Big Big Train
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|Big Big Train|
L-R: Nick D'Virgilio, Andy Poole, Dave Gregory, David Longdon, Danny Manners and Greg Spawton
|Origin||Bournemouth, Dorset, England|
|Genres||Progressive rock, post-rock, new prog|
|Years active||1990 – present|
|Labels||English Electric, Giant Electric Pea|
|Associated acts||Spock's Beard, Marillion, XTC, Frost*, Francis Dunnery|
|Past members||Ian Cooper
Big Big Train is an English progressive rock band, founded in 1990. Based in Bournemouth, England, the band members are Nick D'Virgilio, Dave Gregory, David Longdon, Danny Manners, Andy Poole and Gregory Spawton.
Big Big Train were the winners of the Breakthrough Award at the Progressive Music Awards held at Kew Gardens, London on 3 September 2013; their album English Electric Part Two was nominated in the best album category.
The roots of Big Big Train go back to 1981 in Birmingham, England, when Greg's brother Nigel Spawton joined with Ed Serafinas, Pete McDonald, Steve Lugg and Tim McCarty in the punk outfit known as Big Big Train. Later in the 80's Andy Poole formed a songwriting partnership in Bournemouth, England, with his childhood friend, Ian Cooper. At around the same time, Greg Spawton had also formed his first band, Equus. Equus played a few local gigs around the Birmingham area before splitting up when Spawton went to university in 1984. Meanwhile, Poole and Cooper's band, Archshine, recorded a few demos and occasionally emerged from their home studio to play some gigs.
In 1987, Spawton moved down to Bournemouth. Shortly afterwards, he met Poole and they discovered that they shared a mutual appreciation of Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator and other progressive bands. In particular, they were both fans of a then relatively obscure band called IQ. Indeed, Poole had spent some time as a roadie for The Lens and IQ.
In the late 1980s, they decided to record some demos together. After a few months, the very first Big Big Train songs emerged and in 1990, Arcshine ceased to exist, and Big Big Train (Cooper on keyboards and vocals, Spawton on guitar and Poole taking up the bass guitar) was formed. Various singers were tried out before the band auditioned a young Canadian, Martin Read. Shortly afterwards, the line-up was completed when the then 15 years old Steve Hughes joined on drums.
A demo cassette tape of the band's first songs, recorded on 8-track, was released in October 1991 and was followed by a number of live performances. The demo tape From the River to the Sea was re-recorded and released as a self-financed CD in May 1992, following which BBT played some higher profile gigs in England.
In January 1993, a second demo tape, The Infant Hercules was released and the band then spent the next six months writing the music for its first studio album, 'Goodbye to the Age of Steam'.
Goodbye To The Age of Steam (BBT's debut studio album) was recorded in a two-week period in July 1993. Soon afterwards, BBT signed to the progressive rock label Giant Electric Pea, where they found themselves as label mates of IQ. Goodbye to the Age of Steam was a significant leap forward for the band, both in terms of songwriting and recording quality. The response to the album was very positive, culminating in a licensing deal in Japan where the CD was re-released in 1995, with the traditional bonus track. In the meantime, Ian Cooper had left the band (for family rather than musical reasons) and live performances were put on hold while a replacement was sought and a new album written.
Tony Müller was recruited in early 1995 and recording of the band's second studio album commenced in July of that year and continued, sporadically, until completion 18 months later. Some of the songs were debuted at the band's only show from this period at The Astoria, London. English Boy Wonders was finally released in autumn 1997, although to a much less positive reaction than Age Of Steam. At this stage, after a less than pleasurable recording experience, a poorly received second album and with a record label which had stopped returning calls, it appeared that the band had run its course.
Steve Hughes left the band in September 1998 and went on to join The Enid. He was replaced, briefly, by Pete Hibbit. After a few more live performances, the band's momentum was all but spent and Spawton and Poole retreated back to their studio without the rest of the band. Events had turned full circle; Poole and Spawton, with no particular goal in mind and without a band line-up, slowly began work on some demos, more out of habit than anything else. As the demos began to take shape, Greg and Andy called in other musicians as and when required. In February 2002, after three years of irregular writing and recording, Bard was released. Bard received some excellent reviews. At the same time, The Enid went into hibernation and Steve Hughes rejoined. After that, Poole and Spawton carried on writing and Ian Cooper rejoined.
A new vocalist, Sean Filkins, was recruited to replace Müller, who had sung most of the vocals on Bard, and Gathering Speed, was released in March 2004.
A new album titled The Difference Machine was released in September 2007. In 2008, BBT appeared on the Classic Rock Magazine CD for issue 112, with the song Summer's Lease, also found on the album The Difference Machine.
On BBT's blog, it was announced that they would be re-releasing English Boy Wonders. They partially re-recorded the album, as well as re-mixing it. English Boy Wonders was re-released on 1 December 2008.
