Tag: Midge Ure (Page 1 of 9)

MIDGE URE: A Life In Music Interview

Midge Ure celebrates his 70th birthday and a life in music this Autumn with a special concert at The Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 4 October 2023.

The start of his career included a spell as a teen idol in SLIK, embracing punk in its offshoot PVC2 and a doomed attempt to cross THE SEX PISTOLS and BAY CITY ROLLERS in the power pop of RICH KIDS with Glen Matlock, Steve New and Rusty Egan. But the demise of the latter coincided with the wider emergence of electronic music such as KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which inspired Ure to buy his first synthesizer, a Yamaha CS50.

Licking his wounds, Ure went on to help pioneer the sound of the New Romantics in VISAGE with a collective project inspired by an idea from Rusty Egan and fronted by Steve Strange, the face of The Blitz Club. Another involved in VISAGE was Billy Currie and at his invitation, Ure joined him, Chris Cross and Warren Cann in the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX in 1979; the quartet had an impressive run of hit singles and albums with their unique brand of symphonic electronic rock which has since been borrowed and taken into the stadiums of the world by MUSE.

With a successful solo career that has included several No1s around the world, the lad from Cambuslang near Glasgow can also add his central role in BAND AID as well as collaborations like ‘Yellow Pearl’ with Phil Lynott, ‘After A Fashion’ with Mick Karn and ‘Dark Dark Night’ with Moby to his name.

This is all without mentioning a number of adverts including original music for ‘Levi’s’ in their iconic ‘Rivets’ campaign and the title song from his 1996 album ‘Breathe’ soundtracking a memorable Swatch campaign in Europe; more recently ‘Fade To Grey’ which Ure co-wrote with Billy Currie and Chris Payne has featured in reels for fashion houses Chanel and Dior. Meanwhile, there have been a number of key TV synchronisations, one of the most notable being the use of ‘Vienna’ during the final episode of the unsettling 2017 Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’.

Midge Ure spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his recent live tours, his back catalogue, music technology, collaborating with a former member of KRAFTWERK, his upcoming 70th birthday concert and his future plans…

You are fresh off the back off the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour and had the ‘1980’ tour before the pandemic, has the success of these tours surprised you?

Yes! I won’t lie! I really wasn’t sure how things would pan out. The thing about the music business is it’s like riding a rollercoaster. Sometimes it takes you to the heady heights of fame, the other times it takes you to almost obscurity.

I just consider myself a working musician, it’s all to do with perception. There are people out there who given the opportunity of finding that you’re playing somewhere, will come and see you because they bought the records or followed you for “X” amount of years. But they get side-tracked with family or whatever; then they’re off the radar and don’t know what you’re doing because they don’t go to venues, they’re not on social media, they don’t look at posters, they don’t buy music papers (if there is such a thing anymore), all of that stuff!

So it was a new young agent who came along and said “you’re missing out on a lot of people here” and he was brilliant at marketing. When we did the ‘1980’ tour, I was stunned at the amount of people who said “Wow! Are you still touring?”… WELL YEAH! CONSTANTLY! But I could be playing down the road from you and you wouldn’t know! *laughs*

It’s just how it works so it’s been a lot of that. The ‘1980’ tour was great and I had trepidations about the ‘Voices & Visions’ tour not being able to stand up next to it… but I think it’s superceded it, I think it got better so yeah, I’m very pleased that was the case 😀

Your audience generally doesn’t appear to like standing up and dancing much?

You have to understand the demographic you know, there’s a lot of the audience who do want to stand up but a lot of the theatres and venues that you play don’t want people standing up for whatever reason! I mean, they’re hardly the age group that’s going to start trashing the joint!

But a lot of venues, when you do see people standing up to have a little dance or try to get into the aisle or come down the front, you’re not allowed to do it. Also, there is an element of the audience who can’t, they want to sit down… I’m sure they’d love to be able to get up and do whatever but it doesn’t work that way, a lot of venues just won’t let them do it and physically they can’t.

In an ideal world, you’d have a venue that has a seated upstairs and a standing downstairs, that would appeal to everybody but it’s just one of those things, we can’t control that. So usually at the end of the set, I’m sure you’ve seen it, in the last couple of songs, I say “Right! Stand up, it’s too late to throw you out so get up!” and they do.

Yes, the ones they do always seem to get up for are ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘All Stood Still’, two songs about nuclear Armageddon which does have a sort of amusing irony about it… *laughs*

That IS an amusing irony about it, I hadn’t thought about that! *laughs*

But it’s probably more to do with the fact that we’re doing slow atmospheric tunes… normally when you build a set, you would finish with the last 5 or 6 songs all up there like ‘Hymn’, ‘Dancing…’ and ‘If I Was’. You stack it full of things so that people don’t get a chance to sit down, that’s how you would do it. But in true ULTRAVOX form, we ended up finishing with ‘Visions In Blue’ and coming back on to try and build it all back up again, making it difficult for ourselves! *laughs*

Your pal Glenn Gregory once said to me that HEAVEN 17 has three distinct audience types, the loyal fanbase, those who only like the first two albums and those who only like the hits, have you worked out your audience demographics?

Not really, I suppose the majority of the audience will be people who bought the ‘Vienna’ album and all of that stuff in the first place, so they’re kind of revisiting their youth. They’ve probably never gone away as such as music lovers, but there’s maybe an element of the whole retro thing about it, everyone would like to be 18 again and relive the folly of what they were up to and re-wear the clothes and still have the hair they used to have, all of that stuff!

But there’s also people, a much smaller element, who have just discovered you though a sync on movies or Netflix series or video games or whatever, they’ve discovered you through an entirely different route and in a retrospective way, they hear a track they find interesting and then look you up to find a world of music they didn’t know existed and they work backwards. That’s great that it happens so there’s them and people coming back reliving their retrogressive thing. It’s a bit of a mixed audience, but I can’t categorise them all lie that. I’ve got solo fans who won’t necessarily like ULTRAVOX and vice versa.

Were there any particular of those ULTRAVOX and VISAGE songs which you played on those two tours that have you rekindled a love for?

Yeah, I absolutely loved doing ‘Rage In Eden’ which is a lovely one to do. I love that little textural section we did in the middle of the ‘Voice & Visions’ show where is all kind of calmed down and got moody and all simplistic. I love doing that stuff as much as strapping on a guitar and making all the noise. I don’t get the opportunity to do that often, to delve back in and pull things out.

In the same way on previous tours, we rediscovered ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, we rediscovered ‘Lament’, you kind of forget about them. You categorise them in your brain and go “that was then, I’ll do other things now” and then you play it out of the blue and it just comes back again, the reason that you liked it and the feeling you got from playing it all comes flooding back… it’s not gone away, I’ve pushed it away, put it in a cupboard and locked it. But now I’ve opened up the cupboard again, it’s the exact same thing! It’s fantastic there are many songs that still lend themselves to live performance.

One non-single track that found a place on both tours is ‘Astradyne’ which is still mighty after all these years; I was saying to Vicky Harrison of POLYCHROME at the Cambridge gig about how the synthwave scene seems to think the soundtrack of ‘Drive’ and other synthwave instrumentals are The Bee’s Knees, but I always throw ‘Astradyne’ at them! *laughs*

Yeah, it seems to work, it works on many levels for me having just sung on stage for an hour and a half, it gives me a 6 minute respite, a chance to catch my breath and let the vocal chords rest a bit. By the time I’ve done ‘Astradyne’ which was the first track in the encore, I’ll be screaming my head off doing ‘Dancing’ and ‘All Stood Still’ on top of having just done the main show. So in that respect, it’s good for me, it paces me and it gets me ready for the last couple of songs.

As a piece of music, ‘Astradyne’ still works, it’s incredibly simplistic and it takes me right back to what it was like in that rehearsal room with ULTRAVOX and we started throwing our ideas round for the ‘Vienna’ album. I remember distinctly prior to the album coming out in America when I was there to do some promo and when they thought we were going to be huge there, they had me in a limousine with a couple of record company bods. We were driving to Long Island to do WLIR which was one of the New Wave radio stations that would play us and the record company bods wanted listen to the album. So I put this cassette on and you could see their faces drop a minute in when realised there weren’t any vocals! They asked “Is this is the first track?”, I replied “Yup! This is the opening track” and they were telling me “you can’t use that!” *laughs*

It worked for us and it brings back good memories.

Was ‘Himmelblau’ by Wolfgang Riechmann an influence on ‘Astradyne’ at all?

I’m not sure, but Riechmann was one of the artists that Rusty Egan used to play at Billy’s and The Blitz Club. It was probably more CAN, NEU! and eventually LA DÜSSELDORF, all that kind of melodic German stuff. The idea for the melody, I did that and I have no idea where it came from, it’s probably subliminal, there’s probably snippets of styles and elements that I’d heard in the club. It’s not a melody as such because I’m not a keyboard player, it was something that just came up with my natural sense of melody. Of course, Billy was doing that lovely piano thing underneath it all and it made it all move, it was great. I love doing it.

‘Fade To Grey’ continues to have a life of its own and has been used recently in those stylish Gris Dior and Coco Chanel Crush adverts… have you seen them and how well do you think they’ve used the music?

I think they’re re-recordings aren’t they? Or is one of them an original?

They both sound original, especially the Coco Chanel Crush one…

It’s a very dodgy area, I know some adverts use the original recording but since Rusty and Steve Strange tried to get together in 2011 to do a VISAGE Part 2, they opened up a nest of worms and certain people were allowed access to the songs! There are some very good copies out there that sound very much like the original that Steve sang, so it’s very difficult to tell what the original one is! These programmers just do an amazing job and copy it note-for-note, then the original recording doesn’t have to be paid for or whatever. So there’s a way round the whole sync thing and the cost of putting originals on commercials and films!

A lot of artists do it and re-record their own songs note-for-note and try to make it sound like the original so that when they’re asked for example, a ‘Vienna’ or whatever, you’ve already done a brand new ‘Vienna’ that sounds exactly like the old one and then you get all the money… but I couldn’t think of anything worse, I’d rather go to the dentist and have my teeth pulled out than go back and try and recreate something that you’ve done! *laughs*

Talking of VISAGE, ‘The Anvil’ album is in my opinion, one of your most underrated bodies of work and it didn’t get included as part of the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour?

It didn’t and that’s simply because if you start cherry picking and looking at the stuff AND things people would expect to hear, you’d be on stage for 3 hours, it would have been crazy!

Yes, there was something quite grown-up about that record I think. The first VISAGE album was done in a very sporadic way, it was grabbing moments of studio time, and it was rare there was more than two people from VISAGE in the country at the same time! It was spread out like over a year or so, a pocket of time here and a pocket of time there. So it was a very broken up project.

When it came to doing ‘The Anvil’, it was more succinct, you could get together and go write, get a studio in London. The first VISAGE album was done in Martin Rushent’s studio before he had even built it, in his hut at the bottom of his garden; the facilities weren’t great but we still managed to pull it off.

So there’s something more coherent about that second album and it had moved on from just the electronics, there was Gary Barnacle and his sax on ‘Night Train’. Is it overlooked? I don’t know, a few people cite that as one of their favourite albums, maybe because it was a bit more “human”, more “soulful” than the first, and maybe because a bit more time was spent on it, rather than scattering seeds to the four winds you know…

You are celebrating your 70th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall, will this be an all-encompassing career show or will it mostly centre around the BAND ELECTRONICA format which you have had since 2017? Are you planning any special guests, is there anything that you can talk about? 

Anything I can talk about? That I know about of course! *laughs*

No, not that I know of! When I did the Albert Hall in 1991 under my own steam, I had a gospel choir, guests like Paddy Moloney from THE CHIEFTAINS, all these people coming on and I’ve kind of done that. The speculation online is just rife, like “ULTRAVOX are back!”, “there’s going to be a choir”, “there’s going to be an orchestra” and “the full ‘Orchestrated’ album is going to be performed”… AAARGH! I’m not sure!

