1. How avid of an Alarm collector are you?
If there was a Top 10 of Alarm collectors I like to think I would be in it. I used to collect everything when I was in The Toilets/Seventeen but when success eluded both bands I started to view my scrapbook collection as a bit of a curse and so stopped around the time The Alarm came into being. I started collecting again in about 1985 and now have a fairly extensive catalogue My most recent purchase was a copy of the IRS (U.S. only) Finyl Vinyl “Unsafe Building” ($10.00) from Bleeker Bobs in Los Angeles. The one record I do not have, much to my regret, is a mustard vinyl “Deceiver” which might keep me off the number one spot!
2. Do any tapes of The Toilets or Seventeen exist, and will we ever get to hear them?
No Tapes of The Toilets exist to my knowledge. I had a live tape from a support slot with the Buzzcocks at Eric’s, Liverpool in 1977, but lost it in 1980 when my car was broken into. Seventeen made numerous demo tapes during the years 1978-1980. The most definitive would be a 12 song 4 track demo recorded in 1979 at WSRS in Wallasey. I personally don’t have a copy of this, although Twist still has the masters somewhere. I think this would be a fascinating release at some point as it features all the original members of The Alarm. Some song titles are “Talkin’ About The Weekend”, “Lies Lies Lies”, “Stop Thinking About Yourself” and a cover of the Beatles “Please Please Me” among others. It may or may not include a cover of Tom Jones “It’s Not Unusual” which was brilliant.
3. How many and which Seventeen songs went on to become Alarm songs.
Of the many Seventeen songs, only “Sixty Eight Guns” went on to become an Alarm song. It was the last written during the Seventeen era and was played during the band’s last tour of Scotland and at the final Seventeen show (The Half Moon, Herne Hill, Dulwich London, January 1981). It was at this show that we announced our new name “Alarm Alarm”.
4. Will you explain the transition from Seventeen to The Alarm. Some stories say it was a matter of days, others a matter of months. All I’m certain of is that sometime during the summer of 1981 The Alarm was formed.
As you can see from the previous answer, Seventeen had run its course by the end of 1980 and although change was implied in early 1981, this did not manifest itself properly until the summer, after the writing of “Unsafe Building”. Another important event was the setting up of the “The Gallery”, a night of alternative music run throughout the spring of ’81 by myself, Eddie MacDonald, Redeye and Mark Lloyd. The running of the club allowed us to feed off a different kind of energy and gave us all a little independence from the local music scene. I also started an alternative clothes stall in Rhyl called “Riot” where, during a quiet moment one Saturday I wrote the lyrics to “Unsafe”. Another important event occurred when Dave Sharp wired my acoustic guitar with electric pickups, the sound was startling and went on to form the backbone to the early “Alarm” sound (the same guitar can be seen in the new “Shine On” video). The first “Alarm” rehearsals took place in the Gallery and after two local shows in June ’81 we decided to make our own single and move to London, the rest as they say in history
5. What were some of the band names you thought of for The Alarm before you chose the final name?
Alarm Alarm, The Uprising, The Black Sheep, Men Of Harlech, Drums & Guns
6. Was your attitude towards music different when starting The Alarm than it was when Seventeen was formed?
7. Once and for all, What is the Suicide Squad? Why do you think that name evokes question from many Americans?
The Suicide Squad was a cover for internal band production credits in the tradition of the Jagger/Richard’s “Glimmer Twins” or Neil Young/Bolas “Volume Dealers”.
8. A bootleg record containing early versions of “Marching On“, “What Kind Of Hell“, and “Across The Border” has been around for a few years. All three songs are quite different from the ones later recorded and released. Do you remember when and why these early version were recorded?
These versions were recorded in early 1982 at Britannia Row studios in London and were produced by Bram Tchaikovsky (ex-guitarist of The Motors). This was an early attempt at defining The Alarm sound and was funded by manager Ian Wilson. The tapes were used to attract record company interest.
