Interview: Mike Peters DMW Interview

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE RESISTANCE TOUR COME ABOUT?
I had this idea for a kind of British version of say
the Travelling Wilburys, or a Crosby, Stills, Nash &
Young, coming out of my generation, and for a year or
so I approached various people like Pete Wylie, and it
took a bit of time to sink in for people. But in 2000
The Alarm and Spear Of Destiny went on tour together
in Britain, an it was on that tour I got talking
properly with Kirk Brandon and was able to explain the
idea over a few days and Kirk came on board straight
away, then Pete Wylie came to the gig in Liverpool
that we were playing and we press-ganged him into it,
and then Glenn Matlock came to the London show and we
got him in too!

I suppose the idea behind the Dead Men Walking project which features
myself Pete, Kirk, and Glenn was just showing that there is a lot of strength in unity,
and that by working togehter we can reach out to each
others’ audiences and start to turn around all those
sort of nasty pre-conceptions that people have about
us because we’re associated with a certain era. So all
of a sudden if we go out together Spear Of Destiny
fans who always thought they didn’t really likeTthe
Alarm suddenly started to realise that they do like
us, and they only thought they didn’t like it because
the press said it was no good – and when we were
younger we used to believe what they wrote in the NME!

But now people are finding things out for themselves
and Alarm fans are getting into Pete Wylie and Spear
Of Destiny and everything. The other great thing is
that it means that people – I think that thoughout the
nineties for example, Alarm fans have followed me and
my work in kind of isolation – but now those people
are meeting SpearOf Destiny fans at gigs and finding
that they’ve done the same journey but with Kirk
Brandon and the audiences have so much in common –
it’s kind of a rock and roll Friends Reunited really!

One of the great things for us in Britain as The Alarm
was that we got to do a tour with Big Country and a
lot of their audience come to the shows as a result of
the relationships we made during that tour. In fact
Stuart Adamson was someone we were hoping to involve
in Dead Men Walking at some stage, but sadly we
couldn’t reach out to him enough before he took his
own life… but we’re all going to take part in
Stuart’s testimonial if you like on the 31st of May.

So that’s really how it all came about and by meeting
with Pete and obviously all talking about how we feel
an isolation as artists, and all that we’ve all had to
endure at the mercy of labels, and the inefficiency of
labels in their dealings with artists of our calibre
and nature, and Pete was articulating this idea of it
as the resistance – as a sort of theory, and I suppose
we were all articulating it ourselves anyway by
starting our own labels and dealing with our own fans
and so on, so it was a case of ‘right let’s put into
action the results of all our practices and our
theories’ and the idea of The Resistance Tour is to go
out and play small places and to show that we can
actually make it work. In that way people can get to
see us close, and we can create a spread of ideas, we
can communicate what is a good idea in a small
environment – rather than tring to do it on a massive
scale where no-one really gets the point.

It’s really the result of us all having been inspired
by, and having grown up with, punk rock; how that
started as a small acorn and for a year, before it
exploded in the tabloids, it was the greatest thing we
ever had. The myth of punk rock is that it was all
nihilism and black leather jackets and ‘no future’ but
when you were involved in it it was about the complete
opposite; it was about setting you free, creating your
own identity, making your own opportunities and
expressing yourself, though clothes, through fanzines,
through starting your own record label, and through
1976 and 1977 that was what punk was really all about
– not the kind of tribal, kind of gothic, black
leather look that the tabloids picked up on…

DO YOU FEEL THEN THAT THINGS HAVE COME FULL CIRCLE FOR
YOU?
In some ways absolutely yeah, and I think that in some
ways a lot of the audience have come full circle as
well. I know that a lot of our generation of fans –
the ones who grew up with The Alarm as their first
band if you like; a lot of the fans who saw us and had
their first ever experience at a rock concert – a lot
of that generation by the nineties might have had
children or were trying to establish themselves in
careers or whatever, which didn’t allow them the time
or the space to go out and see their bands and at the
same time all of a sudden they dropped out of the
media target area for advertisers so it became very
hard to effectively promote your tours.

We all had to reinvent ways to get back to our
audience and making that connection, and I think that
full circle thing has happened to a lot of our
generation who’ve grown up now and maybe have children
who are old enough to babysit the other kids and so
they can go out again – and they turn on the radio and
they think ‘what’s happened to Radio One?!” or they go
through their old records and think ‘we used to love
going to see The Alarm, where are they now?’ and then
they click on the website and it’s all still there for
them, they come back to us and realise there’s a whole
world going on. One by one they come back into the
fold and hopefully they’ll be back in for life!

HOW IMPORTANT HAS THE INTERNET BEEN IN REINVENTING THE
WAY YOU WORK?
It’s been a lifeline for me – I was lucky to become
involved very early on. I actually used to work in
computers in 1976 before The Alarm, so I had a
grounding in it – in fact we used to run a very basic
sort of email thing in about ’86, ’87 when we were on
tour in America and we used to communicate with Wasted
Talent, our agency in London, with a little box that
we had which was very primitive – in fact I think we
only got it to work about twice – but I always
retained an interest in it.

