A couple of highly regarded 12″s, much fawning including support from Stuart Maconie and a single of the week in the NME, and kind words from the likes of Noel Gallagher in the intervening years, but other than that Crewe five-piece The Train Set were just a footnote in the history of indie music. And yet to those of us who owned those 12″s always thought that was scant reward for these melodic, shuffling slices of perfect indie rock.
At the end of last year, Firestation records agreed and released a compilation of pretty much everything the band recorded. And that’s triggered something in both the record buying public, and the band themselves, who have got back together and are about to play their first gigs in 27 years. Ahead of that, we spoke to frontman Clive Jones about the past, the present and the future of The Train Set.
So, you’re album is out now – did it feel like unfinished business?
Yea in a way, The band has been apart for years and in that time we always regretted never getting an album done. I know we were good but all we had little to show for it . A couple of great singles that never distributed as far and wide as they could have done. She’s Gone on its release got single of the week in NME, John Peel and others on mainstream radio liking and playing it. We were touring and promoting a single that nobody could get hold of. Had the single had got going a bit more then maybe things would have been different and the album would have been released soon after.
The debut single went straight in near the top of the Indie charts then it disappeared just as quick despite fantastic reviews and great airplay. We were touring with the Mondays, and gigging in our own right up and down the UK, DJ’s were playing and raving about it , media was favourable( NME single of the week from Marconie and James Brown) and we were all promoting a single that nobody could get hold of after the initial first week of pressings sold out. If i’m correct the single was released on the Monday and sold out by Thursday and there were thousands of orders building up at independent record shops across the UK for the Saturday and beyond. But no more were pressed and nobody got their orders. Who knows what might have happened, what with The NME stating that ‘this band should have no problem copping of with an entire nation of orphaned Smiths fans? What did happen was that the distribution company’ ‘Red Rhino’ went bust the week our single was released and when Play Hard Records rang up the pressing plant to print more copies to meet demand they informed them to call the distribution company for the reason the pressing plant could not go ahead. They were told there and then that Red Rhino had gone into liquidation. This was a blow.. Imagine your first single with great reviews etc stopped dead in its tracks with the distributor going bust the week your debut singe is released. Everyone who heard it loved it but you couldn’t get it. I think that The Inspiral Carpets had a single out the same week and with the same distributors but they quickly got a new distribution company and pressed some more. Play Hard soon got a new distribution company but chose not to press any more despite demand. I never really knew why they chose to do that, , perhaps they thought it had lost some momentum, but they were selling a 12 inch compilation album ‘Hand to Mouth’ of Play hard bands about a month later and stuck She’s Gone on that.
How did the deal with Firestation records come about – did they approach you?
Yes indirectly.. Uwe who runs the label had come across some of our tunes on YouTube etc that some old fans must have stuck up I think.. A friend of ours , Andy who used to be in a great cool Crewe band from early eighties ‘Colours Out of Time’ had put something up of ours too and I think Uwe got in touch with us through Andy somehow. Uwe asked if we still had the tapes etc of our recorded tracks. We had some, but had to do a lot of searching for others.. they were all over the place and we didn’t know what condition they might be in.. Anyway we found most of them, luckily still in good order and put them together for Firestation Records to release the album
Way back, you were signed to Dave Haslam’s Play Hard. Were you friends of his?
Yes in so much as we were on his label and he is a great bloke.. I never knew him before he took on The Train Set, apart from dancing away to records he played in the Hacienda. We sent demo’s to local papers etc and one got to the Manchester Evening News where we received a really good review by Mick Middles and I think it was that that sparked an initial interest in Manchester. Sadly on the run out to our single somebody at the pressing plant had scratched Mick Middles is a c**t. I was told that Mark Riley who was with The Fall and now at Radio 6 was responsible for that ( although never confirmed).. and for years I was trying to find Mick M to let him know it was not us who did it.. (bit of a cu**ts trick if you ask me). However through the power of social media I was able to contact MM and put the record straight.. We knew about Dave’s Debris music fanzine/magazine and that they sometimes put out a free flexi disc with the magazine promoting new bands. Phil Conner a mate of the band who was sort of managing us at the time sent them a copy. He called them to ask if they would stick it in the mag as a flexi . Then Dave Haslam or Nathan McGough said they can do better than that.. They then told us that they were starting a label, Play Hard Records and that we could release it as a debut 12 inch single with them.
