Over the last three years I have travelled over 25,000 miles on many and varied trains across Europe, dragging with me a record player. The turntable, along with a sampler, laptop, mixer and what feels like several kilometres of cable, is because I'm one third of electronic soul band Belleruche. The train is because it's the morally right way to travel.
We've been making music and playing gigs for several years now, and before people in other countries to started to book us, we played most of our gigs in a little pub in North London and my day job was in renewable energy, and carbon campaigning work. I know a little about carbon accounting, and a depressing amount about how bad climate change caused by fossil fuel consumption is getting and going to get. Things are not so good right now, and are looking pretty bad for the next generation if we don't sort our affairs out in pretty short order.
This left me with a dilemma when we started to have more success, and gigs further away started arriving. The modern live music business is based around cheap air travel. A band who've sold just ten or twenty thousand records can go and tour all over Europe, the cheap and dirty Easy-air or Ryan-jet way, it's just the way it's expected to be done. So tours aren't routed sensibly, and trips from Prague to Bordeaux via Edinburgh are commonplace.
Well, in my view that was wrong, and despite the delusions of most of the people in the business, musicians travelling to shows can't really be described as essential travel, it's not like we're flying surgeons to theatre, or diplomats to peace talks. So I started what's turned into all those miles of rail travel.
Let's get a few things straight before we move on to why train travel is just so much damn nicer than being prodded into a flying bus through a dressed up shopping centre. I'm not camping on the moral high ground without caveats, I've have had to fly when there was no alternative, we've been lucky enough to go to the USA and Australia and New Zealand. And there is no way of getting there, without months to spare, without flying. So I flew. Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good, or something like that.
But when there is an alternative, you should take it. As it seems the only collective power we have in our credit fuelled Tescopoly democracy is with our bank notes, it's the right thing to do to spend your money with the less evil option. I'm proud of the fact that the thousands of pounds that I've spent on travel for touring have gone to rail companies, many of whom are nationally owned and have a duty to reinvest in and improve their infrastructure, rather than shareholder profit driven international airlines.
And, don't even mention the word 'offsetting' please, the only way you can offset your flights is by personally giving up carbon emissions in other things you do. 99% of Carbon Offsetting is guilt driven hustling. So if you want to fly to the Canary Islands on holiday, don't pay a token £20 to a opaque campaign on the airline's website, just don't use your car for half the year. We're over consuming, rich and greedy; offsetting is just a way of allowing us to continue to be so. There's loads of carbon calculators out there online, it's quite a simple thing to work out your options. Or you could just allow a displaced islander from low lying Tuvalu to punch you in the face when you get on the plane.
Beyond that it is the right, proper and morally decent way to get from A to B, train travel is pleasant, civilised and allows you to work, drink and see the places you are visiting and travelling through. Train stations are always in city centres, as are almost all gig venues. Working on music on a laptop whilst on a train through the mountains of North Italy sure beats doing the same sitting on the floor in the airless confines of Heathrow airport. The anti train cost arguments don't usually stack up either, with advance planning you can normally get to the show venue for the same price by train as flying, when you factor in all the additional costs that are involved in getting to and from airports and especially when excess baggage comes into the equation.
And as a final incentive to try rail travel, if the moral and environmental arguments still leave you cold, Deutsche Bahn, the German rail network is so civilised that they serve draft beer on their trains. Surely that's more rock and roll than being overcharged for a bag of crisps from a surly air steward crammed into a aluminium tube at 30,000 feet.
Belleruche have their new album 'Rollerchain' out next Monday 7 May and their album showcase at London's Scale on the 31st May before heading out on tour throughout the UK and Europe this Summer, taking in Soundwave Croatia Festival as they go www.soundwavecroatia.com
You can listen to and download an album mini mix here: http://soundcloud.com/belleruche/rollerchain-album-sampler-mix
Follow Tim Godwin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BellerucheUK