1. ‘Feel Free’ has been a success in many European countries, especially
Italy. Can you tell us just what happened in Italy? Do you consider it a
‘Feel Free’ has generally been received well in every country of release.
The album has enjoyed positive reviews and has definitely advanced the
overall perception of Mike Peters as an artist working at the cutting edge
of modern music. In Italy, the album received some decent airplay and I was
able to perform on national t.v. which helped to ensure the concerts were
very well attended. As to this being a breakthrough, only time will tell.
2. What about France? The Alarm had a tough time breaking through to the
French, did you make any encouraging in-roads with them this time?
Yes! The French music press have been very favourable towards ‘Feel Free’
and the album actually scraped into the lower regions of the French charts.
3. You played at Disneyland France. That must have been a strange couple
of days. Can you let us in on what happened there?
That was a closed show for the French media, although I played a warm up
show with the band the night before to a lot of bemused families, who were
quietly munching burgers (or as in Pulp Fiction should that be a “”royale
with cheese””). I think they were expecting a doo wop group or something but
when we blasted into ‘Rip’ a lot of them fled for the exits leaving us
alone to get on with our rehearsal.
4. Do you feel the U.S.A. has abandoned you?
No, not at all. The build up towards the release of ‘Feel Free’ definitely
proved otherwise, and if Select Records had been able to deliver on the
release then things might have worked out differently. As it turned out
the label ran into difficulties, not entirely of their own making, and
‘Feel Free’ suffered as a result. On a purely ‘musical’ level ‘Feel Free’
has been a success and in the long run, that is what really counts.
5. What are your long-range plans for the United States/Canada?
To reactivate all that was begun in 95/96 and take things to the next level.
6. Now that “”Select”” will be out of the picture in the U.S.A., what will
you be looking for in a record company in the U.S.A.?
Commitment, commitment and commitment.
7. What happened to the songs you wrote with Steve Earle and Francis Dunnery?
I wrote and demoed a couple of songs with Francis Dunnery that I doubt will
ever see the light of day. This doesn’t rule out the prospect of us working
together again, although the songs we wrote might sound a little dated if
they were released today. I hope to collaborate with Steve Earle around a
project I have in mind for “”Statue Of Liberty””.
8. Do you consider ‘Statue Of Liberty’ a poignant song, especially after
what happened to you in America? Will we ever hear it again?
‘Statue Of Liberty’ is the true story of my Grandfathers travels in North
America from 1918 – 1921 in the aftermath of the First World War . I have
been approached to develop the song into a film script and hope to involve
other songwriters like Steve Earle in a soundtrack. This is one of those
ideas that won’t go away, but may take some time to realise. In the
meantime, I am sure the song will be performed again. I would especially
love to perform it in New York City.
9. A movie would be tremendous! Do you think the world would accept Welsh
voice at the cinema?
Why not, Wales has a rapidly growing contemporary film industry as
witnessed by recent success ‘Twin Town’.
10. This might have been a misguided attempt, but what I was really getting
at with the question about “”Statue Of Liberty”” was whether or not you felt
there were any paralells between the experience of your Grandfather, and
your experience in 1996 with the USA.
I think that all my visits to America since I first visited in 1983 have
all parallelled my Grandfathers. In the sense that amongst the wonderment,
there is still ‘Hiraeth’ (longing) to come home.
11. I’ve come across a few Alarm fans who have wondered where you were born,
and if you are really Welsh. Could you clear this up for us?
Michael Leslie Peters, Born – Chatsworth House, Prestatyn, Wales 25.2.1959
12. Whatever happened to the contribution you were going to make to the
Bob Dylan tribute album on the Sister Ruby Records label?
I don’t know, or should I say the answer is blowing in the wind.
13. Have you been consciously influenced by John Lennon’s solo albums?
Some of the more reflective lyrics from the new record and also ‘Feel
Free’ (particularly “”My Calling”” and “”All Is Forgiven””) seem to echo
sentiments Lennon expressed on the ‘Plastic Ono Band’ and ‘Imagine’ albums.
I don’t know about consciously, I hope not, but those albums are certainly
two particular favourites of mine.
14. You very much wanted ‘The Message’ to be the first single from ‘Feel
Free’. What are your feelings about the trials and tribulations you had
with that song?
Both Select in the U.S.A. and Transatlantic in Europe saw the potential of
‘The Message’ as a single and wanted to use ‘Shine On’ as a set up single.
A record to attract interest and reawaken the public / media to the
presence of Mike Peters. The intention was then to follow ‘Shine On’ with
‘The Message’ and ‘The Message’ with ‘My Calling’. In fact both tracks had
been extensively remixed and reworked with a view towards release. However,
as we are all only to aware, the follow up campaign never materialised and,
due to unforeseen changes in the high level management and business
structures of both companies, the ‘Feel Free’ campaign had to be abandoned.
In the long run these changes will I believe, prove to be beneficial. This
kind of situation is not uncommon in the music industry. Paul Weller has
just been experiencing exactly the same frustrations with the takeover of
15. Speaking of Paul Weller, you met up around the time you were recording
“”Rise””. Did he have any gems of advice to give to you or you to him?
No, we just met at the hotel and talked music / life for a while.
