Ten years ago, if you would have asked John Power a question about being the frontman of one of Britain’s most popular 90s bands, you might have got a short answer.
Fast forward to 2013, speaking to him a few hours before he goes onstage in Bristol to front that same band once again, he is happy to tell all.
Cast, one of the giants of the Britpop era, are currently on a co-headlining tour with The Twang, which will call at the O2 Academy in Leeds on Saturday.
“I quite like the idea of co-headlining,” Power says; that thick scouse accent still very much in essence, it makes him sound much younger than his 45 years. “Slowly, I think people are discovering guitar music and our place within it. Sometimes you look at the audience and go ‘they look quite old’, then you realise that some of the bands are quite old as well! But we do get younger people discovering us.”
Throughout the 90s, the British charts were sodden with Britpop, and bands such as Oasis, Cast and Blur dominated Radio 1’s playlist. John Power’s mixture of powerful vocals and strong songwriting abilities, complemented by his natural coolness, made him as powerful a frontman as Liam Gallagher or Damon Albarn.
Cast’s debut album, All Change, released on Polydor in 1995, became the highest-selling debut album in the history of the label. It featured four top 20 singles, including Sandstorm and Walkaway.
Their second album, Mother Nature Calls, was released to as much critical acclaim. Peaking at number 3 on the UK charts, it featured some of the group’s most successful material, such as Live the Dream and Free Me. Mother Nature Calls stayed in the UK top 40 for over six months.
Power, who was also bassist and second vocalist in The La’s, was one of the leading figures that proved the best image a band can have is no image at all.
The album cover for All Change shows the four members of Cast standing at the base of a monument in a busy square. All wearing black and looking impassively at the camera, this image personifies the Britpop genre.
The band took its name from the final lyric on The La’s self-titled album: “the change is cast”. However, this is something John would never talk about until Cast reformed. “People asked me about it all the time, and instead of turning away from that I’m quite happy to talk about it these days. Things were spiralling out of control and I took that (lyric) as a kind of divine message”, he says tongue-in-cheek. “The change was cast for me.”
Noel Gallagher, recipient of NME’s ‘Godlike Genius’ award, and also a champion of the Britpop era, once described seeing Cast’s live show as being like a “religious experience.”
However, this era of all-male, guitar driven music, fronted by effortlessly cool lead singers, would not last forever. As the millennium dawned and tastes began to change, the nation’s music lovers were poised to see where the Britpop giants would go musically. Cast’s answer was their fourth album, Beetroot. More of a John Power solo album than a group project, it was a departure from their first three albums, incorporating a more funky sound centred on looped sections and horns.
Whereas their first three albums all made the UK top 10, Beetroot stalled at no 78. “It’s still a slight bone of contention with the rest of the band. They’ve never got over it”, he laughs, joking “It was ahead of its time.”
Calling a hiatus that lasted for nine years, Power embarked on a solo career releasing three albums. The sound differed from that of Cast or The La’s. “The solo stuff had more of the roots vibes and rock and roll, which I love.”
While touring with these albums, John, who penned all of Cast’s hits, admits that he never played any of them. “I fell out of love with what it was and who I was. I had to go away from them, and now I come back and I really appreciate what great pop songs they are.”
Reforming in 2010, Cast released a new album, Troubled Times, last year. It is much like their earlier stuff, with a fresh element that signifies they are still a force to be reckoned with. “Obviously the new album is not like All Change, which was a million seller, so people have to discover it themselves really, but it’s out there. It kind of stopped the band being just nostalgia, which was very important.”
John will begin a solo tour once the tour with The Twang ends, but says it is not the end of the road for Cast. “I think we should take a good break and get some new material so we can come back again.”
May 18, O2 Academy Leeds, Cookridge Street, Leeds, 6pm, £20.25. Tel: 0844 477 2000. www.ticketweb.co.uk