tune would be cool and I think it did the job, the press were all over it. I think I did a great mix and you can find it online. If you go to madonna.com there is information on it even though it’s not credited “Rusty Egan”, it says “UK mix” but that IS the Rusty Egan mix. I only played my mix at The Camden Palace, all the time…

So what did you do specifically on your mix that was different to make it more UK friendly?

I gave it a lot more space, it was more on vocals and guitar because I liked that rhythm thing like on ‘The Anvil’ plus I especially liked the talking. I think the regular MADONNA version is a pop song and I made it more of a seductive groove in a club, I extended the breaks, I put echoes and delays on the vocals and brought it right up.

So, let’s enter ‘The Twilight Zone’…

I had an agreement with Warner Chappell and each project they turned down, this was a Warner movie and a classic theme, I did not want to use the main theme, just the well-known sequence adding all the rest myself, bassline and string stabs and percussion. Rob Dickens of Warners came to the studio and said he would not accept the mix unless I edited in the main orchestral and organ theme. So it was released like that as ‘The Twilight Zone’, RUSTY 1 on Warner Bros Records.

That tw*t John Pitcher of MRC who stole VISAGE, ‘R.E.R.B’ and Blitz Club Records then added it to a compilation ‘Trevor Jackson ‎– Metal Dance 2: Industrial New Wave EBM Classics & Rarities 79-88’. But what Trevor did was edit out the main theme back to what I submitted, so it’s all me.

TIME ZONE ‘Wild Style’, you’ve reclaimed this one…

The story is I heard this band called YELLO and I was invited by Ian Tregoning of their label Do It Records to meet them. There was this place on the way by train where these blokes SUPERSEMPFT had made a record I liked, so we went to their studio. I sampled all these records by BLANCMANGE and KRAFTWERK into a beat, programmed the drum machine, played the bass on the Moog and did all the pieces in one night.

I had a cassette of it and went on my journey to meet YELLO, but when I got back, I sent it to Celluloid Records in New York who released a lot of French electronic music I was liking like MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNE, the French seemed to like quite odd records at the time. Anyway, next thing I know, Afrika Bambaataa loves it and suggested we go 50:50 as I’d done the music.

But over the years, people online I’ve never heard of who have claimed they wrote it by logging into this publishing database, I didn’t know about that… in 1993, Todd Terry made a record called ‘My Definition Wild Style’, all he did was take the B-side of the record and added a nice beat, that was it! We don’t mind that BUT what we mind is he claimed he wrote the f***ing thing! I was furious, then a load of other blokes claimed they wrote it, so I had to get Notting Hill Music to say 100% written by Rusty Egan and all the others can F*** OFF! But they’d all been paid for 20 years!

Anyway, I reworked it for ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ as ‘Wonderwerke’ because I kept saying in German “Was ist das? Ein Wonderwerke?”, so I’ve reclaimed it from Todd Terry!

To continue the German connection, what about when you worked with German act HONGKONG SYNDIKAT in 1984?

These guys sampled Ronald Reagan’s speech in Berlin for a track called ‘Berlin Bleibt Doch Berlin’ and they did this beat. I met with Gerd Plez from HONGKONG SYNDIKAT, he played me the demos for the next album and I suggested mixing it at my Trident Studios and adding overdubs. We did this song ‘Divided By’ which was literally a pocket calculator that went “9-8-7, 7-8-9, divided by-divided by”, it was hard, maybe too hard.

Then there was a song called ‘Too Much’, I introduced him recently to HP Hoeger and the chill out mix has ended up on a few ‘Buddha Bar’ albums.

Now, you formed THE SENATE and released ‘The Original Sin’…

Yeah, with Kirk Brandon… well, ‘The Original Sin’ was the one everyone says is about Kirk’s friendship with Boy George. Now the other day on The Blitz Club Facebook group, there’s a picture of Kirk Brandon which the poster labelled “closet”, what a f***ing thing to write? Don’t forget, The Blitz was a place where people who were unsure of their sexuality could go to.

While it wasn’t a gay club, you had to be open-minded so why do we have people on The Blitz Club Facebook group talking like a homophobic thug?

Well it’s rather like electronic music fans who are into KRAFTWERK ‘Europe Endless’ and ULTRAVOX ‘New Europeans’ but being staunchly pro-Brexit…

Yes, so basically this song is Kirk admitting that Boy George was a beautiful boy, as was Marilyn, and about when you’re 19-20 years old and you are unsure of your sexuality. We loved that “is it a boy, is it a girl?” time and when I heard that lyric “since you came into my life, I had to rearrange my heart”, boy did Kirk have a voice and I wanted to have this orchestrated epicness behind it, but I think I went way over the top!

Was THE SENATE meant to be a limited project?

Yes, it was one-off, me and Kirk were mates and I’d produced SPEAR OF DESTINY, ‘Mickey’ is a classic and featured Anne Dudley on strings.

PULSE’s cover version of LED ZEPPELIN ‘Whole Lotta Love’, you were having a hit again…

This was 1988, on the bottom of the rear artwork, it says “Every generation has a musical revolution…” and I was part of the 1980 musical revolution. But I was sitting in the Island Records office, working as a friend for U2 on a little salary, I’d lost my wife, my home, my car so basically I’m losing it, 80% of the people at Island were into DEACON BLUE and I was at my lowest ebb! It really wasn’t happening, I liked THE CHRISTIANS and SHRIEKBACK but I was desperately looking for something.

I knew Paul Oakenfold and all these DJs that had come to The Camden Palace so I thought to myself “something is going to happen musically to get me out of this”. But in the meantime, it wasn’t house as it hadn’t arrived yet, electro and techno had probably peaked. I did this psychedelic record sleeve and I just thought of Robert Plant, so I had this idea of doing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with Tracy Ackerman from SHAKATAK on vocals, an amazing singer.

Dave Robinson who was Stiff Records but now Island MD at that time was linked with Trevor Horn cos of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.

So I was invited down to Sarm Studios and they offered to let me use it, so we made that! Then U2 released it on their Son Records imprint…

Ah yes, Son Records released that novelty Country & Western cover of ‘The Fly’ by THE JOSHUA TRIO and ‘Riverdance’…

And again, I never got paid! *laughs*

So it all ended for a few decades but you came back with a club remix of FILTHY DUKES ‘Messages’ in 2009…

I think it’s f***ing great that mix! The late Mick Clark who signed SOUL II SOUL suggested I remix so they put me in this studio with all the parts of FILTHY DUKES, but of course I hadn’t been in one for 20 years so didn’t know what to do, it was all computerised! So I’m there with this guy Sie Medway-Smith who I was told had remixed DEPECHE MODE and I was like “WHAT?”… they said he was the right guy for me.

