Tag: Chris Cross

New Europeans: The Legacy of ULTRAVOX

Photo by Brian Griffin

What do John Foxx, Midge Ure, Tony Fennell and Sam Blue all have in common? They have all, at some point, been the lead singer of ULTRAVOX.

While Fennell and Blue are now largely forgotten, having only recorded one album each in ‘Revelation’ and ‘Ingenuity’ respectively, there are endless debates about whether the John Foxx or Midge Ure fronted ULTRAVOX is the valid and definitive one.

Like with the Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins led versions of GENESIS, both have their own sound and different audiences, while there are some who even like both. But whatever, the four piece ULTRAVOX comprising of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure was undoubtedly the most commercially successful, scoring thirteen Top 30 hit singles in the UK over a period of four and a half years, as well as five Top 10 albums including a greatest hits collection.

How John Foxx departed the ULTRAVOX fold and Midge Ure came to join at the encouragement of Rusty Egan, following the first VISAGE sessions at Genetic Studios that included Billy Currie, is now more than well documented. The new quartet soon embarked on a US club tour in 1979 to test the water with their new material.

The thread between the two line-ups was German producer and engineer Conny Plank; he had offered to finance an album himself, such was his faith in the band. When interest came from Chrysalis Records and an offer of two days free studio time to make demos, ULTRAVOX opted to use their opportunity to complete a fully recorded version of ‘Sleepwalk’. It saw the new line-up of the band beef up their Motorik inclinations with lots of “fun-fun-fun on the autobahn” and Chrysalis duly offered a deal to the quartet.

ULTRAVOX were despatched to RAK Studios in London to record an album which was to be given the title of ‘Torque Point’ before the band and label settled on ‘Vienna’. With Ure’s background in power pop with SLIK and THE RICH KIDS, dynamic catchy choruses were to become a new trademark to go with a greater use of synthesizers, while there was a conscious move to utilise more of Billy Currie’s classical music training via his piano, violin and viola playing.

Photo by Anton Corbijn

Released in Summer 1980, one of the key tracks on the ‘Vienna’ album was the robotic spy story of ‘Mr X’ which was voiced by Warren Cann and clearly influenced by KRAFTWERK. With its tight Compurhythm backbone, it was an idea that dated back to the John Foxx-era as its hook was very similar to his ‘Touch & Go’ on ‘Metamatic’ released in early 1980. But ‘Touch & Go’ had been premiered live by ULTRAVOX before Foxx departed.

Another standout was the lengthy instrumental ‘Astradyne’, a glorious statement of intent that was the perfect opener. Under the spell of German acts like LA DÜSSELDORF and RIECHMANN with a fantastic interplay between the band and a final celebratory section coming from an unexpected lift.

Billy Currie told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2012 that “Midge came up with that final section lift taking it out of the long ARP solo. I double it! It is a very good strong keyboard part. I used to say at the time: ‘Only a guitarist could come up with that!’, I meant that as a good thing!”

There were more guitar driven songs too with Ure adopting the chunky flanged sound that had been showcased by his predecessor Robin Simon which blended well with the Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, Oberheim OBX and Yamaha SS30 that were in the ULTRAVOX keyboard armoury. ‘Passing Strangers’ was the hit single that never was while ‘New Europeans’ featured a lyric written by Warren Cann which hit the zeitgeist with a narrative about a young man whose “modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song”.

Meanwhile ‘All Stood Still’ was verging on heavy metal in the vein of THIN LIZZY, perhaps unsurprising given Ure’s time as a stand-in-guitarist for Phil Lynott’s combo when Gary Moore went AWOL before their US tour with JOURNEY; it was this link that led to THIN LIZZY’s managers Chris O’Donnell and Chris Morrison looking after the business interests of ULTRAVOX. Complete with thundering Moog bass, powerhouse drums and Jimi Hendrix impressions using an ARP Odyssey, ‘All Stood Still’ rocked so much that many listeners were unaware it was a tune about a nuclear holocaust…

Sandwiched between ‘New Europeans’ and ‘Passing Strangers’, ‘Private Lives’ was like a less frantic amalgam of the two but if the ‘Vienna’ album had an under rated track, then it was ‘Western Promise’. Relevant today in light of questions about the British Empire’s past role in colonisation, slavery and genocide, the mighty tune used the Far East as its location with a distorted Ure ranting “Oh mystical East, you’ve lost your way, your rising sun shall rise again. My Western world gives out her hand, a victor’s help to your fallen land” like some totalitarian dictator…

But the tune which the wider public remembered most was the title track. When Conny Plank heard the demo of ‘Vienna’, 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 for the now iconic track. As for the Roland CR78 Compurythm intro, Warren Cann told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK that it was perhaps his proudest moment when he presented his idea to the rest of the band and went “How about this?”.

