Big Big Train have released a new live video for Winkie. The eight-minute track, originally from 2016's Folklore album, is taken from the band's upcoming live Blu-ray/2CD set Empire, which will be released through English Electric on November 27. The 12-song Empire, which clocks in at just under two hours, was recorded at Londons Hackney Empire on November 2 on last year's UK tour.
At the same time, the band have announced that keyboard player Danny Manners and violin player Rachel Hall have both left the band. This follows the departure of guitar player Dave Gregory who announced he was leaving earlier this year. It leaves the band as a core quartet of vocalist David Longdon, bass player Greg Spawton, drummer Nick D'Virgilio and guitarist and keyboard player Rikard Sjöblom.
“Danny and Rachel have played significant roles in the continuing development of Big Big Train over the last decade,” says Longdon. “They leave the band as great musical friends and I am delighted that they and Dave Gregory all perform on my recently released album with the late Judy Dyble, Between A Breath And A Breath. We will all stay in touch and certainly don’t rule out future guest appearances by them with BBT.”
“It’s been over eight years since I started recording for Big Big Train. How time flies when you are making music!” Rachel Hall comments. “After much consideration, I am no longer able to offer my commitment to the band and will be embarking on a completely new journey of my own. Much heartfelt thanks to the Passengers for your kindness and support. I wish my fellow band mates good luck and future success.“
“Getting some musical projects of my own going has been at the bottom of my To Do list for far too long,” Danny Manners explains. “Given that the Big Big Train keyboard chair demands a lot of time, on top of my other commitments, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that I need to depart the Train in order to achieve that. It’s been a fantastic eight years for me. I’d like to thank my fellow band members for their wonderful musicianship and friendship, the management and crew for their skill and support, and of course the Passengers for their enthusiasm, which makes it all possible. I hope that BBT continues its deserved success, and everyone stays safe and solvent in these uncertain times.”
“Over the three decades of the band’s existence, Big Big Train’s line-up has seen plenty of comings and goings,” adds Spawton. “We fully respect the decisions that Danny and Rachel have reached. While we will miss them personally, equally we are intrigued about how BBT will evolve further as we enter a new phase in our career. David, our drummer Nick D’Virgilio, our guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom and I have already written a new BBT studio album and will be going into the studio later in the autumn with as a core quartet to record it. We’re aiming to release it before next summer in time for our next live shows."
Following the cancellation of Big Big Train’s July 2020 UK/European tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, the following dates have been re-arranged for 2021:
July 17: Ramblin' Man Fair, Maidstone
July 18: Friars, Ayslebury
For these shows guitarist Dave Foster (Dave Foster Band, Steve Rothery Band) and keyboard player Carly Bryant (Os Mutantes, Freakpower) will join the Big Big Train live band. The identity of a new violinist to be announced soon.
Empire features material from the English Electric, Folklore, Grimspound and Grand Tour studio albums. It was directed and edited by Tim Sidwell of Toward Infinity (who has previously worked with Marillion, Status Quo, Thunder, Magnum, Lisa Stansfield and Steps), with audio mixed by BBT’s sound engineer Rob Aubrey.
“Every night of our first ever UK tour was special, but playing the Hackney Empire was particularly memorable. It is now additionally poignant as our last full show with Dave, Danny and Rachel,” says Greg Spawton. “We’re thrilled by the work that Tim Sidwell and his team and Rob Aubrey have done. We remain proud of our two previous concert films, but visually and sonically Empire represents another step forward and is a great way to mark the end of a particular era for BBT.”