16. If you could do one thing differently with ‘Feel Free’ what would it
I would have liked more time to mix ‘Feel Free’. The album was initially
mixed by Tim Speed & Nigel Luby at Elevator in Liverpool, who took a very
singular view of the recorded work and pushed the sonic envelope to the
very extreme left of centre. Due to touring commitments, I was not present
at the mix and, although I could appreciate what they had done, I did not
think the work represented the sound of Mike Peters. (Some tapes & CD-R’s
of this version were sent out with artwork and a working title
‘Psychological Combat Zone’…). I eventually remixed the album in
Woodstock but, because of deadlines, Dan McLoughlin and myself did not have
as much time as we would have liked, and had to rush the mix of ‘Feel
Free’. Although we were both pleased with the results, I can’t help
feeling that, given just a little more time, we could have got something
17. Nigel Luby engineered and mixed “”Strength””. Did he and Tim Speed
infuse some “”Alarm-isms”” into the mix, or was it some wholly different
sound in a direction that you did not care to persue?
Definately the latter, and even though I actually enjoyed their approach to
the mix, after a few listens I realised the mix was not one that really
enhanced my songs. Personally, I felt the songs themselves were musically
extreme without having to resort to aural shock tactics.
18. Is there a chance that the MPO will release a CD of “”Feel Free”” outtakes?
There are some out takes from ‘Feel Free’ namely an electric ‘Broken
Silence’, a mind blowing version of ‘Wonderwall’ and a version of ‘Love Is
A Revolution’ with a different guitar arrangement. Although an album
release of out takes is unlikely, I’m sure some of these tracks will
eventually see the light of day at some point. However, an album of the
Speed/Luby mixes (‘Psychological Combat Zone’) might be interesting.
19. “”The Abbey Road Sessions”” is absolutely brilliant. Why did you sit on
it for so long?
These recordings were essentially the demos for ‘Breathe’. I feel that part
of the enjoyment of hearing ‘Abbey Road Sessions’ now, is that you are
listening to familiar songs at an early stage in their musical development
much in the same way The Beatles Anthology works. There are some amazing
demos of the ‘Rise’ album which in time may well see the light of day but
they can only be understood with the benefit of stepping backwards from a
completed, fully produced studio recording.
20. “”Refugees In The Westworld”” sounds very much like an Alarm song. Does
this have anything to do with it not showing up anywhere else previously?
‘Refugees’ was a song that never made the ‘Breathe’ album for various
reasons. Mainly because of the advent of newer songs like ‘Breathe’ and
‘Love is a Revolution’ etc.
21. At one point you had planned a whole series of ‘Second Generation’
albums. These plans seem to have faded. Are you still planning a volume 2?
Don’t worry, ‘Second Generation Volume 2’ is on it’s way, and should be
available in the not too distant future.
22: What songs might we see on “”Second Generation Vol. II””?
Noone knows what the rude boy knows.
23. You were very quiet at The Gathering Five this year. Very few stories
or anecdotes. Were you feeling uncomfortable, or was it a case of “”letting
the music do the talking””?
At The Gathering Five I definitely took the latter approach. I believe that
songs tell their own story and deliberately chose ‘Feel Free’ and
‘Freeworld’ as the opening songs as they best expressed my mood coming into
the event and quickly followed them with ‘Ground Zero’ as a way of laying
down a tone for the evening. In the middle section I played a trilogy of
songs back to back (‘Deeside’, ‘Dawn Chorus’ & ‘Hallowed Ground’) because I
wanted to highlight their shared bond of characterisation and mood. I
closed the show with ‘Moments in Time’ and ‘Walk Forever By My Side’ as a
dual celebration of the past and the future. To me, the acoustic shows are
as special and as equally important as the electric event because, they
allow me to reveal in greater detail, the lyrical scope of my songwriting
ability and connect storylines and ideas which stretch beyond the
boundaries of a particular album sequence or musical time frame.
24. One of the movies shown during the ‘film festival’ at G5 was taken from
the ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ era. There was a long segment that included you
playing about 6 songs acoustically. Most of these songs were ones that have
never been recorded (or not in the form that you played them). Can you tell
us what those were?
During the summer of 1986, immediately after the ‘Strength’ tour. I wrote a
lot of songs during a driving holiday in Wales prior to commencing working
on what would turn out to be the ‘Hurricane’ album. I made a lot of
primitive audio recordings, and also videotaped myself, at various
locations throughout the principality, (the places in which I wrote the
songs that made it are included on the album liner notes). The songs on the
film are mainly the songs that never made it through to completion.
(‘Blindfold’, ‘Ghosts Of Rebecca’, ‘I Am What I Am’ and ‘The Darkest Hour’
were some of the titles).
25. How close are you to opening an ‘Alarm’ theme restaurant in Rhyl?
Closer than you think!
26. What do you think some of the menu items would be?
Top of the list would be ‘The Dave Sharp Steak (One Step Closer To The
T-Bone)’ closely followed by ‘Nigel Twist’s Homefried Chicken (The
drumstick that can’t be beaten)’. I was even thinking of naming the
restaurant ‘Macdonalds’, but I don’t think it would catch on.
27. What did it take to get Eddie MacDonald up on stage with you for the
Saturday night show?
I had been telling Eddie about the M.P.O., The Gathering etc. and suggested
he come up and have a look around at everything that has been going on. I
then invited him to come onstage for a couple of songs and he accepted.
28. How did it feel to have Eddie MacDonald play with you again?
It was cool. We ran through the songs (‘Spirit’ & ‘Rescue’) a couple of
times during the soundcheck and it was just like old times. On stage when I
introduced Eddie it was not only a great moment for the two of us, but
possibly an even greater moment for the fans, who have not had a chance to
pay their respects to Eddie since ’91.
