Midge Ure plays the Ironworks in March, 2015.
In 1995, Midge delivered his fourth solo album, Breathe, to BMG just 10 years after the phenomenal successes of Band Aid and Live Aid. Always one to ring the changes, this album had a very Celtic feel with a plethora of acoustic instruments from uilleann pipes to mandolins and accordions alongside Midge’s trademark soaring electric guitar riffs.
After the successful reformation of Ultravox in 2009, Midge felt it was time to revisit his Celtic roots, and he will perform Breathe in its entirety for the first time in 2015, ably accompanied by the two musicians from India Electric Co, recreating the nature of the album.
Of course, he will also play a selection of his other hits like Vienna, Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, Fade to Grey and If I Was, as well as songs from his recently released album Fragile, which was Radio 2 playlisted.
You’ve chosen 2015 to look back on your mid 90’s album Breathe, twenty years on from its completion, looking back at it now how do you feel its sits alongside the releases that preceded it and followed it, was it a progression, or does it now stand out a bit as a “different direction “?
I suppose breathe was a bit of an oddity, it was one of those realisations that when you hear some of my music played on organic instruments, the mandolin, viola and pipes (for example) and it instantly sounds very Scottish. I spent most of my childhood trying to avoid traditional Scottish music because my head was full of pop music but it obviously sank in somewhere and it kind of comes out on this album. It was a bit of an experiment and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.
The press release for the show tells of the album having a “difficult birth” – being demoed, rejected by the record company, finished, sitting on the shelf, before low key release and eventual success across Europe. How true is this, and did you lose heart at any point?
Breathe was one of those albums that went through a dreadful amount of changes, my record company at the time had signed me as a multi-faceted artist; as a producer as a writer, as a film director, all of those things. After the first record did ok then they wanted to take control of the follow up album.
They decided that maybe I shouldn’t produce it and maybe I shouldn’t use my own musicians or my own studio. They asked me to do demo tapes of the entire album, so I did this and it was just a nightmare. When I finally recorded the album to the level I was happy with it ended up sitting on a shelf in the record company’s office for over a year because of transitions in the record company.
It was kind of a doomed record from the start and it wasn’t until much, much later when ‘Breathe’ the song became successful that the whole thing turned round. For a long time Breathe the album was the worst selling album I had ever made!
So was eventual chart success for the title track in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain a sweet reward?
Of course it was! To be vindicated two years after the release of the record when you think you’ve done something you think is the best thing you’ve done and the world doesn’t agree then of course you get despondent.
So when success does finally come, especially the way it did, being used on a TV commercial where I was faceless and backgroundless. People just got involved and excited by just hearing a minute of a piece of music, they had no idea who the artist was and it was purely on the quality of the song they’d heard, then yes, there’s no sweeter success than a success you didn’t see coming.
The music industry has changed beyond all recognition now, has it changed for the better? Maybe, I think technology has changed so the ability for an artist to make their own recordings without having to go to a record company cap in hand asking for an advance to pay for it, that’s a good thing.
But there’s no real infrastructure there anymore… so the downside is yes you can make the music, yes you can put it on the internet but how do you point people towards the work that you are doing without doing live work? A lot of the live venues where you would cut your teeth and experiment, those venues don’t take new artists now .
The whole thing has become a bit of a chicken and the egg situation, it’s a catch 22. How do you get fans? How do you get a body of people who follow you without playing live? But how can you play live without selling some records? It’s not a great situation at all.
(It’s here that I would disagree with Midge Ure, I’m seeing many venues and festivals in particular that are very supportive of new unsigned acts. Locally take a look at Brew at the Bog, Belladrum, Ironworks and Mad Hatters and their support for new and unsigned bands)
Tell us about the format of the shows, is it true that this is the first time in 20 years you will be performing with an acoustic trio?
I’d been out and about on my own quite a lot over the last few years so I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with a couple of multi-instrumentalist musicians. It’s been such a while since I’ve done that and you can really enhance the music and the atmospherics in the music using the instrumentation that these guys are going to use, it just expands the sound a little bit.
And to be able to go back and revisit the album Breathe, I haven’t played all the songs on the album live before so I’m going play the entire album live as well as the obvious hits that people want to hear along with songs that I want to perform that will suit that type of instrumentation. I’m really looking forward to doing this for the first time in maybe twenty years.
Midge Ure will play at the Ironworks on March 18th. Tickets are still available online.
In order to win a pair of tickets for the gig on the 18th of March, answer the following question;
Which album is Midge revisiting for this tour?
Send your answers (along with name address and telephone number) to firstname.lastname@example.org. The competition is only open to current Igi.gs mailing subscribers so please sign up here.
Entries closed at 5pm on Monday 16th of March. Winner to be notified after that.
If you don”t want to leave it to chance tickets are still available online.