1992–1994: formation and early years…
John Power was previously the bass player, backing vocalist and only constant member along with Lee Mavers in The La’s. He left the band on 13 December 1991 after becoming frustrated with the ever increasing number of aborted studio sessions, having played essentially the same set of songs since 1986 and emerging as a songwriter in his own right. Power later commented that by that point he was more interested in his own songs “than anyone else’s”.
Having switched from bass to rhythm guitar whilst residing at Brucklay House – a near derelict squat in Mossley Hill, where the seeds of legendary dance label 3 Beat Records were sown, Power began jamming with friends and with an ever changing line up began to form Cast. The first addition to the band was ex-Shack bassist Peter Wilkinson who had seen Power performing acoustically at a free festival in Liverpool, and who Power had seen around town.”. Embryonic lineups of the band, featuring several guitarists including Ged Malley, ex-La’s members Barry Sutton and Cammy and drummer Russell Brady started gigging in mid 1992 and supported the likes of Pele and The Stairs. Power would later state that he was never happy with these lineups. Unhappy with the band and the demos recorded with Who sound engineer Bob Pridden, he split the band up and extricated himself from his Go! Discs contract in Summer 1993, with whom he was still signed to following his departure from The La’s and set about forming a new lineup with Wilkinson.
The first new member to be recruited was Keith O’Neill who had previously played in The Empty Hours, The Windmills and Tommy Scott’s pre-Space band The Australians and who Power had seen playing in local band The Windmills, fronted by Howie Payne later of The Stands and then guitarist Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson, who Wilkinson knew from college and had previously played in Pyramid Dream. When approached to join the band, Tyson initially declined as he had sold all of his musical equipment to teach canoeing at an outdoor centre in Alston in Cumbria. Tyson, who witnessed one of the band’s early London shows and commented that “John had these songs, but not the band”, joined the band in November 1993 and the new lineup played their first gig in Hull in January 1994. Within months the band secured high profile support slots with Elvis Costello on two UK tours, including 2 nights at the Royal Albert Hall and Oasis. It was during the tour with Oasis that Polydor head of A&R Paul Adam, surprised that the band had not already been snapped up, approached the band to sign them. The band signed to Polydor on 13 December 1994, three years to the day that Power left The La’s.
1995–1998: record deal and success.
The band released their debut single “Finetime” in July 1995, which went straight in at No. 17. The follow-up single “Alright”, a song originally written and performed a handful of times whilst still in The La’s under the original title “Fly On” became the band’s first Top 15 hit in the UK, peaking at No. 13 in the singles chart.
The band’s debut album All Change, released October 1995 was produced by John Leckie who had previously worked with The Stone Roses and The Verve and had also previously worked with Power in The La’s.The album shot to No. 7 in the UK charts, reaching double platinum and went on to become the fastest selling debut album in the history of the Polydor label, outselling the likes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and The Jam. A further two singles were taken from the album in “Sandstorm” and “Walkaway”, both top tens hits.
A stand-alone single was released in October 1996 titled “Flying”, which reached No. 4 on the UK singles chart, giving the band their highest chart position in the UK yet.
With their second album Mother Nature Calls, released April 1997 the “rockier material was now sounding looser and cockier in a Stonesy or Faces-ish way and the moodier tracks awash with melancholic atmosphere”. The band worked again with John Leckie. The album peaked at No. 3, reaching platinum and stayed in the Top 40 for over 6 months. The album spawned three top ten hits in “Free Me” (#7), “Guiding Star” (#9), “Live the Dream” (#7) and one top twenty hit with the 4th single from the album “I’m So Lonely” (#14), a ballad written during a period of bleak loneliness in a Japanese hotel room. Power revealed that the album title was supposed to be tongue in cheek, because Mother Nature is always calling because of man’s mortality, but also because he was on the toilet at the time he came up with the name. Although The Daily Telegraph proclaimed “Employing the spiritual terms of Power’s lyrics, Cast may be the perfect Taoist band. They don’t seem to try. Cast just are.”, the album received largely mixed reviews in the press, Power later blamed this on the fact that it was more of a slow burner than the more instant All Change and claimed that a number of critics later told him that repeated listens had changed their perceptions of the album.
1999–2001: Post-Britpop and split
By the time the band set to work on their third album, Magic Hour, released May 1999 the Britpop movement was faltering – a number of Cast’s contemporaries, such as Kula Shaker and The Seahorses had disbanded, Suede and Mansun were experiencing a drop in record sales from their previous efforts and label mates Shed Seven and Medal had been dropped by Polydor. Amid the changing musical climate, the band enlisted Gil Norton who had previously produced The Pixies and the band moved towards a heavier riff based sound. Power described the album as “21st century rock’n’roll” and “Walt Disney doing Quadrophenia”.