29. You played ‘Pavilion Steps’ and ‘One Step Closer To Home’ (Full Band
Version) during your show. These are not exactly common songs. Does this
signify a move away from playing The Alarm ‘standards’ on your part and
towards playing new music, and rarities from The Alarm era?
There will always be a place for ‘Alarm’ material amongst my live work. The
amount and balance between old and new, classic and rare will constantly
change depending upon the territory and nature of the show be it electric
or acoustic, celebratory concert or new album promotional tour. I do
respect the audience dynamic of wanting to hear new songs and old
favourites that is why I seldom adhere to the set list or play the same
show twice. I prefer to keep people guessing, even if that includes members
of my own band and road crew.
30. When you met Eddie MacDonald back in 1996, did you two finally “”bury
Eddie and I never had to “”bury the hatchet””. True friendship means never
having to say “”sorry””. Eddie knows and understands why I left The Alarm and
once the dust had settled on that period of our lives together, our
friendship soon resurfaced and has been active ever since.
31. Did your rekindled friendship with your boyhood pal (Eddie MacDonald)
inspire any of your new songs?
No. Although Eddie and myself may write some songs together in the near future.
32. Nigel Buckle has recently showed up on the internet discussion group.
Were you aware of this?
Yes. I think it’s great that fans still have the opportunity to debate with
Nigel and hear his interpretation of past events.
33. What are your thoughts on the totally raw and spontaneous nature of
the internet discussions about The Alarm and related topics?
Brilliant, but for me, the best thing is the extended friendship and
openess that has sprung up around the internet.
34. Dave Sharp has recently announced plans to 1. Record an “”alternative
album. 2. Start his own website 3. Finally deliver his newsletter “”The
Circle””. Do you think he is finally moving in the right direction?
Dave Sharp has always moved in the right direction as far as I am concerned.
35. Please explain how four young men from Wales came to be heavily
influenced by such American folk artists as Woody Guthrie and Boxcar
Willie. Was this primarily due to Dave Sharp or were they also favorites of
I got into Woody Guthrie mainly because of my interest in Bob Dylan. I
first heard about Woody when I read the Anthony Scaduto Dylan Biography
around 1981 which told of Guthries influence on the young Dylan. Also I
read Dave Marsh’s biography on The Who (Before I Get Old) which carried an
interview with Pete Townshend urging modern artists who claim to be
influenced by The Who, Beatle, Stones etc. to go back to their influences,
namely the likes of Guthrie, Robert Johnson etc. I thought this was a very
interesting point, and bought up as much early, pre-pop music as I could. I
remember giving Woody Guthrie’s “”Dust Bowl Ballads”” to Dave Sharp for
Christmas 1982. The version of ‘Bound For Glory’ that was played by The
Alarm was inspired by a recording of The George Mitchell Choir on a Liberty
Records compilation called ‘Hootenanny’ which I still have. Also the
version of ‘The Bells Of Rhymney’ that we played was influenced not, by the
famous Byrds version, but by a Pete Seeger recording that contained the
complete lyrics as written by Welsh poet, Idris Davies. Interestingly, the
song that Dave recorded on ‘Downtown America’, ‘Give Me Back My Job’, is
actually a Jim Garland song correctly titled ‘I Don’t Want Your Millions
Mr.’ (Sanga Music). I have a version of this song, again performed by Pete
Seeger, which I recorded onto a pre show tape heard at many an Alarm show
throughout the ‘Change’ tour. I used to sing the song at soundcheck
sometimes and Dave always loved to join in. I often wonder if he recorded
his version from memory or if he subsequently found it from another source.
36. What was the first Alarm song ever played?
‘Shout To The Devil’ was the first song to be played by The Alarm at the
Victoria Hotel, Prestatyn on 10th July 1981. I actually wrote the song that
very day and as it suited our three acoustics and drumkit lineup we
rehearsed it during the soundcheck and because it had such a tribal feel we
decided to use it to begin the show. It was the opening song of virtually
every Alarm show of 1981/82. Contrary to earlier reports, ‘Alarm Alarm’
was only ever played by The Alarm at the beginning of the ‘Strength’
recording sessions, as captured on the Absolute flexi disc. An early
version of the song was performed by The Toilets and subsequently rewritten
/ reworked and played by Seventeen who performed it, but not at the
beginning, of their final show at the Half Moon, Herne Hill, London under
the then new band name Alarm Alarm. (The opening song for this show was
actually ‘Four Minute Warning’). It was this show which was mentioned by
John Peel who famously noted the trend of double barrel names for bands,
“”Duran Duran, Talk Talk and now Alarm Alarm, perhaps I should change my
name to John Peel John Peel””. Hence forcing us to consider using the name
37. Ok. Let’s stretch your memory further. What was the first song you
ever played in front of a LIVE audience? What was the first song
“”Seventeen”” ever played? How about the last? How about the first song you
ever played in front of a live audience after leaving The Alarm?
The first gig I ever played was at my sisters 21st birthday party, on the
6th October 1975 at the Talardy Hotel, St. Asaph. At the time the band,
which I had formed at school, had no name, but we were christened ‘Harry
Hippie’ by the D.J. James Barr. The first song we performed that night was
‘If You Think You Know How To Love Me’ by Smokie. The first song The
Toilets played live was called ‘Nothing To Do’ at the Palace Hotel in Rhyl
and the first song ‘Seventeen’ played was called ‘Pop Generation’ at the
Bee (now Station) Hotel in Rhyl. I still have the set list from this show
and the date was Saturday 27th May 1978. I’m not sure what would have been
the last song ‘Seventeen’ performed but it could have been either ’68 Guns’
or ‘Breakdown’ by The Buzzcocks both of which featured in the early Alarm
repertoire. As for the fhe first song I performed live after leaving The
Alarm, that should have been ‘Poetic Justice’, but due to an electricity
failure I only managed a few bars of the intro before having to break off.