9. Dave Sharp once claimed that he was the member of The Alarm that started dressing in “Cavalry” clothes. Is this true?
10. “For Freedom“, “Reason 41“, and “Third Light” were all recorded live in January of 1983 at the Marquee and later released. Have their been any plans to release the entire show at the Marquee as a live album?
I seem to remember that these were the best recordings at the time, although some of our more “popular” songs that had been earmarked for later release as singles might have sounded good. It would be interesting to listen to the mater tapes of the whole show, if they still exist.
11 The original name of “Declaration” was “Dedication”, what prompted the change?
The album was always entitled “Declaration”. There may have been a magazine article at the time which misquoted the title and gave rise to the story.
12. In 1983 you told David Jensen that “Unsafe Building” and “Up For Murder” would be recorded for your first album. Were those two songs re-recorded, and if so, why were they left off the album?
“Unsafe” and “Murder” were not re-recorded for “Declaration”. The only song I can remember being recorded that was not used was “Reason 41” which I recorded at Dave Sharp’s insistence as a slow blues. I also have a tape of an experimental arrangement of “Marching On” which we followed under producer Alan Shacklock’s advice, but decide against using.
13. Looking back, how do you feel about the orchestration on “Declaration”?
I would love to know how “Declaration” would have sounded had we worked with Mick Glossop who had produced “The Stand”. Mick had been vetoed against our will by Miles Copeland who wanted us to sound more “American” and so brought in Alan Shacklock. As a band we were caught in a quandary of wanting to progress and step forward, but at the same time needing to capture our true “live” sound. Producer Alan Shacklock pushed us hard and often we had huge arguments in the studio over arrangements. “Declaration” WAS over produced. The raw edge of the band was polished up to gain a wider audience and, upon release, we lost a lot of original fans who thought the album tame compared to the earlier releases of “Marching On” and “The Stand”. A lot of early fans disliked “68 Guns” believing it to be devoid but he song was such a hit that a whole new audience was drawn to the band overnight who thought otherwise. In fact as a band we disliked “68 Guns” and played it in its original form until the pressure of wanting to hear it as the single forced us to accommodate the new arrangement into the live set. On reflection some things were lost and other gained like “Howling Wind”, which developed as a result of us working with Alan Shacklock. It also brought us to the attention of the world and changed our lives and did the same for many others along the way who heard “Declaration” in a way we could have only dared hope for.
14. What possessed The Alarm to take the original version of “The Chant” and change it into the final version released as a single?
Fear of failure.
15. When talking about the “Strength” album, you have said that producer Mike Howlett rejected a whole “stack” of songs and insisted you, write songs that were more personal and introspective. Do you remember what any of those rejected songs were, and if they ever appeared on later releases?
It was actually a combination of Jimmy Iovine and Bono who suggested that I write more personally. Songs which did not make the album were “Sons Of Divorce”, “Unbreak The Promise”, and “Black Side Of Fortune”. “Majority” in its earliest lyrical form did not make the album and also and electric version of “One Step Closer To Home” as Dave couldn’t deliver a vocal performance he was happy with.
16. What do you think “Strength” would have been like if Jimmy Iovine had produced it?
Jimmy Iovine was booked to produce The Alarm’s second album during January/February of 1985. If he had not let us down at the last moment then this record would have been released to coincide with what became the “Absolute Tour.” It is difficult to speculate, but I think Jimmy Iovine may have pushed us harder as songwriters and the album would have “sounded” better. The album was recorded & mixed by Nigel Luby who was our live sound engineer at the time and not quite as experienced in the studio as he is now. Eddie MacDonald was very disappointed in the final mix. Jimmy Iovine would probably have used Shelley Yakus who he worked with on his Springsteen/Tom Petty records and this may have put a different slant on some of the tracks. It still sounded good though and was one of The Alarm’s most enduring albums, especially in the USA
17. How do you feel about the Spirit of ’86 UCLA show now that 10 years have past? Was it a pivotal point for The Alarm?
UCLA should have been a huge turning point for The Alarm as it turned a lot of new people on to the spirit of the band. It should have been the foundation of the next phase of our development and, if we had worked hard to build on this success, I believe The Alarm would have reached even greater heights. Instead, it marked the last tangible moment of a band working together towards one common aim.
