I was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, 1950. My full name is William Lee Currie. At a very early age I sang a lot, becoming aware that I had a keen ear for music. My cousin bought me a guitar when I was ten and it "blew my mind" to see that the melodies, I was singing, could be played by changing the length of a string with my fingers!
1961 was the year that I took up the Violin at school. I also sang in the choir performing with the "Huddersfield Choral Society". (Before my voice broke!) The following year I was in the school orchestra, and as I did so well, I was informed that there was a chance for me to get a place at the Huddersfield School of Music. This was a chance I would die for, so it only seemed a minor setback to be told that I would have to change over to the Viola. I had extra lessons at the weekend and had to forfeit my position of captain for the school football team!
Changing over was quite confusing, because of the different Clefs, but I made the grade and secured a place at the Music College in 1965. The course was to prepare me to become an orchestral player (I had started too late to do it on the Violin) with the piano as my second instrument. Composition and Harmony was also taught.
Playing the Viola had it's perks, it meant that I was invited to play in the best string Quartets!, led the Viola section in the orchestra and performed in a Viola, Clarinet and Piano trio with a friend. I loved the unique sound. In the second year the Music College moved to a new and fantastically well equipped building. This had a lot to do with the government of the day's priorities and good funding ("Harold Wilson" the Prime Minister of the time was a Huddersfield born man). This place had a large record collection and listening rooms which I used so much that I was eventually banned from! It was incredibly exciting to discover composers like Bartok, Schoenburg, Honegger, Varese (both Honegger and Varese used electronic sounds).
I thought it was very radical, back then, when I heard the last movement of the Bartok fifth quartet. Bartok starts up a southern American style, down home, hillbilly type country vibe which deliberately goes way out of tune just before the end of the piece. He also belts out a blues riff like a rock band.
This was a very full and stimulating time of my life! The orchestra played a lot of concerts, I was studying art and even had singing lessons (which had to be abandoned because of acute Tonsillitis). Herbert Whone, my Viola teacher was also a painter. Being more used to string playing it wasn't a natural, immediate affinity with the keyboard. Playing the piano started me off composing though. It was an interesting and elevating position to view things from. At this time (1967) I was becoming more and more interested in rock music. What grabbed me was the fact that some musicians, playing together in bands, were composing and creating something unique and original together! I found bands like "Spirit" (an American band) really interesting in the way that classical strings were used with a fantastically emotional guitar solo. Beautifully soft, shiny strings with a very intensely improvised metallic electric guitar.
The idea of improvisation amazed me. Orchestral players have to put the sole of the composer into the music at the time of performance. Miles Davis (the jazz trumpeter), on the other hand, was the Composer and performer, giving himself the freedom to explore inspirational moments, and change the form immediately if he felt the need. I noticed that some Rock bands where getting, for themselves, the best of both of these two worlds! It really was the start of fusing different styles of music together and I was totally captivated by the movement!
Moving up to 1969 things became a little intense! I achieved what I was at college to achieve by getting a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but I decided not to go. The amount of training that a musician goes through to get into a top orchestra is phenomenal! If I had gone on to the Royal Academy it would have been an extra five years of training making a total of nine years. I have all the admiration in the world for these amazing musicians but I felt that I just had to break into these other arias of music that were happening at the time.
The crossover music of Terry Riley intrigued me at this point. A drummer friend of mine, from Huddersfield, called Wayne Goddard had been working with "The Graham Bond Organisation" in London and was leaving and setting up a new band! I impulsively joined this band and found myself "getting it together in the country" at a beautiful house in Norfolk. The instrument line- up was Hammond Organ, Guitar, Alto and Soprano Sax, Drums and I played Viola (with an electronic pick - up). This was a Rock Band with strong Jazz and Blues influences! I felt that the Viola and the soprano Sax worked well together especially when improvising. We moved to London, living on Portobello road, and invited into the band an American female singer. We all lived next door to "Skid Row" Gary Moore's (x Thin Lizzy) band! This band had a lot of names but eventually settled on "Company Roadshow". Notable achievements, I remember, were doing music for a T.V programme about Yoga and being able to improvise it all, and jamming with Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) at an open air festival on Eelpie Island, London. The very high point was at Sussex University where we went down a storm!
After I had done a lot of improvising that year I found that I wanted to move on. I had experienced a little of what it could be like to be in a successful band but it wasn't the kind of music I really wanted to make. In 1970 I moved back to Huddersfield and found myself getting involved in a Fringe Theatre Group put together by a drama teacher from the college called Barry Edwards. This was an experiment made up of four musicians and four dancers. Known as "The Ritual Theatre" all the musicians where classically trained but, like me, could improvise. I worked with Flute, Japanese Flute, Cello, Bassoon. The music began very atonal and eventually came to rest on a chanting and celebratory feel. The whole cycle of the ritual was one of reaching out for inspiration and becoming very powerful! Lynsey Cooper from the band "Henry Cow" played bassoon. We were friends with "Henry Cow" and did some gigs together.
