The Rainkings: Interview with Stephen Holt and Dave Swift
The first release on the resurrected Playtime Records is Another Time 1989-1994, a compilation of singles, outtakes and unreleased tracks by The Rainkings, who featured Stephen Holt and Dave Swift after they left Inspiral Carpets in 1989. Twenty-four years on, David Brown from Louder Than War met up with Stephen and Dave in a Manchester boozer to discuss the history of the band and the reasons for the compilation.
How did The Rainkings come about?
Steve : Obviously as you know, Dave and I decided to leave the Carpets. We’d known each other for years and years, we went to the same school together. We’d been in garage bands, literally in garages and been in school bands.
Dave had always been writing songs and we’d been doing stuff together and I think Dave took a step out first.
Dave : I had to leave, because I was at Uni. There was too much touring going on when I was studying. I was in the second year at University and that’s generally the hardest year. We had a massive tour lined up and I knew that I’d fail if I went on that tour, so there was just no chance of me continuing. I would have done otherwise. We’d toured with The Wedding Present in Scotland and I had to take my books with me. It was pretty mad really.
There was one gig where you, Steve, and Martyn (Dave’s replacement) were in the band.
Steve : Yeah, at the Cricketers near the Oval in London. I think it didn’t feel right for me at that time when Dave left, but we still wanted to do stuff, but obviously not at the same level because Dave was at Uni. So we carried on writing and thought about other people we could bring in.
John was from The Bodines and we had a link with them through a guy called Mike who used to drive us round in the Carpets. Carl was a guy from a local band in Shaw called Turning Blue who we thought was a good bass player so we asked him if he was interested and that got things going.
You signed to Playtime for a couple of singles. Was that a natural progression because the Inspirals had been there?
Steve : Well we never really signed. But we knew Paula and we knew that the Carpets had got their own label and set up Cow. We knew there was trouble with the distribution company Red Rhino. But we knew her and we probably thought she was the only person who’d put our stuff out. It was a matter of getting in touch and seeing if she was interested really.
Dave : She came to a few gigs to see us.
Was there a plan with The Rainkings to build slowly and eventually end up releasing an album?
Steve : For me the plan was writing, playing gigs and still enjoying doing it.
Dave : We had a lot of songs for an album. We tended to do songs for a while and then move on and not do anything with them. There were a hell of a lot of songs that never actually ended up anywhere.
That was similar with the Inspirals wasn’t it? A lot of songs on Cow and Waiting For Ours demos that never went anywhere.
Dave : It’s a shame really, we should have done more with what we had at the time.
Steve : We did have the two singles. We definitely rushed the first single but I’m not sure whether that’s because Paula wanted us to or we were rushing it.
Dave : We didn’t have proper guidance in the studio as we were doing things ourselves.
In those days with independent labels it was like that though, you’d give them something and they’d put it out. The music industry was a lot more naïve then.
Steve : I think with Playtime things had gone well early on with the Inspirals and Mirrors Over Kiev. Plane Crash had been a massive success and Playtime was suddenly a bigger label with New FADS and Too Much Texas.
You did two EPs, Get Ready and Sunlight Fades…
Dave : Out of all of them, Sunlight Fades is my least favourite song. I’d delete it.
Steve : I think Sunlight Fades was one of the first songs we’d written as The Rainkings. Dave is, or at least was, a human writing machine, he has books and books of songs and self-recordings that he’d done himself . I bet if we had the time to do it full-time, we’d probably have had enough songs to release three albums at once.
Dave : More than a hundred songs. I think I wrote three Inspirals songs myself – So Far, Out Of Time and Causeway.
Steve : There were loads of tunes. Dave would bring a tape in of songs and if we liked one, we’d pick it up and do something with it.
Dave : People would take the base idea and chop them up a bit in the studio as a band.
The thirteen songs on the CD are all very classic timeless guitar-based indie. At the time you started to put them out, Madchester had kicked off and that sort of song had gone out of fashion and wasn’t going to fit.
Steve : I think things had changed. Our songs sounded more American. We did try and write a few more dance-oriented songs called Going Up and Eighth Wonder, which aren’t on the album. They weren’t bad songs, Going Up was a top tune. I think you’re right.
