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Mike Peters Captures Today’s Raw Emotions On The Alarm’s Triumphant Comeback WAЯ
In much the same way as his kindred spirit Neil Young did back in 1991 with “Rockin’ in the Free World,” The Alarm’s Mike Peters has embedded himself in the moment. On the band’s new album WAЯ, Peters has captured current events and the politically divisive words of world leaders and turned them into raw musical anthems. WAЯ is a highly charged return to form for Peters and the band- a ten song assault on injustice and indecency perpetrated by men who should know better.
“When the Capitol was occupied, it felt like that was one step too far,” Peters tells American Songwriter. “It’s not just an American issue- it affects the whole world. All our lives are wrapped up in this moment.”
The explosive opening track “Protect and Survive,” with its chugging eighth note feel and pointed lyrics, echoes the Neil Young classic and bursts out of the speakers with a passionate fist-in-the-air singalong quoting directly from today’s headlines. “Tribes (Stop the War)” and “Crush” stand as ‘80s contemporary redux calls to action: “You can’t crush a movement/you can’t crush you and I/we won’t be denied.” A cleverly chosen Massive Attack cover, “Safe from Harm” features Skindred’s Benji Webbe, a fellow Welshmen, growling the song’s “serious, infectious and dangerous” hook line, alongside Peters’ melodic interpretation. Raw indeed.
Suffice to say, it takes a lot to upset the always jovial Welsh-born singer. This is a man who has faced and conquered cancer three times. Rather than crumble, Peters started a charity, the Love Hope Strength Foundation, in 2005 to ensure quality care for cancer survivors. He and his wife Jules led 38 cancer survivors and musicians on an expedition up Mt. Everest in 2007, culminating in a concert with fellow musicians Cy Curnin and Jamie West-Oram of The Fixx, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats to call attention to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The event was broadcast on MTV and watched by over 3 million viewers.
In many ways, the new album is a musical full circle for Peters. Though he lives 3000 miles away in Wales, Peters has a special bond with the United States. One of the Alarm’s earliest tours outside Europe was a 1983 US tour with U2 supporting that band’s breakthrough War album.
The January 6 storming of the US Capitol proved to be a tipping point for Peters, who was on the phone with an American friend in Washington while the events unfolded.
“I have a lawyer friend in Washington who represents a lot of fairly high up politicians on both sides. I had the TV on and was talking to him on Zoom and all of a sudden there were images of people storming the Capitol. My friend was worried about his friends in the building. I was caught up on the call and it was quite surreal. It smashed into my brain. I had this song “280 Ways” I was working on and the words “protect and survive” came to me. That set the theme and was the starting point.”
Peters began chronicling his efforts in 2007, which included a concert atop Mt. Everest. An ensuing documentary, “Everest Rocks,” was viewed by over 3 million people. Footage from that concert, along with stops at the Empire State Building, Mt. Kathmandu Nepal, Mt. Fuji, the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu will be shown as part of today’s event. Musical guest include Slim Jim Phantom, Glenn Tilbrook, Kevin Bacon, Billy Duffy, Brien McVernon, Donavon Frankenreiter, Nick Harper, Cy Curnin and a There is also an auction supporting World Cancer Day, which is open until 12th February. Check it out here: https://lovehopestrength.org/the-love-hope-strength-world-cancer-day-online-auction. And look out for the Love Hope Strength Rock and Roll Prize Draw. Launching today, this prize draw will continue on through all of February.
Peters and the Alarm also plan to release a brand-new album ‘WAR’ on February 26. The record is still in the process of being written and recorded, and fans were able to pre-order the record. The band has been inviting fans to view daily vlogs as they write and record via www.thealarm.com.
of other acclaimed musicians.Inspired by the urgency of the newly written lyrics, Peters gave himself a deadline of fifty days- start to finish- to complete the record and get it into fan’s hands. He also opened up the studio recording sessions, giving viewers an intimate window to watch online as the band worked through the songs.
“I have to thank our producer George Williams for pulling this all together during isolation. I was working in a caravan on the top of our driveway and set up guitars and vocals. I mostly used a hollow-body and played a lot of the guitars myself, since I was writing the songs. I shared them with George and our drummer Smiley over Zoom. We’d decide on a tempo and I’d put a guide track down while Smiley laid down drums. We’d send them to James (Stevenson) for some guitars and George pulled it all together. The only time we got to work in the studio together with George was on the last four days during the mix.”
WAЯ echoes an earlier album, 1991’s Raw, with a deliberately spelled backwards graphic.
“We’ve been living through war. That’s why the R is reversed on the cover. It’s really looking behind the word ‘raw.’ We’ve all got raw emotions through this time. We’ve all been to war through this, and we’ve all had to be on the frontline trying to deal with this, whether it’s immense loneliness or turning to drink because there’s nothing else to do. Or being infected by toxic people on the internet who are supposed to lead us but make us feel angrier than we should. There’s going to be lots of scars on humanity when we all meet and compare our stories.”
Peters had been working on a 30th anniversary remake of the Raw album, intending to give those songs a fresh spin. It’s an album he felt never quite gelled the way it should have, partly due to tensions in the band as well as a changing musical climate.