Big Big Train's Greg Spawton gives us a glimpse into his prog world

Greg Spawton of Big Big Train
(Image: © Kain Dear)

Where’s home?

I’ve lived in Bournemouth for 25 years but I was brought up in Sutton Coldfield in the Midlands, and that will always feel like my proper hometown.

Earliest prog memory?

In 1977 my brother came home with Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound. He’d play it extremely loud in the house. I was 12 and the minute I heard it it hit home as something unusual and beautiful, I’ve never forgotten that.

First prog record you bought and where?

Pawn Hearts by Van der Graaf Generator, in Birmingham Town Centre in 1978.

First prog gig?

Steve Hackett on his Defector tour at the Birmingham Odeon in June 1980. I remember it well, I was blown away.

Favourite piece of technology?

Apart from my iPad, I recently bought a Darkglass B7K preamplifier that gives me a lovely bass sound.

Any guilty musical pleasures?

Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West), by Benny Hill. I loved it as a kid, and still do.

Your Mastermind subject?

Either Van der Graaf or Genesis. Or failing that, Anglo-Saxon History.

Your greatest prog extravagance?

I flew to Prague to see Genesis on their reunion tour in 2007, because I hate stadium gigs and that was the smallest gig on that tour. It was a great way to say goodbye to them.

Favourite prog venue?

Birmingham Symphony Hall. I saw the Blue Nile there a few years ago. I’m very keen to play there, once we can be sure we’ll sell it out.

Outside of prog, what are you into?

History and archaeology, I’m forever dragging my wife around old ruins and castles.

Your prog hero?

Peter Hammill. The best wordsmith in prog and a lesson to us all about making music without compromise. I met him at the Prog Awards and he was a lovely guy.

What do you collect?

I buy too many books, the house looks like a library. I do have a Kindle but it’s just not the same. I’m a bookworm by nature.

Last prog album you bought?

Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans, Steven Wilson’s remix. I never really rated it but the remix is great, it’s made me re-think that album completely.

Last prog gig?

I was on holiday in New York in September and saw Haken at the Marlin Room. Their singer is a Bournemouth lad, it’s a small world…

Ever had a prog date?

No, but I was in Tokyo with my wife a few years ago and took her to Yes. She got a bit twitchy during Close To The Edge, but she enjoyed it…

Who do you call in the prog fraternity for a good night out?

David [Longdon] and I set the world to rights and plan things over a couple of pints of beer. And we all went out with Steve Hackett recently in Brownsea Island, which was really good fun.

Most important prog song?

From the old days, Supper’s Ready, more recently Mew’s Comforting Sounds – a really beautiful 10-minute piece that always blows me away.

Prog muso you’d most like to work with?

The Unthanks, they’re a folk band with a slight prog bent. They’ve got an incredible vocal style that I think would fit with us very well.

The best prog gig you ever saw?

In the early 80s I used to travel down to the Marquee Club in London to see bands like Solstice and Twelfth Night. I was a young guy and it was such a great, exciting scene.

Pick us a good proggy read.

Red Shift by Alan Garner. I read it when I was 13 and it’s still one of my favourites. A captivating, beautifully written book, very prog.

Your favourite prog album cover?

I love Peter Cross’s artwork for Anthony Phillips, especially Private Parts And Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion.

What are you up to at the moment?

We’re recording the new album, Grimspound, which’ll be released in April. We’ve got mixing booked in January so we’re trying to get it all ready, I’ve been on a lyric writing frenzy. We’ve been doing lots of interviews [for Folklore], it’s been a good time for us.

For more about Big Big Train, visit www.bigbigtrain.com

Big Big Train: Scratching That Itch