During the delay, while the road crew dealt with the problem, I took an
audience request and performed a short acoustic version of ‘My Sweet Lord’
by George Harrison and then, problem solved, an electric ‘Poetic Justice’.
38. Will EMI GoldDisk be releasing any “”expanded”” Alarm albums with extra
I hope so. I am sure EMI will adopt a wait and see policy before committing
to reissuing Alarm catalogue album CD’s. They are about to commit to a
‘Best Of’ and if it sells well, then I am sure “”expanded”” Alarm albums will
39. Now that there is little chance of an ‘Alarm’ reunion, what will happen
to the song ‘Burning Down The Road’.
Maybe I will try to persuade Dave, Eddie and Nigel to record it with me for
a new Alarm ‘Best Of’.
40. Do you think there is really a chance of that happening?
No. But ‘Down The Road’ will be recorded for ‘The Best Of’ as it is really
an ‘Alarm’ song. I wrote it around the time of the ‘Raw’ album, intending
it to be a spiritual brother/sister to ’68 Guns’ and ‘Spirit Of ’76’. I
think this is the natural and logical home for this particular song.
41. Did Eddie MacDonald visit you in the studio while you were recording
your new album?
42. Let’s go back in time for bit. In your career you seem to have had a
love/hate relationship with technology in music. Before we explore that
though, let’s start in 1976. You were a computer operator back then. What
exactly dud your job entail? Did this job turn you “”off”” towards
My job description was ‘Computer Operator’. I worked on an old IBM System 3
mainframe with an operating system of RPG II. It was a data card based
system that seen in todays terms was very primitive. I actually loved the
work, if not the job. I suppose I equated technology with conformity and
this probably coloured my judgement when it came to technological
influences in music making.
43: The Alarm started as an almost “”organic”” band, with a punk/skiffle
sound that was stripped nearly to the bone. Was this in any way a reaction
to the “”electronics”” that had begun to creep into music during the advent
of “”new wave””?
No, it was a way of expressing ourselves in an original manner.
44: You said in an interview around the time that “”Declaration”” was
released that you had “”no idea”” where The Alarm was taking you, and that
you might ALL use sequencers on the next album. Soon after that, “”The
Chant Has Just Begun”” was released as a single. Was there a reason for
this sudden change in attitude towards the use of technology in music?
(Besides your already stated “”fear of failure””).
We always strived to make our music as hard hitting as possible and the
eighties threw up some startling changes in the technoloy of recording. As
a band we were always interested in anything that could help us to capture
our live energy. ‘The Chant’ was a failed attempt to define and capture the
true sound of The Alarm. Something which eluded us for most, if not all, of
our recorded history. Certainly, at the time of all our releases, a lot of
fans of the band felt that our records didn’t come close to the
sound/energy levels of our live concerts.
45: By 1987, your attitude had veered in another direction. It seemed to
you that technology was “”de-humanizing”” music, and you rallied against
this every night in concert. Even so, you had used electronics on “”Eye Of
The Hurricane””, especially in the single “”Rain In The Summertime””. Were you
more upset about the technology itself, or the way it was being used?
I believe it is important to question the value of new developments in any
walk of life, musical or otherwise, sometimes judgements can be formed too
hastily, but I am always open to being proved wrong. At the time, I was
concerned that the technology was being used to dehumanise music. Whenever
we used it with The Alarm it always caused consternation in the camp. ‘Rain
In The Summertime’ was an experiment that took us all by surprise,
especially when everyone who heard it declared it to be the best track on
the album. Perhaps, if we had been collectively more open to new ideas,
The Alarm as an entity may have existed beyond 1991.
46: After 1987, you spent most of the rest of your time with The Alarm
trying to strip your music down to the basics, effusing almost all
synthesizers and other electronics. Was this a follow through of your
feelings towards the over-use of technology in music at the time, or just
The Alarm trying to finds its own voice in the ever-changing landscape of
rock ‘n roll?
I think this was an instinctive move to get away from 80’s (over)
production techniques more than anything.
47: These days, electronics and technology in some form or another, creep
into almost all of your work. Do you now see these things more as tools on
your “”musicians workbench”” more than anything else?
Absolutely, the new ‘technology’ has certainly created an unforseen musical
freedom, in the same way that the internet has revolutionised
communication. The art of sampling etc. is in it’s own way, a form of punk
rock, and is there to be used in the same way that the ‘wah wah’ pedal
revolutionised guitar playing in the sixties.
48: You got into the “”Internet”” almost a year before it broke out as the
“”next big thing””. How did this happen? Was it a symptom of your new
openness towards technology?
The idea of the internet was something that was brought to my attention by
fans communicating with the MPO. I have always felt compelled to listen and
respond to the needs of the fans, and the internet was a logical extension
of the communication ideals expressed by the MPO.
49. Why has the MPO moved locations? Was your secret hideout discovered?
The MPO has had to move location in order to be able to cope with the
increase in demand placed upon the service. It has grown so much since the
early days of 1992, when it was first introduced. Like the internet,
technological advances have meant that the we can now introduce a global
phone number which we hope will encourage callers from all over the world
and help us to expand the personal service which has been so well recieved.
