It’s always a nice feeling to get the opportunity to talk with someone that you’ve long admired and whose music has influenced your life. It’s an even better feeling when you get off the phone with that person and they were even better than you imagined they would be. This is the case with how I felt after spending a few minutes on the phone with Mike Peters of the Alarm.
BT: You’re currently in New York, but September see’s you back in the States. Is this going to be a full band or acoustic tour?
Mike: No, it’s neither (laughs) it’s Mike Peters presents the Alarm tour, which means I use all the modern music equipment available that allows me to recreate the full band sound, just using my feet and my hands, and whatever else I’ve got spare at times. So it’s a full electric experience, but you only see one person on stage. I have three microphones and I run around and engage more with the audience. I wanted it that way because I’m representing the set list we played April 12, 1986, which is part of the MTV first ever historic satellite broadcast around the world. I find myself, that without a host of musicians, the people’s imaginations can run freely and they can close their eyes and go wherever they want in their imagination when there’s music coming at them and it can be a full-on experience the way it was back in 1986 here in 2016. We’ve been taking this around the UK, Europe and the last six nights here in New York. The energy comes out and the audience gets right into it and more intense as the night goes on.
BT: You are making available the ability to get on stage with you this tour is that right?
Mike: It’s an opportunity to interact with me. These days in Rock and Roll, meet and greet packages are popping up everywhere, and I thought everyone has my autograph. I’ve been playing for thirty years and I’ve always come off stage, after the show, backstage, behind the venue or if they’re there for soundchecks. So I thought maybe lets take it up, make a bid to support the charity I represent and they get the chance to come up on stage the way I did with Bob Dylan or Bono and play “Knocking on Heavens Door.” It’s something we did in the UK a few years ago and it was very successful. We’d love to try it in America this September, and we’ve had people on stage here in New York and it’s great, some great moments actually. I think people really enjoy it when the band and audience come together as one on the stage. It kind of brings it all together as a nice little finale. It’s obviously subject to change, because some people don’t sing, or play guitar, but they still want the experience. Sometimes it’s spilled into other songs, or they take part in other Alarm rituals that have come up over the years. It’s a good way to meet people and let them experience what it’s like to be in the band even for a few minutes.
BT: As long as I can remember you’ve been extremely accessible to your fans, with things like the Gathering, which you’re doing next year in Los Angeles for the first time, The Alarm came from a time of keeping a bit of mystery from the general public, but you weren’t that way, what influenced you to be so “friendly” and open to your fan base?
Mike: It’s really punk rock. I grew up in that era and it’s about breaking the barriers down between the artist and the audience, and I thought the easiest way to do that is if you could talk to everybody. For me, the gig never ends when you put the guitar down. You can’t sleep after a gig, you want to talk about what’s gone on. The audience shapes a concert as much as the band, especially when you interact with them as much as I have always done as an artist. So for me, jumping into the crowd after the gig and chatting to everybody is great it makes the experience complete. My first experience in music as a fan was going to see the Sex Pistols in 1976, almost 40 years ago next September is when I saw them and they played “Anarchy in the UK” and I didn’t know what it meant, they hadn’t taught me the word anarchy in the school I went to. So I tried to talk with Johnny Rotten after the gig and he just told me to “F Off” when I asked him what Anarchy in the UK was all about. I thought wow, I’m gonna start a band and I’m not going to be negative, not going to turn it into a negative when someone asks me what one of my songs are about. I’ll react in a positive manner and that’s always been the drive behind why I’ve always been fairly open to the public.
BT: I’ve had the pleasure to see you in multiple settings, back during the Raw tour, even a more intimate show at the Viper Room with Billy Duffy with you around 2000 i think, and completely solo at the House of Blues in LA. As an artist which do you prefer, or what is closer to your heart, the intimacy of the solo shows, or being able to unleash with a full band?
Mike: I like them both equal. I think what I’ve learned since the 80’s that to have both opportunities to play on my own and to play as a band is refreshing, not only for me but for everybody concerned. Because you’re not just focused on one thing, living in each other’s pockets, one dressing room, one travel itinerary. I fly home to Britan on Monday and on Saturday night we’re playing a festival with the band to 60,000 people and on Sunday night we’re playing a festival to 30,000 people, but on my own, but I think having the balance keeps you sane as a musician. It keeps you hungry for what you do, makes you appreciate what you do. The one hat feeds the other and keeps it alive. I don’t have any distinction to me it’s all an extension of my main thrill, which is making music, writing new music and that happens on your own on an acoustic guitar, and then you take it out into the world with other musicians or you can strip it back to the guitar, singing the songs how it was written in its birthday suit if you like for the audience. Being able to share my songs in all forms and contexts is what I derive the most pleasure from. In the thirty-odd years I’ve been playing music the challenge is to be able to play it any shape or form and make it work in those forms. That’s what keeps me alive and the music focused, and flourishing.
BT: This tour ends in Denver, and then you have the Red Rocks Rocks Benefit for the Charity you helped put together the Love Hope Strength foundation, can you talk a little bit about the foundation and the Red Rock Benefit in particular?
Mike: Absolutely, yeah. Love Hope Strength came about because I was diagnosed with Leukemia and I wanted to put back into the system that has given me my life, allowed me to a father, to be a touring musician to be creative in life. I wouldn’t be here without the advances in science that were made by people who dedicated their life to help others to live. Love Hope Strength charity came into being in 2007 and we took musicians to places where they didn’t have the access to the kinds of treatments and doctors that we have here in the West. To give them support, we went to Tanzania and Nepal by climbing their highest mountains, Everest, Kilimanjaro, and we were able to support the communities in the shadows of mountains we climbed. We started doing bone marrow drives at concerts in the UK and USA, to find the matches people need to survive these blood cancers and we’ve been successful with that. We’ve located over 150,000 people to sign on the registry and over 3000 have stepped forward to become life agent matches. It’s a very simple process, most people don’t realize how simple a process it is. This weekend in New York, we’ll be doing a drive with Kenny Chesney in East Rutherford, and we’re out on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, and we’re working with bands from all walks of life in every musical spectrum from stadiums to clubs. We turn each of those events into life-saving events by swabbing cheeks at the gigs and finding matches. We are hosting events like Red Rocks Rocks on October 1st, you can come to Colorado, walk with us, hike the mountains, have a concert to support the Hard Rock Cafe organization at the end of the evening to help raise funds to so we can send off volunteers to events like Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, these are festivals that have opened their doors to Love Hope Strength and we can save lives at their concerts. It’s been a project that’s growing, still growing. It’s a simple, festive way to create partnerships between musicians, fans, venues, promoters, festivals, and organizations to all work together to save lives at concerts we all love going to, playing, or putting on. It’s a way to turn a concert into a life-saving event for someone you might not know, never meet, but you give someone hope, and that’s what we do.
Visit Love Hope Strength