Being born in the early 80's was pretty cool. By the time I was old enough to own a Sony Walkman, Brit Pop was taking hold of a whole generation and I too, was bucket hat hooked. By the age of 18, Liverpool born singer, songwriter and musician, John Power was recruited by The Las to play bass and from there he went on to front man the mighty Cast - a band whose songs were the seminal soundtrack to my exhilarating, anthem listening, cider drinking teens. Then following three solo albums, John reformed Cast and since 2010, the band have released two albums and played a crazy number of sold out tours and festivals.
It's our absolute pleasure to meet the legend that is John Power (sporting some Allsea.)
Where are you now in your musical career?
'A lot has passed but I'm still relatively in the same place. If you take away the surroundings of 'career', the surface of 'career' - which is a band's success and various other things - I'm in the same place, still striving to write a song, or write another song - still trying to find the song I set out to write. As a writer I'm perpetually looking for the next thing. It's been a wide and varied journey, but that part of me, my inner me, the song writing me, is in the same place ...scratching around, kicking up the dust, trying to find little things and casting my fishing line to find melodies and choruses.'
And are you still enjoying writing songs?
'It's something I spend most of my time doing. I guess I enjoy it because I long for it and I'm always driven by it. I enjoy a good book, a nice meal, people's company, moments of calmness and excitement but song writing is beyond enjoyment I guess. It's a vocation. There's moments of joy when you've passed writing a song. When you come back to a song and you're singing it. But it's a constant push and pull. It's not a struggle cos you do it freely. There's a great thing about writing and that is how it communicates with other people and yourself. There's still something wonderful and magical about singing a song, and being in awe of it yourself - the melody, the sentiment and the fact that other people are getting on it as well. That's the true gratification. The way a song connects with people.'
When you're writing songs, are they personal or do they echo the sign of the times?
'I'd say my songs are all personal because they come through my person. When you look beyond the here and now - poetry and song writing is sometimes more about the Classical themes - Living, Dying, Loving, Losing and Regretting. All those things are within my songs. But I long to write songs that reflect my frustrations and anger at society's whims. I mean I have a strong political stance. I'm a big socialist, and I've been involved in certain issues that I care about... Labour Left, the Justice Campaign for Hillsborough, Musicians Against Homelessness. People know where I stand on politics but do I write political songs? No. Not like Woody Guthrie or Billy Bragg. But I would like to think that within my songs there's a theme for change.'
Who are the song writers you hold dear?
'The old time writers like Dylan, Marley, Lennon, Captain Beefheart, Howlin' Wolf and Townsend. They're all of a certain era. Contemporary writers... I'd have to say Lee Mavers from the La's. He was the most gifted songwriter of a generation, I think. And then there's Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone. She was a political icon as well. If you know her story. It was serious. She gets stuck into the Black Panther Movement. And rightly so.'
What comes first, the music or the lyrics?
'I would say the music is more important than the lyrics. Not when you've finished the song it isn't, but if I haven't got a chord structure and a melody, then all I've got is poetry and lyrics. In the La's and Cast it always used to be about catching the melody and the chords first and you would phonetically be saying something - it might be gobbledygook. But you start to form some words around that phonetic sound, that vowel sound, then hopefully you say something that starts the ball rolling in a lyrical sense. You may get a key lyric that shapes the rest of the lyrics as you're getting it. But it's pretty much always the vowel sounding melody over a chord structure. And once I get that, I know I'm onto something great. Sometimes you get great chords and it's like tuning a radio down, right across the frequency waves, trying to find the best melody. And sometimes I can fiddle with the lyrics for years. I've very rarely finished a song in a day. I like to sleep on it.'
What are you working on at the moment?
