Cast are a pop/rock band from Liverpool, England who formed in 1992. The two constants in the band throughout their existence are John Power and Peter Wilkinson.
Power, formally of legendary Liverpool band The La’s moved from bass guitar to rhythm guitar for his new project, being joined by Peter Wilkinson. Wilkinson had previously been a member of Shack who took up backing vocals and bass in this new band.
There were several early line-ups and these included musicians such as ex La’s members Peter Cammell, Barry Sutton as well as local guitarist Ged Malley and percussionist Russell Brady.
The band recorded with Bob Pridden (former engineer to The Who) but Power, decidedly displeased with the demos soon, aborted the sessions, separated the band and removed himself from former La’s label Go! Discs in 1993. Power and Wilkinson then formed a new band with fresh impetus.
Signed By Polydor
Keith O’Neill previously of The Empty Hours was the inaugural new member after Power had observed him playing with The Windmills then led by Howie Payne who would go on to form The Stands.
Wilkinson then approached Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson to join up with the band. Formerly of Pyramid Dream guitarist Tyson initially rebuffed Wilkinson’s approach because he had earlier sold his equipment in order to fund a career teaching canoeing in Cumbria. However the band were not to be left unhappy for long and finally snared their man in November 1993.
The bands first gig with what would become their main line-up came in January 1994 in Hull. Support slots were arranged with names like Oasis and Elvis Costello and it was through the gigs with Oasis that Polydors chief A&R man Paul Adam signed the band on 13 December 1994 (Exactly three years since Power had cut his ties with The La’s).
First Single – Finetime
The bands first single “Finetime” was an upbeat guitar record suiting perfectly the upbeat guitar sound of the time and the group slipped seamlessly into the Britpop mold. The record hit #17 spot while a Power penned ex-La’s tune called “Alright” weighed in with a #13 placement.
The band went on to release their first album ‘All Change’ in October 1995 and the album made an impact on top ten ending up at #7 in the UK album charts. The album had been produced by John Leckie of Stone Roses fame and who’s attachment helped make the album Polydor’s fastest selling debut LP release, toppling the likes of The Jam, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who.
The album spawned two more top ten singles releases “Walkaway” charting at #8 and “Sandstorm” which peaked at #9. October 1996 brought another single release called “Flying” and came in at #4 making the song the bands best performing UK single to date.
Lukewarm critical reviews
A new LP ‘Mother Nature Calls’ was already in the pipelines and was released in April 1997 reaching #3 in the UK albums charts and selling over 1 million units. The album also managed to stick to the Top forty for an incredible six months.
The single releases brought yet more acclaim for the Scouse rockers as the album created hits out of “Live the Dream” (#7), “Guiding Star” (#9), “Free Me” (#7) and “I’m So Lonely” (#14).
Despite the albums unquestionable chart success the album could only achieve lukewarm critical reviews however Power maintains that many critics told him they had later changed their minds about it helping to dispel the dangerous notion of dismissing music out of hand.
The bands third album was released in 1999 and went to #6 in the UK album charts however it was recognized that the musical landscape had changed since 1996’s ‘Mother Nature Calls’ and the dying embers of Britpop had begun to flicker.
As a result the band had procured ex-Pixies producer Gil Norton to engineer a heavier sound for the band. “Beat Mama” was the bands first choice as a single and, featuring samples and loops was perhaps a signal to the music listening public of the change in direction the band had taken. The song reached #9 in the singles chart and would be Cast’s final top ten single.
“Magic Hour” the next single from the album suffered from a lack of promotion and after its #28 chart position there were noises from the Power camp that the song should not have been released at all. A third single was cancelled due to infighting between the band and Polydor the album became an extremely short lived project.
Change of musical direction
‘Beetroot’ (2001) was the bands fourth album and represented a radical change in musical direction for the band. Using drum loops and woodwind instruments, the album strayed from the bands roots in the guitar sound and onto something that felt groovier and more funkadelic. The album subsequently flopped reaching just #78 in the UK album chart with its sole single release “Desert Drought” charting at #45.
A UK tour planned for Autumn 2001 was cancelled and the band split only one month after the albums release citing internal differences as the reason for the split.
Following the 2001 split, John Power worked on the 2003 folk/rock release “Happening For Love” and a couple of other acoustic albums on his own Tanuki Tanuki label. He has performed several solo acoustic shows and reformed The La’s for the bands 2005 revival including an appearance at V Festival.
Peter Wilkinson has since hooked up with Echo & The Bunnymen, appearing on 2005’s Siberia before departing to play with his ex-band Shack. He has seen a number of solo releases recorded with a number of familiar names such as Paul Hemmings (The La’s), Carl Cook (The Stairs) and Keith O’Neill (Cast). Wilkinson also toured with Ian McCulloch and The Hours and has been busy creating music for Television advertising.
Keith O’Neill spent time with Aviator (with Wilkinson) before going on to work with Deltasonic Records and The Dead 60’s and Lostprophets as part of their management team.
Liam “Skin” Tyson played with Robert Plant’s band Strange Sensation in 2002 and co-wrote Plant’s album Mighty ReArranger. In 2004 Tyson began work on his 2004 project Men From Mars with the other musicians in Strange Sensation.
22 June 2010 bough the announcement that Cast are to form once again, undertaking a tour celebrating the 15th anniversary of All Change and the band also hope to work on fresh material. The band will shortly play dates at Liverpool Sound city in May and the Isle of Wight festival.
Cast’s Official website.