BUT, when you go back into the studio for the first time in ages and don’t really know how it works anymore, you tend to let other people do things and then say “I don’t like it”… but when you say “I don’t like it”, it tends to go down like nails down a blackboard! So what happened with him was he went “well, this is how it works mate!”

I just wanted it simple and I did all the synths, but everything about it was an argument! Sie Medway-Smith was way advanced and in-demand so acted like he was doing me a favour, I couldn’t p*ss him off!

So there’s this interesting side-story with LA ROUX…

Because of that mix, through Mick Clark I got the chance to see and remix LA ROUX. I went to the Notting Hill Arts Club and I heard ‘Bulletproof’. So I went back to Sie and said “I want to do this!”, but he went “it’s f***ing rubbish Rusty”! Sie pulled up the lead vocal and said “it’s terrible” and I was like “IT’S NOT! IT’S A POP SONG!”, so we basically had this argument. I’m trying to do a remix and he’s literally downing tools, doing anything to avoid finishing it! *laughs*

I was powerless cos I don’t know what to do, so we get like a half finished version to Mick Clark who said “it’s good but it’s not right and you’ve missed the deadline, they’ve gone for some drum ‘n’ bass guy and it’s blowing up!”…. I had to ask what that meant!! I was so angry! You can hear it on my Soundcloud.

Fast forward to 2014 and you do this mash-up with Antony Toga on TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘Control Me’?

I search for stuff all the time and I found ‘Control Me’, I thought it was brilliant although the drums were sh*t, so I knew Antony Toga and his adaptation of ‘Seconds’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE so I mashed them together and sent it to the band. I said “I think you’re great and I love your songs but you need to sort your drums out”…

Funnily enough, I said the same to them after I first saw them live in Düsseldorf 2015…

It was only supposed to be an idea, but TINY MAGNETIC PETS made a video and uploaded it saying I did it but it wasn’t me as such. They left it as it is but I suggested they contact Antony Toga to make sure he didn’t mind. They do this version live…

Some of your most high profile remixes recently were for U2?

I had always been a U2 fan, but I lost it around ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’. I hadn’t really reconnected to their new music, their first five albums were classic as most people I think would agree, although I did like ‘Beautiful Day’. But I reconnected on this new album ‘Songs Of Experience’, I felt it had a message and that message was love. It had vocoders, synthesizers and I thought “this isn’t your rock ‘n’ roll’, I would love to do something with this”.

So I wrote to U2 asking if I could remix them, not realising 20 other DJs had already done so. They sent me a link and they were HORRIBLE, sh*tty terrible EDM! I asked to do ‘Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ which I did with HP Hoeger, one without drums, one with drums and one in the style of ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.

NOW, we all know ‘In The Air Tonight’ is a Roland CR78 drum machine, it’s got this sound but I just wanted to put a beat on it, which I programmed on a plug-in. I sent it to the band and they loved this version but wanted more guitars on, so it became like the ‘band’ mix. But the Chill mix without the drums is my preferred mix…

U2 go with the ‘band’ mix which is not the one I love, but then this well-known remixer from Holland, Ben Liebrand is on YouTube and Soundcloud going “RUSTY EGAN HAS STOLEN MY DRUMS!”, so I’m like “what?”… I searched and found he had remixed a version of ‘In The Air Tonight’ in 1988, I listened to it and went “OH F*CK! It sounds like the same thing!”, but then that’s because it’s the same drum machine!

Anyway, when you Google “Drums In The Air Tonight Phil Collins”, there’s all these YouTube tutorials going “Hi! Whassup? Today we’re going to show you how to programme the ‘In The Air Tonight’ drums”… I was like “Hang on Ben Liebrand, there’s 25 guys here who can programme the ‘In The Air Tonight’, I DIDN’T do ‘In The Air Tonight’, I did U2 and used the same f***ing drum machine! There is no ‘In The Air Tonight’ drums on it, it is just SOUND!”

But using a drum sound is not like nicking a bit off an actual song…

That’s right! So if you want to get into that, I made THE ART OF NOISE drum sound! I’d brought JJ Jeczalik who did ABC into my studio, I paid him £500 to press all these buttons on a Fairlight as none of us knew how to work it, he took my sound and he had a band of his own called THE ART OF NOISE!

Was that the VISAGE ‘Beat Boy’ drum sound?

YES! You can tell ‘Beat Boy’ and THE ART OF NOISE are the same sound! We made it before! *laughs*

If Ben Liebrand had written to me privately about the similarity or whatever, we could have handled it in an “oh my god, I didn’t realise” manner. ‘Yellow Pearl’ IS my drum sound, people when they listen to music always go “oh, it sounds like…”

Let’s talk about ‘Thank You’, the closing track on your album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’…

‘Thank You’ is as it is, I just believe a lot of people should say “thank you” but they don’t… so I felt when I made my album, my career and everything that I am is because of that list of people.

And even if in there I thank Nikonn who worked with me on that album and I clashed with, or people that I disagreed with, it’s about the music. I even end it poignantly by saying “VISAGE”, regardless of any problems or issues that I had with Steve Strange, I am still immensely proud of the music I made with VISAGE, so I am very upset when it is imitated or faked as anybody would be…


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan

‘An Audience with Rusty Egan’ takes place on Wednesday 19th June 2019 at PizzaExpress Live, 99 High Holborn, London WC1V 6LF – tickets available from: https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/an-audience-with-rusty-egan

‘Welcome To The Remix’ + ‘Welcome To The Beach’ are released by Black Mosaic in digital formats, both available from https://rustyeganpresents1.bandcamp.com/

http://rustyegan.net/

https://www.facebook.com/rusty.egan/

https://twitter.com/DJRustyEgan

https://www.instagram.com/rustyegan/

https://soundcloud.com/rusty-egan

https://www.mixcloud.com/rustyegan/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th April 2019

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY Hans und Lieselotte

Steven Jones met Logan Sky through the legendary Steve Strange, both being mutual friends of the late singer.

Sky established himself as a familiar name in the electronic music circles, having tinkered with synths for VISAGE, working with Nick Rhodes while playing and DJ-ing alongside CLIENT, LADYTRON and HOT CHIP, to name a few. Jones, a multitalented individual, dividing his attention between love of vocal wizardry and teaching of yoga, has worked with Sky on many previous releases, including numerous EPs and the long player ‘Corrupt State’, which featured Strange before his untimely demise. The pair take their inspiration from the usual suspects like DAVID BOWIE, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and DEPECHE MODE.