With the ‘Vienna’ reaching No2 as a single and No3 as an album in the UK charts, ULTRAVOX were getting the success they deserved. But for the follow-up ‘Rage In Eden’, they adopted a completely different approach. Whereas lyrically, a fair portion of the lyrics had been written by Cann, this now shifted primarily to Ure.

Photo by Brian Griffin

Although the ‘Vienna’ album had been written and played live before recording, the band decided to decamp to Conny Plank’s residential countryside studio with no material pre-prepared. Living in each other’s pockets for three months, the sessions were tense and that impression came across in the music.

Released in Autumn 1981, ‘Rage In Eden’ began with the optimistic spark of ‘The Voice’ and possessed the Motorik thrust of NEU! while maintaining some marvellous symphonic pomp. Creative tensions that had now emerged between Ure and Cross on one side, and Currie on the other who responded with his magnificent middle eight ARP Odyssey solo and a very proud ivory run.

But aside from that, ‘Rage In Eden’ was a paranoia ridden affair. However, many of its tracks were mighty. Chris Cross’ trademark triggered Minimoog bass synth came to the fore on tracks like ‘We Stand Alone’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ with Billy Currie working more with the Oberheim OBX for his soloing, although neither was a particularly cheerful affair. In between, there was the tape experimentation of the title track which used the chorus of ‘I Remember’ played backwards to give an eerie Arabic toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” vocal effect.

Also making a prominent appearance was the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, a machine that used digital samples for its sounds which Warren Cann acquired, fascinated with furthering the possibilities of programmed percussion that had been opened up. Speaking to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2010, he surmised that “Drum machines lent a new dimension to music on two fronts; one, the hypnotic element given by perfect unwavering tempo, and two, the ability to endlessly layer, edit, and re-edit rhythm tracks.”

‘The Thin Wall’ dramatically merged synthesizers, guitar, piano, violin and Linn Drum for a formidable yet under rated hit single, but then the album entered a dense phase of indulgence with the deeply rhythmic but overlong ‘Stranger Within’ and the meandering ‘Ascent On Youth’. The melancholic interlude ‘The Ascent’ provided some relief despite its intensity before the haunting conclusion with the sparse mental breakdown of ‘Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again)’.

Not as accessible as ‘Vienna’, only two singles were lifted from ‘Rage In Eden’ whereas its predecessor had four; ‘Rage In Eden’ was ambitious and loosely conceptual but it may have been too much for some, including the band.

So for 1982’s ‘Quartet’ album, ULTRAVOX worked with George Martin, most notable for his work with THE BEATLES. The sound was brighter, more structured and stripped of the density that had characterised the albums with Conny Plank, perhaps coinciding with the use of more digital hardware like the PPG Wave 2.2 and Emulator.

The catchy ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ opened proceedings with an immediacy that was less angular and experimental that anything on ‘Vienna’ or ‘Rage In Eden’ although this poppier approach may have alienated any John Foxx-era fans that had stuck it out into the Ure-era.

However, the quasi-religious pomp of ‘Hymn’ had the anthemic thrust of the previous two albums and in ‘Visions in Blue’, ‘Quartet’ had its own ‘Vienna’ but aside from those, ‘Mine For Life’ and ‘Serenade’, overall it was something of a disappointment. While the mighty motorik attack of ‘The Song (We Go)’ offered some percussive edge, the middle second side trio of ‘When The Scream Subsides’, ‘We Came To Dance’ and ‘Cut & Run’ proved lacking in the delivery of their verses despite strong choruses.

Photo by Pete Wood

‘Quartet’ had been a big budget effort with recording in George Martin’s Air Studios in London and Monserrat plus a tour with a huge grey gothic stage set to support it, as documented in the ‘Monument’ concert film and soundtrack.

By this time, ULTRAVOX took out a huge amount of equipment live which caused many logistical headaches. There were nearly thirty keyboards and electronic gadgets on stage including ARP Odysseys, Minimoogs, PPGs, Emulators, Oberheims and assorted Yamaha keyboards including the CP70 electric grand piano which could take up to three hours to tune in soundcheck!

Then there was Warren Cann’s infamous percussion console ‘The Iron Lung’ which had the Simmons SDSIII, SDSV and SDSVII drum synthesizers, Roland TR77 and CR78 drum machines, a Linn LM-1, a LinnDrum and various effects processors like the Roland Space-Echo.

So things became more simplified by ULTRAVOX’s standards for the next album ‘Lament’ released in Spring 1984, with the recording sessions taking place in home studios and self-produced. Largely gone were Billy Currie’s trademark synth solos with the ARP Odyssey although its replacement, the OSCar made a fleeting appearance in that style on the closing song ‘A Friend I Call Desire’. Meanwhile Warren Cann had acquired the MIDI compatible Sequential Drumtraks and there were more obviously programmed rhythm tracks than on previous ULTRAVOX albums while the band seemed quite pleased with their new Yamaha DX7.