18. Will the lost Alarm songs “Black Side Of Fortune” or “World On Fire” ever see the light of day?
I would like to think that they would form some part of a definitive Alarm retrospective. I don’t know what state “Black Side” is in, or if it was ever finished, but I do know that “World On Fire” was mixed during the “Hurricane” sessions and was left off at the last moment in favour of “Shelter”.
19. You have said that there was great pressure outside of the band for The Alarm to record an album that would have essentially been “Strength II”. What do you think would have happened to The Alarm if you had succumbed to that pressure?
Myself and Eddie MacDonald wanted to follow up “Strength” as soon as possible after we had finished touring and had we done this, I believe the band would have achieved a lot more than we actually did. “Strength” was major success all around the world and an album released in early ’87 soon after the career pinnacles of UCLA in America, and The Wembley Shows with Queen in the UK would have established he Alarm as a major world-wide act. As it was, Dave Sharp and Nigel Twist instigated an internal song writing war which fatally wounded the band and started rumours of a split echoing around the world. When we finally got back together to work on the follow up, instead of writing from a position of strength (excuse the pun), we were trying to recapture lost ground and the spirit of the band was never quite the same again. Also “Hurricane” came out after U2 “Joshua Tree” and INXS “Kick” and we ran into all those comparisons which we would have avoided if we had worked in the way our previous albums had been created and got the follow up out sooner.
20. You said once that “Eye Of The Hurricane” was your favourite Alarm album. Is this still true?
I do not have a particular favourite at the moment. Time continues to change my view of the albums we made together.
21. “A New South Wales” was recorded in 1987. How was that version different from the final one released on “Change”?
Some songs have no immediate relationship with other songs written at the same time. This can be said of A.N.S.W. Written in 1987, it did not seem to fit the frame work of “Hurricane” and later became the foundation of the songs on “Change”. The recording in 1987 was a bare solo rendition and recorded the same way in 1989, it almost did not make the “Change” album which, as a songwriter, I found unthinkable. In desperation, I came up with the idea of using the choir and orchestra. Tony Visconti wrote the string arrangement overnight and in return for an exclusive radio broadcast, my friend Gareth Morlais arranged a BBC session in Wales. The song was recorded live in two takes, one for broadcast by the BBC and a second for exclusive use on the “Change” album.
22. If you had not changed management in early 1988, what direction do you think The Alarm would have gone?
In hindsight changing management was the worst thing we ever did as a group. Ian Wilson was like the fifth member of the band and his contribution was vital. His departure unbalanced the creative ebb and flow of the group. He was always encouraging us to improve and respond to events around us. He was also brave enough to point out our weaknesses. Ian took blame for our inability to deal with our own internal problems. He was never replaced in kind and from that moment on we entered a slow downward spiral.
23. In 1988 during “Rescue Me“, you went through a diatribe every night about how technology was ruining music. These days, technology, especially computers, plays a large part in you work. What inspired this change?
[Mike forgot to answer this question]
24. The Bob Dylan Tour in 1988. What are your impressions of it looking back now? Did it inspire you to write songs for “Change”, or did it end up hampering the creative process?
I enjoyed the tour. It was a change not to be the headline act and only have to perform for 45 minutes, it seemed like the first time in ages that the pressure had been lifted from the band. I actually wrote “Hardland” at a border crossing in to Canada. I stood directly behind Dylan in the queue when the melody and the lyric entered my head. I often think this was a song from God intended for Dylan but the transmission messed up and it ended up in my psyche instead.
25. The Alarm spent a number of months in 1989 at Kinmel Hall, recording demos for “Change”. How many demos exist, and do you think we will ever get to hear any of them (besides “Devolution Working Man Blues” and “Firing Line“)?
We must have cut around 30 demos at the time. I personally think they should for some part of any future Alarm repackaging.