They create “music to evoke the restlessness and romance of international travel, cinematic loneliness of modern urban life and the deceptive seductiveness of the photographed image…”

The beginning of 2018 brings the follow-up to ‘Corrupt State’; ‘Hans und Lieselotte’. The album was recorded in one week and it represents “a new collection of shimmering electronics and the result of a dynamic musical experiment, an honouring of the random creative impulse.”

The title, taken from a German learning course, which features the daily life of a typical Deutsch family, The Schaudis, whose son Hans had a lady friend Lieselotte. Although rather superficial and totally absurd, the lessons taught perfect High German, even reaching cult status, with the grammatically correct, yet ridiculous sentences derived from it being quoted left, right and centre.

Indeed the opening ‘Lieselotte is not an Object’ could be one of them… Kraftwerkian style!

‘Girls Like It From Above’ brings to life the notion of vintage disco, rubbing shoulders with “chaotic creative channeling” as per AND ONE’s ‘Virgin Superstar’ in its style. The perfect arpeggios meet arty notions, performed with poise and passion. Do girls really “like it from above”? Do they “only crave this kind of love”? Perhaps, if it’s sung by Jones.

‘Syria’ features Eastern musical elements not too dissimilar from BLANCMANGE’s ‘Living On The Ceiling’; this time “desert fires (are) burning”. But the originality shines through the superb ‘Oysters Without You’, which could have been a starting point for THE HUMAN LEAGUE sans the girls on ‘Reproduction’ or ‘Travelogue’. A parodical tale of consuming oysters alone, rather than with a lover, the moral is “never eat your oysters alone”.

The faraway travel continues with the music stripped ‘Talk India’. As it says on the tin, here we are “talking India”. A rather hilarious narration of Jones’ visit to India, intertwined with Hindu music, telling the tale of drink, food, visiting of Taj Mahal, Jaypur, Rishikesh (renowned for meditation and yoga in its temples and ashrams), wrapped into a memento of a memorable journey.

Clearly the narrated pieces are of a liking for the duo, as ‘A Packet Of Something’ follows in that very notion. Here we see Jones “arising from the void of light”, boosted by sci-fi musical fixtures.

The slower, rather JAPAN-like ‘Waiting for The Evening’ is a majestic combination of excellent synth and capable vocals. This is what synth arpeggios are supposed to sound like, boys and girls! ‘My Obscurity’ punctuates the record with its tribal meet nature feel, while ‘Logan Loves It’ is what Sky loves, the instrumental way with very vintage Depeche rhythms.

‘Peppersack’ marks the album’s end, if we take out the three remixes that follow, and it’s a tale of enigma with the atmosphere of uncertainty and pain, or perhaps not…

Additionally we are presented with two remixes of ‘Lieselotte Is Not An Object’, including a masterful version by Man Parrish and ‘Hans und Lise’, also by the Godfather Of Electro.

Another success? Definitely. Logan Sky’s love of experimental synth shines through ‘Hans und Lieselotte’. The classical trained pianist, turned keyboard player has always seen himself “as an inventor” and his graft is served here with a dose of melancholy, joy, laughter and nostalgia, creating a listen worthy record with a twist.


‘Hans und Lieselotte’ is released by Etrangers Musique, available as a CD or download from https://etrangersmusique.bandcamp.com/album/hans-und-lieselotte

https://www.etrangersmusique.com

https://www.facebook.com/etrangersmusique/

https://www.facebook.com/loganskyofficial/

https://twitter.com/etrangers


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
25th January 2018

A Beginner’s Guide To MIDGE URE

MIDGE URE needs no introduction as one of the UK’s most highly regarded songwriters and musicians.

Best known for his involvement in ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’, voted “the UK’s favourite No2 of all time” in a BBC Radio2 poll in 2013, the diminutive Glaswegian first found fame as the front man of SLIK when their single ‘Forever & Ever’ became a UK No1 in 1975 and turned Ure briefly into a teen idol.

Luckily, SLIK could play their instruments and write their own material so in 1977 under the name PVC2, they released ‘Put You In The Picture’ on Zoom Records, a punkish single that sold more than anything by SIMPLE MINDS during their tenure on the label.

Having become fascinated by KRAFTWERK when they hit the UK charts with ‘Autobahn’ in 1975, he purchased his first synth, a Yamaha CS50 in 1977. So when Ure joined RICH KIDS and met drummer Rusty Egan, it was to change the course of his career when he subsequently founded VISAGE and joined ULTRAVOX.

VISAGE had been started in 1978 by Ure and Egan as a project to make up for the shortage of suitable European styled electronic dance music to play at The Blitz Club where the latter was the resident DJ. Needing a front man, they turned its doorman Steve Strange to act as Pied Piper to the colourful clientele who were later to be dubbed the New Romantics. Ure would subsequently help to deliver the movement’s signature song ‘Fade To Grey’.

Others involved in VISAGE included MAGAZINE’s John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson but also crucially Billy Currie, taking a break to heal his wounds from a recently fragmented ULTRAVOX following the departure of leader John Foxx. At the suggestion of Egan, Ure joined the band and the rest is history.

The classic ULTRAVOX line-up of Ure, Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann had a run of twelve consecutive Top 40 hits singles in the UK before they imploded due to good old fashioned musical and personal differences, in the wake of Ure’s parallel solo career and his charity work with the Band Aid Trust.

But Ure was always been happiest in the studio and during his first ULTRAVOX phase, he also produced tracks for FATAL CHARM, PETER GODWIN, RONNY, PHIL LYNOTT and MESSENGERS, as well as working on the second VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’.

The last ten years have been particularly busy for Ure. A regular on the live circuit with his endearingly intimate acoustic gigs featuring career highlights in stripped back form, he also undertook a number of key musical collaborations with European producers. But his most high profile project was the reformation of the classic ULTRAVOX line-up in 2009.

Following the winding down of ULTRAVOX after an arena tour opening for SIMPLE MINDS in late 2013, Ure returned to the acoustic format for two live tours backed by INDIA ELECTRIC COMPANY. But this autumn sees Ure returning to synthesizers and electric guitars with his ‘Band Electronica’ tour.