Photo by Paul Cox

But one new keyboard acquisition proved to be a major disappointment in Sequential’s giant Prophet T8. “I got it thinking it would be a competitor to the Yamaha CS80 but the action was always far too heavy” remembered Currie, “It was the only other synth that had a totally polyphonic touch-sensitive keyboard. It was about £4000… a bargain!”

The album contained many varying different styles as the band battled for a clear direction. ‘One Small Day’ was a decisively hands-in-the-air rockist statement in the vein of U2 and SIMPLE MINDS.

Meanwhile the brilliant ‘White China’ was a full fat sequencer number about the eventual 1997 handover of British ruled Hong Kong to Red China that developed on NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’.

Using Far Eastern ethnic influences with a nod towards JAPAN’s ‘Tin Drum’, the title song was an exquisite but obviously mournful ballad. But the album’s highlight was the magnificent ‘Man Of Two Worlds’, an electro Celtic melodrama featuring a haunting female Gaelic vocal from Mae McKenna with doomed romantic novel imagery capturing a feeling of solitude in an unusual mix of synths, programmed Motorik rhythms and manual funk syncopation.

Notably a re-configuring of ‘Sonnenrad’ by NEU! guitarist Michael Rother from his ‘Sterntaler’ album which Conny Plank had produced and given a copy to Billy Currie, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ was yet another song about a nuclear holocaust. While it might have been a depressing subject to revive, there was the spectre of ‘Protect & Survive’ when Mutually Assured Destruction lingered in the minds of the population. Released as a single, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ reached No3 in the UK singles charts, ULTRAVOX’s biggest hit since ‘Vienna’.

Photo by Paul Cox

ULTRAVOX had been a consistent singles band but after eleven successive Top30 hits, it seemed as good a time as any to release a greatest hits for the 1984 Christmas market.

At the time of release, ‘The Collection’ was novel. Not only did it feature all thirteen Midge Ure-fronted era singles to date, but in ‘Love’s Great Adventure’, it also included a brand new one too.

It was a perfect package that could be played from start to finish, from ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’ to ‘Lament’ via ‘The Thin Wall’, ‘Vienna’, ‘Sleepwalk’, ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ and ‘All Stood Still’.

After four albums in five years, it was time for Cann, Cross, Currie and Ure to take a break, but instead, the ULTRAVOX frontman took a busman’s holiday. There was Band Aid and then a solo career which yielded a UK No1 in 1985 with ‘If I Was’, a song Ure had co-written with Danny Mitchell from the band MESSENGERS who had played support and augmented the live  ULTRAVOX set-up on the previous two tours.

After an appearance at Live Aid, when ULTRAVOX reconvened in 1986 for the making of their next album, the quartet imploded with Warren Cann unceremoniously fired from the band due to musical differences. By now, Cann had more or less given up the notion of live drums while the other three favoured a back-to-basics approach with more live instrumentation.

Despite Conny Plank returning to produce, the resultant ‘U-Vox’ was poor. The title said it all, a band with something missing. The album saw ill-advised excursions into funk, brass and folk with the latter being a rather sombre collaboration with THE CHIEFTAINS about the threat of a nuclear holocaust called ‘All Fall Down’.

Meanwhile most of the other tracks on ‘U-Vox’ were uninspired pieces of rock, with the lame ‘Moon Madness’ being a particular low point. Despite this, there was a genuine highlight in ‘All In One Day’, a magnificent song about ‘Live Aid’ which featured an orchestral arrangement by George Martin. However, after an underwhelming arena tour, ULTRAVOX split. Midge Ure continued his solo career to varying degrees of success while Chris Cross left music to become a psychotherapist amd Warren Cann moved to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Billy Currie made three attempts at reviving the ULTRAVOX name. However, the first one featuring Marcus O’Higgins as singer and a returning Robin Simon on guitar was blocked; when the recordings from these 1989 sessions were finally released as ‘Sinews Of The Soul’ under the name HUMANIA in 2006, the booklet notes saw Billy Currie launch into an almighty tirade against Midge Ure and Chris Morrison who had taken on the role of sole ULTRAVOX manager after Chris O’Donnell moved on. An interview that Currie gave to Beatmag that year was no less frank.

There was now a lot of bad feeling, so any possible future activity involving the four members of the classic ULTRAVOX line-up was now unlikely… or so it seemed. In 2003, Ure was playing a significant amount of ULTRAVOX material on his ‘Sampled Looped & Trigger Happy’ tour.

Then in 2009, the impossible happened and the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX reunited for the ‘Return To Eden’ tour following an offer from Live Nation, who their former manager Chris O’Donnell was now working for. The show went on two triumphant European stints and things went well enough for a new album to be recorded, with writing taking place at Midge Ure’s log cabin retreat near Montreal in Canada.