It’s like when you have a new record coming out and you’ve just started it, you’re doing interviews about it and people ask “what’s it called?”… well, I’ve got no idea, it will be called something when I’ve finished the album *laughs*

So I’ll know what will be in the show when I’ve formulated those ideas, because it’s still very fresh… when you get the Albert Hall, you have to tell people it’s going to happen and then figure out how you’re going to fill it and what the content is going to be. But I’m already formulating a few little things, but I don’t want to throw the kitchen sink at it because that can just detract from what it is. It’s a celebratory thing, I will cherry pick songs in various formats that I think were important during those 70 years I’ve been breathing oxygen. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to do it, but the basis of it will be the BAND ELECTRONICA basis because we’re up and running, we’re hot just now and we have to consolidate what we have already to be sensible about it.

Have you ever thought about doing ‘Rivets’ live, perhaps as an intro into another song like how you did with ‘Yellow Pearl’ in your various show?


But then again, you’d have to figure out where you would do something like that. Doing that in front of your own audience is fine, but doing that in the ‘Let’s Rock’ and ‘Rewind’ Festival things, people are still scratching their heads as to why I’m playing the ‘Top Of The Pops’ theme because the majority there, they’re not your audience! *laughs*

My audience, there’s a very good chance they will know that ‘Rivets’ was a piece of music that I did with Chris Cross… it’s certainly food for thought, I’ve never played it live so it would be interesting! *laughs*

Of course, what became ‘Love’s Great Adventure’ was intended as music for a Levi’s advert? What happened there?

The ‘Rivets’ thing was very last minute, I got a phone call from one of the guys at Chrysalis saying he was on this board and he saw this big budget Levi’s commercial that was filmed by one of the Scott brothers, it had gone right up to the line. It was shown at this big premiere in Stockholm and someone at Levi’s said they didn’t like the music! This person said he needed something that was rousing and atmospheric like ULTRAVOX. So this Chrysalis guy said he knew me and I got the call a few days later. I saw the clip in the afternoon and wrote the ‘Rivets’ piece of music that night. I recorded my parts in the studio but then did the mix with the ad agency and the Levi’s people which was a pain in the backside because all they did was talk through it and I was getting fed up. I was telling them “This is your piece of music, do you want it good or do you want it bad? If you want it good, don’t talk, get out and leave me alone! Let me do the music”.

They had no time to sit and think about it, so they put it on and they loved it. It got a fantastic response so 6 months later, they come back to me and said “we’re doing a follow up called ‘Threads’”, because it was all about the rivets before, but now it was threads! So this ad had been filmed in Mexico, there’s this guy fishing for marlin, there’s all these marlins jumping out of the water, it’s a man in the sea against beast type of thing and he’s fighting and then he cuts the line and the line disappears through the water and you zoom in on the line and you see it’s a Levi’s thread to show you how strong it is!

I thought great but this time, they said they wanted it more rhythmic and for me not to do anything melodic, they wanted this pounding thing. So I went off, got my little sampler and banged a garage door again like I did on ‘The Chieftain’, I hit everything and made this very Burundi style rhythmic metallic sounding beast of a thing! I thought it was fantastic and that they’d love it. 3 weeks later, they said “there’s not much tune!”… but they asked for something with no melody or tune! “Oh but we need a melody, we need something that people can sing…” 🤦‍♂️

So OK, I watched the film again and I saw the marlin jumping up and I came up with this triumphant ‘633 Squadron’ type thing with this stomp. I took it to them and told them “this really works well”… 3 weeks later, I get the phone call, “Umm, can you put more bass on it?” and I was like “do you mean bass guitar or bass drum or bass synth or overall bottom end, more body?”. Then this is the straw that broke the camel’s back, they said “we want it to sound like the feel of Formica!”. At that point, I asked them to give me the music back, I gave them back their money and that was that.

I think they got Jeremy Healey of HAYSI FANTAYZEE to do some music, I took the track back and Billy Currie put various bits on it, I wrote some lyrics, a topline and turned it into ‘Love’s Great Adventure’. Their advert failed miserably, it goes topped and a month later, they had to put on ‘Rivets’ again as they had all these bookings in the cinemas around the world for this ‘Threads’ advert! It was an interesting thing but it wasn’t my planet!

You’re known for guitars and also for synths, so you combined the two when you got a Roland GR700 guitar synthesizer in 1984 and demonstrated it on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’, how did you find using it and why do you think they never really took off in the way say wind synthesizers did?

They probably did, they’re much better now than they were back then, they didn’t track very well. A keyboard, unless you actually press a key down, you don’t get a note from it. If you touch the strings on a guitar synth, it triggers the synthesizer! So just by scratching the strings (which is all part of the sound of normal guitar playing), there’s a sound. So you have to play a guitar synth with kid gloves, you had to be really careful how you played things!

We used it on stage with ULTRAVOX, I can’t remember what we used it on but it was on a couple of things, it was just so volatile and not user friendly. You would have to use it in the studio and it wouldn’t do things that a guitar would do, you can dub strings on a guitar or a violin, but you couldn’t really dub stings on a guitar synth because the synth sound would still come out whether you were holding the strings down or not. So it was a very different way of playing.

They are much better than they were, I’ve got a synth controller guitar here in the studio and it seems to work incredibly well. But technology then hadn’t yet caught up with the idea, so it went the way of many things…

Did you have a favourite keyboard-based synthesizer?

I liked the PPG Wave because it was a hybrid of analogue front end with rotary controls and digital internal. So it was one of those synths that you think you know what kind of sound you are looking for, but on the way to that sound, you create something better or more interesting, this leftfield that’s gone off on a tangent.

A major part of the end of ULTRAVOX and the beginning of the solo stuff, a lot of sounds that are very definable that weren’t presets, that were my sounds, are from that. It was a good instrument to do that with. But you end of getting rid of all the hardware and you end up with software instruments and you’re back to square one *laughs*

Your most recent new track in 2021 was ‘Das Beat’ which you co-wrote with Wolfgang Flür who was in KRAFTWERK, does collaborating with other electronic trailblazers interest you at all?

I wouldn’t have done this had Wolfgang not asked, he came to see me in Germany doing the ‘1980’ tour and we met backstage. He said he was doing an album and he’d love me to be part of it. I thought “great” but it was a matter of what, when and how. The next day on the bus, this thing kept going around my head, ‘Das Boot’ the Wolfgang Petersen movie and then I was thinking ‘Das Beat’ because Wolfgang is the maestro, he’s the electronic rhythm guy, he was the guy we all listened to, the master of “Das Beat”… it tied in so well but he wasn’t too keen on the title until I found out it doesn’t mean anything in German! *laughs*

Wolfgang said it should be “Der Beat” as the correct way of saying it but of course, me not speaking German, I thought ‘Bas Beat’, you are the guy, THE BEAT! He wasn’t keen and I think he wanted to try his hand at his own lyrics. I said that there was no reason why we can’t do 2 versions, so he did his own thing on his eventual ‘Magazine 1’ album although he kept the chorus that I’d written with my vocal and I had my own BAND ELECTRONICA single.

But it was great fun delving back into the influences that sparked me off down that particular route, the sounds and the style and writing something in the vein of a very catchy pop version of KRAFTWERK. When I heard him half speak / half singing his lyrics and stuff, I thought “My God, it’s so good, it sounds brilliant!”

I never plan collaborations, they come about just because you meet somebody that you like and they like you, they like what you do and you like what they do. Low and behold, you end up doing something, otherwise, it’s a bit like hard work… you mean you want me to go and write something? *laughs*

What’s next, is a ‘Lament’ + ‘The Gift’ tour a possibility in the future?

Everything is possible in the future, I said many times prior to this ‘Voice & Visions’ tour about how difficult it was fiscally, because we’d agreed costs and fees back in 2019 and the cost of doing it in 2023 was horrendous. I kept saying this was unsustainable, you cannot keep doing this and do this at a loss. The days of record company advances and people buying large amounts of your records are well and truly over. So you have to try and make it work, fiscally as well as musically.

I think the bottom line is we scraped through by the skin of our teeth on this one without having to raise ticket prices… I’m not saying it’s always going to be like that, but you have to figure it all out. You have to think “X” amount of people will want to see you, it costs “X” amount to do the show, “X” amount to pay the crew, the buses, the trucks, the lights etc. And people expect high quality performance, they want to see the great light show, they want to have the atmosphere there. I’m loathed to say we have to stick a fiver on the price of a ticket to make that happen! The end result was great, the response we got from the tour was fantastic.

Being able to do the Albert Hall is phenomenal and I expect next year, there will be plans… we haven’t got anything in place right now for something, but whether I carry on with the two albums retrospective thing or not, I really don’t know. There may be some time out there for some solo stuff, do some of the solo stuff that doesn’t get an airing very often! *laughs*

You recently sold your back catalogue, what will this give you as an artist, is it financial security for yourself and your family?

Well, my family more than anything… I’m a fairly basic character these days, I think I learned humility with the demise of ULTRAVOX and the beginning of BAND AID. I don’t need a lot, I’m fairly satisfied with what I have. But the music industry is such a complex thing, my kids aren’t part of the music industry, they would never understand where money comes from or where you would go to get it that’s your royalties. It’s so complicated because labels sell on to other labels. You find releases that you didn’t even know were coming out but you are still on the royalties for it and you have to find these things.

It took years to try and sort it out and tie it all up with one big ribbon. A lot of artists are doing the same thing. I mean, if I’m not around, nobody is going to know where this is and it always goes into a big black hole and disappears. So it was the sensible thing to do to get your ducks in a row before you sing your final note…

What has been your artistic career highlight? How do you look back on getting a solo No1 in ‘If I Was’, something which was cruelly denied to ULTRAVOX?

There are loads and it’s not usually the big things, the No1s or whatever! I suppose it’s the collaborations, the buzz you STILL get from meeting someone you respect and admire, and THEY know who you are! You can’t buy that! That’s just crazy, there’s still that kid walking around Cambuslang in awe of everybody else and then you find you are stomping the same stage as them.

Those moments were great, playing guitar with Eric Clapton one-on-one, the duet with Kate Bush or being on stage with Peter Gabriel, whatever it happens to be. They’re the moments that success brings you, not owning the fleet of cars or a boat or whatever, those things are transient.

But the other stuff is real and that’s just amazing! So if you could tie all those up in a documentary, I’d sit and watch it! *laughs*

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Midge Ure

Special Thanks to Warren Higgins at Chuff Media

Celebrating 7 Decades and A Life In Music, Midge Ure plays a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 4 October 2023 – tickets available from https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2023/midge-ure/

Other Midge Ure 2023 live appearances include:

Let’s Rock Shrewsbury (15 July), Forever Young 2023 (16 July), Rewind Scotland (23 July), Wickham Festival 2023 (6 August), Chepstow Castle (18 August), Let’s Rock Norwich (19 August), Oostende W-Festival 2023 (25 August)

The ULTRAVOX ‘Vienna’, ‘Rage In Eden’ + ‘Quartet’ Deluxe Edition boxed sets are released by Chrysalis Records and available via the usual retailers

The deluxe 4CD edition of ‘The Gift’ is released on 22 September 2023









Text, Interview and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
11 July 2023


Factory Records impresario and Granada TV presenter Tony Wilson once said: “When forced to pick between truth and legend, print the legend.”

Books about the trials and tribulations of the music industry come in all shapes, sizes and angles. The approach can be tricky… should they be personal accounts, encyclopaedic histories, stories based on real life but with some spin, or just snapshots of an era?

In recent years, autobiographies and memoirs have become very popular as money for old rope in the absence of physical music sales. These can range from being informative and hilarious to extremely bitter, with others coming over very dull in an attempt not to upset anybody. Meanwhile others feature so many falsehoods that they may as well be placed in the ‘Fiction’ section.

One less appealing format that has been gaining increasing prevalence is the fan memory compendium; this could be seen as a lazy and cheaper way of producing a publication as followers compete to be seen as the biggest fan. Meanwhile others, notably members of lower league bands, try to make out they were massive fans in the first place with recollections that are actually veiled attempts to promote their own music.

