Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageMusician John Power discusses the second coming of Cast Special

By Adrian Peel     Dec 16, 2014 in Music
Acclaimed solo artist, bass player in The La's and leader and principal songwriter of Britpop legends, Cast, this Liverpudlian singer-songwriter has done it all. He granted an exclusive interview to Digital Journal.
Personally, I've always thought that Cast were one of the best bands to come out of the UK in the mid-1990s, at a time when guitar-based music - part of an era-defining movement known as Britpop - was busy taking the country by storm.
Armed with some truly brilliant tunes, memorable three-minute masterpieces that showcased Power's unique gift for melody - "Alright," "Sandstorm," "Walkaway," "Guiding Star," "I'm So Lonely," "Magic Hour," to name but a few - the group remained a popular presence in the charts for six years and counted John Entwistle of The Who and Noel Gallagher among their fans (the ex-Oasis man once proclaimed that witnessing a Cast show was like a "religious experience").
The four-piece comprising of John Power (vocals, guitar), Liam "Skin" Tyson (guitar), Peter Wilkinson (bass, backing vocals) and Keith O'Neil (drums) went their separate ways in 2001 after nearly a decade together, but thankfully reunited, much to the delight of their fans, in 2010.
A new album Troubled Times (their fifth) followed in 2012 and at present, the band are in the middle of a British tour. I caught up with John Power outside The Fleece in Bristol, a few hours before he was due to take the stage, and the day after an explosive show in Birmingham.
"It's been going great actually," says the 47-year-old of the short nationwide trek. "I mean I've seen a couple of strange scenarios, but the actual gigs have been fantastic. Last night was quite raucous, slightly punk even!
"It was like The Clash - it was amazing. There was an edge in the air. Alright, there was loads of beer getting thrown, but we stood up to it and it just made the whole tension in the air a little bit more. It was rock 'n' roll and it's a great thing to be feeling that after all these years...
"We started in Hull and it's just slowly got better and better every night, really, which is what tours generally do. Once you get the beast moving, it creates its own kind of movement."
Does the set list include songs from Cast's entire career? "That's right, yeah," replies the curly-haired frontman, who joined The La's at the age of 18 in 1986, in his relaxed and pleasantly down-to-earth tones. "We recorded a new song about six weeks ago called 'Baby Blue Eyes,' which was a free download.
"That's maybe gonna come off the forthcoming EP or album that we're hopefully gonna record in the new year... We do tracks off Troubled Times and various tracks off all the albums, including the classics, like. It seems to be a much-appreciated show. It's going down great. Good energy and on a personal level, I'm probably singing and playing better than I ever did."
Commenting on the relationship between the four members, which the singer admits is probably stronger now than it's ever been, John reveals that one co-founder is currently absent from the line-up. "Peter's got a few personal issues he's got to take care of, but me, Keith and Skin are on the road with Jay Lewis, who jumped on and helped us out.
"He played guitar with The La's and he recorded on all my solo stuff. He's jumped up with Cast in the past, so he's family, like. Pete had to go after the first gig."
Has Power, one of Liverpool's best known musicians, noticed a wide age range at the gigs, or is it mainly fans who remember them from the good old days? "Well there is that... Obviously there's a hardcore fanbase who've seen us for 20 years or more, but there are people discovering it who were too young first time round.
"Last night's show was immense and there's not many bands doing it these days like that. So I suppose we're like one of those older heavyweight bands who have been on the road for 25 years and know how to do it, without even realising it. There's a new generation discovering us, discovering that sort of guitar stuff. It's quite a nice thing to see, really."
"'Live The Dream' is one that people just absolutely adore," continues the productive songwriter, discussing which of his compositions tend to get the best reception each night. "I mean 'Alright' and 'Finetime' and 'Sandstorm' and 'Guiding Star', 'Promised Land' and all that - they really are quite heavy, like guitar pop, but 'Live The Dream' is a special favourite, I think.
"People just seem to fall in love with it when it's getting played, as they do with other songs, but what I'm saying is you'd mention 'Walkaway' first, wouldn't you? 'Walkaway' is like an anthem, but 'Live The Dream' has got something that people find they can relate to, definitely - and 'Baby Blue Eyes' seems to be going down very well. People have never even seen that live because we've only just started doing it."
As mentioned, Cast reconvened four years ago, following nine years apart (although each member has been busy with other projects since the initial demise of the band. Power has enjoyed a solo career, Skin Tyson is Robert Plant's long-term guitar player and Keith O' Neil is a respected tour manager for the likes of Johnny Marr and Art Garfunkel) and I wondered how this welcome return to prominence came about?
"I was working on some songs and it became apparent that they were more like a band thing, and I thought, 'Right, yeah, this is a Cast album,' explains the affable star, who doesn't rule out working with The La's again one day. "Then that idea started growing and I just got in touch with everyone out of the blue. It just felt right. I hadn't played any of the old songs for a while, like - for years in fact. I kinda went off playing them for a long time, but then I must have just done one and thought, 'Yeah, I'm back again. I can do this with love again.'
"So I was writing the new album and I think that was the thing that started it. I think it was important that we did a new album, so it's not just all about nostalgia. I mean those songs are classic and they're ageless when you play them live, so that's great, but as an artist I'm always writing and it's important that the band continue to write songs of the here and now."
Last summer, John Power ventured into previously uncharted territory taking on the role of John Lennon, one of his musical heroes, in Lennon: The Musical, a play about the former Beatle's life written and directed by Bob Eaton.
"It was a very strange experience," he recalls. "It was probably the most challenging experience I've ever done because I've never acted in me life. It was quite a big theatre and it was all good actors and I remember thinking 'Shit...' Plus it was a homage to Lennon - that's why I did it. I initially told them no, but I'm thankful I did it and thankful of the experience. I have no intention of wanting to become an actor, certainly not in theatre, but I did it and I did it well.
"I had a full-grown beard and I had to get me hair straightened every night and I had to wear a white suit - there's only so long you can do these things! I wouldn't want to make a living dressing up as Lennon! But it was great because you couldn't write that story for theatre. It's like a fairytale, la. His whole life was crammed into this play."
I made it clear to John that I have a real fondness for the songs in Cast's impressive back catalogue, partly because they remind me of my teenage years, and expressed my belief to their creator that they have stood the test of time much better than the songs of certain other acts who started out in that golden era of British music.
"I would say that," agrees the industry veteran, set to release a box set containing his three well-received solo albums in March. "There's no doubt about it. 20 years down the line you see the reaction to those songs - and there's a lot of songs there that people love. They really sound fresh, like.
"They feel fresh and people are really getting it. We put our faith in the songs and, as I said, they are ageless now - and they've proved that. They have stood the test of time, definitely, and will continue to. I think we'll get more recognition probably when we're all white-haired and bearded. Somewhere along the line, someone will go: 'You know what? This f***in' band are great.'"
The new song "Baby Blue Eyes" can be downloaded here.
Cast are currently on tour in the UK. For more information on dates etc., visit their official website.
More about john power, Cast, Liverpool, Britpop, troubled times
More news from
Latest News
Top News