SOMETIMES people simply have to grow up.
Take one-time anthem machine Cast – back at The Leadmill on March 27 – a Liverpool band that were their label’s biggest sellers in the late ’90s and seemingly bound for sustained greatness.
And then singer John Power called it a day. “It was a collection of things,” he reflects now.
“I was probably at burn-out. Half the band didn’t want to be involved, but that’s the way life goes when you spend so long together in close proximity.
“We were young, it was hedonistic; there’s bound to be a point where the party’s over. I’d had enough of myself, never mind anyone else having enough of me.”
A salvo of hit singles including Fine Time, Alright and Sandstorm and four albums between 1995 and 2001 saw the former La’s bassist enjoy global success with a sound that evolved between début All Change and the less direct Beetroot.
With Cast disbanded John pursued a solo career, making rootsy/folk-edged records, before returning to a revived La’s. He reformed Cast 18 months ago.
“I hadn’t fallen out with anyone, it’s just my life had gone into a different realm. There was a long period where I wouldn’t have been happy to be singing and playing in Cast and I didn’t, I turned my back on it all.
“It was the same for all of us, different relationships, working with different musicians. I’d bumped into the lads once or twice over a decade.
“Obviously then there was a little bit of ‘Is this going to be weird, are we capable of getting in a room together again? Are there any hang-ups or resentments?’ But the idea was to get on stage, get in a room, see if we had the semblance of a band again. We soon found out we did.”
Just-released fifth album Troubled Times, recalling John Leckie to the production chair, is arguably an extension of past output, but doesn’t seek to re-create the past, rather nurture a mature sound with a topical lyrical bent.
“I spent about 18 months forming the idea that Cast were getting back together. That process led me to feel at ease with my own musical heritage and the fact Cast existed.
“I kind of fell out with it all and had to go back and rekindle the initial spark. Then, having fully embraced the concept, I had to make sure the band would be involved.
“I came with the songs finished and had ideas of where the songs were gonna be and the band obviously brought a bit of themselves to the party, but I wouldn’t have rung the lads if I didn’t feel I already had the heavyweight nucleus there.”
John insists he didn’t simply want Cast to be out there bank-rolling past hits, but to tender something new, to them at least.
“I’d have never reformed Cast if we didn’t have a new album, so it’s feeling really natural, really good. I’m really proud of the album. From the idea of writing the first chord on the first song to getting the band together after all these years to having a relationship where we can feel close enough to get on the road again and record an album, I’m happy to be where I’m at.
“If we can exist in the present and not be a pastiche of the past, I’m happy playing the old stuff. And these songs are going to fit in.
“I wasn’t sure at first. I knew it was a new bag of tricks I was writing, but it doesn’t sound out of context.
“What we’ve done is make sure we were true to the songs. We didn’t over-indulge but we certainly nurtured them, gave them what they needed. The band are great musicians and there’s a maturity and development in the band and in my songwriting and singing.”
Now a father of three – he takes his eldest Finlay to some shows – John admits the tolerance and outlook that comes with age is an ingredient in the ‘new’ Cast.
“It took time for us to feel all right with each other, but we’ve developed our friendship and our playing again.
“We’re a better, tighter band than we ever were, ironically. We know what we’ve got, we’re living very much in the present. It’s not about tomorrow.
“It’s not a major record deal. We’ve got rid of a lot of the stuff that comes with being in a band when you’re young... the vanity and expectations. It’s the songs and interaction with the fans that it’s all about.
“We had a couple of demons to face. All our lives changed personally and collectively. But I sing and play because that’s what I do, all I can do; I’m actually getting quite good at it.
“I’m growing up. My life has been a colourful journey. Some people long to be young again, but I’m happy where I’m at and looking forward to the future. Values and aspirations have changed; I wouldn’t want to go back.”
And that’s arguably reflected in the frankness of Troubled Times, an at-times dark record with little fluff.
“This album has tried to be personal, but observational too – how I see the world. There are some love songs, it’s personal, but I’m not the only one feeling. We are individuals but we’re not isolated. It’s not meant to be a bleak album. It’s meant to be inspiring and truthful, and it’s also about the losses and gains of life. There’s frustration but that’s what’s going on outside our windows, right now, in the newspapers.
“It’s made my peace with my past and given me something that’s valid in the present. There’s a lot of positive stuff.
“It’s got the realism of life lived. It’s not as naive or wide-eyed as some songs of the past, but I was younger then and thought I was going to change the world – now I’m just going to change my world.
“And if you want to change yours... isn’t that a great place to be?”