When writing a music book, it helps to actually read and research a few beforehand. In addition, when deciding whether a point is worthy of inclusion, the viewpoint of the reader must always be taken into consideration as they hypothetically ponder “so what?”. 

The 21st Century ubiquity of social media has proved that not everyone can string a coherent sentence together.  But where that may seem a barrier, a ghost writer can be the subject’s best friend and a number of the books listed here have taken that route.

Not a best of list, here are 25 music books that have become the personal favourites of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK listed in yearly and then alphabetical order by title.


Steve Malins’ biography features interviews with Alan Wilder, Daniel Miller and Flood. Offering assessment on the unusual band dynamic, one story that highlights things were going south is the debauched cricket match between DEPECHE MODE and OMD during the 1988 US tour. The continually underappreciated Wilder declares how he proudly bowled out Andy McCluskey whom he intensely disliked. Meanwhile Dave Gahan hovered up a line of coke before going into bat and was inevitably out for a golden duck!

‘Black Celebration’ was originally published by Andre Deutsch Ltd with 2001, 2005 + 2013 updated editions


TAINTED LIFE Marc Almond (1999)

This is a frank but humorous autobiography by the SOFT CELL frontman about living life with art school aspirations but suddenly thrust into becoming a pop star and having false tabloid stories written about him in a homophobic world. Attempting to rebuild a career having signed to Warners in 1991, in a reality check, he is told by MD Rob Dickens that the world does not need another Marc Almond album and suggests recording a Trevor Horn produced cover of Jacques Brel’s ‘Jacky’ as made famous by Scott Walker…

‘Tainted Life’ was originally published by Pan Books


I WAS A ROBOT Wolfgang Flür (2000)

‘I Was A Robot’ was the controversial autobiographical exposé of the KRAFTWERK machine combined with Wolfgang Flür’s partying exploits. However, as his account of OMD coming backstage to meet the band after the Liverpool Empire gig in 1975 has since proved to be false while his musical contribution to KRAFTWERK recordings has been shown to have been minimal, although entertaining, parts of this book should be taken with a pinch of salt.

‘I Was A Robot’ was originally published by Omnibus Press with 2003 + 2017 revised editions



Written in the irreverent vein of classic Neil Tennant-era Smash Hits, the best quote in this amusing book is about DURAN DURAN: “You will have surely have wondered why the girl you fancied seemed far more interested in a slightly porky bloke with bleached-blond hair and a foppish name. The compilation ‘Decade’ contains the 80s hits, but if you want a more comprehensive overview, go for the other one ‘Greatest’. You can usually find them both in the ‘CDs for £5.99’ section, to be honest”

‘The Encyclopaedia Of Classic 80s Pop’ was originally published by Allison & Busby


24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE Tony Wilson (2002)

Given the Factory Records catalogue number FAC 424 and subtitled “What The Sleeve Notes Never Tell You”, this account of the Manchester independent label is centred around Wilson’s noted ego where the narrative reads as enjoyable spin rather than factual stories about the label, its bands and The Haçienda. His alleged legendary quote that ”The musicians own everything. The company owns nothing. All our bands have the freedom to f**k off” was to prove to be his downfall…

’24 Hour Party People’ was originally published by Macmillan


NEW ROMANTICS: THE LOOK Dave Rimmer (2003)

Smash Hits writer and author of ‘Like Punk Never Happened…’ Dave Rimmer takes a look at the flamboyant New Romantics via The Blitz Club playlists and profiles of SPANDAU BALLET, VISAGE, DURAN DURAN, SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE, KRAFTWERK and DAF. The Myth of Berlin and Futurism are also discussed and there are plenty of glossy photos that encapsulate its spirit.

‘The Look’ was originally published by Omnibus Press


IF I WAS Midge Ure (2004)

With dry humour, this is a sincere and honest account by Midge Ure of his career which included being a teen pop idol with SLIK who had their own Look-In magazine comic strip. As well as accounts of his success with ULTRAVOX and VISAGE and as a solo artist, there is also his darker descent into alcoholism in the wake of low sales. Our hero is candid about the occasionally tense dynamics with his colleagues, while an insight into VISAGE’s original contract with Polydor makes very interesting reading.

‘If I Was’ was originally published by Virgin Books with 2011 revised edition


PET SHOP BOYS, CATALOGUE Philip Hoare & Chris Heath (2006)

This is a superbly presented visual retrospective of PET SHOP BOYS up to ‘Battleship Potemkin’ featuring artwork, video stills, stage sets and other artefacts accompanied by insightful commentary. There is also a chronology included as well as an interview with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe who again steals the show with the quip “We still are grumpy, actually”!

‘Catalogue’ was originally published by Thames and Hudson Ltd



Credited with taking David Bowie into “a whole new school of pretension” with The Berlin Trilogy, this authorised biography on Brian Eno traces his career beginning as a self-confessed non-musician with ROXY MUSIC twisting knobs on a VCS3 to producing U2. In between, he makes synthesizers go bong, popularises ambient music, develops Oblique Strategies with artist Peter Schmidt and gets his head around programming the Yamaha DX7. But the biggest revelation in the book? “Eno was shagging more women than Ferry”!

‘On Some Faraway Beach’ was originally published by Orion


SPARKS: No1 SONG IN HEAVEN Dave Thompson (2009)

An enjoyable unauthorised biography of SPARKS, Ron and Russell Mael’s endearingly witty contributions to this book come from the author’s interviews with the brothers conducted between 1985-2009. There are also press cuttings, an expansive discography and a collector’s guide alongside quotes from former backing band members. But while the stories of the various albums are detailed, those wanting gossip on personal lives will be disappointed.

‘No1 Song In Heaven’ was originally published by Cherry Red Books


GARY NUMAN: BACK STAGE Stephen Roper (2012)

‘A Book Of Reflections’, long time Numanoid Stephen Roper gives a comprehensive account of the imperial years of Gary Numan from 1979 to 1981 via a series of interviews and memories from band members Chris Payne, RRussell Bell and the late Cedric Sharpley as well as the man himself. OMD’s Andy McCluskey, SIMPLE MINDS’ Jim Kerr and Nash The Slash give the viewpoint of the support acts while there are also additional observations from John Foxx, Richard Jobson and Jerry Casale.

‘Back Stage’ was originally published independently with revised 2017 eBook edition available from https://back-stage.dpdcart.com/cart/view#/



This autobiography traces the story of how a nervous bespectacled Brummie lad called Nigel became an international sex symbol as John Taylor, bassist of DURAN DURAN; “Now, I had only to wink in a girl’s direction in a hotel lobby, backstage or at a record company party, and have company until the morning” he recalls. As outrageous and debauched as some of these anecdotes of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are, it would have been very difficult for anyone thrust into this position aged 21 to have acted any differently.

‘In The Pleasure Groove’ was originally published by Sphere


MAD WORLD Lori Majeski & Jonathan Bernstein (2014)

‘Mad World’ delves into the spirit, the politics and the heartache behind some of the greatest songs in popular culture with an American MTV viewpoint courtesy of enthusiastic Duranie Lori Majewski, balanced by the critique of Glaswegian Jonathan Bernstein. The contrasting dynamic ensures a celebration of the era while simultaneously pulling no punches with Bernstein lobbing hand grenades in the direction of KAJAGOOGOO and THOMPSON TWINS!

‘Mad World’ was originally published by Abrams Image


JAPAN: A FOREIGN PLACE Anthony Reynolds (2015)

With the co-operation of Richard Barbieri, Steve Jansen and Rob Dean, this book is the first of its kind about the influential enigma that was JAPAN. With detailed accounts by band members and controversial manager Simon Napier-Bell among others, notably absent is David Sylvian who appears via archive interviews while the late Mick Karn is quoted from his own autobiography ‘Japan & Self Existence’.

‘A Foreign Place’ was originally published by Burning Shed



First published in German in 2015, this history gives a fascinating insider’s account of The Düsseldorf School and its cultural significance via interview quotes. Contributors on the home side include Wolfgang Flür, Robert Görl, Gabi Delgado, Hans Lampe, Ralf Dörper and Susanne Freytag, while the Brits they influenced feature Andy McCluskey, Martyn Ware, Dave Ball and Daniel Miller among their number. As Robert Görl says: “Wir wollten lieber mit Maschinen arbeiten… We always preferred working with machines”.

‘Electri_City’ was originally published by Omnibus Press


LET’S MAKE LOTS OF MONEY Tom Watkins with Matthew Lindsay (2016)

Subtitled “Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard”, this is the autobiography of the late Tom Watkins, the Svengali who managed PET SHOP BOYS, BROS and EAST 17. “A big man with a loud voice” said Neil Tennant, but he had a bolshy ability to extract favourable deals including a rumoured 20% commission on gross income while always asking “What would Edna in Huddersfield think?”. Later becoming disillusioned with the pop industry, he describes ‘The X Factor’ as being like “a Nuremberg Rally on pink drugs”

‘Let’s Make Lots Of Money’ was originally published by Virgin Books



An informative in-depth look inside NEW ORDER, this huge memoir running to over 750 pages by Peter Hook was informative but not unsurprisingly tinged with bitterness and anger. But if you want to know where the band played on 9 April 1985, it’s here! There are track-by-track rundowns of each NEW ORDER album (apart from ’Republic’) and if you’ve always wanted to find out which sequencer was used on ‘True Faith’ or what Hooky’s Top16 bass cab messages are, then look no further!

‘Substance’ was originally published by Simon & Schuster


RECORD PLAY PAUSE + FAST FORWARD: Stephen Morris (2019 + 2020)

Effectively a lengthy book divided into two parts, Volume I of Stephen Morris’ memoir demonstrated his abilities as an engaging storyteller blessed with an entertaining dry wit, able to convey his growing up in an amusing and relatable manner. In the NEW ORDER dominated Volume II, readers cannot help but laugh out loud when our hero discovers that the 10 mile shooting range of his newly acquired ex-British Army Abbot FV433 self-propelled gun will make Bernard Sumner’s house in Alderley Edge an easy target!

‘Record Play Pause Rewind’ + ‘Fast Forward’ were originally published by Constable



The quiet half of SOFT CELL, Dave Ball attended the same Blackpool school as Chris Lowe from PET SHOP BOYS but they never met. There was obviously something in the sea and the accounts of the Northern Soul scene point towards how that influence, along with the affordability of synthesizers, was to seed a long and successful music career which later included THE GRID. The Electronic Boy is honest about his various demons, but there is also humour and an equipment list appendix plus plenty of technical talk.

‘Electronic Boy’ was originally published by Omnibus Press



Chaptered around 23 significant pieces of music in the life of Trevor Horn, the producer provides an insight into the making of his greatest moments. Music industry politics are discussed, notably with his ZTT signings FRANKIE GOES HOLLYWOOD, PROPAGANDA and THE ART OF NOISE. Among the revelations are getting bassist Mark Lickley fired from ABC but in all, this is a fun read with lots of name dropping… so imagine sitting in a van with Grace Jones and Jackie Chan that has no seat belts!

‘Adventures In Modern Recording’ was originally published by Nine Eight


ELECTRONICALLY YOURS Vol1 Martyn Ware (2022)

An autobiography that covers up to the end of 1992, a quarter of the book is brilliantly devoted to a track-by-track analysis of every released recording that Martyn Ware was involved in by THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17 and BEF. Politics looms within ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ but without this socially conscientious drive , there would be no ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ or ‘The Luxury Gap’. With the recent passing of Tina Turner, Ware’s accounts of working with her now have added poignancy.

‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ was originally published by Constable



Focussing on “inventing electronic pop”, ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ tells the story of the Synth Britannia generation by referencing archive material rather than via new interviews with the protagonists of the period. The end result is a more accurate picture of how synthesized forms were derided by a hostile music press back in the day, contrasting the rose tinted view projected by some cultural observers and fans today. But over 40 years on, this music has won the fight with many of the acts still performing today.

‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ was originally published by Omnibus Press



A detailed autobiography of Karl Bartos about his time in KRAFTWERK and more, his optimistic disposition is a key aspect of this story. But although rising to the ranks of co-writer for ‘The Man Machine’ album, some members were more equal than others as Ralf Hütter bagged himself 50% of the publishing for the lyrics of ‘Spacelab’ and ‘Metropolis’ despite those tracks containing one word, thus reducing Bartos’ musical share! Bitterness is largely absent from this book, but it is no “sex, synths und schlagzeug” romp either.

‘The Sound Of The Machine’ was originally published by Omnibus Press



Featuring new interviews with original members Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mick MacNeil and Derek Forbes, this biography focuses on the SIMPLE MINDS era of 1979-1985 when they were at their imperial and imaginative best. So where did it all go wrong? The book reveals what ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has thought since buying the album in 1984 and that Jim Kerr himself now confirms… the second half of ‘Sparkle In The Rain’ is not particularly good! So who agrees? “LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS!”

‘Themes For Great Cities’ was originally published by Constable



The story of Some Bizzare was always going to be a grand undertaking but Wesley Doyle managed to assemble Marc Almond, Dave Ball, Matt Johnson, Daniel Miller, Steve Hovington, Neil Arthur, JG Thirlwell, Stephen Mallinder, Anni Hogan, Stevo Pearce and his long suffering personal assistant Jane Rolink to document the rise and fall of the label that got into bed with the majors. Opting for a chronological quotes narrative, the book captures the personality of the characters involved and the tensions between them.

Conform To Deform’ was originally published by Jawbone Press


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13 June 2023

MIDGE URE + INDIA ELECTRIC CO Live at Cambridge Corn Exchange

With the success of his ‘1980’ tour celebrating ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’ album and his work as a member of VISAGE, Scottish music veteran Midge Ure finally got his long awaited ‘Voice & Visions’ adventure on the road.

Delayed in the wake of the worldwide pandemic, the second leg of the tour which had originally been arranged as the first part has been playing to appreciative crowds at packed theatres throughout the UK. Midge Ure will be 70 this coming October but he has shown no sign of wavering with his voice remaining intact, save a few very high notes which are discreetly worked around. Meanwhile, he continues to play guitar and keyboards with an enthusiasm that is obvious for all to see.

The concept of the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour was to air material from ULTRAVOX’s second and third Ure-era long players ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’; the former was the product of three months spent in the isolated countryside studio of German legend Conny Plank near Cologne, while the latter was a comparatively brighter affair with THE BEATLES producer George Martin at the helm which included a mixing sojourn in sunny Monserrat. These two very different approaches netted six Top 20 single in the UK. “This is the logical and emotional follow up to the 1980 tour” Ure said.

After a number of years performing acoustically and solo, Midge Ure introduced his Band Electronica concept in 2017 to perform full-fat renditions of the key milestones of his glorious musical career, some for the first time since the classic ULTRAVOX line-up reunion with Chris Cross, Warren Cann and Billy Currie that thrilled fans between 2009 to 2013. The format also provided another opportunity to hear some of best electronic pop of the Synth Britannia era in a live context.

With the live band comprising of long standing drummer Russell Field and the talented multi-instrument duo of Cole Stacey on bass, keyboards + guitar and Joseph O’Keefe on keyboards + violin, it was this trio who opened proceedings with a selection of songs that the two youngsters have recorded as INDIA ELECTRIC CO.

Presenting a modern take on traditionally-derived music forms, songs such as ‘Only Waiting’ and ‘Heimat’ showcased Stacey’s earnest vocal style and O’Keefe’s emotive violin playing with Field providing a variety of acoustic percussive colours. An enjoyable cover of Bruce Springsteen ‘I’m On Fire’ sprung a surprise with Stacey using mini-keys and Field taking to penny whistle while O’Keefe displayed another string to his bow with some six string dexterity.

The elegant ‘Parachutes’ had touches of folk and Americana while at the other end of the scale, ‘Lost in Translation’ saw synths and electronic arpeggios brought into the spritely equation. To close the INDIA ELECTRIC CO support set, ‘Statues’ brought mandolin loops, funk, jazz, classical and synth into an unusual but engaging hybrid of styles.

With an impressive 20 minute turnover time, Stacey, O’Keefe and Field returned to the stage to set the scene for Midge Ure’s arrival. Taking full advantage of their presence, the ULTRAVOX Mk2 front man launched into impassioned rendition of ‘Dear God’; the song he premiered at Wembley Stadium for the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in 1988, its call for peace and unity was particularly poignant in relation to current world events.

Maintaining momentum, the rousing ‘If I Was’ was a reminder of his 1985 solo UK No1 single while the evergreen ‘Fade to Grey’ was another of his No1s, albeit in West Germany where the VISAGE song became the Bundesrepublik’s biggest selling single of 1981.

Ure’s solo career actually began in 1982 with a cover of Tom Rush’s ‘No Regrets’; originally an acoustic number by its author, it was a comeback hit for THE WALKER BROTHERS in 1976. While just simply a great song, his cover of a cover still possesses an icy resonance to compliment the bittersweet lyrics.

However, the audience at Cambridge Corn Exchange were there to hear ULTRAVOX songs and Ure duly delivered. There were the hits ‘The Voice’, ‘The Thin Wall’ and ‘Reap the Wild Wind’ but there was also ‘We Came to Dance’ which had not included in any of the 21st Century ULTRAVOX reunion shows. But many were there for the album highlights from ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’; ‘We Stand Alone’ was enhanced by Joseph O’Keefe’s chilling synth stabs while ‘I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)’ saw a THIN LIZZY style of twin guitar interplay between Ure and Stacey.

‘Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again)’ recalled the claustrophobic intensity of the ‘Rage In Eden’ album while on the atmospheric title song, Cole Stacey impressively nailed the Middle Eastern toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” phonetics of its haunting chorus. From the ‘Quartet’ album, the synth rock of ‘Mine For Life’ made its return since that particular tour which was preserved on the ‘Monument’ live artefacts.

Meanwhile the more frenetic ‘Serenade’ was another welcome inclusion as a song that had never been performed live until this ‘Voice & Visions’ tour. Finishing the main part of the set with ‘Hymn’ and ‘Visions in Blue’, the end of show crescendo may have been better served if the order of those two songs had been the other way around.

For the four song encore, there was the unexpected inclusion of the mighty electro-prog instrumental ‘Astradyne’ and of course ‘Vienna’ with duel ivories from O’Keefe and Stacey to provide a continuous piano passage that, due to physical practicalities, would have to be interrupted during ULTRAVOX renditions of “The Greatest No2 of All Time” as voted by BBC Radio2 listeners.

Concluding the evening with ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’ and ‘All Stood Still’, this pair of cheerful ditties about Mutually Assured Destruction reflected the Cold War paranoia during which they were created in; as with ‘Dear God’ at the beginning of the set, that angst has scarily returned to today’s uncertain world. Critics used to consider ULTRAVOX pretentious and pompous but they offered intelligent and thoughtful real life observations and concerns.

A triumph all around, the ‘Voice & Visions’ show was complimented by a straightforward but very effective light show and crystal clear sound. This revisiting of Midge Ure’s back catalogue has got potential to run even further and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has its fingers crossed for a ‘Lament’ to ‘The Gift’ 1984-1985 based tour in the not too distant future 😉

And for those waiting for the DEPECHE MODE dig, to the idiotic Devotee who said that Martin Gore was a better guitarist than Midge Ure… err, no! 🤣

With thanks to Cole Stacey

ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ + ‘Quartet’ are available via Chrysalis Records as deluxe boxed sets

Midge Ure 2023 festival appearances include:

Middlesbrough Let’s Rock the North East (10 June), Let’s Rock Leeds (17 June), Let’s Rock Scotland (24 June), Let’s Rock Exeter (1 July), Let’s Rock Shrewsbury (15 July), Forever Young 2023 (16 July), Rewind Scotland (23 July), Wickham Festival 2023 (6 August), Chepstow Castle (18 August), Let’s Rock Norwich (19 August), Oostende W-Festival 2023 (25 August)





INDIA ELECTRIC CO will be touring later in 2023, dates include:

Deepdale Festival (24 September), Manchester Band On The Wall (17 October), Glasgow Glad Cafe CIC (18 October), Cambridge Junction 2 (24 October), London Kings Place (25 October), Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (26 October), Totnes Barrel House (27 October), Lyme Regis Marine Theatre (28 October)





Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
31 May 2023

Vintage Synth Trumps with BILLY CURRIE

ULTRAVOX founder member Billy Currie is the classically trained maestro who declined a place at London’s Royal Academy of Music in order to follow a dream of becoming a rock musician.

He was also in TUBEWAY ARMY when Gary Numan made his first TV appearances on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ and ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1979, as well as being part of ‘The Touring Principle’ concert extravaganza.

Although ULTRAVOX have released 11 studio albums since 1977 with John Foxx, Midge Ure, Tony Fenelle and Sam Blue as front men, the instrumental constant on synthesizers, piano, violin and viola throughout has been Billy Currie.

Although his most high profile period was in the Midge Ure fronted incarnation of ULTRAVOX, this might not have happened had Currie and Ure not met while working together on VISAGE; together with Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson from MAGAZINE, the project had been instigated by Rusty Egan to produce synthesized dance music fronted by Steve Strange to play at The Blitz Club where he was the resident DJ. Along with Numan keyboardist Chris Payne, Currie and Ure co-wrote VISAGE’s biggest hit ‘Fade To Grey’.

The classic hit line-up of ULTRAVOX featuring Billy Currie, Midge Ure, Chris Cross and Warren Cann reunited in 2009 and released a new album ‘Brilliant’ in 2012 before winding down after a tour with SIMPLE MINDS in 2013.

Since then, Currie has been busy with his solo work, the most recent of which was 2020’s piano-based long player ‘The Brushwork Oblast’; it was released as part of a new deal with Burning Shed who will also reissue all of Currie’s solo back catalogue on CD.

Billy Currie kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK over a game of Vintage Synth Trumps and chatted about his life and brilliant career in music.

These Vintage Synth Trumps cards we are using are made by GForce and you’ve worked with them haven’t you?

Back in 2003, GForce asked me to do some programme signature tunes for the ImpOSCar, since then I’ve had a relationship with them where they give me synths. Recently they asked me to look at the beta of stuff like the Oddity3. Dave Spears of GForce introduced me to Dina Pearlman of The ARP Foundation, she is doing an online “Synthposium” on 5th November and talked me into being involved, I’m one of people on the panel with Dave *laughs*

This is like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies but with synths, when you were working with him on the first ULTRAVOX! album, did you use the cards during the creative process?

We talked about the idea but I don’t think we did… but then again, a few things happened in the studio while I wasn’t there! It’s a very distant memory that they might have *laughs*

I do remember us talking about how we should “change the atmosphere” if we got stuck, like “do this” or play football in the park, just to change things because we’ve all got a little bit blocked. Music is a thing that changes if you want to get spiritual or spacey about it, you can’t control it and all of a sudden, your frame of mind changes.

How did you find working with Eno?

It was great, I remember the first meeting in one of these slightly hippy-ish rooms that was clean but rough-matted. We’d finally signed our record deal after me doing a bum job in a warehouse for 3 years and rehearsing 4 nights a week and on Sundays… the other guys were cleaning toilets! *laughs*

Anyway, Eno walked in… I was a massive fan of ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ and I was aware of his Obscure label, that was like “wow”, we were connected to something really special. Because we were label mates at Island and Island looked after Obscure, I could take these albums home for free. I was really taken aback by him and it was nice to sit on the floor and talk. It was a good vibe and I remember in the studio, him having his Minimoog in one corner so we were thinking DI a little bit… that was quite new to me because we were very much “a band” and I realised “oh, you can just plug a keyboard into the desk”.