He said on his website: “I want to revisit some material that I’ve not really been able to perform with the recent acoustic line-up, so you can expect to hear songs that haven’t been aired for a while as well as the classics and a couple of surprises! I’ve really enjoyed touring with a band and now I want to expand back to a four piece and return to a more electronic based format”

With that in mind, The Electricity Club looks back at the career of MIDGE URE and his great adventure in electronic music via this twenty track Beginner’s Guide, arranged in chronological order and with a restriction of one track per album / project


RICH KIDS Marching Men (1978)

Fresh from being ousted out of THE SEX PISTOLS, Glen Matlock offered Ure a place in his new power-pop combo RICH KIDS. An anti-Fascist anthem produced by the late Mick Ronson, ‘Marching Men’ was notable for Ure’s first use of his Yamaha CS50 on a recording, much to the dismay of Matlock, whose idea of a keyboard player was Ian McLagan from SMALL FACES. Eventually, the band imploded with Matlock and Steve New thinking guitars were the way to go, while Ure and Rusty Egan felt it was electronics.

Available on the RICH KIDS album ‘Ghosts Of Princes In Towers’ via EMI Music

http://www.glenmatlock.com/


VISAGE Tar (1979)

Despite the rejection by EMI, the first VISAGE demo of ‘In The Year 2525’ attracted the attention of producer Martin Rushent who wanted to release the collective’s music via his Genetic imprint through Radar Records. ‘Tar’ was a cautionary tale about smoking dominated by John McGeoch’s sax and Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey. Alas, Radar Records had funding pulled from its parent company Warners just as the single was released, stalling any potential it had. As the album was put on hold, Ure found yet another lifeline.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Spectrum

http://www.therealvisage.com/


ULTRAVOX All Stood Still (1980)

Ure joined ULTRAVOX to record the now classic ‘Vienna’ album, although it was testament to Conny Plank’s faith in the band that he continued to work with them after John Foxx left. On ‘All Stood Still’, Ure put his live experience with THIN LIZZY to good use on this fine barrage of synthesizer heavy metal about an impending nuclear holocaust. Driven by Chris Cross’ triggered Minimoog bass and Warren Cann’s powerhouse drums, the interplay between Ure’s guitar and Currie’s ARP Odyssey was awesome.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Music

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


PHIL LYNOTT Yellow Pearl (1980)

German music formed a large part of Rusty Egan’s DJ sets at The Blitz Club between 1978-1981 and even Irish rocker Phil Lynott frequented it. ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a LA DÜSSELDORF inspired co-composition with Ure that also featured Billy Currie, while Rusty Egan later played drums on the single remix. A VISAGE track in all but name, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was so draped in the involvement of Ure, Egan and Currie that it was almost forgotten that the figurehead of the song was the frontman of THIN LIZZY!

Available on the THIN LIZZY album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Universal Music

http://www.thinlizzy.org/phil.html


FATAL CHARM Paris (1981)

Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Ure and their sound could be seen reflecting the synth flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the long distance love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said to The Electricity Club: “We were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm

http://fatalcharm.co.uk/


ULTRAVOX The Voice (1981)

Co-produced by Conny Plank, with the Motorik thrust of NEU! and a marvellous symphonic pomp, ‘The Voice’ was a fine example of the creative tension that had now emerged between Ure and Chris Cross on one side, and Billy Currie on the other. Characterised by the swimmy Yamaha SS30 string machine, a magnificent middle eight ARP Odyssey solo and piano run was the icing on the cake. The song took on a life of its own in a concert setting with an extended closing percussive barrage.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Rage In Eden’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/UltravoxUK/


VISAGE The Damned Don’t Cry (1982)

To the public at least, it was business as usual with the second album ‘The Anvil’ and its launch single ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’. Very much in the vein of ‘Fade To Grey’, it was full of synthesized European romanticism. But with Steve Strange and Rusty Egan now finding success with their club ventures and ULTRAVOX becoming ever more popular, it was unsurprising that ‘The Anvil’ lacked the focus of its predecessor. Internally, things had gone awry and tensions with Egan led to Ure bidding adieu to VISAGE.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Cherry Pop

https://www.facebook.com/therealvisage/


MIDGE URE & CHRIS CROSS Rivets (1982 – released 1984)

Ure and Cross worked together on an eccentric synthesized spoken word album with Maxwell Langdown entitled ‘The Bloodied Sword’. But their involvement in ‘Rivets’ came about when Levi’s® were about to launch their expensive new TV advertisment… an executive, unhappy with the soundtrack shouted “What we need on there is ‘Vienna’”! The campaign was a successful one and Ure was commissioned to submit music for the next commercial entitled ‘Threads’; however his ’633 Squadron’ inspired electronic tune was subjected to demands for rewrites by the paymasters so tired of the politics, Ure withdrew the track… that piece of music became ‘Love’s Great Adventure’!

Originally released as part of ULTRAVOX ‘Set Movements 1984 Interview’ cassette, currently unavailable

https://twitter.com/CCrossky


MIDGE URE & MICK KARN After A Fashion (1983)

‘After A Fashion’ was a blistering sonic salvo that crossed the best of JAPAN’s rhythmical art muzak with ULTRAVOX’s ‘The Thin Wall’. However, it stalled at No39 in the UK singles charts and sadly, there was to be no album. But Mick Karn later played on ‘Remembrance Day’ in 1988 and Ure briefly joined JBK, the band formally known as JAPAN sans David Sylvian for an aborted project in 1992. Sadly Karn passed away in 2011 after losing his battle against cancer.

Available on the MIDGE URE album ‘No Regrets’ via EMI Gold

http://mickkarn.net/


MESSENGERS I Turn In (1983)

Glaswegian duo MESSENGERS were Danny Mitchell and Colin King whose only album ‘Concrete Scheme’ as MODERN MAN in 1980 was produced by Ure. The pair toured with ULTRAVOX as support during the ‘Quartet’ tour, as well as joining them on stage to augment their live sound. MESSENGERS’ debut single ‘I Turn In (To You)’ was also produced by Ure but criticised for being ULTRAVOX lite, although the song held its own with its dramatic widescreen passages.

