Interview | Midge Ure @ Rewind Scotland

Midge Ure OBE

“You don’t have to prove anything to them.”

Midge Ure OBE is one of the most underrated superstars out there. He’s been part of numerous bands throughout his career so far, and is one of the greatest singers and performers I’ve ever seen live. The Glasgow born artist began his music career in the 70s as part of Slik and is perhaps best known for being a foundational member in rock band, Ultravox. With monumental and popular tracks like ‘Vienna‘ and ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes‘, Midge Ure has built a musical legacy that gives him highly deserved recognition and appreciation.

This was the interview I was most excited for, he’s one of my idols, and is an amazing person to look up to. We had a chat and a laugh about various things from the current music industry to what he would be if he wasn’t a musician.

Q: My first question is about ‘Vienna’, it’s 43 years since it’s release isn’t it?

Now you’re talking, this is a maths question.” I tried to work it out as well. “It was released in ’80 or ’81.” 1980 I think. “See you’ve got all the facts and figures in front of you, I’ve just got a dodgy memory.

Q: When you first released it [Vienna], did you think it would become as big as it has? And what do you think made it a hit?

No, not at all! I think the fact that is was so odd, it was so against what everyone was doing at the time. It was too long for radio.

A sort of similar situation to Bohemian Rhapsody then?

Yes, kind of. Bohemian Rhapsody, or Wuthering Heights, or any of those songs that didn’t really fit the genre. And I think it was the fact that we were lucky, it was a record that would never get played on the radio.

Q: Do you enjoy playing it? It’s quite a long song.

Yes, it’s great. People love it.

Q: What do you think people love about it?

It’s just in people’s psyche. Whether they like it or not, they know the song. It’s one of those things that’s in the air, it’s just there. Unlike a lot of the other ones, the general public might know some of the things you do. But ‘Vienna’ seems to be one of those things that everybody’s heard at some point.

Q: Do you sometimes find that because you’re most known for your work in Ultravox, this takes away from the other things you’ve done? Or just adds to it? And are you looking forward to playing it today?

I don’t think you can compete with yourself. It’s like putting on a different coat, you know? People recognise you from a photograph, that’s you. Well that was me then, this is me now. In their minds, that’s the image they have of you, that’s the picture they have of you. Of course, if you say Ultravox to someone, they’re like ‘yep’, because that was a massive hit. You might know all of the songs, but that’s the one that springs to mind.

And oh god, if I want to get out of Scotland alive, yes!And if you want people to like you after!

Q: What’s your favourite things about playing at shows like this [Rewind]?

I think the fact that the majority of people out there will know what you’ve done. They’re not here just to see you, they’re here to see whatever the package is. A lot of people bought tickets before, a bit like Glastonbury, people buy the tickets for the event, before they even know who’s on. And people come here ready to enjoy themselves, you don’t have to prove anything to them, you don’t have to go out there and convert them. You walk on, you keep it as hit-lead as possible and you’ll get off unscathed, you’ll get out alive.

Q: You’ve been in quite a few bands, who all cover a range of different genres. Do you feel you’re drawn to a particular genre, or do you enjoy them all?

You know what, making music is no different to listening to music. I’m not saying you don’t listen to what you listened to when you were 10, but by the time you’re 13, you listen to something else, and then by the time you’re 16, you listen to something else. It doesn’t mean you’ve changed, it means that you’ve grown. And that’s what making music is like.”

You know, you start off with with guitar music that you’ve been seeing on Top of the Pops, on the television, and then you discover synthesisers and think ‘wow hold on a second, this is amazing’ and then you work with synthesisers, and then it’s home recording. You grow constantly, if you don’t, you become static, you’re challenging yourself. It’s not like you’re trying to be something else, you’re morphing into something else as you go along.

Q: Your first band was Slik, but what got you into making music like that? Was it live shows and actually listening to music that got you there?

I could always sing, I got a guitar when I was 10, I taught myself to play the guitar. And if you have that weird thing in your head, that this is what you really want to do, then that’s what you do. You go and find someone else with a guitar, and the next thing you know, you’ve got yourself a little band. Yeah that’s what happens, you find like-minded people. Before you know it, you’re playing in bands, and working during the week, then you get the opportunity to get with the job and do it full-time.

Q: Is that what you always wanted to do then? Have you tried anything else?

Absolutely! I was an apprentice engineer, in the outskirts of Glasgow, between 16 and 18. I left halfway through because I got the opportunity to join a band, a fairly well-known band.

Q: The website I write for, it caters for lesser known artists and bands. Are there any bands or artists that you can think of, or know, who you think more people should know about?

There are lots of bands out there. It’s very difficult for new bands coming up. They don’t get the same kind of platform that I was lucky enough to get, they don’t often get on the radio, it’s very difficult to get on the radio unless you’ve got ten million followers. A couple of the guys that I use in my band when I’m out touring, they’re a band in their own right. They started off with kind of folk-rock, a band called the India Electric Company, and I’ve kind of adopted them. They’re multi-talented, they play violin, keyboards, guitar, synthesisers, mandolins, and all sorts of stuff. They’ve got this fantastic talent, and it’s so difficult for them to even race ahead. In these days of social media, that seems to be the way that artists get recognised, working social media all the time. Whereas in my day, you get in the van, with your guitar and amplifier, and you played as often as you could. So it’s just a different era.

Q: So do you think that the band you mentioned that tour with you deserve a lot more recognition than what they’ve got?

Yes! Yes, very much so. They’re incredibly talented. Someone once said to me, a long time ago, talented people will always find other talented people, because it’s something that they have in common. They’ll like each other and get on very well. It’s just like when you meet someone across a room and you start to chat to them, and you instantly know that you like them. You think ‘I can see myself having a cup of tea with this guy’, or sit in the pub with them, or whatever. It’s the same with musicians, you find like-minded people and you connect on a completely different level. You can work together, you can write together, create together.

Q: The final question is a personal one, since you’re from Glasgow. Sunblest or Mother’s Pride?

Haha, well, I’ve got to say Mother’s Pride because my dad drove a delivery van for them.