John Power: '˜The La's are still within me, it's just that Cast is very much within me too'

With a career-spanning album of Cast's singles already out in the shops and a box set to follow in the new year, John Power, the band's frontman, could be forgiven for being in full-on retrospective mode.

Cast. Picture: Johnny Nolan
Cast. Picture: Johnny Nolan

But as he approaches their December tour, it seems he’d rather not dwell too heavily on the past.

“No, not really,” he says when asked if he feels any sense of nostalgia. “We had an album out last year. On stage we balance out our new material with older stuff. We’ve had some great songs over 20 years that have a relationship. My focus on the night is let’s just start a relationship with somebody that’ll be like the backdrop to their lives, that’s something that you have to form.

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“If you’ve come to shows throughout all this year you’ll have noticed six or seven [new] songs. Even tonight [when the band’s on tour] we’re playing all the tracks off the Singles vinyl but there will be a couple of things that we haven’t done before.”

Cast

That the Singles 1995-2017 and subsequent box set of their first four albums for Polydor are only going to be available on vinyl pleases 51-year-old Power. “I’ve actually rediscovered vinyl again,” he says. “I don’t know what happened to all my old vinyl in transit or moving about but I’m back to treating myself to an album every couple of weeks. Putting it on is just such a different experience – the crackle, listening to a full side of an album and then turning it over, and then just how tangible things are – the way you hold it, you look at the covers – so I’m like a kid again, not in the sense that I’ve got a massive collection but when I go home now I put a record on.

“There’s a record player in our living room and I’ve got music on while I’m cooking or whatever. It’s funny, I can’t believe it ever left me. We get marketed all this s***. CDs was one thing but at least you could hold the thing and put it on; Spotify and downloads, yes, I’ve listened to music via those mediums but can I say I really enjoyed it, not particularly. It’s like the difference between an open fire or a wood burner and a very boring electric radiator – all right, they both give off heat but one of them is completely different in the sense of the aesthetics.

“Doing the vinyl thing, it wasn’t that big a decision, it was just like ‘we’re doing some vinyl, we’re going to release it and that’s it’. There have been one or two people who have got the hump, asking why isn’t it on CD. I don’t know why not, I have no real opinion on that. It doesn’t break my heart that it’s only released on vinyl; I’m kind of quite proud of that, actually.”

From a distance of 25 years, Power says nowadays we can look back fondly in the Britpop era, of which Cast were an important part. “It doesn’t feel too long ago, really, but that’s the funny trick of life. What feels best is performing them. I’m performing those songs at the moment closer to the groove than I ever did. I’ve been singing and playing my bit and it feels great.

Cast. Picture: Duncan Stafford

“It was a very eclectic time for music, it had a lot of great things going on for it Britpop, although at the time you were just involved in something. It’s only when the era has passed and there’s daylight between the epochs that you can look back. But we are very much in the present but it’s just that someone keeps reminding us that it’s 20-odd years since we released those songs.

“We can kind of map our musical history and journey with the albums we’ve released as Cast, and even when Cast weren’t working together there were three albums released via myself. It’s been one continuum and it will continue. I’ve certainly got the bit between myself with writing.

Growing up in Liverpool shaped Power in many ways, he reckons. “I was born and raised in Liverpool. It’s got a very strong and deep musical heritage – simple things like John Lennon going to my school and The Beatles being the greatest band in the world, when you’re six or seven all of a sudden that feels very close to you. It wasn’t some far away story about the greatest bit of music, it was something that was right in my back pocket and something that was in the roads and the areas that I walked and grew up in, so it did have an effect. Liverpool as a port has always had great music coming through it and it’s left its mark on the bands who have been making music there over the last 50 years and prior to that.”

After five years playing bass in the classic Liverpool band The La’s, Cast thrust Power into the limelight as singer, songwriter and guitarist. He quips that he “feels ready now” for the role but admits back in 1992 things were different. “At that time I didn’t know what unready was. When you’re young you’re unready for a lot of things but that doesn’t mean you don’t throw yourself at it, like. Hindsight, wisdom, experience – those things you have to earn and learn.

“I was writing some songs that I felt were – and have been proven to be – pretty bloody good so I realised very early on that nobody was going to sing them, that it was down to me, and when you start to allow that to happen that takes care of itself. I never thought about becoming a singer, I just realised that I was singing songs on the acoustic and if I wanted anyone to hear them then I was going to have to sing them to my mates, my mum and dad and then to a wider audience too.

“I’ve always seemed to live my life in those situations anyway. I’ve always done things that from the outside point of view looks a little bit like ‘wooh’. You stand up and be counted and you put yourself in the line of fine and then you kind of get on with it because that’s the only way that anything is achieved, I guess. I never really gave it too much thought; I just stood up and had to sing.

“I was the bass player in The La’s but I was starting to sing, I was finding my voice and I wrote some of the early songs probably to have been sung in The La’s at some stage. I wasn’t leaving The La’s until I went ‘I need to do something with these songs’. Your life is part of you, you can turn your back on things but it’s still a part of your make-up and who you are. The La’s are still within me, it’s just that Cast is very much within me too. I was a bass player, I was a singer, I was many things, and probably will continue to be things wherever the journey takes me.”

Cast play at O2 Academy Leeds on December 21. www.castband.co.uk