Crewe, England natives The Train Set (formed of vocalist Clive “Camel” Jones, guitarists Andy “Booty” Boote and Jason Woolley, drummer Adam Halford, and keyboardist Dave Hassall) are something of jangle-pop/indie legends, having released their debut EP in ’88 to critics favor with NME featuring ‘She’s Gone’ as a single of the week and were even played on John Peels’ show, when they suddenly seemed to disappear from the music map. The band has reunited and recently released ‘Never California’, a compilation of their music from back at the time of their debut, along with the single ‘Beautiful Monster’.
Let me start this off fangirling a bit: I absolutely love every track on ‘Never California’, they’re each their own masterpiece. How did The Train Set form and what were those first years like?
Formed around the start of the post punk music scene in the UK, influenced by Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang Of Four, The Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division, seeing these bands in the late 70s early 80s had a big influence on us.
I’m assuming the name ‘The Train Set’ comes from the fact that you’re from a railway town [Crewe]? How did growing up in this local influence you musically? What was the scene like?
No real local music scene as such, we traveled to Eric’s Liverpool, the Russell club Manchester, occasional bands in stoke, there was a small very localised scene, in nearby Winsford and Northwich , that was about the extent of our early travels , local supports in nearby towns.
Prior to ‘Never California’ your last release was back in 1989 with the ‘Hold On’ EP. Why did The Train Set seem to suddenly vanish?
Mainly down to distribution problems with ‘She’s Gone’, a lot of momentum was lost, this was difficult to regain for the band and label, lots of other opportunities came along, this was the beginnings of Madchester, the times they were a changing, as we were, Mark went to university, we got another bass player, did a few more gigs, we all started to want other things outside of the band, it became hard to sustain keep writing, Adam threw in the sticks, Dave went on to work with 3 Beat, Clive and Andy went onto further studying, and that was that. We had gone.
What was behind you reuniting as a band after decades of absence?
German boutique label Firestation Records contacted us about past released and unreleased material and offered us the opportunity to put it all together, along came ‘Never California’. Then came some offers to play live, as luck would have it, after years of being apart, various members abroad, having family’s, working etc, we decided on putting the band back together for some gigs, minus original guitarist Andy, but a great replacement in old friend Jason Woolley.
You’ve toured with The Happy Mondays, James, played alongside The Stones Roses, Pulp, and The La’s.. What’s been your most memorable experience as a band?
I think the tour upon the release of ‘She’s Gone’, our first headline gigs , crowds turning up in decent numbers, that was a nice feeling, the downside, not having records in the shops, but thats another story.
Could you explain your songcrafting process? Lyrics or melody first? And on tracks like ‘Harped On About You’ with varying layers of instrumentation, how did you create this?
A mix in the earlier years of lyrics and melody first, then sessions in rehearsal where we would jam ideas create a groove, Clive often then added lyrics onto the songs.
The intro to ‘She’s Gone’ gives me goosebumps. Could you talk a bit about this track?
The story behind it’s creation, the release of it in 1988, performing it now… Original guitarist Andy came up with the riff, at the time we would be listening to anything from Django Rhienhart, The Smiths, he was always fond of blues rockabilly style licks, it developed from that opening riff, like most good songs very simple in a lot of respects, the lyrics worked it had a great beat to it. It caught the attention of Play Hard Records, they released it, we gained fantastic music press and radio play, initial release sold out instantly, when the label went for re pressing and distribution, the major distributor Red Rhino had fallen into financial difficulties, no more singles in the short term. By the time we had re negotiated a deal with Nine Mile, a lot of the momentum had been lost.. We do know that if we were able to have got singles into the shops, as the re orders were large, it may have been a different story.
‘Untouchable’ almost has a Peter Hook type feel to it? What sorts of artists inspired your music? And in a related question, what other types of art inspired you, whether film, literature, etc?
We were all fans of Joy Division, the first album was a turning point, it spelt the end to punk, a move forward, this opened us up to bands like The Velvet Underground, Can, The Doors, along side the likes of the Echo & The Bunnynen, Gang Of Four, The Au Pairs. All art and literature fans, it goes side by side, Clive went onto study film, Mark the bass player always had his head in a book, and again went onto further studying.
Your first two EPs are quite expensive collectables now, which leads me to ask, do any of you collect vinyl? What are some of your favorite pieces of music put to wax that you own?
Adam is the only member still buying vinyl I think, and has a decent collection states he still plays ‘Forever Changes’ by Love, very influential, plus The Go-Betweens, ‘Spring Rain’ being a particular favorite, lucky enough to still have a lot of velvets, punk , post punk, sixties in the collection. He would often provide the mix tape for our tour van.
You’re performing on the 1st of May at The Continental in Preston along with The Nightingales, The Blue Orchids, and a few others. What can gig-goers expect to see from you live?
Pretty much all from ‘Never California’, new guitarist Jason has fitted in well, bringing a healthy mix of his own unique style plus capturing The Train Set sound .
What’s upcoming for The Train Set? Are you in the process of writing new music? Will be playing some unreleased songs at upcoming gigs, plus looking to record in the very near future.
Up coming gig at the Ruby Lounge Manchester alongside The High, plus an as yet unofficial invite to play shine on festival again.