How different would an album have been then – would it have been similar in terms of tracks, or would you class this as more of a retrospective? Was there plans afoot to release an album?
Difficult to say.. If She’s Gone had a bit more steam in it (forgive the pun please) then that would have give us time to put the album together. Instead because Play Hard didn’t redistribute then we had to get another 12 inch together quickly and in all honesty that was another couple of tracks for a potential debut album used up possibly. We wouldn’t have really stuck lots of stuff already released on 12 inch EP on an album. We were still writing with an eye on releasing an album and had wrote tunes that were never released. The album ‘Never California’ has sort have become a retrospective but the fact that we never really got that big back then and the fact that a lot of people could not easily access our material then in some ways this is a fresh album. There are also tunes on this album that have never been released before. I don’t think this album sounds dated and that’s been reflected in a number of reviews where writers have, independently from one another, stated that it has a fresh sound, a modern sound about it too.
You played with quite a lot of bands back then, Happy Mondays and James, and you were managed (briefly) by Mondays manager Nathan McGough – were they good times? Good memories?
Yea. What I can remember, great times.. It’s funny I took it for granted at the time as it felt like this was just the start of something and there would be many more memories to build, but then it all disappeared for us so quickly. The Mondays were really approachable and great lads. They rehearsed next to us under the Boardwalk venue so we sort of got to know them anyway but when we toured with them on the ‘Bummed’ tour we got to know them better.. It was a great feeling supporting the Mondays at such an exciting time.. everything was on the up and we were supporting the right bands at the right times. The Mondays, were very approachable.. we had heard things about them, scary things , but we never found them scary at all they were really down to earth lads having a ball!
We played with them a few times as well as on the tour, I remember playing with them at the Hacianda and at The Kilburn High in London at the ‘The Sound’s anniversary party. If I remember the Shamen, The Band of Holy Joy and others were playing that night too. I ended up staying at the Mondays hotel and ending up in Shaun’s bed (he’d gone missing)after partying with Shaun, Nathan and Pete Wylie at a club in Leicester Square.I was woken in the morning with the easily identifiable tones of Shaun Ryder saying ‘ Who’s been sleeeepinggg in my bed? .. He was ok tho and offered me a little something for breakfast!!. As you can imagine a lot of my memories of that time are a bit blurred but I remember it was the morning that Shaun had to fly out to the Isle of Man to meet Karl Denver (who ended up working with them on Lazyitis) then got busted at the airport for an empty wrapper that I saw fly into his bag when emptied for breakfast.. I got a lift of the rest of the Mondays up north that day where they dropped me off at junction 16 on the M6 near Crewe.. as I was gonna visit me mum. There were lots of memories and funny stories but not sure I have the time or memory to go into too much detail here!!
Your records were much appreciated in the music press by the likes of Stuart Maconie , and Noel Gallagher has spoken of his love for ‘She’s Gone’ – what went wrong?
I’ve sort of mentioned a few things earlier that didn’t help but we did release a second twelve inch ‘Hold On’ that did ok and charted in the indie charts and again had some good reviews and airplay, then mark Shaw (Shiggy) the Bass player said that he felt that he had had enough, and that he felt there was nowhere to go with it. He had also finished his degree and teaching Certificate and wanted to get some travel in before (as he felt then) he got too old. He flew off to Brazil to teach and he stayed away until just recently. That left us a bit bewildered as we, myself and Andrew Boote (Bootie) The Guitarist formed the band together years before, not long after school and punk. We were eventually complete when we found Adam, Drummer from Winsford.. Shig was an old school mate and part of this tight unit and he had now gone.