The first single from “Magic Hour” was “Beat Mama”, with the band using loops and samples on the record for the first to give the material a more modern feel, Power described the song as “a call to everyone, a beat for everyone to move to, like the old Kia-Ora advert with the dog and the crows”.The song became the band’s last top ten hit, peaking at No. 9. In a chart now awash with teen pop the album shot to No. 6. A second and final single was taken from the album “Magic Hour”, which stalled at No. 28. Momentum was lost due to a lack of touring and Power also later criticised the choice of single, suggesting the band should have gone with something more uptempo. A planned third single was scrapped after disagreements between the band and label. Following the release and short lived promotion of the album, Power stated that he believed with three albums under Cast’s belt that a chapter had finished.
Power began writing in early 2000 for the follow-up, Beetroot, released July 2001. Although initially set to work again with Leckie, Power met producer and programmer Tristin Norwell and was interested in working with him as he was “up on now, the sounds of now and someone who I can talk to with an acoustic”. The pair began working on the album together for 3 months before moving to another studio, where other members of the band contributed. Bassist Peter Wilkinson was not present for much of the recording due to the birth of his son, guitarist Skin Tyson mostly featured only as rhythm guitarist and most of the drums were cut up and looped. The album was based largely on loops and featured heavy use of horns and flutes and deliberately moved away from the bands guitar sound as Power claimed the band “wanted to come back with something that feels fresh and enticing” and described the material as groovier and talked of having a desire of “combining this sort of Marley and funkadelic stuff or Sly and the Family that I’ll get into as much as I get into Townshend and Lennon”.
Only one single was released from the album, “Desert Drought” which stalled at No. 45 in the charts. The album fared worse, failing to make the Top 75, crawling to No. 78 on the charts. Following the cancellation of a planned UK Autumn tour due to “internal band circumstanes”, Cast split in August 2001 just one month after the release of the album. It had been rumoured in the UK tabloid press that the band had been dropped by Polydor and that Power had walked out of the band. However, a spokesman for the band at the time denied the band were splitting, that they were merely taking time out to work on solo projects. John Power released a statement to deny any rifts in the band and that this was “just the beginning of a new musical chapter”, but would later admit that there were lots of internal differences in the band by the end and admitted “When Cast split, it was the same as when The La’s fell apart. You pretend everything is okay, but it’s not. I was really down, really depressed”.
Following the split, John Power released a solo album entitled Happening For Love in 2003 through Eagle Rock Entertainment and 2 further solo albums more in the acoustic folk vein through his own record label Tanuki Tanuki. He has toured regularly as The John Power Band (which has featured Steve Pilgrim of The Stands and Jay Lewis and Nick Miniski of the 2005 lineup of The La’s) as well as performing solo acoustic shows. In 2005, Power played a series of gigs with newly-reformed The La’s. The band didn’t showcase any new material and have not been heard from again.
Peter Wilkinson, along with the band’s live keyboardist Paul Ellison joined Echo & The Bunnymen and appeared on the 2005 album Siberia before leaving shortly after to rejoin the re-formed Shack. In 2002 he released a solo album via The Viper Label under the guise of Aviator with help from O’Neill, Paul Ellison and former La’s guitarist Paul Hemmings. In 2003 Wilkinson and O’Neill briefly joined Kealer with Manchester singer-songwriter Jason Kelly and then set to work with ex-Stairs guitarist Carl Cook on a follow-up to the first Aviator album in early 2004 which was seemingly shelved. He then formed the short lived DC-10. Wilkinson has also recorded and toured with a number of other artists including Ian McCulloch and The Hours and more recently has started composing music for TV commercials.
Keith O’Neill, following stints with Aviator and Kealer went on to work as part of the management team at Deltasonic Records before going on to work as a tour and production manager with bands such as the now-defunct Liverpool band Dead 60s, Babyshambles, Art Garfunkel, Lostprophets and Foals.
Liam Tyson joined Robert Plant’s band, Strange Sensation in early 2002, touring Plant’s album Dreamland before appearing on and co-writing the follow-up Mighty ReArranger. He then set about working on his Men From Mars project in 2004, originally set to feature Wilkinson and O’Neill, with others members of Strange Sensation.
Power undertook a “Cast Acoustic Show” tour in June 2010, where he played a set of Cast songs along with new tracks written over the past year for a potential new Cast album. On 22 June, it was officially announced by NME that the band were to reform, with plans to work on new material. The band toured the UK in November and December to mark the 15th anniversary of All Change. A deluxe edition of All Change was released on 25 October that year, to tie in with the re-union and 15th anniversary of the album, containing the original album re-mastered plus b-sides, outtakes, demos and live recordings.
On 6 November, John Power appeared on British TV show Soccer AM, and stated that Cast would be starting work on a new album in early 2011, and that it would be released via Pledgemusic.
Cast released their fifth studio album, Troubled Times, produced by John Leckie, initially as a download to pledgers through Pledgemusic on 2 November 2011, with a physical release in March 2012. The album received mixed reviews scoring an average of 5.3 at aggregator website Any Decent Music. Furthermore the album failed to chart in the UK.The album featured drummer Steve Pilgrim, who also completed a short tour with the band in December 2011. The future of original drummer O’Neill is uncertain with the band, as he is regularly unable to take part in recording and touring due to work commitments as a tour manager. In response to a fan’s query on Twitter, he stated that a tour in early 2012 should feature the original line-up unless he is “called upon by a major client”.