Originally released as a single via Musicfest, currently unavailable

http://www.discog.info/modern-man-messengers.html


ULTRAVOX Man Of Two Worlds (1984)

An electro Celtic melodrama in four and a half minutes, the magnificent ‘Man Of Two Worlds’ was the highlight from the self-produced ‘Lament’ long player. Featuring an eerie female Gaelic vocal from Stock Aitken & Waterman backing vocalist Mae McKenna, the doomed romantic novel imagery capturing a feeling of solitude with haunting synths, programmed Motorik rhythms and manual funk syncopation was an unusual template, even for the period.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Lament’ via EMI Music

https://twitter.com/UltravoxUK


MIDGE URE If I Was (1985)

‘No Regrets’ had been a big solo hit in 1982 so with ULTRAVOX on break, Ure took a busman’s holiday and recorded his first solo album ‘The Gift’. A song demoed by Danny Mitchell of MESSENGERS for their aborted long player, while there was a big anthemic chorus and vibrant string synth interludes, ‘If I Was’ was a very different beast from ULTRAVOX in that this was a love song. Featuring LEVEL 42’s Mark King on bass, it became a UK No1 single in the Autumn of 1985.

Available on the MIDGE URE album ‘The Gift’ via EMI Music

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


MIDGE URE Man Of The World (1993 – released 1996)

As a reaction to the pomp of ULTRAVOX, Ure went back to basics with his ‘Out Alone’ tour in 1993 which featured acoustic renditions of his own songs and covers assisted by a pre-programmed keyboard. One song he performed was Peter Green’s ‘Man of the World’, a bittersweet song about a man who has everything he wants, except the companion he craves. A live recording ended up as a bonus track on the ‘Guns & Arrows’ single, but a studio version appeared on 2008’s ’10’ covers album.

Live version available on the MIDGE URE double album ‘Pure + Breathe’ via Edsel Records

https://www.facebook.com/midge.ure/


JAM & SPOON Something To Remind Me (2003)

For Jam El Mar and Mark Spoon’s attempt at a ‘pop’ album, the German dance duo featured vocals on all the tracks and among those recruited were Dolores O’Riordan of THE CRANBERRIES and SIMPLE MINDS’ Jim Kerr. For his return to full blown electronica, Midge Ure’s contribution ‘Something To Remind Me’ was big on beats. Recording coincided with preparations for the ‘Sampled Looped & Trigger Happy’ tour which saw Ure use a more technologically driven format for live shows for the first time in many years.

Available on the JAM & SPOON album ‘Tripomatic Fairytales 3003’ via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/Jam-Spoon-59220848974/


X-PERIENCE Personal Heaven – Desert Dream radio mix (2007)

Thanks to his continued popularity in Germany, Ure was much in demand as a guest vocalist and was persuaded to record a song he had written with HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory by dance production team X-PERIENCE. Duetting with Claudia Uhle, who provided her own sumptuous vocals to compliment the electronics and muted synthetic guitars, the punchy Desert Dream radio mix was particularly effective.

Available on the CD single ‘Personal Heaven’ via Major Records

http://www.x-perience.de/


SCHILLER Let It Rise (2010)

Named after the German poet and dramatist Friedrich Schiller, Christopher von Deylen’s domestically popular ambient electro project recruited Ure to sing on the dramatically widescreen ‘Let It Rise’; he said to The Electricity Club: “SCHILLER’s got his very own, very good and distinctive style which is much more of a laid back, trip-hop dance thing”. Ure revisited the track for his own ‘Fragile’ album in a more stripped back arrangement.

Available on the SCHILLER album ‘Atemlos’ via Universal Music

http://www.schillermusic.com/


ULTRAVOX Rise (2012)

In 2009, the impossible happened and the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX reunited for the ‘Return To Eden’ tour. Things went well enough for a new album to be recorded and writing took place at Ure’s retreat in Canada, Produced by Stephen J Lipson, several of the tracks like ‘Live’ and ‘Satellite’ recalled former glories while with this take on Giorgio Moroder, the percolating sequences and rhythmic snap of ‘Rise’ could be seen a robotic 21st Century update of ‘The Thin Wall’.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Brilliant’ via EMI Music

https://www.discogs.com/artist/70735-Ultravox


LICHTMOND Endless Moments (2014)

LICHTMOND is an ambitious audio-visual project led by sound architects Giorgio and Martin Koppehele to “Experience Dreamlike Time”. Very progressive in its outlook with “A magic triangle of electronics, ethno and rock songs”, Ure featured on load vocals and said on the album notes: “For me LICHTMOND is a unique combination of music, visuals and brilliant imagination. All coming together to make one great big piece of art. Enjoy it!”

Available on the LICHTMOND album ‘Days Of Eternity’ via Blu Phase Media

http://www.lichtmond.de/


MIDGE URE Become (2014)

Although Ure had been regularly touring and playing festivals, there was a gap of 14 years between the ‘Move Me’ and ‘Fragile’ long players. The ULTRAVOX reunion was the spark he needed to get his sixth solo album of original material finished. The lead single was ‘Become’, a romantic and less abrasive take on ‘After A Fashion’. With a danceable metronomic beat, it had a classic synthpop sound that Ure admitted to The Electricity Club was “kind of harking back to early VISAGE”.

Available on the MIDGE URE album ‘Fragile’ via Hypertension ‎Music

https://twitter.com/midgeure1


RUSTY EGAN PRESENTS Glorious (2016)

‘Glorious’ not only reunited our hero with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, Chris Payne and Rusty had done a great job but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough… I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN PRESENTS album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic

http://rustyegan.net/


MIDGE URE’s ‘Band Electronica’ 2017 live dates include:

Frankfurt Batschkapp (Sep 27), Munich The Electricity Clubhnikum (Sep 28), Cologne Kantine Kulturbetriebe GmbH (Sep 29), Bochum Zeche (Oct 01), Hamburg Gruenspan (Oct 03), Berlin Columbia Theater (Oct 04), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (Oct 10), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (Oct 11), Bournemouth Pavillion Theatre (Oct 13), Guildford G Live (Oct 14) , Milton Keynes Theatre (Oct 15), New Theatre Oxford (Oct 17), High Wycombe Swan Theatre (Oct 18), Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall (Oct 19), Skegness The Embassy (Oct 20), Edinburgh Playhouse (Oct 22), Dundee Caird Hall (Oct 23), Gateshead Sage (Oct 24), Manchester Opera House (Oct 25), Dartford Orchard (Oct 27), Basingstoke Anvil (Oct 28), Sheffield City Hall (Oct 29), Halifax Victoria Theatre (Oct 31), Buxton Opera House (Nov 01), Birmingham Town Hall (Nov 02), York Grand Opera House (Nov 03), Southport Theatre (Nov 04), Blackpool Grand Theatre (Nov 05), London Shepherds Bush Empire (Nov 07), Torquay Princess Theatre (Nov 08), Portsmouth Guildhall (Nov 09), Salisbury City Hall (Nov 10), Truro Hall for Cornwall (Nov 11), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (Nov 14), Eastbourne Devonshire theatre (Nov 15), St Albans Arena (Nov 17), Amsterdam Q Factory (March 09), Breda Mezz (March 11)

Further information at http://www.midgeure.co.uk/shows.html


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th August 2017

MIDGE URE Interview

+MidgeUre2015 - thumbLike many graduates of Synth Britannia, MIDGE URE first became interested in electronic music when in 1975, KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ hit the UK singles charts.

