Istället hamnade du en period i Thin Lizzy.
Jag och Phil Lynott lärde känna varandra redan i början av 70-talet. Jag älskade verkligen tidiga Thin Lizzy, då bandet var en trio. Jag såg dem i Glasgow på deras första turné, då de var förband till Nazareth. Thin Lizzy var mycket, mycket bättre än Nazareth. Senare i London sprang jag på Phil igen, vi blev polare och så ringde han från USA när de behövde en blixtsnabb ersättning, eftersom Gary Moore hade hoppat av.
Singer / guitarist James Ure was born in Cambuslang, Scotland in 1953. In younger days he reversed the nickname of Jim and Midge was born. A first breakthrough came with the boy band Slik; later, Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage and above all synth pioneers Ultravox ruled the agenda. Ure is also known for having co-composed “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and organized Live Aid in 1985. Recently Ultravox released brilliant “Brilliant,” the classic Ultravox-lineup first new album in 28 years. In October Ultravox return to Sweden; June 15, 2012, Midge Ure phones Gothenburg.
The album “Brilliant” sounds very much like classic Ultravox. Was this done on purpose, or did it come naturally?
It came out perfectly natural. I do not think we could do it on purpose, but this is a sound that pops up automatically when the four of us play together. I’ve played many old Ultravox songs over the years, either acoustically, with my solo band or with an orchestra, but only when Ultravox gather it actually sounds like Ultravox.
Otherwise, one could have believed that you would want to please the old fans.
Had we tried to please the fans, it would have been a total mess! I remember what Henry Ford once said. He said that had he listened to advice on how cars should be built, then he would have reinvented the horse!
In what ways have you changed in the 25 years apart?
I believe I have become a better songwriter, and I think Billy Currie [keyboards, viola] have developed lots as a musician and arranger. It was really cool to get his music backgrounds sent, and writing lyrics and melodies in completely different ways than Billy had imagined.
Did you work like that in the old days?
In the past, we locked the whole band in a rehearsal room for weeks, until good material started coming out, but that’s impossible today, when Warren Cann [drums] lives in California, Billy in London and I and Chris Cross [bass, keyboard ] live in Bath.
Could you imagine that there would be a new Ultravox album?
No. Absolutely not! For many years, Ultravox was part of my upbringing. Certainly a beautiful and interesting part, yet history. Not even when we gathered to tour in 2009, this were on the radar. But after a while we became curious. Could we create new music, as fresh and vibrant as the old one? Did we still sparkle? I think we have managed to create music that is just up-to-date with what is being done today.
How is it that all the song titles consisting of only one word each?
Each song had a one word working title, and when we would do the album cover, we thought it was neat to retain the titles so, purely in terms of design. It is thus a matter of graphics more than anything else.
Time for a retrospective. You’re known to having turned down a job with the Sex Pistols. Where would Midge Ure have been today if he had accepted?
Hahaha … that’s a difficult one! Where are the guys in the Sex Pistols today? Where Sid Vicious is, we all know. Steve Jones and Paul Cook are out of the business, aren’t they? The one still in music is John Lydon and I’m like him. If you’re born with this passion, music is not something you just hold on for a while and then quit. It is one’s destiny to hold on as long as you live. But it is possible that it would have been easier for me if I had the Sex Pistols among my merits.
Instead you ended up with Thin Lizzy for some time.
I met Phil Lynott back in the early 70’s. I really loved the early Thin Lizzy, when the band was a trio. I saw them in Glasgow on their first tour, when they were the opening act for Nazareth. Thin Lizzy was much, much better than Nazareth. Later in London I ran into Phil again, we became friends and he called from the U.S. when they needed a quick replacement, as Gary Moore had left the band mid-tour.
Was it hard to step into virtuoso Gary’s shoes?
I did not even try! Gary was truly a hero, whom I saw in the band Skid Row when he was still a teenager. It would have been ridiculous of me to even try to play like him, so instead I kept myself in the background and let Scotty Gorham play all the complex parts. There was no question of Thin Lizzy as a permanent solution for me, because I was going home to England to join Ultravox.
Do you agree that Ultravox were somewhat pretentious during your first time in the band?
Yes, to a certain degree. But I think most bands are pretentious. It can be the arrogance of Liam Gallagher of Oasis, or pretensions in our way. Some still think we’re pretentious and pompous! But I think you have to have a certain kind of ego to survive in the music industry.
I have always found it difficult to understand your lyrics. What is “The Thin Wall” about, for example?
It’s about the very fragile thread between sane and insane. About how easy it is to dance on the edge and slide back and forth. But actually, most of my old songs a canvas of words. One line does not necessarily connect to the next. Take “Reap the Wild Wind” – it’s really not about anything at all! So you probably shouldn’t analyze the lyrics too much.
Is it the same with your poetry nowadays?
Today my lyrics are a lot more personal. Others may find them vague, but for me they are stories from my life.
I read in an interview about the 80’s, that you looked out over the audience and saw half of the male clientele having your look with the trench coat and sharp moustache. Can it be said that Ultravox were visual role models for the neo-romantic pop culture?
I really don’t know. Our image was what we called “dead men’s clothes.” We went around to the Red Cross and flea markets and bought estates, which we wore onstage.
Were you tempted to dress in that way today as well?
Absolutely not! We were very determined to do this in a dignified way, and not try to play young rock gods with super hot babes in our videos.
Is it with pride that you look back at your time as co-composer for Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas” 1983, and initiator of the global charity gala Live Aid in 1985?
I would be lying if I denied it. At the moment, you could not have imagined how big it would be. We did what felt right, and it became monumental. Obviously, we didn’t solve world hunger, but we changed people’s attitudes to charity. So even if “Do They Know It’s Christmas” isn’t the pinnacle of my career in music, it will remain a major highlight for me as a person.
So – what are your life’s musical highlights?
Hhmmm … tricky. But if I’m going to take three pieces in chronological order, I have to start with joining Ultravox. It was a deeply depressed Ultravox that I joined. They had lost both singer and guitarist, they were burdened in debt and not a bastard believed them. But when we plugged in our instruments and started to make noise … absolutely lovely! Then I’d mention the gig at Live Aid, appearing before so very many people. But some of the biggest occasions have taken place in silence. Like when I and Eric Clapton sat on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean and played guitar together. For me, who had grown up with Clapton’s music, this was enormous. Or when I sat in a studio and got to listen to Japan musician Mick Karn when he excelled on bass.
Finally – what is the very best Midge Ure song?
I’d say “All Fall Down” from the last album I did with Ultravox before leaving in 1986. The album “UVOX” is a mess and displays a band falling apart, but in “All Fall Down” we successfully gather ourselves together with folk band The Chieftains in a very easy and powerful folk song. But I must add that the new album “Brilliant” is probably the best collection of songs I’ve ever written.