It was friendly but I was knocked sideways a bit by working with him. There was a piece that me and John Foxx wrote together called ‘Slip Away’, I wrote a piece of music that he liked and then he connected it with a song that he’d written. So it went into my music with a minimalist feel to it before my mesmerising grand piano which was very classical. I was very proud of it and we laid it down like we had in rehearsals. It was like I was finding my sound because it was greys into black, that was the feeling, a bit like ‘Rage In Eden’, put a bit of reverb in it and the beautiful sound made you tingle.

So what’s the story about what happened in your absence?

While I was out of the studio, mischievous Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite changed it and upset the applecart. Eno got his Minimoog out and on the minimalist syncopated spacey bit, he detuned that, like he’d got his destroy mode in. And when it came into my keyboards which are still in there, he did this beautiful colourful Minimoog sound that copied my top piano line and let the echo go into the next bit. So he was breaking the rules, it must have seemed a bit stiff to him what I did, so I felt he was trying to mess it up a little bit. Even at the end, there’s that “woo-woo-woo” echo coming through from that initial bit.

I wasn’t against any of it, I was finding my feet at the time so it blew my mind, but then I felt it was very colourful and I just accepted it. I mean we were going forward and we had Brian Eno producing us! But the idea of a producer was a little bit “hang on a minute” at first, I like to be in control, we were all like that, John was too but he had opened up himself to be produced which in a way, you’re kind of manipulated in some ways.

You’ve got to remember Brian Eno didn’t do that much on this debut album. But he was a lovely man and came in with this lovely food and these fantastic girlfriends, usually Swedish and that was very nice *laughs*

Were these sessions with Brian Eno the first time you were formally introduced to synthesizers?

When I was 19, I was in a band that didn’t get anywhere. I’d been coming towards keyboards in that band but they only had a Hammond organ which wasn’t my kind of thing. Our tech guy Vince had a flat in Willesden and one of the band’s that would come round to him to get their gear fixed was HAWKWIND, that was fun watching them! They brought in this oscillator box with two little joysticks on. Vince let me have a play so I sat there with headphones lifting the sound up and down, it was very basic but it had a big effect on me.

I had a go on a Mellotron in 1971, I was working with a singer songwriter called Jeff Starrs. Our manager Mark Plumber who worked for Melody Maker knew Kit Lambert who managed THE STRAWBS and we did a support gig with them. They invited me to their studio to get a demonstration of the Mellotron, Blue Weaver did it for me, a very lovely guy. This was so I could play it on Mark’s wife’s song. I produced the song and played Mellotron on it. This was in Pye Studios near Edgware Road and very state of the art at the time. Mark’s wife did not get a release with her songs. It was a fascinating experience for me though. The string sound was so unforgiving. It felt like I was sticking sellotape on the track, no touch sensitivity. It was powerful though and certainly lifted the track. It is a pity it wasn’t mine and Jeff’s music I was working on.

So the real first time was Brian Eno’s Minimoog with his funny little paintings to describe the sounds. He knew he’d blown my mind and he showed me some things that were fascinating. For the end of the album, John Foxx had the idea of ‘My Sex’… I didn’t do the synthesizer on that, I did the piano but I was watching Eno and loved the way he did the simple harmony and from that, I could see how powerful synthesizers were and that stayed with me. I like complication as well but I do love simplicity. And when Eno did another melody, exactly the same but using a major third above, I was like “F*CKING HELL”! I used to love doing that with sustained guitar like in ‘Lonely Hunter’ working with Steve Lillywhite, you would feel it in your heart. This was similar but in a different way because the sustain was on the Minimoog and you would put another harmony on the sustain, and that would be very powerful.

You got onto string machines as well?

On our demos for our first album, like ‘Dangerous Rhythm’, I was hiring things like the Elka string machine. I did try other string machines like the ARP Solina and I was like “UGH! DON’T WANT!”, the vibrato wasn’t right with my idea of strings and don’t forget, we were spending our own money then. But when I got the Elka Rhapsody, I was blown away so that’s why it’s used on ‘Dangerous Rhythm’. So that was the beginning of these melodies cutting through, I always had a problem with keyboards not cutting through in a loud band as ULTRAVOX! was at the time with the punk and new wave period.

This is interesting because what you say Eno did seems to contradict what he says about himself being a non-musician…

It was musical, but quite simple. I think Eno was pulled along a bit with us… going from major to minor, it’s not something I would have done because it was a bit bluesy, but I loved it. But yes, it was quite classical but there was dissonance inside ‘My Sex’ because he also did a another synthesizer counter-melody which goes right through it and you get this great clash which is a B Natural against a B Flat, so he was enjoying that was well. He would have seen that I was a classical musician but he knew I was in the middle of trying to create my own thing, so probably held back from completely destroying it *laughs*

So the first card is an ARP Solus, of course you are one of the main exponents of the ARP Odyssey… how did you come across it?

I was thinking about all of this, especially with the thing I’m doing with Dina Pearlman, it was a bit of luck really. I’d had a go on Eno’s Minimoog and Chris Cross hadn’t bought his one yet, that was later before ‘Systems Of Romance’. I didn’t like the look of the Minimoog with the board in front of you because I was such an egoist, I didn’t want anything covering my body *laughs*

When I was playing live, I was very aware of the physical thing, I was imagining playing it stood up and what it would look like. Someone on the grapevine suggested the Odyssey and said it was really pokey which is what I wanted. I was suffering from not having a proper piano, I didn’t like the Wurlitzer or the Fender Rhodes because they were too jazzy. So I ended up with an RMI which sounded like a piano but had this horrible sustain constantly and kept getting lost in the mix, so I wanted something that would cut through.

None of this was cheap though?

Island were throwing some money at ULTRAVOX! so we got the Odyssey and an electric Fender violin, it was just the luck of the draw and we got a good deal. But it was quite expensive, so some of the sh*t we got from the punk people was probably deserved. At first, I thought I’d made a big mistake… there was this book and these silly cutover pages to put over it to show you where to position the sliders. I tried the strings setting of course and that was laughable and then woodwinds but eventually, I told myself to stop being so cynical. I was a classical musician but I’d kicked a lot of that stuff to touch! I didn’t want to play something that sounded like a clarinet or flute!

I wanted to express myself, I’d been able to do it on the violin but it didn’t really work in a rock band because of the lack of development in the amplification of it. The Fender violin did cut through but the pick-up used to feedback and we got complaints! While practicing at home, I had this woodwind sound on the Odyssey but I may have made a mistake and it had this vibrato on it. So I had to check where it was coming from, I looked to the left where the portamento was and it was the LFO. I went “I like that” and it got wider and wider and wider. But the mathematic process of it of being exact started to appeal to me… so if you pushed it forward and it would go up, then down, push it a bit further and it would go wider. So it was doing this “wow-wow-wow-wow” thing which I thought was really good.

I was trying to work out why this machine was expressive, this was amazing and something else! I had vibrato on the violin and viola, it’s what I liked so I was drawn to this. I’d learnt violin and viola from the age of 11 and looking back, what I did with the ARP was the same, I needed something for my soul to express myself. I just loved how expressive it was.

I was also learning about the voltage control oscillator and voltage control frequency in the middle; I knew if you brought them down, you got this thing where the sound would come in from the top and then down through like ridiculous, it would blow your ears apart!

That would have been mad!

I used to do that on stage in the ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ period and you could see people wince! I would have other wacky things like in the middle section of ‘Artificial Life’, just playing completely ad-hoc, weird aggressive stuff that was reminiscent of ROXY MUSIC. It was a case of playing live and working through the process.

That would later change because I would bring these two sliders in the middle close together to be a softer sound, not so harsh. I found a way to with two fingers to slide between the two sliders with my right hand… it didn’t have touch sensitivity but doing this, I would make something like the verse of ‘Vienna’ sound, like it was touch sensitive by bringing the amplification up a bit and you could turn your other finger to bring the frequency up. It would go “woah-oooh” with a bit of filter on it!

After ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ and ‘Systems Or Romance’, I learnt certain things that I really liked for that Billy Currie sound that I got to working with Gary Numan in 1979, then VISAGE and the solo on ‘Sleepwalk’. But that was finding a sound that would cut through. You’ve got to remember that the late 70s was very volatile, if you did a gig, it was very over-the-top, very loud and very crazy as the punters were very vocal and mad. It was nice to know you were being heard! I think I fell for the rock and roll thing a little bit, trying to be as loud as possible! *laughs*

Are you a frustrated guitarist in a way?

Not really, but I did play the guitar but I’ve never really had that desire. It was the first thing I learnt with my cousin David coming over. I was always fascinated by the guitar, it was why I wanted to be in a band in the first place, listening to things like SPIRIT ‘Mechanical World’, what blew my mind was the effects on the guitar, all that phasing and flanging.

During the pre-ULTRAVOX band TIGER LILY, in the Kings Cross rehearsal room someone left an acoustic guitar. I picked it up and played it doing this spacey finger picking and John Foxx was giving me that look of “oh, he’s a clever sod!” *laughs*

When Robin Simon joined ULTRAVOX, we messed about with pedals, I was always excited by the guitar with Midge as well, and I always loved the sound he used to get.

The next card is a Korg Mono/Poly…

That’s a bit contradictory! I don’t know that one…

Have you used much Korg stuff?

I’ve used the Korg M1 in 1987-89, I didn’t use it that much. It felt a bit like with the Roland D-50, it was sold on the first two preset sounds but when you tried to get into it, I found it rather unfriendly, the sounds were very clunky. I did use it when I was doing the HUMANIA album but I found it a bit limiting because you were more like a computer programmer doing all the increments, it was the start of all that kind of stuff. I should have been used to it but I never was, you had this on the PPG which came out in 1982. All this increments stuff to change the sound? I was used to knobs and sliders.

When I was working with Tony Fenelle for the ULTRAVOX ‘Revelation’ album, when I went on the road, I bought this big Korg 01/W Pro X with a nice weighted keyboard action and 88 chunky keys. That ended up being the MIDI master keyboard in my studio. I used it on three tracks I wrote in 1995, ‘Sisters & Brothers’, ‘Leap’ and ‘Quiet Words’ which are on ‘The Keys & The Fiddle’ album, those weird piano sounds. But I replaced it with the Yamaha CP300 in 2009.

Korg has had an interesting part in my life, but not that creative somehow, I wasn’t getting enough crazy creativity from them.

You mentioned the PPG, what interested you in acquiring the Wave 2.2?

Good question, that was just looking for new stuff and we would have got it just before the ‘Quartet’ album, we bought a Waveterm with it as well… God! It cost a fortune and could feed a country!! *laughs*

What was the PPG system like to use?

I loved it and it was still eccentric so it was exciting, we used it on the ‘Lament’ album as well. I can zoom in straight to a track called ‘When The Scream Subsides’.

There’s a bit in the chorus, that’s a PPG and I’m quite proud of that but if you solo it, the thing is falling to bits, there’s all sorts of stuff going on but what comes through is this creamy bright sound. You could go mad trying to work it, you would play it in the studio and you’d like that sound.

So it was all PPG in the solo of ‘When The Scream Subsides’, that was the height of the ‘Quartet’ album for me, that crisp metally sound… I remember doing that and the late Geoff Emerick who engineering went “Nice one!” *laughs*

The 40th anniversary of ‘Quartet’ has just happened, how do you look back on the album?

Yeah, it was excellent, I enjoyed doing it, it was great working with George Martin and Geoff Emerick, such great people and John Jacobs who often never gets mentioned, me and him used to stay in Air Studios until 4am.

Then there was tour that came with it featuring the huge ‘Monument’ stage set and that massive keyboard set-up…

It was a bit crazy! *laughs*

It was really good, I was trying to get natural distortion of out the ARP Odyssey and that’s why I took to the OSCar when it appeared because it had that overdrive like natural distortion. Chris Huggett came up with it, he’s sadly no longer with us…

Is it true Chris Huggett designed the OSCar with you in mind?