Both Steve Hughes and Sean Filkins left the band in February 2009, with Filkins being replaced by singer David Longdon. BBT released their sixth studio album, The Underfall Yard, on 15 December 2009. Dave Gregory (XTC), Jem Godfrey (Frost*) and Francis Dunnery (It Bites) make guest appearances on The Underfall Yard. Last Train from The Underfall Yard was released on the iTunes essential compilation album, Modern Prog, on 10 February 2010. The Underfall Yard received significant critical acclaim and the 23 minute title track was featured as Classic Rock's Track of the Day.
Gathering Speed was re-issued in December 2009, in a re-mastered digipack version. The Difference Machine was re-issued in January 2010 with a bonus track from the original sessions.
In October 2010, the band released the 41 minute long EP entitled Far Skies Deep Time containing five tracks including a cover version of Anthony Phillips’ Master of Time. The EP also includes the 17 minute track, The Wide Open Sea – a story about the Belgian singer songwriter Jacques Brel which inspired the cover artwork by Jim Trainer. The EP again features Dave Gregory (XTC), Nick D'Virgilio (both now established as part of the band's current line-up) as well as performances from Martin Orford and Danny Manners (Louis Phillipe band).
The band’s first album, Goodbye to the Age of Steam, was remixed from the original 2 inch, 24 track master tapes from January to July 2010 by Rob Aubrey and Andy Poole. No new parts were added although some keyboard sounds were replaced. The original artwork was also replaced with new images by Jim Trainer inspired by the lyrical themes of the album, which was released in April 2011 in a digipack format. The album includes three additional tracks. Far Distant Thing was recorded in 1992 with Rob Aubrey for a local radio station. Expecting Dragons is a new arrangement and recording of themes from both Dragon Bone Hill and Expecting Snow. Losing Your Way incorporates an instrumental section excluded from the original album version of the track.
The band completed a new arrangement and recording of Kingmaker in June 2011. This track originally appeared on the 1992 demo album, The Infant Hercules. The new recording features the current line-up and will replace Master of Time on the release of Far Skies Deep Time by the Russian label MALS in a mini vinyl album format.
On 3 September 2012, the band released their seventh studio album, the first part of a double album entitled English Electric (Part One). The second part, English Electric (Part Two), was released in March 2013.
Big Big Train were the winners of the Breakthrough act award at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards.
On 23 September 2013, Big Big Train released English Electric: Full Power (EEFLP). This is a two CD album version of English Electric including all of the tracks from English Electric Part One and Part Two and four new tracks. Alongside EEFLP, the band released the Make Some Noise EP.
- Current members
- Greg Spawton – guitars, keyboards, bass, backing vocals (1990–present)
- Andy Poole – bass, keyboards (1990–present)
- David Longdon – vocals, flute, keyboards, guitars (2009–present)
- Dave Gregory - guitars (2010–present)
- Nick D'Virgilio - drums (2010–present)
- Danny Manners - keyboards, double bass (2013–present)
- Former members
- Ian Cooper – keyboards (1990-1995, 2003-2004)
- Martin Read – vocals (1991-1995)
- Steve Hughes – drums (1991-1998, 2003-2009)
- Tony Müller – keyboards (1995-2001)
- Pete Hibbit – drums (1998)
- Sean Filkins – vocals (2001-2009)
- Phil Hogg – drums (2002)
Demos & EPs
- From the River to the Sea (1991)
- The Infant Hercules (1993)
- Far Skies Deep Time (2010) re-released with alternative track listing in 2011
- Make Some Noise (2013) includes the additional tracks from English Electric Full Power
- Goodbye To The Age of Steam (1994) remastered and re-released with an expanded track list and new artwork in 2011
- English Boy Wonders (1997) re-released as a remixed and partially re-recorded version in 2008
- Bard (2002)
- Gathering Speed (2004) remastered and re-released in 2009 with additional artwork and lyrics
- The Difference Machine (2007) re-released with an additional track in 2010
- The Underfall Yard (2009) re-released in 2011
- English Electric Part One (2012)
- English Electric Part Two (2013)
- English Electric Full Power (2013) combines Part One and Part Two with additional tracks
- "Big Big Train – Insight – History – The Story So Far...". bigbigtrain.com.
- "English boys wondering how to play our old songs". bigbigtrain.blogspot.com.
- "Godfrey and Dunnery". frostmusic.net.
- "iTunes Essentials: Modern Prog". bigbigtrain.blogspot.com.
- "Goodbye to the Age of Steam: Remixed, Remastered, Bonus Tracks". bigbigtrain.com.
- "Kingmaker. New song. 13th July.". bigbigtrain.blogspot.com.
- "Prog Awards 2013 - The Winners!". Prog Rock Magazine. 3 September 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Big Big Train on neformat.com.ua
- www.bigbigtrain.com – Big Big Train's official website
- Big Big Train on Myspace
- www.bigbigtrain.blogspot.com – Gregory Spawton's blog
- David Longdon's blog