As the new by-line of the MPO states, [mpo-one world-one address-one
phone-one fax-one voice-mpo]
50. What do you consider your greatest success has been in the past year?
Writing and recording “”Rise””.
51. Wow. Do you consider “”Rise”” the most significant album you have ever
I believe it contains my finest work both written and recorded to date.
52. Is it an illusion, or are there allusions to ‘The Alarm’ in your new
song ‘Ground Zero?
There are no allusions to ‘The Alarm’ in any of my new songs. However,
there is a parallel with one of my earlier songs ‘Unsafe Building’, which
is also a song about creative destruction. Whenever I reach one of life’s
milestone’s, a song of this nature seems to emerge.
53: There seems to be a few songs of the “”Rebuilding”” nature on “”Rise””.
“”Ground Zero”” is the obvious one, but “”Burnout Syndrome”” has that flavor
as well, and to a certain extent, so do “”Rise”” and “”High On The Hill””. To
take the analogy a bit further, did you “”suss out the snakes”” and “”burn all
your old clothes”” while writing and recording “”Rise””?
54. ‘Feel Free’ was born out of pain. What emotions would you say inspired
the new ‘Rise’ album.
I wouldn’t say ‘Feel Free’ was born out of “”pain””. ‘Feel Free’ was written
and recorded during a period of transformation in my life. It was an end
and a beginning. ‘Rise’ is a record that will stand in its own time and
space owing nothing to what has gone before.
55. OK, maybe not “”pain”” exactly, but “”Feel Free”” semed to contrast the
dark and the light in many places. and in some cases it seemed that the
dark won out. “”Feel Free””, “”The Love We Made””, “”Psychological Combat
Zone””, “”Broken Silence”” and even the melancholy tone of “”All Is Forgiven””
point to an extremely interesting side of Mike Peters that had not been
cleary evident before. Do you think your “”transformation”” has made you
more willing to let people see the “”whole”” of your feelings?
I do think that ‘Feel Free’ was a particularly naked record but then the
subject matter dictated that. I think the writing process of that
particular album managed to open / free my mind somewhat. However, I think
I’ve managed to keep my trousers on for ‘Rise’.
56. On “”Feel Free”” with “”Psychological Combat Zone”” and “”Breathe”” with
“”This Is War””, you chronicle destructive relationships. What part of Mike
Peters do these songs come from? Will we hear more?
They come from the part of Mike Peters that has experienced 38 years of life.
57. Do you consider “”Rise”” to be virtual “”ground-level”” from which you
will build your career for forseeable future?
Pu it this way, 1998 will be extremely interesting for any interested Mike
58. You have likened the creative force that brought forth the songs on
‘The Rise’ album to the same force that helped you write ‘Unsafe Building’
for the first time. What exactly does this mean?
I have always felt challenged by the creative process but the writing and
recording of ‘Rise’ felt different, unique somehow. I can’t explain in any
tangible way, except that there is an inner belief and confidence that
parallels a time when I was working on my own in early 1981, (post
Seventeen and immediately prior to The Alarm), when I wrote ‘Unsafe
Building’ and set about forming The Alarm. It was a time of great change in
my life, when the hard work of learning from my many mistakes started to be
realised. I was able to write with a certain amount of clarity, that shone
through my early work with The Alarm, but became increasingly blurred as
the workings of the band became ever complicated. For a long time, during
and after The Alarm, even though I may not have liked to admit it, I think
I spent too much time trying to justify myself to anyone who would listen.
And now, for the first time in a long while, I feel like a brand new
artist, with nothing to prove to anyone except myself. Over the last couple
of years, I have laid to rest a lot of musical ghosts and I now feel
mentally charged and musically refreshed. As I have said earlier in this
interview, ‘Feel Free’ was an end and a beginning. ‘Rise’ is the
59. The song “”In Circles”” seems to weave references to drug cultures, crop
circles, and UFO cults into a mileu of social and personal commentary. What
inspired you to write this song?
The song is really about living in the present, stopping to appreciate the
here and the now. It’s about life as the best drug available and the human
being as the most interesting lifeform in the universe.
60. Did you and Bully Duffy collaborate on “”In Circles”” ?
Yes, I was kicking the song around in a minor key and Billy suggested the
major key and toughened up what was initially quite a dreamy song. I wrote
the chorus and the lyrics on tour in France.
61. The keyboards and effects in “”Transcendental”” are incredible, creating
a very “”electric”” atmosphere in the song that matches the lyrics dead-on.
Was this the way the song was originally planned, or was there a
metamorphisis in the studio?
The song began life as a Jules Jones composition based around the main
piano melody and verse. I loved it ffrom the moment I first heard it and
together we later added the bridge and chorus. The song was first demoed
using harmonica and acoustic guitar but when I entered the second phase
using the band, it was decided to get as close to the original piano feel
as possible. To this end we experimented with an old electric piano, and
then we came across the ‘Procol Harum’ organ sound. The drums were recorded
using only one microphone and a lot of compression to achieve that
authentic sound and mixed in with a trip hop loop, I think the arrangement
creates a perfect 60’/90’s soundscape.
62. “”High On The Hill”” contains some of the most ineresting feedback and
guitar noise on “”Rise””, harkening almost to the Morricone score from “”Once
upon a time In The West””. This creates a forboding, almost desolate
ambiance in the song. Have you found feedback and guitar noise to be an
effect tool for creating atmosphere in your new songs?
Controlled feedback can be a brilliant effect for creating atmosphere.