It didn’t help that we didn’t really have a manager looking after our interest, we were sort of managing ourselves at this point as Nathan Mc Gough who was the Mondays manager sort of helped us out by managing / helping us whilst we were without a manager. I remember Steve Harrison (Who became The Charlatans manager) really liked us and used to come to our early gig’s and on more than one occasion offered to manage us. Steve Harrison had a record shop in Winsford where Adam lived. I still don’t know why we didn’t accept his offer.. Maybe, on reflection we should have accepted his offers!!
We did nothing for a bit, Maybe if we had had a manager he may have kicked us up the arse, so to speak, However eventually we decided to carry on and find a new Bass player. About 8-9 months later John Adams joined the band. John was a local lad who was in a band from Crewe with local musicians Lee Belsham (later of Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations) and Rob Ceika (Who became The Boo Radley’s drummer) John was with us.. things were picking up again, We found a cool manager (Shaun Dyke) who started to get interest from record labels (by now Play hard had sort have melted away). Virgin,and Polydor were showing interest and I think we were offered a deal with Demon records.. things were on the up again and then Adam (drummer)said he was going to’ hang up his sticks’. Well that sort of killed it and as we were hitting late twenties.. I think back then stupidly we felt ‘’too old’’ so we moved apart and did other things. If I remember correctly ( I could be wrong) but there were rumours that the early Oasis set up asked Adam to join them around the time we split. Early Oasis rehearsed next door to us in Red House rehearsal rooms in Manchester.. Liam would sometime pop in our room and give his approval when we jammed Beatles, Doors, Led Zep and Hendrix tunes.
I had heard from The Inspiral Carpets that Noel was a big fan of our single ‘She’s Gone’. Apparently when he was a roadie for the Inspirals he would play it lots in their van going to gigs etc.. Could do with a shout from him now !! lol . I do remember him ear wigging us when we were being interviewed by Piccadilly radio at the Hacienda before the sound check.
To sum up, I think a combination of things such as bad timing, what happened with’ She’s Gone’ distribution episode, Shiggy leaving, no real manager at this time and the label melting away around same time all played their part in our early demise despite what was looking like a great start. Pity. lots of people and other bands who heard us liked us but not enough got to hear.
Harped on about you has always been one of my favourite songs – why do you think you didn’t get the recognition you deserved?
Maybe as a result of the some of the factors I’ve already mentioned.. A bit of bad luck, bad timing, no manager at that crucial time,, a bit of every thing really. Glad you like Harped on.. I like it but was never sure about the initial violin sounds at the start.
Are you pleased with the reaction of the record since its release?
Yes very much so.. We have had great reviews from many magazines online etc.. We have had Album of the Month in some mags and radio stations, In top 25 Albums of the year in others. I think our lowest star rating from the reviews I have read is 8/10… We are really pleased with the positive responses. We weren’t sure if anyone would be interested really but thanks to Uwe and Firestation Records for putting it together. On reflection it would have been a pity that our tunes were just hidden away and nobody other than those early fans who remembered us from the late eighties in Manchester heard us. Firestation has enabled the songs to come to light again and give people the pleasure of hearing them all together again on this album. We have had lots of world- wide radio play and have been played a number of times on local and British national radio stations .. namely BBC Radio 6 on shows such as Radcliffe and Maconie, Gideon Coe, Chris Harris and Tom Robinson shows.. all said really positive stuff about it. Most who have heard it love it so it would be great to be able to get the time and resources to promote it further, to help build on the very positive results/comments we have so far received from the album release. So it is a good feeling that so many are getting great pleasure out of tunes that otherwise would have just been hiding on a cupboard at home for ever. We could do with a manager now to help us build on what’s happening as we don’t have enough time to do it justice ourselves at the mo.
Any plans (you know I have to ask) for any live dates, or new music?
We have got back together for the release of ‘Never California’ and we were approached very recently and we are on the Main stage e at the Shiiine On Weekender on the Sunday in November. We are also playing with Love and the family Tree ( Gaz and Rowetta’s from The Happy Mondays new project) on 10th September at Sound Control in Manchester and then gigs with the Rainkings at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge in October… The interest has got us rehearsing again and we hope to release a single ourselves sometime towards the end of this year.