Band Aid came about because I bumped into Paula Yates in a dressing room. That led to me writing ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ with Bob Geldof.
When you start out, you invent stories to tell. As you get older, it’s your own story you’re telling.
Creating music is simply part of my life now. I squirrel away ideas as they come to me whenever I’m on the move, which is a lot. I simply speak the ideas into an app on my phone. When I get home, I spend eight-hour days working them up in my recording studio.
Luckily, I love the process. And I also enjoy touring. I don’t think it’s possible to do a job like this unless you do. There is so much down time involved, travelling from venue to venue.
My earliest memory of music is hearing ‘Sleep Walk’ by Santo and Johnny on the radio. The haunting guitar somehow got into my soul.
I took to the stage long before I became famous. The first time was when I was a boy scout. I found it exciting rather than scary.
My father was a van driver. He wanted me to have a skill. So I began by doing an engineering apprenticeship near Glasgow. I was never academic. But music was already a big part of my life by then. I wanted to be on Top of the Pops.
I got my break when I went to audition for a band at 18 and was offered the job. My mother said to follow my heart. So I did. I went from the boy band Slik to Visage and then Ultravox.
I do believe in fate. There are things you cannot plan, you just find yourself in the right place at the right time. Take Band Aid [the music industry’s contribution to Ethiopian famine relief which led to Live Aid, the summer 1985 global concert].
That came about because I bumped into Paula Yates in a dressing room. That led to me writing ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ with Bob Geldof, which led to me producing the single which we recorded with 36 other artists.
The biggest challenge I’ve had to face is alcohol. I was scared of drugs, so they weren’t a problem. But I forgot to be scared of drink. It crept up on me and became a very scary thing.
You vow you won’t do certain things — drink on your own, drink more than a quarter bottle — and then you end up breaking all those rules.
When I drank like that, everything else became secondary. My drinking took me out of the picture for a long time. Luckily, I had strong people around me.
There have been so many high points in my career. People think it must have been Band Aid. But you’ve got to remember that every musician is a fan of someone else, so the real highlights for me were moments like duetting with Kate Bush, playing guitar with Eric Clapton, having a drink with David Bowie.
The trait I most admire in others is sticking to your guns.
When I’m not working, I love to cook. I started cooking for selfish reasons: to impress the girls. Then, after working in a business where you can spend years making a record, with no guarantee of any kind of payoff, I started to enjoy cooking for the instant gratification which if provides. I was even on Celebrity MasterChef.
I’ve always been strongly into visuals and graphics. By the time I got to Ultravox, what we put the record in was as important as what was on the record. I had very defined ideas of how I wanted the videos to look, too. Shot on film, black and white. There was a definite look
I do believe that there is something more powerful out there than ourselves. I believe in the power of the crowd and of thinking positively. That’s what works for me. I turned my back on fixed religion because I couldn’t accept the bigotry that seems to go hand and hand with it.
If I could be someone else for a day I’d be Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There’s someone who was doubted and shunned all his life, but who had a vision and stuck to it. Now, just look at his legacy.
So far, life has taught me never to believe anything anybody says or writes about you, whether gushing or nasty. My benchmark is this: when I’m gone, will the kids be proud of me?
* Midge Ure makes a welcome return to Ireland for a nationwide tour playing 40 years of incredible material from Ultravox, Visage, Rich Kids and solo hits.
February 22: Belfast Waterfront Studio
February 23: Cork Opera House
February 24: Galway Town Hall Theatre
February 25: Dun Laoghaire Pavilion Theatre
February 26: The Helix, Dublin.
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