Yeah! He came to show it to us while we were making ‘Lament’, “Sound 1” and what a big ego trip I was on, was based on my ARP solo sound with that slight overdrive to it. On the ‘Quartet’ tour, it was very over-the-top, I got two Martin bins with three-way crossover as my own PA. My hearing is ok but I had to lean in on the right when I was playing the ARP because that ear is not as good as the left. There were people complaining because it was so directional that they could hear only me! *laughs*

Did you actually use everything on stage?

It was a ridiculous set-up then but the biggest keyboard set-up I got was on the ‘Lament’ tour…. there was my usual but on my left, I had a Yamaha GS-1, CS-80 and the PPG but then when I turned around to the back, there was a Prophet T8 and a Yamaha DX7 on top of that… I never actually played it, it was just something to look at! *laughs*

When Chris Huggett came in to show us the OSCar, three of us bought it and they got used. Midge learnt how to use the sequencer for ‘Love’s Great Adventure’ and Chris would do some basslines with it, but we were quite critical as it wasn’t as heavy as the Minimoog. When we were doing the ‘U-Vox’ album, our famous end of (*big laugh*), he came down with his salesman Paul Wiffen and they showed us this thing that was like the Emulator, but the company all went a bit tits-up when they overdid it and went bankrupt so it didn’t happen.

Going back to the 1979 Gary Numan tour, Chris Payne mentioned that although you had tons of keyboards, several were spares?

In ULTRAVOX, there weren’t many spares but I did have a spare ARP; however if the GS-1 went down, we were absolutely knackered and we didn’t have a spare CS-80. But I remember with Gary, he made sure that there was a spare Minimoog.

On ‘The Touring Principle’, you did what many have cited as your best ever solo on a cover of ‘On Broadway’…

Yes, it was good, it was an opening… when Gary said we were doing ‘On Broadway’, I thought it was quite wacky and sounded pretty wild, I sort of just fell into it. We started writing, a combination of me, Chris Payne and Gary, I was holding down chords on the Yamaha SS-30 string machine as he was singing. There was an arrangement vibe going on and it just came about. I was always up for a solo so I might have just got ahead and done it, I was at that point then.

It was showing a bit of ‘Systems Of Romance’, like the solo on ‘Slow Motion’ but I wasn’t being let loose there. Here, I wasn’t so entrenched so I probably initiated it myself. Chris related to the arrangement so when Gary stopped singing, I would have gone onto the ARP and him onto the Polymoog with that ‘Cars’ vox humana sound.

I said “Right, that ends in F sharp major, when I start the solo on the A, we change to minor” and Gary was like “YUP!” because it was like ULTRAVOX. But Chris’ big chords were pulled back so that you could hear me, especially because he is also classically trained and a better keyboard player than me, he went much further at college on piano, I only went to Grade 4 *laughs*

I haven’t heard it in ages but I was still learning about the ARP Odyssey then… at the side of it, there was this octave thing that dropped it two bloody octaves so you had to get used to that. If you didn’t want to drop down, you’ve got to play on a different place on the keyboard, otherwise, you get lost. If you wanted to drop two octaves, then you stayed where you were.

It is a magnificent bit of playing… 

I can remember building the solo and it went round quite a while, it was such a buzz live because that was the first time I’d ever got to that level of theatres. I stayed down with that whirring, that was the unison thing between the two oscillators, you played on one of them while they were in unison and you’d turn the octave switch back to normal and go up two octaves. I added a bit of portamento as well which worked and was bang on, that was lucky. But I’d learnt to do portamento, so it came right up to the note at the beginning of the bar.

But cutting to the chase, I used a bit of that solo in the middle of the solo in ‘Astradyne’. I thought “I really like playing that” so that’s why that bit of ‘On Broadway’ ended up in there, but you wouldn’t really know, It was just great fun, I loved it. I was always this kind of person who wanted to be pushed out right to the front, which is why I was never happy being the viola player, even as a lead in an orchestra, it was never enough for me. I can play in the middle of a group and look at what’s going on arrangements, but I always have to have a moment right out front. John Foxx realised that because you’ve got to be careful when you have a personality like that in a group who can p*ss people off! *laughs*

I was lucky when the next line-up came together because working with Midge, he knew what kind of person I was because we’d worked together in VISAGE, so I had to be let loose. It was the same with Midge, he was the kind of guy who could stay a bit back which was really good, and he’d accompany me nicely on the keyboards and guitar, those nice Strat guitar chords. And of course, he had his time at the front with his guitar.

You used a bit of the end of ‘On Broadway’ on a solo track called ‘Matsang River’ from ‘Accidental Poetry Of The Structure’ which has just been reissued on Burning Shed, are you signed to them or are they licencing your material?

It’s a label run by musicians for musicians founded by Tim Bowness, so they know how het up we all get when we see a contract put in front of us, heart attack material and fights for months! So they don’t do that at all, it’s a gentlemen’s agreement. I like it and that’s that, we split everything equally, 50/50. So far it’s been working really good and I just like the people.

That ‘Matsang River’ thing, I was going to call that ‘Off Broadway’ but I thought that would be too obvious. I called it ‘Matsang River’ because I was interested in the Tibet problem with China.

When I finished that ‘On Broadway’ solo, I got into a Rick Wakeman position of playing the ARP and leaning across to the right and playing something on the Yamaha SS-30 string machine at the same time… I used to like doubling melodies and even on our first ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ playing ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’, I was doing that, playing two keyboards. I did a bit of playful ad-lib before it ended so I thought why not just use that.

So with this solo album reissue series, are you going in reverse chronological order? Like when is your first solo record ‘Transportation’ likely to come out again?

About 2052! *laughs*

We are going backwards but I am looking forward to reissuing ‘Transportation’. I will be doing ‘Still Movement’ next week when I’ve done my VAT!

‘Airlift’, the opening track on ‘Transportation’ is like “Yes, I’m free! This is me and this is what I can do”, was it an emotional release after the ‘U-Vox’ debacle?

It’s nice to hear Chi that you’re picking up on that, I know it’s a bit obvious but it was a long time ago. So yes, that’s what it was and it’s got some nice PPG on it, that has a nice roughness about it. The piano is a Technics PX-1…

Didn’t you use that on the ‘U-Vox’ tour? *laughs*

Yeah! You remember that! Did it not sound so good? *laughs*

I didn’t think the Technics was as good as your Yamaha piano…

… that’s because it didn’t have that natural string expansion… yes, it was a bit trite sounding, I hung onto it but got rid of it when those nice little boxes that you could MIDI to your keyboard came out, I used one of the ‘Unearthed’ album.

With ‘Airlift’, there’s a whole raft of keyboards. The solo at the beginning was a jazzy brass thing like a soprano sax, that was played with the first Akai 8-bit sampler, not even 16 bit! It was great to do that album, MIDI was a big thing there, I had the Prophet 2000, ULTRAVOX’s old Waveterm, an Oberheim, I’d be linking 3 or 4 sounds together, it what you did at that time.

I did start a solo album in early 1983 which I had to abandon when we took the ‘Quartet’ tour to America, it later made up what became ‘The Keys & The Fiddle’…

The next card is an EMS VCS3…

EMS, yes Chris Cross had one around the time of ‘Systems Of Romance’; it was the Synthi AKS with the blue touchpad keyboard and he used it for basslines before he had the Minimoog. It was troublesome to keep it in tune, so that was 10 out of 10 for tenacity for doing that. I particularly remember it when we went over to America when he was let loose with that, he never knew quite what was going to be coming out of it, a bit like an Eno gig.

There was a track called ‘Radio Beach’ which we played but never recorded, Chris loved chaos more so than me, I would be playing this sound on the ARP to this glam beat, the Americans seemed to love it. At the end, Chris would set his AKS free so there were all these crazy sounds. There was also ‘He’s A Liquid’ and ‘Touch & Go’ which John Foxx later recorded.

So ‘Touch & Go’ and ‘Mr X’, were they basically the same song that went into two directions?

Yes, we rehearsed at a studio in Kingsway and recorded ‘He’s A Liquid’ and ‘Touch & Go’ playing them live. I knew that John was going to record them both which annoyed me a bit because that’s how things were. But I knew he was not the type of person who would get into litigation, so if he was going to record ‘He’s A Liquid’ which I did write a bit of, especially that descending bit in the middle, then I thought I’d have the melody from ‘Touch & Go’ which I didn’t write much of. I knew he wouldn’t do anything about it because me and John got on, he understood me and I understood him. It was lucky but we just didn’t want to go down that route. It was also good how he let the ULTRAVOX name carry on, not mentioning other people who wouldn’t let it carry on! *deep laugh*

How involved did you get with the recent ‘Rage In Eden’ boxed set and the Steve Wilson remixes?

I fully got involved with Dermot James at Chrysalis, they are doing a great job and he is very thorough. He wanted me to go up to Steven Wilson’s studio to go over a few things, like ‘The Ascent’, Dermot had done his homework and knew I’d written it. I must admit, I was a bit nervous about it because I’m not always that good at getting right involved in something from years ago.

You’ve got this thing where it’s almost like opening up ghosts. But there’s another side to me which is adventurous. Steven Wilson lives near me and is a nice guy, he has a lovely studio. I sat and watched what was going on there as it was going through Logic. I saw what he was doing with ‘The Ascent’ and he kept my original piano which I was pleased about. I thought it was interesting the way he accented the theme and I knew from the music he does that he would be quite interested in certain things like that and ‘Stranger Within’ where Chris and Warren came up with something that was just odd in 10/4 time.

I know he’s into weird time signatures with his band PORCUPINE TREE so with ‘I Never Wanted To Begin’, I’m sure he really related to that because there’s a mad bit where I stubbornly carry on playing in 7/4 time with the violin until it meets up again on the first of the bar. Amazingly, Chris Cross played along with me musically on that one and did the ringing using a Roland sequencer. Steven Wilson will have got off on that and he did a good job, he’s not afraid of working with a violin.

Where did you see Steven Wilson’s approach as being different?

He put some space and air in places that never should be there like ‘The Thin Wall’ because it’s all very tight and controlled on our version with Conny Plank. I let go as well because it’s the second one, I was a little bit concerned when he did ‘Vienna’ but once you get through the first one, it’s OK.

We did have a bit of a mix-up because there was a version of ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ he wanted to call work-in-progess. It was not but I came round to it as it was a rough mix that Conny had knocked up on 2 tracks that had this middle section that I wrote and I wanted to hear the keyboard parts. I backed off because I understand it’s interesting for ULTRAVOX fans to hear it now as a work-in-progress. I remember thinking “f**king hell, it’s driving me nuts!” because it sounded wrong… when you make an album and keep hearing something that’s wrong, it has an effect on you, I’m very sensitive. You’re pushing through to accomplish your art, to get it past the winning post. That was the only thing I got bothered about but it is what it says, a work-in-progess.

Staying on ‘Rage In Eden’, what was it like working with the late Conny Plank because ULTRAVOX did 4 albums with him?

Yeah, it was good working with Conny Plank… a lot of people forget he did the ‘U-Vox’ album, he actually came over to London and he stayed at my house in Notting Hill. The guys from KILLING JOKE came round while we were working, he was at the desk with a big joint! *laughs*

My last memory of him was saying goodbye to him in Montserrat, I drove him to the airport after the ‘U-Vox’ mixing. But it just didn’t seem right because our relationship was very strained, George Martin turned up and I think Conny was a bit under-the-cosh. He wasn’t happy, he didn’t like the SSL desk and he actually recorded some compression on the vocals of ‘All Fall Down’ which was a terrible thing to do. Conny never did that so he obviously wasn’t in the right place, we tried to remix that track. Then he went off to do that tour of South America with Dieter Moebius where he was playing Flugelhorn, he had been practising at my house and I loved it.