26. In 1989, around the time of the “Change” album, many fans were clamouring for “The Alarm” to reach back and play older songs. Do you think now, looking back, that the fans were simply nostalgic, or do you think they had seen the band lose some of the edge it started with and were making a futile attempt inform you of it?
I think this is a subjective question. Some fans wanted to hear familiar material and some wanted progression. Getting the balance right can often be a difficult process. I was in favour of moving on with “Change”, it was, after all, the dawn of the nineties, and felt that we needed to explore newer songs. I also felt we had become safe in our choice of older material, never veering from the “greatest hits”. In hindsight we ended up somewhere in the middle, a rock n’roll no man’s land. To paraphrase “Dawn Chorus” what should have been “the start of the beginning” turned out to be “the point of no return”.
27. We’ve heard that there were about 12 unreleased tracks from the “Change” album. Is this true? Did any of them get released on “Standards” or “Raw”? Were any of them Dave Sharp songs that he ended up doing solo?
Some of the songs from “Raw” were demoed at this time including “Wonderful World” which Dave Sharp recorded twice, once for “Raw” and curiously, once for “Hard Travellin'”.
28. Two “Unsafe Building” bootleg 7″ singles surfaced in 1989. Do you have any idea where they might have come from?
29. Why did you consider songs like “Spiritual” and “The Cross” too blunt to be Alarm songs? Was it the atmosphere that surrounded the band in its waning years? Would you have considered those songs too radical if they had been around at the time of “Declaration”?
I wrote “Spiritual” just before my father died, which was immediately prior to recording “Raw”. If I had continued to record another album with The Alarm I would have offered the it to the group for consideration along with any other songs I may written at the time. “The Cross” written by Prince, was a record I played a lot at the time. I performed it at the Greenbelt Festival in 1990. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about my dad all day and, during my acoustic set earlier that afternoon, I had also played “My Sweet Lord” which maybe explains the frame of mind that I was in.
30. When I first heard “The Road“, it reminded me of “Rockin’ In The Free World” and I said to myself “Sounds like The Alarm have been influenced a bit by Neil Young”. In 1989 and 1990, how much of an influence was Mr. Young on The Alarm?
When we cut the “Raw” album I used Neil Young as a prime example of someone who had reinvented himself in a stirring and vital new musical environment. I wanted The Alarm to follow his lead and cut a record with the same kind of simple honesty that was written all through the “Freedom” album. The Road was a song that should have been a rallying point of this new record. “The Road opens up in front of my eyes, the only limitation is in my mind.”. The Alarm never made the record I think we were capable of, we only went half way, we did not stick the knife in deep enough.
31. The demo for “The Road” sounds incredible. How hard is it capture the wild excitement of a demo in the recording studio?
The demo for “The Road” was recorded by myself and Eddie MacDonald at my home in Wales. It was the blueprint for the new record as we envisioned it. I think it is better than the version that ended up on “Standards” and gives a strong hint of what might have been possible if events had turned out different.
32. Was “The Road” designed as a song for the “Standards” album, or was it one of the songs from “Raw” that got picked for “Standards”?
“The Road” was written specifically for a new album.
33. Once and for all, why did you eat fish and smack Jules in the “Unsafe Building” video? How many versions of that video were made? Who decided to edit it?
At the time a was afraid for the life of The Alarm and, as with “The Road”, reworking “Unsafe” was another examination of the foundations upon which we were formed. I was trying to send a signal with the video that all was not well in the camp. “Each man kills a thing he loves for better or for worse.”. Two versions of the video exist, the edits were made by IRS who wanted a “safe” version for TV
34. At exactly what point did IRS give up on The Alarm? The “Change” album was promoted in dramatic fashion: With full colour press kits, and tons of singles. “Raw” on the other hand seemed more like an irritation to IRS than an album. There was no single released in the USA, a crappy 1 page press kit and after the album didn’t sell well, IRS never released anything else. What was going on?
