Interview: Cast – part 1
Published on February 4th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Despite his illustrious history, John Power is resolutely and steadfastly focused on the present day. That may strike as being quite a natural way of going about your business but, frankly, if you’d been the bassist in The La’s, the creative force behind Cast and latterly a distinguished solo artist, you might be inclined to permit yourself the odd moment of self-satisfied reflection.
Power, though, has no time dwell on former glories; not while he continues to spew great songs as if it was the most natural thing in the world. After revisiting early blues influences on his two most recent solo albums, Power found his latest batch of material to be crying out for the backing of his erstwhile Cast comrades, with whom he planted so many memorable, optimistic, psychedelia-tinged pop songs in the UK top 20 during the mid-to-late ‘90s.
Maybe playing a series of 2010 shows commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of landmark debut album All Change lit a fuse in his muse. Maybe things just came full circle of their own accord, a notion which might sit better with Power’s philosophically positive outlook on life on this crazy planet of ours. Whatever the impetus, he set about getting Cast back together to record their first studio album together since 2001’s eccentrically funky/funkily eccentric Beetroot – or, if you share Power’s own view that Beetroot should have been a solo release, their first since 1999’s majestic, wall-of-sound-flaunting Magic Hour – and the results are close at hand.
Next month shall see the release of Troubled Times, a title which gives more than a little indication of the album’s predominant lyrical concerns, Power having looked around at aforementioned crazy planet of ours and not taken kindly to what he saw. It was All Change that weaned a young Rocksucker off deeply naff Europop and onto more mind-expanding sounds, so we are pretty stoked to say the least to present you with the results of our private telephone audience with the great John Power himself…
“Time Bomb” (from Troubled Times)
It’s an honour to be speaking to you, John, as All Change was the album that switched me onto ‘proper’ music after a childhood spent listening to cheesy early-to-mid-‘90s Europop…
You know what, I’m glad to have been of some service. From talking to quite a few people, on the street or on the phone like yourself, All Change seems to have stood the test of time, even with some people who didn’t realise it at the time. There’s not really a bad song on there, and it does capture the energy of the band at the time; we were young, naïve, and we had that verve about us.
Well, it worked on treat on a young me, so thank you.
That’s alright! That’s what we need, people to appreciate the album. When you start writing songs, you say to yourself, maybe as a kind of fall-back thing in case nobody likes it: as long as one person likes what you’re doing, then you know it’s worthwhile. That’s the currency you’re dealing with when you’re writing songs and performing in a band, you want it to mean something to someone somewhere, you know?
Mission accomplished, then.
There you are, lad!
“See That Girl” (from Troubled Times)
Was it at all difficult to get the others back on board for the new album?
It was difficult, but not difficult in the sense that you’ve just got to allow it to take care of itself, obviously. Nobody saw it coming, it wasn’t a pre-planned thing. I started writing songs in the same kind of rhythm as “Time Bomb”, and playing that on the acoustic lit the fuse towards making an album. I hadn’t played Cast songs for a long while, turned my back on it. I had no intention of writing a new Cast album, but I started getting these ideas and I realised that it wasn’t a solo thing kind of thing but more of a band thing. So I spent a year and a half or whatever reeling that in, and I put myself on the line there, because if you’re going to write a Cast album then you’ve got to come up with the goods.
The ideas starting forming themselves, really, then the songs started forming and the angle of how the album was going to be started forming. I spoke to the lads and I don’t think anyone had seen it coming; it was a bit of a bolt from the blue, really, and we all had to kind of make sense of it. It wasn’t like, “I’ve got an album” – “Yeah!” – it was like, “Well, hold on, let’s get together and see how we are.” We’re all changed (Rocksucker says: Ha!) men, you know. A lot of the egos and ignorance of youth has been left behind now, and we’ve kind of rekindled a friendship and respect for each other. Because of that, we’re playing better than we ever did, to a degree. I think we’re better musically than we were, I’m singing better, the band are playing better, and I think that’s the way it’s meant to happen, isn’t it? Bands are supposed to get better with age, like a wine.
