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John Foxx and Ultravox!

Ultravox in 1979 with John Foxx August 1974 - I came down to London from Chorley to study illustration at the Royal College of Art in 197 3 and decided to form a band after a seminar discussion on Design For The Real World, which was about the importance of involvement above theory. I wanted to do a Warhol, start a warehouse scene where we could be the Velvets and I could meet a new Nico! I put ads in the Melody Maker, listing influences like the New York Dolls, and wanted people with more attitude than musical ability Chris [Cross] came in first on bass, then Steve [Shears] on guitar, who worked in a paint factory in Dagenham. Warren [Cann] had come over to England from Canada to join a band and was a well organised drummer. Billy [Currie] dropped out of the Royal College of Music to play his viola in a rock band. l spent my student grant on a small PA system and we began to rehearse my songs in the college canteen. Later we moved to a room in King's Cross where I had a part-time job repainting the faces of damaged mannequins. l told a friend in Chorley about my - nameless - band and he set up a gig for us about two months after we formed. We were very excited, hired a van to drive the 250 miles to Lancashire and just had enough money for the petrol. It was in a church hall and we set up, rehearsed a bit and went out to get a drink before the gig. It was bizarre as we were dressed like the New York Dolls with eyeliner, Cuban heels and tight-fitting clothes, walking around the cobbled streets of Chorley. When we played there were lots of hippies in the audience who loudly objected to our make-up and violent-sounding music - that first gig was more about identity than musical ability.

March 1979 - Island had dropped us, and I was planning to leave because I thought synthesizers were going to change music in the same way that the electric guitar did. Then we were offered a tour of America by Miles Copeland and his brother [Ian] - there was a big audience for British new wave acts at that time. We flew over on the cheap with Laker Airlines and, as there were no luggage restrictions, took all of our instruments and our backline amps. When we got off the plane Miles's brother was waiting for us with a van and we did six weeks with one day off. People like the artist Jean Michel Basquiat and John Frusciante from the Chili Peppers came to see us. The tour ended in Hollywood at the Whisky A Go-Go. After the last show I just told them all that I had had enough and was leaving, that they could have the name and the band identity. Things were already tense - at the end of long tours everyone is full of adrenalin but very tired - and a minor argument broke out although I can't remember what it was about. Billy and Chris walked out of the dressing room and Warren stayed hut was really angry, although he didn't shout, as we weren't that sort of people. We left the venue in separate cars and I flew back to England on my own the next day. It was a great wrench to leave, but the grey suits were waiting. I wanted to work alone with a tape recorder, drum machine, a synthesizer and get rid of anything that was rock'n'roll. As for their later success with Midge Ure, I have nothing to say about them, as that band has nothing to do with me.

Source: Mojo, the Music Magazine
September 2006

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