The idea for the “Standards” album was mooted by Miles Copeland/IRS during the recording of the “Raw” album. He wanted two new recordings for the album which were originally “Unsafe/Happy Xmas”. When he heard “The Road” he thought that gave us the best chance of a hit single and had it remixed by Mick Glossop. Miles was never happy with the finished version, preferring the demo, but IRS U.S. radio staff still wanted it as the single. At this point we still considered “The Road” to be part of “Raw” and the decision to leave it off the “Raw” album was taken at a later date. We even went as far as having a video treatment drawn up by Julian Temple who was the hottest video director in the world at the time. IRS also wanted The Alarm to tour “Standards” and support “The Road” in the U.S. in order to create a big build up for the “Raw” album. Dave Sharp couldn’t tour because he wanted to work on his solo L.P. and without a winter Alarm tour IRS then chose not to commit to the video for “The Road”. It was at this point that IRS gradually stopped believing in the band or the future of the band.
35. To some people, “Raw” sounds like it is a collection of disassociated b-sides and rare tracks. Can you explain why this might be?
“Raw” is a very revealing album in many ways. It is also the most “honest” Alarm album, reflecting an equality in the creation that was different to the previous albums. At the end of the “Change” tour I had moved that the band take a break to reflect upon out future musical direction. I had no specific length of time in mind, only that we reconvene when someone came up with a viable musical directive. I didn’t realise that it would only be a matter of weeks before I was on the phone with the idea for “Raw”. I wanted to record an album full of “Rockin’ In The Free World” style songs and when I approached the band, Twist and Sharp agreed to work in the way I described but at the same time, wanted more control over the song writing and stated that they had already written a lot of new songs, and would like to record an Alarm album made up entirely of their songs with Dave taking the role of lead vocals. It was eventually decided that we would produce the album ourselves and every member would have equal say in the choice of material that was performed. The writing of the album was divided equally amongst the band: three songs by Peters/MacDonald, three songs by Sharp/Twist, three songs by The Alarm, and a cover to round it off to ten. I would sing the songs I was involved in writing and Dave would sing those that he wrote. It was in this way that we set off to record the “Raw” album, not exactly what I had in mind, but I was willing to give it a shot for the sake of the band. Without an acknowledged leader the album sessions quickly deteriorated into a series of stand-offs and compromises. As a band I believe we failed to achieve what we set out to do with “Raw”. We created a different album than was originally intended. No one was to blame. The river had run its course.
36. It seems like some of the songs on “TAN” contain different backing tracks as well the vocal tracks. “Raw“, “Rockin’ In The Freeworld“, and “Let The River Run Its Course” all seem very different. Are our ears deceiving us, or is this true, and if so, why was it done?
After the “Strength” album, Dave Sharp pretty much refused to do guitar overdubs and so, to achieve the complete sonic picture, Eddie MacDonald and myself had to record a lot of additional guitar parts for our songs (Double tracking, etc.). During the recording of the “Raw” album, as well as having more say over the song writing content, Dave Sharp also wanted freedom to express his own trade guitar style which meant, keeping his playing down to the bare minimum and so, when I came to record the Welsh vocals for “Tan”, I have to admit, I couldn’t help but record a few more guitar parts to toughen up the sound.
37. Have you thought about what you might want on a “Best Of The Alarm”
38. If you could replace 1 song on each Alarm album with another Alarm song, what would they be?
It is too difficult to speculate on this question. However, in the event of a major Alarm re-issue, I will speculate about the songs that could be added to each record as bonus tracks* or as part of a reorganised track sequence +:
Declaration: The Stand+, Pavilion Steps*, What Kind Of Hell*, Second Generation*, Reason 41*, Thoughts Of A Young Man*
Strength: Majority*, Absolute Reality(UK single)+, The Chant*, Room At The Top*, Reason 36*, Strength (12″ mix)*, Unbreak The Promise*.
Hurricane: Elders And Folklore+, Bells Of Rhymney+, My Land Your Land+,Pastures Of Plenty+, World On Fire+
Change: Change One*, Breaking Point+, Corridor’s Of Power+, Working Class Hero*
Raw: The soundtrack to “Blaze Of Glory”, The Alarm’s last show*.
