Ahead of a string of Irish dates before Christmas, John Power of legendary Liverpool indie-rock outfit Cast chats to State’s Steven Dunne about refreshing the band, recording the new album, and how Britpop was much bigger than the sum of its parts.
Cast have been back since 2010, how have the last six years changed you as a band?
Well there’s been a lot of good stuff happening, you know – new songs, a new dynamic as a band, a whole new feel for what we’re doing, it’s been really great actually. I think now the band are performing better than ever – we’re on fire these days so there’s a lot of positive, creative things happening around us. It works two ways though, the fans have been great to us too on this tour and we’ve been playing quite a bit of new material that goes down every bit as well as the older songs so it’s all good!
So what was it like for you to reform the band and do it all over again?
Well I’d been writing and doing some solo stuff up to a point, but then when we all got back in a room and we made Troubled Times (2011) with John Leckie and we loved that album but we didn’t really know if we were Cast of the past or Cast of the future or what. We all wanted it but we were seriously questioning how we’d do. It was strange for us. I think it was around 2015 then when Peter (Wilkinson) decided he’d rather not be part of it anymore and we also had a change in management [Alan McGee and Creation Management]. Add to that the fact that we were coming up to the 20th anniversary of All Change and we really wanted to celebrate the album so we just thought why not go in the studio and do what we do best.
I’d spent a lot of time writing songs and at first we said let’s do an EP but the songs kept coming and it grew into an album. So really, in the years before 2015 it was all a bit strange but the last 18 months have been really creative and the band feel great together. I mean, look, we’re playing great, we have a great new album, the fans love the new stuff and Alan McGee has been a breath of fresh air, he brings so much energy it’s unreal. Even when Peter left it kind of gave us a new energy because we all realised that we loved being in the band. When somebody doesn’t feel that way and things go unsaid it can be a huge weight around your neck, you know what I mean? It dips a bit. But all in all the last 18 months to two years we’ve all felt that we’re back as a band, playing phenomenally and we’re in all the right places as musicians – instead of thinking of what could be we’re thinking about what is.
Was it difficult making the switch from solo artists to being in a band again?
Absolutely not, mate. I’d written the album and I was happy with it but when I started to record it it just sounded like a Cast album, it sounded like the band should be on it. That’s pretty much how it happened, I contacted the lads and asked if they fancied coming into the studio and we were back. I mean, we were all a bit older and wiser and thought ‘if I knew then what I know now’ what would things have been like but everybody had the same verve and the same energy about the band and it just happened.
Can we expect the new album from you soon?
Well that’s actually a funny story, we finished the album last March or April and it was supposed to be self-released pretty much right away. What happened was we ended up having Warner come in and they wanted to release it instead so we delayed it a bit. Eventually I went back in to the studio to do a few more vocal tracks and whatever else and we just kept pushing the release date back further and further, eventually we decided on the end of Febrary 2017… but yeah, we had booked this tour to promote it and we just decided to do it anyway, mate! We actually released a single just before the tour and when it was playlisted on [BBC] Radio 2 it was a huge deal for us and we said let’s just tour anyway.
A lot of bands are now exclusively touring their older material, was that ever on you radar?
I get that, the whole nostalgia thing. But you can go one of two ways when you get a band back together, the nostalgia path or the re-inspired path and we’re definitely inspired again. We’re totally reinvigorated. There’s nothing wrong with playing all older stuff because, let’s face it, and I speak for us too, these songs mean things to people and they’ve been with them, in some instances, for half of their lives, you know? ‘Walkaway’, ‘Finetime’, ‘Alright’, I love these songs and I love playing them but I want to match them to the new stuff. Fair enough, they don’t have the history of the other songs because they haven’t had the chance yet, but dynamically and in terms of quality I want them all to fit together. We feel like we still have the fire and passion and we’re looking for these songs to connect to people the way the older songs have.
Will you go back out on tour again??
I actually don’t know, we’ve done a lot this year and we played a lot of festivals and it takes its toll on you. We’ll take a few weeks off over Christmas ‘cos you know yourself, everything shuts down, but after that we’ll have a look. Obviously if anything bites in a big way we’ll have to go back out again. But yeah, it’s a funny one – touring before the album even comes out. But the most important thing now is that the album is finished, it’s going to come out, it’s got a title which we love [Kick Up The Dust] and it sounds absolutely great. But as I’ve said, when we play the new stuff live it gets a great reaction. Normally, and I mean this mate, when new stuff gets played people tend to disengage and look for the old stuff – the six or seven new songs we’re playing get so much love that it tells me that things are well. These people haven’t even got the album yet.
How does the term ‘Britpop’ sit with you now? Bearing in mind how big a space Cast took up in that bubble.
I know! I sometimes have to be reminded because during all of that I kind of missed it, I wasn’t paying attention, mate! I’m not one for ‘what ifs’ but if I had to do it all again I think I’d be a bit more present in the moment because, contrary to a lot of opinion now, I have no real issue with the whole Britpop thing. Nobody likes to be categorised and at the time it only covered about half of our music but when you look back it was a whole nation, and a whole culture outside of that, that seemed to be moving in the same direction. You rarely see anything like it now. It was a wide, eclectic mix of music styles all under one term. It was a really great time for guitar bands and musicians and I’m kind of at ease with it now. It was probably the last, gung-ho, time for music when the charts meant something.
What would you change about your time in Cast during the Britpop heyday?
As I said, I’d be more present in the moment. These were huge gigs we were playing, massive tours, the lot, but I was always thinking about what was coming next. The next gig, the next single, preserving my voice for the next show, all of these things weighed heavily and I kind of missed the whole phase. Through no fault of anybody’s but my own I let the experience slip through my fingers. I look back, right, the odd festival appearance like T in the Park and we had the whole place moshing, it looked like Nirvana were playing. I think ‘shit, were we that big?’ It was madness, but the whole time I was thinking about the next song or whatever, I didn’t let myself enjoy what was going on.
Do you recognise the band you’re looking at in that footage?
Sometimes. But what really strikes me me is that we were a rock band, we built our sets up and they’d always end up being full on chaos; people crowd surfing and losing their minds. Even the other night in Shepherds Bush there were people moshing like mad and even though a lot of our songs are quite mellow it doesn’t stop them. We are a rock and roll band who have some pop songs, kind of like the Who, and we’re getting heavier too. Our recordings don’t even come close to the energy of our live shows, it’s always been that way.
Cast play in Dolan’s, Limerick, on the 8th of December, The Academy, Dublin, on the 9th, and in the Limelight Belfast on the 10th. Find out more and get tickets here.