This was an occasional project so I went to live in Bristol where I joined a band called "Flash Gordon" The guitarist was the guy who later had some success with "The Only Ones" This was my first disaster! At a gig in Birmingham I got blown of stage. My cheap and lousy Violin (I had moved to Violin) pickup could not compete with this band who thought they were " The Who" and played as loud! This was a big lesson, which stood me in good stead later when I could afford decent equipment!
I moved from Bristol to Bath and started working with a singer who also played guitar. This was in the Tim Buckley and Van Morrison vain. We wrote songs together with me now playing acoustic Piano as well as Viola. We had no group name. This was the first time that I played the piano at gigs. My classical style piano playing worked in a very interesting way with his soulful voice! This guy was called Jeff Starrs, he later recorded an album on Virgin Records with a band called "Interview". Notable achievements were supporting "The Strawbs" when they were number one in the British charts with "Lay Down". I can't remember where this gig was except that it held three thousand people and was near London.
The ability to improvise on the viola led me to work with another singer/guitarist of a more classical/folk nature. I met him in East Grinstead when I had a brief flirtation with the Scientologists. We were called "Wild Oats"(what a name!) and played at their parties, we also supported "Hawkwind" at Bradford St Georges Hall. That was FUN!
In 1972 Ritual Theatre got back together and performed in Holland. We also performed at the Edinburgh Festival, Sheffield Crucible, I.C.A London etc. I was playing music in a very theatrical environment. The expression of the music through my body became a very important part of performing for me. I incorporated this experience, later, into Ultravox.
I remember being in London later that year and we were all waiting nervously to hear whether we had got a grant from the Arts Council. All the money for the study of Ritual went to Peter Brook. This man had been studying Ritual for years and "there it is!" We just weren't credible enough for the Arts Council! I quit the group, deciding to concentrate on music.
One of the dancers/actors (Ed Francis who later put together the acts "Gloria Mundi" and "Eddi and Sunshine") from Ritual Theatre started dancing on stage to the music of a new band from London. This was 1973 and I had, again, moved back to Huddersfield and started working as a paste-up artist. A phone call from Ed made me get my skates on and I moved back down to London.
Ed introduced me to John Foxx the singer of this new band called "Tiger Lily". John and I played together acoustically first (John on guitar and vocals and me on violin) and got on well! The music of the band sounded very refreshing and new! It was tough and stripped down to the bare essentials. There was no improvisation at all, but that was the stance! I felt that this band wanted desperately to close the chapter of the 1960's (that was over staying it's welcome) and start something new!
Tiger Lily gig. Pied Bull, London 1975
One track had a very sensitive feel of classical music. This was a project I could really get to grips with and take part in its development. We worked hard rehearsing four nights a week and all day Sunday. I worked in a warehouse at this time, which was a lousy job, but I new we were going to get somewhere with this new kind of music! At first I just played the Violin. At the rehearsals I stood there doing nothing most of the time. Violin wasn't needed on every track and I agreed with that!
In 1974 we got a chance to do the soundtrack to a soft porn film called "Ain't Misbehavin" This was released as a single and the money went to buying an Electric Piano. Even though it sounded pretty awful I was able to get right into the heart of the writing process which now did include some improvisation.
1975 brought some good luck! We met Steve Lillywhite who worked in Phonogram studios, London. When no one was using the studio he invited us in to lay down our new songs. After a year we had good demos for about twelve songs. This was 1976 and Island Records signed us. As part of the deal Steve came along as house producer. Having had quite a bit of time to develop our sound we had, as well as the tough stripped down tracks, created a more expanding experimental style with European, filmic and anthemic melodies. We changed our name to "Ultravox". The three albums we did for Island were "Ultravox" produced by Brian Eno, Steve Lillywhite and Ultravox - "Ha! Ha! Ha!" Produced by Steve Lillywhite and Ultravox - "Systems of Romance" produced by Conny Plank and Ultravox. These albums came out in 1976 - 1977 - 1978 respectively at a time when Punk Music was dominant. Our music stood outside Punk (even though we were partly originators of it) because we would always experiment. 'Island' was definitely a label for musicians and financed the band to tour, many times, all over Europe.
It took till "Systems of Romance" for our music to really take shape and become more focused. As the album title suggests it was sensitive and electronic at the same time. We had finally found something that we could truly call our own against all the odds. Credit to Island records for sticking with us this far but because of low sales they had to let us go!
1979 started out with our first tour of America. We were getting good responses but all this was overshadowed by the fact that we had no record deal and our vocalist "John Foxx" was going solo on our return to England. I had become a bit of a survivor by now so I put myself about looking for a gig. I met a D.J. called "Rusty Egan" who invited me down to his club called (funny enough) "Billys". He was playing tracks from "System of Romance" especially the synthesiser based dance track - "The Quiet Man" as well as "Bowie, Kraftwerk etc". He asked if I would be interested in joining a band called "Visage" that would make music to fit the scene in his dance-oriented club. This seemed like a fun thing to do so I said " Why not!"