When the original line-up of The Alram closed down in
1991, I started to carry on making music on my own and
I got a computer – a very early Mac to help me, and
then I started surfing about on the internet as it was
then, seeing what was going on, and I started to meet
fans over the internet and they said ‘let’s start a
chat group’, ‘let’s start a website’, ‘let’s put out
some information about The Alarm’, and all of a sudden
from being an artist that didn’t have a record deal or
anything like that I’d been given a voice to all those
fans I’d made through all those years of touring and I
was able to stay in touch with fans in Japan, and
America, and Europe even though I didn’t have the
machinery to get over there as often as I could when I
had the backing of a major label.

Through being crative I have been able to build an
infrastrcture where I can now tour around the world
with or without record comapny backing… I’ve got The
Alarm’s catalogue back, and I adminster all of that,
and I’ve been able to make all sorts of music over the
past ten years that has sort of set me free as an
artist.

I realised how limiting it is when we were in The
Alarm from 1981 to 1990, I realised how limiting that
actually was. If you’d ever wanted to make a solo
record in those days it was seen as being the death of
the band, whereas now I’ve learnt that some music is
meant to be small, some music can stand being put
through the mincer and being sent to radio and all
that, some music is strong enough to take that, but
some music is just meant to be played between you and
a small audience and I think I’ve learned to project
those ideas in the size that they were intended, and
because you’ve got a website you can communicate the
size of the idea, that not every release has to be the
big statement in your development as an artist, and
I’ve been able to go back to things… I did a
retrospective – I just went back to all the songs I
wrote as The Alarm and just did them on an acoustic
guitar and put them out to the audience and I think
that changed people’s opinions of The Alarm because
they were able to listen to the music as a lyric and a
set of chords as opposed to in a concert with all the
fire and brimstone, and the haircuts, and all the
things that people didn’t like about the band!

So as well as developing as an artist and putting out
new songs, and developing as a writer, I think I’ve
also been able to bring the past along with me and
actually to marry the two together which is why we
have The Alarm 2002 as the vehicle to portray The
Alarm from then in the modern era alongside the stuff
I do now and to see that they all stand together and
that they all come from the sameplace.

GIVEN ALL OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS, WHAT IS NOW YOUR
DEFINITION OF SUCCESS?
Being here right now talking to you. Being able to
make music in the way that I intended as a young gun
in The Alarm, and that’s it. Going back through to the
very earliest interviewsI did, I always used to get
asked ‘how long will you keep going?’ and it was
always ‘as long as I’m enjoying it’ and I still am
enjoying it, and that is successs for me.

ARE YOU ENJOYING IT MORE?
Absolutely. So much more – you know you’re not dealing
with… I was going to say wankers…

I THINK YOU CAN SAY THAT!
I’m now dealing with my audience on a day to day basis
and it’s so liberating. I’m not having to go through a
journalist to communicate with my fans – I mean I’m
doing this now between you and I and that’s great –
but now I can actually do things direct to the
audience and it takes all the stress out of it. I can
put a record out when I want to do it, in the form
that I want to do it, so through the website and the
internet I can be as powerful as Sony if I want to be
I really can, and that’s why I don’t need them to be
backing me as an artist. If they want to get involved
then that might be something to consider, but I don’t
need them in the way that I had to have them there in
the 80s…

SO IF THEY WANTED TO GET INVOLVED NOW IT WOULD HAVE TO
BE ON YOUR TERMS RATHER THEN THEIRS?
Exactly. I think that the industry is having to look
at artists like The Alarm, and Marillion, and bands
like that who have very active fanbases, very healthy
record sales, and obvious international careers where
there’s no funding coming in, and there’s no marketing
resource there in the same way that you get from being
a label.

I think that they waste so much of their marketing
budgets on things that don’t matter and they really
don’t know how to build a band up from the ground up
any more. That has completely disappeared from the
record industry. Labels don’t talk to the bands and
their managements about how they should be handled –
it’s just a case of ‘we know best’ and they don’t and
it’s a tragedy for young bands coming through… I
help out a number of bands up here and I try to steer
them, and I always try to warn them off!

I think the music industry now is a pop industry full
stop, it doesn’t mean music at all, but I do think
that there’s a sea change coming, and I do think
they’re going to have to realise that they’ve got to
develop acts for the middle youth – which is how I
would describe my crowd!

But you see so much snobbery in the music industry –
Imean even with programmes like Jools Holland you can
just tell that it’s such a plugged programme.
Audiences are very intelligent now – they’re so used
to living in a marketing world and landscape where
everything you look at is an advert for something that
they can tell. They switch off from these programmes
because they know they’re seeing a formula and they
know it’s driven by pluggers, not driven by passion.
There’s not one music programme in the medai that’s
driven by passionate people who would respond to the
passion of a Pete Wylie say, who would say ‘well he
might not look ‘right’, but he’s a fantastic song
writer and he’s written classic songs in all his
era’s’, because he’s not on Sony or anyone so he’s
just not going to get a shot – it’s a tragedy.

