Manchester in 1981 was a grim place. Shuttered factories butted up against derelict lots, as dole queues wrapped around the block. A recession was rocking England; inter-class tension was running high, which would finally erupt into full-on riots in the summer of that year. Here, amidst the ruins of the Industrial Revolution, the future was being born. Factory Records was in full swing, defining what would become post-punk and new-wave. The synthpop of Duran Duran, New Order and the Human League was floating on the breeze, as The Fall were quoting sci-fi dystopians like William S. Burroughs.
Being a kid at the time, Andy Popplewell was largely unaware of his bleak surroundings. He had his own struggles, like losing his father at the age of ten. An interest in music and electrical engineering helped him cope. Popplewell experienced the same media that much of '60s and '70s Britain did; he was reared with the music of Star Trek and Doctor Who, beginning his love of electronic music from an early age, and a rich, active imagination. Inspired by the synthetic sounds of the day and engineering magazines full of DIY projects, Andy Popplewell resolved to build a modest studio in his bedroom, with funds raised from odd jobs and a paper route, and the Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E.) was born.