Sunday 28 September 2014

Big Big Train update

Left to right: Andy Poole / Danny Manners / David Longdon / Rikard Sjoblom /
Nick D'Virgilio / Dave Gregory / Rachel Hall / Greg Spawton. Photograph by Kain Dear.

This post is a quick round-up of recent news which we will publish on all of the various BBT internet and social media outlets in the next few days.

Big Big Train recently announced two shows in London in August 2015. The gigs both sold out during the pre-sale and a third concert has now been announced. Tickets for this show will shortly go on general sale. These are the only gigs currently planned in the next year. BBT will be joined for the gigs by the wonderful brass band which featured on The Underfall Yard and English Electric albums.

We will be releasing a DVD and Blu-Ray of our recent performances at Real World studios in the spring 2015.

We have written around 2 hours of new songs (many of which are now at least partially recorded). We aim to complete these songs for album releases in 2016 and 2017.

We are slowly making progress with the Station Masters retrospective release and will try to get that finished off alongside the new songs.

We are pleased to welcome Rachel Hall and Rikard Sjöblom into both the live and recording line-up of Big Big Train.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Questions for the Big Big Train video release

As listeners to BBT may be aware, we are making a film of our rehearsals at Real World studios in August. The rehearsals are an important event for us as they will show BBT evolving from a studio-based band into a band which will be getting ready to play some shows, so we thought it would be good to have a visual record. As well as footage of the rehearsals, we want to include some bonus material on the DVD / Blu-Ray, including interviews and other items. Rather than a static interview with a single interviewer, we thought we might try to answer some questions from members of the very friendly BBT forum (join here) or from other BBT listeners.

So, if there are any questions, we'd be happy to hear from you. The only thing is, you will need to film yourself asking the question and send an email with the video file to us at:

The video file does not need to be of amazing quality (eg phone camera footage is fine) but you will need to ensure we can see and hear you clearly as the footage may end up on the DVD. Please also state your name and where you are from. Questions can be serious, or fun, there are no restrictions and we will need any questions by the end of June.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Lots of pictures of Big Big Train with pink ears

Ahead of our time at Real World and gigs next year, we popped to Enfield today for a fitting of in-ear monitors at Handheld Audio.

Nick has used in-ear monitors for many years but this was a new experience for the rest of us, and a slightly bizarre one.

In-ear monitors need to sit very tightly inside the ear so that the musician can hear all frequencies. This means that molds of the ear have to be taken around an impression of a small speaker which will sit on the ear drum.

The fitting today involved a lot of poking around inside the ear like this:

and this:

and this:

before we had to bite on a piece of plastic and have our ears filled with a pink blancmange-like substance like this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

After five minutes or so, the impression is solid enough to remove and they will shortly be sent off to Ultimate Ears in the States to be made into monitors.

Here we are afterwards, job done (except for Rikard who is having his fitted in Sweden).

Saturday 1 March 2014

Prog on prescription (or how listeners find out about music which is new to them)

On the BBT forum, Chris Allen posted a thread which asked: 'how did you discover Big Big Train?'

There were enough responses (150 or so individual ones) for some themes to emerge which I thought were worth some analysis and some brief comments.

The first thing of interest was the wide diversity of different channels for finding out about music. There were more than 20 different routes to finding out about BBT.

Five main routes stood out from the others. These were:

  • Personal recommendations from friends or family (16%)
  • Prog and Classic Rock covermount CD's (12%)
  • Links to other bands (12%)
  • Internet radio shows (12%)
  • Prog rock websites (11%)

Other popular routes were Spotify (6%) and iTunes and Amazon recommendations (each at 3%). Our own downloads (particularly the 23 minute freebie of The Underfall Yard) and the Progstreaming website also received a few mentions. 

Surprisingly, some of the best-known social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) were hardly mentioned and Soundcloud and Last FM received only one mention each.

It was interesting that old-fashioned 'word-of-mouth' is still the most important factor. Word-of-mouth has been facilitated by new technology (eg the ability to easily share music and information and by social-networking), so it may be that there is some crossover between these things. 

One listener mentioned that his GP had recommended our music which was intriguing. ('Doctor, Doctor, I'm poorly what can you give me?' 'I am prescribing you a dose of progressive rock'...) 

Internet radio was a popular route, so hats-off to those who put their shows and podcasts together and get them online. I suspect that these shows take a great deal of time and trouble to produce and it is pleasing to see that they result in increased music appreciation. The recent increase in progressive rock on digital radio shows will also surely have an impact.

Big Big Train has a lot of links with other bands through its members and through past associations (eg XTC, Spock's Beard, Anthony Phillips, Genesis, Frost) and some of these links have clearly been influential (one listener described it as 'following the breadcrumbs'). So, for bands thinking of inviting higher profile guest musicians, it may be a good idea to follow this through.

Distribution of music through covermount CD's on Prog, Classic Rock and the Classic Rock Society also appears to pay significant dividends (although, as with all of these routes, the material being distributed has to be of good quality.)

Amongst the listeners who have been following us since earlier days, Cyclops mail-order received several mentions. Malcolm Parker and Cyclops / GFT clearly played quite a part in sustaining an interest in progressive rock before the internet really took off.

Finally, one person did mention seeing BBT live back in the 90's in the Netherlands. I'm a bit sceptical about whether live performances actually create many new listeners as I suspect they are more about playing to the already converted. However, the promotional effort around live shows must also be of benefit. This will be interesting for BBT as we go forward.

Friday 3 January 2014

Making Music in 2014

Following on from David's recent post about 2013, here is a brief look ahead to our plans in 2014.

As we've mentioned before, we are now gearing up for some live activity. This is a major undertaking for us as Big Big Train hasn't played any gigs since earlier incarnations of the band and, when the current BBT started working together in 2009, we did not expect to be in a position to be playing live again. This meant that the songs on our studio albums became multi-layered recordings (with brass and strings and all sorts of things) and these are not easy to perform live.

We did have the option of stripping the tracks back to more basic arrangements for live performances, but we like the sound of the music we make these days and want to perform the songs in as full a fashion as possible. So, we've decided that we'll be aiming for performances with brass and strings and have been working hard on preparing a number of songs to test out in our August rehearsals at Real World studios. Once we're happy that everything is sounding strong, we'll be looking to make some announcements about a live show or two (not sure where yet but certainly in England to start with.) As we've previously mentioned, we'll also be filming the Real World performances for a Blu-Ray and DVD release at a later stage.

In working through the songs, we've identified a need for a strong additional keyboard player, guitarist and vocalist. I am very pleased to announce that we will be joined at Real World and for live shows by the wonderful Rikard Sjöblom from one of our favourite bands, Beardfish. Rikard is a fine keyboard player, guitarist and singer and so is able to fill all of our requirements in one person. He is a also a top chap which is very important to us.

Alongside our Real World preparation we are well into recording a new studio album, and work continues on Station Masters where we are revisiting some of our earlier songs with the new line-up. So, we are extremely busy and, if you see a little less of us in the BBT forum from time-to-time it's simply because we're working hard on new music, old music, or both.

Finally, the subscription copies of Prog magazine have started to arrive today ahead of going on sale in the shops on the 8th January. I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank-you to everybody who took the trouble to vote for us in the readers' polls in the magazine. The results Big Big Train achieved in the Prog polls (in band, album, vocalist and drummer categories) have given us a wonderful start to 2014.