Brandon recently had the chance to chat to 80s Indie band, The Train Set about their music, their memories and their plans for the future.
EP: It has been over 20 years since The Train Set has released any music. The last official release from the band was in 1989 with the 12″ EP ‘Hold On’. Why did The Train Set suddenly vanish after 1989?
TTS: The band had been going since 1983 and getting the record deal five years later in 1988 with Playhard records gave us a massive boost at a point in the band’s life when it really needed it. The subsequent release of ‘She’s Gone’ to rave reviews (including single of the week in NME ) and massive advanced orders whilst promoting the single on tour with The Happy Mondays was an incredible time and things seemed to be going well.
Unfortunately, in one of the worst cases of bad timing ever, the distribution company, Red Rhino, went bust and were unable to fulfil the advanced orders that were placed for ‘She’s Gone’. This was a disaster that stopped the momentum of the single’s progress in it’s tracks meaning that the band never got to benefit from a potentially massive initial launch. I think the same happened to the Inspirals, if I remember correctly but they quickly re-launched their single a few weeks later with different distribution. Perhaps we should have done the same. So basically, there we were touring whilst BBC DJ’s were playing and promoting a single that nobody could buy!
Play Hard records were run by renowned journalist and DJ, Dave Haslam, and Happy Mondays manager, Nathan McGough. We recorded two EP’s and a release for a Playhard records compilation album but as international demands for Dave Haslam’s DJing and The Happy Mondays’ demands on their manager Nathan McGough went into overdrive, it was inevitable that the Playhard label were not going to release any more records. Without this creative outlet, some band members decided to call it a day which resulted in a new bass player, John Adams, being recruited. With a new line up but without a label, we financed our own recording of three songs at Strawberry Studios in Stockport which we never had a chance to record for Playhard (we have included them on this album) One of the songs, ‘Beautiful Monster’, was enthusiastically picked up by John Peel and received airplay on his show and the band was back gigging at the Boardwalk in Manchester and looking for a new label but despite this fresh resurgence, the band finally ran out of steam (bad pun intended!) and we finally went our separate ways.
EP: What inspired the band to re-unite to work on the release of ‘Never California’?
TTS: There is a massive and enthusiastic lover of indie music called Uwe who owns and runs an indie record label in Berlin called ‘Firestation Records’ and he deals with releasing contemporary stuff for new indie bands but also puts out retrospective re-releases of old 1980’s/ 90’s indie stuff. He found and heard our music from people who had got the original vinyl had uploaded it onto various internet sites and got in touch with us saying that they wanted re-release our stuff for a compilation album. A close friend of the band and early manager/ roadie, Andy, liaised with Uwe about the process and organised the band to meet up. The band then got together to oversee the release including compiling tracks and the art work, which was well weird when you’ve all not been in the same room with each other for 25 years!!
EP: Tell us about the release of Never California and what to expect from it?
TTS: It’s a compilation which includes songs from our two 12 inch singles we recorded for Play Hard Records, plus other previously unreleased tracks. The album is a good reflection of the way The Train Set were writing and developing over a period of years from the post Smiths period up to the dawn of what became known as the Madchester Indie scene. The album contains some tunes that have a great style of guitar that carries into great melody sections and choruses that have a high energy and dynamic. One national journalist has described our tunes as’ shiny fizzy and witty’.
EP: Is there any particular meaning behind the title of the album?
TTS: It’s reference is from a line in ‘She’s Gone’ that mentions taking her to places I had been before, I had never been or had an immediate wish to go to California. It also touches on my perceived notion at that time of the superficiality/showiness of the place which contrasted well with another Northern British town mentioned…Warrington.
EP: How would you describe the music of The Train Set and what genres and bands influenced the band’s sound?