During the demo / rehearsal session for ‘High On The Hill’, Chris Lewis
came up with the idea of using an E-Bow, which allows a musician to sustain
a guitar note for an infiite ammount of time. Instead of using the
instrument in the normal place, above the pick-ups, Chris used it behind
the bridge on his Rickenbacker electric and the effect was stunning.
63. The song ‘High On The Hill’ has a very special dedication. Do you care
to elaborate, or is it not a good time.
The song is dedicated to Chris Anderson who was a great friend of mine.
Chris was a great source of encouragement and faith when I was diagnosed,
and subsequently cleared, of having cancer. Tragically, in one of life’s
cruel twists of fate, Chris was himself diagnosed with the illness not long
after my own all clear. He put up a tremendous battle and always stayed
cheerful in the face of mounting pressure to himself and his family. He
stayed brave to the end, only mentioning his true feelings once, to his
wife Jan, asking her to pass on his beloved Gibson Les Paul guitar to me
should he not make it. Chris passed away shortly before the recording of
the ‘Rise’ album. I dedicated ‘High On The Hill’ to Chris and also used his
guitar to record the song with. His family were all present for the
recording session. He will be missed by all who knew him but never
64. It has been said that ‘Rise’ is very “”British”” sounding. Can you
elaborate on this?
I made a conscious effort to find a new voice for this record. I wanted to
recapture a certain amount of innocence, to unlearn a lot of what I had
previously experienced. I also wanted to make a record that had a strong
connection to the place in which I live and the surroundings I grew up in.
To enhance this reflection, I decided to cut out all the ‘americanisms’
that had crept into my vocabulary and it is probably this aspect, more than
any specific musical reference point, which gives ‘Rise’ a ‘British’ sound.
65. It seems like The Alarm’s music, and yours, has been heavily influenced
by America ever since the release of the ‘Strength’ album. Now this seems
to be changing. Do you feel you are in the same ‘zone’ that helped create
your earliest Alarm songs?
It is true that The Alarm and myself had / have an affinity with the U.S.
and I hope that ‘Rise’ will add to and strengthen this affinity. As to
‘Rise’ being in the same ‘zone’ as 1981 remains to be seen. There are
definitely similarities of circumstance. However, I believe that ‘Rise’ has
no specific musical / lyrical reference to anything that has gone before
it. There is only one significant common denominator, my early Alarm songs
were written for then, ‘Rise’ has been written for now.
66. Some of the songs on “”Rise”” seem to carry a common theme that I can
only describe as “”a joy of just being alive””. Can you explain this?
Listen to the lyrics of the ‘Feel Free’ album and I think the answer is obvious.
67. “”Rise”” contains some of the most bare-naked songs about love you have
ever written. Are you finding it easier to express this side of yourself?
I hope so.
68. Is “”Ground Zero, Where The Sound System Plays Death Disco”” your
personal version of Hell? Heaven?
There is a thin line between Heaven and hell, love and hate, strength and
weakness, rise and fall. ‘Ground Zero’ is an audio reality check.
69 . In “”Ground Zero””, you sing “”I killed the golden cow / I was
rescusitated for my sins””. Do you feel this is an apt description of your
exit from The Alarm and subsequent solo career?
It means whatever you want it to mean.
70. In what way do you think your songwriting style has changed in the
past 5-6 years? Do you still use the same processes? Some of the new
lyrics from ‘Feel Free’ and the new album have a more “”stream of conscious””
feel to them – is this something you are deliberately exploring?
I try not to let the physical act of writing a song get in the way of the
inspirational. As the years speed by, I like to think my songwriiting has
become less of the former and more of the latter.
71. “”Rise”” seems to have 2 types of songs. “”Love”” songs, and songs that
chronical someone on the “”edge””. There are also some, like “”I Want You””
that seem to straddle between the two. Was it your goal to create an album
that juxtaposed these elements, or is this mere coincidence?
‘Rise’ is not a concept album if that’s what you mean.
72. No, not as a “”concept”” album, but “”Rise”” does have an obvious musical
continuity, more so than “”Breathe”” and “”Feel Free””, and I was wondering if
there was any sort of lyrical continuity as well?
I did consciously try to write songs and arrangements that ran from one to
another. I wanted to start thinking as if I was in a band again. Creating a
sound, an attitude that could be audibly experienced in each and every
lyric and mirrored in every sound.
73. “”The Wasting Land”” opens with the lines “”Force fed a diet of
psychobabble / comedian parodies at my expense / supress my anger with a
veil of complacency”” – is this an answer to past criticisms of your
‘The Wasting Land’ is a requiem of lost opportunity.
74: “”Wasting Land”” and “”Ground Zero”” sound like a pair of songs that could
have appeared on Declaration II””, an early Jam album, or even Stiff Little
Fingers. Is this a new direction for you, or an effect of the “”return to
British”” attitude evident on “”Rise””?
I think that these two songs follow the same musical path as ‘Regeneration’
and are destined to become live classics of the future. I like to think
that both songs carry with them the spirit of the past and at the same time
are alive with the vitality of the present.
75. You’ve stated in the past that “”White Noise”” was a song you’d “”return
to”” – and you did record a new version of it for this album. Are there any
other songs from your past which you will revisit?