This all brings me back to The Resistance Tour,
because it’s great to be creating our own
opportunities – we’ve set up our on internet radio
station for the tour, and it’s all goes back to what
we all started at the beginning – Pete Wylie and The
Mighty Wah!, when I met him in the street outside
Erics in Liverpool in 1976 he talked about being in a
band one day and he actually went out and did it, and
he did his own label ‘Eternal’ and brought Black
through it, but then he had to sell the label to keep
going, but he actually put his actions into practise!
I wrote about him in the song ‘Spirit Of ’76’, the
line ‘Pete, he’s seen his dreams come true’ is about
Pete Wylie… he actually made his dreams come true,
he didn’t just sit around and wait for some guy to
come along and tap him on the shoulder and say ‘hey
boy, come along, you’re going to be a star’, he went
out and did it himself and he’s still doing it now and
I admire that, that he’s not given up on being an
artist.

We’ve all been in bands with people who’ve given up
when there’s no gravy-train any more, which is why
none of us is really playing with the original
line-ups any more because that’s what happens, and
when that success stops it tests their integrity, and
it tests their belief and their commitment to the
cause. That’s partly why we want to go back and play
all these small venues – which we could all fill on
our own – but the idea is to have all three of us in
each place to show that we are real bands and we’re
not bothered about fame, about who goes on first and
last, it’s about communicating the idea that we’re all
still alive and kicking… to quote Simple Minds!

WILL THERE BE MORE TOURS ALONG THESE LINES – MAYBE NOT
EVEN WITH THIS SET OF BANDS…
When we were all in the first generations of our
careers we all used to look at those sixties package
tours from the generation before, and think ‘no way,
we never want to do that!” forgetting that we all grew
up on the ‘White Riot’ tour and the ‘Anarchy’ tour – I
mean the ‘Anarchy’ tour was Sex Pistols, The Clash,
and The Damned it was just phenomenal, and when you
get older people seem to think that it’s just pipes
and slippers time and it just isn’t! The idea of a
package tour came from the first things I ever saw;
going to see the Sex Pistols and going to see the
‘White Riot’ tour – which was incredible, it was The
Clash, Subway Sect, and The Buzzcocks and it was
amazing – and so I think it’s great for bands t
double-up or triple-up because there’s a power to it,
there’s an excitement for the audience and it keeps
you on your toes as a band as well – there’s the
school of thought that it can only be cool if it’s by
18-year olds and if it’s by 40-year olds it’s just ike
cabaret… and that’s just bollocks!

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU, AFTER THE RESISTANCE TOUR?
I’ve got a new album that we’ve been creating for the
last few months and we’re trying to do something quite
different with that; it was almost going to come out
on the tour, but I realised that with the idea behind
The Resistance Tour and what we’re trying to do with
it, an album would just get lost, so I’m going to hold
the album back and put it out over the summer.

We’re going to put it out in new way, there’s a new
concept for the release… instead of it coming out
and you promote it and that’s it, we’re going to do
all the promotion leading up to it. Over the last few
years – when I’ve really started combining my work of
twenty years rather than just playing my most recnt
two or three years worth of material live – I realised
that what made some of The Alarm’s songs big was that
they were actually physically released as singles, and
people were then able to focus on them for a month
before they got them in the context of an album.

What I’m going to do for the new album is to actually
put out three – maybe even four – virtual singles
before the album comes out. When I describe them as
virtual singles – you will be able to actually
physically buy them, but they won’t go to shops, they
won’t be in Woolworths, they won’t qualify for the top
forty, but they’ll have a lead cut that I can send to
radio if I want, and spread around as something to
focus on from the new record, but I can put ten tracks
on it if I want, or twenty, and have some live things
and some stuff spread out from the past twenty
years… So we’re going to put these three of four
virtual singles out to focus people on the main
tracks, to lead up to the album which will come out
when I feel that we’ve created enough awareness. It’s
sitting here ready to go really, so I’ll probably
start by communicating the ideas during The Resistance
Tour, and the first release will be in June or July,
but it’ll probably all start on The Resistance Tour’s
online radio station during the tour, and will
probably be played live on the tour, and building it
up as a way of focussing people.

I feel I’ve made one of the best records of my life
and I’m not ashamed to say that, and I think that it
will stand up to scrutiny. I’ve even built a whole
website to document the whole recording process and
with each release people will be allowed to get into
another section so it’ll build up a full picture.

it’s kind of like a timed release of the whole project
as opposed to what the music industry does; they’ve
got us all conditioned to thinking that an album comes
out one week and that’s it and they move on to the
next one, but I want to have a period of my life where
we’re promoting this record and all the songs that go
with it so that nothing gets lost, and to give people
time to get into certain songs – the 1984 Alarm album
‘Declaration’ came out after four singles and when
people go the album they already had the little
markers in palce to help them get the whole album… I
also think that CDs are too long to get into
comfortably – most albums are 60 minutes long these
days which is too long, and I have an idea to split
this album over two CD’s so people actually have to
take a break. It’s all a question of putting in some
love, care, and detail in because that’s all gone from
the record industry today.

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