Already using Yamaha’s flagship SG2000 guitar, in 1977 he was able to negotiate with the Japanese company to make his first synth purchase, a CS50, at half price.

At the time, he was a member of THE RICH KIDS with Glen Matlock, but with THE SEX PISTOLS refugee preferring Hammond organs and brass sections to Minimoogs, the inevitable musical differences ensued.

Breaking away with drummer Rusty Egan in 1978, the pair recruited Steve Strange as vocalist and formed VISAGE, a platform to create modern electronic dance music influenced by the likes of DAVID BOWIE, KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA that could be played at Egan and Strange’s ‘Club For Heroes’. Another band who Egan and Ure loved from that period was ULTRAVOX; their multi-instrumentalist Billy Currie was invited to join the sessions for VISAGE’s debut album and this eventually led to Ure joining ULTRAVOX.

In 1985 while juggling ULTRAVOX and his work with the Band Aid Trust, Ure released his debut solo album ‘The Gift’ which spawned the rousing No1 single ‘If I Was’. Two further albums ‘Answers To Nothing’ and ‘Pure’ followed but in 1993, he went ‘Out Alone’ on an intimate tour which saw Ure performing on his own, accompanying himself primarily on just an acoustic guitar.

Midge Ure BreatheIn 1995, his fourth solo album ‘Breathe’ signalled a new direction with a more Celtic feel and traditional instrumentation.

Although initially the album had a slow start, Swatch chose the title track to accompany a well-received advertising campaign. As a result, the album became a massive seller all over Europe.

Ure has been particularly busy over the last 6 years. The successful live reunion of ULTRAVOX with the classic line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross and Billy Currie in 2009 led to the recording of 2012’s ‘Brilliant’ album.

2014 saw the release of ‘Fragile’, his first solo album of original material for over 12 years. A striking return to form, it included a number of poignant songs such as ‘Become’, ‘Dark Dark Night’, ‘For All You Know’ and ‘I Survived’.

But for 2015, 20 years on from its original release, MIDGE URE is performing the ‘Breathe’ album its entirety as part of an ongoing concert tour, augmented on stage by Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe from INDIA ELECTRIC CO. He kindly took time out from rehearsals and chatted to The Electricity Club about the ‘Breathe Again’ tour and much more…

Out of your solo albums, why have you chosen ‘Breathe’ as the one for the full length live showcase treatment?

A lot of my solo albums go through hell before they’re actually released. ‘Fragile’ took a long time to come and ‘Breathe’ was one of those albums where the record company, in their infinite wisdom, decided to A&R me after all these years! They wanted me to not use the same musicians, not to record in the same studios, not to produce the album myself… so they asked me to gather a whole bunch of songs which I did and I ended up with a producer I could work with, Richard Feldman who had done an album for the model and actress Milla Jovovich which was a great album.

So I made ‘Breathe’, it was fantastic and I delivered the album, only to have it sit on a shelf for a year while BMG started sorting out their internal problems. It was a hideously frustrating process to go through, and when it finally came out, the first two years of its life, it was the worst selling record I’d ever made.

So until Swatch came along and picked up the title track thanks to a fan in Italy, the album was an absolute disaster. But because of a TV commercial, it turned the entire thing round. It bounced all around Europe and was a big record eventually. I thought how good it would be to play the album in its entirety because I’ve never done that before.

At the time it was released, it was a departure from what you were known for, with a lot of traditional instrumentation?

It was more organic… there was still electronics involved with samples and stuff like that, but I think it’s just what you end up doing. You try to run a million miles from what you’re known for and it’s all part of the process of finding your own feet and trying to decide what you are and what you want to do. Part of that process would have been turning my back on the standard synthesis and rediscover my Scottish roots.

So the idea of doing something more organic had a bit of oomph to it, and was quite appealing at the time. I don’t think you’re the same person your entire life and you go through phases like chapters in a book. So when you get to chapter twenty five, you’re a very different person to the one who started off in chapter one. It was just another phase of discovery. To me, the important part of it was the quality of the songs, not just necessarily the instruments enhancing the songs.

A lot of ‘Breathe’ was recorded in America?

It was, yes… Richard Feldman is an American guitarist / producer and we did an awful lot of it at his place but a good chunk of it at mine in Bath.

There appeared to be some Country music vibes creeping in?

+MidgeUre2015-002You know what, I’m not quite sure about that… I think Country and traditional music are all very intermingled. Country music is just music from the country it’s sourced from. So country music would be Scottish or Irish or whatever, and it was when it got to America, it became Western. Country & Western music is based in roots music, it’s all the stuff I would have been taught as a kid in school.

The title song turned out to be one of the biggest songs of your career internationally, yet it is one of your lesser known ones in the UK?

Yeah, very much so… quite simply, the TV advert didn’t run in the UK, only on satellite channels so it didn’t get the same exposure here. And of course, good ol’ Great Britain, the radio didn’t play it even though it was No1 in the whole of Europe. There was a European chart that was an overall one for the whole continent including the UK, and for months and months, it was the No1 record! Yet UK radio chose not to play it! So there’s nothing much you can do about situations like that. You put it out and hope for the best. And sometimes you don’t get the best…

You roped in Robert Fripp to play on ‘Guns & Arrows’. What was it like working with him?

It was great, he’s lovely guy and a brilliant guitarist. You know, to have the guy who played on ‘Heroes’ play on one of your tunes is quite spectacular. It was very fortuitous actually, because he was in Los Angeles when I was recording there and I went to Dave Stewart’s studio just across the road from where I was. Robert was there and he said “of course I’ll play on the track, but do you mind if I bring 20 Japanese guitar students?”; I said it was fine and I had this bizarre scenario of Robert playing his fabulous Frippertronics thing in the recording room and in the control room looking through the glass window were these Japanese kids, all jotting down everything he did and said, with him lecturing “this is Midge… this is his song… I’ve known Midge a while… what I’m going to do is this…” – so he’s playing these textures and explaining it to these Japanese kids, it was most surreal but a great thing to happen.

