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MIDGE URE (ULTRAVOX) INTERVIEW [2004]

I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET AN INTERVIEW WITH YOU FOR TWO YEARS, AND NOW I FINALLY GET TO SPEAK TO YOU IT'S ABOUT YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND THE BOOK PRETTY MUCH ANSWERS ALL MY QUESTIONS! WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU WRITE THE BOOK?

It was something I'd never even thought of... I didn't think anyone would be remotely interested in anything I'd ever said or anything I'd ever done, but when 'This Is Your Life' got me, about three years ago now, and they compress your whole life into twenty-seven minutes even I thought mine was reasonably interesting! And lots of people saw it and I had all sorts of publishers calling me saying 'I had forgotten you'd even done that, I forget you toured with Thin Lizzy, you produced Visage, all of that stuff...' and people just started to say that I had to write it down. I thought fuck I can't remember it - I've blanked out all the bad bits and the good bits I don't even want to think about! But they put me together with Robin Eggar, a music journalist, who sharpened a great big stick and poked me with it for a couple of years until I'd remembered all the bits and pieces! It was quite a strange journey I have to say, it's a very odd thing to do!

SO THERE WAS NO QUESTION OF YOU SITTING DOWN WITH A TYPEWRITER AND A BIG STACK OF PAPER AND DOING IT ALL YOURSELF THEN?

Nope, but I think that's how Bob (Geldof) did it - he just locked himself in a room for a month until it was done, but he's an ex-journalist and I'm not, I just don't have the focus to do it so I needed someone to bludgeon me and phone me and get me thinking again...

SO WHAT WAS THE ACTUAL PROCESS - WAS IT LIKE A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS?

Yeah, Rob and I just spent ages together and he just said tell me this, tell me that, what happened here, what happened there... and I just spill it all out and we've been everywhere from his house to my house, to various clubs and various rooms booked to get away from everyone else and just sit there and do it, and we started it, god a good couple of years ago, just after 'This Is Your Life' - there's a lot to talk about!

DID YOU READ AUTOBIOGRAPHIES BY ANYONE ELSE AS PREPARATION?

No, not really - I've read Bob's... I interviewed Bob for a radio show a year ago and I read his 'Is That It' which he'd given me eight years earlier but which I'd never read because he'd taken a photograph of his diary for the week of the Band Aid record and he'd printed my bloody address! He'd taken a photograph of my address... 'Midge's studio, Chiswick' and all the rest and I just thought shit and never read the book! I did finally read it before I interviewed him but I think that his is about the only one I've read!

AND DID YOU ENJOY IT?

I did yeah, I had no idea he'd done half the things he has done...

AND I SUSPECT THAT PEOPLE WILL SAY THE SAME ABOUT YOU WHEN THEY READ YOUR BOOK...

Yeah, quite possibly... I pre-empt the book by writing that the only time that you should write a book like this is when you're dead or when all your friends are! Basically you're bound to upset somebody and I don't mean to upset anybody, I'm just recalling what I remember from those days.

WAS IT A SCARY PROCESS IN ANY WAY?

I think the penultimate chapter in the book, about you know, going into rehab and all of that stuff - I think that just the process of going though that and reliving that stuff ended up having a huge influence on putting me there... I just couldn't deal with it - I couldn't deal with the great times being great but not being there any more - it's different times now, not really better or worse but just different and it's a bit like harking back to your youth you know? I'm fifty and it's 'wouldn't it be great if I was twenty-five again' - probably not, but when you tell the stories of touring with Ultravox and going round the world on eight or nine month tours - you do the UK and you do Europe and then you go to America and then you do Australia and New Zealand and you think fuck what a great thing to do... looking back as a father of four children, but it's kind of like beating yourself up. Christ, why would I want to go back there? They were great times and I've got great memories of it but I don't want to relive it...

I FEEL THAT YOU'VE BEEN VERY BRAVE IN PARTS OF THIS BOOK...

Or stupid!