TTS: There are a lot of influences in there that contribute to the sound. The genre at the heart of the band where we all meet is ‘Indie’ When the original members of the band all got together we were punks and then carried on following bands that quickly emerged from the great punk explosion that became indie, such as Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Wire etc, but outside of that and as we developed I think we all brought in our own individual tastes. So you get obvious influences like Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure etc but there’s also The Doors, Velvet Underground, The Go Betweens, Television, Prefrab Sprout and a bit of rockabilly and even some good, Hendrix/ Led Zep ‘rock’.
EP: What was the band’s process for writing songs in the beginning? Was it jams that came during rehearsal or did one member start with an idea or riff that the band would eventually work off of?
TTS: It was mainly riffs brought into the rehearsals from the guitar or bass and from there they developed with everybody contributing as to where the song should go. The tunes mainly developed organically in bedrooms and rehearsals.
EP: What were the early days like when the band first began to emerge out of the Crewe/Winsford indie music scene? What memorable moments did the band go through during its formation?
TTS: There wasn’t a Crewe indie scene really. The only local band that I had heard of that had any worth was a really good band called ‘The Colours Out of Time’ who released singles and had Peel sessions. They didn’t fulfil their potential! There was really nothing much happening so that’s why we were so desperate to get out of there. There was a good music scene in Winsford though and for such a small place it had a lot of innovative bands. We also played in Liverpool a lot in the beginning, the most memorable gigs being the three day ‘Earthbeat’ Festivals in Sefton Park where we played alongside loads of great bands including The Stone Roses, Pulp and The Las. Later we moved to Manchester and would get gigs at the Boardwalk and The International in Manchester amongst others.
EP: The Train Set found some success with the debut single ‘She’s Gone’ released in 1988 on Playhard Records. What was the greatest accomplishment to come out of the release of ‘She’s Gone’ and how did things change for the band during that time?
TTS: Getting our songs released on Vinyl and hearing it played on Radio One and John Peel was a major highlight as was going to the Hacienda and seeing the dance floor fill when Dave Haslam played ‘She’s Gone’. It was also a massive buzz when we were playing live and touring on the Happy Mondays ‘ Bummed Tour’ and the positive reactions we were getting with people in the crowd shouting for us to play ‘She’s Gone’. I got a similar buzz listening to the re-released version of ‘She’s Gone’ played on various BBC 6 radio shows recently.
EP: What gigs are The Train Set most proud of and what made them so memorable?
TTS: The Hacienda because it was The Hacienda and The Astoria in London. We played once supporting both James and the Happy Mondays at The Astoria and again as main support for the Mondays a few months later. I remember that at the time it was the biggest crowd we had played to, it was huge and packed and we were really on form because all the gigging had really tightened us up. We were gaining confidence and became a really tight live band.
We had a great response and we could have done an encore (as a support act!!) if the place would have let us. I remember staying at an hotel in Charing Cross, London with the Mondays and Pete Wiley was there…we had been to a club after the show near Leicester Square.. a great night was completed with me crashing in Sean Ryder’s bed.. I was on the floor in the hotel room, but being as he had not returned I thought I’d use Sean’s bed…It was quite scary being woken up at about 7 in the morning with Sean leaning over and whispering into my ear…‘who’s been sleeping in my bed’!! With that familiar scary accent and phrasing we have all come to know…
In all honesty they were great people and looked after us new kids from the far reaches of South Cheshire.
EP: What are the future plans for The Train Set? Any new music or upcoming tours that are yet to be announced?
TTS: We should soon be recording songs for a future EP release. No tour plans yet!
EP: If anything could change about The Train Set’s past what would it be?
TTS: Nothing – we might have boarded a plane that killed us!
NO…I wish we had got a permanent manager. There were things we missed that we may not have if we had management I remember a big fan of the band who used to come to our early gigs. He knew our Drummer Adam and his name was Steve Harrison who owned an ‘indie’ record shop in Winsford. He asked to manage us and I can’t remember now why we didn’t go for it…anyway a few months later he went on to manage the Charlatans (also from Cheshire) and the rest I guess is history………..