'I've just signed a new publishing deal with Warner Chappell and I've got a lot of new material for a Cast / John Power album. I think I've got the main nucleus for it. The songs aren't finished but I know they're there. I'm also co-writing with a few people. That's something I'm looking forward to exploring with Warner Chappell. Even just messing around with some guys in the studio. Throwing down a top line melody. It's very exciting to be back on a really good publishing label. They're really keen and excited and I suppose I'm hitting that sort of age, where I'm that 'classic song writer'. And we do write differently maybe... We're of a lineage, I mean I don't write on the iPad. I still write with the guitar, lyrics on the backs of envelopes. Paper, ink, a wooden guitar, a wistful sigh and a longing for a song.'
Is there anything you'd like to do aside from music?
'I'd like to spend the seasons away from everyone. (Laughs) Just once. Not in solitude exactly. Maybe from Spring to the end of Autumn. Somewhere a little bit out of the way. Just before it's all too late. See the seasons and the passing of a year, away from everything. I might really hate it, but I'd like to try. It's the kind of semi-hermit, spiritual journey that I'd like to do. I'd like to see what sort of me I'd become. In terms of work, I did that little bit of acting, a stage thing and there's talk of more little bits and bobs going on, things in the pipeline... I don't long to do these things but I feel kind of natural around it all. Anything around arts and expression I suppose.'
'I've lived in Stoke Newington for nearly 18 years. It's a very special place. The people I've met in the time I've been here, the people I'm very fond of and find inspiring... that in itself is a special thing. To be able to live and be around these people without even making arrangements to see them - just seeing them in passing or in the pub. I love my community. I know there's a little bit of stigma because of how expensive it's become and it's attracted a certain type of people... But I still dig it, like. And there's still an independent, creative mind set knocking around. It's where I consider home.'
Where's your best local for coffee, beer and bread?
'Definitely Bodega on Allen Road for coffee and bread. The Shakespeare is a great local backstreet boozer. It hasn't changed since 1901. Same bleedin' chairs. You can't beat it. And it serves the local community. And The Auld Shillelagh of course. It's a real old school, wonderful Irish boozer. I love the wideness of it. Like a canal boat.'
How's Liverpool these days?
'Liverpool's got a good thing going on. Museums and Art. Great little quarters. People working and doing great things. I'm always amazed when I go back cos it seems to be changing all the time. There's a lot going on since the 80's when Thatcher nearly closed the place down.'
Any places you recommend to someone who's never been?
'I don't really know all the cool places but the Baltic Triangle is great. I rehearse at Elevator and around that area, there's Camp and Furness. There's a couple of vegan places on Bold Street and The Belvedere that's like a little old pub. Sefton and Calderstones Park - they're the two parks that I grew up with. Calderstones is named after a prehistoric stone circle and there are still some of those stones in there today. And a thousand year old Oak. Sefton's magical too. I'm from South Liverpool so that part of the city has always got special bits for me.'
What book is on the bedside at the moment?
'I've just finished 'East of Eden' by John Steinbeck. It's absolutely stunning, gripping, sad, inspiring and bloody dark as well. I've read a lot of Steinbeck. He's one of my favourite authors. 'Grapes of Wrath'... I was doing kind of Willow Weeps, Folky, Rootsy music when I was reading that book. It kind of took over for a bit. And before that, Laurie Lee, 'Cider with Rosie'. I've read some great books this year actually. If you want me to go through them? It's gonna sound like I'm showing off... Tolstoy 'Anna Karenina', 'Time Machine', 'Narcissus and Goldmund'... Because we ant' got a telly, I go to bed with a book.'
What would you write in a note to your younger self?
'Chill out a bit. Enjoy a few things. I was so, kind of focussed and driven when I was amidst all the so-called success but I could also say that I was uptight and stressed. So keep a loose diaphragm and don't be too hard on yourself. Have a bit of time for people and for yourself, tolerance and a bit of kindness. I'm still having words with myself now. I've been making mistakes all my life but the most important thing is to learn from them and somehow slowly take a step closer to who you wanna be.'
Photography by Zelie Lockhart
Styling by Lou Power / Allsea