WHICH IS PROBABLY JUST ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING BRAVE! BUT SERIOUSLY, THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS IN IT THAT PEOPLE WOULDN'T REALLY KNOW ABOUT YOU, THINGS THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL THEM, FOR EXAMPLE YOUR BATTLES WITH ALCOHOL AND YOUR TIME IN REHAB... DID YOU NOT HAVE MOMENTS WHERE YOU JUST THOUGHT ACTUALLY I'M NOT GOING TO GO HERE...

Obviously I thought about it, I thought about it long and hard and I talked to a lot of people - I spoke to my counsellors, and people around me in similar situations. It's one of those ludicrous things - I don't see it as alcoholism and maybe that's one of my problems but I'm still fighting it and I still have a problem with it - but I see it as having twenty-five years having an absolute fucking ball - you come off stage and there's always a bottle of Jack Daniels waiting for you and you just have a party with your mates - you'd sit in someone's room and stay up until three or four in the morning and you don't have to think about what plane you're catching the next day because someone else is worrying about all that for you - it's brattish behaviour to the extreme and then someone says 'well don't you think you should think about stopping?' and you put your foot on the brake and you've got no brake pads and you think hold on a minute...

After twenty-five years of it and being totally honest about it, it turns into something else, so I did think about it long and hard, and I decided 'no, if I'm going to tell the story then I'm going to tell it as I remember it, exactly as it affects me'. But I thought about it for my children - because they will read it eventually, and I'm sure most of the parents at their schools will read it, but they all know - we let them all know that I was going into rehab earlier in the year and it was completely mad... I never drank during the day but because I was doing this book and coming up with all this stuff again, reliving all this stuff... I think that the book put me there! I have no qualms about giving it up - I can see the medical side and I know that if I keep going there I'll pop my clogs and that's no good to anybody, I'm a breadwinner, I'm the guy, I've got all these kids and all these responsibilities and I have to stop this. Logically it all makes sense; emotionally it's a fucking nightmare...

It's bloody hard - you find yourself in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere and there's a minibar in the corner... and the thing is, before anyone said 'you have to stop this' I wouldn't even have thought about going to the minibar, but now someone's told me I can't... it's the naughty boy syndrome - don't tell me I can't because now I want to. When we started the book that wasn't even an issue, that came very late in the day...

ANOTHER THING I ADMIRED YOU FOR TALKING ABOUT, WAS THE RESENTMENT YOU FELT ABOUT THE PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF YOUR ROLE IN BAND AID AND LIVE AID, THE PERCEPTION THAT BOB GELDOF WAS THE FRONTMAN...

I never felt any resentment towards Bob, not against Bob god no, never ever... against the surrounding elements because since the day he asked me to get involved and we wrote the record it was Bob and I - and Bob doesn't even know I feel this and I'm sure that he is completely and utterly unaware of any of it - but I did say it to my manager, three months after the record was written and released and had done its thing and I was sitting there on the board of trustees talking about high-protein biscuits and all these things that we talked about on a daily basis for hours on end, and the thing had turned into Live Aid which I thought was a natural continuation.

It wasn't until the day that we had to go and announce that the concert was going to happen that I found myself standing with the people who weren't part of the Band Aid trust, who weren't part of the Band Aid recording... I was just one of the musicians and I could hear Bob next door announcing to the world that Live Aid was happening, and I thought that was a bit odd... and then straight after the concert - when I was told that technically I had to shift my performance round with Bob's - Bob was meant to play after Ultravox - and it all got shifted round and I did my bit and came off stage and watched the rest of the show and these journalists all came up and asked me how it felt to be shafted by Bob because it all had to be moved around so that Bob could fit in with the Royals. And I thought fucking hell, but I bit my tongue but it then just became apparent that forces around Bob - and not at his instigation - were just looking out for Bob, and he was the face of the whole thing and he was driving the project and I had been relegated into second position...

DO YOU THINK BOB WILL READ THE BOOK?