39. Will The Alarm’s BBC sessions ever be released on CD?
I hope so, if they still exist.
40. If there could be a “Standards II” video, what do suppose would be on it? What would you like to be on it?
Anything not included on “Standards”.
41. If you could put together an album of “The Alarm’s Greatest Misses”, what songs would you include, and where would you bury it once it was completed?
The official versions of “Pavilion Steps”, “What Kind Of Hell”, “Reason 41”, “Second Generation”, “68 Guns”, “The Rock”, “One Step Closer To Home”, “The Chant”, “Shelter”, “Hell Or High Water” and I would throw them in the sea along with the record collection I drowned after seeing the Sex Pistols in 1976.
42. Do you think “MacDonald/Peters” will ever collaborate again?
Only Time will tell.
43. Who had the final decision about the singles from your albums with The Alarm, the band or the record company? How about with your new album?
Singles choose themselves. Everyone has a say. The song that gets the most immediate positive response usually gets to become the first single.
44. There were rumours in 1992 that you had started a band with “Steve Stevens” the famous lead guitarist from Billy Idol’s band. Where on Earth did that come from?
I haven’t got a clue.
45. Will we ever get to hear some your early solo stuff like “I’m Unstoppable” and “I Just Can’t Get Through To You” in recorded form. What about “The Abbey Road Sessions?”
“The Abbey Road Sessions” will be released by 21st Century Records some time in the future.
46. When and why did you decide to drop “And The Poets Of Justice” from your official name?
The name was always shortened to “The Poets” by the fans and so I decided to follow suit around the time of the “Gathering II”.
47. Your “Gatherings” have been an amazing success. How did the idea get started? Do you think that the scope of the “Gathering” will have to be altered when your music reaches the commercial mainstream?
The idea was role reversal. I got to stay home and the fans got to go on tour. The Gathering” will naturally grow and develop along with the size and scope of my musical career and at the same time continue to reflect the “family” spirit of the MPO.
48. Much of your early solo material sounds very experimental. Out of the 5 different songs you released on 2 singles, only “It Just Don’t Get Any Better” sounded like a straight-ahead rock song. Did you consider these early releases a musical testing ground for your new ideas?
The transition from The Alarm to “solo” artist was always going to be a difficult process. I knew this because I had just been through the painful experience with The Alarm, having failed to evolve from “Change” to “Raw”. From earlier times, I also had the more successful experience of disbanding “Seventeen” to reform “The Alarm” with this in mind, in 1991, I felt I needed time to evolve my new music gradually and without pressure. My early solo work gave me the space I needed to experiment and at the same time work towards laying the solid foundations of my musical future.
49. You made 2 videos for “Back Into The System“. What happened to them? Did you ever make a video for “It Just Don’t Get Any Better” ?.
All of the video were made by S4C (Welsh Language TV Channel). The videos were shot in Welsh and English. The “System” video was seen on various local channels in the UK and the “No Better Than This” was shot in Spain and shown in Britain and Europe via terrestrial and satellite channels.
50. I’ve always thought that “21st Century(demo)” sounded a bit like old Peter Gabrial. What kind of effect were YOU going for with the song? What were the original lyrics about (before new ones were inspired by Kurt Cobain)?
I always liked “This Is England” by post Mick Jones “Clash” and it was an early influence in the direction of “21st Century”. The lyrical content was updated during the “Breathe” recording sessions when Kurt Cobain shot himself.
51. It seems, with “White Noise” you broke all the rules, and possibly many barriers. Do you consider that song a turning point in your solo career?
“White Noise” was written and recorded in under 1 hour. Tim Speed who later co-produced “Feel Free” was at the session and suggested that I put it out exactly as it was. As an observer, he loved the honesty of the performance and thought that the fans would appreciate a look at the naked Mike Peters. I was initially just recording the idea to be followed up at a later date. As with “21st Century”, “White Noise” is a song I will come back to.
52. A bit of profanity has been creeping into your work these days. Does this signify your own personal transformation into a tougher individual and songwriter?