Co-produced by Stephen J Lipson, the ‘Brilliant’ album’s title song chorused a cautious optimism in a bittersweet comment on pop culture. Meanwhile as the album opener, ‘Live’ came as message of intent like ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ but without the imminent nuclear holocaust as its superb instrumental breakdown dropped to a magnificent pulsing sequence, piano and lone bass drum reminiscent of LA DÜSSELDORF.

One of the main talking points about the ‘Brilliant’ album was Ure’s voice which now possessed a fragility and honesty only could have come from battle-hardened life experience. But fans were polarised about his use of the Melodyne, an audio pitch modification tool not dissimilar to Auto-Tune.

In his defence, Midge Ure told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2015 about how “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.”

The excellent ‘Satellite’ recalled former glories and even recycled the violin solo from the album version of ‘The Thin Wall’ while the percolating sequences and rhythmic snap of ‘Rise’ emulated Giorgio Moroder for a 21st Century update of ‘Western Promise’.

‘One’ and ‘Remembering’ captured the chromatic romanticism of Europe with its classical influences although the soaring stadium rock pandering of ‘Flow’ was not to everyone’s taste. However, this blip was countered by the whirring ARP Odyssey lines on ‘Change’ which featured some majestic widescreen inflections glossed with beautiful ivory runs bouncing off a shuffling percussive pattern.

Closing with the resignation of ‘Contact’, a sensitive statement about the emotional detachment caused by modern technology, ‘Brilliant’ was a better album than many expected and righted the wrongs of ‘U-Vox’. There was another successful European tour and it looked as though the old wounds between the four had healed. Then came a surprise run of dates opening for SIMPLE MINDS on the arena leg of their ‘Greatest Hits+’ UK tour at the end of 2013 but after that, it all went quiet.

Speaking to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, Midge Ure said that “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 in 2017, Billy Currie made a statement on his website that his tenure with ULTRAVOX was over and even sold his beloved ARP Odyssey MkII on eBay!

Despite this, the legacy of this particular incarnation of ULTRAVOX lives on, with Ure going out on the road in 2019 with his solo band to play the ‘Vienna’ album in its entirety on ‘The ‘1980 Tour’ as a testament to its artistic longevity. And now there is a 40th Anniversary boxed set complete with a new 5.1 surround sound mix by Steven Wilson.

ULTRAVOX also brought the sound of the NEU! axis to a mainstream British audience and even re-exported back to Germany – in acknowledgement, Ure had the music of Michael Rother played before the shows of ‘The 1980 Tour’.

Meanwhile, there has also been a substantial and diverse ULTRAVOX legacy within modern popular culture. The Manchester pop duo HURTS effectively played on being TAKE THAT dressed as ULTRAVOX, especially with their single ‘Stay’ and its accompanying promo video. Meanwhile for their quintet reunion album ‘Progress’, TAKE THAT themselves interpolated ‘Vienna’ for a song called ‘Eight Letters’ which resulted in the rather unusual credit “written by Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie”!

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

But the biggest ULTRAVOX legacy can be found in the stadiums of the world via the Teignmouth rock trio MUSE. It is not difficult to imagine Midge Ure singing ‘Starlight’ while ‘Vienna’ has been borrowed not once but twice, first on ‘Apocalypse Please’ where the middle eight bass synth section was more or less lifted note-for-note while the second time was more obviously with the drum intro to ‘Guiding Light’.

ULTRAVOX were indeed a jigsaw sequence, but no-one could see the end.

‘Vienna’ is released as a 5CD+DVD and 4LP clear vinyl boxed set by Chrysalis Records on 9th October 2020





Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th September 2020

JOHN FOXX: The Metamatic Interview

May 2018 sees a new edition release of John Foxx’s seminal 1980 album ‘Metamatic’.

Although arguably there can be very few electronic music fans who don’t possess a copy, this new version includes a third disc of unreleased instrumentals and prototype demo versions that will appeal to completists and fans alike.

The 3CD package also includes some previously unseen photos and drawings by John with 49 tracks in total.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK were fortunate to get an advanced preview of the new additions and there are some real gems in there.

From the alternative mix of the TANGERINE DREAM-like ‘Glimmer’ through to the appearance of a prominent acoustic piano in ‘Fragmentary City’, also worthy of a mention is the droning ‘Critical Mass’ which feels like it would make a superb instrumental prelude to ‘Underpass’.

Also present are early demos of some of the best known tracks on ‘Metamatic’ including ‘Touch & Go’ and two versions of ‘No One’s Driving’; one sequencer driven, the other more piano chord-oriented.

Other pieces including unreleased track ‘Miss Machinery’ which has such a beautifully honed mix suggesting that it must have been in strong consideration to be included on the final album.

John Foxx kindly talked about the gestation of the album and the transition from ULTRAVOX Mk1 to solo artist.

