Midge Ure: I'd love to work with Sigur Ros and London Grammar
It's been 12 years since he last released a solo album, but 60-year-old Midge Ure has had plenty to keep him busy in the meantime. He talks about new album, Fragile, and why it's taken so long
Tell us about the new record
The album is called Fragile because I think we all are. Given the right or wrong circumstances and events, we can all crumble irrespective of how smart and clever and strong we think we are.
We're quite delicate little creatures. I went through a bit of a personal crisis – I was drinking too much, my father died, a whole slew of things – and you put all those in alignment, it causes a major implosion.
You say in the sleeve notes that the album is like a diary. Can you tell us about some of the chapters behind the songs?
I write directly about what's affecting me, and a lot of what was affecting me at the time was me. I was always Mr Fix-It, the strong one who could balance Ultravox and Visage at the same time. But then, given the wrong circumstances, it all falls apart.
The opening track I Survived is fairly self-explanatory; Fragile, again, is self-explanatory.
The opening line, You might as well have asked me not to breathe, is obviously directly about the drinking problem that I had, because when you have a problem like that, it is like breathing or blinking or walking – it's not something you have to think about, you just do it. All of that stuff – it is like a diary, and it's all logged in there.
It's been quite a while since your last album, Move Me...
It has obviously been a long time in the making. I haven't spent 12 solid years working on it – that would be just ridiculous! But I started working on it 12 years ago, and went through a lot of ups and downs in the process: a lot of self-doubt, analysing the state of the industry – was there any point in making an album when we're swimming in a sea of mediocrity? Will anyone even listen to it? All of those things, which I think is fairly bog-standard in any artist. So I just wasn't motivated to finish the thing.
Are you happy with is now?
I think so, and it sounds like megalomania because I did everything on this album myself – even to the extent where I mixed it, and I've never mixed an album by myself before.
How would you describe it?
I think it's the kind of album you can only make when you've spent a lifetime in the music industry, because I'm not restricting myself to three-minute pop records. I just wanted to make an interesting piece of music rather than striving for a hit. Hopefully it's the antithesis of what's going on today.
How do you mean?
I know there's always been writers writing for pop stars so they can sell gazillions of albums, but it's a little obscene at the moment. It probably started with Michael Jackson and the like, where they take over complete studio complexes and have an entire team of writers, producers and engineers operating in different studios and whoever comes up with something interesting that's the one they follow – so it's a bit like throwing s*** at the wall and hoping something sticks. It's like the Ford factory when it started, it's a conveyor belt. Old-school albums were one band's thoughts or one person's thoughts, and that's what I wanted to get back to.
Is it harder releasing a solo record than band stuff, such as Ultravox's Brilliant in 2012
It's more nerve-wracking because you're on your own, it's not a group of people. It's not a communal statement. This is naked, this is you, on your own, exposed. It's quite an intimate record because of the subject matter. It's like streaking, a bit embarrassing in places!
One of the few other people who did work on the album was Moby. How did that come about?
We've never met, and we've never spoken on the phone – we have an email and texting relationship. Moby got in touch with me a few years ago with a view to collaborating on something for his album initially.
He was a bit of a fan I think – we have the same haircut – and he sent me a couple of tracks via email. I particularly liked one of them, which turned out to be Dark, Dark Night, and I kind of chopped it up and added to it, wrote a melody and lyrics.
But by the time I'd completed it, his album was finished, and he was probably on the next one. So I kind of commandeered the track again, because I'd fallen in love with it at this point.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
There's plenty of people I'd love to work with – like Sigur Ros, it's about time they did a track in English! Maybe I'm the guy who should go and send them an email. And London Grammar I think are just fantastic. I've fallen in love with them right now. They're young kids who are just doing interesting stuff and not chasing the three-minute hit single – we need more of that!
What's next for you?
I've never really planned anything, and I'm not sure I'm going to start doing it now! I don't have any projects as such, my main thing is I've got my album out and I'm running with that, but I should get another one out before the next 12 years are up. I should start working on it straight away so I don't fall back into the same hole!
- Fragile is released on Monday on Hypertension Music. Visit www.midgeure.co.uk for details