I actually love wind stuff, in my first band, I was playing with a sax player who also played viola. I actually got some nice sax sounds on the ARP which was instigated by Conny. Of course, they’re not real sax sounds, I wouldn’t do something so naff but the bite of it fitted in with the music like ‘Someone Else’s Clothes’ and ‘Some Of Them’ on ‘Systems Of Romance’, doing it in duophonic which had a natural distortion and was very interesting…

There’s a bit in the middle of ‘Astradyne’ where the phrasing is quite saxy

Yeah, we were doing all these things with synthesizers, you’d make it up as you go along. Instruments exist but the synthesizer doesn’t really, it will do what it bloody well likes! *laughs*

Conny would be wide open to stuff like that, he knew exactly how to place it in the mix. I mean I wouldn’t really know but he was right tuned in there, just like when we did ‘Dislocation’. All I did was get the little box and plug it in with a sequencer and we used a clock CV from ‘Just For A Moment’; the bass drum had carried on and on and on with nothing else on so that pushed my basslines along, Eventually when the drum clocked it along, it did that powerful unsettling phrase, you can hear some really ad-hoc stuff in there where I’m making the notes by moving the slider. It’s Conny, he just got hold of it and made the echoes when John did the vocal. I remember blowing Gary Numan’s mind when I took a white label to play it at this Bowie night we were at…

How would you describe your relationship with Conny?

My relationship with Conny was very much in the fact he knew what we were doing and he was right in there, making it happen. He was psychic in a way because he was one step ahead of us when we were coming up with stuff, thinking of how it was going to work out and laying it in with everything else.

I couldn’t cope too much with stuff like talking boll*cks in the kitchen, I wasn’t very good at that and I just wanted to get on with the music… he knew me like that, but I was definitely someone you could trust. We didn’t particularly do anything sociable together even when he was staying over at my house, it was kept to business. But I don’t think he liked any other studio apart from his own near Cologne.

His head wasn’t good over in Montserrat and I think it might have been the first signs of him not being very well. He was a lovely guy, I don’t think I ever had any rows with him… but he might have made a few noises to get me to shut up sometimes if it looked like one might brew up, to remind us that we were at his place.

Time for another card and it’s the Roland Jupiter 8… now I know you were an Oberheim man, so out of those polysynths, why did you opt for an OBX rather than say, any of the Jupiters or the Sequential Prophet 5?

I liked the Prophet 5, Dave Formula had one and we used it on the ULTRAVOX B-side ‘Paths & Angles’… after that, I don’t know why I didn’t use it more. The Roland, I messed about with it but I never went down there. I liked the Oberheim, I got the sounds that I used on ‘Rage In Eden’ quite quickly, there was just some character about it which I found really eerie and quite pokey.

I remember when Chrysalis sent us the 24 track masters, it was quite mind-blowing to hear Midge’s isolated vocals on ‘Vienna’ 40 years later, that was quite interesting. But there’s things like on ‘Accent On Youth’ where the Oberheim slides up into the verse, it was so f*cking loud but Conny knew how to fit it in, now that’s good mixing! I was lucky to find that sound from the Oberheim which comes into the instrumental on ‘Accent On Youth’ and then ‘The Ascent’ which sounds like an Eastern European choir, that deep “doo-doo, doo-doo-dooh”… when I listened to it, I was like “F*CK OFF! THAT’S JUST AMAZING”, I just love it and yet when you listen to it, it’s almost a bit tacky but because you can hear the sharpness of it, it sounds like male voices. I also like the solo sound that I got for the end of ‘We Stand Alone’. It had good character but it took me a while to get into it.

I later got the Matrix 12 as well, but it didn’t fit with my head, it was all the dials and everything. I sometimes used a programmer Mel Wesson on the ‘Transportation’ album. I also used the Oberheim on the ‘U-Vox’ tour to bring some crunch into it as I was using a stack of DX7s in the TX816 modules.

Photo by Brian Griffin

Talking of male voices, how did reversing the tape of Midge from ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ for that really eerie chorus of the ‘Rage In Eden’ title track come about?

That was excellent, it was Midge on a roll there. This was how confident we’d got by then, this was our moment, I thought “I haven’t got anything to do on this!” and the rest of the band just looked at me like “f*cking hell”. Midge came up with most of it but of course Warren and Chris were getting their stuff together. I think Midge just suggested the idea to Conny or maybe Conny suggested using a tape backwards.

It just fitted with the feel of the song, especially alongside Midge doing his Strat anthemic kind of thing, he had a way of hitting it so that he didn’t hit it too hard, it was a style he came up with, it’s not heavy.

Another card, it’s the Korg MS-20, DAF used one of these connected to a Korg Analog Sequencer on the classic stuff they did with Conny Plank like ‘Kebabträume’…

There was a lot of stuff coming out then so you’d do your own little thing because it was expensive, we only really started throwing our money around in 1981. Things were developing each month for things like that and you’d do it all different ways. HEAVEN 17 would do it a different way, talking to Martyn Ware, they’d have their own bag of tricks and keep it to themselves.

I had an ARP sequencer which I used on VISAGE ‘Blocks On Blocks’, it’s a great sound when you put it in octaves.

Talking of VISAGE, the 40th anniversary of ‘The Anvil’ happened in the Spring and some of your most underrated work is on that, I love ‘Again We Love’ and the instrumental ‘Whispers’…

‘Again We Love’ has got that middle section I did, I listened to it a few years ago, it’s got the ARP in there, after the “again we love” bit, there’s that Minimoog doing the thudding in there, it was like “yeah, we love that!”; we were also using my Roland drum machine on that album which had been doctored by our tech guy Pete Wood, I sold it to Rusty Egan.

We’d just done the ‘Rage In Eden’ album so my memories of doing ‘The Anvil’ aren’t that good because I was tired and I knew Midge was tired as well, so there were efforts to avoid friction on that album because we were so knackered. We’d had a holiday so I’m not complaining but to take on another album was really quite something! *laughs*

I have fantastic memories of ‘Whispers’, I had a lot to do with that one… we were wrapping up the album and I wrote it right near the end. I enjoyed working with John Hudson, he’d sussed out this CS-80, that melody was really nice, it was the heart pouring out…

‘Whispers’ is a track of yours that no-one talks about but it is brilliant…

Oh, thank you very much.

Photo by Denis O’Regan

What about the ARP Odyssey solo on ‘The Anvil’ title track?

Oh, that’s not me, that’s Dave Formula… he had an ARP Odyssey but our sounds were very different, that’s very Dave. It was great working with him, he was so off the wall because he’s from a jazz background.

So when I wrote ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’, our faces were against to wall to come up with another ‘Fade To Grey’. So Dave did this off-the wall middle section, he was an exceptional keyboard player. He was big on the CS-80 and Prophet 5, he did the middle section of ‘Blocks On Blocks’ as well.

We gelled very well. One of the points we loosened up was when we did the backing track of ‘Night Train’. I came up with the chorus, I loved soul music when I was 15-16 and I’d heard Midge come up with some funk and soul on ‘The Horseman’… I was in the studio and I was like “what the f*ck’s he doing now?”, I thought he’d lost the plot as we were so tired… but then I was thinking “I like this”.

So was ’Night Train’ almost jammed?

Once I did that brassy chorus of ’Night Train’, before I knew it, everyone was getting round me like Barry Adamson on bass and Rusty… it’s great to play drums with Rusty, it’s very different to playing with Warren, can you imagine the atmosphere in the place? *laughs*

Often in a studio, you are just messing around, trying to get a sequencer to bloody work, so when ‘Night Train’ was coming together, I’ve just got this memory of being in a different band, the way we just slowed down a bit, went into the chorus and sped it up. There was no code, it was real time. If you listen to ‘Night Train’, it speeds up and slows down. When you’re working with a great bass player like Barry, you just know because he’s nodding and pulling silly faces, it was just so much fun to work with him, such a lunatic *laughs*

Then John McGeoch came up with a sax part and it was great to have that on, but ‘Night Train’ went into a bit more normal VISAGE in the middle eight which was Midge’s contribution, it pulled it back into being more European.

I get the impression that on ‘The Anvil’, there was more of a willingness to experiment with funkier ideas that weren’t possible to incorporate in ULTRAVOX?

Yeah, you wouldn’t do it in ULTRAVOX, but there was some frustrations creeping in a little bit. I came up with ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ and while we were rehearsing, I wanted something with a bit of a swing to it, a bit like Steve Miller ‘Abracadabra’ because I like dance music, and Warren was like “are you having a laugh?”. It had such a hooky melody, I felt it could swing to make it more dancey but that didn’t come off and I was happy with what we ended up with. Two-thirds into ‘Rage In Eden’, you do then realise it was the right direction. But I had to be careful, Midge was on my page a little bit, we didn’t want to do anything too naff, thinking we could do soul and funk.

Another story and I’m digressing a bit here, but I remember when we went on the road, Tony Thompson from CHIC and John Taylor from DURAN DURAN came over to check me out about getting involved with this project that would have Robert Palmer singing called THE POWER STATION. I was given a time and a rehearsal place to come to, but I was in the middle of the ‘Lament’ tour and I didn’t turn up! *laughs*

Of course, the song you had with ‘Dancing…’ in the title, you couldn’t actually dance to it! *laughs*

If you analyse it now, dance to that? You’d need a pair of clogs and some sticks holding you up! *laughs*

I used to want some more dancey stuff but it went tits up in VISAGE because of that! Midge eventually left because Rusty got in this American producer John Luongo to remix ‘Night Train’. I liked it but Midge cut himself off and walked out, that caused a few ructions because I didn’t.

VISAGE was a bit of a knock-up, sometimes I forgot that because I loved it so much. But let’s face it, if you gonna get involved in it after an album from ULTRAVOX like ‘Rage In Eden’, you’re not going to just mess about are you? Otherwise you wouldn’t do it. I may have got a bit more involved than I intended to but I liked the move towards a more soulful thing.

One thing about ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ was it got me checking out Michael Rother ‘Sonnnenrad’ which inspired it…

I know this sounds a bit arrogant, but ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ wasn’t very hard to do for me, it was quite easy. In 1983, we were searching for a new direction and the atmosphere in ULTRAVOX wasn’t very good at all. So we were trying all these different things and I was taking a bit of a step back from writing which was unusual for me. I saw what experimental stuff was coming out and I wasn’t into the band much, I was hanging on by the coat tails really. So I thought I would go right ahead and do something which I knew the fans would love, because they would recognise it as vintage ULTRAVOX, almost going backwards and going against the grain.

At home, I had a Boyd mini-grand piano art-deco thing, that sounds a bit fancy but it was the 80s… Conny had given me this album he produced, ‘Sterntaler’ by Michael Rother. That melody on the opening track ‘Sonnnenrad’, it was very relaxing and pleasing, it was just nice … no hassle and I came up with this other thing that was doing fourths resolving to a minor which was very Michael Rother, but then the scale came right up perfectly in thirds. Then you start doing things that are quite German. I’d got used to doing this from all the touring I’d done.

So I appeared in rehearsal with this thing and Midge was like “thank f*ck you’re doing something”… I’d got the arse because I wasn’t happy with things, what had happened in VISAGE was dragged into ULTRAVOX so he was very much “bring it on!”; before I knew it, he’d got a nice feel with the guitar and quickly got the verse and it was like “Sh*t, here we go! It’s a hit!”

The way Midge went into that verse, he did a great vocal… I walked into Mayfair Studios when he was singing that and I thought “F*cking hell! He’s thrown the kitchen sink at that! Well done my son!”; I mean, after all the aggro and bad atmosphere, you’ve got to get releases and he must have doubled it about 36 times!

Final question and I’m interested because I am descended from Hong Kong immigrants, but is ‘White China’ on ‘Lament’ about the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Communist Red China?

Yes, I think it was; I was a bit naïve and didn’t discuss it with Midge then because it really wasn’t a good time, and I thought if he was going to delve into politics, it wasn’t a good time to discuss that either. It was unfortunate but sometimes when bands work so intensely together, it doesn’t seem appropriate to ask questions, we’d always worked on this assumption that we’d get our own meanings for ourselves out of the lyrics. In the 80s line-up, it was never “it means this”; my interpretation of ‘White China’ was about Hong Kong being taken over by the British to sell illicit opium… when countries change like that, it does make you think, how does it end? It’s not good now how China is trying to make Hong Kong like the mainland, it’s a difficult situation.