What impact did the studio location and surroundings at Pathway in London have on the sound and content of ‘Metamatic’?

Great location for me – a cycle ride away, so I could wobble home at night. I was living in Finsbury Park at the time. It was all very urban North London and I liked that too.

How important was the influence of JG Ballard on your work at this point?

Well, he was the first writer who seemed to be addressing what I’d come to call ‘the unrecognised present’. It takes us all a little time to realise exactly how we’re living, since circumstances are changing so quickly and in that gap, some it gets out of hand. For instance, I felt cars were out of hand at that (and this!) point.

Without noticing, we found we were all living on diminishing islands, surrounded by an ocean of cars, dominating the environment completely, enabling new crimes and new situations, forcing new ways of living and changing everything – even architecture and the shape of cities, as harried city councils threw up welcoming worlds of concrete to accommodate them.

We had to try to live with all that. Ballard had understood and mapped this process and how it can all come tumbling down. He could see how fragile things really are, I guess from his childhood, when his world was torn apart by the Japanese invasion. He wasn’t the only one though, there were others, some writers such as Burroughs and Philip K Dick and several film makers – Tarkovsky, that ‘Chien Andalou’ film by Dali and Bunuel, Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year in Marienbad’- and so on.

Songs such as ‘He’s A Liquid’ and ‘Touch & Go’ had debuted live as ULTRAVOX! numbers… how did the shift towards you playing synthesizers and programming drum machines yourself evolve?

I wrote those at home using a drum machine, then we developed them with the band, but I didn’t really feel they’d reached their potential until they were synth and drum machine only. I had a certain sound in my head that I wanted to get to – that more minimal electronic / primitive / dub sound. It simply needed tape, synth, drum machine, voice – and nothing else.

So basically, it was an ARP Odyssey, Elka String Machine, a Compurhythm and go!?

Exactly. Everything fell into place then.

On ULTRAVOX’s 1979 US tour, you debuted ‘Touch & Go’ and ‘He’s A Liquid’ with the band. What are your feelings or emotions when you listen back to these prototype versions now?

Oh, I like them – and I also really enjoyed working with the band, but that naked electronic thing was feeling urgent – I just had to get that working. Speaking of prototypes – I think the band was responsible for a couple of generations worth of prototypes – there were really so many basic seeds sewn by us by that point.

I remember being really torn in ‘77-‘78, because there were two great directions we’d evolved- first the modern rock thing which is a line that extends from ‘Systems Of Romance’ and is still running – it goes on through SIMPLE MINDS / JOY DIVISION / U2 / BLUR / ELASTICA / FRANZ FERDINAND / RADIOHEAD / HORRORS and so on. Inventive Britrock. We defined that very early on, and we were the first to do it, with songs like ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘I Can’t Stay Long’ etc, we’d mapped it some years before – even that branch of OASIS and STONE ROSES, with our nod to THE BEATLES Psychedelic thing on ‘When You Walk Through Me’ from ‘Systems’ in 1978.

Then there was the minimal studio electronic thing that was really just beginning – but we’d done that a good two years before with ‘My Sex’, then ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and Dislocation’ and ‘Just For A Moment’ etc. We’d recorded ‘My Sex’ in summer 1976. I really felt things branched dramatically at the point of ‘Systems’, not just for us, but for the entire future of Brit music, and I think we’d mapped both directions as inevitables, some years before.

How did you feel when the main riff for ‘Touch & Go’ ended up on ULTRAVOX’s ‘Mr. X’? Was there any kind of legal challenge with this?

Oh, impossible to untangle who did what after you’ve been in the studio together. Everyone has their own perspective and they’re all different. Bit of a road accident really. It would’ve been declared a mistrial. All witnesses concussed.

‘A New Kind of Man’ was originally slated to be the first single off of the album? What inspired the song?

It was a continuation of the ‘Quiet Man’ theme – I’d begun to write the stories, and in one he steps out of and into a film screen. That image also provided the ‘Metamatic’ cover image.

What was the background to deciding to issue ‘My Face’ as a yellow flexi-disc with ‘Smash Hits’; it’s quite a strange combination looking back in hindsight, but perhaps indicates how open the interpretation of pop music could be in 1980?

They asked if I had a track they could use and I’d just recorded it. Having a track on that magazine was a good thing and I could choose whatever I liked.

You’re right – it was an example of how things had opened up after Punk and just at Gary Numan’s jump into the charts. He was the point the floodgates opened for the entire Brit electronic movement. Everyone has a lot to thank him for.

Is it true that you were influenced by dub reggae on the album?

Absolutely, it all goes back a very long way…

As with most good things, it all began in Chorley. There was a great West Indian couple I’d known since I was about eight years old – Mr Huey and his wife May. They’d come over from Jamaica in the late 1950s and been lodgers with a Polish friend of mine, Richard Woczeck.