‘My Calling’ has also been reworked for ‘Rise’. This song was in many ways
the cornerstone of the new album. I was really looking forward to this song
coming out as the second single from ‘Feel Free’. I was sure it would do
well, it worked really well live, and I was very disappointed when I had to
change labels and single plans had to be shelved. I decided to go away and
write an album of songs that would achieve a similar reaction. ‘Rise’ was
the result of this reaction. I also believe that ‘My Calling’ is a great
song that deserves to be heard, so I re-worked it to fit in with the
overall sound of ‘Rise’. Now it looks like being one of the singles,
providing that all important continuity between the recent past and the
76. Speaking of “”White Noise (Part II)””, it contains your most
“”ambient-techno”” sound, and the most balls-out guitar crunching of your
solo career, all rolled into one cohesive package. Was it your plan to
juxtapose these two differing styles?
Right from the offset, even as I performed the song acoustically at the
Gathering 5, I heard it sounding like it does on ‘Rise’. A combination of
everything that is new and wonderful in todays music and at the same time,
containing all the mystery and power of sounds and attitudes that have gone
77: The words “”Death Disco”” end “”Ground Zero””, and then you immediately
begin “”White Noise (part II)”” with strands of “”death disco””. With this,
were you trying to create a sense of irony?
So Mike Peters fans do pay attention to detail after all.
78. “”Rise”” starts out with a totally “”new”” sounding song, “”In Circles”” and
ends with the guitar overdrive of “”Burnout Syndrome””. Did you order the
songs on the album to elicit any sort of reaction from the listener?
I definately worked the album so it runs together as a continuous piece of
music. As you have already spotted, there are a certain ammount of links
between songs, lyrically and sonically, it is for the listener however, to
discern the relevance of such interplay.
79: The guitar “”fireworks”” that finish off “”Burnout Syndrome”” are
magnificent. Did you and Billy Duffy work on that together, or did he
just take off with it, letting you sit back and be amazed?
He is a one take wonder that Billy Duffy. He took one listen, said he heard
a bit of Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ in it, strapped on his guitar and
lashed into the solo, he even blew the amps during the last bar of the song
and if you listen closely you can actually hear the electrionics burning
80. How did you meet up with “”Sentient””?
They are a local band from Rhyl who sent me some demo tapes which blew me
away, I then invited them to remix ‘The Message’ which was amazing and then
invited mainman, Mark O’Grady to the studio to do dome programming on
‘White Noise’ and get invloved in a few other tracks.
81: Did “”Sentient”” record any “”alternative”” mixes of the songs on “”Rise””?
Will we get to hear them?
Mark O’Grady did versions of ‘In Circles’, ‘White Noise [Part III]’ and
‘Transcendenatal’. I’m sure you will get to hear all of these mixes
82. Do you have any idea what might be the first single from the ‘Rise’ album?
Probably ‘Transcendental’, maybe ‘My Calling’, or it could even be ‘First
Light’. These three songs seem to be exciting the radio team. The fans
would love ‘Ground Zero’ but working live and on the radio are two separate
83. Have you decided on a record company for the UK?
Yes. The new label is called ‘Eagle’ and is run by John Knowles who has
worked with me in the distant past with The Alarm and recently on ‘Feel
84. Do they have an outlet in the USA/North America?
They will have.
85. How does it feel to have delivered an album to the record company
months before it is due?
Good, I can now get on with the next one.
86. Does Mike Peters have music running through his head all the time?
Unfortunately / fortunately, yes, I do seem to have been blessed / cursed
by the drug of music.
87. How many songs have you written for your next album?
88. How do you like working with Billy Duffy?
Billy Duffy is the first musician I have ever worked with who has the same
work ethic as myself. We feed off and give out a very similar energy.
89. Were you aware that Mr. Duffy was such a good soccer player?
Although I was acquainted with Billy through his work with The Cult. It was
actually during the Phoenix Festival football tournament of 1995 that we
first discussed the idea of working together. He is a great soccer player
but he’s an even better guitarist. His only defect as far as I am aware is
his support of Manchester City.
90. Did you get to see the 3 minute piece on VH1 (in the USA) about you and
Billy Duffy? What did you think?
Haven’t had a chance to see it yet. I’m not one for looking back over old
footage though. I’m usually too busy trying to catch up with today.
91. You recently holed up with Mr. Duffy, and a couple other musicians,
playing and recording demos for a possible project. How did this go?
All will be revealed in the fullness / nearness of time.
92: Which other musicians are you considering to join you for this project?
All will be revealed in the fullness / nearness of time.
93. How serious are you and Billy Duffy about recording and touring?
All will be revealed in the fullness / nearness of time.
94. What is the purpose of your new EP? Why did you want to release it?
I want the EP to be a serious companion to ‘Rise’. I want it to bridge the
gap from the release of ‘Feel Free’ and today. To restate previous
intentions and at the same time, announce the shape of things to come.
95. So now you are back to “”My Calling””, which was slated as a single, but
dropped in the middle of the “”record company wars”” earlier this year. How
would it feel to finally release that song as a single?
It would feel great, I think it would make a strong single and turn a lot
of people on. My Calling’ was remixed for a single in 1997 but cancelled
even though the reworked version was great, it also went down really well
everytime I played it live and seemed to be the most popular song on ‘Feel
Free’. The remixed version was quite different to the one on’Feel Free’ and
once I had completed work on the ‘Rise’ album, I then went back and did a
little more work to ‘My Calling’ and found myself wanting to include it on
the record because it now has a lot in common with songs like
‘Transcendental’ and ”Rise’ itself.
96. Is there a chance that this EP will be released in the 1997, or will
we have to until for 1998?
The EP will be available ‘free’ to everyone who purchases ‘Rise’ in the
first week of release. It will probably mirror the promo CD and contain all
the potential singles of the album aswell as some material like ‘I Want
You’ and ‘Gone Elvis’.