I’m just telling it like it is, and writing as honestly and as immediately as possible I don’t want to sanitise or censor my feelings because of what is supposedly right or wrong.
53. Has the band “Jess” broken up?
I think that is a question for “Jess”.
54. What is this about the “lost” Mike Peters album named “PAX” by “Brith Gof”?
“Brith Gof” (pronounced Breathe Gorv) is a very respected, experimental drama company from Wales. In 1990, the approached me to sing the lead vocal part in a production of “Pax”. “Pax” is an eco opera about the destiny of Earth. Related through the intergalactic transmissions of a deep space astronaut (unable to return to Earth because of large scale pollution to the planet surface), the space pilot communicates with his mother first in English then, gradually, in long forgotten Welsh. I was unable to appear in the stage production because of the “Raw” tour, but agreed to record the soundtrack album which is available on CRAI records in Wales. The soundtrack is very ambient and free form, it was very challenging to record and allowed me the experience of working with a vibrant new musical form.
55. Describe how close you were to getting The Alarm back together in 1995, and just how far you are from getting back together now.
56. How many different instruments did you play on your new album “Feel Free?” Will you be taking up the drums any time soon?
I happened to play most things at one time or another. There is a cliché in the music biz that “bass players want to be guitarists” and “guitarists want to be lead singers”. To continue this even further I would definitely love to be a drummer.
57. Will there be a 21st Century “outtakes” release for “Feel Free” like “Breathe: The Acoustic Sessions” for “Breathe”?
No. “Feel Free” was recorded differently than “Breathe”. in that, the tracks were built around the acoustic versions. I would enter the studio put down an acoustic guide and build all the instrumentation around it. I played a lot of instruments myself because I did not have time to rehearse a band or show someone else how to play what was in my head. I wanted a much more immediate effect.
58. The MPO has grown to enormous proportions. How can you manage to keep such lively and personal communication with your fans as their numbers keep growing larger?
We now live in an age of communication and the MPO provide a unique two-way link between artist and audience. As we have already experienced, there has to be an endeavour and understanding on both sides to make it work. Together we have all been able to move on from The Alarm with a greater respect and understanding. I’m sure the future will be equally challenging and no-less enjoyable.
59. You must be aware that a lot of fans will think that “All Is Forgiven” is written about the other members of The Alarm. In general, do you think it is more important for people to make a connection with a song because of the emotions/thoughts/feelings it brings to them personally, or for listeners to connect with a song because they know exactly what the artist was thinking when the lyrics were written?
The best songs mean all things to all people.
60. Are you considering recording the album “Feel Free” in Welsh?
61. Can you tell us what Eddie, Nigel and Dave are up to these days?
Yes, but I think you better ask them instead.
62. Besides “Change I“, have you considered any other tracks for “Second Generation Volume II?”
“One Step Closer To Home (Electric Version)”, “For Freedom”, “68 Guns (original live version)”, “Only The Thunder (acoustic version)”. These are just a few I have been considering at present. I don’t know when time will allow me to record, but I hope I get it soon.
63. Have you considered re-doing any lesser-known Alarm album tracks such as: “We are The Light“, “Shout To The Devil“, “Only The Thunder“, “Shelter“, “One Step Closer To Home” , “Hard Land“, “Prison Without Prison Bars“, and “The Wind Blows Away My Words” as a “Second Generation” volume?
Is this your attempt at a subtle hint…?
64. What surprises you the most about breaking into the American music scene again?
I was surprised by the gap between U.S. and Euro music tastes. Artists that I love in America mean nothing in the UK and vice versa. Different production values exist on both sides of the pond. It was interesting to record in both the U.S. and UK and try to make both criteria work on the same record. I was travelling to and fro between the UK and America during the recording of “Feel Free” and I wanted the album to reflect this.
65. “Beautiful Thing” was the clear stand-out song during your 1992 tour, but on “Breathe” it seems a bit “shoved aside” in favour of other tracks. Can you explain this?