Huey and May then got a terraced house at the top of Corporation Street, were my Gran and uncles lived, so I saw them often. They’d occasionally invite me and my mate Arthur Sweeney to a Blues party in their yard – we’d be around mid-teens at that point and young mods, so right into all that – Curried Goat, beer and Prince Buster. Great!

After that, I listened to things developing in Manchester, when I was an art student there, at the Ponda Rosa, a three storey Café – food on the ground floor, then some secret gambling and shenanigans upstairs. They had a home-built sound system, one of the first I’d seen. Great bass and the music was changing, too.

Then, when I came to London and formed the band, I found Chris Cross was from Tottenham, not far from Broadwater Farm, and he was a decent dub bass player too. At the other end of town, the Ladbroke Grove scene was also in full swing – big custom sound systems on the street. Island Records was West Indies central, so Billy Currie and I used to go into Island studios Basing Street to listen to Lee Perry and Bob Marley sessions. Well foggy in there!

Then, when I started work at Pathway studios in 1979, a tiny eight-track place in North London, Gareth Jones and I heard lots of dub sessions.

A crew of guys would book two hours studio time and bang out half a dozen dub tracks for 12″ singles, which were a new thing then. I was fascinated by that mixing technique of stripping everything right back to give one sound all the power.

So when we mixed ‘Metamatic’, we did a lot of that. In fact I chose the studio partly because it had a home-built desk that was especially good for punching sounds in and out and throwing effects on the sound live in the mix. That technique became part of our repertoire. The drums and synth on ‘Underpass’ are done like that, for instance, and the bass is consciously Dub-style. It’s a Dub rhythm track with Euro electro toplines and voice.

Although ‘Metamatic’ is an electronic album, there’s quite a bit of bass guitar by Jake Durant. Was it quite tricky get the synth bass to work the way you wanted with the ARP Odyssey back then?

Well, it wasn’t always easy to get the right depth of bass from the Odyssey. It’s a demon for unusual and complex noises – the best there is at tearing down walls and taking the skin off your back.

A Minimoog was best for bass. Richer. I used that too, on ’He’s a Liquid’, for instance, but I preferred the precision and vitality of the ARP. Much quicker, more vicious and more intuitive for me.

Do you subscribe to the Philip Oakey viewpoint that synthesizers are more ‘punk’ than guitars?

Bang on Phil – you only need the one finger! No chords. As soon as synths became affordable, I knew there’d be a permanent revolution. Inevitable.

Listening back to the album now, what strikes most is how stark and minimalist it sounds, what kind of reception did you get from Virgin when you submitted it?

Oh, I think they simply stepped back and put the record out. It was certainly weird, minimal, cold, harsh and surreal for that period – all that BROTHERHOOD OF MAN stuff in the charts. At that time though, everyone at Virgin was in close cahoots and out for a bit of fun.

It was a great time. Simon Draper, the real power and judgement there, was totally supportive. A marvellous visionary character. He created Virgin really.

The extra songs which feature as part of this package and the ‘Metamatic Plus’ edition (including ‘Cinemascope’ and ‘My Face’) all seem strong enough to have made it onto the original album, was it a difficult process deciding which tracks would make the final cut first time around?

There was no shortage of material. I was just listening to the demos and ideas from cassettes recently. Tons of stuff. Lots of unfinished song starts. It drives me nuts. I’m going to destroy it all, just for peace of mind.

The ‘Metamatic’ follow-up ‘The Garden’ saw quite a significant change in sound for you, especially with the re-integration of more live instrumentation, why did you move away from the colder electronic aesthetic with that release?

I remember wanting to reclaim some of the territory I’d defined with ‘Systems’ – the other side of things, as I mentioned earlier, also I loved working with Robin Simon’s great guitar playing. Power and ideas. He’s the most inventive guitarist – or musician – I’ve ever worked with. Doesn’t do cliches. Forget everyone else, no other player comes close to him, in my opinion.

With ‘My Face’, ‘Burning Car’, ‘20th Century’, ‘Cinemascope’, ‘Young Love’, ‘To Be With You’ and the amount of unreleased material in this new boxed set indicates that a follow-up in the style of ‘Metamatic’ was on the cards; how do you think you might have evolved this sound if you hadn’t had thawed out on ‘The Garden’?

I remember not wanting to repeat myself . In retrospect, though, maybe I should have carried on with the CR78 and ARP and made another record, it would have been interesting – but I was impatient as always and had another set of songs and lots of ideas left over from ‘Systems’.

However, there was the immediate influential aftermath of ‘Metamatic’; it is said Daniel Miller hired Gareth Jones to engineer DEPECHE MODE as a result of his work with you, while TUXEDOMOON were also fans and worked with him too…

Oh yes, Dan came to the studio with Depeche and I eventually managed to persuade Gareth to work with them. At first he thought Depeche were a bit light, but we’d both really liked ‘Warm Leatherette’, so he trusted Daniel and I think that’s what swung it. They all had a great instant rapport when they finally worked together. Still do.

