VINTAGE ROCK

Return to The Alarm

The Mike Peters Interview (2019)

By Ralph Greco, Jr.

One could certainly call Mike Peters — lead singer and frontman, songwriter and acoustic guitarist of The Alarm — a survivor. Not only has he overseen many incarnations of his band and is currently fronting his four-piece on their SIGMA LXXXV TOUR 2019 of AMERICA, but he is also a cancer survivor and co-creator of the Love Hope Strength Foundation.

Love Hope Strength has raised thousands of dollars for cancer care around the world sponsoring climbs to the world’s highest mountains, very often performing concerts at the peaks they reach. (Peters was also awarded an MBE for his work with this organization). I was lucky to catch up with Mr. Peters the afternoon The Alarm was playing San Francisco.

San Francisco holds a special place in The Alarm story, doesn’t it?

Yes, back when we supported U2 on their War tour in 83, we played the Civic Center here on our first journey over to America. It’s always been a very significant city for The Alarm, and we’ve always had a strong fan base here. We are thrilled to be back playing San Francisco tonight.

This might seem like a silly question, but; were you aware that you and U2 and a few other bands post-punk bands were all part of something rather significant?

In a way, yes, I think we were. You have to remember that we were coming off that rather the humorous Sex Pistols punk thing, which was high on attitude but nobody could play their instrumentals well or if at all. What we were about, as was U2, The Police, The Clash, was delivering something with a certain musical ability backing it up. Legitimizing the punk idea so we could take it out of the UK and indeed break America.

Yes, breaking the U.S. seems to have been pretty much destined for you all, something those bands you mentioned, The Alarm included, were striving for and did maintain.

Well, Miles Copeland (manager of The Police and founder of I.R.S. Records) broke The Police in America. He simply put them in a van and said, ‘go out and play.’ Paul McGuinness, U2’s manager, were very keen on having them take hold in America too, so we were destined to go over and make our way as well.

What always made me notice you guys especially was the added attraction of mixing the jangle of acoustic guitars with electrics.

Yes, that certainly made us and makes us different, I believe. I’ve said often that I see us as a mix of The Clash meets Woody Guthrie.

Let’s switch gears a bit. How is your health presently?

Very good, thank you.

But you certainly have had your bouts with cancer.

Yes, I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, so it is a constant presence in my life. But I am living my life with it; it’s not living my life.

Something like that has got to put a cramp on a rock and roll lifestyle.

Back in the day, it certainly did more than it does now. There are drugs and treatments presently available that allow so many people with cancer to live their lives fully. The past few years have seen such amazing advances in cancer diagnosis as well as treatment.

I’ll give you an example of this, which also speaks to the ‘show must go on’ idea. The Alarm was booked for a tour of America, and just before it, I had been diagnosed with cancer and the treatment I was advised to undergo was a bone marrow transplant. This would have curtailed the tour, so instead, I said, let’s go do the shows, and when I come back I will do what the doctors prescribe.

When I got back though a new round of tests was done and it was found I was misdiagnosed. Sure, I still had cancer, but the bone marrow procedure would have been the wrong one for me. I have no idea what my life would be like now had I had that procedure or if the drugs I now take were not invented, but I think I’d be a shadow of myself or might not be talking to you at all.

Yes, a great testimonial for ‘The Show Must Go On,” as you say.

Definitely.

But you also, humbly, can acknowledge all that you do for that modern treatment and cancer awareness. How is Love Strength Hope these days?

It’s up and working as always. In fact, when this current tour ends, we are going to Iceland (September 11-16) to climb a mountain there to raise money.

Good health is about the best thing any of us could ask for, huh?

Yes, I’d say so.

So, you are out presently with two other 80s band Modern English and Gene Loves Jezebel, for all of you the music business has certainly changed over the years. Has that been a positive or negative one in your opinion?

I see it more in the different way we have to connect with people. It’s more immediate. It takes some thought and attention, but we have a reach now we did not have before. It’s a question of how you make that personal to people and use it wisely, that’s the biggest challenge I find.

You are also in a slightly unique position in that your wife Jules plays in The Alarm (she plays keyboards), how is it touring with your spouse?

Well, Jules and I have been together now for many, many years. What it came down to was, she was available to lay down some keyboards on some recordings, she is a trained and wonderful piano player, and after a while, I thought, why not have her come and play live? I mean, the keyboards are not an integral part of The Alarm music, but it is nice to have them there to add some color, and I have my wife with me, what could be better than that?

A real family affair.

Oh, even more so. We brought the kids along, put them to work changing guitar strings, and helping out. So yes, we are all out this summer seeing America.