At the core of Wire Train were its two songwriters, Kevin Hunter and Kurt Herr. Hunter was educated in the European centres of France, Spain and Italy as well as Los Angeles, and he developed a deep appreciation of poetry and literature, managing to write two short novels by the time he was sixteen.
While studying poetry in San Francisco, Hunter bumped into Kurt Herr. “When I met him”, Hunter later recalled, “I asked him two questions: Did he play music? And did he want to be in a band? The answer to both questions was no.”
At the time, Herr did not actually play guitar; Hunter had some rudimentary axe skills, but was more focused on the lyrical side of things. So, they decided to embark on a rigorous six-month program to chisel out a sound. Along the way they went through various rhythm sections, eventually hooking up with bassist Anders Rundblad (a native Swede), and Argentinean born drummer Federico Gil-Sola. Starting life as The Renegades, they began serious demoing, managing to produce a college radio favourite 451 in the process. 1984 Promo shot
(L-R: Federico Gil-Sola, Kurt Herr, Kevin Hunter, Anders Rundblad. Photo: Jim Marshall)
One early fan was none other than Howie Klein, then a DJ on Bay Area station KUSF (and KSAN and KSJO), more recently head of Sire records. In June 1983, he signed them to his blossoming label 415 Records; the band changed their name to Wire Train (after a line in one of their early songs) and went into San Francisco’s Automatt studios to record their debut album, In a Chamber. In A Chamber cover art
Recorded in just seventeen days at a cost of some $22,000, In a Chamber featured all of the great Wire Train characteristics; alluring, ethereal melodies and chiming guitars underpinning passionate and oblique almost stream of consciousness vocals. At the time Hunter said of the record : “We hope to keep improving. People like Lennon and Dylan have been able say things that are perfect expressions of an emotion or moment; developing that kind of talent is where its at for us”. U2’s Bono later claimed it to be his personal favourite album of 1984.
In a Chamber was voted among the ten best albums of 1984 in various California critic’s polls and stayed in the national college charts for several months. The band toured the US club circuit, and then hitched the opening slot on Big Country’s “The Crossing” Tour. As this sojourn finished, Gil-Sola jumped ship and was replaced by Brian Macleod.
1985 Promo Shot
(L-R: Kevin Hunter, Anders Rundblad, Brian MacLeod, Kurt Herr. Photo: Koos Fasel)
Their second album, 1985’s Between Two Words, was recorded in Vienna during the summer of ’85. “Vienna was chosen,” says Kevin, “due to Peter Maunu’s (producer) familiarity with it and its emotional similarity to San Francisco.” The sessions were remarkably fruitful, with (allegedly) over 30 songs being recorded; however, they were also fraught with problems, and just as the album was finally completed, Kurt Herr decided to quit to concentrate on solo projects.
Between Two Words cover art
Replacement guitarist Jeffrey Trott had just two weeks to learn the band’s material when he stepped in, and then they took off across the US once again in support of new product. They first hit California as support to INXS, and later headed cross country with them, revisiting their favourite clubs from their 1984 outing.
10 Women cover art
Early 1986 saw them hit Europe for several tours, opening for the likes of The Alarm, Bangles and The Waterboys. At one point, Jeff Trott was on the verge of joining The Waterboys, but for one reason or another this was not to be. During this period the band began preparing material for their third album, which was recorded in the Autumn of ’86 in London. Ten Women found its way out in ’87, and featured contributions from The Alarm’s Dave Sharpe and Waterboy Mike Scott.
The band once again toured Europe in 1987, in their own right and as openers for The Alarm , but after returning to San Francisco and finishing touring commitments, they effectively vanished. It was another two years before they re-surfaced, with a new album Wire Train and label (MCA records). 415 Records had been sold, leaving the band “talking to strangers when they telephoned the office”. They decided they wanted to be with a larger label, their new owners decided otherwise and then things got legal. “When the lawyers got involved, it was trouble. It’s not in their best interests to get it over with quickly”, explained Anders Rundblad.
Wire Train cover art
Effectively having to split up to extract themselves from their contract left the band pretty disillusioned, but individually at least, they were in demand. Jeff Trott found time to join ex Waterboy Karl Wallinger’s World Party , and Brian Macleod spent time working with Michael Jackson & Madonna, amongst others. Wire Train marked a definite change in direction for the band – much looser and folkier than anything they’d produced before. The sound was also characterized by Jeff Trott’s sumptuous slide guitar playing, completely rewriting the Wire Train blueprint. The album crept out in summer 1990 without too much fanfare, and the single, Should She Cry?, began to receive some MTV airplay.
Hitting the road once again, the band toured the Midwest opening for Bob Dylan. Performing mostly on open-air stages at state fairs, the band noted that Dylan wasn’t always exactly dressed for the weather : “In Phoenix, the temperature was 137 degrees. And Bob went on wearing two sweat shirts and a fur hat. He’s a strange guy.”, Hunter later remarked. Whatever Bob’s dress sense may have been, the exposure the band received must have helped: Wire Train managed to outsell all previous Wire Train albums combined.
Point Break cover art
The next output from the band surfaced in 1991, when they contributed I Will Not Fall to the soundtrack of the Patrick Swayze / Keanu Reeves FBI-Surfing vehicle, Point Break.
No Soul No Strain cover art Finally, in 1992, No Soul No Strain was released (the title being a play on words on the cover photo – Nose Hole, Nose Train). A further move away from the style they had established in the ’80’s, once again the album crept out on MCA but this time there was some noticeable promotion. Opening track Stone Me was released as a single, showing an almost (dare I say it) funky side to the band previously not heard. Wire Train came to the UK for the first time in 4 years, playing the BBC Radio 1 sessions tent at the Reading Festival in August ’92, and then the tiny Borderline club in London’s Charing Cross Road on 2nd September. The press seemed to have forgotten that the band had almost been around for 10 years at this point, but reactions to the set at Reading (which started with a very slow re-working of Last Perfect Thing ) were generally good – Melody Maker describing the set thus: “Of these San Franciscan enigmas we knew little, but their expansive set, atmospheric, rhythmic and taught, impressed mightily.”
Once again the band then seemed to disappear without trace, presumably to work on other projects. Two further releases bearing their name appeared, the first in 1995 on the small US independent Oglio label, run by Carl Caprioglio. In a Chamber / Between Two Words was precisely just that, both albums at last receiving a CD release as a “twofer” in the US. No bonus tracks were featured, and very little in the way of information was included.
Last Perfect Thing cover art
Eventually, Columbia acknowledged the contribution Wire Train (and other 415 artists) made to the ’80’s with a kind of “Best Of” release on their Legacy imprint, Last Perfect Thing – A Retrospective. Several rare cuts were present, including one completely unreleased track – I Will Wait For You – that Kevin Hunter had originally given to Jane Wiedlin. Prior to both of these in 1994, Columbia Legacy also found time to put out The Best of 415 Records, a compilation of 415 artists including Wire Train alongside Romeo Void, Red Rockers, Translator etc.
That unfortunately brings us to the end of our official story. The final line up have all been very active individually, and more information on this is included on the Wire Train solo page. After No Soul No Strain, Wire Train did actually record two more albums for MCA, both of which the record company kindly rejected. The titles were Snug and Electric. Snug carries on where No Soul… left off, with some of the cuts displaying a real funky side to the band – plenty of wah-wah guitar, that sort of thing. More information on this album can be found on the In The Vaults page.