Scottish music legend Midge Ure has kept himself busy during the past year “because boredom creates madness”.
The Band Aid producer, 67, had a well-publicised battle with booze but quit nearly 20 years ago when his wife threatened to leave him.
During lockdown, addictions and mental health issues have spiralled. But the Cambuslang -born Ultravox star has made sure he doesn’t relapse by keeping himself busy.
He created a monthly subscription musical event, presents a radio show, is writing a new solo album and is planning a tour next year focusing on two of his classic 80s albums.
The father of four girls said: “When you’ve given up drinking you learn to keep your hands and mind occupied.
“I used to get crazy with my kids when they said they were bored. ‘You can’t be bored. There’s so much to do.’
“I try to not let myself get bored, because boredom creates madness.
“I have enough toys now at home to keep me occupied.”
And he added: “Me and my wife spend a lot more time talking about what we’re going to have for dinner than we used to.”
While he’d love to be out touring again, Midge has admitted enjoying his year of forced inertia living at home with wife Sheridan and three of his four daughters – with his youngest, Flossie, just down the road at Bristol University.
He said: “I’ve loved being home and having my family around me. But it’s the longest period I’ve been static since I was 18, when I left my apprenticeship at the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride to take up music full-time. Ever since I’ve constantly toured and there’s a nomad thing that musicians have.”
Last year, Midge had been due to follow up his hugely successful The 1980 Tour in 2019 performing Ultravox’s next albums, Rage in Eden and Quartet.
Lockdown curtailed that but he’s announced The Voice & Visions Tour for the start of 2022, including dates at Glasgow Barrowland, Aberdeen Music Hall and Edinburgh Usher Hall.
There are no European dates yet and that’s because Brexit put an end to visa-free touring in Europe.
Like he did with Live Aid, Midge has led the way getting the likes of Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeran to try to negotiate paperwork-free travel for British artists.
The Ultravox star, who had his first No1 in 1976 with Slik’s Forever and Ever, remembers the hassle before the UK joined the EU.
He said: “I was still living in Glasgow and when we toured Europe you’d have to have a carnet – a passport of goods – to show every single item of equipment you were taking across every border. It’s so cost prohibitive.
“The bigger acts will pay for the excess or add it to the cost of the ticket so the poor audience have to pay but new bands or classical musicians won’t be able to afford to tour.”
So what does he want from the UK Government?
“A bit of truth would be good,” explained Midge, but added: “I think that’s asking too much.
“It doesn’t matter what side of the EU argument you are on, Brexit is here and we have to deal with it.
“Music isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Music is something every single person on this planet is involved with. Whether it’s a mum singing to a baby or hearing a song on the radio or listening on your headphones, it’s all around us.
“The music industry contributes £5.2billion to the UK economy.”
For more than 50 years, Midge has been one of Scotland’s greatest musical exports. From playing guitar in the late 60s as a 16-year-old in local band Stumble, he joined a Glasgow group, Salvation, as a guitarist in the early 70s.
When Midge took over singing and the band changed their name to Slik, he had his first big success.
After being asked to join, and knocking back, the Sex Pistols he joined their bass player Glen Matlock’s post-punk band Rich Kids, before becoming one of the early
New Romantic crowd at the Blitz club in London, creating a band Visage with the club’s legendary Steve Strange and making the 80s classic Fade
Midge also joined Ultravox and made them into a hugely successful band with hits such as Vienna and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes.
Midge was one of the most successful musicians of the 80s, even co-writing Phil Lynott’s Yellow Pearl, which became the theme tune to Top of the Pops for most of the decade.
As well as co-writing Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas with Bob Geldof and masterminding Live Aid and Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute in 1988, Midge had a solo No1 hit with If I Was and a No2 album with The Gift.
All the while, he continued to tour – and he was in New Zealand at the start of 2020 when he began to hear about a new virus called Covid-19.
He said: “By the time we left New Zealand to go to Australia, New Zealand had shut down.
“This whole scenario was chasing us around Australia and we just wanted to get home because you can’t be further away than Australia. Back in the UK everything had gone – all the festivals and the tour I was going to do at the end of 2020.”
While some thought the restrictions would last a couple of months, Midge realised early on the virus wasn’t going to go away.
He set up his Backstage Lockdown Club – turning his studio into an internet broadcast studio. Subscribers get to see live events, remixes of tracks, Q&As and famous guests.
He said: “The club has kept me sane and connected to people around the world. It means I’m still performing, albeit in a wee shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s not the same as standing in front of an audience but it’s a fair substitute when there’s nothing else on the table.”
Midge is also working on a new solo album, presenting a late-night music show on Scala Radio and in March will feature in a new Sky Arts documentary Blitzed about the famous London club Blitz.
As we wrapped up the interview, I asked him what he made of Wham! finally reaching No1 with Last Christmas – and whether he’d like to see Vienna reach the top spot at last.
Midge replied, laughing: “I’m happy with the world’s most famous No2.”
● The Voice & Visions Tour in 2022 will visit Glasgow Barrowland on February 26, Aberdeen Music Hall on February 28 and Edinburgh Usher Hall on March 3. Tickets are available from midgeure.gigantic.com and venue