+Midge (India Electric shoot) 102You also had Shankar playing a blistering violin solo on ‘Live Forever’, how are you reinterpreting the album on the ‘Breathe Again’ tour with the guys from INDIA ELECTRIC CO?

The INDIA ELECTRIC CO guys play a variety of instrumentation and there’s only two of them.

So there’s three of us on stage but we manage to cover a lot of stuff. For three people, we’re making quite a big noise.

Joseph O’Keefe who plays violin is just spectacularly good as a musician. He’s one of these guys who can hear in a cacophony that one string is out of tune. Him and Cole Stacey are both incredible but they’re so versatile and jump between instruments all the time.

I’m very pleased with how it’s gone. Even though the album wasn’t a huge success in the UK, the reaction it’s had so far has been phenomenal. The response of people has just been great, whether they knew the album or not. I was a little wary of going in and playing an entire album live of material that some of the audience wouldn’t know at all, but it seems to be irrelevant. They seem to be hooked on the textures, the melodies and the atmospheres. So maybe I’m just under estimating the audiences taste.

Of course, ‘Breathe’ is only so long, so you will also be playing material from throughout your career. How are you deciding which songs to play, especially as a fair number of your best known songs are synth based and are being rearranged for a more organic setting?

Well, I think that the song itself will dictate whether it can fit in that format or not, but I’ve been quite surprised at the ones which really sell; ‘Fade To Grey’ works brilliantly in this format as does ‘Lament’. And ‘Vienna’ works well! You would think, how could you recreate a song like that and get away with no drums, no bass, no whatever… you treat it differently, you just look at the song as an entity, it is its own thing and it’s like a salad; it changes flavour depending on what dressing you put on it.

So a song just changes it flavour by whatever dressing you put on it, so it changes whether you’re doing it electronically, doing it with a rock band or doing it with acoustic instruments. The song should be malleable and pliable, and still work as a song. But I have to say, some stuff we’re doing that’s not from the ‘Breathe’ album is working a treat. In fact, some of it is going down better than the ones designed to be played in that format.

Has there been a song you’ve loved and tried to do in this organic three piece line-up but that hasn’t worked?

Not really, although I shied away from doing ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’, because I’m not quite sure how it would work in that format… maybe that’s just me being a coward. But then again, I’ve been doing it solo acoustic for quite a long time now and it seems to work when it’s stripped right down. It’s down to the quality of the song.

I remember when the ‘Breathe’ album came out at first, and with the band I’d got to back it up, we couldn’t get ‘Live Forever’ to work. It just didn’t sound right and I scrapped it. So we never played ‘Live Forever’ live; but with the three piece, it works brilliantly! Don’t ask me why! It just does, it gels and has become a firm favourite in the current shows. I don’t know, maybe the ones you suspect will work, don’t! And the ones that won’t, do! You just have to be surprised and go with the flow! *laughs*

You released the excellent album ‘Fragile’ in 2014, how do you look back on its reception?

It was better than I expected in a lot of areas and no worse than I kind of expected. Some of the great stuff was really great. But there was one review that called it “Ultravox lite”; I didn’t get that at all because I think it’s a very different animal to ULTRAVOX.

A lot of places got it, The Huffington Post review put it in the Top 10 albums of 2014, even in America which is spectacular for an album that maybe a lot of people in America wouldn’t understand. But I think because it was something real, raw and honest, I think I came up with a very interesting album with a very good, strong batch of songs. I think some of the songs are the best that I’ve ever done. I spent a long time on it and poured my heart and soul into it. I didn’t listen to anybody outside telling me or guiding me how to do it, I just did exactly what I felt at the time.

Tracks like ‘Wire & Wood’ and ‘Bridges’ reminded people of your aptitude for instrumentals, so would soundtrack work interest you in the future?

MIDGE URE fragileIt’s always interested me but it’s never come my way properly, other than a few small independent movies, that was good fun and great to do.

I always thought ULTRAVOX should have been doing soundtracks with that Germanic synthesizer feel.

People like Trent Reznor who have been involved in electronics are doing soundtrack work… it never came ULTRAVOX’s way, but maybe we wouldn’t have been very good at it! Who knows? But the music kind of lent itself to that cinematic openness and atmospherics.

Are there any intentions to perform songs from ‘Fragile’ with a full band rather than in an acoustic setting?

We’re doing ‘Become’ and ‘Fragile’ in the ‘Breathe Again’ show… ‘Fragile’ lends itself well to that format because it’s a delicate little thing. I would LOVE to do the entire ‘Fragile’ album with a band, but it’s down to necessity, demand and cost… putting a full band together and major rehearsals, it’s a very costly thing to do. And I’m wary of piling on the ticket price to make an audience pay for it. So it’s something that would have to be well thought out, to do it properly and do it well. But I’d love to get my teeth in there and play the entire album.

You used Melodyne for both ‘Fragile’ and ULTRAVOX’s ‘Brilliant’ album but got some criticism for it. I find it quite strange that some electronic music fans have a problem with voice processing technology, especially when you used the equivalent period aesthetic on the third verse of ‘New Europeans’ for example… how do you see it?

I think anyone who cuts out processing or techniques in any form is just stupid! It like saying “why would you want to record on a computer when you’ve got tape machines?” or “why would you want to record digitally when you’ve got analogue?”. People don’t progress that way!

If I was somebody who couldn’t sing and had to pitch vocals or do all sorts of stuff to make it sound in tune, of course, then I should be pilloried for it! But I’m not! I use it for effect… my hearing pitch has got better and more refined over the years, so anything that’s slightly out for me, I want to get that right! But that nobody else can hear it… I used to drive ULTRAVOX crazy! It’s a bit like with my new glasses that are scratched in the middle of the lens, nobody can see it but I can!

So there’s nothing wrong with effecting something to make it the best it can possibly be, if that’s what you want to achieve. It’s very different hiding behind something because you’re not good enough. And it’s very different from being good enough, and making it better.

I don’t use it all the time, it’s a tool and no different from any of the plug-ins that I use when I make music. It’s a bit like saying “why do you use reverb on your voice?”… well, it’s because it suits the song and makes it more interesting.

And when you you’ve already recorded something and then think “oh, I wish I’d played that as a minor!”, why wouldn’t you use a tool that would allow you to do that without having to re-record the entire thing? You can adapt it and change it… music should be malleable, you should be able to play it ‘til you’re blue in the face. Some people are just anal to tell you the truth! *laughs*

How was the ‘Brilliant’ experience for you? It seemed reinvigorate you?