What about ‘White China’ musically, it sounds like you were listening a lot to ‘Blue Monday’ by NEW ORDER!! *laughs*

Yes, it did a little bit, that was a new drum machine we’d got, the Sequential Drumtraks. Midge got that dancey triplet thing going on but ‘Lament’ was such a strange album, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it but it wasn’t a pleasant experience…

…in retrospect, the ‘Lament’ album sounds three-quarters finished…

Yes, I think it was, really we weren’t getting on too well. We might have done some more tracks if we had been! But I did like that rhythm on ‘White China’, it’s funny to think about it now because when it was being played through Warren’s monitors, that verse and the hi-hat, it sounded great. I remember Warren’s mad crew guy, he was an absolute lunatic jumping around to it! *laughs*

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Billy Currie

ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ has been reissued as 40th Anniversary 5CD + DVD audio deluxe boxed set by Chrysalis Records, available from https://ultravox.tmstor.es/

A selection of solo works by Billy Currie is available on CD via Burning Shed at https://burningshed.com/store/billy-currie_store

‘2022: A 50 Year ARP Odyssey Synthposium’ takes place on Saturday 5th November 2022, details at https://alanrpearlmanfoundation.org/fall-synthposium-2022-a-50-year-arp-odyssey/




Vintage Synth Trumps 2 is a card game by GForce Software that features 52 classic synthesizers and available from

Text and interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th October 2022


Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe of INDIA ELECTRIC CO. will be familiar to fans of Midge Ure as members of his backing band.

The South West English duo released their debut album ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ in 2015 and while their music has traditional folk-derived roots, they have since added keyboards and synths to augment their sound after Midge Ure launched his BAND ELECTRONICA live format to revisit his VISAGE and ULTRAVOX work.

Together with Midge Ure’s drummer Russell Field, INDIA ELECTRIC CO. will be undertaking their first headline UK Tour in three years, while preparing their third album for release to coincide with with Midge Ure’s ‘Voice & Visions’ tour which will see Stacey and O’Keefe not only back the diminutive Glaswegian again but also be his opening act.

During a break from rehearsals, INDIA ELECTRIC CO. spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about becoming part of the Midge Ure axis and how the experience has permeated into their own music.

Anyone who has ever seen the two of you backing Midge Ure in the last 7 or so years will be aware that you are very versatile musicians. How did you come to his attention?

Back in 2014, Midge was kind enough to let us do the support on a couple of intimate acoustic solo shows, so we packed the Ford Fiesta and drove from Devon to Motherwell in one day. The dressing room was so close to the stage and we were making such a noise that Midge heard our set and a plan to work together was hatched.

INDIA ELECTRIC CO. played with Midge on the ‘Breathe Again’ tour in 2015. That album is largely traditional in instrumentation. But the ‘Something From Everything’ tour in 2016 used a similar format but featured fresh takes on more electronic derived material such as ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’, ‘ I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, ‘Fade To Grey’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘If I Was’. What was the dynamic between the three of you in terms of arrangements?

The whole concept was built around stripping the songs back to their fundamentals and letting one or two of the main melodies work around the brilliant vocal lines of what are iconic tunes. As we didn’t have drums, the rhythms and energy came from guitars and mandolins balanced by the violin and piano. Working out the arrangements and picking out individual synth lines that could be replicated on violin and mandolin was an incredible way as songwriters ourselves to get to the nuts and bolts of why certain songs were so successful. Ultimately the songs took on a different life and maybe connected with people in a different way, certainly songs like ‘Live Forever’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ felt like new incarnations and were huge fun to play everywhere we went.

Reworking a song in an acoustic manner is not always straightforward is it?

It maybe allows you to see if a song is still accessible to people without textures, layers and counter melodies, the great thing about those acoustic tours with Midge is they allowed audiences to hear his extraordinary vocals really close up and our role was accompanying that and trying to let the song speak for itself. Fortunately rehearsals were at Midge’s house and coffee and cake was on hand to keep us going strong as we tried to figure out accordion melodies and how to make the mandolin sound less twangy!

Were there any songs that didn’t work as well in this ‘Something From Everything’ set?

You’d have to ask the audiences that but no matter whether it was in Melbourne or Minehead people seemed to connect with the songs in this format. Songs that on the face of it like ‘Fade to Grey’ that maybe might not work in this format seemed to shine as guitar, violin and mandolin.

Midge Ure then presented BAND ELECTRONICA in 2017 and you were handed synthesizers, how did you find the transition? Were you like ducks to water?

Possibly more squirrels to water. It did feel like a voyage of discovery but hearing how those ULTRAVOX records were made and subsequently played live without computers was incredible. Getting the opportunity to work with Russell on drums and have bass was huge fun but ultimately we knew a lot of the songs albeit in a different format, so it felt like a natural transition…whether Midge would say the same is a different question!

Does the extra technology aspect reduce or accentuate anxiety in a live context?

Copper & Blossom Photography

Hahaha, the first time INDIA ELECTRIC CO. used a laptop and interface on stage at Glastonbury, our 10 minute soundcheck was spent turning the computer on and off because we lost sound so it’s certainly a different level of anxiety compared to tuning a mandolin!

With BAND ELECTRONICA sometimes there’s 6 different keyboard splits for one song and so requires a different level of focus perhaps. Fortunately Midge has a great team with him who are on hand should one of us be having a technological meltdown!

The ‘1980’ tour in 2019-2020 featuring VISAGE material and the whole ULTRAVOX ‘Vienna’ album proved this be one of Midge Ure’s most popular tours in recent years, why do you think these songs have stood the test of time over four decades? Is there something in the structure or melodies that you have observed from playing the songs over many nights?

The concept of playing a whole seminal album live as if you’re listening it to on the record player is brilliant and when you add in the fantastic lighting that Rick Forman did on the ‘1980’ tour, it felt like it allowed people to be transported back to when they first heard the ‘Vienna’ album. It was such a unique sound from a unique band and moving seamlessly from ‘Private Lives’ to ‘Astradyne’ to ‘Vienna’ within an album demonstrated so many skills ULTRAVOX had. Having Rusty Egan and a Blitz Club narrative within each show gave a feeling of nostalgia mixed with the songs sounding fresh and alive in 2019.

This experience has now permeated into your own material and your upcoming third album features more electronics. Is it like a new adventure for you, in what situations might you use synthesizers now that perhaps you wouldn’t done before?

Midge lent us his Moog Minatuaur four years ago and we used it on a traditional folk track and no-one seemed to notice or mind so we haven’t looked back since! We’ve always tried to fuse traditional instruments and contemporary production techniques and this feels like the logical progression. In the pandemic we got hold of a DFAM which will feature heavily on the album and days have been lost to creating sounds and beats.

What is your new album called and how would you describe it? Are there any particular songs that are likely to appeal to electronica enthusiasts?

It is being recorded this very minute and it’s tough to suggest song names as the bit that comes last normally around the time the artwork needs doing! The last track on our last album ‘Tempest II’ hinted at what was to come by using an 808 and bass synth modules. We are using bolder rhythms, taking more risks and having huge fun with the synths. So this is an album we hope will connect with more people outside a folk world and launching it in time for the Midge shows feels like it gives us the best to judge whether we’ve got that right. We want to write and record songs that are as accessible to the most amount of people and after three years of writing, we’re really looking forward to sharing them.

Do you have any defined roles when composing for INDIA ELECTRIC CO?

Since we were 19, sitting in bedrooms in Devon with a piano and guitar, we’ve always tried to write together and bring our different skills together. Always having diverse references for writing and then production helps a huge amount and in many ways the enforced break from touring has given us the space and time to get back to a more organic way of writing. The influences of beats from the DFAM has given us a new platform for writing which hopefully shines through on the album.

Hannah Peel who played with John Foxx has successfully used traditional and electronic textures together, what are the future possibilities for INDIA ELECTRIC CO?

If we’re half as successful as Hannah Peel then we’ll have done well, her late night Radio 3 programme is always full of gems that we go back to time and time again. Already by adding drums to our live set, it’s expanded our horizons and with the bass elements of synths creating a bigger sound live is a big focus. Right now we are concentrating on this third album, getting ready to tour and trying to work out which coffee shops to drag Russell to when we’re on the road.

Was this headline tour initially to keep you both stage sharp after the postponement of Midge’s ‘Voice & Visions’ tour? What can people who are thinking about coming along expect?

It felt right to play a headline set in as many towns and cities that we were in with Midge and keep momentum going, we’ve had three years off so we’re ready to play as many shows as possible!

By April we’re hoping people will be keen to get out and see live music again and rather than go back to 2019, we wanted to give people more of a show and move forward so we’ve asked Russell Field to join us for the whole tour on drums. We’re going to play old songs with new arrangements and new songs that have only been heard by us and the neighbours so it’s really exciting. We’ve always tried to play in the most diverse range of spaces on our own tours, from museums to chapels and laundrettes to campfires so that each night is different. People have been incredibly supportive that we’ve had to just add an extra night so hopefully we’ve found the right balance for the shows.

When the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour finally gets going, you will also be the opening act as well. How will you maintain the energy and enthusiasm to play two sets each night?

We’ve had two years off so we’re more energised than ever! We can’t wait to finally get going with the tour and enthusiasm is just a natural part of the experience, there would be no point in doing it if you didn’t get huge enjoyment from playing every night. To have the energy from audiences again will be incredible. We might have to have a quick costume change between sets but apart from that it’ll run like clockwork!

Will there be anything you will do differently when playing to people who come to Midge Ure’s more electronic based shows compared to your own audience.

For the support shows with Midge, we’ll be playing half an hour and as loyal and amazing as his fans are, we are aware that playing 30 mins of traditional folk tunes on mandolin and accordion would be foolish. We’ll have our full set up with drums for these shows and will combine our new album and the songs we think work best with a song they might be more familiar with to try and find some common ground. We had huge fun re-working ‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaak in the lockdown and many of Midge’s fans were very kind and positive in their response to how we recorded our version.

How were rehearsals for the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour coming along? Do you have any favourite songs from Midge Ure’s portfolio that you particularly enjoy playing?

The band have done days of pre-rehearsal prep by sorting out all the parts and who’s playing which part and with what sound. As always Midge has prepared meticulously and knows exactly what sound for each instrument. It’s huge fun sitting down together and talking through how the songs should work and we are about to go for a week’s long rehearsals so by September we’ll be raring to go. ‘Serenade’ is currently a bit of an IEC favourite although that may be giving too much away already! From the previous years ‘Astradyne’ and ‘Private Lives’ were always so much fun playing live.

What are your hopes and fears as you prepare to go out on the road after quite some time?

It’s a hugely exciting time preparing for the year ahead and for getting back out and sharing new songs and sounds with audiences. For us, having the opportunity to tour our headline shows with Russell is something we can’t wait to do and learning what new songs connect with people in a live format. We can’t wait for April!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to INDIA ELECTRIC CO.

Special thanks to Richard Duncan at Shoelay Music


Aldershot West End Centre (6th April), Fareham Ashcroft Arts Centre (7th April), London Kings Place (8th April), Bournemouth Folk Club  (9th April), Newcastle The Cluny (13th April), Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms (14th April), Glasgow Glad Cafe (15th April), Manchester Bury Met (16th April), Oswestry Hermon Chapel Arts Centre (20th April), Clonter Opera Theatre (21st April), Otley Courthouse (22nd April), Sheffield Greystones (23rd April), Liverpool Royal Philharmonic (24th April), Cambridge The Junction (25th April), Burton-on-Trent Brewhouse Arts Centre (26th April), Lyme Regis Marine Theatre (28th April), South Petherton The David Hall (30th April)






INDIA ELECTRIC CO. will be touring with Midge Ure through 2022-2023, visit http://www.midgeure.co.uk/ for further information

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
18th March 2022

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