I fucking doubt it! I only read his because I had to read it before I interviewed him! But knowing the character he is, he won't give a shit about what's in the book! Nothing against him - it all comes back to what I write at the start of the book about it being what I remember, and I lived with it for such a long time and at the end of the day it really doesn't fucking matter anymore! The fact that the concert and the record worked and made the money they did, that's what matters.

HOW DID YOU FEEL AT THE END OF THE WHOLE BOOK-WRITING PROCESS?

Well I just had this big bundle of papers that I took around with me, sitting in hotel rooms scrubbing parts out - Mr Eggar just said tell me everything and so he's printed everything! And I'm reading it thinking 'well that's going to upset my ex, that's going to upset my wife, that's going to upset my family' - I went through it for hours on end but I've still not seen a finished copy yet so it's not quite finished for me yet...

HAVING RELIVED THE LIFE YOU'VE LIVED THROUGH THE PROCESS OF WRITING THIS BOOK, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WISH YOU'D DONE DIFFERENTLY?

I think biog-wise it would be lovely to eliminate Slik, but realistically if it wasn't for Slik then I wouldn't have joined the Rich Kids! But I can't go back and change it and if I could change something then it would affect a million other things - I think it was James Stewart in 'It's A Wonderful Life' who says you can't change what's there, and I wouldn't want to change what's there...

If I hadn't done Slik then I wouldn't be sitting here now talking to you about this book, or doing my tour, or doing a BBC documentary - all of these things would never have happened. But yeah, if I could change things it would be really good to eliminate Slik and be discovered in a really cool band.. but then again maybe I needed Slik to give me the thick skin and to give me the taste of what it felt like, and to know that I wanted more of this but on my own terms...

TO BE HONEST I DON'T THINK PEOPLE REALLY REMEMBER SLIK ANY MORE, AND PEOPLE ASSOCIATE YOU WITH THEM EVEN LESS - ULTRAVOX HAS DEFINITELY TAKEN OVER FROM THAT...

I think it has been overshadowed, but mediawise and music-industrywise... I still go and do interviews and people still go 'Yeah well, Slik!' - so once you're tarred with that brush it's very difficult to get away from it...

AFTER EVERYTHING ELSE YOU'VE DONE, THAT MUST HURT!

No it doesn't not at all - I think it probably did initially... for the five years after Slik I got really irate about it, but what else do people have, they have to have a reference point for who you are and where you come from, but now it doesn't matter.... people mention bloody Joe Dolce beating 'Vienna' to number one more than anything else now!

I CAN TELL FROM READING THE BOOK, THAT WHEN YOU DO INTERVIEWS YOU TEND TO GET ASKED ALL THE SAME QUESTIONS, BUT I DO JUST WANT TO TOUCH ON BAND AID AND LIVE AID, ESPECIALLY WITH THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SHOW THIS YEAR AND THE DVD RELEASE COMING OUT FOR CHRISTMAS... I IMAGINE YOU ARE QUITE INVOLVED IN ALL SORTS OF THINGS THAT IT WOULD BE GOOD TO LET PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT...

Sure, well I've been working on a documentary - they asked me to do it last year and I said great... a few days to make an hour documentary, interviewing people... it has taken fucking months! I went to America to interview Sting for twenty minutes, I did a fantastic interview with Bono, but I've gone back and spoken to most of the key people who were major influences at the time...

THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT OF FUN?

It was great because on the day of Band Aid, the twenty-four hours we had to do all the vocals and Phil Collins' drums and mix the record, I was stuck behind the bloody desk!

SHOUTING AT BOB!

