“It’s the longest I’ve ever been without playing a show, y’know, since I was seventeen. It’s weird not to have it. Two years of not being able to play shows has made me keen to play as many shows as possible,” says Power of Dreams’ Craig Walker, in an easy, softly-spoken manner down the phone from his home in Berlin.
This time two years ago, the world was a much different place, but among all of the changes and turbulence, for one tiny thing, the idea of Power of Dreams gigging and recording again wasn’t necessarily on the table.
Garnering critical attention in 1990 with the release through Polydor of debut LP ‘Immigrants, Emigrants and Me’, and hitting the road hard when not in the studio, the Dublin-originating outfit burned briefly but brightly, living and surviving in spite of the twin seismic events of grunge and Britpop before splitting in 1995, barring the odd reunion gig, including a 2012 excursion to the Pavilion in Cork.
Re-assembling in 2020 and releasing a comeback album, 'Ausländer', the following year, the band have been getting in gear to hit the road with a new live lineup, including a stop at Cork’s Cyprus Avenue on Sunday March 13, brandishing familiar fan-favourites, new tunes, and rearranged versions of older tunes, returning to a city that’s been a home for them since the days of Cork Rocks gigs at Sir Henry’s.
“I think the streaming thing kind-of brought home how… it's not just about what you're watching, it's about the feeling in the room, and the connection with other people, the shared experience of a show.”
To say that ‘Ausländer’ came into the world in dramatically different circumstances than ‘Immigrants…’ would be a tremendous understatement, albeit informed by the same sense of transience and uncertainty as the world of 1990: the so-called ‘end of history’ mentality that prevailed around the fall of the Iron Curtain being anything but, of course.
But while the former was originally intended to be a rework of the latter, before new ideas manifested themselves and the project became an album in its own right, the biggest change for Walker was working remotely in the manner lots of bands have found themselves putting up with over lockdown.
"I remember - we were going into lockdown, and I was working on an album for a new project, Craig Walker and the Cold. We were almost finished with that record, and we had to just down tools, and we couldn't do it in the studio anymore. So I went home and after about a week of lockdown, I just called Eric Alcock (producer) up and said 'you know, we can't finish the record, but maybe we could do something with Power of Dreams', and he was up for that.
"I was looking through stuff that I'd put to one side over the years, always with the intention that if we ever did record again that I'd look at it, so I sent some of these songs to Eric, and he said, 'yeah, let's do it'.
“So I got in touch with him, in London, and Keith (Walker, drummer), in Arizona, everybody was on board. And so it was then like, 'let's do a new record', and a lot of the stuff was written specifically from when we decided we were going to do it, I'd say about half and half.”
Of course, we couldn’t go into this conversation without touching on ‘Immigrants…’, not the least because its songs will form the basis of familiarity with which returning fans from the nineties will be looking for amid the new material.
As mentioned earlier, it wouldn't be exactly out of place at the present moment if it were to be released today, but Walker is pleased with a recent 2FM documentary, and the memory that the album holds for many listeners to this day.
“I listened to it again, I was listening to the documentary as it went out. I was amazed at how well the stuff holds up. You know, it's 32 years old now. And I think it was obvious that because we recorded it live, it's got that vibe. The bass and drums are recorded together, apart from a couple of patches that had to be just repaired.
“We didn't use Pro Tools - we got to record to tape, in a really good studio with a really good producer, and the band was on fire. We played loads and loads of gigs, from when we signed in December of 1989, til we went into the studio in March, Polydor had us out on the road all of that time.
“And I think it captures that, that's what I'm really glad of, it captures the live sound. Keith was sixteen when we recorded ‘Immigrants’. He was so powerful at that age, that it just comes across in the record.”
In the spirit of moving on, in whatever the post-Covid circumstances might be, new EP ‘Baby Boy’, releasing on March 11 on the band’s own digital channels, sets the tone for a bigger move from Auslander in future releases.
Newly-written work sits alongside songs left over from the band’s first run, all newly recorded and acting as a document of a time of change for the band. Walker is happy with the standing the record puts them in for the road.
"It's kind of more... with my songwriter hat on, much more in that kind of vein. It was done in the same way that the last album was done, sending parts. Keith did his drums in Arizona. I think (the title track) is a really good pop single. The one that I really liked is 'Over the Northern Border', which is the first song Keith ever sang. I wrote the words, he wrote the music, I had the words for ages, and I said 'try something with that'. And he went away, and he did music. And he sounds like the guy from the Fontaines' grandad (laughs).
"'All Because' is from the first demo we ever did, 1987. So from a historical point of view, there's a great video from (RTÉ pop show) Jo Maxi, you'll find that on YouTube. (Late bandmate) Robbie (Callan) is in it, it's really, really cool. So I'm friends with Tyler Pope from LCD Soundsystem, he lives in Berlin. He's my neighbor, and I sent it to him. He was like, 'dude, that sounds awesome, that would be a hit today'. That was cool.”
Power of Dreams’ next EP, ‘Baby Boy’, releases digitally on March 11, at https://www.powerofdreams.ie.
Power of Dream play Cyprus Avenue in Cork on Sunday, March 13, tickets on sale at cyprusavenue.ie.