Cast Speak To REBEL

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Leah Hamer || Novermber 14th

It’s not every day that you interrupt a musical titan whilst they are in the process of writing their latest hit, ‘Sorry, I was just in the middle of an idea.’ John Power’s scouse accent echoes from the other end of the phone, as he places his guitar down. With the horrendous thought, I have just ruined Cast’s new single, circulating in my head, I apologised repeatedly but John just laughs, ‘It’s alright, although strangely enough, I haven’t felt the need to pick a guitar lately. Just because I’ve got this new album that hasn’t come out so nobody's heard it yet.’

The new album is Kicking Up The Dust, and although it has been ready for several months, Cast fans all over the world will not be able to get their hands on it until February. The time scale received a set back after a switch-around with record companies; originally Kicking Up The Dust was to be self-financed and released without outside-influence, until an offer was made with Warner Bros. back in July. ‘We’re really happy with it.’ Excitement is audible in John’s voice, ‘It’s very much Cast but without any novelties. It’s an eclectic mix, some up-tempo, some slower and more mature, but there is a continuity. It has a contemporary sound, meaning it was recorded with today’s sound in mind.’

Despite Cast finding their footing in the early nineties, the revamped four-piece are not clinging on to the style of their heyday. Recording with Al Groves in Liverpool encouraged John, along with guitarist Liam Tyson, bassist Keith O’Neill and drummer Jay Lewis to mix up their techniques. ‘In the past we would have recorded the songs in one big block. With this we went in the studio at the beginning of last year with Baby Blue Eyes, then we were writing ideas and rediscovering old songs that we had lying around, things I’d forgotten, and we recorded in little batches, at weekends, whenever we had spare time.’ John explains, ‘A lot of the album was written and arranged on the spot so it was a very different process, I didn’t have a real idea of where I was going. I worked a lot more with Keith and Jay on just a rhythm section. It was quite exciting and liberating, a new way of writing.’

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This fresh outlook on recording and writing has meant that there is a distinct difference between their new material and their latest album, Troubled Times, recorded in 2012 with John Leckie, ‘I don’t know whether it [Troubled Times] was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, but it was both leaning back to the past and veering towards the future. But on this album there’s a different texture with the drums and the vocals and maybe it’s caused by working with someone who’s more akin to the music now.’

As someone who has been in the industry for decades and has found fame not only with Cast but also with The Las and as a solo artist, I had to ask what John really makes of the world of music today. ‘I’ve been a part of the business for years, but also very removed, all I’ve ever done is write songs and sing, I’m unwise to the rest. I’m not a train-spotter when it comes to contemporary music, I can’t name the bands and I don’t feel the need to go and see bands in my spare time, but I know there’s a lot of good music knocking around…’

‘What do I think of the music now? It’s healthy for what it is. What does it reflect? I don’t know.’ He pauses for a moment and contemplates the changes that he has been a witness to, ‘I don’t want to sound too judgemental. I don’t know if now has as much verve as the other decades I’ve lived through. There was a lot more working-class indie before. Think of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, from the early eighties onwards, from Joy Division to The Bunnymen to the Roses to Oasis to Cast. There was a certain Northern working-class mentality in that day. But things change, the industry has become more comfortable with itself.’

John is not the sort of man who lives in the past, ‘I don’t want to sound like someone preaching the day of yesterday because we’ve just written an album that is very much today,’ and he is happy to accept that music, just like everything else in the world, is ever-changing, ‘I think things have amalgamated, anyone can be a musician now, it’s so accessible. Not everyone wants to be Elvis or have a guitar strung on their back like John Lennon now. I hear a lot of good music out there, there’s always art and music there to reflect the time we live in… Although you’d think that there’d be something a little edgier to go with it, maybe there is and I just haven’t heard it.’

With every new album comes a new tour, which for Cast starts on Thursday 17th November in Hull, before their next stop at Keele University on Saturday 19th November. ‘The band are on fire at the moment. There’s kind of an understanding between us, a looseness between ourselves, we know where we’re at now. I’m enjoying live performances more than ever and I mean that. The stage is a very exciting place for us to be and the old hits and the new stuff balance out great.’

With that, I left the legend to his writing, in the hope that I had not disturbed his new song too much.

Cast are a band that lived through the glorious era of Brit-pop yet do not desire to re-live it. They welcome change, although it may be trying at times. Musicians must adapt to their surroundings and celebrate the feats of sound that can be made in this modern world as well as enjoy the tracks of earlier times. ‘The old… and the new… balance out great.’

Make sure to catch Cast live at Keele University on Saturday 19th November, alongside local lads Thieves Asylum and Psyence. Tickets are available from https://keelesu.com/ents/event/2223/