Interview: Cast – part 2
Published on February 5th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Here is part 2 of Rocksucker‘s interview with John Power…(click here to read part 1)…
“Walkaway” (from All Change)
From the admittedly little I’ve heard of it so far, Troubled Times feels like it’s a more ‘sophisticated’ version of All Change or Mother Nature Calls.
I think so. The one thing that people are picking up on is that it’s got this looseness about it, it’s not trying as hard, but that comes with maturity as a musician. We’ve definitely captured the freshness of the band. There’s going to be some people who hate it ‘cause some people hate the band, and there’s going to be some people who love it because they love the band, but I hope there’s going to be people in between who listen with an open mind and get it, because it’s got something that I’m quite proud of, like.
“I’m So Lonely” (from Mother Nature Calls)
All Change seems to be the one that comes up most with people, but I think the other three Cast albums – pre-Troubled Times, that is – are just as good in their own individual ways. I think Magic Hour is particularly underrated, given what a big leap forwards it was in terms of overall production. Is that a record you look back on fondly?
I never look back on any of the albums fondly because I try not to look back too much. Other people say to me, “I’ve listened to Magic Hour/Mother Nature Calls recently and it’s such a great album,” but I really don’t sit around listening to old Cast records because I’m in the present in the moment. I know there are good songs on there, songs that are very dear to my heart on all the albums – I wouldn’t have written and recorded them if I hadn’t been feeling whatever it was – but I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to that place as an individual. You do a lot of growing up while you’re out on the road and there comes a time where you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’ve had enough of it, I’m going to cut it loose.” But yeah, I think there are some good songs on Magic Hour; “Magic Hour” itself is a beautiful song, and “I’m So Lonely” is a beautiful song…
“Magic Hour” (from Magic Hour)
“I’m So Lonely” is on Mother Nature Calls.
Is it? That and Magic Hour could quite easily amalgamate into one album for me.
I think Magic Hour is the most ‘epic’ Cast album in its way, what with songs like “Beat Mama”, “Alien” and “Burn the Light”, and of course David Arnold’s string arrangements…
Yeah, I think you’re right. I think that’s where we were at, really. It’s funny, I think one day I’ll listen back to them all and give myself a break, because you can be too hard on yourself when you’re being creative, and sometimes those albums can remind you of the person you used to be, know what I mean? And you don’t want to be that person anymore, so you move on to the next page. I’ve definitely got a musical record of my history, it’s just that I’m very much in the present at the moment with Troubled Times. It feels like it should be out; we spent all last year recording it and it’s not out yet! What often happens is that by the time the album comes out, I’ve had enough of it and I’m starting to write the new one. (Laughs)
“Beat Mama” (from Magic Hour, Lamacq Live version)
As such, do you see Troubled Times not being the last Cast album?
No, I don’t think it will be the last one. I think now that we’re back together, we’ll always have that friendship and that relationship as musicians, so I think we’ll always want to play together regardless of anything else we do, any solo things we do in between. Even different sideshows of the band; that could be interesting. But I forgot what a good band we are and how much fun we have onstage, and I mean that honestly. This last year/year and a half – however long it’s been – of playing with Cast again, singing some of those songs that I really thought I wouldn’t sing again and watching the reaction, the energy of the band and the audience; that’s something worthwhile, you know. There are many things in life that aren’t worthwhile, so I won’t turn my back on something worthwhile, not now, because it’s valid and it’s fruitful.
“Free Me” (from Mother Nature Calls)
While respecting that your focus is on the here and now, I’m afraid I must delve back into the past again and ask about Beetroot, which I think is a really tremendous little curio of a record. “Desert Drought” should have been a hit.
I don’t hate Beetroot…I mean, I suppose it should have been more like a solo album, you know.
Who was responsible for the loops and electronics on the album?
That was a guy called Tristin [Norwell, the album’s producer]. Basically I just sat around getting high and having a laugh, but there are some really good songs on it. However, what it represents to the other band members is the demise of the band, because I did that and then we kind of dropped off the apple tree. By then it was over, and I didn’t really want to play anymore. I was a bit burnt-out, I imagine, so that’s why I was doing something very different. Then again, there are some songs on that album that if we were to do them now, with the band, would easily stand up for themselves. Maybe it was ahead of its time! (Laughs)
“Small Farm” (from Happening for Love, live version)
I’d love to hear another one like it one day.
Well, these things would be solo stuff, but I think I’ve gone back more to my organic roots. In between the last Cast album and the present Cast album I did Happening for Love, where I was still playing the same sort of rhythms but not with the same heart. There are some really good songs on it though, like “Small Farm” and “Mariner”, but then the other two, Willow She Weeps and Stormbreaker, are me trying to go back to the core rootsiness of folk and blues, and getting back to that made me able to get on board and do what we’re doing now. But we’ll see what happens. Words are just words.
Can you see yourself continuing to make solo albums on the side?
I’m always going to be writing songs, you know, and some songs are going to be Cast songs, but I do have a couple of Americana/folk sort of songs that never surfaced on Stormbreaker or Willow She Weeps. I still have a love for that kind of music, and that’s not something you turn on or turn off. When I’m sitting around the house, I play that kind of music to myself all the time. So yeah, I imagine that one day I will to a little folky blues album again. I would like to do that, but now’s not the time; we’ve got the band back together, we’ve got Troubled Times coming out, and we want to go out and perform it, see where it goes. We’re in a good place.
“Distant Eyes” from (Stormbreaker)
How long had you been writing songs prior to Cast? Were you writing much when you were in The La’s?
Yeah, of course. Songs like “Follow Me Down” and “Alright” were actually La’s songs, as well as bits and bobs of “Fine Time” and “Sandstorm”; but when I was in The La’s I was the bass player, and very happy to be the bass player. I started writing songs because Lee [Mavers] actually said, “John, you’ve got to write some songs.” I was just learning the bass, and Lee was – and still is – the master of what he does. I was spending a lot of time with Lee, and he was kind of like…I don’t mean that it was rubbing off on me in a parody sense, but the whole vibe was rubbing off, definitely. You know, the calling: “the music is where it’s at, and I need to express myself too”. So I had a great mentor, yeah.
“Alright” (from All Change, live on Top of the Pops)
If you don’t mind me asking, what does Lee do these days?
I think Lee’s still working on La’s stuff. He’s very meticulous.
Will it ever see the light of day? It seems odd that he should stockpile so many songs and not share them with the world.
I don’t ask. I’d love it to and I hope it does because The La’s is my favourite band, but whether it will or not isn’t down to me. I keep in touch with Lee, but nothing heavy, you know, not at the moment. He’s getting his thing going and I can’t be in two places at once. But as I say, I love The La’s.
“Flying” (standalone 1996 single, live on Top of the Pops)
Is Mike [Badger, The La’s guitarist] still doing his art/sculptures?
I think so, yeah. I see Mike around, but I’m not really a big socialiser these days. You know, you kind of grow out of it.
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your life in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists with you to tide you over, whose would you pick?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t have electricity, would I? I’ve got the songs in my head so I could take them that way. I couldn’t tell you five different artists at the moment because it changes day to day, but obviously Captain Beefheart and Love – Forever Changes, maybe some early blues like Howlin’ Wolf or something like that, and…oh, I don’t know. I’d take a guitar and sing myself to sleep!
John Power, thank you.
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.