Tuxedo were a fierce, inventive band we both liked, so Gareth was straight in there, no problem. I liked them all and their work. They were an interesting lot. I remember encountering a certain member wandering about on Shoreditch High Street in the rain in winter, no shoes on, totally oblivious, clearly hallucinating. I especially liked Blaine L Reininger’s playing – he’s a truly exceptional instinctual musician. It was good to hear him again on that ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ album we all did recently with CULT WITH NO NAME.

Remixes of classic synth tracks rarely turn out well, an exception is Mark Reeder’s ‘Sinister Subway’ mix of ‘Underpass’, what are your feelings on this interpretation?

I think it’s superb! A big surprise, how well it turned out. He translated it for today.

I like Mark Reeder a lot. He’s one of those people you instantly feel you might have known all your life – you know, like someone you might have been at school with. His instincts and tastes are perfectly in line. He’s Mr German Electronic – Manc Branch. And his Berlin movie is brilliant….

There have already been several reissues of ‘Metamatic’, what’s the most special aspect for you about this new package for you?

The notebooks and synth patches etc, and all the experimental sounds from the master eight-track tapes. They do show another aspect of the work Gareth and I were doing then. I also liked the way Steve D’Agostino picked up on all that, some years ago, with that soundtrack for Alex Proyas’ short film.

You’ve stepped out of the live arena for a few years, are there any plans to do live dates to support this release?

No plans at the moment, but things are always brewing, so we’ll see!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to JOHN FOXX

With thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

‘Metamatic’ is released as 3CD boxed set by Metamatic Records




Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
Additional Questions by Chi Ming Lai
2nd May 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 Autumn 2017 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, here is a look 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


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


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


PHIL LYNOTT Yellow Pearl (1980)

German music formed a large part of Rusty Egan’s DJ sets at The Blitz Club and even Irish rocker Phil Lynott frequented it. ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a LA DÜSSELDORF inspired co-composition with Ure, while Rusty Egan later played drums on the remix which became the ‘Top Of The Pops’ theme in 1981. A VISAGE track in all but name, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was so draped in the involvement of Ure and Egan 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


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: “We were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

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


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


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 Rubellan Remasters


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

Midge Ure and Chris Cross worked together on an eccentric synthesized spoken word album with eccentric British poet 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’.  Levi’s® sponsored ULTRAVOX’s ‘Set Movements’ tour and ‘Rivets’ was part of a cassette that came with the souvenir programme!

Originally released on ULTRAVOX ‘Set Movements 1984 Interview’ cassette, currently unavailable


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


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


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 ULTRAVOX’s 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


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


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


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


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


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: “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


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


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 lead 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


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 he was “kind of harking back to early VISAGE”.

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



‘Glorious’ not only reunited our hero with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure said: “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


Midge Ure’s BAND ELECTRONICA 2017 live dates include:

Frankfurt Batschkapp (Sep 27), Munich Technikum (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

ULTRAVOX Rise of the Soft Synth

GForce Software have just issued a fascinating viral film of soundcheck footage and a brief backstage chat with ULTRAVOX during the ‘Brilliant’ tour about using the company’s plug-in synths to recreate the sounds from their classic albums live.

In the interview, the band’s two main synthesists Billy Currie and Chris Cross discuss the VSM, Oddity, impOSCar2 and Minimonsta.

Chris Cross particularly enthuses about the VSM’s (Virtual String Machine) ability to replicate the Elka Rhapsody 610; its colder shrill can be heard on ‘Mr X’ (plus ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and also throughout John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’), while Billy Currie jokes about using the VSM on every track, especially for the swimmier tones of the Yamaha SS30 which forms the prominent sound on ‘The Voice’.

However, Currie also explains that he tried to stay clear of it during the recording of the new album ‘Brilliant’ to avoid overdoing this vintage element of ULTRAVOX’s distinct sound.

It did however appear on the Kraftwerkian/Moroderesque hybrid stomper ‘Rise’, although it was ironically pushed back into the mix by “our guitarist/producer” Stephen J Lipson but now brought forward for the concert version!

Of course, no ULTRAVOX live set would be complete with Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey soloing and to do this, he has engaged G-Force’s Oddity via his Novation workstation using control features such as portmento and autobite. Currie also mentions the impOSCar2 which he uses for ‘Rage in Eden’ era material like ‘We Stand Alone’ which was recorded using an Oberheim OBX. Of course, the original OSCar was actually designed by British synth innovator Chris Huggett with Billy Currie very much in mind.

