Eventim Spotlights had a catch up with one of Liverpool’s finest, John Power of Cast.
We had a chat about his career highs so far, what to expect from the upcoming Cast shows and the changes he has seen in the music industry over the last 20 years.
When did you start songwriting?
I started writing songs when…really I suppose when I was in The La’s sometime. With a great songwriter such as Lee [Mavers] I suppose somewhere along the line I can remember him saying you have to write some songs John. I mean I was on that path anyway, but that was kind of OK, yeah.
He was a bit like a mentor vibe I was a bit younger and learning. Learning how to play really. I started writing and I had a few songs I think the first one was a song called All My Days which is ironically like a real old folk song. Like an old classic folk song. Choruses for Finetime, Four Walls, Follow Me Down they were the first sorts of songs I was writing.
What inspired you to become a musician initially? Was there a turning point or moment in your life?
Music was always a great part of me a great part of my psyche and being like, but I just always listened to it I didn’t play any music really. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 18. I picked up a bass when I was 18 or 19, but I only started strumming the guitar a few months after that. Quite late really!
So how did you end up being in The La’s?
I kind of at a loose end, I was young, and I stumbled upon some sort of council run scheme that was going to provide studio experience….we’d go out and serve the community with the idea. If schools or old people’s homes needed some music, then maybe they’d bring us delinquents over and we’d play them a couple of songs!
But on that scheme the first person I was kind of chatting to and that I met as a friend was Mike Badger. He was in a band with Lee and they needed a bass player. I couldn’t play, but that was exactly what Lee was after so he could teach me how to play.
So that’s how I came across The La’s like. When I was about 18 something like that. The first song I learnt to play would have been Son Of A Gun.
When did you start to realise you wanted to do your own thing and form your own band?
To be honest with you, I really had no intentions of leaving The La’s. I mean The La’s was kind of a whole eco-system. You lived within it like. As I said, I started writing a few songs, and then The La’s started slowly going round in circles with the problems of catching the sound that Lee and the band wanted. After so many recording sessions and tour and it just started to become not much fun for everyone that was involved really.
I imagine it became a bit of a chore for everyone. That sounds quite cruel but there was a heavy weight upon us all – not through expectation, just through sheer frustration. I kind of had a few songs, by then I had Four Walls, Sandstorm, and maybe bits of Finetime and I started realising that maybe I do kind of get out and sing.
So it was a big decision but it was a very easy decision. It was a big decision because most people thought it was the wrong decision, and a foolish decision to make. And I could quite understand that because it was quite hard work to get Cast up and running.
Even now in one way The La’s works for me and in one way it doesn’t. The La’s was such an iconic band and held in high regard. I suppose I’ll always either fairly or unfairly be compared to them. But that isn’t a problem at all, it hasn’t been a problem, I just started realising that the songs I was writing were good songs and I knew that.
It’s a personal journey as well, so there’s personal reasons about discovering yourself and songs, and the need to want to express that sort of feeling. I dunno what other people get up to, but I have a burning desire to write and sing and connect with all the other different sort of conduits of expression.
It’s not just all about music it’s about many different forms of whatever energy trying to be expressed. There’s a lot of things we find very difficult to say you know, either to ourselves most of all and even to the people around us.
You only have to look around and see the state of the world the fucking mess it’s in, and the sheer hard headed ignorance people keep on pushing with issues and policies and things that are just the wrong way to go about moving forward as a race. As as a species of humans you know.
But anyway singing is just something that I am…that’s my kind of desire I suppose, my vocation, and my energy goes into that. Otherwise I could be kicking cans or stones around the streets getting nowhere. I think somewhere along the line you’ve got to find that conduit for yourself you know.
So, 23 years on, what are the main changes you see in the industry as a musician?
Well the industry has completely changed. I was never much of a business person to start off with and I’m completely not one now. I mean the music industry is what it says – it’s a business, it’s an industry, it’s like a big corporation thing now. Lots of independents. There used to be a lower level, a lower tier of record companies and things like that. There are still record companies doing their thing but generally it’s changed completely.
