Big Big Train has a long backstory. The band was originally founded in 1990 and went through a number of line-up changes in the first 15 or so years of its existence.
In 2009, the band decided on a fresh start and the current version of Big Big Train began to take shape. Since then, Big Big Train has gone on to win four Progressive Music Awards, has played a number of sold-out shows and has seen the band reach the Top 40 of the Official UK Album Chart with their latest album, Grand Tour (2019). Their Grimspound album (2017) reached number one in the Official UK Rock Album Chart.
THE EARLY DAYS (1990 to 2003)
Big Big Train was formed in 1990 by Andy Poole and Greg Spawton. In 1991, Andy and Greg were joined by Ian Cooper (keyboards), Steve Hughes (drums) and Canadian vocalist Martin Read. A demo cassette tape (later re-issued with a revised track-listing as a demo CD) of the band’s first songs was released in October 1991 and was followed by Big Big Train’s first live performances.
In January 1993, a second demo tape, ‘The Infant Hercules’ was released. Later in 1993, BBT signed to the progressive rock label GEP and released their first studio album, Goodbye to the Age of Steam. A version of the album (with a bonus track) was released in the Japanese market in 1995.
Recording of BBT’s second album commenced in July of 1995 (with Greg filling in on keyboards after the departure of Ian Cooper) and continued, sporadically, for a further 18 months. During the sessions, a new keyboard player, Tony Müller was recruited. Some of the songs from the new album 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 in an incomplete state as the band had run out of money to finish the album.
Steve Hughes left Big Big Train in September 1998 and went on to join The Enid. He was replaced by Pete Hibbit. After disappointing sales of English Boy Wonders, Big Big Train was dropped by its record label, GEP. At this stage, Big Big Train decided to re-group, build their own studio and carry on making music as an independent band.
In February 2002, the third BBT album, ‘Bard’ was released. At the same time, Steve Hughes re-joined BBT.
GATHERING SPEED (2004 to 2009)
A new vocalist, Sean Filkins was recruited to replace original vocalist Martin Read and a fourth album, ‘Gathering Speed’, was released in March 2004. With album sales increasing, the band had found a renewed sense of purpose and The Difference Machine album was released in September 2007, featuring guest performances from Nick D’Virgilio.
In 2008, Big Big Train re-released English Boy Wonders (an updated and completed ‘director’s cut’ version of the album which was partly re-recorded by BBT and fully re-mixed by Rob Aubrey).
A NEW BEGINNING (2009 to the present)
In February 2009, Big Big Train decided on a complete re-launch. Sean Filkins and Steve Hughes left Big Big Train and were replaced by Nick D’Virgilio and David Longdon.
The Underfall Yard was released on December 15th, 2009 and featured the band’s new line-up plus guest appearances from Dave Gregory (XTC). Big Big Train were also joined on the album by a brass band led by Dave Desmond of the Coldstream Guards band.
A 41-minute EP (Far Skies Deep Time) was released in October 2010 as a companion CD to The Underfall Yard.
In April 2011 Big Big Train’s first album Goodbye to the Age of Steam was re-issued in a remixed version with bonus tracks and new artwork.
Dave Gregory joined the band in 2011 in time to work on the band’s next album which was released initially in two parts: English Electric Part One (September 2012) and
English Electric Part Two (March 2013). On the English Electric albums Big Big Train were joined once again by Dave Desmond and his brass band and also by Danny Manners on keyboards and Rachel Hall (formerly of Stackridge) on violin. A double album version of the English Electric releases (including four new tracks) followed in September 2013.
In 2014 Big Big Train took the first step towards returning to live performance after a lengthy hiatus from the stage. They recorded and filmed a live session at Real World Studios (this was later released on the Stone and Steel Blu-Ray.) The live line-up of the band included Danny Manners, Rachel Hall and Rikard Sjöblom (Beardfish and Gungfly). All three subsequently became members of BBT.
In 2015, Big Big Train finally returned to live performance with three sold-out shows at Kings Place, London. A double live album called A Stone’s Throw From the Line containing recordings from the King’s Place Shows was released in December 2016.
Two new studio albums followed: Folklore in 2016 and Grimspound in 2017. A companion album called The Second Brightest Star which featured unreleased songs from the Folklore and Grimspound writing sessions was also released in 2017, and the band played three sold-out show at Cadogan Hall, London in September and October 2017. A Christmas single (Merry Christmas / Snowfalls) was released in December 2017. In January 2018, Andy Poole left the band.
In July 2018, Big Big Train headlined the Night of the Prog festival in Loreley, Germany (with Robin Armstrong replacing Andy Poole for live performances.) In August 2018, the Merchants of Light live album was released, entering the Official UK Rock Album Charts at number two.
The band’s latest studio album, Grand Tour, was released in May 2019 and reached number 35 in the Official UK Album Chart.
The band has recently announced its first UK tour which will take place in the autumn of 2019. A book telling the story of Big Big Train will be published in the Spring of 2020. Live dates in the United States, Canada and mainland Europe are being planned for 2020.