Dave : I think we were more influenced by what we were listening to. I didn’t listen to a lot of dance music. Pixies, things like that.
It was a time when The Roses and Mondays, Inspirals and James were starting to get big. But when you listen to The Rainkings and Inspirals from that period, the biggest difference in Clint’s keyboards.
Steve : I think you’re right. I think with the Madchester scene, the Inspirals never fitted in really except they were a band at the time and they were from near Manchester and a bit different.
With The Rainkings I think the fact we never really pushed ourselves and that we got labeled as ex-Inspirals, ex-Bodines and were trying to move away from that and not sound like either band or play any of those songs probably didn’t do us any favours. We were trying to move away from them.
Dave : It’s best to do your own thing, and if people don’t like it, then they don’t like it.
Steve : We saw ourselves a whole new band and it would have been disrespectful to go down that route of what we were. We never wanted to do that and it wouldn’t have been right.
Dave : You shouldn’t trade on that.
So how did this compilation come about?
Steve : I suppose me coming back into the Carpets created a little bit of a buzz. People asked me what I’d been doing since I left. But to be fair, Paula was trying to get Playtime going again and it’s a great opportunity to make the most of all that and get something out there.
Dave : Listening to some of the other songs on the compilation, I also think they’re stronger than some that we released.
Steve : There’s some top tunes that we had rough demos of.
Listening to it, the album fits together really well, it’s been ordered to work that way rather than as a chronological collection of songs.
Steve : We wanted to do that. Get Ready is first because that’s one of our strongest songs. I think it’s a bit more punchy the way we’ve got it now.
Dave : I definitely prefer the order Steve picked.
It peaks at the end as well. Step By Step and Just An Idea for example. It feels like a band that’s found a sound.
Dave : I think Just An Idea is my favourite song from that first EP.
Steve : We definitely found out feet with that and Get Ready.
That was something of the time though with indie bands. They’d release a four-track EP and there wasn’ t a named lead track.
Dave : It was good to let the tracks stand on their own and to let people choose which one was their favourite. And we weren’t the only band that did that at the time.
Steve : I definitely think we rushed that first EP as we were finding out feet. There’s three top songs on there.
Dave : There was definitely weird things about both EPs. The first one we were making things up as we went along and the second we were much tighter, but we missed quite a bit of stuff off it that could have gone on there.
Steve : It helped having Ian Broudie producing the second one. I know Dave likes the guitars on the songs on the Bolton tracks (a later demo session), but I think the Get Ready EP was where I wanted us to be.
You’ve talked about being in the studio preparing this compilation. What have you done with the songs in there?
Steve : We didn’t do loads with them.
Dave : You told me to bring my guitar just in case.
What are the Bolton tracks?
Dave : To The End
Steve : There’s the two EPs, Take which we did for the Home compilation, then the next songs are the Bolton tracks which are To The End, Gone and This Is The Time and they were tunes we did with a different bass player as we’d lost Carl at that point. After that we did Step By Step and Way Down. The Bolton session was quite a basic studio, but Dave really liked his guitar sound on that.
This is coming out at the end of April. Are you going to play any gigs or release any more stuff?
Steve : We have actually talked about going into the studio. The album’s only coming out digitally at the moment. We have a song that’s one of our strongest songs that never got recorded called To The Sea and I’d love to put that down and get it recorded, because it’s a brilliant tune. Dave’s also written a new tune that we were going to try when we got in the studio in Chorlton to do the remastering and mixing of the album, but we didn’t get time. We’re going to try and do that and either add it on the end some way or put it out on its own.
You said you had a lot of songs.
Steve : Yes, we did. Lots that people never heard.
Dave : The new one sounds good. It’s quite quick, a bit different and sounds brilliant.
Live? Or was this just the two of you coming together to put these songs out?
Steve : No, John was involved too in some ways. We lost touch with Carl a long time ago and the rest of them. We had Manny Lee from The Waltones at one point but he’s not interested in doing anything. If we were going to do anything live, and I’d love to do a few gigs personally, we’d have to spend a lot of time rehearsing and getting a bass player.
Dave : If we went back to some tracks, I could probably play the bass. I played guitar with The Rainkings.
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