People don’t really buy records they kind of take little bits and bobs and downloads from things. I dunno if people follow bands. I mean they do follow bands, but it doesn’t seem to be in the way I remember. Maybe that’s a generational thing and maybe I’m not meant to understand everything that’s going on now, because I’m not that interested.
I’m going on The Round Table with Steve Lamacq Radio 6 to judge records[04 December 2015], and I won’t have heard of anyone because I don’t take any notice. It just doesn’t appeal to me to be trawling through trying to keep my finger on the pulse. I keep my hands close to a guitar and I’m still trying to write “that song”.
But it has changed in many ways. Live is still an important part to everyone. That’s probably where we connect mostly with an audience and a fan base and just with people in general. At a very grass roots level I go out with the acoustics with a lad named Lewis and we play really small venues.
And obviously with Cast this month we’ll be out on the road, playing to larger audiences a bit more of a rock and roll show.
It’s changed though, it’s definitely changed!
What can we expect from the December tour?
Well I actually think the band are better now than they ever were. I know I am – I sing and play better than I ever did – and Skin’s [Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson] just an exquisite guitarist now, he’s out on the road with Robert Plant when he’s not with us. Peter’s [Wilkinson] playing around, so everyone does their own thing.
We’ll certainly be playing all the classics cause what I’ve realised is that they’re ageless. The songs are ageless – they mean so much to people. I see the audience just go, they fall in love again for four minutes each time we play one of those hits. We’ll also be playing stuff off Troubled Times and playing a track that we’ve just recorded called Baby Blue Eyes which is a free download [below].
It’s a great show and I’m very happy to be part of it these days. I just put it down I didn’t play with Cast for a long, long time. I didn’t play any of those songs for a long time but now I really kind of recognise their worth and I celebrate singing them myself it’s a great feeling for me as well as for the people who are listening.
So how is everything coming along with the new album for 2015?
The idea is that we’ll get together on this tour and then in January/February and start to do some recording. I do have lots of ideas, lots of songs – it’s really just having a focus.
I mean unless I’m working on something I generally have loads of unfinished songs lying around me head, and me phone and things like that, so I’ve got loads of ideas and loads of bits and bobs. I just need to go through them and play some of them to the lads see what sounds more like a Cast song.
I’ve got my solo albums coming out in march all getting reissued so I’ll be doing a few new tracks for them.
But the Cast stuff… I’m looking forward to it now because I feel like it may happen, whereas if you’d asked me a year ago I’d have probably gone I dunno if I can find the energy. We were never going to split up, we were always going to do a new album, it just looks like its maybe going to happen this New Year which is great. I’m really looking forward to it.
So who are your musical heroes?
Well you know, everyone from people like Howling Wolf to Captain Beefheart. Dylan and Lennon and Townsend and Bowie, All the usual suspects. James Brown, Marley – there’s loads of greats. There’s loads of great contemporary bands as well. I kind of maybe will always keep closer to those ones that matter to me so much. Although there is great bands The Clash were a great band.
To be honest with you I don’t fucking know [laughing] I’d say there’s musical heroes and there’s heroes and somewhere along the line they all start to merge together.
As a musical pioneer yourself, what advice would you give to artists and new bands – people who are just starting out?
Well I think people who are really driven and have got what it takes don’t need any advice because I know the people I’ve met along the way they had an unblinking belief. I was like that.
There were times where it wavers because maybe the circumstances of the industry or whatever aren’t picking up on what you’re doing and you have to question what it is you’re about. If you’re true to your musical pathway and where you feel you’re heading, you’ll find success in whatever from it takes.
It’s not all about gold records and major record deals. Even though we’ve been on that, we’ve also seen the opposite side of it. I’ve been both sides of the music industry and I used to think that if one person loved one of my songs as much as I do then that would be success but like all good things you start wanting a little bit more!
I’m sure for the young people who’ve got something to say and have got some serious intentions their fire’s burning brightly and they’ll carve a path for themselves one way or another.