Mike Peters Video Interview On Battling Cancer, Playing WIth U2, The Alarm
Mike Peters, lead singer of The Alarm, holds forth on battling cancer, his new album and rocking in high altitudes
I was sitting in a hotel room with The Edge on the War Tour. He came from a non-musical background and learned to play the guitar his own way. He didn't know the traditional way to play a bar chord. I had to show him how to do it.
Well, I did the guerilla concert in Times Square today and just thought it would be nice because the album is came out here in America on July 8, 2008, and we thought we’d celebrate the release of the album with a digital in-store, in-the-street [concert], and we’d have people turn up to get their albums the night before the concert, right in the center of the hustle and bustle in New York City. It was pretty crazy and it was great fun, and it was just nice, exciting thing to do on the day that the album comes out.
The Naked Cowboy was there [laughs] getting out of his Escalade and we were great. We didn’t have a permit or anything, and the cops just stood by and watched it and let us get on with it. It was great you know… It was all the usual sort of saints and sinners of Times Square. It was fantastic.
It was a commulative effect really because The Alarm of today started in year 2000, and we had the solo band and became The Alarm really because I had inherited or got the rights to The Alarm by catalog. And I became the curator and reissuing all the albums. So we went out on tour to perform The Alarm’s greatest hits, or just the music from the 80s as it was known and Eddie MacDonald our original bass player came to this as well. We did try to include more of the original line up, but it wasn’t to be. The Alarm has always been with me in my heart and now it’s in the new music that we made. This is the third Alarm album of this decade and modern era, and it keeps growing and growing and getting more and more exciting.
The Gathering started essentially because I got diagnosed with cancer really, and I lost all my movements around were restricted and so I came up with the madcap idea of a role reversal, where the fans would go on tour and I would stay at home, and we’d have an event called The Gathering where all the fans from the USA from all over Europe, Japan, Australia. We’d put on a huge event that lasts three days... walk down the street and strap on the guitar and then play for four or five hours or whatever is the need, and through The Gathering because it is our best fans from all over the world in one space we can play whatever we like from The Alarm history or from any moment of time from The Alarm’s recording career because they know every single song there is.
There was a year I ended up in the sea and I was – we were shooting a film for The Gathering and a lot of people ask me how I stay fit for these events, because I can be on stage for seven to eight hours for two days, and more with the afternoons, and then playing in the after-show parties and hotels and then one day, my friend I train with a lot, took me on a run into the mountains. And I came down from the mountain and we were filming it for a his little fitness video to go with the DVD we were shooting. And then Jonny said, “Right into the sea.” And we did and we disappeared into the ocean for a swim and came back and all the fans were watching and they saw us soaking, and we had to run back into the venue to get ready. And that in turn inspired fans to do a sponsored swim in the sea every year to raise money for sponsored charities.
My health is good... I mean, I have to be careful about what I undertake because I have leukemia and I have a compromised immune system because of that… it means it’s not quite as functional as everyone else’s, as a normal person’s is, so I have to be careful not to catch colds and things like that. They are the things that can affect me if they turn into pneumonias. And I can’t fight them off. Things like that. I just have to be on my toes and, you know, 99% [chance] I’ll be able to beat it off good and just live a normal life. But there’s always that chance that something gets hold of me that’s aggressive. Other than that I’m in great shape, and I’ve come through it and I’ve managed to hang onto my hair, and my health and, still be able play in a rock 'n' roll band.
It made me focus on certain music that I love above all else and that, in turn, has led to me create an Alarm album that reflects the sort of music I love above all others. And it's certainly there in gorilla tactics because it was written in the aftermath of diagnosis when I was having a lot of chemotherapy and the songs were informed by the experience and... You never sit down to write a song — they arrive, you start playing the guitar and then these chords start happening and then here’s a melody and you can feel it coming and you just start singing lyrics. And I don’t know what prompted mixing — you know. The situation's under control or fight back. I sort of set the bounce, we got to play like we would play like we only just learned. So how did we learn? We play the old bar cords, and we've gone up and down the neck like this and that brings a whole energy into the playing into the music, so there’s a different energy about this record from all the others. But it’s the kind of energy that relates back to the beginning and foundation of a band.
When I was going through chemo in North Wales, and my goal and symbol of gaining return to full health was to climb Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in England and Wales. And I could see that from the window of the cancer center where I was being treated, and I’ve always kept saying to myself I’m going to go back up there when I get well and, take all the fans and celebrate my return to health with a concert and then that mutated into let's go to Everest and take some people there as well.
The Foundation is called Love, Hope, Strength and is on the Internet at Lovehopestength.org. We host rock events as we call them around the world. And we also encourage people to do events on their own doorstep. You know we want to fight back against cancer, that’s the calling of our Foundation. We want to spread good news about cancer because a lot of it.[We] are in part of it and we’ve all survived the illness. And we want to pass on the good news stories that we have to share, because no one is prepared for a cancer diagnosis. Everyone thinks that is something that happens to other people. So when the doctor sits down with you and has to talk about it, it's massive shock and often you haven’t got a clue where to start. You don’t know where to turn, your family is unprepared, it’s something no one wants to talk about until it's there. So if we can lodge the thought of "love, hope, strength" in someone’s mind they might think, 'I can go to that website.' And from there we can help them take on their personal battle against cancer.
I was never that wild one because I wasn’t much of a drinker because [then] I can’t sing. If I had one beer, I’m the world’s worst singer, so I’m terrible at karaoke and things like that.
It doesn’t bother me at all because they’re good friends of ours, and they’re champions across America U2, and helped break, because in 83, we first came on the road and Bono and The Edge were on the radio saying “don’t play U2 play The Alarm-they’re supporting us tonight, get in early to come see them they’re amazing” and they’re fantastic to us…I think there’s a certain amount of taken from one from the other we learned a lot of music from them, and we were always jamming on sound checks…I was sitting in a hotel room with The Edge on the War tour and he didn’t know how to play a bar cord and I had to show him how to do it you know he could just about play what he did in his style, but he really came from a non-musical background and learned to play the guitar in his own way- he didn’t know the traditional things about the guitar and through that experience your passing on something to him and I’m learning something from The Edge and its just a natural exchange of ideas and Bono and I sat for hours talking about the world and what we were going to do, and ideas, and the galaxy, and it rubs off on you… You know visa versa. So I think the comparisons start when we came a little bit closer. They adopted some of the more regular rock n roll like acoustic guitars and harmonics and they started wearing clothes bit like us cowboy hats and all that …and we adopted a more sort of groove rock kind of thing came in it was maybe more associated on how they played it so… Then we were part the same generation its like saying you know Pearl Jam and Nirvana have things in common because they come from the same cities and they have the same timeframe and their build is being a grunge rock band … and I think its just one of those things and we take it as a compliment, if we are going to be compared to a band, we’ll be compared to all the best.