97. When “”Rise”” was finished, did you consider that the long lay-over
until release might create a situation just like this: where new songs
eclipse album songs, and you end up with a different track listing than you
Although I was concerned this may happen, I was resolute in the knowledge
that I had made a very strong album in ‘Rise’. I am always writing songs
and at the moment my creativity is at an all time high. I have strengthened
the album with ‘My Calling’ and although ‘I Want You’ is strong aswell, it
is better suited to the ep. I have written some great new tracks post
‘Rise’ and some of them may be my best work to date, but to realise them
they have to have time to breathe.
98. Originaly, “”I Want You”” was going to be on the “”Rise”” album, but was
moved off in place of ‘My Calling’, and put on your EP. Why was this done?
‘I Want You’ was actually recorded with the ‘b’ side of a single in mind.
Once recording of the album was complete, I placed it amongst the track
listing on some early listening tapes and some of my close confidantes
loved it and others felt it out of place. In the end I decided to replace
it with ‘My Calling’ and return ‘I Want You’ to it’s intended home as part
of the EP.
99. “”I Want You”” was written for “”Feel Free””, rejected there, put on
“”Rise””, and rejected again. If you were the song “”I Want You””, how do you
think you would be feeling right about now?
100. “”I Want You”” and “”Gone Elvis”” pointed towards an American pop-rock
side of you that we have never heard before. Are there any more songs
along these lines knocking around inside your head, or archived on tape?
I’m not sure. I write all the time and I’m sure if I went back through my
files I would find some similar material. It’s what to do with it, that’s
101. Around the time of “”Breathe”” it was rumored that you had roughly 70
songs written that could have been recorded. Are any of these still
kicking around, and if so, when will we get to hear them?
There are a lot of songs from the period in the immediate aftermath of The
Alarm. Some of them showed up on the ‘Abbey Road Sessions’. The rest might
turn up at some time but when and in what form remains to be seen.
102. You are planning to release two new 21st Century CDs in December,
containing acoustic versions of Alarm songs. What was the genesis of this
I wanted to release a record that captured the essence of my acoustic shows
and also marked the development of my cannon of Alarm songs. I wanted to do
it now while all the ideas are still fresh. I actually think some of the
songs are better now than when they were recorded by The Alarm, in the
sense that over the years the lyrics / melodies have matured and hindsight
has managed to shed new light on them. The Alarm may forever be seen as an
eighties band, but the songs can and will continue to grow with the times
and this is what I have attempted to convey with these new albums.
103. Do you think the statement “”The Alarm were a band from the 80’s, but
not an 80’s band”” is a true one? Why or why not?
History will forever show that The Alarm as an entity, spanned the 80’s but
failed to come to terms with the 90’s. However, I do believe that during
that period, The Alarm produced some timeless music, a music that works
beyond the confines of a particular decade. I am also of the opinion that
interest in The Alarm will be rekindled on a wider scale at some point in
the future by and through the activity of it’s members as individuals.
104. Is it true that you recorded only “”Mike Peters”” Alarm songs for these
Yes. I have only recorded songs I actually had a hand in writing.
105. Do the two sets of years “”1981-1986″” and “”1987-1991″” hold any
significance other than a convienent way to divide the two albums?
I think the two albums will have massive individual significance for every
listener. Certainly, for me, the dates provided a convenient way to divide
the catalogue of songs but also as a listener, the albums are very
distinctive from each other.
106. What inspired you to create the “”Red”” and “”Blue”” albums?
The actual songs themselves demanded to be recorded. I discover something
new every time I play them. I also wanted a timeless setting for them,
which I believe the acoustic backing provides.
107. If the “”Red”” and “”Blue”” albums will be available in December of this
year, will “”Second Generation Vol. II”” still appear for the Gathering 6?
No. We’ll have to wait for that one.
108. Do you have anything special planned for G6?
109. Apart from your European tour and a few special shows, you have not
played very many live dates this year. Do you have any plans for extended
tours for 1998? Will your USA fans finally get to see you play with a full
band for the first time in 6 years?
In the wake of ‘Feel Free’, I decided to shift the emphasis of my music
making career from the stage to the studio. Certainly, 1997 has proved to
be an extremely creative time and being off the road has really helped in
terms of having time to write and experiment. Now, with the release of
‘Rise’ imminent, I have the task of weigh up the benefits of being off the
road wilst persuing enough touring to satisfy my audience. I will certainly
tour America and Europe, but in what capacity and for how long will depend
on many factors. I hope that the maxim ‘quality over quantity’ will help me
to achieve the right balance for myself and fans alike.
110. There is a rumor that the “”Cartoon”” are no longer “”The Poets”” and
that other musicians will take their place. Is this true?
I have always stated that the line-up of musicians should remain fluid, and
yes, I am currently in the process of working towards a new band for the
Gathering 6 and beyond. ‘Cartoon’ which is the guise of Chris, Owen and
Richard, have plans of their own, and are set to tour and release a CD in
the new year aswell. So it seems that we are destined to part ways for the
111. Might Billy Duffy and the other guys you demo’d with show up for a few
All will be revealed in the fullness / nearness of time.
112: Do you have any final words or comments about anything we have discussed?
Remind me not to write anymore songs with high numbers in the title. I hate
to think what questions you would come up with if I wrote a song called
113. You attack life like a madman. What keeps a man like you going at such
a steady, prolific pace?
A Love of life, and a life of love.