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Interview: The Alarm’s Mike Peters Discusses New Album, ‘Sigma’, Touring and Living Life to the Fullest
Originally intended to be part of double-compilation called Blood Red Viral Black, The Alarm’s infectious new album, Sigma acts as the sequel to 2018’s critically-acclaimed Equals and features contributions from such musical giants as original Alarm guitarist Dave Sharp and Billy Duffy from The Cult.
Sigma, as well as its predecessor, mark a creative change for Peters, who crafted most of the songs from lyrics he’d written while he and his wife, Jules, were going through cancer treatment. The result is a second volume of material fueled by heartfelt emotion, angst, and revelation.
In addition to the new album The Alarm will soon embark on one of summer’s most highly-anticipated tours, where the alternative British rockers will join post-punk auteurs Modern English and the charismatic Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel on what’s being hailed as The Sigma LXXXV Tour.
Peters’ Love Hope Strength charity will also host bone marrow drives at each concert aimed at finding finding donors for people suffering from blood cancers. To date, the charity has registered in excess of 200,000 people, with more than 4,000 potentially lifesaving matches.
Sigma will be released on Friday, June 28.
I recently spoke with Mike Peters about the new Alarm album, touring and more in this exclusive new interview.
How does the new album compare with some of The Alarm’s previous work?
Mike Peters: It’s very much a sequel from our last record, Equals, which came out last year. The music of both albums was conceived at the same time. Originally, it was going to be a double-album called Blood Red Viral Black, but on the eve of release we decided to switch focus and release a single album, Equals, with the knowledge that a sequel would be released twelve months later. There’s a lot of connection between the two records.
The material for these two albums came about a little bit differently than what you’ve done in the past. Can you talk a little about the songwriting process?
In times gone by I’d usually start at the top of the mountain. Where you’d have that initial expression, phrase or chorus, and then you’d work your way down to find the bridge, verse and finally, the lyrics. With this set of music I started at the bottom of the mountain with lyrics first. A lot of songs came out of the turmoil of the situation when I found myself relapsed from the leukemia I’ve carried most of my adult life. At the same time my wife, Jules, was diagnosed with breast cancer, so it was a double whammy. I put everything on hold while we faced this challenge together. There were lot of places where I found myself threatened, emotionally, and I’d write down my feelings. It was only after we came through the worst of these times that I showed my wife all the things I’d written down. That’s when she said to me “This is the start of a new Alarm record. Then I printed all the lyrics out and laid them on the floor around me and started looking for the music in the lyrics to go back up the hill. These albums are very different from how I’ve worked in the past. It’s been quite liberating.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Sigma, starting with “Blood Red Viral Black.”
The key line is in the chorus. At the time that I wrote it I was very threatened with my existence and the uncertainty of what was happening with my wife and family. That drove a lot of the lyrical creation. I started putting things into categories: one was red, one was black; inwards and outward and blurred. It’s a bridge across two feelings.
What was the inspiration behind the song “Brighter Than The Sun?”
When I saw my wife come home from one of her treatments there was a light in her I’d never seen before. It was radiant. Her determination burned so brightly. That’s where the song really came from. We’ve all known people in our own families; unsung heroes who’ve had to carry a heavy burden on their shoulders, and they come back stronger and brighter. It’s the light of the day that brings you home.
What can you tell me about the track, “Time?”
It’s more of a reflective piece of music in the sense that everything I’ve faced has made me realize how time is the most precious commodity I have in my life. You can’t see it but you can feel it ticking by. It reminds me time is of the essence and I don’t want to waste a second of it. I want to make the most of it and appreciate everything I’ve been given and use that energy in how I live from here on.
What was it like working with Dave Sharp again for this album?
Dave and I have been getting closer and closer as the years have gone by. We’ve often drifted into each other’s circles since the original days of The Alarm. When things happened with Jules, and she had to go through breast cancer, she made me realize that even though life may have torn us apart, friendship and family can carry a lot of weight. So, when I was working fledgling demos, I thought about bringing Dave into the project. There was no pressure or pre-conception. We’re following the path of destiny. People can see we still love each other.
What can you tell me about The Alarm’s upcoming tour with Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel?
It’s going to be an amazing tour filled with memorable moments. We all share the same mindset of going forward and not just where we’ve come from. We’re going to show the world that we’re still effective and open to new ideas. We’ll empower our audience through our music just like we did when we first came to America and helped create the alternative landscape that we know today.
What excites you the most about the new album and this next phase of your career?
The future is wide open and I’m excited about making more and more music. With Equals, and now Sigma, we’ve shown the world that The Alarm is a modern, active band. We’re not just singing the songs we created back in the 80s. We’re part of the conversation today. I can’t wait to get out on the road, write songs in the dressing room, have a guitar in my hand every day and living life to the fullest. Long may it continue!