Meanwhile Chris Cross reflects on his new mainstay, the Minimonsta which is used for the pulsing basslines on tracks such as ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Sleepwalk’ and ‘The Thin Wall’ in place of his now long lost Minimoog. “Out of all the Minimoog plug-ins, that’s the one I find most like the Minimoog…” he says. However, Currie adds that to recreate the analogue “bounce” of their back catalogue is “not easy to do”! But the current 27 song live set on the ‘Brilliant’ tour is among one of the band’s best ever.

When it is considered that at the height of their powers, ULTRAVOX had 27 keyboards and electronic devices on stage including the PPG Wave 2.2, Emulator, Yamaha electric piano, various Yamaha CS series synths and Warren Cann’s infamous percussion console ‘The Iron Lung’, to have been able to slim down the set-up to suit the practicalities of a nationwide tour AND virtually recreate their powerful electronic rock sound of old on stage has been one the joys in the advances of music technology.

‘Brilliant’ is released by Eden Recordings/EMI Records, a clear vinyl double album edition is released on 15th October 2012.

ULTRAVOX tour the UK and Europe in Autumn 2012. Dates include:

Sheffield City Hall (4th October), Blackpool Opera House (6th October), Glasgow Clyde Audiotorium (7th October), Gateshead The Sage (8th October), Paris Trabendo (10th October), Tilburg 013 (12th October), Hamburg Docks (14th October), Sundbyøster Amager Bio (15th October), Malmö KB (16th October), Helsinki Tavastia (18th October), Oslo Rockefeller (21st October), Heden Trädgår’n (23rd October), Berlin Columbiahalle (25th October),  Mainz Phoenixhalle (26th October),  Leipzig Haus Auensee (27th October), München Kesselhaus (29th October), Vienna Gasometer (30th October), Memmingen Stadthalle (3rd November), Milan Alcatraz (5th Novermber), Köln E-Werk (7th November), Bielefeld Ringlokschuppen (8th November)




Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
4th October 2012, updated 25th February 2018

ULTRAVOX Brilliant

No tomorrow, just today… 

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.

One of the main talking points about ULTRAVOX’s new single ‘Brilliant’ has been Midge Ure’s voice.

As one of British music’s most respected elder statesman, his almost whispered tones now possess a fragility and honesty that can only come from battle-hardened life experience.

Ironically, ULTRAVOX never reached No 1 themselves in the UK or Germany and while ‘Brilliant’ is unlikely to reach such heights, the song contains all the ULTRAVOX hallmarks of Billy Currie’s Eurocentric piano and synth embellishments, Chris Cross’ motorik bass arrangement, Warren Cann’s rhythmical syncopation and of course Midge Ure’s layering guitar for a classic track that choruses a cautious optimism.

“No Tomorrow, just today…” Ure sings. Let’s face it; none of us are getting any younger. The message of ‘Brilliant’ could be interpreted as: ‘life is precious…embrace it!’ but Ure says the song is actually “a bittersweet comment on pop culture”.


Continuing ULTRAVOX’s optimistic message of intent, album opener ‘Live’ is ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ without the imminent nuclear holocaust. The instrumental breakdown, which drops to a magnificent pulsing sequence, piano and lone bass drum before the climax, is pure LA DÜSSELDORF and really is something to be savoured.

Meanwhile, ‘Satellite’ could potentially be sitting up there with the electronic rock of ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ and ‘We Stand Alone’ from ‘Rage In Eden’, while the precolating sequences and rhythmic snap of ‘Rise’ could be a 21st Century answer to ‘Western Promise’.

For those youngsters who love MUSE or HURTS, ‘One’ and ‘Remembering’ will respectively inform their aural palettes as to where all that chromatic romanticism originally came from, but quite what long standing fans will make of the soaring stadium pandering to the landfill masses on ‘Flow’ can only be guessed at.

Thankfully, this minor blip is countered by the whirring ARP Odyssey lines on ‘Change’. This also features some majestic widescreen inflections glossed with beautiful ivory runs as the machine led percussive pattern builds, coloured by incessant synth bass and shuffling schlagzeug.

At times, it even sounds like a more sedate second cousin to MUSE’s ‘Undisclosed Desires’ but considering how many times the Teignmouth trio have borrowed ‘Vienna’, maybe it’s now time to take some back!

The album ‘Brilliant’ is released by EMI Records on 28th May 2012

ULTRAVOX tour the UK in Autumn 2012. Dates include:

Bristol Colston Hall (21st September), Oxford New Theatre (22nd September), Portsmouth Guildhall (23rd September), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (25th September), Birmingham Symphony Hall (26th September), London Hammersmith Apollo (27th September), Guildford G-Live (29th September), Manchester Palace Theatre (30th September), Southend Cliffs Pavillion (2nd October), Ipswich Regent (3rd October), Sheffield City Hall (4th October), Blackpool Opera House (6th October), Glasgow Clyde Audiotorium (7th October), Gateshead The Sage (8th October)



Text and Photo by Chi Ming Lai
15th May 2012