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How The Alarm's Mike Peters Is Staying Creative In Quarantine
4/23/2020 by Gary Graff
The band shares 'Irish Sea' from upcoming 'Stream - Hurricane of Change.'
Striding along the sea singing a song called, well, "Irish Sea" might seem like an obvious setting for the new video from the Alarm's Mike Peters. But the clip for the soaring, anthemic track -- shot on Rhyl Beach and premiering below from the group's upcoming project Stream - Hurricane of Change -- packs some significant emotional resonance for the singer.
"The house I was born in overlooked the Irish Sea," Peters tells Billboard. "My formative up bringing was 100 yards from the real seafront, where the Irish Sea laps up onto North Wales." Of even greater significance, Peters adds, "you could argue the Alarm started on those (sands) when I was four years old, when...I met my next door neighbor, (Alarm co-founder) Eddie MacDonald. We played with bucks on the sands of the Irish Sea, and that's how the band started in a way. That's how it all happened. So I just felt that's where I needed to sing that song for the camera, walking on the beach with the water lapping at my footsteps."
Due out June 12, Stream - Hurricane of Change also takes Peters back -- not quite to his childhood but to the turbulent period between 1985-90, when the Alarm was making its third and fourth albums, 1987's Eye of the Hurricane and 1989's Change, amidst degrees of inner-band turmoil (it eventually broke up for eight years starting in 1991). The two-disc set is an outgrowth of Peters' one-man show, which recasts and re-sequences songs from the two albums with added narration and another new song, "Ballad of Randolph Turpin," in addition to "Irish Sea."
"I thought it might be interesting to see how these songs stack up in the modern environment," Peters explains. "When you carry these things like I do, playing them every night, they change with the audience and the circumstances and the lifetime you live. So I've gone back and remade them as contemporary songs and applied the musical thinking and knowledge I have today to see where they would go if they're arranged for today."
Peters acknowledges Stream - Hurricane of Change is "an autobiographical affair," and he's come to realize that the songs reflected the conflicts going on within the Alarm at the time. While rumors of a breakup were overstated then, Peters says "it was a really difficult time, a lot of tension around the band," mostly over songwriting issues.
"I was doing my best to keep the band together, trying to appease the warring factions, so to speak, and it felt like I'd almost lost a little bit of myself in the confusion," Peters recalls. "When I went back to these songs and looked at them in a different way and I different sequence, I really saw what was going on -- the problems we were having especially making Eye of the Hurricane. And then the second act, through the Change record, is when changes happened and you start coming back upstream and rediscover your true self. The narrative is very extreme."
Peters, of course, had to shelve plans to bring Stream - Hurricane of Change to the U.S. for a few shows in April, but he's been approached by a theater company in the U.K. "to develop it further." Noted British stage producer Phil Clarke even described it as "a cross between (the Who's) Quadrophenia and Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood," according to Peters. "It's got a lot of life to it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing where it takes me," he says. "I'm just going with the flow now."
During the interim he and his wife Jules are staying creative by hosting a weekly (4 p.m. ET Saturdays but starting 2 p.m. ET on April 25) Facebook Live called Big Night In via the Official Alarm page. "We run it like a mini broadcast studio," says Peters, who on April 25 will be hosting a performance of the theater piece Oxy & the Morons. "I get to play some songs and talk and have a couple of video premieres. We've made it quite a special show for Alarm fans, so we've got that to look forward to until we're released from our homes and we can get back to our normal lives, the way they were before this coronavirus came along."