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'I Survived: Midge Ure On The Road'

James "Midge" Ure, OBE is a Scottish guitarist, singer, keyboard player, and songwriter. Ure enjoyed particular success in the 1970s and 1980s in bands including Slik, Thin Lizzy, The Rich Kids, Visage, and most notably as frontman of Ultravox.

Indeed, Ure co-wrote and produced the charity single ĎDo They Know It's Christmas?í, whose reissue won an Ivor Novello Award in 2005 for Best Selling UK Single. Ure co-organized Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 with Bob Geldof. To this day, Ure acts as trustee for the charity, and serves as ambassador for Save the Children.

Having played a North American solo tour that ran through Christmas 2012 into January of 2013, Ure hoped that it would also pave the way for the possibility of bringing Ultravox over here later that very same year. The reunited í80s-era line-up of Ultravox - featuring Ure, Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann - then even released a comeback album called Brilliant, the first new album from that line-up in nearly three decades. The band finished a U.K. tour and then embarked on a run of European dates that kept them on the road through November that year; but sadly, no North American tour dates ever came to be.

Having last chatted with Midge Ure backstage at one of his US tour dates here in Detroit, MI in 2013, I now got the chance to quickly catch up with him whilst he was on a seemingly endless tour regime in Europe.

For your recent Live+Electric North American Tour (Part 1) you were notably performing the Ultravox material, especially the older stuff as if they were as moody, as raw, as organic as they had been when first written and recorded. What made you decide to revert back to that vision of them? "The time just felt right to play those songs on North American soil again. Itís looking less likely that Ultravox will ever perform there again so I thought I would give them a run."

With regard your "sons" on stage with you over here, Right The Stars' BC Taylor on drums, Tony Solis on bass/keyboard, and the India Electric Company for your current tour, you seem to have an incredible bond live with these guys. Sometimes gelling with a touring band can have its issues live, but you guys play like you've been together for decades. Is there a secret to that learnt over time, perhaps? "Choosing musicians is much more than just getting people who play well. It's more about finding people you can relate to. Life is too short to spend it with morons."

When you play older Ultravox songs like 'The European' and 'Passing Strangers' today, especially given this new/old live approach to them, as you perform them, looking around the audience, do the songs ever flash you back to the days when you first sang them? "Of course, all songs do that. Sometimes you are a little worried they might have aged too much but these seem to stand up pretty well."

Your set on the recent Live+Electric US tour consisted of Ultravox, Visage, solo work, and even a David Bowie track for good measure. Getting to Bowie in a moment, I've noticed, having seen you play live several times over the past few years, that the set list doesn't alter that much. One or two float in and out, but the mainstay remain. Does that mean you know what works, and what doesn't, and what, in our case, North America wants to hear, perhaps? "Or Iím just lazy? There are certain songs people expect to hear and I have no real problem keeping those in the set as long as they donít become Ďmechanicalí during the performance."

And with regard your chosen set list from gig to gig, are their ever songs that you rehearsed several times in hope of including them, but for whatever reason they just don't work in a smaller setting? "Iím sure we rehearsed many songs which didnít make the set list, but itís usually because there are too many slow or electronic or high vocal ones and you have to thin them out. Can't play them all."

The inclusion of David Bowie's 'Starman' (here in MI) was a lovely gesture to a musician taken too soon. I noticed that for the opening lyrics and indeed to the second break, your vocal cadence was spot on that of Bowie's. Once into the meat of the song, and third break you were back to sounding like Midge, which is not bad thing, of course, but do you intentionally vocalize as Bowie in those early breaks? "Not consciously."

Now this North American tour has ended (for now), and you are back home, touring the British Isles, given that you've told me before how you love to tour and how, basically, it's in your DNA to do so, with Australian / New Zealand / Norwegian / Scandinavian dates early 2017 added also, do you have a non-musical hobby that allows your mind to decompress on weeks when you don't perform, perhaps? "I cook. Its the only thing I do which doesnít involve or derive from music."

Being that these UK dates along with the European 2017 tour are entitled Midge and India Electic Company, and written as "Some THING from Every THING", does this mean (taking that tag line all too literally) you will be playing at least one track from every album you have ever been involved with? "Everything from the Rich Kids thru Visage, Ultravox and solo."

Do the set lists change that much from the North American ones, in general? I know you'll be playing some Rich Kids stuff, and perhaps more Visage also, but when you travel to Australia, NZ and Scandanavia, do they love, and expect different tracks, perhaps? "I try to mix it up a bit so when I hit Oz or NZ I might put a few more Ďhitsí as certain songs resonate in certain territories."

Your upcoming early 2017 tour schedule sounds punishing, but given you love to tour, your constant desire to play live, is there anything you do on tour that keeps you on your best game? Any tour bus, or city-at-that-time ritual you can reveal? "No weird backstage rituals unfortunately."

And talking of road stories, you recently filmed (and subsequently showed us all on Twitter) the Autobahn accident you had en route to a gig on November 30th, 2016. Nobody was injured, thank God, but did your life flash before your eyes? "It all happened too quickly for my long and colourful life to flash before my eyes. All the thoughts of how it might have turned out stayed in my mind long afterwards."

Having brought forth a truly wonderful album in Fragile, do you already have ideas / plans for another solo album in 2017? "Iím working on material/recordings when Iím not touring so yes. After taking 10 years to finish Fragile I donít want to repeat that."

Lastly, you worked with Rusty Egan on his new debut album, Welcome To The Dancefloor by contributing the track 'Glorious'. Man, it has a great beat to it, a nice flashback to the days of synth yore, and your restrained, earthy vocals are just perfect on it. You've never sounded better, so what can you tell us about how it came together? "Rusty and Chris Payne (Tubeway Army/Fade to Grey) wrote a tune and asked me to sing it. I rewrote the melody and lyrics and stuck a few synths and guitars on and that was it. Chris is a very melodic writer so it all came together very quickly."

Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk

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