The Alarm’s Mike Peters is a crusade onto himself

By: George A. Paul

Mike Peters is a man on a mission. The Alarm’s singer/guitarist has scaled the highest of heights to raise awareness for Love Hope Faith Foundation (the name was inspired by the rock band’s song, “Strength”), an international charity he co-founded. It raises money for cancer centers worldwide through unusual concerts and climbs.

Creating the charity and embarking on its various activities is work that hits close to home for Peters, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (a cancer that strikes the immune system) in 1995. He rejected conventional treatment, continued to tour and went into remission two years later. Dark days returned in 2005 when the Welshman found he had Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Between monthly chemo sessions, Peters toured Britain and is now in remission again.

The foundation came about because “I felt massive gratitude to the medical team that helped me through everything and wanted to do something to repay their endeavors to get me well,” says Peters from Hollywood last week. He was preparing for a special UCLA event to commemorate the anniversary of The Alarm’s classic “Spirit of ‘86” concert on campus and worldwide MTV broadcast.

Turns out all those rabble rousing Alarm songs from the 1980s (“Marching On,” “The Stand,” “Sixty Eight Guns”) were more than bluster. Peters definitely walks it likes he talks it.

“I thought, ‘how do we stand out and attract support and donations for the scheme we feel strongly about?’” The answer? Rockin’ at high altitudes.

LHS launched a year ago with a hike up the Empire State Building. Peters and musicians from the Stray Cats, the Cult and English Beat played the first-ever show atop the NYC skyscraper.

A walk up Snowdon Mountain in Wales and Peters’ acoustic performance at the summit came next. Then it was onto an ambitious two-week trek and show at the base camp of Mt. Everest with members of Squeeze, The Fixx and Stray Cats. The Katmandu jaunt is expected to make the Guinness Book of World Records. Another trip to Snowdon is on the 2008 agenda as well as one through the Andes in Peru en route to Machu Picchu.

Considering Peters’ battles with cancer, each event takes detailed preparation. “My wife was concerned about my health (at first), but I saw it as an opportunity to strengthen my fitness . . . I think it’s added years to my life, rather than taken anything way. There’s lot of benefits to putting these challenges in front of you.”

Inland area Alarm fans get a rare treat this weekend when Peters appears solo acoustic in Riverside and Temecula.

“I just go with the flow see where it takes me,” he explains. “I pride myself on listening to the audience. Once I go through the sound check for a gig, I always stay in the venue and feel what the atmosphere is like . . . then I go out and dive into it.”

Indeed, this writer once witnessed a mesmerizing Peters gig at the Coach House where he took requests and played for hours. To guard against surprises, “I go with a lyric book as a safety net.” When someone yelled out an obscurity in San Diego earlier this month, the singer turned to its page, but remembered the lyrics anyway. “Your instincts carry you forward in that first instant. As long as you trust it, you can’t go too far wrong.”

When asked if he had any recollections of The Alarm’s handful of local appearances—namely the Riverside Convention Center in November 1985 (the band also did Pomona in 1983 and UCR in 1989)—he says, “yes, it coincided with Thanksgiving. I remember we had the Cruzados opening. At that time, we were playing at our very best . . . all the members of the band were pulling in the same direction. (Guitarist) Dave Sharp was so energized.

“I’ve got fond memories of that period of the tour because we were so together at that point. When we got into 1987, the whole dynamic of the group changed.”

Peters says he is still enjoying the current incarnation of The Alarm, which features guitarist James Stevenson (Generation X), bassist Craig Adams (The Mission, Sisters of Mercy) and drummer Steve Grantley (Stiff Little Fingers). They will follow up 2006’s stellar “Under Attack” CD with a new studio effort and American tour later this year.