But yeah, it wasn’t dead easy; there was a lot of toing and froing for a bit because people have to find their own footing, you know, get their own stance in the band and see if they felt a part of it again. And everyone does, so we’re alright, yeah. Things are looking good; I’m looking forward to the album coming out, looking forward to gigging again in March and April, and maybe some festivals throughout the summer. It’ll be interesting to see how the new album goes down because it’s a big part of me making my peace with the old stuff. The only reason I’m singing the likes of “Free Me”, “Walkaway” and “Live the Dream” with all my heart is that on the other side of the scales I’ve got whole new album coming out that I’m excited about.
“Fine Time” (from All Change)
It’s come sort of full circle, what with John Leckie on board as well…
It is. It’s great to have John back again. You put your faith in good music finding its own way to people, regardless of marketing and regardless of the ‘coolness’ of bands, the slogans and what’s “the next big thing” or “the next big that”. I just know that we’ve made a really nice kind of loose, fluent sound; it’s not an uptight album and it’s very current, so I’m hoping that it’ll trickle down to people one way or another, like.
You said that you were camped in your bedroom in your pyjamas for a year and a half with a little four-track and a guitar. Do you find that the mild mania which results from shutting yourself off from the world like that is conducive to great songwriting?
I think so. That sort of energy – that sort of mania, yeah – you don’t take it lightly, like, because it’s all-consuming. It’s all day, every day and there were plenty of times when I’d be at a little four-track or six-tracks with headphones on for ten or twelve hours a day. I’d go outside and I literally couldn’t make sense enough to speak, you know. I’d go to have half a pint in the sun or something like that and dread someone coming past making conversation. You’re just removed from reality, like. As I said, you don’t take that kind of thing lightly; you don’t go, “Right, I’m going to do another album tomorrow.”
What I’m going to do now is get Troubled Times out, then enjoy performing it and creating its history in time, play it throughout the summer, and then slowly I’m sure I’ll jump into it again and see what happens. It’s something you don’t take lightly, writing an album, especially when you’ve been away from the band for so long. I wanted to say something and I think I have. I wanted to say something lyrically about how I feel about what’s happening in the world today, without it becoming a clichéd political sort of album, but it’s certainly got reflections and observations on current goings-on, the frustrations simmering in people.
“Sandstorm” (from All Change)
So far I’ve only heard “Time Bomb” and “See That Girl”…
“See That Girl” is the kind of pop song of the album.
I was going to suggest – and I’m not sure how this one’s going to fly – that “See That Girl” is sort of like Cast’s “There She Goes”. (Premature postscript: further listening has upgraded this comparison to ‘a bit like a cross between “There She Goes” and “Elephant Stone” by The Stone Roses, a heady cocktail indeed.)
Well, I’ll take that as a compliment, ‘cause I was in The La’s! I wasn’t intentionally trying to write anything like anything else, but I certainly wasn’t turning my back on…I think on this album you will find flickers of all my musical history within it; it’s not just this and it’s not just that, you know. The river flows and you just ride it, and however it manifests, you try and catch it. “Time Bomb” has kind of a more personal sort of lyric.
There’s about two songs on the album which are kind of teenage love songs, and the rest of them are more from the heart, trying to make sense of the frustration simmering, as I said. You know, you turn on the telly or the radio on, you see the news or read the newspapers, and you see this political, social and economic climate that’s brewing not just on these shores but also distant shores, and you want to let people know that you’re feeling it too.
Cast will release their new album Troubled Times on 5th March 2012. Following the album release Cast have confirmed a UK Tour for March & April 2012. The dates are as follows :
Thu 29th Newcastle O2 Academy
Fri 30th Glasgow 02 Academy
Sat 31st Liverpool University
Sun 1st Leamington Spa Assembly
Tue 3rd Cambridge Junction
Wed 4th Manchester Academy
Thu 5th Birmingham 02 Academy
Fri 6th London 02 Shepherds Bush Empire
The band’s official website www.casttour.com has links on its homepage for buying tickets.