An album is a collection of songs, the first being as important as the last. No song is ever “shoved aside”. If it is not deemed good enough it gets “shoved off”.
66 . You often say that “Wonderwall” saved your life during your cancer scare, how exactly did it help you?
This was the song that I heard most on American radio during my U.A. acoustic tour. It became something of an anthem for me mentally, something to cling to. If ever I was feeling low, this song would come on the radio and lift me. Straight away Jules, Danny and myself would start singing along with the lyrics and forget, for a moment, about what was really happening.
67. Did you record any of your shows from your solo acoustic tour earlier this year?
I never specifically recorded any of the shows except on video which will be seen at the Gathering V. I did, however, record a lot of the acoustic material (37 songs) during the mixing sessions at Fort Apache and Dreamland. There is a great bootleg of the show at Maxwell’s in New Jersey from the same tour (acoustic “White Riot” and all).
68. Since the USA National Soccer Team has beaten both Scotland and Ireland in the last few weeks, what do you think their chances are of beating England and Wales for a clean sweep of the British Isles? Do you think this success will affect the Americans performance at the Gathering V?
You’ve already beaten England but you’ll never beat Wales, not even at The Gathering.
69. There is a rumour going around that you are planning to sneak some Manchester United ringers on your squad for the Gathering V. You wouldn’t be that sneaky, would you ?
There’s more chance of Eddie MacDonald’s 70’s cover band appearing at the Gathering V after show party…
70. What is going to happen to the song “Down The Road“?
I was going to use this song as a musical starting point for the proposed Alarm re-formation last year, but as it never came down to it, I felt it should be left alone for awhile.
71. What is the truth about your collaborations with Billy Duffy, Brian Setzer and Steve Earle?
I have met and spoken with all three about writing songs. I went to Nashville to work with Steve Earle and something may come of that in the future.
72. Which usually comes first when you write songs, the lyrics or the music ?
Mostly the music although sometimes the song is triggered by a phrase I may overhear, and then the lyrics follow from there.
73. How was recording “Feel Free” different from recording “Breathe”?
The songs for “Feel Free” were written and recorded at the same time, whereas the songs for “Breathe” were conceived and demoed prior to entering the recording studio. “Feel Free” was written in response to my personal situation, and in reaction to the set of circumstances surrounding my mental and physical health at the time. I wanted the listener to hear the moment of discovery and to feel the same excitement I would feel on hearing a song back for the first time. “Regeneration” for instance was only played once in the studio at Fort Apache, Boston. I wrote the song in-between recording “Feel Free” and the message. and laid down an acoustic guide with a stream-of-conciseness lyric. I listened back to it and liked what I heard, immediately I had Ooge play drums. Just like engineer Dan McLoughlin and myself, this was Ooge’s first time hearing the song. He got the track in one take. I then recorded bass and acoustic guitars adding the discordant electric guitar harmonics. I overdubbed harmonica and at that point, thought the track was finished. Weeks later, I played the song live at The Gathering and Chris Lewis came up with a brilliant electric guitar figure which was added to the master take at The Elevator in Liverpool. Most of the songs were worked on in this manner giving “Feel Free” its spontaneity and immediacy.
74. Explain the importance of the song “Regeneration“. Is it true that it will not be a single from “Feel Free” ?
“Regeneration” expresses the joy, anger, disgust, confusion, clarity and liberation from a life threatening situation. The song began its life on the sleeve of a “Second Generation” Vol. I CD I signed for Peter and Gillian Midgeley, who had crossed the Atlantic to attend the U.S. acoustic tour last winter. They asked me to autograph the sleeve and I started putting down some thoughts, basic observations from the tour, which became the first verse of the song. I copied down what I had written and later put some music to it at Fort Apache. There is another verse that I edited out to keep the song as focused as possible. The track has been released as a “free” single in the UK The song was “given” to me so I wanted to give it back.
75. Now that “Feel Free” is finished, when will your NEXT album be recorded?
When I have finished answering all of these questions.
76. Can a hero be a hero in his hometown?
Ask Alan Shearer.