Yeah, shouting at Bob... 'leave my bloody intercom alone!'... but it all meant that I didn't know about the shenanigans going on outside - Duran Duran and Status Quo getting up to all sorts of dodgy chemicals - I was blissfully unaware, I was trying to make it all work, trying to glue it all together, so going back and talking to people and getting their honest opinions... bearing in mind what most people forget, that all those people who turned up that wet Sunday morning had never heard the song - it could have been the biggest piece of crap ever... they came along and the sang the song and they put their names and their character and their power behind the record to make the record happen and that I think is the huge revelation to me - I just thought it's a song and they came along and sang on it, but they could so easily have come along and said 'fucking hell my young cousin could have come up with something better than this' - which they might well have been able to do - so in hindsight, having spoken to all those people it was great...

IT'S A VERY INTERESTING REFERENCE POINT FOR ME, THE WHOLE BAND AID, LIVE AID THING - OBVIOUSLY DOING WHAT I DO I SPEAK TO A LOT OF THE PEOPLE WHO PARTICIPATED AND I READ ALL THEIR AUTOBIOGRAPHIES WHICH ALL OVERLAP AT THAT POINT... SPANDAU BALLET, BOY GEORGE, STEVE STRANGE...

Ah yes, Steve Strange - (laughs) from the world of Steve... "And then I came up with the idea of Visage" - you came up with it? Right! Rusty Egan and I have often laughed about that one!

AND THERE'S A COUPLE OF THINGS YOU TOUCH ON IN THE BOOK AS ONGOING PROJECTS; AN ALBUM OF COVERS?

Well I'm kind of doing these things right now and on tour I'm playing things that are fairly obscure - there's a track I play by Queen ' Nevermore' which is on Queen II which I loved - it's only a minute and half long and I've lengthened it and it's now a minute a fifty seconds but it's such a beautiful tune. I play that and I play stuff from The Small Faces, from Fleetwood Mac - early Fleetwood Mac - stuff that was lifelines to me for music when I started out in Glasgow and my lifeline was Top Of the Pops... in those days seeing The Small Faces and then Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green or whatever and I just loved it all... but I will do the covers album - I started it twenty years ago when I did 'No Regrets'...

YOU'RE ALSO HEADLINING THE HERE & NOW TOUR AT CHRISTMAS... WAS IT A DIFFICULT DECISION TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

Well I've turned it down twice already - simply because I think that by doing those things you can quite easily be coerced into resting on your laurels and never have to write anything new... and these tours happen all over the world and you can quite easily - just like these sixties and seventies tours that happen all the time - sit back, never write anything new and just go out and sing 'Vienna' and I'm not about that you know? But when it was pointed out that these days I'm not in a position to go out and play with a full band and the full stage set and PA rig and stuff in the UK - the costs in the UK are just too prohibitive - and play to 100,000 people in seven days and just go onstage and plug in your electric guitar... and I said 'Electric guitar? Yes!' So I'm doing it - it would have been stupid of me to cut off my nose to spite my face and I want those fifteen or twenty thousand people each night to go out singing 'Vienna' or 'Dancing With Tears' or 'Reap The Wild Wind' or any of them... and I'm looking forward to it now, in a kind of perverse way!

IT MADE ME LAUGH THAT NIK KERSHAW ON HIS WEBSITE WROTE THAT ALL THE ARTISTS ON THE TOUR MET UP FOR A PHOTO SHOOT, AND HE SAID TO YOU 'HOW DID THEY GET YOU TO DO IT?' AND YOU SAID 'THEY TOLD ME YOU WERE DOING IT, HOW DID THEY GET YOU TO DO IT?' AND HE SAID....

...They told me you were doing it! That's true! Someone else I can talk to about guitars! I really respect Nik - he's a great guitar player and a great writer and when they told me he was doing it I said OK!

BUT BEFORE THAT YOU'RE DOING A SERIES OF BOOK SIGNINGS AROUND THE UK - WHICH ARE ALSO GOING TO BE PERFORMANCES AREN'T THEY?

I'm not sure if I can stand there for an hour and a half just talking and reading the book, you know 'me me me me me!', so I think it might be interesting to just pick up a guitar and say here's a song I wrote about this thing and then play the song, so it's a performance, a reading, a book-signing and a question and answer type thing, which I've never done so it will be interesting to do it...

September 2004

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