What a year 2013 has been.
My first thoughts are of being on stage at last January’s Gathering with everyone as close to the stage as possible and rocking as hard as can be – together. It was a wonderful experience to play before a large crowd without a barrier. The energy was amazing and the thought of it stayed with me throughout the months that followed.
Another highlight was the Vinyl tour and film, especially the premiere in Leicester Square and appearing on the BBC with Phil Daniels. Being on the road during the Vinyl UK Tour with The Alarm was a great experience and there were some unforgettable nights such as the Oran Mor in Glasgow and the Islington Academy show in London, but for me, the concert at Cardiff University was one of the best in a long time. What a homecoming it was! The trip out to the Philippines to perform at the Mall of Asia Arena was another great Alarm adventure and many new friends were made whilst we were there.
It is with these thoughts that I cast my mind towards The Gathering 2014, and the return to Llandudno. I know now that it will be beyond expectation. I am reading through all the song suggestions that are being sent in, and reckon we could be looking at a massive set list – possibly even ‘two gigs in one’ for the Saturday night….you never know! I promise there will be some great surprises as well as a lot of old, and not so old, favourites.
Being back in Llandudno anew also promises to add something extra to the Gathering format as, with the co-operation of the new venue management, we will be able to do everything that was possible with the ‘under one roof’ itinerary of Prestatyn Sands, only this year, housed inside the modern contemporary setting that is Venue Cymru. So, if you are planning to be at Gathering 2014, come prepared to have a weekend of serious rock and roll…. and then some.
A lot has been made of my time with Big Country coming to an end, but although I was disappointed to find out I was not required anymore, I am still proud to have been a part of the renaissance and equally proud of everything I gave for them. Every song and lyric I wrote on ‘The Journey’ was from the heart and soul, and I gave of my all in every venue I was asked to perform, throughout. Proud also of the contribution from Alarm fans, who I could see from the stage, showing their support for a fellow band, yet wearing their Alarm t-shirts with pride. It was an honour to meet, and get to know, some amazing Big Country fans along the way too, bonds that I hope will never be severed. It’s a shame it had to end in the way it did, but as Stuart Adamson sang on The Seer – ‘All This Must Pass’, so no regrets. I know this for certain, the contribution we have ‘all’ made, to the Big Country legacy, will be looked back on as positive in every way. I wish Big Country luck for the future.
I learnt a lot as a musician and writer during the 3 months I was in the USA this summer, I spent a lot of time writing new music and putting hours into my guitar playing and vocal technique. I hope you will be able to see the fruits of my labor in the re-imagined ‘Declaration’ recordings which I am currently in the studio working on. I had a particularly insightful day in Nashville, TN at Third Man Records cutting the thirty 6″ vinyl versions of ‘Sixty Eight Guns’ that marked the 30th anniversary of the original single release. Being locked inside the recording booth for the best part of a day with just an acoustic guitar and one song reminded me of the original and enduring spirit that I hope can be heard in all my songwriting since. Listening back to the warm analogue recordings, time after time, as the day went by, I was driven to include the lost lines “If they take our chances, we’ll create our own” on some of the versions. Hearing it back, it was as if my own past was calling out to me, laying down a challenge that I must now rise to meet, to draw on the reserves of ‘Declaration’ and to sing those songs again in 2014 with renewed vigour and passion and feed off their inspiration to make them live again, alongside brand new Mike Peters songs which I hope to reveal very soon.
It has also been another great year for Love Hope Strength and I was particularly moved and inspired by the ‘Mission to Israel‘ which Jules and I undertook to meet Dr. Amal and Professor Brautbar at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. James Chippendale and I will be announcing major news at the Gathering about events planned for 2014.
On a personal note, I have just returned from performing two solo shows in Bergen, Norway and I feel in great health. My family and I feel more reassured than ever that I will be able to stay in control of my health, with the announcement of a new drug (ibrutinib), about to be released, which may well be the answer for my form of leukaemia.
I will sign off now and leave you to watch and listen to this never before seen Alarm video from 1984 which accompanies a brand new 30th anniversary remix of ‘Sixty Eight Guns‘. The version you will hear has been re-edited from the original ‘Declaration’ master tapes into the original arrangement that The Alarm used to play early in the band’s career without ‘trumpets’ and era defining production techniques. The track was recently mixed by myself and Andrea Wright during the new ‘Declaration’ sessions and the video is edited from a source tape I had given to me after performing at the Roskilde Festival on June 30th 1984.
The year of ‘Declaration’ starts here.