Yeah, it’s funny because people think I did ‘Fragile’ after ‘Brilliant’, it was 80% there but ‘Brilliant’ was what sparked me up to finish it. So a lot of the textures, sounds and character of the ‘Brilliant’ album kind of stemmed from my dabblings on ‘Fragile’ where I’d run out of steam… I didn’t see the point of finishing it, I was making an album that only a handful of people would appreciate. It was just me being a twat really, but that’s the feeling you get! You think “what’s the point of putting your heart and soul in it?”

So doing the ‘Brilliant’ album with the guys was the spark that I needed. It gave me the incentive to think “WOW! There’s something still there!”, because any artist is full of self-doubt… the first thing you think isn’t “the record company were crap” or “the radio are rubbish for not playing it”, but “maybe I’m not good enough”. You look at yourself first and foremost. That’s the process I went through and the whole get-together with ULTRAVOX was just such an enjoyable thing. I’m very proud of that record, I think we did a great job and it gave me the boost I needed to get on and finish my own record.

+Brilliant-posterWhat is the state of play with ULTRAVOX?

I haven’t seen Billy since we walked out of the O2 after the SIMPLE MINDS show, I haven’t seen Warren as he’s in Los Angeles but Chris has just texted me.

We always said we were never getting back together to take over the world as a band and pretend we were a bunch of teenagers, we all have other things that we do.

And we said that if and when something interesting pops up, we would get-together and do it. But right now, there’s no “yes, we’re doing something” and there’s no “no, we’re never doing anything again”. It’s just there resting on a shelf.

You’ve under taken quite a number of collaborations recently with MOBY, SCHILLER, LICHTMOND, JAM & SPOON and STEPHEN EMMER, have you any more planned?

I’ve never planned a collaboration to tell you the truth, it sort of lands on your lap. All of those you mentioned, they approached me and if I find it interesting, I’ll work on something, especially these days when it doesn’t involve jumping on a plane and disappearing from home for a week. It’s all done via the internet these days, someone sends you an idea for a track and you stick it on your computer. You start chopping it around, write new bits for it, do some lyrics, record a vocal, email it back to them and they assemble it at their place. It’s making collaborations much easier.

What’s been your favourite collaboration?

My favourite collaboration? KATE BUSH ‘Sister & Brother’… what a joy to go to my grave knowing that KATE BUSH and I are on the same piece of music, how cool is that?

+Midge+Mick No1-cropWas further collaboration with the late Mick Karn ever a realistic proposition following ‘After A Fashion’ in 1983, other than those aborted JBK sessions that spawned ‘Get A Life’ and ‘Cry’ on your ‘Little Orphans’ rarities CD?

We did some stuff in Montserrat, Mick came out for a couple of weeks and did some basic grooves, textures and backing tracks… there’s a copy of it somewhere but I’ve never tried to complete any of it.

We never got round to doing it, it was just one of those things. We talked about various projects, but we never got over the dabbling stage and never got seriously into it, which is a pity.

The JBK thing never got any further than those two tracks, all those guys who were in JAPAN are incredibly talented, and that would have been an interesting collaboration, but it never really happened. The idea was to put a band together, but I didn’t want to be the singer and we could never come up with someone who could take over the vocals. If I sang it, it would have been too much like me or ULTRAVOX, so it kind of fizzled out.

You wrote ‘Personal Heaven’ with Glenn Gregory of HEAVEN 17 and recorded it with X-PERIENCE, have you ever considered doing a collaborative EP or anything with him?

We’re probably better mates than collaborators! But yes, nothing is out of the question, especially with somebody like Glenn, he’s such a joy to be around and a lovely guy. And these days, you can do it without confusing people… you can go off and just do a little sideline. But back in the ULTRAVOX days, you couldn’t really do it, that’s your band, that’s what you do and you should never step outside that. So these days, it’s great to just go out and collaborate with people, I fully enjoy the whole process. So it’s a good idea Glenn and I getting together and doing a few songs ever so often, to see what we come up with.

Of course, your best known collaborative project was VISAGE and we lost Steve Strange recently. Have you had a chance to reflect back on that period at The Blitz?

You can’t help for all that stuff to go around your head, it was a major part of my life and Steve was a major part of that period. It was just dreadfully sad, the whole thing… it was just pathetic and horrible.

Y’know, I’m not sure what he was doing towards the end, VISAGE was never meant to be a live act. It was a studio project and meant to be a ‘Willo The Wisp’ thing that you couldn’t really grab hold of it cos it disappeared… that was the whole concept Rusty Egan and I came up with, it was just a passing thing.

But Steve looked like he was having fun doing it. I hadn’t seen Steve for a year and a half, two years or whatever prior to his passing, so it sparked off all the memories and all the fun stuff. Like the challenge of putting something like VISAGE together from a variety of different bands who were all still in existence and touring. So trying to put them all in the same place at the same time was a tall order.

The majority of the initial VISAGE recordings were done in Martin Rushent’s studio which was a little house in the bottom of his garden which had all his equipment in. Martin used to come down and watch we were doing, he’d never seen or heard anything like it, all these electronics. He used to hang about every night watching what Rusty and I were up to, watching Billy doing his sequencing and things like that, it was great. He was coming down with notebooks to learn how it all worked, and then went off and made THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ album! *laughs*

It was very beneficial, he gave us studio time because it was his label who was originally putting the stuff out, but he won because he got to make ‘Dare’ which was fantastic.

What’s next for you after the ‘Breathe Again’ tour?

There’s some dates in Germany and Dubai at the end of the year. But I’ve got to get back in the studio and carry on writing, now that I’m fired up. I want to keep that momentum going, I don’t want it to be another 12 years… I’m not sure I’ve got another 12 years, so I just want to get on with it! *laughs*


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to MIDGE URE

Midge Ure Breathe Again posterMIDGE URE’s ‘Breathe Again’ Tour 2015 includes:

Gateshead Sage (27th June), Southport Atkinson (28th June), Bury St. Edmunds Apex (17th September), Andover The Lights (September 18th), Redhill Harlequin (19th September), Falmouth Princess Pavilion (1st October), Porthcawl Grand Pavilion (2nd October), Cheltenham Tithe Barn (3rd October), Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall (4th October), Preston Guildhall Charter Theatre (14th October), Ulverston Coronation Hall (15th October), Leamington Spa Assembly Rooms (16th October), Hunstanton Princess Theatre (17th October), Lincoln Drill Hall (22nd October), London Union Chapel (23rd October)

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st June 2015

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