At this time I was also rehearsing with Ian Brodie (Lightening Seeds) who was putting a new band together called "The Original Mirrors". They sounded too much like Ultravox so I passed on this project. I started hanging out with the guys who were to be "Visage" - Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Midge Ure, Barry Adamson, Dave Formula and John McGeogh. Adamson, Formula and McGeogh were from the band "Magazine" who I had crossed paths with in Europe while on tour with Ultravox. Early that year I went to check them out at the Drury Lane Theatre (London) and bumped into Gary Numan. Gary invited me to play on the British tour he was about to embark on. I was happily surprised how much he was into Synthesisers and how much he was into Ultravox!
The backing track for the Visage single "Fade to Grey" was written, while on tour with Gary, by me and Chris Pain (keyboards) during the sound checks. I took Chris and Ced Sharpley (Drum Machine and Drums) into Martin Rushents Studio (where the first tracks of the Visage album were being recorded) and put down the master backing track for "Fade To Grey". I suggested using it when Visage, at mix stage, realised that we were short of tracks for the first album. Midge put the vocal part on top. After the tour I continued making the album with Visage and later invited Midge Ure into Ultravox so at the beginning of 1980 I was in the amazingly productive position of finishing off two albums!
These albums - Vienna by Ultravox (produced by Conny Plank and Ultravox) and Visage by Visage (produced by Visage and Midge Ure) were very successful throughout the world! Ultravox signed to Chrysalis records U.K. and Visage to Polydor (New York).
1981 - Visage released the album The Anvil. Ultravox released the album Rage in Eden produced by Conny Plank and Ultravox.
1982 - Ultravox release Quartet produced by Sir George Martin
1983 - Ultravox release Monument - The Sound Track Produced by Ultravox.
1984 - Ultravox release Lament produced by Ultravox.
1985 - Ultravox perform at Live Aid Wembley Stadium London.
1986 - Ultravox release Uvox.
1988 - I release Transportation produced by myself.
1989 - Steve Howe recorded his "Turbulence" album in my Studio. I contribute Viola & Keyboards. Bill Bruford on Drums. I put together a new band called "Humania" no record release. Ray Weston plays drums.
1990 - I work on Stand up and Walk.
1991 - I release Stand up and Walk produced by myself.
1992 - Recorded the Ultravox album "Revelation."
1993 - I take part in a German film project dedicated to the late producer Conny Plank. I improvise with various musicians (that Conny worked with) from Can, Kraftwerk, D.A.F, Cluster, New Order etc.
1994 - Recorded the Ultravox album "Ingenuity"
1995 - Worked mostly on my own this year. I also travelled to Brussels to work with the violinist Blaine.L.Reininger from the (late seventies - early eighties) American band Tuxedo Moon.
1996 - Early this year I toured Germany performing the music I had written with the Tuxedo Moon Violinist. I concentrate mostly on Viola. We also did one gig at the "Garage" in London.
1997 - After soaking up the experiences of the last few years I felt the strong urge to start writing another solo album. So I moved into a West London Studio to make a start on what was to become Unearthed.
1998 - Unearthed was completed. Did two gigs in London performing “Unearthed” with a string section. I conducted and played Viola and Keyboards (Not at the same time).
Started writing new material with newly acquired digital recording equipment.
1999 - Continued writing new material. Started work on the music for a short film called "The Fragile Skin".
2000 - I put together an album called "Keys and the Fiddle" which contains the completed soundtrack to "The Fragile Skin" & my new Tracks plus some music I wrote and recorded for a Solo album in 1983 with Steve Howe & Hazel O'Connor. Also "Tekapo Blue" the lost track from "Transportation."
2001 - The release of "Transportation", "Stand up and Walk", "Unearthed", "Keys and the Fiddle" on my own label. PUZZLE. Continuing work on a new album.
2002 - My album "PUSH" is completed and released in October. I perform with Optik in London.
2003 - The release of my first Puzzle compilation album “Pieces of the Puzzle.”
2004 - My album "Still Movement" is completed and released in November.
2005 - The putting together of the Humania album “Sinews of the Soul”.
2006 – The CD release of the Humania album. I write sleeve notes about that time. I complete my album “Accidental Poetry of the Structure’ and release it as a download in July.
CD Release in November of Accidental Poetry of the Structure with new photos & 8 page colour booklet.
2007 – Start work on New Album.
2008 - Ultravox reform.
2009 - Release my album Refine. Ultravox perform the Return To Eden Tour in the UK.
2010 - Ultravox start work on a new album in Canada.
Ultravox perform Return to Eden pt 2 in England, Scandinavia & Europe.
2011 - Ultravox work In LA, Canada, Bath and London. The album is finished in November.
2012 - I start work on a new album.
The Ultravox album Brilliant is released in May.
Ultravox tour the Brilliant tour in Britain, Europe & Scandinavia.
2013 - I complete my ninth album Balletic Transcend. It is released as a download & CD in November.
My Refine album gets a CD release.